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

26 February 2010

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

26 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 Martin Nesirky, 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.

Welcome to those who’ve made it through the snow and to those who may be watching elsewhere.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Afghanistan

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the attack in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the attacks that took place in Kabul this morning, which caused the death and injury of many Afghan and foreign residents and for which the Taliban claimed responsibility.  This deliberate targeting of civilians demonstrates once again a senseless disregard for human life on the part of the perpetrators.

The Secretary-General extends his deepest condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims and sends his wishes for a speedy recovery to those who were injured. 

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Myanmar

I also have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General on Myanmar.

The Secretary-General is disappointed to learn that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s appeal against her continued house arrest was again rejected today.  The Secretary-General reiterates his call for the release of all political prisoners and their free participation in the political process. These are essential steps for national reconciliation and democratic transition in Myanmar.

** Pakistan

The Commission of Inquiry that has been looking into former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination has completed its latest visit to Pakistan.

During the three-day visit, the Commission, headed by Chilean Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz, met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and other senior Government officials and civil society members.  Ambassador Muñoz was accompanied by Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald of Ireland and Commission staff.

And this was the third visit of the Commissioners to Pakistan.  The Commission’s commission staff have been also working on the ground since the start of operations.

The Commission’s term ends on 31 March and it expects to submit its report to the Secretary-General within its current deadline.  The Secretary-General will then share the report with the Government of Pakistan and submit it to the Security Council for information.

** C ôte d’Ivoire

The UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire has welcomed the consensus reached last night to establish a new government as well as a new Bureau of the Independent Electoral Commission in the country.  It adds that this opens the way to achieving the essential tasks that will lead to the holding of the presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire -- which have been scheduled for this spring.  And there is a press release in French in my office.

** Liberia

Our Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has reported an outbreak of violence in northwest Liberia.  UN Police and troops are now in the affected Voinjama region to provide hands-on assistance to their Liberian counterparts in an effort to ascertain the circumstances that led to the incident.  So far, there have been no reports of casualties or damage to property.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the UN Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) by one year, until 26 February 2011.

The Council also adopted a presidential statement in which it welcomed a letter sent by Iraq’s Foreign Minister confirming that the Iraqi Government supports the international non-proliferation regime and complies with disarmament treaties.  The Council underlines its readiness, once the necessary steps have been taken, to review its restrictions in its past resolutions concerning weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Today was the last day of Council work scheduled during the French presidency of the Security Council.  Next Monday, Gabon will take over the rotating presidency of the Council for the month of March.

** Haiti Update

In Haiti, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the registration of displaced persons is being organized as is the selection of sites for debris removal, the assessment of building damage, and the identification and planning of relocation sites for those who can not return to their homes. 

Together with the decongestion of spontaneous settlement sites, creating adequate sanitary conditions will be crucial in order to mitigate the risk of a large-scale outbreak of waterborne diseases in the coming weeks.

OCHA adds that, as of today, a total of 86,403 workers are engaged in cash-for-work activities including clearing small debris, drainage and irrigation of canals and solid waste management.

And concerning education, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners are setting up more than 150 tent schools with the goal of getting children back to school before April.  An estimated 2.5 million children have been out of school since the quake according to UNICEF. 

And finally, food assistance is moving into a second surge phase, with planned distribution of full food baskets.

**Commission on the Status of Women

The fifty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women starts on Monday here at UN Headquarters.

Dozens of Government ministers and more than 2,000 women activists will gather to examine progress since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action -- the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, which remains the most comprehensive global policy framework to achieve the goals of gender equality, development and peace.

The session runs until 12 March and there are plenty of media events planned.  And you can find out more about that from the media advisory available from my office.

**The Week Ahead at the United Nations

Just a couple of items from The Week Ahead at the United Nations.

As you know, the Secretary-General will be travelling to Los Angeles on Sunday, and will be there until Tuesday.

As I’ve mentioned already, Gabon will assume the rotating presidency of the Security Council on Monday.

And also on that day, the Human Rights Council will begin its thirteenth regular session in Geneva.

Thank you very much.  That’s what I have for you.  I’m happy to take questions and then Jean Victor is here to brief you after that. Yes.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Hi, I’m [inaudible], and I’m with CNN.  What is the UN reaction to Libyan leader Qadhafi allegedly calling for a jihad against Switzerland?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General feels that it is unfortunate that this matter has escalated in this way.  He strongly believes that differences of opinion should be resolved peacefully through dialogue.  And the Secretary-General has consistently called for tolerance and understanding among different religions.

Matthew, I think you had a question.

Question:  Sure, sure.  There are a couple, actually.  I wanted to first follow up on the Myanmar announcement that you made.  One of the… A Myanmar focus NGO that wrote to the Secretary-General and others has also said that they believe that it’s time for the Secretary-General to name a replacement for Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari, and that, they say that it is entirely unclear to them what’s being done on that portfolio since he stepped down.  Can you say what the timing of that might be and what actually has been done by Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar on the Myanmar issue since he took over?

Spokesperson:  Well, for a start, we have this statement that I’ve just read out to you.  That’s the result of the work that goes on in the framework of the good offices which as you know, Mr. Nambiar is looking after on Myanmar.  And the Secretary-General is fully engaged, fully aware of what’s going on.  I don’t need to reiterate what I have just read out, but it’s clear that he has delegated the good offices responsibility to Mr. Nambiar and that’s where it is.  And the work that has been going on, I think as I said, a statement has just come out.  That speaks for itself.

Question:  I had also wanted to ask, I think earlier, maybe this 10 February or so, thereabouts, you said that the Secretary-General will be sending Lynn Pascoe to Sri Lanka based on events there.  So, it was raised… I guess I’m wondering whether, I think the statement was [due] by the end of the month.  So, I’m wondering when, you know, the…  I went back over the transcript.  When was the thing of sending him and where does, since it’s now the twenty-, whatever, fifth.  Where does it stand?

Spokesperson:  I’ll need to check precisely on travel dates and whether this is happening in the way that I said at the time.  I need to check on that.  But what I said is right, that in the telephone conversation with the president, the Secretary-General had said that Mr. Pascoe would be travelling there.

Question:  I mean, I just wanted, since [inaudible] I think this will, maybe, will…

Spokesperson:  This is a job loss, a job loss.  Okay.

Question:  Yeah.  No, no.

Spokesperson:  All right, no problem.

Question:  No.  Sure, it has to do with the meeting, the UNEP [United Nations Environment Programme] or environmental meeting in Bali…

Spokesperson:  Yeah.

Question:  …where it’s reported that ministers have decided to have sort of, something of an independent review of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report and of Mr. Pachauri, and said that United Kingdom, Germany, Algeria, Norway and Antigua and Barbuda -- these were the ministers that met and decided that Mr. Pachauri couldn’t name the reviewer.  I just wanted to know, in light of the statement that was… that Mr. Ban released, are these countries climate sceptics?  Obviously they feel that there is something that needs to be improved in the IPCC, either reporting or process.  Is this something that the Secretary-General supports, this type of independent review of the IPCC?

Spokesperson:  I think we can expect an announcement in the coming days on precisely, not simply from the Secretary-General, but from the United Nations, about how this would work.  And it’s a question less of reviewing the work of the IPCC in toto, overall, but more the way that work that the IPCC does in its assessment reports, how that work is peer reviewed and so on.  I think it’s more likely to be focused in that area.  But I would encourage you to speak to Nick Nuttall, who is the spokesman for Achim Steiner, who is actually on the ground there in Bali, and I think he will probably be able to give you more details about what is likely to be coming down the track towards us. Yes.

Question:  Is it the Secretary-General’s intention, I mean, with regards to Nambiar bearing the good offices role; is that sort of an interim status or is that basically the way it’s just going be from now on?

Spokesperson:  At the moment the work is being carried out, as I have explained to you I think on more than one occasion, it’s a good offices role, it’s a Secretary-General’s good offices role.  The Secretary-General is clearly very comfortable with the way that it is being handled.  At the moment, the Chef de Cabinet has that role to oversee the good offices.  Clearly, it’s not simply down to Mr. Nambiar, the Chef de Cabinet.  As we’ve mentioned, there are people who work full time on this and are able to advise him and to keep him up to speed and up to date on what is happening.  And that’s exactly what happened in the early hours of this morning when the appeal was rejected.  We were mobilized in the middle of the night, and the statement that you have is a result of that.  So, I think that that mechanism is working effectively from the United Nations perspective, and from the Secretary-General’s perspective.

Question:  But there is no intention to actually appoint someone to replace Mr. Gambari?

Spokesperson:  Where we are is where we are at the moment.  And if that changes, I’ll let you know.  Yes.

Question:  Martin, do we have an idea of when Mr. Gambari, talking about him, is coming…?

Spokesperson:  I’m sorry, I didn’t hear the first part.  Say again.

Question:  Do we have an idea, do you have an idea of when Mr. Gambari will be coming to brief the Security Council?  Because I thought it was March or April?

Spokesperson:  I don’t.

Question:  No?

Spokesperson:  I’ll see what I can find out.

Correspondent:  Okay.  Thanks.

Spokesperson:  Yes.  I don’t know that. Okay, anything else?  All right, then, Jean Victor, please.  And good luck getting home in the snow, as well.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Bon après-midi.  Good afternoon.

Earlier today, the President of the General Assembly, H.E. Ali Abdussalam Treki, presided over a plenary meeting of the General Assembly on the Follow-up to the report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict.  The draft resolution was introduced by Qatar, and co-sponsored by several countries.  The list of these countries is available.  The vote for resolution 64/254 was recorded as follows:  in favour, 98; against, 7; abstained, 31.

That’s what I have for you today.  No further question?  Yes, please.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  No, no, I’m just wondering if you have any update on the Schengen situation.

Spokesperson:  No update.  I still haven’t seen any list.

Question:  If and when… are you inquiring, and if, when you find out, will you, you know, on your own side simply announce it when you have it, or is it required to keep asking?  It’s an ongoing question when the office of the PGA has inquired to find out if the PGA himself is on the Swiss list.

Spokesperson:  Rest assured that, if there is something new that is relevant, we’ll definitely share it with you.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Thank you.  I wish you a safe return back home.  Be safe and keep warm.  And have a nice weekend.

* *** *

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