Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

22 July 2009

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

22 July 2009
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.

Good afternoon.

**Guest at the Noon Briefing

I realize there is going to be some Security Council stakeout action shortly, but I do have to start the briefing because we’re expecting Angela Kane, the Under-Secretary-General for Management, who is going to be here in 10 minutes to brief you on efforts to make the United Nations a smoke-free environment.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Abyei, Sudan

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on Abyei.

The Secretary-General welcomes the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) on the final settlement of the Abyei dispute.  The Secretary-General commends the intent of the parties to abide by and peacefully implement the Court’s decision.

The resolution of the Abyei dispute is a major step forward in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).  The Secretary-General calls on the parties to sustain this positive development by supporting the Abyei Administration to deliver the long awaited peace dividend to the people of Abyei.

The Secretary-General calls on the parties to keep alive the spirit of cooperation generated by the resolution of the Abyei dispute by resolving the outstanding issues critical to the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

** Abyei, Sudan

We also have a statement from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sudan, Ashraf Qazi, on the ruling on Abyei.  Speaking in Abyei town shortly after the Court announced its ruling, the Special Representative described it as “a win-win decision for both sides”.

He congratulated the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for completing the Abyei arbitration process in the Permanent Court of Arbitration, noting that their commitment to uphold the decision reflects their respect for the rule of law and their desire for peace.  And he said that the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) stands ready to assist the parties and the local communities in efforts to implement the decision.

**Security Council

And here at Headquarters, a short while ago, the Secretary-General this morning presented to the Security Council his report on peacebuilding in the immediate aftermath of conflict.  The report, he said, sets out an approach to peacebuilding that is better resourced, managed and coordinated.

Building peace is about much more than ending war, the Secretary-General said.  It is about putting in place the institutions and trust that will carry people forward into a peaceful future.  The report focuses on that crucial two-year period when conflict has ended but insecurity often persists and peace is fragile.

He emphasized the five interconnected messages of the report, which stresses the importance of national ownership, international leadership, coherence, a common strategy and predictable and credible delivery.  And the Secretary-General also encouraged the Security Council, in the context of next year’s review of the Peacebuilding Commission, to consider how it can make more effective use of that body.  We have his remarks upstairs, and I understand that the stakeout will have the Ugandan Foreign Minister there shortly.

** Lebanon

The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, is continuing his discussions with senior Lebanese officials, meeting today with the Foreign Minister.  He said that they discussed the importance of the full implementation by all sides of resolution 1701 (2006).  Furthermore, Williams said, the United Nations has urged both Lebanon and Israel to refrain from any actions which could be perceived as provocative and which could spiral into undesirable results.

Asked about the situation in southern Lebanon, Williams said that, following the incident of last week, the situation has been calming down.  He added that he is assured that all sides -- including the UN Interim Force (UNIFIL), the Lebanese Armed Forces, the Lebanese Government and Hizbullah -- are working to reduce tensions.  We have a transcript of his press encounter upstairs.

**Question of Palestine

And the Secretary-General today sent a message to the United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine.  That gathering is being held today and tomorrow in Geneva, under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

In that message, the Secretary-General urged Israel to freeze settlement activity and natural growth.  He added that, if Israel continues settlement activity, it will not only be acting contrary to international law, but also to a strong international consensus.  He also expressed regret that Hamas has not renounced violence and committed clearly to a two-State solution with Israel.

The Secretary-General added that he supports the work of the Human Rights Council fact-finding mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone.  He said that, where civilians have been killed and there are allegations of violations, there should be thorough investigations, full explanations and, where required, accountability.  We have the full message upstairs for you.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Assistant Secretary-General for the Rule of Law and Security Institutions of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Dmitri Titov, is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  His visit is focused on dealing with questions regarding the country’s penitentiary system.

Today, Titov is in Sake, where he will visit a United Nations mine action site and meet with local North Kivu judiciary authorities.  On Monday and Tuesday, he was in Goma and Rutshuru.  In Goma, he visited the main prison and met with the civilian and military components of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), among other officials.

Titov started his visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo last Sunday in Bunia.  Before leaving the country, he is scheduled to meet with the Interior, Defence, International Cooperation and Justice Ministers.  And he is expected to hold a press conference on Friday.

**High Commissioner for Human Rights -- ASEAN

And the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay today welcomed the endorsement by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers, of the terms of reference for the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.

Calling it “an important step forward” in the establishment of a new mechanism to protect and promote the human rights of people living in the ASEAN region, Pillay said she looked forward to continued cooperation between the United Nations and ASEAN States in the development of the region’s first such Commission.


If HIV-positive pregnant women are given a combination of antiretroviral drugs from late in pregnancy until six months into breastfeeding, their babies are over 40 per cent less likely to become infected with HIV.  That’s according to a new study led by the World Health Organization (WHO).  UNAIDS, meanwhile, notes that preventing mothers from dying and protecting babies from HIV is one of its priority focus areas.  There is more on this upstairs.

**Heads of Military Components Conference

We have just one more announcement, and I see that our guest, Angela Kane is already here, so we’ll turn over to her quickly.

DPKO, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, tells us that the top military officers from most of the UN’s peacekeeping missions will be in New York in early August to attend a special forum.  The annual heads of military components conference, organized by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations Office of Military Affairs, brings the missions’ Force Commanders and chief military officers to UN Headquarters between 3 and 7 August.

The conference provides an opportunity for these top officers to share experiences and challenges, not only with each other, but also with senior managers and staff from United Nations Headquarters.

If you have any interest in speaking with any of the peacekeeping missions’ top officers, please be in touch with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations Public Affairs Section.  The only one not expected to be present at this stage is the Officer from the Mission in Afghanistan.

Depending on interest and availability, we may have some of the Force Commanders as our guests here in Room 226.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

And finally, at 11 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference by the UN Internal Justice Council.

And our guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Karin Landgren, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Nepal, who will brief following her meeting with the Security Council earlier this week.

And that’s I have for you.  Before I turn to Angela, Khaled and then…

**Questions and Answers

Question I have a couple of questions, actually.  Just to follow up on the readout between al-Maliki and the Secretary-General.  Is there a reason why the report on Iraq is being delayed although it was supposed to come out a while ago, I think three weeks ago?

Deputy Spokesperson:  This is the Secretary-General and the Iraqi Prime Minister, is that…?

Question:  Yes, I saw the readout.  The question is, is there any reason fort the delay of the…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Let me read the readout for those who have not gotten it yet:  The Secretary-General and the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Kamil al-Maliki, met this morning.  Their discussions focused on the review process pursuant to paragraph 5 of Security Council resolution 1859 (2008), which concerns the review of Chapter VII mandates on Iraq.

The Secretary-General informed the Prime Minister that his factual report on the review process will be issued shortly.  The Secretary-General noted the views and concerns of the Prime Minister regarding outstanding Chapter VII mandates.  They agreed to continue working together on this matter.

Now, in answer to your questions, if you look at that resolution, it does not have a due date for that report.  Having said that, the report, which does ask for the Secretariat to work with the Iraqis, this report will be issued shortly.

Question:  I have another question, if you don’t mind, about Mauritania.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  I don’t know if you have issued, the United Nations have issued any reaction to the results of elections there and allegations of rigging by the opposition candidates.

Deputy Spokesperson:  The United Nations continues to follow the election process in Mauritania closely.  However, we may not have a formal statement to make until the final results have been announced by the constitutional council, which has to look into any complaints.  While the United Nations is not an observer, we deployed a high-level UN panel to Mauritania on 14 July to help promote a peaceful and transparent process.  The panel has met with the key actors and will report to the Secretary-General.  Several members of the panel will remain on the ground to follow the rest of the election process.  The Special Representative, Said Djinnit, is also following this very closely.  And this is what I have for you for now.

Question:  Any early assessment by the Secretary-General?  Any early from the…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  That’s what I just said.  [We may] have to wait until the final results are announced.  Edie, and then Matthew, and then I am going to turn to Angela.

Question:  Marie, is there a list of the outstanding Chapter VII mandates that we can get hold of?

Deputy Spokesperson:  There are quite a few.  Let’s ask DPA; hopefully Jared is listening and he can direct us to a website or something that you can have quick access to.

Question:  Just a quick follow-up, Marie, is Mr. Ban Ki-moon supporting the Iraqi’s demand to cancel, to remove the Chapter VII mandate?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the Secretary-General met a few days ago with the Iraqi Foreign Minister.  Also that was the beginning of the process to work together on this report.  The Secretary-General again today met with Mr. al-Maliki, and as I said they agreed to continue working together on this matter and obviously he is trying to facilitate a result that will show up in the report that will be coming out shortly.

Question:  Can you confirm that the Rwandan Lieutenant General Patrick Nyamvumba has been appointed to replace Mr. Agwai in Darfur?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, if we have an appointment generally it’s announced, it’s sent to the Security Council.  So if it’s not out yet, we don’t have an announcement yet.

Question:  They said… it’s reported in the Kenyan press quoting Rwandan officials…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General, when he appoints a Force Commander, writes about his intention to appoint someone like that to the Security Council.  As far as I know, that letter has not gone yet.

Question:  And I wanted to ask, yesterday, the Secretary-General put out a statement in which he said that the attacks in Somalia were against the full gamut of humanitarian and peace operations of the United Nations.  But the Al-Shabaab was very clear, they didn’t throw the United Nations out of Baidoa.  They said they were going after the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Department of Safety and Security and the United Nations Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS) -- Ould-Abdallah’s office.  So what does the United Nations make of this kind of selective expulsion, and how do you then… what does it mean to…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think you may have missed the answer to that question when we were asked.  I don’t think, according to the UN Political Office, they have not given any formal notification of the press reports that you are referring to.  The Secretary-General’s statement was obviously in direct response to the looting of offices of UN humanitarian offices which are conducting life-saving assistance for the population of Somalia.

Question:  But the Al-Shabaab statement, that they thought that these three components of UN agencies were…

Deputy Spokesperson:  I just mentioned to you that they had not received that official notification of what you’re reading, what you’re referring to.

Question:  Is there an official way they hear from Al-Shabaab other than seeing…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  As far as I know they are there and they have not received such notification.

Question:  Thanks.

Deputy Spokesperson:  All right, if there is nothing else, let’s invite Angela Kane who is going to talk about a smoke-free UN.

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