9 January 2008


9 January 2008
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, all.

** Kenya

The UN is continuing its humanitarian response in Kenya following the recent violence and displacement there.  For its part, the UN country team in Kenya reports that, in a situation far more reminiscent of northern Uganda than Kenya, many people in different parts of the country, who are afraid of attack, are travelling to police stations at night to sleep.

Our guest today is Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes.  He will brief you on what the UN is doing in Kenya to alleviate the current situation.  Mr. Holmes should be here in about 15 minutes.

**Security Council

The Security Council heard a briefing this morning from Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, on the outstanding challenges and impediments the United Nations continues to face in its efforts to deploy the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, or UNAMID.  Council members are now in consultations on the same subject.

In his briefing, while noting a “modest momentum” created by the transfer of authority from the African Union Mission to UNAMID on December 31st, Mr. Guéhenno told the Council that war, with cross-border dimensions, is continuing.

He also reported that, five months after the adoption of resolution 1769 (2007), the United Nations does not yet have guarantees or agreements from the Sudanese Government on basic technical issues regarding the deployment of UNAMID.

At the same time, he said, the mission itself will not have the personnel or assets in place to implement its mandate for many months, even in the best-case scenario.  He noted that no offers for essential transportation and aviation assets have been made, including the 24 helicopters.

He described as “grave” the deteriorating security situation in Darfur.  The escalation of violence in West Darfur presents a fundamental challenge to UNAMID, which, he said, is a peacekeeping force not designed to deploy or function in a war zone.

Reporting on the attack on the UNAMID supply convoy earlier this week, Mr. Guéhenno said that, after the attack, the area commander for the Sudanese Armed Forces had confirmed that it was a Sudanese Armed Forces unit that had fired on the convoy.

Mr. Guéhenno will be going to the stakeout following his participation in the consultations.  Of course, we will announce when he will be at the stakeout.

** Western Sahara

The latest round of UN-brokered talks on Western Sahara is scheduled to wrap up this afternoon in Manhasset, New York.

The Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, Peter van Walsum, who has been mediating the discussions, is expected to issue a wrap-up communiqué.  We will make that available to you once we receive it.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

The plenary session of the Kivu Conference on Peace, Security and Development began earlier today in Goma, in the north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Conference is now expected to last until 17 January.  Delegates will take up four main topics, according to the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC). These include the stakes and challenges for peace, security, development and humanitarian concerns.

The Mission has been supporting preparations for the Conference and has a team on the ground, providing substantive information and technical advice.  MONUC is also assisting the Government with logistical and security support.

** C ôte d’Ivoire

The Secretary-General’s latest report on Côte d’Ivoire is out as a document today.  In it, he says that security conditions have improved and efforts to implement the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement have led to a positive political environment.  But these are fragile gains, because the Integrated Army Command Centre remains mired in operational difficulties and the disarmament of militias has been slow.

The State administration is redeploying throughout the country and the identification of the population, though limited in its geographical scope, has proceeded without major incidents.  The UN Operation (UNOCI), meanwhile, has set up an election certification team and is developing benchmarks for the certification exercise.

In conclusion, the Secretary-General says that progress in the peace process should, in due course, lead to proposals for a gradual drawdown of the UN presence.  He recommends a 12-month extension of the UN Operation.

** Kyrgyzstan

Turning now to Kyrgyzstan -- where a series of earthquakes near the city of Osh last week displaced thousands of people -- the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says it has been able to procure and distribute some 200 heaters, as well as sleeping bags, mattresses, blankets, clothing and toiletries.

The United Kingdom has today pledged more than 400 winterized tents.  Many of the displaced are living in summer tents in temperatures as low as -20° C.  But there remains a desperate need for heaters and food, OCHA says.

**Asia-Pacific Region

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) forecasts the robust economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region will continue in 2008, despite uncertainties in the United States and continued appreciation of regional currencies.

In its report launched today on key economic developments and prospects in the Asia-Pacific region for this year, ESCAP outlines the UN’s outlook of short-term global economic, trade and financial trends, as well as some key global economic policy and development issues.

ESCAP’s Chief Economist says the Asia-Pacific economies are well prepared to manage continued uncertainty in the external environment over the coming months.

** Lebanon

We were asked yesterday about a reported rocket attack from Lebanon into Israel.  I can confirm that, yesterday, the Israeli authorities informed the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) that two Katyusha rockets launched from southern Lebanon hit the northern Israeli town of Shelomi early on the morning of 8 January, causing minor damage to a house but no injuries.  However, the firing of the rockets was not observed or detected by UNIFIL.

A UNIFIL investigation team, including forensics and explosives experts, inspected the impact site in Shelomi and UNIFIL patrols combed locations for potential launching sites.  The investigation continues.

[The Spokesperson later announced that “if it is determined that there was firing from within Lebanon, the incident would be a serious violation of resolution 1701 (2006)”.]

**Press Conferences

At 1 p.m. tomorrow, there will be press conference by Inga-Britt Ahlenius, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services; and Robert Appleton, Chairperson of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) Procurement Task Force.

This is all I have for you today.  Mr. Holmes will be coming shortly.  We have asked him to be here early, so you can all have the opportunity to talk to Mr. Guéhenno when he comes out to the stakeout.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Regarding this incident in Darfur, how far does Mr. Ban Ki-moon believe that it may show that it was too early for the Hybrid Force to be deployed without being fully equipped with logistics and that sort of thing?

Spokesperson:  Well, for the time being, he is going on with the plans as scheduled and this is what is going on at this point.  We are not putting in question the mission itself, which, as you know, was mandated by the Security Council.

Question:  There is a story out that Fiji and its peacekeeping contingent may have had its role changed for the UN in Iraq, and no longer be in charge of personal protection and that the Australians have gotten it.  Is that the case?

Spokesperson:  I read the same report that you did, but I am expecting some answers on that.  I will get that for you.

[The Spokesperson later said that there is no change in the arrangement for the Fijian Guard Unit; but, for the separate group of personal security detail officers, the United Nations is moving towards a mix of nationalities, which could still include some Fijians.]

Question:  Do you mind repeating what you said at the beginning about Kenya? I am sorry, I was setting up my equipment…

Spokesperson:  What you are going to have is a full briefing on Kenya, in a few minutes when Mr. Holmes gets here, so you will certainly have that information.  He will give it to you when he comes in.

Question:  There is a report in the South Korean press that the Secretary-General spoke to the transition team of the new Government of South Korea and the issue of the country’s low level of peacekeeping contributions, or encouraged them to expand it.  Did he have that conversation?  Is that something…?

Spokesperson:  He has raised that whenever he has spoken to a number of countries and South Korea is one of them.

Question:  It said the transition team and also specifically he mentioned helicopters.  So, obviously, I am wondering if it is possible to know if that request has been made…

Spokesperson:  Well, as I said, the request for helicopters, I have said it over and over again, has been put to a number of countries who have helicopters and could provide them.  So it is not just one country; several countries have been approached.

Question:  I think what made the article unique is the mention of the transition team, in the sense of like… it seems to be… I understand he speaks to leaders all the time.  I am not sure if in other countries he speaks to transition teams when leaders come in?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think this is one of those things that he discussed with the actual team itself.

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