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

4 February 2010

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

4 February 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 noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

So good afternoon and welcome to the briefing.

**Guest at Noon

Our guest today, as you can see, is Jordan Ryan, who is the Assistant Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and he is going to be briefing you on the cash-for-work programme that UNDP is running in Haiti and on some other things, too.  And then after the briefing by Jordan, I’ll be happy to take other questions.  And also, I’ve got a couple of small announcements that might help you.  So, Jordan, over to you.

[Briefing by UNDP Assistant Administrator Jordan Ryan issued separately.]

**Press Conference

Just very briefly to give you a couple of other points.  As I mentioned yesterday, at 1 p.m., so quite soon, there will be a press conference here to announce the launch of the 2010 Global Model United Nations [Conference]that will take place in Malaysia this coming [28-30 July], in partnership with the Malaysian Government and the Office for the Alliance of Civilizations.

And as I also told you yesterday, at 3:45 p.m. there will be a stakeout opportunity, and this is with the Alternate Foreign Minister of Greece, Mr. Dimitris Droutsas.  And that will take place on the first floor of the temporary North Lawn Building at our new stakeout position.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

And tomorrow, following the meeting of the Security Council, Mr. Kanat Saudabayev who is Chairman-in-Office for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), will speak to correspondents at the Security Council stakeout.

And then at 1:15 p.m. tomorrow, there will be a briefing on the CARICOM initiative on non-communicable diseases in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO).  And Dr. Donatus St. Aimee, the Permanent Representative of the Mission of Saint Lucia, will moderate that briefing.

**United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

And just a small item from UNICEF, the number of children affected by humanitarian disasters and crises is increasing significantly around the world.  And the critical role of partnerships in assisting them and their families is the focus of UNICEF’s flagship humanitarian action report, which was launched today.

The report is also entitled, or subtitled, “The Partnering for Children in Emergencies”.  And it emphasizes the critical role of partnerships in assisting vulnerable children and families.  And it also appeals to donors for nearly $1.2 billion in funding for emergency response efforts to support a greater emphasis on emergency preparedness, early warning, disaster risk reduction and rapid recovery.  And we have more on this in my Office, and there is also more on UNICEF’s website.

So that’s what I have for you.  Any other questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Is the Secretary-General distributing his report about the Goldstone Report tomorrow?

Spokesperson:  What I can tell is that the Secretary-General will give a report to the General Assembly [by] tomorrow in response to the General Assembly’s request to him in resolution 64/10 of 4 November of last year.  And that resolution, as you all recall, I’m sure, concerned the implementation of the recommendations of the Goldstone Report.  The Secretary-General’s report will be presented in print, in other words, not in person, and it will be available in the coming days as a General Assembly document.  And I don’t have any information for you at present on whether the General Assembly will schedule any meetings to discuss the Secretary-General’s report, but I’m sure that Jean Victor Nkolo will be following up on that.  Yes, Evelyn.

Question:  He is not going to give them a written report tomorrow?

Spokesperson:  No, I said he will give a written report, but he is not going to hand it over in person.

Question:  He gives it to the President of the GA, and the President of the GA hands it over to the rest of the Members?  How does it work?

Spokesperson:  It’s done in the usual way, which is, actually, electronically these days.

Question:  Will we get it?

Spokesperson:  In due course.  As I said, it will be available in the coming days as a General Assembly document.

Correspondent:  Well, that doesn’t help.

Spokesperson:  Well, it does help in that I’m sure that Jean Victor could tell you when it’s available.

[The Spokesperson later announced that the General Assembly Spokesperson had informed his Office that, once the Secretary-General’s report concerning the Goldstone Report has gone to the Member States of the General Assembly, it will be made public and will appear on the General Assembly website.]

Question:  The response that has been given by Israel -- that it is also investigating -- is it too late?  The Secretary-General believes it’s too late and too little response at this point in time?

Spokesperson:  Israel?  Did you say Israel?  I just couldn’t hear what you were saying.

Question:  I’m sorry.  I said the Israeli Government has said that it is investigating, because although it deems the report to be unfair or whatever, it is still investigating.  Does the Secretary-General believe that that report will be… will take that into consideration when he is presenting that report?

Spokesperson:  Well, I am not going to prejudge what will be written in that report, but what I would note is, as the Secretary-General has said himself, that he did receive submissions both from the Israeli Government, from the Palestinian Authority, and they were submitted in time for him to be able to present his report.

Question:  It’s from the Palestinian Authority or Hamas?

Spokesperson:  Palestinian Authority.

Question:  Yeah, because it is Hamas which is… the Palestinian Authority is not responding?

Spokesperson:  You heard what the Secretary-General said yesterday, and I don’t have anything to add to that.

Question:  Yesterday, the Justice Minister in the Hamas government said that he has handed the report to the Office of the [High] Commissioner for Human Rights, and that the representative of the [High] Commissioner for Human Rights said that he will convey that to the SG, so that he would include it in his report.

Spokesperson:  First of all, you can ask the [High] Commissioner for Human Rights what the status of that is, and secondly, you heard what the Secretary-General said yesterday and that’s enough.

Question:  My question is, does he have a problem of getting a response from Hamas?  Is there a legal problem that prevents the SG from getting the report straight from Hamas to his office, because he only deals with the PLO, with the Mission here?

Spokesperson:  There are two things here.  One, the submissions have been received and they are from the Palestinian Authority and from the Government of Israel, and the Secretary-General’s report will cover those submissions, plus, of course, from the Swiss Government.  The second point is, I don’t think we really need to go into the full ins and outs of all of this.  You know full well that the United Nations deals with the Palestinian Authority.

Question:  Will the replies be included?

Spokesperson:  The report, as I said, you heard what the Secretary-General said yesterday, first thing.  Second thing, their report is going to the General Assembly tomorrow.  I think that answers your question.  Yes.

Question:  The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are reportedly coming to an agreement for reconciliation.  Is this something that the Secretary-General encourages to facilitate the resumption of the negotiation process?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General is following closely what happens in the Middle East and looks at all efforts that will bring people together, and will help to push the peace process forward in a positive light.

Question:  There is a case in South Africa where eight tons of ammunition have been seized by the Government… I mean, seized by police.  It is said they were ordered by the UN for use in Ivory Coast, Liberia and Burundi.  I guess what I’m wondering is, my understanding was that contingents bring their own ammunition, that the peacekeeping contingents from various nations that go to peacekeeping bring their own ammo and are reimbursed by the UN.  Can you, either now or if you look into it, explain why the UN was ordering eight tons of ammunition, how the order came about, and what it would be used for?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think it’s obvious what ammunition is used for.

Question:  Why the UN itself was ordering instead of its own mission, it’s own peacekeepers that usually bring their guns with them?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out the details from DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations].  I’m aware of this case, this news report, and I don’t yet have the guidance from DPKO.  We’ve asked for it already.

Question:  Yesterday I had asked about this UN Dispute Tribunal case involving…?

Spokesperson:  And you got an answer, Matthew.

Question:  I guess what I want to say is, basically, you said you were going to appeal, so I wanted to ask, what’s the basis?  I mean, you can appeal, but having read the decision can you get some sense of what the basis of appeal is? And also, separately, unless the basis of appeal is just totally factually wrong as to what the Under-Secretary-General did in terms of accountability and management, how does the Secretary-General view the factual findings that, if he was not appealing from each of them, what are the repercussions for what is found in that decision?

Spokesperson:  We gave you a response yesterday, and I don’t have anything to add to that.

Question:  There has been so many threats in the Middle East, regarding Syria, Lebanon.  Is there any reaction from the Secretary-General about the tension in the Middle East, the rising tension, and is he concerned about that?  Is he going to do any mediation or to allay, or to release, some of the pressure and the tension in the area?

Spokesperson:  I think that one needs to look at the big picture here.  There are different elements.  There are, of course, signs of tension in different areas.  But there are also signs and reports that people are prepared to speak to each other, and that Senator [George] Mitchell has been moving around the region trying to help that happen.

And as you also know, the Secretary-General has spoken recently by telephone with [Palestinian] President [Mahmoud] Abbas, and also with [Israeli] Defence Minister [Ehud] Barak.  This clearly indicates the Secretary-General’s involvement in trying to help to move things forward.  And any, of course, tensions, he would want to ensure that those are minimized, and that’s why he works the telephones to try to help in that particular area.

Question:  Martin, on a totally different subject, could you have an update on Benazir Bhutto’s Commission, because I had asked about it on Monday, because they had no update at that point in time?  But has the Commission gone back to Pakistan at all to interview people or has it not gone back?  When does it intend to go back, and is it about to conclude its work or not?

Spokesperson:  I’m sure my colleagues who are listening right now have taken down the list of your questions and we’ll find out.

[The Spokesperson later added that staff members of the Commission are currently in Pakistan, and that its current mandate lasts until the end of March.]

Question:  I have a general question.  I think next week, the UN strategy in preventing the world financial crisis will resume their workshop meetings.  Do you think it will be a closed-door discussion in reaching a conclusion, and then we’ll be briefed or do you think there is any, will be any, arrangement on that?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out.  I don’t know.  I’ll find out.

Question:  I have two questions.  Confirmation of what the SG said yesterday about Western Sahara.  He said that the talks are on 11-12 at Greentree?  I mean, that’s what he said in the…

Spokesperson:  He misspoke, and he meant at Armonk.

Question:  10-11 in Westchester, still?

Spokesperson:  Correct, correct.

Question:  So nothing changed?

Spokesperson:  And also I would stress, as you know, these are informal consultations with the aim of trying to move to negotiations at a later stage.  But these are informal consultations like the other previous rounds that Mr. [Christopher] Ross has been involved in.

Question:  I was just interested in the Bhutto outcome?

Spokesperson:  Okay.  As I said, I’ll see what I can find out.

Question:  I had a follow-up on Western Sahara.  The meeting will take place in Westchester.  When it took place in Long Island, the milieu, the place of the meeting was announced, Manhasset.  Where in Westchester is it going to take place?

Spokesperson:  It’s in Armonk, I think, if I have pronounced it correctly.

Correspondent:  Ar-monk.

Spokesperson:  There you are.  I’m new to town, so… Yes.

Question:  Is it a UN property, like Greentree, where you’re going to hold the talks, or is it a hotel or business centre…?

Spokesperson:  I need to find out, I do not know.

Question:  Thanks, Martin.  I have two questions.  The first one, do we have a hook-up with MINUSTAH by satellite tomorrow during the noon briefing?

Spokesperson:  Did you want to ask the second question now or go on to it, because I’m happy to take the first one…

Question:  Sure.  Second question, just going back to the Secretary-General’s report to the General Assembly on Goldstone, I mean, obviously it’s something we’ve all been following for a long time, and tomorrow is the day that the report gets handed over.  We’re obviously all going to want to cover it.  I mean, is it too much to ask that copies of the report are made available to journalists tomorrow morning?

Spokesperson:  I will see what I can do.  Clearly, there are a number of factors here, and one of them is that it is transmitted to the General Assembly and the General Assembly then translates it and distributes it.  So I would need to find out.  I will ask Jean Victor, and I’m sure that you could do the same to find out what the timescale is on that.  But I of course understand your interests and that’s why I was trying to give you the details that I have here.

And to answer your first question on the video hook-up with MINUSTAH, we’re trying to make that happen.  As you heard yesterday, Bill Clinton will be in town on Friday.  This could mean that our colleagues in the Mission are working on that visit, but in any case, we’re trying our best to arrange that hook-up, because I know it’s very useful, and we clearly would like to have it happen.  Okay, it’s just the final question.

Question:  Back to the Gaza situation.  Regardless of whether the SG is either willing or authorized to accept it, does anyone know if there is a report from Hamas, or someone representing Hamas, which has been offered and which purports to be reflective of their position?

Spokesperson:  You heard what the Secretary-General said yesterday, and I don’t have anything to add to that.  All right, thanks very much.  Thank you.

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