15 August 2008


15 August 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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, everyone.

**Press Conferences Today

Today at 2 p.m., there will be a press conference by the Foreign Minister of Serbia, Vuk Jeremić, on Serbia’s intentions regarding the International Court of Justice and the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo.  That will be in this room.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Nepal

I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General concerning Nepal.

The Secretary-General warmly congratulates Mr. Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) on his election as the first Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.  He calls on all parties to cooperate with the new Government in order to carry forward Nepal’s peace process.

** Myanmar

The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, will depart later today for a five-day visit to Myanmar starting on Monday, 18 August, at the invitation of the Myanmar Government.

Mr. Gambari looks forward to returning to Myanmar and continuing his consultations with the Government and other relevant parties in the implementation of the good offices mandate entrusted to the Secretary-General by the General Assembly.

** Georgia

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres is scheduled to arrive in Georgia on Tuesday, on a trip that will also take him to the Russian Federation.  He will be assessing his agency’s humanitarian operations in both countries, and discuss with the two Governments any further support they may require.

Meanwhile, UNHCR’s third humanitarian flight this week to Georgia was scheduled to arrive in Tbilisi today, carrying 38 tons of jerrycans, blankets, kitchen sets and telecommunications equipment.

For its part, UNICEF has been distributing hygiene kits and bottled water to 3,600 displaced women and children in and around Tbilisi.  And the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that it is currently working on a flash appeal for Georgia, which may be launched as early as Monday.  And we have more information upstairs.

** Darfur

The advance party of the first Ethiopian infantry battalion to join UNAMID, the AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) is scheduled to arrive in El Fasher over the weekend.  This initial arrival will bring additional engineering capabilities to the Mission, especially in the areas of water installation, the erection of tents and electric power lines.  The Ethiopian contingent will be deployed in the areas of Kulbus and Silea, in West Darfur.

Meanwhile, UNAMID reports that, following recent discussions between Deputy Special Representative Henry Anyidoho and the Governor of South Darfur, Ali Mahmoud, about restrictions of fuel allocations to the Kalma Camp, UNAMID’s Nyala office has received reports that the situation is being resolved.  Oxfam informed us that its fuel allocation was approved as requested, and they were allocated sufficient fuel to run their water pumps in Kalma for a week. Other aid groups also reported that they were satisfied with the current Government fuel allocations.

** South Africa

UNHCR says it has completed an assessment of conditions for the remaining foreign nationals still living in camps for those displaced by the recent xenophobic attacks in the Gauteng Province of South Africa.  While most of the 40,000 people displaced by the violence have returned to their homes within South Africa, some 8,000 people remain at camps in Johannesburg and Cape Town.  And UNHCR says that its implementing partners are assisting them with cash donations.  Meanwhile, the South African Government has signalled its intention to close the camps and that’s expected to happen as early as next week.

** Nepal

Next Monday in Kathmandu, Nepal, the Chef de Cabinet, Vijay Nambiar, will represent the Secretary-General and deliver a message on his behalf at a ceremony marking the opening of the new office in Kathmandu of the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific.  The ceremony is expected to be attended by President Ram Baran Yadav and other senior Government officials of Nepal, as well as members of the diplomatic corps and representatives from regional organizations and civil society.


A joint fact-finding team from the UN and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was initiated today in Abuja, to look into the deaths of a number of Ghanaian nationals who were found buried in Gambia in 2005.

The team, which will be based in Abuja, will be led by Curtis Ward, a UN-ECOWAS appointee.  It will include representatives appointed by the Governments of Gambia and Ghana.

The team was established at the request of both Governments to help bring about a peaceful closure to this matter, consistent with the principles of justice and respect for human rights and dignity.

**Human Rights Council

In Geneva today, the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee concluded its first session, during which it adopted by consensus 13 recommendations to the Human Rights Council.

Among other things, the Committee recommended that the Human Rights Council and the Secretary-General make available their good offices so as to extend the right of non-refoulement to hunger refugees.  The Committee also set up a working group charged with making recommendations to the Human Rights Council on the right to food and the current food crisis.  Another decision sets up a drafting group to begin preparatory work on a declaration pertaining to human rights education and training.

**United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) today launched an online database that provides trade statistics on creative goods and services.  The statistics available on the site cover some 235 products related to heritage, arts, media and functional creations.  The site also shows global trade flows for the decade starting in 1996.


Wilfried Lemke, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, said that the power of sports in promoting peace has been evident at the 2008 Olympic Games.  Speaking as the Games reach their midway point, Lemke said in a statement that sports builds bridges between individuals and across communities, providing a fertile ground for sowing the seeds of development and peace.

Meanwhile, UNAIDS is making 100,000 condoms available to athletes in health clinics in the Olympic villages of Beijing, Qingdao and Hong Kong.  Leaflets and posters giving information on HIV/AIDS in English, French and Chinese are also available at the Olympic villages.  Among other initiatives, UNAIDS is also airing video messages by Special Representatives German footballer Michael Ballack and Chinese basketball star Yao Ming.

**Week Ahead

We have available upstairs The Week Ahead at the United Nations.  Among other things, it points out that on Monday, the Security Council is scheduled to receive a briefing on its 1540 Committee report -- that is the Committee that deals with the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -- and on the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), followed by consultations on UNMIS.

On Tuesday, it mentions that, at 10:15 a.m. in the public lobby of the General Assembly Building, the Secretary-General attends a wreath-laying ceremony marking the fifth anniversary of the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad.  And we have the full document upstairs.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  In view of our guest this afternoon, has the Secretary-General ever expressed any views -- congratulatory or cautionary -- on Kosovo’s independence since February?

Associate Spokesperson:  I think we have stated repeatedly our view on the status of Kosovo.  In terms of recognition of independence, we have said that that is a question to be determined by individual States.  It is not something that is determined by the Secretary-General.

Question:  When do you expect to see the Secretary-General back at Headquarters?  Next Monday?

Associate Spokesperson:  It is possible.  We will let you know.  If there is any event that would involve the Secretary-General any earlier than Tuesday, we will let you know if that happens.  At the very least, he is scheduled to be present at the Tuesday event commemorating the fifth anniversary of the deaths in the Baghdad bombing.  So he will be there for that, and if he is present in the building earlier than that, we will certainly send out an announcement on the Internet.

Question:  A follow-up to that, no plans for a news conference this weekend by the Secretary-General?

Associate Spokesperson:  That is something that could be considered.  The Secretary-General, as you know, has been doing quite a bit of work regarding the situation in Georgia.  He has been communicating with a number of people, including, as we pointed out yesterday, the President of Georgia.  If he feels the need to say anything further on that, we will let you know whether something is scheduled over the weekend or on Monday.  But, at present, we don’t have any particulars to announce.

Question:  Do we get to know by the end of the day, for example?

Associate Spokesperson:  As soon as we have something definitive.  Like I said, he is considering what to say and he certainly intends to make himself available to you sometime in the near future, but when that is, we will let you know as that develops.

Question:  Any indication on when the Security Council will be meeting on Georgia again?

Associate Spokesperson:  No.  As with the Secretary-General’s schedule, we will let you know as that develops.  As you are aware, the Council members have been consulting with each other bilaterally about the draft text of a resolution circulated by France concerning Georgia.  As those consultations proceed, if there are any formal consultations or meeting of the Council, we will let you know.

Question:  There are reports that the UN had asked to send a team to assess the political violence in Zimbabwe between 29 May and the run-off, but that the Government had refused entry to the UN team.  Can you confirm first that the UN has tried to send such a team, and second that it has been denied access?

Associate Spokesperson:  I will check.  I am not aware of that one, but I’ll check if we received such a request.

Question:  Yesterday, Ambassador [Vitaly] Churkin of Russia said that he had not received any concerns from the UN about the lack of access for humanitarian groups to the areas in Georgia.  This was after you had made a statement on behalf of the Secretary-General about his concerns.  Have you heard back from the Russians?  Have you contacted the Russians directly about these concerns?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, as far as that goes, the Secretary-General does expect to meet with Ambassador Churkin possibly tomorrow here in New York.  So he will have an opportunity to discuss things with him at that point.  We have made our views known about our concerns on access, particularly -- as you yourself mentioned -- in yesterday’s statement.

Question:  Generally, what is your reaction that Ambassador Churkin is saying, “we have not been contacted by the United Nations”?  Why did the Secretary-General call the Georgian President and not the Russian President or the Russian Prime Minister?

Associate Spokesperson:  As I said earlier in the week, the Secretary-General has been trying to contact the Russian President.  So that is a call we are still trying to arrange.  And certainly, contacts with the Russians continue, including -- as I said just a second ago -- he expects to meet with Ambassador Churkin.

Question:  What does that mean, “has been trying”?  Does that mean he has not been answering your calls…?

Associate Spokesperson:  No, we were not able to set up a call.  We were trying to set up a call, but we were not able to.  Sometimes it is difficult to make the arrangements.  At any case, as I said, he will be meeting with Ambassador Churkin.  In terms of the criticisms by Ambassador Churkin, I just want to let you know that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is receptive to any constructive criticism of the maps that it prepares and the analysis that it provides.  If any information is wrong, it will be corrected.  Maps involving crises are extremely fluid.  OCHA relies on information available at the time, gathered from situational reports from the field, and it updates maps as the information flows in.  It welcomes more information and support from all parties.

Question:  The Spokesman for the Sudanese Foreign Ministry has criticized Mr. Ban for comments that he apparently made in an interview with Al Ahram, in which he said that the International Criminal Court can enforce its decisions.  He said a variety of things.  The Foreign Ministry of Sudan has said that Mr. Ban should not pre-empt results of the ICC, and he should not really speak about it, since it is not a UN organ.  What is the response by Mr. Ban?  What did he say?

Associate Spokesperson:  As far as that goes, I believe what is in question was a mistranslation.  The comments that the Secretary-General made were in English, and in English he made it clear that issues pertaining to the Court are for the Court to consider.  It is not that he was calling for any particular steps to be taken regarding the International Criminal Court.  He made it very clear in that interview that the International Criminal Court is an independent body.

Question:  If you guys have a transcript of it in English, can we get that transcript of what Mr. Ban said?

Associate Spokesperson:  I’ll check.  We certainly had a transcript that we sent to Al Ahram.  I’d have to be able to get a hold of the final transcript that was sent to them.  As you know, my boss, Michèle, is away, so I am not entirely sure whether I have the last version.  But I certainly saw what was sent regarding the Sudan, and it seems that along the line of translation from English to Arabic something might have been shifted.

Question:  Since there is this controversy, it would be helpful to just have it.  If you guys have whatever version you have, it would be good to see it.

Associate Spokesperson:  I’ll see what I can do to share that.

Question:  Also, there was a meeting yesterday that the Deputy Secretary-General met with the Head of the UN Federal Credit Union.  It was on her schedule, it was the one appointment of her day.  Can you find out what that meeting was about?

Associate Spokesperson:  I doubt we would necessarily have the readout of that.  We don’t have readouts of every single thing that is on our officials’ schedules.

Question:  Can you look into whether it has anything to do with the Capital Master Plan and where the thing will be based after the building is fixed?

Associate Spokesperson:  Like I said, I am not aware that this is the sort of thing that we would necessarily have a readout on.

Question:  I understand that the Secretary-General or his representative is due to report to the Security Council today on recommendations for a drawdown of military and police forces in the Liberia force, UNMIL.  Has that report gone in and get we get some readout on that?

Associate Spokesperson:  I’ll check.

And with that, I wish you all a good weekend.  And we will be in touch if we see each other any sooner than Monday.

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