16 July 2008


16 July 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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

**Noon Guest

Good afternoon and I’m sorry I’m rather late.  I just received a statement attributable to the Spokesperson and I was waiting for that, but we will have a guest, too, shortly, and it is Éric Laroche, the Assistant Director-General for Health Action in Crises of the World Health Organization (WHO), and he will be briefing you on treating climate change, the food crisis and other global health challenges.

**Statement on Middle East

And a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General just came in.

The Secretary-General is deeply satisfied that the humanitarian aspects of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) have finally been met today.

His thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families.  He conveys his heartfelt condolences to all.

He expresses his great appreciation to the work of the UN Facilitator.  He also thanks the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for their important logistical support.

The Secretary-General is looking forward to witnessing further positive moves as envisaged during the negotiations.  He has received messages to that effect from both the Government of Israel and from the leadership of Hizbullah.

Finally, the Secretary-General hopes that there will be action soon for the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit and of Palestinian prisoners.  He believes these steps will contribute to improving the overall humanitarian situation in the region.

And we have copies of this statement available upstairs.  And earlier today, the Secretary-General in Berlin also commented on it during a press conference there.

**Security Council

Meanwhile, here at UN Headquarters, the Security Council this morning received a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno on the work of the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID.  And he earlier briefed troop-contributing countries for UNAMID about recent developments in Darfur.  Mr. Guéhenno has said he intends to speak to you at the stakeout once those consultations have ended and we hope we’ll be able to let you know from here if that is during the briefing.   The Council members also received the text of a draft presidential statement on UNAMID, which they may consider in a formal meeting after consultations.

** Sudan Report

As you know, the Secretary-General’s report on the deployment of UNAMID covering the period from April to June 2008 is out as a document today, and that is what is being discussed in the Council, and in that report, the Secretary-General says he is deeply disappointed by the lack of progress that has been made towards resolving the Darfur conflict.  The parties continue to pursue the path of military confrontation instead of dialogue, the deployment of UNAMID is far behind schedule, sexual and gender-based violence continues with impunity and heightened insecurity and banditry has severely hampered the ability to provide life-sustaining humanitarian aid.

The Secretary-General also notes in that report that tensions between Chad and Sudan and the suspension of diplomatic relations between the two countries should also be highlighted as a source of considerable instability in Darfur.  And the newly appointed Chief Mediator, Djibril Bassolé, will face the enormous challenge of having to take all of these complicating factors into consideration.  In the meantime, the Secretary-General says it is critical to press forward with the maximum possible deployment of UNAMID.  And as you know, and as I just mentioned to you, Mr. Guéhenno will come to the stakeout to answer your questions.

**Statement on Korean Peninsula

I also just received another statement attributable to the Spokesperson, on the Korean peninsula.

The Secretary-General welcomes the recent progress at the sixth round of the six-party talks in Beijing, which includes an agreement to establish mechanisms to verify the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and to monitor the implementation of related commitments.  The Secretary-General recognizes this continuing progress as an important contribution to peace and stability in North‑East Asia and urges all participants to intensify their efforts and dialogue to further advance this multilateral process and to contribute to the resolution of bilateral issues.

**UNAMID Today

And now let me get back to what I was briefing you on today, Darfur.  From UNAMID, we did just get a press release in, mentioning the shooting of a UNAMID peacekeeper.  All we have right now is very preliminary information, saying one of its UNAMID peacekeepers has been killed in West Darfur whilst on a patrol.  Investigations are ongoing and further information will be made available.  UNAMID condemns all acts of violence against its peacekeepers.

Meanwhile, during the past 24 hours, UNAMID reports that its patrols have been continuing; 16 security and confidence-building patrols were conducted throughout the region.  Humanitarian activities also continued as usual.  And UNAMID also reports today that a Chinese engineering company consisting of 175 officers is expected to arrive in Nyala in South Darfur tomorrow.  This expected deployment will bring the number of the Chinese contingent in Darfur to 318 and the total number of military personnel on the ground to 8,003.  Meanwhile, the UN Mission in Khartoum, UNMIS, also reports some student demonstrations, but said the Mission conducted its regular activities including daily police patrols in Juba and all sectors and training for South Sudan police, for example.

** Zimbabwe

And on Zimbabwe, at the invitation of South Africa, Haile Menkerios, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, is travelling today to Pretoria, where he plans to meet with South African President Thabo Mbeki and African Union Commission Chairperson Jean Ping.  During their meeting, which is scheduled for Friday, the Secretary-General’s envoy plans to be briefed on developments up to now and consult on the way forward.

**Secretary-General Travels

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General today held a working breakfast in Berlin with the German Minister for Defence, with whom he discussed Kosovo, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Darfur.  They also discussed at length the situation in Georgia-Abkhazia.  After that working breakfast, he spoke to the press, as I mentioned earlier.  The Secretary-General then flew to Bonn, where he received a warm welcome at the Old City Hall.  He later addressed the UN staff after visiting UN campus where 17 UN agencies and programmes work.  The Secretary-General is now on his way back to New York.

** Iraq

And turning to Iraq, following months of hard work by members of Parliament, the UN Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) offered its full support to the efforts of the Council of Representatives to reach agreement on the Governorate Council election law, which is scheduled for next week.  The UN Mission urged the parliamentarians to reach political agreement on the remaining clauses in dispute so that the Iraqi people may have an election in December 2008.  UNAMI is encouraged by the continued inclusion of protections in the draft law that provides quotas and mechanisms for women’s inclusion on party lists.  Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, said: “Having Iraqi women on governorate councils will contribute to the development of a more peaceful and stable Iraq.”  And there’s a press release on this.

** Somalia

And on Somalia, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for that country, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah has welcomed progress in the implementation of the agreement signed last month in Djibouti by the Somali Transitional Government and the opposition.  He said that the path towards Somalia regaining its dignity and sovereignty is irreversible.  He is encouraged by the determination of the Somali parties to uphold the spirit and letter of the Djibouti agreement, which came after indirect reconciliation talks endorsed by the Security Council.

The Special Representative said that the international community has also mobilized significant resources to implement the agreement and that a joint Somali delegation might be visiting the Security Council soon.  In the same statement, Ould-Abdallah also condemned the recent spate of deadly attacks on UN workers and prominent Somali business figures.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

And turning to the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the World Food Programme (WFP) says its resources in North Kivu are stretched to the limit.  Malnutrition is running at alarming levels as increasing numbers of people flee the fighting and seek refuge in camps.  Last July, WFP was planning to distribute 800 metric tons of food per month; now that number has risen to 10,000 tons of food per month.  The agency is also helping to establish new feeding centres, but it has already been forced to cut rations in half for some people.  WFP needs more than $142 million in additional donations to continue its operations there.

**Food and Agriculture Organization

In other news, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has launched an emergency rice programme in 11 West-African countries.  Consumer prices for this staple food doubled over the past year in parts of the region and rice seed for upcoming plantings is in short supply.  FAO is helping to address that shortage by ramping up seed production during the next few months and making sure the seeds are in place in time for the first crop in spring 2009.

And this Friday, that’s the day after tomorrow, the Secretary-General is scheduled to address the General Assembly plenary session on the global food and energy crisis.  The finalized Comprehensive Framework for Action (CFA) on the global food crisis, along with a letter from the Secretary-General, has been sent to Member States this morning.  The letter and the CFA have been posted on the website of the President of the General Assembly, under the “Letters” tab.

**Mexico-United States

And the International Court of Justice (ICJ) this morning ordered that the United States take “all measures necessary” to ensure that five Mexican nationals on death row in US prisons are not executed pending the ICJ’s final ruling on the matter.  The Court also ordered the US to report to it the steps taken to enforce this decision.  The decision is an “interim injunction”, protecting the rights of Mexico and of its nationals pending a final decision of the Court on the request for interpretation of its earlier judgment in the case.  The ICJ had earlier ruled that the US was in breach of its international obligations for not granting Mexican consular services to the prisoners.  The full decision is available on the ICJ’s website.

** China Earthquake

And the United Nations today launched a $33.5 million appeal for early recovery support to assist victims of the devastating earthquake that hit China in May killing nearly 70,000 people, and leaving over 5 million people homeless.  The appeal addresses the needs of the poor and vulnerable among the affected population, focusing on shelter, health, sanitation and education.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has a press release with more details upstairs.

**Global Compact in Israel

And turning to the Global Compact, it was officially launched in Israel today, in a ceremony hosted by the Foreign Minister.  The event set the stage for the future establishment of a Global Compact country network in Israel.  Leading Israeli businesses are expected to join the initiative in the weeks ahead.  And there’s a press release from the Global Compact Office upstairs, or should be available in our office later, upstairs.


UNAIDS, in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), has developed a new policy on the HIV-related needs and rights of international labour migrants, irrespective of their legal status.  The policy, which contains guidance and recommendations for national authorities, notes that migrant workers face particular risks and vulnerabilities to HIV which must be addressed.  According to UNAIDS, around 100 countries restrict people living with HIV from entering or remaining in a country.  Among other things, the new policy urges countries to remove such restrictions and make services available to migrants.  And there’s more information on that upstairs.

**World Conference on Dialogue

The Secretary-General today called for strengthening cooperation among world religions in a message to the World Conference on Dialogue, an initiative by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud of Saudi-Arabia.  He noted that many conflicts that appear to be rooted in religion often have their origins beyond the confines of faith.  He also called for more outreach to young people who feel alienated and stressed the importance of religious leaders as peacebuilders.  The Conference is taking place in Madrid over the next three days and the full message is available upstairs.

**Press Conference Today

And down to the final two items, at 3 p.m. this afternoon, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, will be holding a press conference here following the launch of the Midyear Review of the Humanitarian Appeal 2008.  We put out a press release on this earlier today, but please be advised that we now have a revised version of that press release, and the embargo time has been changed from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., which is when the press conference is.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

And then tomorrow at 9:45 a.m., on the occasion of the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, will hold a press conference here in 226.  He will be accompanied by the Foreign Minister of Costa Rica, the current President of the Assembly of States Parties of the ICC; and the Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein to the UN, the President-elect of the Assembly of States Parties of the ICC.

Following that, at 10:30 a.m., the Permanent Mission of Suriname is holding a press conference.  The President of the Foreign Affairs and National Defence Committee of Suriname will brief you on the internal process and discussions held in Suriname that led to the country’s accession to the Rome Statute of the ICC.  And also tomorrow, at 3 p.m., there will be a press briefing following the open debate of the Security Council on children and armed conflict.

So that’s what I have for you.  I believe our guest is here, so I’d like to turn this over to him.  Do you have any questions urgently for me?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  The Secretary-General was accused of undermining the International Criminal Court’s work in the German media.  Has the UN addressed those allegations?

Deputy Spokesperson:  What specifically are you referring to?

Question:  The news of the International Criminal Court seeking an arrest warrant of the Sudanese President and the Secretary-General allegedly said that he didn’t agree with that decision.  And a lot of the German press said that he was undermining the Court’s work.

Deputy Spokesperson:  I would like to refer you to the Secretary-General’s comments.  I believe he made them here at the press conference after he returned from his trip to Asia and the G-8 meeting, and again during his trip that he has just concluded, and let me just read his words to you on the ICC.  “The International Criminal Court is an independent judiciary organ.  Peace and justice are both very important elements and we need to respect and promote peace and justice.  Peace and justice should go hand in hand.  At this time, what is important is that the Sudanese Government does everything possible to ensure the safety and security of UN peacekeepers and premises of all humanitarian workers.  I hope that the Sudanese Government would address this issue widely with the cooperation of the United Nations.”

Question:  Marie, is there any evaluation taking place that the UN investigation into the assassination of the Pakistani Prime Minister will cost the United Nations $20 million.  There have been some reports in Pakistan saying that some UN officials have said that?  Is that correct?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing beyond our statement on this, that we had after the discussions that the Secretary-General had last week.

Question:  Is there somebody who can give us a briefing on this?

Deputy Spokesperson:  As soon as we have anything more I’ll let you know.

Question:  While in Berlin, the Secretary-General had a press conference in which he basically said that the logistic support for UNAMID were not enough still, and that aeronautical support, especially by way of helicopters, still was not enough.  Is there any assessment on how short they are?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The deployment of UNAMID was the subject of the Security Council consultations this morning.  The report to which I refer details, again, at great length, what the shortcomings are.  As far as the helicopters are concerned, which is what you’re asking about, there’s been no progress on that.  And again, the Secretary-General is just echoing his past appeals for increased support to get the force up to speed, to be able to do what it is mandated is to do.

Question:  When resolution 1701 (2006), the Secretary-General at the time, Kofi Annan, said he would name a facilitator.  It was never revealed who that facilitator was.  Now that it’s complete and the name is out in the media, can you tell us who that facilitator was?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m afraid I can’t.

Question:  The Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently congratulated the family of the terrorist Samir Kunta on his release.  Seeing that it’s Israel’s peace partner, is that considered acceptable?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I read you the statement of the Secretary-General on what happened today.

Question:  There are these reports of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) granting World Heritage status to a temple in Cambodia where Thai troops are crossing the border.  First, can the UN confirm or deny that?  And second, does UNESCO or the UN think that, in a disputed terrain, granting one country’s application for the status was helpful?

Deputy Spokesperson:  You’ll have to ask for UNESCO’s reaction.  As for monitoring the border, I’m not sure we have a presence on the border, but if we have anything I’ll let you know.

Question:  Sorry for my ignorance in general or if I missed it, but did the Secretary-General in any way, or how did he support it if he did, the Mediterranean Union that was established a few days ago?

Deputy Spokesperson:  As you know, he spoke at the Union and we have his remarks upstairs.  I have nothing beyond that.

Question:  The Secretary-General expressed his satisfaction regarding the progress in the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.  At the same time, we see tension building between the Republic of Korea and Japan, and Korea has withdrawn its Ambassador over the dispute over the islets, the two small islands in the maritime zone between the two countries.  How concerned is the Secretary-General about tension building between the two?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The statement, as you know, is on the positive developments on the six-party talks.  As for the region, he just returned, as you know, from an extensive trip that took him to all three countries.  And if you refer to his statement, he encourages the progress being made by the three countries towards improving relations there, as well.

Question:  What’s the progress if any on the choosing of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and are there any candidates from Eastern Europe?

Deputy Spokesperson:  As you know, the selection process is still ongoing, so we have nothing to say on the candidates, and the Secretary-General, as I mentioned to you, is returning later today and he will finalize his consultations with Member States on the appointment of the High Commissioner for Human Rights upon his return from the area, and that clarifies a little the question that was asked yesterday on whether he’d be briefing the General Assembly.  What he will do is, he will be having further consultations with Member States upon his return before he writes a letter.  As you know, a letter generally goes to the General Assembly with his appointment.

Question:  He’ll be meeting with the General Assembly or regional groups?

Deputy Spokesperson:  He will continue to have informal consultations with the General Assembly President and the regional groups.

Question:  Is there anybody in the Secretary-General’s Office who can brief us on the investigation into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto?

Deputy Spokesperson:  If we have anything beyond the statement, we will certainly try to get you anything if we get more details beyond what we were able to give you two weeks ago.

Question:  I went through the report, but I did not understand who is responsible for blocking the UN forces, the Government of Sudan or the response of the international community?

Deputy Spokesperson:  All of that is detailed in very great detail in this report that is just on the racks and that’s being discussed in the Security Council today.

Question:  There’s a quote in a current Bloomberg story about the legislative commander of JEM, the Justice and Equality Movement, saying the commanders are here with Khalil Ibrahim discussing.  We are coming back to finish the job.  The headline states: Darfur Rebels Plan New Assault on Sudanese Capital.  Does anyone in the UN system have a response to this quote, this threat?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have a direct response to the threat you’re quoting from a press report.  I have not seen anything directly from our Mission on that yet, but, as you know, the Secretary-General has been repeatedly appealing for an end to this conflict and that the military solution is not the way to go and so, therefore, he has recently appointed a chief mediator on the ground to try to bring the parties together.

Question:  When will the mediator start?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I believe within days, but let me get you the precise date.  And with that, I think I’m going to have to change over to our guest, Éric Laroche.  Thank you for waiting and we’ll get going on your briefing.

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