15 May 2008


15 May 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, and Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

** Myanmar

The Secretary-General yesterday afternoon held a meeting on the situation in Myanmar in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, with key donors and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  There, he confirmed that the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. John Holmes, will go to Myanmar in the coming days on a World Food Programme (WFP) aircraft carrying humanitarian assistance.

In a press encounter following the meeting, the Secretary-General said that, although it is encouraging that the Myanmar Government is now showing flexibility, much more needs to be done with great urgency.  The next few days will be crucially important in reaching the suffering people with the necessary relief items and humanitarian goods.

He also reiterated that the international community, in particular the ASEAN countries, need to work in full cooperation with the Myanmar Government on addressing the grave humanitarian issue.  Also discussed in the meeting were specific issues, including designating a UN-ASEAN joint humanitarian coordinator, establishing a logistical hub outside Myanmar and holding a high-level pledging conference.

Also on Myanmar today, we received a question yesterday about efforts at the UN Secretariat to raise funds for victims of Cyclone Nargis.  I can confirm that the Staff Committee had proposed raising funds for the cyclone victims, and the Secretary-General has approved that request.  And, for any further details, you can of course contact the Staff Committee. 

** China

Turning to the recent earthquake in China, the Secretary-General is watching the situation there very carefully.  According to the latest State media reports, the confirmed death toll is just below 20,000 people, but it is feared that more than 50,000 people may have died in the quake.

This is a terrible tragedy, and the Secretary-General offers his heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the victims and their families.  The United Nations stands ready to help in any way that the Chinese Government might require.

On the humanitarian front, the UN Resident Coordinator in Beijing has been in touch with Chinese authorities and has offered UN tools and services.  The Chinese Government has not formally appealed for support, but it has said it welcomes in-kind contributions.

UN agencies stand prepared to provide ready-to-eat food; shelter materials; health, water and sanitation supplies; and other items.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) notes that there is an especially urgent need for tents.

OCHA adds that it is willing to release a grant from the Central Emergency Response Fund, of an amount to be determined.  The Resident Coordinator in Beijing and the UN Development Programme are also submitting requests for funds to purchase assistance items for victims and strengthen coordination activities.

**Telephone Call to President Abbas

The Secretary-General today called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the occasion of the Palestinian commemoration of the “Nakba”, to underline his support for the Palestinian people.

The Secretary-General reiterated his support for the peace process, the establishment of a sovereign, viable, independent Palestinian State, in accordance with UN resolutions and international law, and the achievement of a two-State solution in the Middle East.

**Security Council

The members of the Security Council are having their monthly luncheon with the Secretary-General today.  Then, at 3:15 this afternoon, the Security Council has scheduled consultations, to be followed by a formal meeting to vote on a draft resolution on the work of the UN Political Office in Somalia.

** Sudan

The World Food Programme (WFP) says its humanitarian air service gets a reprieve until the middle of next month, but still risks closure.  WFP says it can continue operations until mid-June thanks to recent donations.  But, the air service, which flies about 14,000 humanitarian workers around Sudan each month, still faces a funding crisis this year.  It needs more than $51 million to fly from mid-June onwards, WFP warns.

**Central Africa

The High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Sergio Duarte, is in the Angolan capital of Luanda today to deliver a message of the Secretary-General to the twenty-seventh meeting of the UN Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa.

In his message, the Secretary-General says that recent efforts to promote peace and security in the region have yielded encouraging results.  He noted improved political dialogue in the Central African Republic; the Goma peace conference on the Congolese Kivu provinces and the UN deployment in north-eastern Central African Republic and eastern Chad, MINURCAT.  However, developments in Burundi and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad and Sudan continue to threaten lasting peace and stability in the subregion.

**International Day of Families

Today is the International Day of Families, and the theme this year is fatherhood.  In a message to mark the day, the Secretary-General says that challenges persist for fathers.  At the international level, for example, migration forces many fathers to often face separation from their families.

Also, the HIV/AIDS crisis -- which demonstrates the critical importance of sexual responsibility for fathers and all men -- also challenges men to become father figures to children who have been left orphaned by the disease.  We have the full message upstairs. 


In honour of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, which will be observed this Saturday, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) today presented a number of awards in Cairo.  Recipients included Egyptian First Lady Suzanne Mubarak.

The Day’s theme this year is connecting people with disabilities to the opportunities offered by information and communication technologies, or ICTs.  In remarks today, ITU chief Hamadoun Touré said, “ICTs have the great merit of serving as a powerful equalizer of abilities, empowering persons with disabilities to fulfil their potential”.

We also have upstairs a message from the Secretary-General, who says it is vital that we change attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities, ensuring that they have the right to fully participate in the information society.

** Myanmar

And, just in, we got some additional information on Myanmar.  The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that between 1.6 million and 2.5 million people are estimated to be urgently in need of critical disaster assistance, following Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar.

OCHA says that inconsistent access to the flooded delta region, damage to infrastructure and communications, and heavy rainfall pose serious logistical challenges, so the level of assistance is still falling far short of what is required.  Concern is deepening over the growing risk of outbreaks of disease, especially with people migrating outwards from the affected areas in search of basic necessities.

The World Food Programme and its partners have dispatched over 700 tons of rice, high-energy biscuits and beans to at least 71, 800 people since Cyclone Nargis struck.  Mobile clinics and open hospitals in Labutta and Bogale are treating people suffering from diarrhoeal diseases, acute respiratory infections and injuries, while supply gaps for emergency health drugs, supplies and kits are gradually being filled by health agencies.  UNICEF and the Ministry of Health are carrying out measles and tetanus vaccinations, as well as Vitamin A supplements for young children in temporary settlements.

This is all I have for you today.  Questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Do you know exactly how many NGOs, other governmental or UN groups or other relief workers are able to get into the delta and distribute rice?

Spokesperson:  Right now, we don’t know how many are in the delta itself.  That information I can get for you later.  We have been informing you on the number of people actually in the country, some of them in Yangon and working in Yangon.  But, we’ll get you the exact information later.

Question:  Also, yesterday, the Secretary-General said he was considering sending John Holmes over there.  You were talking today as if the decision has been made.  Has the decision been made to send him?

Spokesperson:  The decision has been made, and now it’s a question of finding a suitable date, which will be as soon as possible.

Question:  Okay.  And now, that will be, as you said, aboard a…?

Spokesperson:  A WFP plane, yes.

Question:  And when you say soon, that would be presumably…?

Spokesperson:  In the next five-six days.

Question:  Has he got a visa for that?

Spokesperson:  He has asked for one, and we expect he will get it.

Question:  Do you have any more details on the donors’ conference, the high-level meeting Ban Ki-moon was talking about yesterday?

Spokesperson:  This was a proposal that was made to the group yesterday, and the members of the group, the ASEAN countries in particular, are going to be discussing this, the ASEAN countries at their meeting on the 19th, which is Monday -- and they’re going to be discussing where that pledging conference can take place and who will participate in that pledging conference.  So we should find out a little more after Monday.

Question:  The ASEAN conference on Monday, is that in Singapore or in Bangkok?

Spokesperson:  It’s in Singapore.

Question:  And will John Holmes be at that meeting?

Spokesperson:  No, he will not be.  Those are just going to be ASEAN members and Foreign Ministers, at the Foreign Ministers’ level.

Question:  When Mr. Holmes was here last week, he indicated that he probably wouldn’t be going to Myanmar.  Did something change between then and now?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  I mean, beyond just the immediate situation?

Spokesperson:  Well, something has changed to the extent that right now the possibilities are more open and the Secretary-General has asked him to go.

Question:  Okay, so it’s just that it seems like it’s easier for him to go, or better?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  Does the Secretary-General support the Arab efforts done in Lebanon the last couple of days?

Spokesperson:  As I said before, he has always supported that effort.  As you know, we’re continuing to follow that situation closely, and the Secretary-General has expressed his support and he expresses again his support of current efforts of the League of Arab States to help the parties in Lebanon resolve the prolonged political crisis in the country through dialogue and without further violence.  This is what we have.

Question:  About the phone call to Abbas, as the “Nakba” happens to coincide with the UN General Assembly-sanctioned creation of Israel, the Secretary-General also called Olmert to congratulate him on that same day for the same event?

Spokesperson:  No, he called him last week, as you know.

Question:  To congratulate him on the same event he is condolencing…?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  On Iran’s enrichment programme, you know there’s this debate and this new proposal sent out yesterday by the [inaudible] and I think Mr. Ban Ki-moon received such proposal.  And also, yesterday, there were some statements by the Russian Foreign Minister asking the “Five Plus Five Group” plus one to give Iran a kind of security guarantees, while there’s also a new package of incentives by the Europeans and the United States.  I was wondering about where does Mr. Ban Ki-moon stand regarding this?  What’s his position towards the Iranian proposal and did he already receive the letter from them or not, and also, what’s his position to the new package of incentives of the European Union States?

Spokesperson:  I cannot confirm on the package of incentives.  This is something that has to be with the countries that proposed it, and in this specific case, with the Security Council members.  In the case of the letter, it has been received.  The Secretary-General has received that package.  He hasn’t been able to really analyse what is in that proposal, so as soon as he has an answer, I’ll let you know.

Question:  More minor questions on Myanmar.  One, is it just still the case that the Secretary-General is still writing and trying to telephone Myanmar’s Senior General and still not getting through?

Spokesperson:  Yesterday, there was a meeting, as you know, and the representative from Myanmar was there, and there was quite a positive and constructive exchange then.  In terms of reaching the actual leadership, he has not been able to.

Question:  Okay.  And the other question -- just details on donations -- Mr. Holmes said yesterday that they had upped the donations they were seeking to “almost $200 million”, and he said that they had received donations or pledges of $150 million towards that goal.  But I got an e-mail today from another reporter who said he had some contacts with some other UN folks, who said the number was far below that -- I can’t remember -- but it was $30, $40, $50 million, or something like that.  I just wondered, have you also been told that this $150 million figure, or can you clarify?

Spokesperson:  We don’t have all the pledges in yet, and we can get an update for you on exactly how much it amounts to.  I know there are some pledges that have not been officially announced by the countries themselves, so we cannot announce them ourselves, but they are quite substantial.

Question:  To what extent, if at all, is the Secretary-General becoming concerned about China’s posture as it relates to the earthquake, that they haven’t really allowed the United Nations to go in to deliver supplies, and that this might create a situation that in some sense parallels Myanmar, where it might aggravate the suffering?

Spokesperson:  So far, he hasn’t had reports that the situation is not being handled properly in terms of the Chinese authorities.  The UN has offered help, and I just read what I had on what was offered to China.  It’s up to them, we are now waiting for answers on specific requests, especially on the health issue.

Question:  Michèle, does the Secretary-General have any response [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Yes, we do have something on this.  Let me get it for you.  We looked for the answer for you today, and what I got from upstairs was that we welcome this pledge, the Kuwaiti initiative to set up a fund for money to deal with rising food prices, and we hope that this initiative is in line with the goals of the Secretary-General’s task force.  Specifically, we hope the funds can go to programmes for immediate action to boost food supplies by providing inputs on incentives for planting and second, food assistance efforts, like the ones the World Food Programme is carrying out.  This is what I got for you in terms of an answer to your question.

Question:  Does the Secretary-General himself have any plans to go to Burma?

Spokesperson:  At this point, no, but if he does, I will let you know.

Question:  What does Mr. Holmes hope to accomplish by going?

Spokesperson:  Essentially to open up access to more humanitarian assistance to go to the delta area to the actual victims, and it’s in line with the meeting that took place yesterday.

Question:  So, he’s gotten an okay from the authorities there that he can actually go to the delta area?

Spokesperson:  I’m saying that right now he has applied for a visa, and that’s what is being discussed.

Question:  Just a quick update on the visas.  Yesterday, we heard there were 40.  Have there been any more?

Spokesperson:  Not that I know of.  I’ll try to find out whether more were issued today.

Question:  When did he apply for a visa?

Spokesperson:  Yesterday.

Question:  Any idea when he might hear back?

Spokesperson:  Ask the question to the Myanmar authorities.

Question:  Michèle, there’s a report of Indian oil workers being taken hostage in South Sudan, and also that the UN has somehow pulled out its non-emergency personnel due to fighting.  Is that the case?

Spokesperson:  I have some information.  Is that the situation in Abyei?

Question:  Yes.

Spokesperson:  Well, what we got today, in fact, right before I came, is that conditions are now calmer in Abyei.  We still have sporadic shooting there.  There were bullets fired near our camp.  UNMIS camps cannot sustain for too long the number of people there, which included international and national staff from the NGO community.

The town is almost deserted right now, with columns of people seen today leaving the town, and the market has ceased to function.  A fuel container has been burned in the town today.  And this is what we have in terms of the actual update on the situation, itself. 

What type of actions are we taking?  We decided to pull out most of our civilian international and national staff who are present in Abyei because of the safety and security conditions that are making it impossible for them to operate.  And the head of the office and a few other international staff members remain behind to perform critical duties.

This is the last that we have.  We know that the UNMIS Deputy Force Commander has flown to Abyei and attended an Area Joint Military Committee meeting there.  The parties agreed to an immediate ceasefire and to take up a law and order responsibility for their respective areas of operation, while removing all other armed groups from the city and preventing the entry of new ones. 

So this is what we have.  I think you had asked -- I don’t know whether you or someone else had asked about the number of casualties -- we still don’t have a figure because of our inability to go out of our compound today.  We have been unable to monitor the situation, so we have really no details yet.  Yes?

Question:  Michèle, did you follow up on the massacre perpetrated by the [inaudible] movement in a town called [inaudible] in the north, killing about 17 people, after their surrender to the army?

Spokesperson:  I didn’t get any more information on that.  You asked me the question.  I didn’t get any more on this.  We asked, and as soon as we get the information, we’ll let you know.

Question: Is there any steps Mr. Ban Ki-moon going to take regarding Sudan and Chad and the latest developments that happened last week there?

Spokesperson:  Right now, as you know, we have a mission on the ground studying the situation and monitoring the situation.  We don’t have a statement on this yet.

Question:  [inaudible] the authorities either in Sudan or in Chad yet?

Spokesperson:  No, not in the last two days.  Yes?

Question:  Michèle, this high-level meeting on the 24th you mentioned…

Spokesperson:  It’s not completely set yet.  It might be the 24th.

Question:  But, earlier you mentioned it’d be somewhere in the region; it wouldn’t be here.

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  So, maybe Bangkok, or…?

Spokesperson:  Maybe.  As I said, most of these details will be defined after the meeting of the ASEAN members, who are going to be examining the proposals made by the Secretary-General yesterday in that meeting.

Question:  It’s sort of about the Fifth Committee, but it’s about the Secretariat.  There’s a letter from the head of DGACM (Department for General Assembly and Conference Management) to the Chairman of the Fifth Committee responding to this problem of all the budgets and reports being given late to the Committee.  And it says, among other things, most of the peacekeeping budget documents have been received late and runs through why, the ones that have not been done.  Who’s, he also says there’s some problem with just processing the documents.  But, there’s a growing kind of -- I don’t want to call it a rebellion -- but people are saying, how can all this money being asked for of the Fifth Committee, with documents that have not even been turned in yet for the peacekeeping missions.  Is there, one, why are they being turned in late, and what is the plan to try to make things work better?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have an answer for you, but what I can do is ask people responsible for the budget to come and explain the process to you, and how this happened, but as you know, the process is being discussed right now in the Fifth Committee.  And we usually do not -- we can give you background information on how the budget is dealt with, but specifics are of course right now in discussions in the Fifth Committee, so we would not get involved.

Question:  I was just surprised because the Chairman of the Fifth Committee wrote to Alicia Bárcena saying what’s going on, and the response he got is from the DGACM.  So, I’m trying to understand who is really responsible for providing these budget proposals to the Budget Committee?

Spokesperson:  I would put your question to the Controller’s office.  Thank you all.  Thank you very much.  Janos?

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon. Let me give you an update on a couple of things that are happening and a heads up as regards next week.

**Resolution on Abkhazia, Georgia

The General Assembly began a plenary meeting this morning by expressing its condolences to Myanmar and China over the tragic loss of life and material damage caused by the cyclone and the earthquake disasters.

The plenary meeting then took up a draft resolution on the “status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia”.  This was out on the racks for you, available under the symbol A/62/L.45.  The draft was sponsored by Georgia, under agenda item 16: protracted conflicts in the GUAM area and their implications for international peace, security and development.

The draft was voted on and adopted by 14 in favour to 11 against, with 105 abstentions.

The resolution recognizes the right of return of all refugees and internally displaced persons and their descendants, regardless of ethnicity, to Abkhazia, Georgia.  It emphasizes the importance of preserving the property rights of the refugees and the internally displaced persons; also underlines the urgent need for rapid development of a timetable to ensure the prompt voluntary return of all refugees and internally displaced persons; requests the Secretary-General to submit to the General Assembly at its sixty-third session a comprehensive report on the implementation of the present resolution and decides to include in the provisional agenda of its sixty-third session the item entitled “Protracted conflicts in the GUAM area and their implications for the international peace, security and development”.

So that was today in the plenary.

**Other General Assembly Meetings

There are a couple of other meetings going on today and tomorrow that I want to draw your attention to, and also some things that are happening next week.

This afternoon, informal consultations are scheduled on mandate review -- I did mention this already, but I mention it again.  The mandate review process is facilitated by the Permanent Representatives of Namibia and New Zealand, and they have proposed a new methodology for analysing mandates, and the first set that they’re analysing and they’re looking for some agreement on are the mandates related to humanitarian assistance.

The Member States will also have informal consultations tomorrow afternoon on the system-wide coherence process.  That is facilitated by the Permanent Representatives of Tanzania and Ireland, and those facilitators are expected to report on their work to the General Assembly President in June.  The consultations tomorrow are focusing on gender issues in the context of system-wide coherence.

**Briefing by Secretary-General Tomorrow

Tomorrow, in the morning, actually at 11:30, the Secretary-General will be briefing Member States in an informal format in a closed session.  This will be the fourth time that the Secretary-General will be updating the membership (within the sixty-second session) on his recent activities and efforts.  Previous briefings were held in November, February and March.  It’s also an interactive format, so Member State representatives will have a chance to ask questions from the Secretary-General and receive answers.  So, that’s this week.

**Human Rights Council Elections

Next week, the big date that most of you probably have been looking at, at least based on what I have seen in the various news reports, is 21 May -- that’s Wednesday -- in the morning, the General Assembly will hold elections for the membership of the Human Rights Council.  Fifteen members will be elected to the 47-member body this time.  The General Assembly website (www.un.org/ga) has details of the current composition, the outgoing members and also has a list of the countries that have announced their candidacy.  And DPI will also have a brief information note available for you in the form of a Q&A that we will have upstairs in the Spokesman’s Office as a background.

**Human Security Debate

A day later, on the 22 May, Thursday, the General Assembly will hold a thematic debate, convened by the President of the Assembly, on human security.  This is a one-day forum, and it aims to have countries reflect on the multidimensional scope of human security and to further explore ways to follow up on its original reference, which was made in the World Summit Outcome in 2005.

In that Outcome document -- this is actually paragraph 143, if you’re interested -- Member States recognized that, and I quote, “all individuals, in particular vulnerable people, are entitled to freedom from fear and freedom from want, with an equal opportunity to enjoy all their rights and fully develop their human potential”.  And to this end, Member States have committed themselves “to discussing and defining the notion of human security in the General Assembly”.

So that’s going to be the 22 May.  The meeting will be starting with statements from the Assembly President, then the Secretary-General and then there will be a keynote speech by Prince el-Hassan bin Talal of Jordan.  After that, there will be an interactive exchange of views by Member States.

**Briefing by Counter-terrorism Task Force

Jumping back one day, on the 21 May, there is going to be an informal briefing by the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force on the activities of the Task Force’s working groups to Member States.  This informal briefing is intended to facilitate preparations for the General Assembly meeting in September that is supposed to have the two-year review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy that was adopted by the membership in 2006 on 8 September.

**Financing for Development Review Session

Also next week, the final round, the sixth round of informal review sessions will take place on Monday and Tuesday in the context of the Financing for Development preparations.  That will be on Chapter IV of the Monterrey Consensus, which is “international trade as an engine for development”.  With that, all chapters, all six chapters, have then been reviewed.  These sessions are chaired by two facilitators, the Permanent Representatives of Egypt and Norway, and the facilitators are working with these review sessions in a way to use them to prepare the process for the Doha Review Conference, which is on 29 November to 2 December.  The summaries of these review sessions will be part of, or will facilitate, the drafting of a draft outcome document by the General Assembly President, which is expected to be issued already at the end of July.

**Fifth Committee

And finally, the Fifth (Administrative and Budgetary) Committee is in session.  It is looking at the financing of Peacekeeping Missions in Cyprus and Congo, both in formal, and right now, in informal consultations.

That’s what I have.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Just with the meeting tomorrow, you mentioned that Mr. Ban Ki-moon is going to talk to the Member States about his efforts and activities.  What efforts?  Just in general, or…?

Spokesperson:  His most recent.  If you remember, for example, in November, the first time that he addressed the membership of the sixty-second session, he talked about his experience coming back from Antarctica and also his efforts as far as going into Bali, for example.  And then in February, his discussions were on Africa and his recent experience based on his talks in Africa, and then, I think development issues were featured in the March informal session.  But it is also a session where you have the possibility for Member State representatives to ask the Secretary-General on a variety of different things.  So I assume that tomorrow he will be talking about the most recent developments concerning the work of the Secretariat and the UN -- so probably the food crisis, Myanmar, maybe the outcome of the CEB meeting that the Secretary-General took part in -- so these kinds of things, really the most topical issues.

Question:  Has there been any kind of, in any form, parallel discussion to what’s been brought up a little bit, not really official, but brought to this Council, this discussion with Myanmar, about the responsibility to protect and, you know, going into a country when they may not be protecting their citizens, even in cases of natural disaster, or whether that was foreseen in the 2005-2006 language?

Spokesperson:  I’ve mentioned this already because I think one of your colleagues asked this last week.  On the responsibility to protect and its relationship to the General Assembly, this is something that the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General, Mr. Edward Luck, is taking on.  In other words, to look at the concept of responsibility to protect, see what the Secretariat can do, see what the UN can do, try and operationalize it, or at least, come up with proposals on operationalizing it, and at some point, there is going to be some sort of a report back to the General Assembly on where this process is going.  That is going to be somewhere down the line.  I’m not even sure whether that’s going to happen with this session; probably somewhere later on.  So, that’s more down the future, specifically on the responsibility to protect and the General Assembly.

But, as I’ve mentioned before to your colleagues, the meeting next week on human security may be – -- I’m just sort of hypothesizing -- may be an occasion where this issue can also come up, because there are those who believe, there are some countries who feel that responsibility to protect is very closely linked to human security.  So, watch the debate on the 22nd, Thursday, to see whether this issue comes up and if so, in what context.

Question:  Is it an open meeting?

Spokesperson:  It is an open meeting in the sense that, yes, press is allowed to come in and listen and observe what is going on.

Question:  I guess a corollary to that question would be is there any kind of diplomacy going on behind the scenes in the General Assembly, aside from this question, just in terms of trying to, I guess you could say, get Myanmar to accept more aid and more workers, more quickly, etcetera, I mean, through the General Assembly, in addition to what the Secretary-General is doing?

Spokesperson:  I am not aware from the side of the President’s office that he is actively involved in any kind of efforts in this sense.  Whether Member States among themselves, yes that could be.  The President was travelling, he is on his way back, but he has been keeping a close watch on what has been going on in Myanmar, all the more so because one of the mandates on Myanmar originates from the Assembly.

Question:  Just to follow up on Bill’s question earlier on China, any questions, any kind of concerns raised about the quake in China?

Spokesperson:  Not that I’m aware of.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  The President, when he was in the Middle East, he travelled from Cairo to Israel, and while he was there on Monday, I did brief -- and please check my briefing notes -- he had discussions both with Israeli leaders and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and he discussed the current peace efforts.  So, that’s what he had.

Question:  But did he not say anything about the sixtieth anniversary…

Spokesperson:  We didn’t issue any statements or messages on either of those.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  In the meetings he had with both of the leaders, and also with the Egyptian leaders, the focus was on the Middle East situation, and also in the context of what efforts the General Assembly was taking, and the President has, in all occasions, expressed his support for the two-State solution, as has been expressed in the General Assembly resolutions.

Question:  There’s this letter dated 22 April from the head of the Fifth Committee, the Ambassador of Malaysia, to a slew of Secretariat officials complaining about, I guess the treatment of the GA.  But I wanted to know -- the President of the GA is not cc’d.  Is he in the loop, is he aware of the letter, does he support [talkover]…?

Spokesperson:  The President is aware of the letter, but the letter is not addressed to the President.  And, let me again refer to something that you and I discussed last week when this issue came up.  You asked about the lateness of reports, etc. and the involvement of the President, and I did mention to you that, as has been traditional, the President, once he’s back, he will most likely meet with the Chair of the Fifth Committee to discuss how discussions are going on, including on this issue of lateness of reports and all the other issues.  So the President is aware of what is going on.

Question:  Just a question to you, whether ACABQ, is there some requirement that the members actually attend meetings, if a certain amount of time goes by without a member actually appearing to do the work, what happens?

Spokesperson:  Do you mean ACABQ members?

Question:  Yes.

Spokesperson:  I cannot answer for anything that relates to the work of ACABQ.  I mean, you would have to ask them, ask the Secretary, Mark Gilpin, about this.

Question:  So neither the Secretariat’s Spokesperson nor you, they have their own, they’re on their own…?

Spokesperson:  Yes.  Please follow up with them directly.

Question:  Did anybody ask about GUAM?  The vote this morning in the General Assembly?

Spokesperson:  Yes, I started out my briefing with that.

Question:  I just wanted to ask you, the vote is 14 yes, 11 no and 105 abstentions?

Spokesperson:  That is correct, yes, I mentioned that, yes.

Question:  Does it mean the resolution is adopted?

Spokesperson:  It means the resolution is adopted, yes.

Question:  With only 14 votes?

Spokesperson:  With 14 votes, yes.

Question:  Does it mean the General Assembly now would pay more attention to displaced persons in that area, in the GUAM area?

Spokesperson:  That is what the resolution is supposed to signify, yes, if it’s adopted.  And if you look at the last segment, or the one before last operative paragraph, it does mention that the Secretary-General is expected to report back to the sixty-third session on how this resolution is being implemented.  So, there’s going to be follow-up.

Question:  How would you characterize – I mean, is that a – the GA stands strongly behind the rights of those seeking to return to Abkhazia, or what -- given that there were only 14… how do you explain the large number of abstentions, and how does this stand, how does this contrast with other GA, how should the world view this action of the GA in which the vast majority of the members just didn’t vote at all, or just abstained, did vote, but abstained?

Spokesperson:  I’m not going to characterize individual Member States and why they abstain or why they vote yes or no.  I mean most of them, or some of them, actually did take the floor, and if you look at the records, they did explain why they’re voting a certain way, before and also after the vote.  So, that’s supposed to explain itself.

If no more questions, thank you very much.

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