|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
**Secretary-General in Barbados
Hello there. Good afternoon and happy Friday to all.
The Secretary-General is in Barbados, where he is meeting right now with Acting Prime Minister Mia Mottley. He was welcomed yesterday at the airport by Foreign Minister Billie Antoinette Miller, with whom he discussed climate change, Haiti, and the issue of drugs and crime in the Caribbean. When he left Haiti yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General told reporters that he was encouraged at the progress that’s being made on a number of fronts. He said that the UN Mission, MINUSTAH, and the broader UN family are playing a useful role in stabilizing the country. Democratically elected officials have taken office around the country, and security has much improved. And the Secretary-General asserted that he will do everything he can to ensure that the United Nations does not disengage too early, as has happened in the past.
We have his remarks, as well as his other press comments he made in Haiti, available upstairs.
On Lebanon, today, the Legal Counsel, Nicolas Michel, is sending a letter on behalf of the Secretary-General inviting Member States to submit names of candidates for consideration as international judges of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon by 24 September. The judges shall be appointed by the Secretary-General upon the recommendation of a selection panel established by him after he indicates his intentions to the Security Council. The selection panel shall be composed of two judges, currently sitting on, or retired from, an international tribunal, and the representative of the Secretary-General. The selection panel will be appointed in due course.
After brief consultations, the Security Council this morning held a formal meeting to adopt a presidential statement on Lebanon, in which it urged all concerned parties to cooperate fully with the Security Council and the Secretary-General to achieve a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution, as envisaged in resolution 1701 (2006). Among other things, the Council expressed grave concern at persistent reports of breaches of the arms embargo along the Lebanon-Syria border, as well as deep concern at the increase in Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace. The Council welcomed the recommendations of the Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team and looks forward to their implementation.
Concerning Sudan, in Arusha, Tanzania, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, and his African Union counterpart, Salim Ahmed Salim, are prepared to begin this evening a meeting with the leading personalities of the movements that have not signed the Darfur Peace Agreement. Eliasson said he is hopeful that the meeting, which lasts through Sunday, will produce understandings that allow for invitations to peace talks on Darfur to be issued by the end of this month.
In a report that is available today, the Secretary-General says that he was encouraged by the meeting convened by the Special Envoys on Darfur in Tripoli last month, and he was appreciative of the initiative taken by Member States in recent months to bring renewed energy and commitment to the efforts to resolve the crisis. He says that while the situation in Darfur remains very precarious, he is encouraged by the Sudanese Government’s agreement to the deployment of the UN-African Union hybrid operation.
Today, Assistant Secretary-General Jane Holl Lute is chairing a troop contributors meeting for the hybrid operation in Darfur here at UN Headquarters. Ms. Holl Lute, the acting head of the Department of Field Support, will brief you in this room next week on the state of play with regard to mission planning.
**South Asia Floods
We have an update from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on the UN relief efforts in South Asia following the worst monsoon rains in years. Flooding has reportedly killed hundreds of people and affected at least 20 million others. In India, Bangladesh and Nepal, agencies including UNICEF and the World Food Programme are providing basic sanitation, safe drinking water, medicine and health services, as well as shelter materials. In Nepal, the UN Development Programme and the UN Mission are also providing helicopter logistics support. WFP has also launched an emergency humanitarian appeal for $1.5 million to provide food aid to 60,000 people for up to three months in that country.
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, UNICEF is providing school supplies for thousands of children and trying to help reopen hundreds of schools in time for the new year, which begins in mid-August. Floods in the wake of cyclone Yemyin in late June washed away more than 200 schools, while many that remain are either under water or being used as shelters. UNICEF notes that the education part of a $38 million UN flash appeal launched two weeks ago remains less than 10 per cent funded. And we have more information in several press releases upstairs.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, known as UNRWA, has condemned the incursion into an UNRWA school in southern Gaza by the Israeli Defence Forces earlier today, which left the Agency’s property damaged. Local residents report that Israeli soldiers and two tanks entered the compound of the Al Shouka Elementary Co-Educational School this morning and arrested two of the guards. The main gate of the school was damaged during the operation. Israeli soldiers then rounded up about 50 other people, about 15 of whom were brought to the school, where they were held for several hours before being moved elsewhere. John Ging, Director of the UNRWA office in Gaza, said, “This is a violation of our property and we expect the IDF to halt any operation that places in danger our staff and which damages our installations.”
**Democratic Republic of Congo
The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is gravely alarmed at the rising incidence of hate speech at political rallies, in news publications, TV and radio commentaries, especially in Kinshasa and the eastern provinces. Incitement to hatred, xenophobia and repeated references to ethnic or tribal differences threaten to tear apart communities already struggling with the harsh realities of recurrent armed conflict.
Most recently, the Mission notes, a community radio station in Moba, in the Katanga province, began to air false rumours to the indigenous population that Congolese Tutsis were to be resettled by the UN in their region from refugee camps abroad. This led the people of Moba to ransack the local UN office in a well orchestrated early morning assault. Four UN military observers were wounded, and some 21 UN staff had to be evacuated from the region. To prevent further escalation, the Mission calls on the DRC authorities to investigate those responsible for the rise in hate speech and tribal hatreds and hold them accountable for their acts.
Also on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations Mission there, known as MONUC, has suspended five civilian staff members for procurement irregularities following investigations conducted by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). Upon receipt of the findings of the investigations, the Department of Management and the Department of Field Support (DFS) dispatched a high-level team to the DRC to address the OIOS findings and recommendations, and to advise the UN Mission on an action plan to implement the recommendations for strengthening internal control measures and ensuring continuity in the UN Mission’s procurement activities.
On Somalia, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says this week has seen some of the worst attacks in Mogadishu since the cessation of hostilities in April. The sporadic violence has led more people to flee the Somali capital. OCHA reports that, in all, 22,000 people were displaced in July, compared to 6,300 in June. Following a UN interagency mission this week, OCHA also says that internally displaced people living in settlements outside Mogadishu are in dire need of food, clean water and medical assistance. Meanwhile, UNICEF is calling for the protection of Somali children. It stresses that at least 20 children have died in the past month as a result of the ongoing conflict in Mogadishu. UNICEF adds that the insecurity is affecting its ability to carry out its humanitarian work.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, reports that, after weeks of appeals for the urgent evacuation from Iraq of seriously ill Palestinians, four of them have been allowed into Syria to receive medical care. UNHCR stresses that at least 16 other critical Palestinian cases, most of them children, remain in Al-Wadeed refugee camp in Iraq. It says it is continuing its search for urgent solutions to get these refugees proper care. And we have more on this in the UNHCR briefing notes upstairs.
** Marburg Fever
Concerning Marburg Fever, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that a case of Marburg haemorrhagic fever (MHF) has been confirmed following the death of a 29-year-old man in Uganda. The Ministry of Health of Uganda has requested the support of WHO in coordinating international assistance for its outbreak response and containment activities. Case investigations, including extensive contact tracing and contact monitoring, are under way at the workplace of the deceased, as well as at the health-care facilities that cared for him and within his community. We have more information on this in a WHO press release upstairs.
**Climate Change Website
Today, the UN has launched a website on climate change. It highlights the work of various parts of the UN system on this issue, including reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and updates on the latest developments in efforts to reach a new international agreement. The website is www.un.org/climatechange. And we also have more information in a press release upstairs.
**The Week Ahead
Also, we have upstairs The Week Ahead. Among the highlights, we mentioned that, on Tuesday morning, the Security Council is scheduled to hold consultations on the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq. We will try to get Under-Secretary-General Lynn Pascoe, who will brief the Security Council that day on Iraq, to speak to you at the stakeout afterwards. The Council is also scheduled to adopt a draft resolution on the mission in Iraq on Thursday, 9 August. And Friday, 10 August, will be the start of talks in Manhasset, New York, concerning Western Sahara.
So that’s it for me. Are there any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: On Somalia, who from the UN system has been attending the national reconciliation conference? I saw Mr. [François Lonseny] Fall [Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia] in the hall the other day and I wondered if he was here to brief the Secretariat. What’s the status of the UN engagement in that?
Associate Spokesperson: I don’t know if anyone was attending the conference regularly. I do think that Mr. Fall’s deputy has been in Somalia for some of the time. I’ll check whether he’s participated in the talks or simply has been apprised of them.
[The Associate Spokesperson later said that Mr. Fall’s deputy was present at the talks, but as an observer.]
Question: The climate change conference that President Bush has announced, will the UN attend and will that interfere, since it’s the day after the conference here? What’s the interaction between the two?
Associate Spokesperson: We certainly hope that Member States will also take forward the work that’s being done on climate change. You mentioned that our climate change conference will take place a day earlier, and we certainly hope that this is part of an effort to make sure that any results of that conference that we’re holding in September will be followed up on.
Question: Will there be any commemoration about what happened in Iraq with regard to the UN mission in August?
Associate Spokesperson: Yes, as you know, the attack took place on 19 August 2003. We expect our commemoration will take place a couple of days before, on 17 August. And we’ll have some more details on what will happen. I have some details already, if you want to come up afterwards, but we’ll make a more formal announcement closer to the time.
Question: Did you just talk about the environment, the Bush environment conference? Alright, let me ask you then.
Associate Spokesperson: No, I just mentioned to one of your colleagues that we hope that these sorts of talks will take forward the results of the talks that we’ll hold on 24 September. I believe the Bush conference is scheduled to take place the following day.
Comment: No, 27 September.
Associate Spokesperson: So a few days later.
Question: You don’t think he’s raining on the SG’s parade?
Associate Spokesperson: No, we’re very hopeful that not just the United States, but a number of nations will use the meeting that we’re holding on 24 September and push those things forward so that we have some real momentum going into the Bali meeting in December.
Question: And secondly, on housekeeping. Is Peacekeeping going to brief on Darfur or not?
Associate Spokesperson: Yes, you missed this earlier, but I mentioned we expect that Jane Holl Lute will be the guest at the noon briefing, possibly on Tuesday. And she can talk to you about the preparations for Darfur, including the troop contributors’ meetings.
Question: On the talks in Arusha about Darfur, there’s this issue of the SLA’s Humanitarian Coordinator, Suleiman Jamous. There’s at least one article saying that Jan Eliasson didn’t raise it.
Associate Spokesperson: That’s false. In fact, I spoke to Eliasson and he made it very clear. He and his African Union counterpart, Salim Ahmed Salim, have raised the issue at the highest levels, including with President [Omer al-]Bashir, and they’re certainly hopeful that the pressure that’s being brought to bear on this case will help to contribute to the early release of Suleiman Jamous.
Question: I guess this is housekeeping, but the management committee of the Secretary-General. How often does it have a meeting or when was its last meeting? Do you ever give readouts on those? Their themes or topics?
Associate Spokesperson: We don’t tend to. I can check when the last meeting took place, but it’s not a standard sort of thing in terms of getting information for briefings.
Question: And the meeting of Deputy Secretary-General [Asha-Rose] Negiro with the head of the Staff Union today. Can you say what that’s about?
Associate Spokesperson: This is part of our continuing effort to reach out to the Staff Union and discuss issues of mutual concern. I don’t know whether we’ll have anything to say following that, but I’ll see if there’s anything.
Question: And finally, Senator Durbin, the thing I asked yesterday.
Associate Spokesperson: I checked. It’s not on the call logs that I got from the last few days. As far as that goes, for the last few days there were a number of calls that seemed relevant to the issue of Sudan, including calls with the United States Secretary of State, the Saudi Foreign Minister, the [Kenyan] Foreign Minister, and Alpha Oumar Konaré from the African Union.
Question: Marie [Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson] promised me earlier in the week to give me details about the exchange of letters, or not exchange, but the fact that Special Adviser Gambari wrote to the Nigerian Government to offer the United Nations’ help regarding the situation in the Niger Delta. I’d like to know, what is the United Nations offering Nigeria in regards to the Niger Delta, if there is something?
Associate Spokesperson: This is still in an exploratory stage, but what we’ve done is offered to help in terms of dealing with the situation in the Niger Delta, and the Secretary-General actually raised the matter with, I believe it was the Nigerian President, when they met in Heiligendamm, Germany, a few months ago. And beyond that, Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari has started the process, in his capacity as Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, of trying to see what kind of help the Nigerian Government needs in this. The UN Development Programme is also involved in terms of looking to see what kinds of projects could be brought to bear in the Niger Delta region that could help calm the situation down.
Question: I’d like to know if you know, what specifically can the UN offer or is it just a broad-based kind of offer?
Associate Spokesperson: I think at this stage we’ve discussed our intentions to help the Nigerian Government in this. We don’t have any specific projects to flag at this particular point. When we do, I’ll let you know.
And if that’s it for now, have an excellent weekend.
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