27 September 2007


27 September 2007
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York




The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by the Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.  The General Assembly Spokesperson should be here to take your questions if you should have them, following this briefing.

**Security Council

Yesterday, the Security Council, in consultations, was informed by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, that he would be leaving that evening for the region, and would seek to visit Myanmar.  And, as you know, he did leave shortly after he briefed the Council yesterday, and he is still in the air, heading towards the region.

The Council President, Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert of France, told reporters afterwards that Council members supported Gambari’s mission.  He added that Council members were concerned about the situation in Myanmar, and urged restraint.

The Council President is intending to speak to reporters at the stakeout at 12:30 today, to deliver a statement to the press concerning Lebanon.  That is something that we were asked to communicate to you.  So, 12:30 at the Security Council stakeout today.


Also at headquarters today, the Secretary-General this morning addressed the annual ministerial meeting of the Group of 77 and China, and he told the Group that, in recent weeks, volatility in financial markets has become a source of growing concern.  And instability and uncertainty in the global economy are being imported to the developing world, he warned.

The Secretary-General said that substantial efforts are needed to avoid a global economic slowdown, or even a recession.  These efforts must be coordinated and inclusive.  If we do not act accordingly, developing countries are likely to be the worst affected by any global slowdown.

He also thanked Pakistan for its leadership of the Group of 77 over the past year, and congratulated the incoming chair, Antigua and Barbuda.  We have his remarks upstairs.

We also have upstairs the Secretary-General’s remarks at the tenth anniversary of the Chemical Weapons Convention, an event that he called “a milestone in international efforts to achieve a world free of chemical weapons”.

And this afternoon, the Secretary-General will speak at the launch of the Foreign Policy and Global Health Initiative; he will thank the seven nations involved in the launch for coming together to use diplomacy in securing better health for all, particularly for the most vulnerable.


The Secretary-General and his counterpart at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are about to sign, in the next few minutes, a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a partnership for closer cooperation.  That signing ceremony will be witnessed by the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN, who will also hold a working luncheon with the Secretary-General today.

The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding demonstrates the commitment of both organizations to work together to promote regional peace and stability and to realize the Millennium Development Goals.  We’ll have copies of the Memorandum upstairs shortly, along with the Secretary General’s remarks at the lunch with the ASEAN Foreign Ministers.


And finally, on the Secretary-General’s activities today, he will address this afternoon’s ministerial-level meeting of the Contact Group in Kosovo.  The Secretary-General is attending this meeting at the invitation of the Contact Group, which has organized the event here at UN Headquarters on the margins of the General Assembly.

** Sudan

And, from the field, we have today from Sudan, the UN Mission there reports that carjackings have been continuing in South Darfur over the past few days.  In one incident, the driver of a vehicle belonging to an international non-governmental organization was tied up and beaten.  He is now being treated at a UN clinic in Nyala.  A UN convoy was also attacked the same day.

Meanwhile, in West Darfur, as part of continuing efforts to reduce the risk of waterborne diseases following recent floods, UNICEF has taken part in hygiene promotion campaigns in several camps, and has also provided anti-malaria medicines and mosquito nets.


Meanwhile, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has announced the winners of its 2007 Sasakawa Prize.  The $200,000 award will be given to Ms. Jeunesse Park of South Africa and the Bangladeshi non-governmental organization Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha that helps poor and marginalized people in remote regions combat the effects of climate change.  There is more information on this award upstairs.

**Former Yugoslavia

And, the last item I have for you is that the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has confirmed Trial Chamber judgement against former Kosovo Liberation Army members (Fatmir Limaj, Isak Musliu and Haradin Bala).  The three were indicted for crimes committed against Serb and Kosovo Albanian civilians in a prison camp between May and July 1998.

It dismissed all the appeals lodged by the parties, confirming acquittals of two of them (Limaj and Musliu), while affirming one’s (Bala) convictions for torture, cruel treatment and murder, and his sentence of 13 years.  There are more details with their identifications available upstairs.

I don’t have the list of press conferences, but I’m sure you can pick that up upstairs in our office.  And that’s all I have for you.  Any questions for me?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  What is the status of Gambari’s trip?  Does he have a visa?  Do you have any more information on that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything for you just yet.  We’re still working on that issue and, as I mentioned, Mr. Gambari is still on his way to the region and I’m hoping to have an answer for you shortly.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later announced that the Secretary-General had been informed by the Foreign Minister of Myanmar that Mr. Gambari will be welcomed by the Myanmar Government, and the Secretary-General was pleased with this cooperation.  She then read out a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General:

The Secretary-General is pleased that the Government of Myanmar has agreed to a visit by his Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, beginning 29 September.  He calls on the authorities to engage in a constructive dialogue with his Special Adviser and to commit to a path of peaceful and inclusive national reconciliation.]

Question:  Has the Secretary-General set a sort of timetable for Mr. Gambari to receive access to the country before recalling him?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing beyond his statement.  All I can say is that the Secretary-General, through his good offices, is committed to intensify his efforts, his assistance, in the process, with a view to promoting national reconciliation, the restoration of democracy and full respect for human rights in Myanmar.

Question:  I want to follow up on that and something else.  When he met with the Foreign Minister of Myanmar yesterday, can you, you said there would be some readout on that.  Did this issue come up?

Deputy Spokesperson:  It was a tête-à-tête.  It was just between the Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister.

Question:  The other thing I wanted to ask is that, yesterday, the President of Côte d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, in an interview off-site, is that, the story said, two days ago, he met with Ban Ki-moon and that the two have decided who will be the next SRSG for Côte d’Ivoire.  The decision is made.  So, I’m asking, I wonder, since the President of Côte d’Ivoire has said it, if you can confirm that that’s taken place and, obviously, if you can say who it is.

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have an announcement yet of the next Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire.  As soon as I have it…

Question: If the President said…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have an announcement yet.

Question:  There seems to be tension mounting again between Eritrea and Ethiopia over their border disputes, and some observers are fearful that, in the next few months, war might erupt.  What is being done in the context of Article 99, the good offices of the Secretary-General to head off such conflict?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to get you an update on any activities that may be under way, in that regard.  I don’t have anything for today.  So, if there are no other questions for me… Yes, Matthew?

Question:  In the Sudan, the Government has reportedly told aid workers that they should accept military escort in Darfur, given the violence there.  So, I’m wondering whether the UN system or John Holmes, or whoever is in charge of humanitarian, if they have any position on whether humanitarian groups there should, you know, travel under the protection, or only under the protection of the Sudanese Government.

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have not seen a report, so I can’t confirm if that is something that has been conveyed to the UN humanitarian staff on the ground.  In principle, regardless of the situation, humanitarian workers need to have neutrality and reach the victims of conflict.

Question:  One last thing, just on this, and this issue of the use of this room by the French Mission in a way that excluded journalists, has any communication or complaint been made to the French Mission about that?  Or to DPI?  Or your Office?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think I said what I needed to say on that issue yesterday.

Question:  But I thought it was said that something was going to be communicated to them.  Was that the communication to them?  Mr. [Kiyo] Akasaka?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I did not say that.  Mr. Akasaka, I know, met with the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) President yesterday, so you may want to follow up with your President. If there are no other questions, Janos, the General Assembly Spokesperson is here to answer your questions.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Thank you, Marie.  I actually came because you had a couple of questions yesterday.  But let me start with the following.

**General Assembly

The General Assembly is in the third day of its general debate and keeping with its schedule of going through the list of speakers as set for each session.  The debate is expected to conclude next week, Wednesday, on 3 October.  Following that, the Assembly will have a two-day high-level dialogue on interreligious and intercultural understanding and cooperation for peace.  That will be on 4 and 5 October.  I’ll give you more details on that meeting as we get closer to the date.

The President is using the occasion of the general debate and the presence of Heads of State, Heads of Government and ministers to hold a number of bilateral meetings.  While short in nature and characterized in diplomacy as courtesy calls, these brief discussions also allow for the two sides to focus on the priority issues before the Assembly, especially climate change, the special leaders summit on the Millennium Development Goals set for next year, financing for development and management reforms, including the reform of the Security Council.

And now I go to the questions that basically Matthew had yesterday.


One was on “walkouts”.  And here what we have is that we actually don’t keep track of “walkouts”, because it is really up to every Member State to decide whether they are staying in the plenary or going somewhere else, depending on how busy they are, how many representatives they may have, etc.  So, this also means that we are not interpreting empty chairs or desks in any way.  You would have to ask each and every Member State why they were not there and what was the reason.

**Size of Delegations

On the size of the delegations, this is also something that Matthew had.  Here again, I think I was mentioning this already yesterday.  There is no limit imposed on the number of people put forward by Member States as part of their delegation.  Delegations, though, should be composed of no more than five representatives and five alternate representatives, but as many advisers, technical advisers and experts or other persons of a similar status as they may require.  Limitations may be on the number of people who are getting passes for the plenary or when there are bilateral meetings, special meetings, then the two sides may decide on, apart from their principals, how many others may attend.  But, otherwise, no limit.

That’s all I have and if you have any other questions, please.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yesterday, I raised the question, if the President of the General Assembly feels that that particular issue with the, his country’s President, there was a conflict of interest and he should, if he had a moral obligation, to just give his position to one of the Vice-Presidents and let him call upon the President of FYROM [former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia].

Spokesperson:  The President has no further comment on this issue.  He feels he made his views clear in the statement that we had yesterday.  That’s all I have for you.

Question:  You indicated that there would be a meeting on 4 and 5 October and I know you will be giving the details later.  Are there any goals set for those meetings?

Spokesperson:  Yes, there are certain objectives set for that high-level dialogue and I will give you those when I have a little bit more detail for you when we go into it next week. There is already some background information available on the high-level dialogue on the web, including on the objectives and the format, and you can access that through the General Assembly website, so there’s that information.

Question:  I’m not asking about the goals for the Alliance of Civilization.  I’m asking about the goals for this meeting.

Spokesperson:  No, no, no.  I mean this particular meeting.  Yes, you can find some background information already on this particular meeting on the website, so that is available.  Matthew?

Question:  There’s something that the President of Bolivia has said, I guess in his speech for the GA, that he had some problems, visa issues, in terms of getting his delegation to the US.  So, I guess I’m asking again, has that given rise to any Host Country Committee filing?  I mean he said it in his speech that Bolivia had been…

Spokesperson:  The last time we checked, which was Monday, we did not hear of any complaints as far as the Host Country Committee is concerned.  I don’t have any more updates on that.  I don’t know whether they received anything in the meantime.

And just back to the question that was just raised.  I looked through my notes on the high-level dialogue.  Yes, there is a concept note on the web and that includes the objectives for that particular dialogue.  So it is available.  I don’t know if you want me to read it out loud or…

Question:  The Alliance of Civilization…?

Spokesperson:  No.  These are particular objectives aimed for the high-level dialogue itself, for that particular meeting on the 4 and 5 October.  As I said, I’ll get you all the details on that as we go closer to the meeting itself.  But if you’re, in the meantime, interested, a lot of material is already available on the website.

No more questions? Then thank you very much for your attention.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.