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

7 May 2010

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

7 May 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

**Guest at Noon

John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, is the guest at today’s briefing, and he will be along to join us shortly, as well as Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

**Press Conference Today

And then at 1 p.m. today, the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, will hold a press conference here in this auditorium.

** Darfur — Egyptian Peacekeepers Ambushed

The UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) reports that at around 11:30 local time this morning, one of its convoys was ambushed.  Two Egyptian peacekeepers were killed, and another three seriously wounded.

The patrol was attacked by unidentified armed men near the village of Katayla in South Darfur.

The attackers opened fire on the peacekeepers and fled when the convoy returned fire.  The wounded were airlifted to UNAMID’s hospital in Nyala and they’re reported to be in a stable condition.

The AU-UN Joint Special Representative, Ibrahim Gambari, has expressed outrage over the attack.  The Secretary-General is aware of the attack as well, and is equally incensed.

The Mission is calling on the Government of the Sudan to identify, capture and bring the perpetrators to justice.  This attack brings to 24 the number of UNAMID personnel killed in hostile actions since the Mission was established in January 2008.  We have more on this in a press release available in my office.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding consultations on the UN Mission in Chad and the Central African Republic.  Youssef Mahmoud, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Mission, MINURCAT, that is present in those countries, briefed Council members on the plan to reconfigure the peacekeeping Mission.

Under the plan, outlined in the Secretary-General’s recent report, the Mission’s military component will be reduced from its current strength of 3,300 personnel in Chad to 1,400 troops and 500 support elements.  The full report is out on the Web.

And the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says that it has begun this week to transfer some 1,100 newly arrived Central African refugees from the border in southern Chad to a refugee camp where the Agency can assist them.  These refugees crossed into southern Chad’s Moyen Chari province two weeks ago, after violence forced them from villages in northern Central African Republic.  And there are more details in the UNHCR briefing notes.

** Somalia

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden, is calling on armed groups to put down their arms, allow unfettered humanitarian access and vacate a medical clinic treating victims of fighting.  As of Friday afternoon, armed groups were occupying the medical compound in the Afgooye corridor and were holding the clinic’s director hostage.  Patients had to be evacuated.

There are more than 360,000 displaced people in temporary settlements along the 1.3-kilometre corridor between Mogadishu, the capital, and the town of Afgooye.  We have a press release on this with more details.

** Haiti

And we have some details from our press briefing earlier today in Geneva on the initial phase of priority relocations of Haitians displaced by the 12 January earthquake.  Since the aftermath of that earthquake, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has helped to relocate more than 7,400 Haitians to more secure areas.

Movement to new sites has been and continues to be a last resort option for displaced Haitians who are determined to be in priority areas at risk of flooding, mudslides or other immediate hazards.

So, that’s what I have for you.  I can take a couple of questions before handing over to Jean Victor very briefly, and then onto John Holmes, who I see has arrived.  So, yes, please.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Hi. I would like to follow up on the issue of the bike racks that was raised yesterday.  I don’t know if you are aware, we asked if they there removed from the garage and yesterday Marie sent out a notice attributing this to the construction, which really doesn’t make sense, because the construction hasn’t affected the rest of the cars in the parking, and it seems that a lot of people at the UN are taking advantage of the construction as an excuse to push back on whatever they didn’t like.  And in this case, they make room for one more car in the garage by throwing out all the bikes.  And I was wondering if the Secretary-General is aware of this, because it’s something that undermines the message that he has been sending out of making environment a priority of his mandate.  And if he is aware, I would like to know how he feels about it.

Spokesperson:  I spoke to Angela Kane this morning about this and I know that first of all, the United Nations is very much in favour of people using bicycles, of course, here at Headquarters.  And I know that Ms. Kane is looking into this in a bit more detail.  So, I think you all can expect to hear more.

Question:  I just would like to know if he can follow up later on in this issue if it is not resolved.  I like to know what the Secretary-General thinks about — how it affects his message.

Spokesperson:  Thank you.  Well, as I said, I spoke to Ms. Kane about this, this morning.  She is aware of it, as are many other people, and I know that they’re looking into people’s concerns.

Question:  Let me go as fast as I can here.  Does the UN or the Secretary-General or Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar have any comment on the dissolution of the NLD [National League for Democracy] party in Myanmar?

Spokesperson:  Well, obviously, we have already said in the past that we respect the decisions of parties in Myanmar.  We respect the decisions that they take.  And obviously the key consideration, which we have said all along, is that Myanmar should be encouraged to hold free, fair and inclusive elections.  That’s what we’ve said consistently.

Question:  My question is that the Government has dissolved the party for failing to register for the elections.  I wonder if there is any comment by the UN on the Government’s decision to dissolve the political party of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Spokesperson:  Well, as I have said, we are obviously aware.  We’ve already talked about this in the past, and the key thing is that the election process should be free and fair, and should be inclusive.  But any party that takes a decision to change its status, as we have seen overnight, we have to respect that decision.

Question:  I wanted to also ask, the sister of Louis Maxwell has contacted Inner City Press again to say that the UN only in March made the family aware that there was a video of Louis Maxwell’s murder.  Since Ms. [Susana] Malcorra said that the UN was aware of this since January, I guess I am just wondering why it took that long.  She has concerns that that, again I don’t want to use “cover up”, a word you seem not to like, but that there is, that the gap was too long; that it wasn’t, first it isn’t the case, maybe it’s not true, maybe the UN did contact earlier than March, but if it took from January to March, what explains the UN’s two month delay in informing the family of a murdered staff member that a video existed?

Spokesperson:  I’ll relay your question to the DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations].  [He later added that the United Nations has been in contact regularly with Louis Maxwell’s family since 28 October 2009.]

Question:  Okay.  And then finally, this is just a more newsy, I know that it’s been now however number of days since the Secretary-General said he was forming this panel to advise him on war crimes in Sri Lanka.  In the last 24 hours the Defence Minister, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has said that anyone that would seek to testify about war crimes by the Sri Lankan Government should be put to death.  It’s a capital offence and it’s treason.  So I am wondering:  this seems like a pretty extreme position in the light of international justice trying to collect evidence of war crimes anywhere.  What’s the response to that and what does this “no delay” thing mean now that the panel formation was announced?

Spokesperson:  Well the “no delay” thing means what it says.  There is no delay.  The Secretary-General is pushing ahead with putting together the panel of experts that we’ve talked about a number of times, here and elsewhere.  Not only the panel, but the terms of reference; that is being actively worked on.  There is no delay.  Okay.

Question:  And then there is no comment on Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s comment that anyone that [interrupted]

Spokesperson:  Not at the moment, no.  Okay, any other questions?  All right, so I am going to hand over very briefly to Jean Victor.

[Later, the Spokesperson read the following:]

**Secretary-General Meetings

The Secretary-General just concluded two back-to-back meetings.  The first was with Bolivian President Evo Morales Ayma and representatives from civil society organizations that participated at the recent climate conference in Cochabamba in Bolivia.  He held his second meeting privately with President Morales.

The Secretary-General told President Morales that the voices of civil society and indigenous peoples must be heard.  He welcomes all initiatives that can contribute to a comprehensive, equitable and effective global response to climate change.

The Secretary-General said he was pleased that conclusions of the Cochabamba conference had been submitted to the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change], the one universal forum where all nations and peoples come together to resolve climate issues.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Bon après-midi, good afternoon to all.

**General Assembly President Concludes Official Visit to Asia

Correspondents requested earlier this week more details on the PGA’s visit to Asia.

The President of the General Assembly, H.E. Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, has concluded his visit to Asia, which included China, India and Pakistan.

On the last leg of his visit, President Treki was received today, 7 May, by the President of Pakistan, H.E. Mr. Asif Ali Zardari.  They exchanged views on a number of issues on the agenda of the United Nations and the mobilization of efforts to address the peace and development challenges confronting the international community.  At a ceremony preceding the talks, President Zardari conferred on Dr. Treki the award of Hilal-e-Pakistan in recognition of his contribution for promoting peace, harmony and cooperation.

Yesterday, 6 May, Dr. Treki was received by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, H.E. Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani.  They discussed a wide range of issues topping the agenda of the United Nations including peace and security, development, United Nations reform and several other regional and international issues.  They termed multilateralism and the role of the United Nations as central to the collective efforts to address the global challenges facing the international community.

President Treki invited the Prime Minister to attend the September 2010 high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly to review the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, and also informed him of other priorities for the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly, in particular his initiatives to hold thematic debates on important issues in the General Assembly.  The Pakistani Prime Minister expressed appreciation and full support for these initiatives and lauded the efforts of President Treki to revitalize the role of the General Assembly.  President Treki thanked Pakistan for its support to the United Nations, including its contributions to UN peacekeeping.

President Treki also held talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister H.E. Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi.  Both sides emphasized the urgency of a just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine and the crucial role of the United Nations in that regard.  They also discussed the situation in the region including Iraq and Afghanistan.  They had an exchange of views on disarmament, climate change and the efforts to reform and strengthen the United Nations, including the revitalization of the General Assembly and the reform of the Security Council.  President Treki also extended an invitation to the Foreign Minister to attend the forthcoming thematic debates in the General Assembly on the Middle East peace process and on UN peacekeeping.

During his visit, President Treki also met with the Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan, H.E. Dr. Fehmida Mirza.  Dr. Treki briefed her on the efforts to promote the development agenda at the United Nations and to revitalize and strengthen the role of the General Assembly.

President Treki also visited the Senate of Pakistan where he met with the Chairman of Senate, H.E. Mr. Farooq H. Naek, who hosted a luncheon in his honour, attended by senior senators of Pakistan.

President Treki also met with the United Nations Resident Representative in Pakistan, Mr. Fikret Akcura.

This is what I have for you.  I can take a few quick questions.  Yes, Masood.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [inaudible] Treki did not discuss with Pakistanis anything about Benazir Bhutto’s report, or the Kashmir issue, which is always on the agenda?

Spokesperson:  As you know, the question of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto was the subject of a report that was submitted not to the President of the General Assembly, but to the Secretary-General.  And when it comes to the Kashmir issue, of course, president Treki is very eager to further promote peace and understanding among all Member States.  But whether this specific question was discussed, I will check and come back to you.

Question:  On the Kashmir issue?

Spokesperson:  Yeah.  No, further questions?  I wish you a good afternoon, and thank you very much.

* *** *

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