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

18 January 2010

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

18 January 2010
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

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

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon everybody.  We have with us Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and Susana Malcorra, who is the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support.  They were both with the Secretary-General in Haiti yesterday and they can take questions on that and anything else related to ongoing efforts to help the people of Haiti.  We have about half an hour, so I’ll hand the floor over to you straight away.

**Briefing by Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations

Good afternoon.  I won’t describe what we saw yesterday, because many of you were with us and you have seen it on TV.  I would like to stress what our efforts are for the time being.  Firstly, we need to make sure that our Mission is back on its feet.  We now have the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. [Edmond] Mulet; the Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General is Mr. Tony Banbury.  The Force Commander has been in place from the first day and the Police Commissioner, General [Gerardo Christian] Chaumont, from Argentina, arrived two days ago.  So, the leadership of the Mission is there now, and the Mission is operating, of course, not from its headquarters but from the Logistics Base, which, as you know, has been mostly untouched.  Every day, we are reinforcing this Mission by sending the adequate personnel needed to reinforce the Mission.

As you have seen also, we have asked for additional troops to come from the provinces to reinforce those in Port-au-Prince.  We have 3,400 troops in Port-au-Prince, together with the police. 

Also this morning there was a session of the Security Council and we recommended the Council to consider an increase in numbers of troops by 2,000, and to increase the number of police by 1,500.  The main tasks for these additional troops are threefold.  Our assessment is that the security situation still remains under control under the control of the Force Commander, General [Floriano] Peixoto from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  Globally, the situation remains under control.

Of course, there are sporadic incidents here and there, mostly due to the frustration of not getting food and water quickly enough.  So while we have enough troops for global security we have now to increase the number of troops and police to escort the humanitarian convoys, which are increasing drastically daily.  And it’s very important that the humanitarian convoys can reach people rapidly, otherwise we will have security problems. 

So, the main request for the additional troops is because we are stretched.  We have to escort all requests we receive from humanitarian convoys, which are, of course, tremendous.  For example, just for the World Food Programme (WFP) alone -- 60,000 [tons] of food needs to be distributed.  And over 200 distribution points, with request for MINUSTAH security escort.  So, it shows --

Question:  60,000--?

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  60,000 tons of food, just from WFP, at over 200 different distribution points.  So, for that, they need escorts.  And of course we need our forces on the ground to ensure security, but they have to ensure, of course, also, the escort of the humanitarian convoys.

Secondly, for the military, it is of increased importance to secure humanitarian corridors that we are establishing between Port-au-Prince and the Dominican Republic; and also between Port-au-Prince and the northern port of Haiti.  So, we are establishing these humanitarian corridors with many other actors, and of course we need troops to secure these humanitarian corridors.

We have already received a pledge from the Dominican Republic of a battalion, which is roughly 800 troops, to help us to secure the corridor between Port-au-Prince and the Dominican Republic.  That will take, of course, 800 out of the 2,000 increase that we have requested this morning.  We are hearing that many other countries will make pledges soon.

For the military, there are three priorities:  firstly, escorting the humanitarian convoys; secondly, securing the humanitarian corridors; and thirdly, to constitute a reserve force, in case the situation unravels and the security situation deteriorates.

For the police itself, we are asking for an increase of some specialists like forensic experts, corrections officers and others.  Also, for provisions to secure the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the various points of distributions. 

You have all seen the tension on TV.  It’s time there is distribution of food.  We consider it important to have enough police to ensure security and order when food or water or other distribution is being done.  And, of course, this is being done with augmentation from the Haitian national police.  You have seen the Haitian police are back on the street in limited numbers.  And of course, we have very much to continue to support and to train them.

We have made also the request to bring additional equipment for Haitian national police -- for example uniforms, because some of them have been destroyed.  They need to be visible in the street to ensure, to help us to ensure, to help to ensure law and order.

I may stop here.  Maybe Susana, you want to add, at this stage, additional information.

**Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Field Support

Well, I think, Alain, you have given an initial brief.  It would be important to have an opportunity for Q & A. 

Let me just say very, very briefly:  shifting the Mission from what the Mission was last Tuesday afternoon to what needs to be done now is a major, major challenge in itself.  The size of the humanitarian response that is required is very, very large.  And that’s why we have to adjust not only the figures that Alain has put in place, mentioned earlier, but also the rest of the infrastructure that we need to have to support that, while at the same time the Mission itself has lost most of its infrastructure.  Most of the staff in the Mission are with an Internet connection, but they don’t have their own desktop, their own desk, to work on.  So, this, on top of the shift in demand that we have, illustrates the basic infrastructure required for the Mission to be operational.  And that’s what we are bringing up to speed.  We have a series of flights coming in with equipment to do that.

The main problem to ensure humanitarian aid is to have a continuous flow at the right level of everything that is required, particularly food and shelter, and medical supplies.  What has happened so far is that the airport has been the only means of entry.  We are only now starting to open others.  This is a very limited airport ‑‑ initially there were issues with the priorities, as you all noticed.  I think now, there is a coordination cell in place to manage priorities, the most urgent ones. 

But even if that was perfect, flawless, the size of the airport and the capacity of the airport is very limited.  So, the only way for us and for the international community to establish a flow that is reasonable to address all the needs, is to open up all these alternative roads, which are the corridors that were mentioned.  And there has been work.  And there are many alternatives that are being worked on as we speak. 

That means some delay in getting what is delivered to Port-au-Prince and the rest of the cities around, because they are farther away.  But, it is much better to assume a one-day delay and have the flow being established, than to still bet on only Port-au-Prince, because there is not enough capacity in that airport to ensure the whole flow.  So that’s what we are doing now. 

The more we expand our footprint, the more we need trucks, infrastructure.  We need more escorts.  So, it is sort of a multiplying effect.  But it’s the only way to ensure that we can establish the right level of inflow to what is needed.

I will stop there and then I’ll leave it to you to ask.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  There were some question marks at the Security Council by some ambassadors, on whether you are requesting a change in mandate to MINUSTAH at all.  What’s the status of that as far as the United Nations is concerned?

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  We haven’t requested a change in the mandate, although we have requested an increase in the ceiling for troops and police.  Maybe we can strengthen the mandate on the role of MINUSTAH coordination.  But, I think we have some more days for doing that.  This morning, my understanding is that there will only be technical amendments to the resolution ‑‑ increasing the ceiling for troops and police.  There will not be change at this stage; we can live with the resolution as it is, for the time being.  We may have to change it, but we have some more days to do it.

Question:  Why do you think you may have to change it?  I mean what needs to changed as far as you’re concerned, in the longer run?

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  To be more precise in the role of coordination amongst all actors and between MINUSTAH and others.  We might have to be a bit more precise for internal reasons, also.

Question:  What do you mean?

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  The resolution paragraph 6 currently says we have a coordination role in coordinating the work of the UN agencies.  Maybe we have to have wording in the future that could be a bit more strengthened.  But, it was not also our opinion; some Member States were also [saying] maybe we have to have a more robust mandate for MINUSTAH.  But, I think it’s a bit too early.  We consider, we’ve decided, we proposed, but it is not the time this week to change the mandate.  We will leave it for a few more days, maybe one or two more weeks, to see if we have to have a more robust mandate.

You want to add anything?

Under-Secretary-General Malcorra:  The strengthening will really make it more clear what is the extent of the coordination.  Coordination is a broad word.  And with a lack of resources that are available on the ground, we may need to really push the boundaries on who uses what resources where.  And it’s more than coordination -- it’s an enabling role, giving resources that go beyond the standard procedures.  So, we are working on that.  It’s not clear yet.  But that may be the case, and we may come back to the Security Council.

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  But this morning, we haven’t made that request.  Some Member States have said that they will consider [it] in the future, but not this week.

Question:  Mr. Le Roy, a lot of what you said talked about security, and securing the Mission.  In terms of rules of engagement, do you feel you need to go back to the Council to strengthen the rules of engagement?  Because there are the emergence of roving gangs, and reportedly heavily armed gangs now on the streets, so push is going to come to shove pretty soon, I suspect.

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  So far, we don’t consider we have to change the rules of engagement.  As you know, this Mission is already under Chapter VII, and we have dealt in the past very robustly against the gangs ‑‑ everyone remembers what happened in Cité Soleil ‑‑ with the same rules of engagement. 

Question:  They’re back on the streets, yeah.

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  They were there, they are still there.  But we are not going to review the rules of engagement for the time being.  What is important is that we have to ensure that the Haitian authorities are fully comfortable for us using the rules of engagement that we have at the maximum capacity.  We have to ensure that they are supporting us in the interpretation of the rules of engagement.  But we are not requesting a change of them.

Question:  Mr. Le Roy, one question about the cooperation with the American troops:  which kind of coordination are you going to have?  I mean, MINUSTAH is going to take the control of security around all the country, Port-au-Prince, and then the American troops are going to be under, you know, the umbrella of the MINUSTAH?  Which kind of coordination are you going to have with them?  And then second, it’s still like there were reports about complaints that American planes were like taking the priority of the control of the airport for landing the equipment and troops and everything and then the World Food Programme (WFP) was delayed two days for landing the planes with the needed food for the Haitians.

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  On the first question, the United States troops are not under the UN umbrella.  There’s a bilateral agreement by the US; a very important one.  What we have is a coordination mechanism with them, a clear division of labour.  So, general security is the task of the MINUSTAH and [inaudible]… the US military is coming with several tasks, and of course, the US mission could tell you more about its huge humanitarian operation and what it needs to do to secure their humanitarian operation.  Second, as you know, they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Haitian authorities to have more control and secure the airport.  Then they are doing a lot engineering work.  While we speak, they’re working at the port of Port-au-Prince to ensure it can be reopened very, very soon.  I heard an unconfirmed statement that could happen in the coming days.  So, it’s a clear division of labour:  general security -- MINUSTAH; others are supporting [inaudible]… activities and engineering work in many places.  We have a liaison officer between them and us, both at the Miami headquarters and at MINUSTAH headquarters.  And we’ll do the same with the Canadian troops who are also coming.  General security is by MINUSTAH; but others are there, mostly engineers, all supporting their own humanitarian operations.

Question:  About the airport, the Americans complained; they said had the priority; they’re landing their planes instead of the World Food Programme (WFP).

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  Okay.

Under-Secretary-General Malcorra:  Clearly, when the agreement between the government of Haiti and the US was reached for the US to take control of the management and operations of the airport, there was an initial moment of confusion, and we have seen that there were problems in prioritizing the landing of different flights.  In fact, WFP on Saturday had two aircraft with food unable to land.  So, that is absolutely the case.  What we have done now is set up a small coordination cell at the airport.  So, we work together on the priorities, and I can tell you the feedback we got this morning from the funds and programmes; we had a meeting with the Secretary-General, they confirmed that they started to work and yesterday things were much, much better.  I have to say here, if I may, that what is very important is that we also set priorities in the beginning.  So, sometimes the overwhelming will of the international community to offer something, not necessarily is in line with the most immediate demands.  So, sometimes we will have to ask for certain things either to be staged somewhere else to be brought in later on, or to be brought by land, or to be delayed a little bit.  So, that is something that we need to keep in mind. 

Question:  [inaudible] Mr. Le Roy, after your visit yesterday, of course everybody appreciates the work that you’re doing, but don’t you have a feeling that maybe your voice is sometimes on the logistical issues and security matters, securing any new assistance, rather than giving priority to saving the people themselves or even your own people.  I’m just saying that, don’t you think that the United Nations has wasted too much time on bureaucracy before starting the flow?

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  I really cannot say that.  You have seen that certain rescue teams are… I think they’re over 40, certain rescue teams, 1,700 people working on rescue.

Question:  [inaudible]

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  Yeah.  They have arrived the first day, I must say.   The first were the US, the French, the Chinese -- they have worked [inaudible].  Second, our own forces, who have been on site from the very first night.  The Brazilian troops, the Jordanians and others, have been working in all the places from the first night and they’re still working.  I don’t know if you were with us yesterday and saw the UN crane working in the headquarters, and we’re continuing.  So, really our forces have used all the assets they have, which at the beginning were not assets specialized for removing rubble; but they have been used from the very first night.  And they’re continuing; we’re not stopping them at all.  But at the same time it’s important to have the mission up and running for other tasks.  But, the first priority from the first night has been search and rescue.  And we called expert teams and we have used our own assets to do the job.

Under-Secretary-General Malcorra:  Let me say something here.  When you visit what has happened, the size and the dimension of the problem, I will argue, is equivalent to what happened to the Twin Towers in New York.  It was a huge, huge thing that happened here.  There, of course, you don’t have anything equivalent as towers, but you have many buildings all distributed around the whole city and the basic infrastructure from which you start is much, much, much lower.  You know, the baseline is much lower. 

So, I think, clearly, the first rescue efforts arrived the day after, as Alain said, many came from far away.  The Dominican Republic provided the first team that arrived by land.  This was in the middle of total lack of communication.  We were speaking with the Mission on the Logistics Base.  They had no way of communicating with any of the rest of the buildings except for a few satellite phones, which were working full-time.  So, you were trying to get in, and they were busy because they were doing operational matters.  So, the dimension of what happened was such that it was very, very, very hard to ramp up; to have [on] the first day, all that was required.  But the international community reacted in such a way that we have now the people deployed on the ground, on search-and-rescue, for example, in numbers that Alain just mentioned.

Question:  You don’t agree with the criticism that each country sent the first teams to save its own people?  That the Chinese went to save the Chinese, the Americans went to save…  I mean, I’m talking about the first one or two days.  You don’t agree with this criticism at all, that it was not--?

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  The coordination of search and rescue is done by UNDAC ‑‑ the UN Disaster Assessment Coordination Team.  Maybe you can say a word on that, as the representative of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on this issue?  You want to come?  Yeah.

Director of OCHA- New York:  Thank you very much.  What happens with these search-and-rescue teams--

Question:  Can you state your name please?

Director of OCHA- New York:  My name is Rashid Khalikov.  I am Director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

What happens when search and rescue teams arrive:  in the airport there is a representative of the UNDAC Team that the Under-Secretary-General mentioned.  And he or she tries to direct the search-and-rescue teams to that part of the city or cities that were affected.  They have daily morning meetings, where all search-and-rescue teams update what has happened before, and they divide the city, or cities, or locations, where they work.  Of course, nobody can say that the coordination is perfect and everything is divided properly.  But every effort has been done in a very chaotic environment to use the resources and assets that are there.  There are more than 40 teams from many countries, and more than [1,700] personnel with equipment and dogs who are specially trained for that.  You can imagine that it is a huge contingent of experts that are trying their best.  What we have seen in recent days that people are still alive under the rubble.  This effort will continue in the coming days.

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  And that’s why we say it’s very important that search-and-rescue operations continue.  Of course, it has been from the very first day.  It shall continue, because even yesterday a person was extracted alive and it’s happening in other places.  So, it’s very important that they remain in Port-au-Prince.  We know that there are also needs outside Port-au-Prince.  But the needs are also important there.

Question:  Just to points of clarification:  when you talked about changing the mandate ‑‑ making it… needing a role for MINUSTAH that is more robust ‑‑ you are speaking within the UN context, yes?  Or beyond that? 

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  We haven’t any proposal on that today.

Question:  I know, I know.  But just to clarify what you mean by that.

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  We are just brainstorming at this stage.  I think it’s too early to ask for a change in the substance of the mandate.  But we will see in the coming days if the coordination role of MINUSTAH is well-performed.  So far, it’s not disputed, but we have to see.

Question:  Do you mean in the UN agencies, or beyond that?

Under-Secretary-General Malcorra:  The humanitarian responsibility, which is what we are discussing here, is broader than the UN agencies.  The UN agencies and the non-governmental organizations are part of the humanitarian cluster.  So, this is a broad constellation that is in process of beefing up resources, and that’s where we may need to strengthen.

Question:  One other question:  you said you brought in some people, some of the troops from outside Port-au-Prince.  Can you tell us how many?

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  Yes.  For the time being, 400.  Also, we have a problem of accommodating new troops, so new troops must be self-sustainable.  And also, it’s important that the situation in the other cities remains under control so we are not moving too many.

Question:  You mentioned these areas outside of Port-au-Prince.  What’s DPKO’s (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) presence in Jacmel, Carrefour… the other cities that are described as having problems with aid not reaching them?  Is there also security?  Does DPKO have a presence in each of these towns?  And on the question of national staff, it was said today that one reason it’s harder for MINUSTAH than the funds and programmes to get out and check how national staff are doing is that all the records were in the hotel and were destroyed.  Doesn’t either DFS (Department of Field Support) or isn’t there some database of records of United Nations personnel kept other than in the hotel?  Can you explain that?  It’s just been said repeatedly that all the records were in the hotel, so I want to know how the DPKO’s computer system works for its staff.

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  Yes, of course -- not DPKO, but MINUSTAH -- is present and patrolling the main cities -- Jacmel, of course, and Gressier and Carrefour, the cities that have been destroyed.  They don’t have a permanent presence and we don’t have bases in every city, but we are patrolling all the main cities that have been affected by the earthquake. 

Under-Secretary-General Malcorra:  Regarding national staff, the first thing one needs to recognize is that we are talking about a number of national staff which is above 1,000 people, so the amount of work required to reach out to each one of them is in itself a different demand.  You know, most of the funds and programmes are talking about staff in the dozens.  We are talking about 1,200 people here.  We have the database, absolutely.  There was a server in that building, but they were able to recover another server as a backup, which, as usual with every backup, may not have been the absolute latest, but was baseline enough to reach out to people.  The problem at first was a lack of telecommunications.  Now, they are calling people and we are backing them up from New York, so that the Mission doesn’t have to do it as the Mission is overwhelmed with the level of activities.  But, yes, there was a backup.

Let me say something here so that you have a sense of what we are facing.  First, the Haitians themselves are shocked, and that’s part of the reason why the situation is calm, much calmer than one would expect, given the circumstances.  But, let me talk a little about our own people.  We have three groups of people within the Mission.  We have the people who have died or are injured, and that has meant incredible loss for the Mission, starting with the leadership, and not only with the leadership.  We have another group of people who are those who are there but they have relatives under the rubble.  We have many couples working in Port-au-Prince, many couples working with the funds and programmes or agencies that have people in the Mission or vice-versa, and you can see people wandering around the buildings trying to find their beloved ones.  So we have another group of people who are in a desperate situation. 

Then we have the rest -- the ones who are holding the fort.  And the ones who are holding the fort are in a total state of shock themselves.  Having said that, they have put things in motion, they have worked.  I always tell this story and you may have heard me saying this:  the Deputy Force Commander, who was totally in charge the first 36 hours until the Force Commander arrived, had a relative under the rubble of the Montana Hotel.  We have many cases like that.  That means not only that the Mission has been absolutely curtailed in its capacity, because of all these reasons, the ones who are there are working in an incredible situation. 

One of the things we are doing now is starting an inflow of people.  We have sent people for 30 critical positions that are starting to review what is being done to set an operational priority vis-à-vis the new demands from the ground and adjusting what is it that needs to be done.  We are now going to go to a phase where we essentially are going to do a major shift of getting people out of the Mission.  Because, I told them yesterday when we spoke, we know we have a lot of heroes, we don’t need superheroes, because we need to get things done professionally.  So we are going to shift people out.  We are going to send people in, some of them on short term, some of them longer term.  And in the meantime, we are assessing the overall Mission -- what is the size that is required, what are the adjustments that are required -- and we are going to organizationally adjust that in the coming two or three weeks.

Question:  I’m sort of lost in a welter of numbers.  There are reports coming out of Port-au-Prince today that the Government is estimating the dead at 200,000.  Can you confirm that number?  Are you keeping any number of your own or do you know how many people have gone into mass graves so far? Any sense that would give us the scale.  Two, on another number issue, when we were talking yesterday, the number of troops and police you asked for seems to have tripled overnight, in terms of the numbers you were thinking yesterday, when you left Port-au-Prince.  Was there some sudden new security assessment that you decided you needed so many more than you initially had talked to us about?  And the third number, someone said 4,000 prisoners had escaped.  Do you have any assessment on that?  And then the final point I want to make, someone said Médicins sans Frontières gave a briefing today in which they said that, in those places like Jacmel and Carrefour and the places that are a little bit removed from Port-au-Prince, there isn’t very much aid, that those cities are underserved by the aid distribution. 

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  On the main figure, I refer to OCHA, we don’t give estimates on the figures.  We quote what the Red Cross is saying, which is in the order of maybe of 50,000.  We know that the Haitians are saying 200,000.  We don’t have more precise figures.  We still have the figures of thousands; we just quote the Red Cross saying an order of magnitude of 50,000.  We are not saying it’s 50,000 or 200,000.  We don’t know.  And I don’t think anyone knows, to be frank.

Second, on the question of the number of troops, yesterday we had a more limited number in mind.  And after having spoken with the Mission yesterday, and then again this morning, we discovered that the demand for escort was drastically increasing.  So there was a clear need to establish the figure to 2,000.  It means, in addition to the proposal we have [inaudible] Dominican Republic.

About much more aid outside of Port-au-Prince.  It’s clear we have been more focused on Port-au-Prince in the first 24 and 48 hours.  And we are discovering, of course, that the needs are quite important also outside.  So at the beginning we were focusing, in my opinion, too much on Port-au-Prince but not enough on places other than Port-au-Prince.  And that’s what’s going on now.  We are there, search-and-rescue teams are there.  Aid is coming also, but it’s clear that, at the beginning, everyone was focusing only on Port-au-Prince, which was fine, but of course other places needed to be assisted.  You want to say a word on that?

Director of OCHA New York:  No, we’re just starting to make assessments in the areas outside Port-au-Prince, I think yesterday, but, as you said, initially, everybody was [inaudible] focused on the news coming from the capital.  Please also understand that, according to various estimates, there are almost 3 million people living in the areas around the capital and the capital itself.  So one third of the country has been affected and really overwhelmed.  And there was very little, actually no information coming from outside about the impact.  As it very often happens with earthquakes, it’s not only in the epicentre that covers the certain area, it was along the fault line.  And that’s why the areas outside Port-au-Prince were affected.  The proper assessment is being carried out and, of course, assistance will follow.  I cannot say that assistance already is provided there in the scale that we wanted, but we have to establish an understanding of the impact of this, which is the work that is being conducted by the UNDAC team and by the United Nations agencies that are there in the country.

Under-Secretary-General Malcorra:  One of the things that has come now as an additional demand, this is from last night and this morning, is helicopters to cover some areas, because some of the roads, of course, are also damaged, connecting Port-au-Prince to these other cities.  So I’ve been in contact with some of the agencies that have required helicopters to go and help them deliver the assistance to the remote areas.

Question:  And the 4,000 prisoners…?

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  Yes, we have that report that, as the penitentiary collapsed, that 4,000 prisoners have escaped.  Of course, some of them are very dangerous people.  It’s why we are also requesting having at least 100 more correction officers to try to establish some detention facilities as soon as Haitian national police, with our support, will arrest some of them.

Question:  The helicopters, are they American or are other countries contributing helicopters, or are they all American.  And secondly, do you have any offers for additional troops and additional police?

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  As far as helicopters are concerned, you know, the Americans have come with an aircraft carrier with, I think, 19 helicopters.  I understand others might also.  I don’t have the name of the countries.  Concerning the offers for the troops, I said the Dominican Republic.  We don’t have firm offers of others, but we have seen, for example, yesterday it was discussed in Brussels this morning, a potential offer, it’s not firm yet, of European gendarmerie.  European gendarmerie could be part of the offer we would get, but of course no decision has been made.  It’s a clear consideration by the European Union on this issue, with the leading nation being Italy on this.

Under-Secretary-General Malcorra:  And some Latin American countries have already said that they were willing to do it.  I don’t think we have a formal offer yet. 

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  No, we have clearly a number of countries considering.  The firm offer received as of today is from the Dominican Republic.  But I’m sure in the coming days we’ll have other fair offers. 

Question:  What is the quickest they could get on the ground?  The new troops and police.

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  From the Dominican Republic, I think immediately, of course.  The others, depends very much if the port is reopened in the coming days or not.  I think that is a very important factor.  If the port is reopened, that will alleviate the bottleneck at the airport.  Otherwise, it depends on the country.  Some countries have extremely rapidly deployable troops.  So it depends on the offers we receive.  But I think the Dominican Republic will deploy this week.

Question:  How are we doing in opening the port?

Under-Secretary-General Malcorra:  The United States is taking that on its own.  They have a team of engineers doing the assessment.  There are two ports there.  One of them is totally damaged and the idea is that it will take some time.  The other one, which is a private port, is something much less, the damage that is there.  So they believe they will be able to do work rather rapidly.  But the assessment is being made, so I cannot commit to dates yet.

Spokesperson:  Okay, thank you very much.

Under-Secretary-General Le Roy:  I will provide you the statement of General Fraser on this issue, which I think I mentioned, in coming days, but you will have to check it.

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