Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

17 February 2010

Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

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

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

and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.

We have Jean Victor here, the General Assembly Spokesperson, who will brief immediately following mine.

**Secretary-General Statement - UNAMID

I will start the briefing today with a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the attack on the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur, in South Darfur.

The Secretary-General condemns the attack by unidentified armed assailants against a UNAMID police convoy returning to Nyala in South Darfur from a confidence-building patrol to the El Sharif camp for internally displaced persons in South Darfur on 16 February.  Seven of the eight formed police unit members escorting the patrol were injured in the exchange of fire.

The Secretary-General calls on the Government of Sudan to launch an immediate investigation into this incident and to ensure that the perpetrators are swiftly identified and brought to justice.

**Sudan - Darfur

And from the Mission itself, the Joint Special Representative, Ibrahim Gambari, has visited the wounded peacekeepers at the Nyala Hospital, and expressed his outrage over the violent attack.  Gambari praised the courage of the peacekeepers, and said any attack on peacekeepers was tantamount to a war crime, so those responsible must be brought to justice.

And there is a press release from UNAMID upstairs in the Spokesperson’s office.

**Secretary-General Statement - Cluster Munitions

Yesterday, for those of you who may have missed, there was a statement issued in the early evening on the entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The United Nations had received yesterday the thirtieth instrument of ratification for the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  With this step, the Convention will enter into force on 1 August 2010, in keeping with the Convention’s provisions.

The Secretary-General welcomes this major advance on the global disarmament agenda, and notes that the Convention’s entry into force just two years after its adoption demonstrates the world’s collective revulsion at the impact of these terrible weapons.

Cluster munitions are unreliable and inaccurate.  During conflict and long after it has ended, they maim and kill scores of civilians, including many children.  They impair post-conflict recovery by making roads and land inaccessible to farmers and aid workers.

The United Nations is firmly committed to ending the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions and mitigating the suffering they cause.  The Secretary-General calls on all States to become a party to the Convention without delay.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, Alan Doss, said that the recent massacre of seven women in South Kivu shows once again why the Congolese and the international community need to sustain their efforts to end the threat posed by the FDLR (the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda).

MONUC says that the women were killed during an attack by the FDLR on the village of Bisembe, on the night of 11 February.  Since then, the peacekeepers have reinforced their presence in this sector and are coordinating their actions with the Congolese Armed Forces to help protect civilians in this remote area.

There is a press release on this as well.

**Haiti Update

And on Haiti, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the humanitarian situation is gradually improving, as some of the essential infrastructure ‑‑ such as the port, airport, Government institutions, electricity and telecommunications facilities ‑‑ are becoming more operational.

But OCHA says that there are remaining major humanitarian needs still unmet, particularly concerning shelter and sanitation.  OCHA also says that rubble removal is another urgent issue.  And you can read more about that upstairs.

And as we mentioned yesterday, the revised flash appeal for Haiti will be launched tomorrow at 3 p.m. in Conference Room 4 in the new building on the North Lawn.  The Secretary-General, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, the Special Envoy for Haiti, Bill Clinton, and the Permanent Representative of Haiti, will speak to you after the launch, at the stakeout on the second floor of the Temporary North Lawn Building.  So, that probably should be around 4 p.m., but we’ll let you know as we get closer to the time.

**Security Council

And here at UN Headquarters, the Security Council began its consultations today with an interactive dialogue with our two senior officials dealing with peace operations:  Under-Secretaries-General Alain Le Roy and Susana Malcorra.

Among the topics being discussed are relations with troop-contributing countries, the respective challenges for peacekeeping and peacebuilding, robust mandates, resources, the capacity to respond quickly and the costs involved.

And after that discussion, Council members were expected to hold consultations on the peacekeeping mission in Chad and the Central African Republic, known as MINURCAT.


The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan today presented its Humanitarian Action Plan for 2010, which would require some $870 million.

Robert Watkins, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, presented the appeal and also discussed the NATO-Afghan offensive in Helmand province.  In that province, he said, the United Nations has so far registered 1,402 families who have been displaced as a result of the fighting.

Watkins once again called upon all parties who are involved in the conflict in Helmand to ensure humanitarian access to affected civilians.  He reminded all parties to take robust measures to ensure that the number of civilian casualties is limited.  And you can read more about that in the complete transcript available upstairs in the Spokesperson’s office.

** Gaza

Yesterday, I was asked about the humanitarian situation in Gaza.  I’d like to draw your attention to the latest humanitarian update on the Occupied Palestinian Territory put out this week by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

OCHA says that, in the Gaza Strip, the ability to bring essential commodities was further reduced in January, due the total closure of the fuel crossing at Nahal Oz.  That closure turned Kerem Shalom into the single functional crossing for goods, except for a conveyor belt known as the Karni Crossing.

The gradual channelling of all humanitarian shipments to Kerem Shalom since the imposition of the blockade has significantly increased the cost of humanitarian deliveries.  OCHA says that lifting the blockade over Gaza and facilitating the operation of humanitarian organizations are essential to the improvement of the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and to the restoration of dignity to its population.

**Press Conference Today

And just for your planning purposes, today at 4:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by the President of Guatemala, Alvaro Colom, about achievements and prospects of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala.

**Guest Tomorrow

And tomorrow at noon, our guest at the start of the briefing will be the Force Commander for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Major General Floriano Peixoto Vieira Neto, who will join us by videoconference from Haiti.

And that’s what I have for you.  We do have, as I mentioned, the General Assembly Spokesperson here with us.  So, if there are questions for me I’ll take them first.  Edie?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Marie, the Ambassador of Chad was here just before you came, and he said that there were negotiations or talks going on with the Secretariat on the withdrawal, or the possible reduction, in MINURCAT.  I wondered if you had any update on those talks.  And he seemed to indicate that Chad would like to keep the civilian component and get rid of the military component.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Edie, I was watching part of that press conference, and I am aware of his remarks.  Because the Security Council right now is in consultations on this subject, I cannot comment further right now.  Mr. Le Roy is in those consultations, and I hope to get some guidance from him after those consultations on this subject.  So, I don’t have anything further on that for now.  Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  On Côte d’Ivoire, [inaudible] violence seems to be spreading to several cities now.  People have been injured, buses are being burnt.  What can the Secretary-General do at this stage?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General, as you mentioned yourself, did issue a statement and he is closely following the situation with his Special Representative in Côte d’Ivoire.  He has made appeals; he has spoken to President Compaoré, during which he has conveyed his views on this issue.  He commended President Compaoré for his effort to find a solution to the obstacles in the electoral process in Côte d’Ivoire.  He regretted that, after the recent progress, and the elections so close, the process had met a major obstacle.  The Secretary-General was encouraged by President Gbagbo’s indication that he remained committed to the Ouagadougou agreements and to organize the elections quickly.  The Secretary-General believes that it is important that any solution found should ensure that the gains made so far be preserved.  In particular, the solution should not reopen the consensus on the provisional voters list of 5.3 million people.  We need to work hand in hand if we don’t want to see a return to violence.

So, this is the readout from the phone call that he had with President Compaoré.  So, the Secretary-General is very engaged in this issue.  Anything else for me?  Matthew.

Question:  A follow up on Chad.  I understand you said you can’t comment.  But just a factual question that arose is what fees, if any, the UN has or is paying to Chad to have MINURCAT there?  The Ambassador said that there are… that landing fees that used to be charged to the European Union aren’t being charged to the UN.  But some have said that the UN paid to take over the air facilities and other infrastructure bought by the EU.  So, is it, I mean, it doesn’t, it seems that this is a factual question, not a negotiating one.  How much has DPKO paid Chad during the life of MINURCAT, and for what?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have that information, and I am sure that DPKO can provide that if they have that figure for you.

Question:  And I want to ask about… in Guinea, an individual, Major Claude Pivi, who was named in the Secretary-General’s own commission of inquiry report into the massacres there has [inaudible] and possibly responsible for them, has been named a part of the interim Government.  So, I’m wondering whether the Secretary-General has any, various human rights groups have said it’s an outrage that a person responsible would now be put in this interim Government.  What is either Said Djinnit or Ban Ki-moon, what do they have to say about it?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing beyond what the Secretary-General has said on the overall situation in Guinea, as the Security Council has commented yesterday in a presidential statement.  Okay, with that, I am going to turn over to Jean Victor.  Have a good afternoon.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon.

One item for you today.

The President of the General Assembly, HE Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, will travel to Cairo, Egypt, from 20 to 24 February, at the invitation of the Egyptian Government.  He will conduct bilateral talks with senior officials of the Egyptian Government, including the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Minister for International Cooperation.  The talks will focus on the important items on the agenda of the General Assembly, including the situation in the Middle East, Sudan and Somalia, as well as African issues.  Other issues pertaining to the reform of the United Nations including the reform of the Security Council and system-wide coherence will also be discussed.  During his visit to Cairo, President Treki will visit the headquarters of the League of Arab States.  He will hold consultations with the Secretary-General of the League and will address the Council of the League at the permanent representative level.  The President of the General Assembly will also meet with former Secretary-General, Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

That’s what I have.  Any questions?  Yes, Dr. Abbadi.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Who asked for the meeting?  Boutros-Ghali or the President of the General Assembly?  Who asked first for the meeting?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think that it’s a question of asking for a meeting.  This is just, I think, the President being in Cairo in Egypt and may be using that opportunity to greet the former Secretary-General.

Question:  Courtesy call?

Spokesperson:  I will call it that way.  But I can get more specifics on that.  Yes, Matthew.

Question:  [inaudible]…

Spokesperson:  Not that I know of.  For the time being, this is what we have.  If there is any change, or any addition or whatever regarding this specific time frame, I’ll let you know.  Yes, Dr. Abbadi.

Question:  Will the President be willing to give another press conference soon?

Spokesperson:  We hope that when he returns from this trip, we will ask him to come and brief you, and he will decide in due course, yes.  Thank you.

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