19 September 2008


19 September 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 Enrique Yeves, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon, all.

**Guest at Noon Briefing Today

Our guest at the noon briefing, John Holmes, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, will brief on the food crisis in the Horn of Africa.

**Secretary-General Rings Peace Bell

Commemorating the International Day of Peace, which falls on Sunday this year, the Secretary-General this morning rang the Peace Bell joined by several UN Messengers of Peace, including Michael Douglas, Jane Goodall and Elie Weisel, as well as renowned violinist Midori Goto, who is appointed as a Messenger of Peace on this special day.

He took the occasion to call on people around the world to observe a minute of silence at noon on Sunday, to mark the International Day of Peace, and also called on them to send a text message appealing for peace.

This year, the Secretary-General said, the International Day of Peace takes on special meaning, because this year also marks the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“We know that human rights are essential to peace,” he said.  Yet too many people around the world still have their rights violated -- especially during and after armed conflict.  That is why, he added, we must ensure that the rights in the Declaration are a living reality -- that they are known, understood and enjoyed by everyone, everywhere.

Also today at Headquarters, the Secretary-General was joined by youth at peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan, Liberia and Sudan, via video conference.

Many activities will take place around the world to mark this special Day, including a peace walk in Accra, an observance in cooperation with Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, a peace bell ceremony in Mexico City, and a traditional UN Cup Chess Festival entitled “Sports for Peace” in Yerevan.  We have his remarks at the Peace Bell ceremony upstairs.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning discussed the work of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad, known as MINURCAT, and heard from the head of that Mission, Victor Angelo.

He told the Council that the situation in Chad remains fragile, although there has been some progress on the political front, while the situation in parts of the Central African Republic continue to be volatile.  He also detailed the Secretary-General’s recent report, including the potential expansion of MINURCAT as it takes over responsibilities next year from the European Force, or EUFOR, on the ground.

Following consultations on MINURCAT, the Security Council is to hold consultations with a briefing on Zimbabwe, by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios.

Mr. Menkerios was in Harare this Monday to witness the formal signing of the power-sharing agreement between the Zimbabwean parties, under which Robert Mugabe remains the country’s President and Morgan Tsvangirai becomes its first Prime Minister.  Mr. Menkerios said that he will talk to reporters at the Security Council stakeout, once the consultations have finished.  And of course, we will announce when he goes to the stakeout.

** Darfur

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Ameerah Haq, is deeply concerned at the continued fighting between the Government of Sudan and the armed rebel movements in North Darfur.

During a visit to El Fasher yesterday, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator learnt that the clashes have severely restricted humanitarian access to multiple locations in Darfur and the delivery of critical assistance to vulnerable beneficiaries.

Thousands are reported to be newly displaced by the fighting, but figures are so far unconfirmed.

Ms. Haq urges both parties to immediately cease hostilities and requests humanitarian access to the affected areas in North Darfur.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator reminds all parties of their responsibilities to protect civilians and the importance of respecting humanitarian space.  In this context, reports of incursions into the Zam Zam camp for internally displaced persons earlier this week by Government of Sudan police are of concern and the Humanitarian Coordinator urges restraint by all parties.


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Lamberto Zannier, today shared some details concerning the reconfiguration of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), during a meeting today in Pristina.

Zannier said that UNMIK will retain key functions given to it by Security Council resolution 1244, including political reporting and facilitating dialogue on practical issues between Pristina and Belgrade.  Also, UNMIK will maintain, as needed, its field presence through its office in Mitrovica and three smaller field offices in other parts of Kosovo.

Zannier made it clear that Kosovo’s minority communities will continue to be a strong focus of UNMIK's future work.  And he noted that substantial numbers of staff, both local and international, will leave between now and the end of the year.  We have more information on that upstairs.

**South Ossetia –- Georgia

On South Ossetia, the UN humanitarian assessment mission that we flagged to you earlier this week has now left South Ossetia for North Ossetia.  It was able to visit villages and speak to South Ossetians over a period of two days.  When its findings become public, we will of course share them with you.

Meanwhile, UNICEF reports that it has distributed some 265 school-in-a-box kits and 235 recreation kits to the municipal authorities in the Georgian town of Gori.  Those materials will benefit some 26,000 conflict-affected children in and around Gori.  UNICEF is also working with partners to get children back to school through the collection and distribution of textbooks, the improvement of hygiene in schools, and the provision of psychosocial support through teacher training.  Mine-risk education has also started in the area, according to UNICEF.

** Haiti

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the situation in Haiti remains very serious.  The agency says that it urgently needs support for its Flash Appeal for Haiti, as only 2 per cent of the required for $108 million has been donated so far.  Some $54 million of this Flash Appeal will go to providing emergency food aid.  Another critical OCHA concern remains access to reach those who have not yet received assistance, including affected people in the Artibonne and Nippes regions.  OCHA is concerned that continued rains might complicate relief efforts.  For its part, WFP [World Food Programme] says that it has provided food aid to some 298,000 people since the start of the crisis.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Haiti, Hedi Annabi, was in the town of Hinche, in central Haiti, to visit people affected by recent hurricanes in the region.  Annabi sought to evaluate the needs of the affected and assure them of the commitment of the United Nations and the international community to assist them.

Meanwhile, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow is in the country today through 23 September to take stock of the devastation.  Both Farrow and Nigel Fisher, the head of UNICEF Canada, will be meeting with children and women affected by the disasters.  The team will also visit Gonaïves, the town worst hit by the hurricanes and flooding, where some 70,000 people are in temporary shelters.  A visit is also planned to the Cite-Soleil neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince.  We have copies of the UNICEF press release upstairs.

**Lao People’s Democratic Republic

The United Nations and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has appealed for some $10 million in urgent humanitarian aid to help relieve disease, malnutrition and loss of livelihoods facing hundreds of communities hit by recent floods there.

Over 200,000 people in 11 provinces lost farmland, infrastructure and homes when the River Mekong and many of its tributaries burst their banks, following torrential rains in mid-August.

** Somalia

Despite the overall climate of insecurity and violence in Somalia, UNICEF was able to reach some 142,000 children between the ages of 9 months and 15 years and vaccinated them against measles.  This latest immunization campaign focused on Mogadishu and the camps for internally displaced persons in Afgoye.

Measles is a serious public health problem in Somalia, with routine measles vaccination covering only about 19 per cent of the country.  Existing data show that measles is a leading cause of death for children.  And Somalia has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world, with 86 out of 1,000 children unlikely to survive, and as many as 135 newborns dying within hours or days of their births.  There is more in a press release upstairs.

** Liberia

The World Food Programme this week launched, with the Government of Liberia, an urban school feeding programme in the capital, Monrovia, for 150,000 children who have been short of food because of high food prices.

In addition, another 400,000 rural school children in Liberia will continue to benefit from school feeding programmes offered by WFP and the Liberian Government over the course of the present school year.  We have more details in a press release from WFP.

**Human Rights Council

In Geneva, the Human Rights Council devoted the entire day today to the issue of racism, racial discrimination and, specifically, the defamation of religions.

The new Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Githu Muigai of Kenya, made his first address to the Human Rights Council.

He presented a report prepared by his predecessor on the defamation of religions, and in particular on the serious implications of Islamophobia.

**Electronic Cigarette

Contrary to what some marketers are implying, the World Health Organization (WHO) does not consider the electronic cigarette to be a legitimate therapy for smokers trying to quit.

WHO says it has no scientific evidence to confirm the product's safety and effectiveness and wants marketers to stop saying that WHO has endorsed it.

The agency adds that it does not discount the possibility that the electronic cigarette could be useful as a smoking cessation aid, but insists that the only way to know for sure is to conduct tests.

The WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation is scheduled to address the electronic cigarette, among other topics, in mid-November in Durban, South Africa.  We have more on that upstairs from WHO.


Today marks the start of the sixteenth annual Clean Up the World Weekend.  As part of the UN Environment Programme-supported initiative, participants around the world will help remove and recycle trash, and take part in other environmental activities.

And for the first time, those taking part this year will be able to keep track of their and other people’s activities using a new Google-supported online mapping function.  There is more in a press release upstairs.

**Press Conferences Today

And let me say that at 2 p.m. today, Jean-Marc Coicaud, Director of the UN University Office in New York; Patrick Stover, Director of the UNU’s Food and Nutrition Programme; Per Pinstrup-Andersen and David Sahn from Cornell University will brief on the UN University-Cornell Africa Series.

And at 3:30 p.m. in this Room, Bob Harrison, CEO of the Clinton Global Initiative; Amir Dossal, Executive Director of the UN Office for Partnerships; and Georg Kell, Executive Director of the Global Compact Office will discuss the work of the Clinton Global Initiative in tackling global challenges in the areas of health, climate change, education and poverty alleviation.

**Week Ahead

And before I invite the General Assembly Spokesman to give his briefing, just a few words on the week ahead so you can plan.

Today’s “Week Ahead” will contain the press conferences and press stakeouts, along with the major events involving the Secretary-General that we know of as of now.

The list of scheduled press conferences will be continuously updated by my office.

The list of bilateral meetings involving the Secretary-General –- over 100, I was told -- will be provided on a daily basis.  We hope to have Sunday’s programme later today.

My office will be staffed from Sunday through next Saturday as long as the Secretary-General is in the building.

We expect Sunday to be a regular working day for the Secretary-General.  As for the major events, I will flag just a few.

Beginning at 9 a.m. Monday, in the General Assembly Hall, a high-level meeting on the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa's Development gets under way.  The Secretary-General is scheduled to address the meeting.  And I am sure Enrique can add more on this.

Then on Monday afternoon, the Secretary-General will host a meeting with the Presidents of Cameroon and Nigeria to congratulate the two leaders for the successful and peaceful completion, on 14 August, of the transfer of authority over the formerly disputed Bakassi Peninsula, in accordance with the 2002 ruling of the International Court of Justice and the 2006 Greentree Agreement.

Then Tuesday morning, the General Assembly general debate gets under way.  You will again get more information from Enrique.  In the afternoon, the Security Council is scheduled to hold a high-level meeting on mediation and settlement of disputes.

Wednesday, at 11:05 a.m., in Conference Room 4, the Secretary-General holds a joint press conference with Conference of the Parties (COP) Troika leaders -- Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denmark; N. Hassan Wirajuda, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia; and Lech Kaczynski, President of Poland.

On Thursday, beginning at 8:45 a.m. in the General Assembly Hall, the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly convene a high-level event on the Millennium Development Goals, which will conclude with a high-level evening event on the food and climate change crises, hosted by the Secretary-General.

At 6 p.m. Thursday in Conference Room 4, the Secretary-General holds a joint press conference with Jakaya Kikwete, President of Tanzania; Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; and Bill Gates, Chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on the Millennium Development Goals high-level event.

Then on Friday at 5 p.m. in Conference Room 4, the Secretary-General holds a joint press conference with the representatives of the Middle East Quartet.  You will have more information later.  That will be followed by an iftar dinner.

The “Week Ahead” will be available shortly, it’s not yet ready.  And there is a lot really for you to plan your week ahead.  And this is all I have for you.  Any questions before I give the floor to Enrique?  Yes, Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Michèle, the report of the panel headed by Bishop Desmond Tutu yesterday, charged that, in the Beit Hanoun killing of 2006 in Gaza, Israel may have committed war crimes and it has not stipulated anything else.  Is the Secretary-General aware of this report by Bishop Tutu, and what is the way forward?

Spokesperson:  He is certainly aware.  But as you know, it is an independent fact-finding mission, and we’re not commenting on the results of the mission.  We don’t have the full text yet of the results.

Question:  The only reason why I ask is what is the way forward?  Because Israel has admitted that it made a mistake, an error… but the thing is 19 people were killed.  And they were -- 18 members of one family were killed.  And so in that case, what is the way forward?  How do you address that situation?

Spokesperson:  As I said, I cannot comment on it now.  We’re waiting for the complete report to say anything about it.  But as you know, and I say it again, it is an independent fact-finding mission, so we’re not directly commenting on what is happening.  On the way forward, there will certainly be discussions on the issue, on that report.

[The Spokesperson later clarified that the complete report had been made public earlier in the week, and had been presented to the Human Rights Council on Thursday, 18 September.]

Question:  This is actually sort of a follow-up.  It’s about reports as well.  There was a report issued by the Electoral Commission in Kenya about the elections in Kenya.  Kofi Annan has spoken; there is some controversy about whether they should have looked further or not.  Kofi Annan has spoken about it.  Did he speak on his own behalf?  What’s the UN’s view of; I guess, the conclusion of…

Spokesperson:  As you know, Kofi Annan is responsible for the peace efforts that were led in Kenya.  So he spoke in his capacity as the head of the group that was in charge of the peace accord.

Question:  So you can say in part he spoke for the UN?

Spokesperson:  No, he did not speak for the UN.  The UN, as you know, supported the work of that commission and supported the work that Kofi Annan led to get to a peaceful conclusion in Kenya.  However, of course, his comments are his.

Question:  Also, there’s a case in Myanmar of the person that gave evidence of child forced labour to the International Labour Organization (ILO) now being sentenced to forced labour for having provided information to the UN.  U Thet Way is his name.  What does the UN do in a case like this?  Is this on either Mr. Gambari’s radar or on the Secretary-General’s, given that the punishment is for providing information to the UN?

Spokesperson:  I understand that this report is being pursued by ILO and you have some comments from ILO on the issue.

Question:  Michèle, can I ask one question in French?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  (in French.)

Spokesperson:  (response in French.)

Question:  Is this not against freedom of the press?

Spokesperson:  The question is about the Taiwanese -- since you’ve switched to English -- the question was about the Taiwanese journalist and about the petition given to the head of DPI [Department of Public Information] concerning the Taiwanese journalist.  And I just said that the Secretary-General cannot act differently than what the General Assembly has decided.  As you know, the General Committee has decided not to include the issue of Taiwan as an observer to the work of the General Assembly in the agenda and that decision by the General Assembly, of course, has an impact on the Secretariat.  And the Secretariat cannot go beyond that.  What the accreditation office here does for journalists is that they take only passports.  If someone has a Taiwanese passport, that person cannot be accredited as a media correspondent.

Question:  Let’s say I am French, which I am, and I work for Taiwanese media.  Would I be accredited?

Question:  If she’s French, she has to be working for French media?

Spokesperson:  No, she can be working for American media, for example.  But, if you are accredited by a Taiwanese media, it cannot be recognized by the accreditation unit here.

Correspondent:  But this is political.  It goes against the freedom of the press.

Spokesperson:  It is political.  This is a political Organization, made up of 192 nations who decide on issues of that sort.

Question:  (inaudible.)

Spokesperson:  No, it’s about whether a nation is accredited at the UN, who has observer status or other status at the UN.

Question:  But, Michèle, with all due respect, I knew something about this when I was the president of the UN Correspondents’ Association.  I think that, when you are Taiwanese, when you work for Taiwanese media and, if you have an American passport, for example, you don’t have any problem with that because your company is registered here as an American company.

Spokesperson:  If your company is registered here.  That’s what I meant.  Celhia talked about the Taiwanese media.

Question:  I follow that.  Again, there should be some kind of openings since this is a political organization; and since we’re journalists, we’re looking for freedom of the press, as you used to be.

Spokesperson:  Not used to be.  I still am very committed to freedom of the press.  You should know that.

Correspondent:  That’s why I waited for you to come back.

Spokesperson:  To ask the question?

Correspondent:  Yes.

Spokesperson:  I understand your concern, Celhia.  And I think it’s a very legitimate one.  But, you know, we cannot change the rules that this General Assembly adopts.  And in this specific case, we cannot go beyond what they have decided.  Yes, George?

Question:  Let me turn this around the other way, if I may, and then just make a comment.  What happens if a person of Taiwanese nationality comes working for, say a French or American, or Israeli or Japanese media organization?  Can that person be accredited?

Spokesperson:  That I’ll have to check.  I’ll have to check on that one.

[The Spokesperson later clarified that, among the criteria for United Nations Accreditation of Media, it is the requirement that journalists wishing to be accredited must hold a valid passport from “a State recognized by the United Nations General Assembly”.]

Question:  I’d like to suggest -- I don’t claim to speak for anyone but myself –- but I’d like to suggest that it may be the sense of the correspondents here assembled, that perhaps people ought not to be rejected purely on the basis of unrecognized nationalities or colonial nationalities or you know.

Spokesperson:  I think the main issue is the media.  I can check on that last part of it because I don’t know whether, in that specific case, there would be an exception.

Correspondent:  A journalist should not be judged according to her or his nationality.  He or she is a journalist first.  So that’s not normal and not coming from an organization like the UN.

Spokesperson:  Well, this has been the policy, as you know, since Beijing became the only representative of China.

Question:  So is China running the world?

Spokesperson:  That’s not what I said.  That’s not what I said, Celhia.  I said that there was a decision taken by the General Committee this week on Taiwan.  And this is not an issue…

Question:  This week?

Spokesperson:  This week, yes.

Question:  Again?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  And they were (inaudible)?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  And everybody thinks it’s okay with that?  We’re not.  We’re the press and we’re not.

Spokesperson:  Okay, we certainly will transfer your opinion to others.  Okay, we have just been informed that Haile Menkerios’ briefing to the Security Council in consultations has been moved to p.m.  So you have a little more time.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  On this Quartet Middle East peace process, does the Secretary-General hold out any hope that the peace process can move forward this year as it is at a road block again and the Annapolis process is blocked and everything else?  What is expected to be done to move it forward?

Spokesperson:  As you know, there is going to be a Quartet meeting this week, and I will not prejudge the result of that meeting.  We will be sure to inform you -- in fact there will be a press conference right after the Quartet meeting and with all the players, all the parties involved.  So you will be able to ask all your questions.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Kind of a transition question.  If journalists from Abkhazia or South Ossetia were to seek to be accredited within the UN, would that be automatically denied or could it be granted?

Spokesperson:  It would be denied if they have a passport, that is South Ossetian -- I don’t even know if such a thing exists at this point -- but I don’t think it would be honoured.  No, it would not be, unless they have a Georgian passport or a Russian passport.

Question:  This fact-finding mission or humanitarian mission has it gone to Gori or has it not gone to Gori?

Spokesperson:  I can check exactly for you where it went.

Question:  There was a statement saying it was going to Gori and then there was a statement saying it wasn’t going to Gori.

Spokesperson:  We’ll check for you whether it went to Gori.

[The Spokesperson later added that the UN humanitarian mission to South Ossetia travelled to South Ossetia -- not Gori.  The UN already had and still has full humanitarian access to Gori.]

Question:  One last thing I wanted to know on this UN reform.  There is an issue whether audits, country-specific audits, in the UN Development Programme (UNDP) should be made available to Member States or the countries who are the funders.  And right now, I understand it’s being debated within the UNDP Executive Board, so I understand that’s pending.  As a person who has called for transparency at the UN and accountability, does the Secretary-General have any view on whether audits of programmes should be provided to the countries that provide the money?

Spokesperson:  Why don’t we wait for the Executive Board to pronounce itself on this issue before we comment on it?

Question:  But if they don’t do it, is it possible that he will say…?

Spokesperson:  No “ifs” and “buts”.  We just wait for them to do it, then we’ll comment on it when it comes.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  One last question.  There was a huge demonstration in Indian-held Srinagar, Kashmir, today, after the Friday prayers.  They were asking for UN intervention; that the United Nations should intervene in the situation that exists now on the border.  Has the Secretary-General taken note of this situation now?  Because it has been going on for quite some time.

Spokesperson:  I have been saying over and over again that the Secretary-General is following the situation.  That’s all we can say at this point.

Question:  The reason I am asking is because today a demonstration was there at the border once again.  That is the reason I ask that question again.

Spokesperson:  Well, we have nothing new to add to what we have said before.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon to everybody.

Let me start by giving you a status on where we are at the General Assembly.

Everything went quite smooth today at the plenary meeting of the General Assembly and the recommendations made by the General Committee were approved. In other words, we have an agenda.

I would like also to add that, this morning, prior to the plenary meeting, the President, Miguel d´Escoto, participated at a ceremony on the International Day of Peace.  In his speech (which is available online) he underlined that:

“We must never delude ourselves, or let others pretend, that peace is merely the absence of war or some exalted state of impassivity.  World peace will only be achieved through active resistance to all that negates and diminishes human dignity; and waging peace is, therefore, eminently political and oftentimes provocative.”

And this is all what I have for you today. Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  On this whole issue of Taiwan and credentials, I had asked the other day when the Credential Committee was meeting.  I never got an answer. I then read in the press from Taiwan that the Credential Committee had met and had made a decision against Taiwan and I never heard whether the requests from … on Myanmar, whatever happened to that request either? So I’m making a comment.

Spokesperson:  Thank you and I reply immediately to your comment because I think you are mixing up two things.  First, I did bring the reply to you yesterday.  Unfortunately you were not here at the Press Conference that I had.  You can check it online…

Question:  I was watching, but that was after the fact.

Spokesperson:  No, no.  Let me explain because I think you are mixing up two things.  The Credential Committee has not met.  The Credential Committee has not met.  What we were talking about yesterday and the day before we had a session of the General Committee, which decides only on the allocation of the agenda.  In other words, it decides on what is going to be discussed. One of the items which was there was the one on Taiwan, and I announced it yesterday that that item was not included in the agenda.  There were other items that some people have asked me about like Kosovo where I announced yesterday that Kosovo has been put forward as a recommendation for the meeting today, which needed to approve the agenda. And the meeting today approved the agenda.  The Credentials Committee is something totally different.  If you want, I can address that for you right now.  Let me explain to you how the legal process, the administrative process is for the Credentials Committee.  If somebody wants to get accreditations to represent a country, must send a letter to the Secretary-General.  I don’t have here at hand the rules, in my hand, but I think I know them by heart.

Question:  [inaudible] but that letter was sent to the Secretary-General…

Spokesperson:  Let me finish, if I may.

Question:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  And the rules there are quite clear as well.  That letter, in order be given a status of representation, should be signed by a Head of State, Head of Government or a Foreign Minister.  Okay?  And that should go to the Office of the Secretary-General.  If the Office of the Secretary-General believes that this should be dealt with the Credentials Committee, then it will be passed to the Credential Committee.  At this point I can confirm to you that that letter is in the Secretariat and we still do not know if it is going to be passed to the Credentials Committee or not.  The Credentials Committee has not met. The Credentials Committee normally, I have been told, should meet in general on the second week of December.  However, according to the rules and regulations they can also meet at any moment.  In other words, if there is an emergency or an urgency of an issue, they will sit down and discuss it.  So let’s not mix the two things. One thing is the Credentials Committee and the other one is the agenda. And since I have only been here I think this is my third day, I tell you that I am going to make a big effort every time you raise an issue and I cannot reply because I don’t have the information at hand, or I don’t know, I’m always going to go back and get the facts for you. And I did it immediately the following day. 

Secretary-General’s Spokesperson:  (inaudible) I stand corrected.  It was the General Committee, not the Credential Committee…

Question:  I’m a little lost.  Who met last week and decided that the Taiwanese should not get accredited?  Who?

Spokesperson:  The General Committee.  The General Committee… Shall I explain very briefly? because we had this discussion already yesterday. The way the General Assembly works?… Okay… We had the opening ceremony this week and then right after the opening ceremony there is a committee which meets -– it’s called the General Committee –- it meets to decide on the agenda -- which items are going to be discussed.  Normally, and I’m going to do it by heart now because I gave already those figures during the last two days.  I think originally there were 160 items.  Eleven of them new.  That means you have items from other years which are passed to this session.  And other new, there were 11.  Among those 11 new was the one on Kosovo, for instance.  Okay, so they sit and decide if there is a consensus to go into the agenda.  If they are not sure about it they can either postpone it, or put it into a vote.  There were no votes in the Committee. Some items were postponed for further deliberation. The Taiwan issue was raised, and it has going on many years now, and with exactly the same result as many other years, that is rejection…

Question:  (inaudible) which country is part of this Committee?

Spokesperson:  Sorry.  Let me finish.  Let me finish.  The decision was to not to include the issue of Taiwan in the agenda of the sixty-third General Assembly. 

Question:  A (inaudible) explanation.  Thank you very much.  Regarding Kosovo, that General Committee, not with consensus but not with big objection, or as I understood…

Spokesperson:  Correct.

Question: …was decided that Kosovo… to be recommended to be the General Assembly that Kosovo should be included… the issue of Kosovo and ICJ should be included on the agenda of the General Assembly. 

Spokesperson:  Correct.

Question:  So it came to the General Assembly this morning.

Spokesperson:  Today.

Question:  And what has happened there?

Spokesperson:  It has been approved.  I just said…

Question:  Approved what…?

Spokesperson: It has been approved that it is an item for discussion at the General Assembly. 

Question:  Is there going to be discussion at the General Assembly again on Kosovo because of the…

Spokesperson:  Of course, of course…

Question:  When?

Spokesperson:  The discussions yesterday, the day before and today were not on substantive issues. They discussed only if it was appropriate or not to put it in the agenda.  The issue of Kosovo is now in the agenda.  Now, once it is in the agenda, we will know very soon when it is going to be taken for discussion at the General Assembly.

Question:  After these discussion, is that… should it be presumed that there will be some such kind of vote regarding that or … we are in the total dark.  What is inside and why for example the Serbian Government needs to go to the General Assembly in order to seek the approval or sympathy, if I could put it like that, to move forward with the seeking the opinion of the International Court of Justice on the issue of independence of Kosovo.  So that’s why I’m confused a little bit.

Spokesperson:  No.  I think it’s very clear.  Whatever decision is by a country you should consult with the country.  I cannot talk for the countries.  What I’m simply telling you is that item is now part of the agenda and that it was an open meeting.  It was a General Assembly plenary this morning where they went through all the items and they decided which ones were going to be in the agenda or not. And basically they, not basically, they fully endorsed the recommendations made by the General Committee, which I have been informing the last two days.

Question:  So it is going to stay on the general agenda…?

Spokesperson:  Yes.  That has been approved.

Question:  So (inaudible) is it easier to talk about Kosovo than to talk about Taiwan?  (inaudible)

Spokesperson:  Both issues were discussed… (inaudible)

Question:  (inaudible) Russia said no? And China said no?

Spokesperson:  Both issues were discussed by the member countries present and they were following the rules of this Organization on which items should be in the agenda or not.  Mathew, please.

Question:  (inaudible) Sure.  It’s an easy one.

Spokesperson:  Thank you. For once. (laughter)

Question:  Yesterday at the stakeout, US Ambassador Khalilzad was asked about Miguel d’Escoto Brockman’s speech and he said, and Ambassador Khalilzad had said for him to succeed that “…he has to be a unifier rather than picking on some members, siding with others, that would undermine his effectiveness and I don’t think it is in his interest or the interest of the Organization”.  Is he aware of those comments?  Or what does he think in response to that? Can you either say it, or get it from him?  What’s his view?

Spokesperson:  Well, I can tell you right away what his views are because they had that meeting yesterday morning.  President Miguel d’Escoto received in the morning a courtesy visit by the US Permanent Representative.  It was a brief, frank and respectful conversation in which both agreed to work together for the success of the sixty-third Session of the General Assembly. The President, I can also add, was pleased and looks forward to work constructively with the United States and all the other Member States.

Question:  (inaudible) follow-up of that…

Spokesperson:  Yep. 

Question:  That means that the President in regular procedure to meet with President Bush and greet him here and everything is going to be fine and smooth as you mentioned before…

Spokesperson:  Say that again?  You mean if he is going to meet with all the leaders?  Of course.  He is the President of the General Assembly and as such, and he has underlined this and has made it very clear to everybody, that it is going to be dialoguing.  He’s going to underline dialogue with absolutely all the Member States. He’s the President of 192 Member States and he’s going to -– he has been elected for that –- and he’s going to be meeting all the leaders as he has been doing several times.

Question:  (inaudible) make a comment about Taiwan.  Having been here for 10 years and covered this issue for a very long time.  Normally there is an open meeting where the supporters and opponents of Taiwan’s membership or application speak.  And so my question is, was the General Committee meeting that was held where this decision was made, was it an open meeting or was this done at a closed meeting this year?

Spokesperson:  The General Committee was a closed meeting as it was last year and as it was the year before.  I checked and I have been told that normally the General Committee has always been a closed meeting.  So I do not know what other meeting you are referring, but the General Committee meeting -- as it was published in the Journal -- it was a closed meeting. And I asked whether this was the normal procedure and I have been told yes.  Any other question?

Question:  How come for the past… quite a number of years, we’ve all been writing stories about this debate on Taiwan’s membership?

Spokesperson:  Again, again, what I…

Question:  (inaudible) I don’t know what committee it was, but I know…

Spokesperson:  Maybe it was in a different committee, but in the General Committee, I tell you it was closed.  I checked and it was the standard procedure. 

This is the standard procedure. This meeting is closed because the Member States decide it’s closed and it’s always been like that.  Okay?

Question:  Why don’t they ask some …

Spokesperson:  Hold on.  Did you ask for the floor?

Question:  No.

Spokesperson:  Oh.  Sorry.  Sorry. 

Question:  They should ask some members of the press to be part of the Committee, no?  That’s freedom of the press too, but...

Spokesperson:  You can put forward such a proposal.

Question:  What if we put forward a petition to the Secretary-General and see (inaudible) by your Committee?

Spokesperson:  It is not my Committee, if I may.  Any other questions?  On that note, thank you very much.

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