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

17 May 2010

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

17 May 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.

Good afternoon everybody.

**Secretary-General’s Appointment

The Secretary-General has appointed Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to succeed Yvo de Boer.  The appointment has been made after consultations with the Conference of Parties through its Bureau.  The Secretary-General is grateful to Mr. de Boer for his dedicated service and tireless efforts on behalf of the climate change agenda.

Ms. Figueres is an international leader on strategies to address global climate change and brings to this position a passion for the issue, deep knowledge of the stakeholders and valuable hands-on experience with the public sector, non-profit sector and private sector.  And we have more information on Ms. Figueres in my office.

**Human Rights — Thailand

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed extreme concern today about the escalation of violence in Thailand that has led to a number of deaths and injuries over the past five days.  Recalling Friday’s appeal by the Secretary-General, she urged both sides to avoid further violent confrontation and to continue the search for a peaceful resolution to the current standoff.

Underlining that the risk is high for the situation to spiral out of control as the latest government deadline passes, Pillay appealed to the protestors to step back from the brink, and to security forces to exercise maximum restraint in line with the instructions given by the Government.  Stressing that ultimately this situation can only be resolved by negotiation, she urged leaders to set aside pride and politics for the sake of the people of Thailand.

**Security Council Mission

A Security Council delegation returned yesterday from a two-day visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, during which they studied options for the future of a UN peacekeeping presence in the country.

The mission held discussions with President Joseph Kabila, his Prime Minister, and the leaders of the two chambers of Parliament.  They also met with the UN Mission leadership, the UN country team and members of the Congolese civil society.

Ambassador Gérard Araud of France, who led the delegation, said that the discussions did not concern an immediate withdrawal of all UN troops.  Instead he described the visit as a listening tour ahead of critical Security Council deliberations on the future of the UN Mission, MONUC, which are planned for later this month.  He said that his delegation and the Congolese leadership have agreed to remain open to further discussions on the reconfiguration of the UN presence in the country.

** Iraq

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ad Melkert, has welcomed the proper conduct of the manual recount process for votes cast in the country’s March parliamentary polls, followed by the announcement of the recount results.  Melkert said the manual recount represented a legal right to deal with complaints and thus has affirmed the legitimacy of the elections.

And, while acknowledging that the recount results must still be ratified by the Federal Supreme Court, he’s called on all parties to engage now in serious interaction so as to give immediate priority to the formation of the new Government.  And we have more on that in a press release from the mission in Iraq.

**Deputy Secretary-General in Rwanda

The Deputy Secretary-General is in Kigali today at the invitation of the Rwandan Government to address the International Forum on the Role of Leadership in Promoting Gender Equality.  She praised the Rwandan leadership for demonstrating to the world that achieving the highest global representation of women in parliament is possible despite past and present challenges.


The Security Council will be holding a debate on the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), this afternoon, at 3 p.m.  The Head of the Mission, Lamberto Zannier, will be briefing.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

Tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference to launch the Economic Report on Africa 2010.  The theme of this year’s report is “Promoting High-level Sustainable Growth to Reduce Unemployment in Africa”.

And at 1 p.m., there will be a press conference by the NGO “Women Together” to present their annual awards, and to speak about their new “Centre of Fashion Development” in Cartagena.

Okay, so that’s what I have for you.  Any questions, please?  Yes, Erol.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Since you mentioned that the Security Council is going to have a consultation on, an open debate on Kosovo, did the Secretary-General already meet Mr. Zannier?  Did he talk with him, and what about, and what he is expecting or what is going to be on the agenda in his meeting, Secretary-General’s meeting with the Foreign Minister of Serbia, Mr. Jeremić?

Spokesperson:  Well, on meeting with Mr. Zannier, that meeting is taking place around now, or has recently taken place.  So, I don’t have a readout for you on that.  We typically wouldn’t give a readout of that kind of meeting.  As you know, we are likely to give a readout after the meeting has taken place with Foreign Minister Jeremić.  But we don’t have that yet.

[The Spokesperson later provided the correspondent with the following readout of the meeting between the Secretary-general and the Serbian Foreign Minister: "The Secretary-General met today with Serbia’s Foreign Minister Jeremic and discussed the situation in Kosovo, particularly in the north.  The Secretary-General reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to continued status-neutral engagements within the framework of resolution 1244, including facilitating regional cooperation and dialogue between communities.  In this regard, the Secretary-General underscored the need for flexibility and pragmatism from both sides as well as the importance of peaceful dialogue.  The Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister also discussed recent positive developments in promoting regional dialogue in the Balkans.]

Question:  And I just have a follow up on the question that I asked last week on the letters of Mr. Muhanovic to the Secretary-General. Do we have anything new on that?

Spokesperson:  Not at the moment.  I know my colleagues have been looking into that, and I know that they will contact you when they have something. Yes, Khaled.

Question:  Yes, thanks, Martin.  I was wondering whether there is any reaction yet about the deal that Iran reached with Turkey and Brazil on the nuclear non-proliferation issue.

Spokesperson:  Well, we’re obviously aware of the reports of a possible deal.  There are a number of things here. First of all, the International Atomic Energy Agency has said that it is not yet able to give a comment because it needs to receive the letter that outlines the proposal.  That letter has not yet been received.  Secondly, clearly the important point here is that there are several UN Security Council resolutions already in place, and those resolutions need to be complied with.  The third point is that clearly the Secretary-General will want to know more details about this -- we don’t have those details yet. But any effort to resolve differences on a diplomatic track, in the way that Brazil and Turkey have been pursuing with Iran, is clearly something that is encouraging.  It is in the sense that it’s important for there to be discussions.  But as I have said, the most important thing is that there are already in place UN Security Council resolutions which need to be complied with.  [To a correspondent trying to ask a question:]  For questions, could you please come further down because that’s where the microphones are.  Thank you very much.

Question:  On the same subject…

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  …Given that two of the Security Council members are taking part, two leaders are taking part in these negotiations, why the United Nations is not involved at all, I mean they sent away, United, the Secretariat, they have not sent anyone to observe and to follow up on the matter.

Spokesperson:  This is a matter that is very clearly in the hands of the Security Council.  And I am sure, you’ve mentioned that there are two Members who were speaking to Iran; there are another 13 Members who were not and presumably would like to know what was being discussed.  So this is something for the Security Council.

Question:  The Secretariat is not interested in that?

Spokesperson:  This is firmly in the hands of the Security Council. Yes.

Question:  The Secretary-General is going to Brazil.  Do you know his agenda over there?  Is he going to talk about this deal with the Iran and Turkey? 

Spokesperson:  Well, the visit to Brazil has two functions.  One is that there is, as we have mentioned before, the Alliance of Civilizations forum, which brings together more than 100 countries and regional groupings.  And so, he is going to be there for that and speaking there.  In addition, he will obviously have bilateral discussions with the Brazilian government.  Precisely what the nature and the content of those talks will be, I can’t say at the moment.  But clearly, any recent developments the Secretary-General takes a keen interest in.

Question:  Do you know the day he is going?

Spokesperson:  He will be going… Let me confirm the dates, but it’s, if I am not mistaken, it’s the 28th, 29th, but we can check.  Yeah.  Yes, Philippe.

[The Spokesperson later confirmed that the Secretary-General would be in Brazil from 27 to 28 April.]

Question:  There was a report on Sri Lanka by the International Crisis Group saying that tens of thousands of people have been killed during the war. It’s very critical of the UN, saying that the reputation of the Organization has been damaged.  First, is there a sort of general, you know, answer to the report? And also, one of the recommendations in the report is that there should be investigations into the conduct of the UN during the last year of the conflict.  Is the UN open to such investigation?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, obviously we have seen the report and it is a detailed report.  And so we need to study it in detail. But as a general comment--two key points. One is that the Secretary-General and the United Nations made really energetic efforts in the months before the end of the conflict to protect the lives of civilians trapped in the conflict zone and to facilitate a speedy and humane end to the conflict in order to save lives.  Unfortunately, as you know, none of the appeals and efforts were heeded, and an unacceptably high number of civilians were killed.  So, that’s the first point.  The second is the Secretary-General believes strongly that there should be a serious and credible accountability process for human rights violations committed on both sides of the conflict.  And he has been very active in pursuing that based on the commitment made by President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa at the end of the Secretary-General’s visit in May 2009.  And it is obvious that durable peace can’t be built in Sri Lanka without addressing that critical question of accountability.

And, in addition, I can say that the Secretary-General has been strongly urging a serious national effort by the Sri Lankan authorities, and he will continue to do that.  And as I have also mentioned here before, he will soon be establishing this advisory panel of experts to advise him - to advise him - on what would be the premises for such process to meet international standards. I think it’s also important to note that, as I have said, an international inquiry would require a decision by Member States to take place -- and at this point there has been no decision taken by Member Sates.  And as I have also said before, the Secretary-General has been working to encourage a really serious effort by the Sri Lankans with this national effort.  And after all, the Sri Lankans do bear the primary responsibility for ensuring accountability.  So, those are the key things that…

Question:  Could I follow up on that?

Spokesperson:  Yes, of course, Philippe.

Question:  First, can you still answer my question on whether the UN would be open to investigations into its own conduct during the war as ICJ [International Court of Justice], ICG [International Crisis Group] is calling for?  Not a general inquiry, but an inquiry into how the UN handled the crisis.  And do you think, as the report says and many NGOs have said, do you; does the Secretary-General believe that a national accountability process would be doable; you know these NGOs are saying that only an international inquiry could be meaningful. Does the Secretary-General believe that the Government could handle that by itself?

Spokesperson:  Well, you’ve heard, as well as I have, that the Sri Lankan Government has announced the setting up of a body to look into what happened and also to, as a way to seek reconciliation.  But clearly, it’s a little bit early for us to offer an assessment of what, if any, outcome from that would be.  And that’s one of the reasons why it is important to understand that any commission that is set up -- any commission that’s been set up in the past for this kind of thing -- any commission would need to be really credible and independent.  So, obviously many people are watching that, that’s clear.  To answer your specific question about the UN and what it says in point seven of its recommendations, as I have said, we are studying the report in detail, and I don’t have anything to say on that particular point at the moment. But we’re studying the report.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  Yes, Erol, first of all, yes.

Question:  To follow up to Philippe’s question, actually. You mentioned before on the other subject that this issue is firmly in the Security Council’s hands.

Spokesperson:  Is this Sri Lanka?

Question:  Yeah.  No, no, no, no.  It’s Sri Lanka, but I am just trying to connect.  Bearing in mind all the lessons from Srebrenica and to that respect from Rwanda, isn’t that it’s kind of institutional memory that the Secretary-General would do something more, and would inquire something more from the Security Council; number one…

Spokesperson:  On what?

Question:  To do something on the issues where the reconciliation, I mean, not reconciliation, but the problems of the post-conflict zones, like in Sri Lanka, is going on.  My question is, bearing in mind and having the institutional memory that almost all the time international factors are heavy duty, I mean they are more effective in the process of the domestic reconciliation investigation, etcetera, would it be proper for you and the Secretary-General to be more open to these requests from the International Crisis Group for internal investigation?  Bearing in mind Srebrenica, in that respect.  In the context of Sri Lanka, of course.

Spokesperson:  Yes, I understand what you’re talking about.  I’ve said this often and many people say this as well: you cannot compare different conflicts and the way that you handle them, because there are different set of circumstances that go with each one.  That’s the first point.  The second one is that I have not said “no” and I haven’t said “yes” when asked by Philippe.  We need to study the report. It’s as simple as that.  We need to study it before we can come back to you on that particular point.  It’s not saying yes, it’s not saying no.  It’s saying we want to study what the report says.

Question:  You mention that an international investigation would need a decision by Member States and that there was not such a decision.  Why couldn’t the Secretary-General set up by himself an investigation the same way he did without a decision by States in Guinea?

Spokesperson:  There are a couple of things: one is, because, already, at the end of May last year, so a year ago, the Secretary-General, as you know, because I think you were there, was in Sri Lanka.  There was an agreement, a commitment, made by President Rajapaksa at the end of that visit that there would be a domestic accountability process.  The Secretary-General clearly believes that that needs to be serious, and it needs to be credible, and it needs to be a national effort.  So that’s the first strand of this.  The second is that, as we’ve mentioned, the Secretary-General is in the process of establishing an advisory panel of experts to advise him.  And so those are the two areas that are going at the moment.  So, that’s as far as I would want to take it at the moment.

Question:  That was a year ago now that the President made this commitment and never delivered on it.  How much longer is the Secretary-General willing to wait for a national process to emerge, knowing that, you know, after a war like that, time is of the essence and you lose witnesses, you lose a lot of the proof you might need and things like that.  So how long is he willing to wait?

Spokesperson:  I can assure you that the Secretary-General has been pursuing this since he left and continues to do so.  As I said just a little while ago, there was an announcement by the Sri Lankan Government. It’s too early to really offer a full assessment of what that announcement will mean.  But clearly, we want to see what shape that takes.  That’s an important part of the picture.

Yes, Masood?

Question:  Actually I’m going to shift to another area, so I will ask my question later.

Spokesperson:  Of course, okay, thank you.  Yes Matthew?

Question: You mentioned recommendation seven of the International Crisis Group (ICG) report. They call for this inquiry into the UN’s conduct — examining the UN’s September 2008 removal from Kilinochi; through its ineffectual attempts to push for a ceasefire; and involvement in Sri Lankan Government internment camps. At least the first and the third of those are really OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] issues — OCHA pulled out of Kilinochi and funded what many people said were prison camps in violation of humanitarian law. I’m sure you’ll come back with a statement, but is there any way to get, as part of your inquiry, how much money the UN spent on those camps and what safeguards were in place to ensure this funding wasn’t in fact funding for what was essentially a prison camp for Tamils?  Maybe Mr. [John] Holmes [United Nations Emergency Coordinator] should actually do a briefing of some type to explain these two things that ICG says need outside international inquiry. And I was wondering if you could respond specifically… you said there had been attempts to save civilians, but ICG says “ineffectual attempts by the UN to get a ceasefire”, and I remember, I don’t think there was ever a ceasefire ever called for. There was a lull… can you respond to that?  I mean, the report is out, but is it your position that the UN actually called for a ceasefire in this final stage of the conflict?

Spokesperson:  What I’ve said is that the Secretary-General and the United Nations made energetic efforts in the months before the end of the conflict to protect lives, the lives of civilians trapped in the conflict zone, and to facilitate a speedy and humane end to the conflict in order to save lives. That’s what I’ve been able to give you.   

Question:  So did the UN actually call for a ceasefire?  

Spokesperson: As I said, that’s what I’ve been able to give you at this point. Obviously, as I’ve also said, those appeals and efforts were not heeded.  And as a result, an unacceptably high number of civilians were killed.  Just to come back to OCHA, indeed, there were many parts of the United Nations system — OCHA and others — working on the ground in Sri Lanka.  Obviously, various parts of the Organization as a whole will be looking at the report. I can’t speak for OCHA at this moment, but I’m sure that they will have something to say in due course, when they have been able to study the report.   

Question: How about just getting a dollar figure for how much was spent on the camps and how much…?

Spokesperson: All the questions you’ve asked and I haven’t been able to answer are being committed to paper, or electronically, right now so we can try to get an answer.  That’s what we try to do.  

Question:  I just wanted to ask you what is the Secretary-General’s reaction to a report saying that the appeal for Pakistan, particularly to help to settle the issue of internally displaced persons — about 1.8 million — is only about 20 per cent funded? Not only that, many other programmes have not been funded properly.  Obviously there is donor fatigue or whatever, but does the Secretary-general plan to make another appeal because, obviously, in Pakistan such a lack of help on the part of the United Nations would breed further unrest? Does he plan to make another appeal?   

Spokesperson:  I’m not sure it would be specifically for the Secretary-General to do that. He remains concerned about the low level of funding, as I’ve mentioned before. There are other parts of the UN Organization as a whole that would deal specifically with further funding of appeals -- not least the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. So we’ll have to see what they have to say about it too.

Question:  And I also wanted to ask you, the Secretary-General has been meeting with the Pakistani Ambassador on terrorism and so on and so forth. Has the Pakistani Ambassador asked him to do any such thing? 

Spokesperson:  I’m sorry. I didn’t hear what the question was:  Has the Pakistani Ambassador…? 

Question: …asked the Secretary-General?

Spokesperson:  About what?

Question:  …To issue an appeal for the Pakistan fund? 

Spokesperson:  I don’t know.  I would need to find out. I’m not aware of that. We’ve consistently said that there is a funding shortfall -- and not just with Pakistan, but you’re asking about Pakistan, and clearly there’s a concern there.  It’s and it’s a considerable shortfall. But I’m not sure that it’s specifically the Secretary-General who would announce a further appeal if there is to be such a thing.   

From the floor:  OCHA? 

Spokesperson:  Well, we need to check, but that would be the logical conduit, I would think.

Correspondent:  Because it’s the response to the OCHA appeal that has been lacking.

Spokesperson:  Well, as I say, we’ve tried, from here, at least, to say that the Secretary-General is concerned about the shortfall for Pakistan, and indeed for other countries that I’ve mentioned, including DPRK.

Question: So you’ll be able to find out then whether the Pakistan Ambassador has asked the Secretary-General?   

Spokesperson:  Yes.  That’s what we’ll try to do.

Question: On Thailand, have there been any steps taken by the United Nations to ensure that a massacre doesn’t happen in that country? 

Spokesperson:  You’ve heard what the High Commission for Human Rights has said about this.  And also, you will have heard what the Secretary-General said about this on Friday.  He remains deeply concerned about the loss of life and also the clear tensions that there are.  It’s important to note that for mediation efforts, you require a request from both parties — or more than one party — to a conflict or a crisis.

The Secretary-General and the United Nations have not received a request from both parties, but clearly we remain — and the Secretary-General in particular — clearly concerned because of the mounting loss of life and the tensions that there are in the middle of Thailand’s capital.     

Question: But there have been reports that the opposition is requesting some mediation.  

Spokesperson: That’s right. You’re absolutely right.  The opposition requested, and I think you will have seen the Thai Government’s response.  So, you need to have both parties requesting assistance.  Needless to say, the United Nations…   

Question:  It seems it would be easier to communicate with the Ambassador here… 

Spokesperson:  You can be sure that there are communications.  Yes.  You can be sure that there are communications with the Thai Permanent Mission here. Yes, Philippe. 

Question: Going back to Sri Lanka, considering that during the war, the UN was at least trying to keep track of the civilian deaths, and considering also that the former spokesman for the UN in Sri Lanka, Gordon Weiss, said that he thought the death toll was around 30,000 or 40,000. Does the UN feel that the estimates by the ICG and its former spokesman are credible? 

Spokesperson: I don’t think that we are in a position now — and probably never will be — to put a precise or even rough estimate on the number of people who died. I think the important thing here is that the casualties were unnecessary and the amount of suffering was enormous. Given that, the actual number is very difficult to pin down.  The most important thing is to think about how the people suffered in an unacceptable way.

Question: Do you think that the prudent [inaudible] statement of the Secretary-General on Iran is because he considers the actions of Brazil and Turkey inappropriate, because in a way it’s going to bypass the strategy of the 5+1?

Spokesperson: I didn’t hear what you said at the beginning.  Did you say “why isn’t there a statement”, or..?

Question:  No, this declaration by the Secretary-General that came out on the trilateral agreement by Turkey, Brazil and Iran. Is this prudent declaration, is it because he considers the actions of Brazil and Turkey kind of inappropriate because it’s going to affect the strategy of the 5+1 [five plus one group]? 

Spokesperson:  No, that’s not what I said. What we’re clearly saying is that there are a number of things:  one, that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is waiting to hear the details. We don’t know what those details are.  The Secretary-General would then also like to know what those details are. He doesn’t know.  Thirdly, this is clearly something that is in the hands of the Security Council. As you and others have mentioned, both those countries are members of the Security Council. And there is, as you point out, the P5+1 or the European Union 3+3, however you wish to describe it.  They, they will also wish to assess that and that is an important track that is under way.  What we have said is that efforts to try to resolve this through dialogue are important and to be encouraged.  

Question:  One more question on this Iran thing: after the international community asks Iran to send a report to the IAEA as to what exactly had transpired after that, does the Secretary-General plan to…?

Spokesperson: Let’s take it one step at a time.  The International Atomic Energy Agency is the prime mover on this, as you know.

Question: On the same topic:  You said that “it’s firmly in the hands of the Security Council”, but you also underlined the fact that there have been several resolutions. So we have two countries that are part of the Security Council that have acted, as I understand it, not as members of the Council, but as independent States, on a subject on which they have also been acting inside the Security Council.  Maybe there is some kind of conflict?

But my question is, do countries that are members of the Security Council have to respect Council resolutions if they act outside of the Council?  I don’t know if I’m making any sense, but there are resolutions about Iran and Iran’s nuclear programme, right?  Those two countries, Brazil and Turkey, are part of the Security Council?

Spokesperson:  Yes. 

Question:  So, in dealing with Iran, shouldn’t they also try to obey… what is the procedure?

Spokesperson: Clearly, both those countries can speak for themselves, as can the other members of the Security Council, about what discussions took place between them before they undertook their mission. It’s not for me to comment on that.  

Question:  But they have not communicated officially with the Security Council about that action? 

Spokesperson:  You’d have to ask the Security Council about that.

Question:  Martin, I was just wondering, I totally understand that you can’t comment for Brazil and Turkey, but would it be possible for the Spokesman’s Office to try to invite the Permanent Representatives of Turkey and Brazil to participate in some of the briefings this week?

Spokesperson:  Again, it’s up to them to speak for themselves. Typically, we wouldn’t have individual Member States as guests as the Briefing, but there are other ways that that can take place.

Question:  Well, at least if you can convey that there is a great interest on the part of the media…

Spokesperson: I can assure you… Well, first of all, I’m sure they’re watching this right now.  Secondly, we can communicate your interest, by all means.  —and I’m sure they will not be surprised to hear of it.

Question: I’m from Brazil.  What is the agenda now?  The IAEA will receive this communiqué and then…?

Spokesperson:  Again, I can’t really tell you much more than I’ve already said, or much more than you will have read in the news reports.  That’s because the next step is for a letter to be received by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Correspondent:  I think that’s today.

Spokesperson:  I don’t think so. I think it’s within a week.  But again, you could check with Brazil and Turkey about that.

Question:  Just a follow-up, and to perhaps formulate the question a little bit differently: since you’re the person who’s meeting with the Secretary-General on a daily basis, how vigorously is he… how interested is he in this issue of the shuttle diplomacy of President Lula and President Erdogan?

Spokesperson: The Secretary-General has a keen interest in all of these developments related to Iran. He is very well aware of what’s been happening.

Question:  Was he in touch with Brazil and Turkey himself before they…?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think that he was specifically in touch on this specific matter before they undertook their mission. Yes, Matthew. Let’s make this the last question.  

Question: I have a Sudan question, but I want to do one follow-up on Sri Lanka.  In response to Philippe, you said that there was no way to know how many people were killed.  But early in the conflict, there was a UN/OCHA document that was leaked that was very specific.  It said that between 20 January and 7 March 2009, 2,683 civilians were killed by the Government.

So, what I’d like as part of your response, does the UN have in its possession other similar such estimates that it has not released? If so, why hasn’t it released them?  Will it release them?  This was a document that was prepared by OCHA in the country, and it wasn’t an estimate.  Well, maybe it was, but it had a very specific number. So, I’m wondering if the UN can explain why it stopped reporting casualty figures halfway to the end of the conflict? 

Spokesperson:  Well, let’s find out what we have on that. As I said, the most important thing here is that it’s an almost impossible task to try to establish a death toll.  The suffering, as we know, was quite considerable.  

Question:  I mean, the UN does come out with figures, like in the Congo and Sudan, for example.  and Sudan. I know you said you can’t compare, but it seems like it’s possible in some circumstances…

Spokesperson:  You can’t compare, Matthew. You can’t compare. 

Question:  It seems like it’s not impossible elsewhere.  Why is that?  Why is it possible to come up with numbers in some countries but not in others? 

Spokesperson: It really depends on the circumstances. In some places where you have… well, it just depends on the circumstances.  It depends what kind of presence the United Nations has on the ground.  There are many factors.   

Question:  Because its one of the critiques of the ICG that… 

Spokesperson:  Let’s move on to Sudan now, Matthew, and then let’s make that the last question Matthew.

Question:  Okay.  Over the weekend, the Government arrested major opposition figure Hassan al-Turabi and closed the newspaper Rai al-Shaab.  I wonder if UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] or UNMIS [United Nations Mission in the Sudan]… well, I guess since this happened in Khartoum, I guess it would be UNMIS, is there any response to this seeming crackdown on opposition?

Spokesman:  I don’t have anything on this at the moment. I can try to find out for you. The bigger picture is clearly the mediation efforts on the one hand, and on the other, what is happening in West Darfur and South Darfur.  In other words, the fighting that is going there, on both in Jebel Moon and Mujaheryia.

Question: Can the UN confirm that the Government has said that it has re-taken Jebel Moon in its entirety?

Spokesman: Again, we cannot confirm specific numbers.  We -- we do not have access--, nor on the run of the fighting, so to speak.  But UNAMID, as I understand it, is planning to send an assessment mission this week to find out more. And clearly on the mediation efforts, Mr. [Djibril] Bassole has been in touch both with the Government and with JEM [Justice and Equality Movement] over the weekend, and has appealed to both parties to de-escalate the situation and return to the negotiation table. All right?  Thanks very much.

Question: One last think about Sri Lanka and Sudan; a comparison with Darfur.  I remember at a briefing like this, Mr. John Holmes once said that, assuming that the killing continued, that 100,000 additional people had been killed in Darfur.  Why can’t the same methodology be used for Sri Lanka?

Spokesman:  I’ll take that as a comment rather than a question.

Question:  No, it’s not a comment. Here is a similar situation, why can’t…?

Spokesman: As I’ve said, there’s… you cannot compare different circumstances, firstly.  Secondly, we all know a lot of people died and a lot of people suffered.  That’s all I have for you at the moment.

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