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

20 May 2010

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

20 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.

**Noon Guest

Michael Adlerstein, the Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan, will be my guest today, and will join us shortly.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Darfur

We issued a statement this morning, in which the Secretary-General notes with concern recent reports of military build-up and of clashes in Darfur.  He is particularly concerned for the safety and welfare of civilians following reports of injuries and displacement.

The Secretary-General urges all parties to respect the declared cessation of hostilities and to return to the negotiating table in Doha as soon as possible, with a view to achieving a comprehensive settlement of the Darfur crisis.

**Security Council

The Joint Special Representative for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), Ibrahim Gambari, is briefing the Security Council today on developments on the ground.

In the area of security and protection of civilians, he told Council members that some progress has been made, but pockets of instability remain; while the peace process has also experienced some progress, there’s still a deep sense of mistrust between the parties and some parties are not engaging in the process.

He added that UNAMID is nearing full deployment, which allows staff to focus more on mandate implementation — but it’s still without critical enabling units.

We have full copies of his remarks available in my Office.

And, as I think you know, Mr. Gambari will also be speaking with you at the stakeout once he’s finished in the Security Council.


In his latest report on Somalia, the Secretary-General says that the Transitional Federal Government is striving to improve security and strengthen stability in the war-torn country.  These efforts are illustrated by its growing ability to raise domestic revenues and fund projects.  And that underscores the Government’s desire to become more self-reliant and a more viable partner of the international community.

While August 2011 will conclude the transitional phase in Somalia, several critical transitional tasks, such as the drafting of a new Constitution, have yet to be completed.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

And as you know, the Secretary-General will be travelling later today to Istanbul, where the United Nations and the Government of Turkey are co-hosting a high-level international conference on Somalia.  And he’ll also hold bilateral talks with Turkish leaders.

And shortly after he arrives in Istanbul on Friday, the Secretary-General plans to deliver remarks at Boğaziçi University.  And embargoed copies of that speech are now available in my Office.


And the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, visited Kandahar today to assess the situation on the ground.  He met with local leaders and with UN staff members.

During the trip, de Mistura reassured the people of Kandahar of the commitment and intention of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and UN agencies to be actively present in this region despite the difficulties.

So, I have time for a few questions before our guest arrives.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes, thank you.  I just wanted to ask you about the statement yesterday on the South Korean ship, and also, what kind of recourse does the UN provide to South Korea and what’s the procedure for them to follow in terms of bringing this to the Council?  Is that the right approach?  Or do they have to use this… Do they have to go to the Armistice Commission?  I was wondering if you could help us on this topic.

Spokesperson:  Sure.  Well, obviously, it’s not for us to prejudge what the Republic of Korea will do in the coming days, and how and if it will take the matter forward from the findings which were announced yesterday.  The typical avenue to the Security Council is one where there is a well-trodden and well-defined path for countries to bring things to the Security Council if they wish, with the help of Security Council members.  And that’s what I could say at the moment about the theory, if you like.  But it would not be proper to prejudge what the Republic of Korea may or may not do or say in the next couple of days.

Question:  On the Commission, does that have any bearing on…?  Does this incident have any bearing on the Commission?

Spokesperson:  Well, that will be for them to, again, for the Republic of Korea to speak about, obviously again.  That particular institution has played an important role on the Korean peninsula for many years — decades — and therefore it is a part of the picture, but it’s not for us to analyse here precisely how it might be brought into play at this stage.  Yes, Barbara?

Question:  Martin, can you tell us how urgent and serious the Secretary-General views the situation with North Korea, given that this seems to be the most sort of incendiary thing that has happened since last June when sanctions were opposed?

Spokesperson:  He has said, as you know, that he has learned of the results with serious concern.  He clearly takes that seriously.  And the results, the findings, he has said are deeply troubling, and I think that speaks very clearly about what he thinks about this.  As I have said, he will continue to monitor this very closely in the coming days, not least because we need to see what the Republic of Korea will say or do in the coming days as a result of the findings.  And what I would also note, actually, is that the Secretary-General will be holding a press conference here on Monday.  This is one of his regular press conferences, if you like, but I would expect him to return to that subject at that point.  Yes?

Question:  Presumably, as you know, he used to be Foreign Minister of South Korea, so does… Can you talk to that kind of relationship, and then perhaps how difficult it must be to navigate through a crisis as this one raises, bearing in mind that former hat he used to wear.  And also, Martin, can you talk about what type of conversations he might be having with member States of the Security Council in trying to figure out how to address this issue?  And then as a secondary question, I just wanted to ask how engaged the Secretary-General is in Iran discussions and when the last time he’s spoken with people from the regime in Tehran.

Spokesperson:  Well, let’s just start with the Korean peninsula.  But first of all — it’s no secret that the Secretary-General used to be the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, obviously.  But, in his present function — as with anybody else who works for the United Nations — you put to one side your national affiliations.  You are working for an international organization.  You are working for the United Nations.  I think that what you can see from the statement that we put out is that he learned of the results with a heavy heart.  I think that is answering in part the questions; the first question you put.  On the second one, on talking to P-5 countries about how one would go forward, that is not something that I am aware of at the moment.  As I have said, the findings came out, our time, late yesterday evening.  We have issued a statement, which you have all seen, and the Secretary-General will continue to closely monitor developments and, as I have said, not least what will be said in Seoul in the coming days.  To answer your final point about Iran: as you know, President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister [Manouchehr] Mottaki were here for the NPT [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons] Conference in that first week of the NPT Conference.  That was their last interaction.

Question:  Is there one scheduled in the coming days, perhaps, another discussion?

Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge, not to my knowledge.  Yes?

Question:  About the Korean issue.  Was the UN involved in the investigations on the incident?  And will the findings be submitted to the UN?

Spokesperson:  The short answer is the United Nations was not involved in the investigation.  This was carried out, as you well know, by a number of domestic and international experts.  The list of them is out there, as are those findings.  They are publicly available.  I have seen a link to them, from the very least, from the BBC website, and I am sure it’s out there in many other places too.  Let’s wait and see what happens in the next few days.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you.  As a follow-up to all these questions on the situation in the peninsula, the Secretary-General, as you mentioned, sees the situation with a heavy heart and seriousness.  There have been 40 people reportedly dead there.  In his latest announcement, the Secretary-General does not condemn the DPRK; does he see the situation as possibly threatening international peace and security and the region?

Spokesperson:  What he said is that he views it with serious concern and that he is monitoring what is happening on the ground there.  And as I have also said, he will come back to this at the press conference on Monday.  Yes, Barbara?

Question:  Sorry to [inaudible] could you just…? I know we’ve got the written response of the Secretary-General, but just for broadcast purposes, could you just like state or give us a little synopsis of it so that we could [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Sure, sure, of course.  The Secretary-General has said that he has learnt of the results of the investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan naval ship of the Republic of Korea with a heavy heart and serious concern.  The Secretary-General appreciates the restrained and patient efforts of the Government of the Republic of Korea to investigate this incident in an objective and scientific manner by both domestic and international experts.  The facts laid out in the report are deeply troubling.  As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, he will continue to closely follow developments.  And also, the statement says that the Secretary-General takes this opportunity to express once again his deep sadness over the loss of the sailors.  He also extends his heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved families as well as to the people and government of the Republic of Korea.  Okay, further questions?  Yes?

Question:  [inaudible] the US Government said that it had reached some kind of deal with the Russians and the Chinese on a new set of sanctions against Iran.  What is the attitude of the Secretary-General to this development?

Spokesperson:  It’s in the hands of the Security Council, that’s the reaction.  He has said many times that the topic is in the hands of the Security Council and being dealt with and discussed there by them, first thing.  The second thing that he would like to reiterate is that Iran should fully comply with the existing sanctions and cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the international community at large to lay to rest those doubts that there are in the international community about the nature of Iran’s nuclear energy programme.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  Actually I have got DPRK, and Sudan and Somalia.  So, I don’t know, I know that Mr. Adlerstein is here, so…

Spokesperson:  Yeah, I can see…

Question:  …can you stay after he has finished?  Will you, in this room to take some questions?

Spokesperson:  I will not be able to because, as I mentioned, the Secretary-General is leaving for Turkey.  So, am I.

Question:  Okay, well then let’s go.  On DPRK, I wanted to know, Noeleen Heyzer had said, this week she said that programmes of the UN will continue in North Korea on environmental issues, energy issues.  I wonder whether the event and the report changes any of that, or changes the assessment of Kim Won-soo and B. Lynn Pascoe given in this room about the sort of hopeful nature of re-engagement with North Korea on humanitarian and development projects.  Is there rethinking of the assessment given by B. Lynn Pascoe and Mr. Kim Won-soo?

Spokesperson:  In brief, no.  Not at this point, because the work that goes on, on the ground in the DPRK, is to help the people of the DPRK.  And that remains the case.

Question:  And then on Sudan, I wanted to know, there is, who from the UN system if anyone will be attending the inauguration of Omer Al-Bashir on 27 May?  There has been a call by some human rights groups that various world leaders should not attend.  Who is attending for the UN?  Mr. Menkerios…? Do you know?

Spokesperson:  I’ll find out who has the invitation card.

Question:  [inaudible] go, I mean, there is no question?

Spokesperson:  That’s not what I said.  I said I’ll find out where the invitation card, who received the invitation card.  Those cards usually have an RSVP on them, and we can let you know how, whether there has been an RSVP.

Question:  Okay, that’s great.  There is also… There is a… The Minister of Communications of the South Sudanese Government, Paul Mayom, has criticised UN Radio Miraya for putting on rebel General [George] Athor and he said not only that he was wrong, he said I can stop it.  He closed down the radio station for undermining stability in South Sudan.  What does the UN think of his statement?

Spokesperson:  Well, we’re aware of the statements, and I know that my colleagues there on the ground have indeed been speaking to the Ministry concerned.  It was the Regional Coordinator for Southern Sudan from UNMIS who had a meeting with the Minister of Information, and I am informed that they discussed, in a constructive manner, matters of mutual interest.  And the Minister of Information expressed concerns about Radio Miraya and its coverage.  And I am advised that these concerns are being addressed by the radio station.  The point about this radio station is that it is committed to promoting the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the culture of peace in Sudan with objectivity and professionalism.

Question:  When you say it’s addressed, does the UN agree that it should not put on rebel, you know, renegade Generals like Mr. Athor, or are they going to continue to…?

Spokesperson:  What I said is that it’s being addressed. 

Correspondent:  Oh, okay.

Spokesperson:  Not that it has been addressed.  Apologies if I misspoke.  I thought I said these concerns are being addressed by the radio station.

Question:  [inaudible] in terms of what the editorial policy of the UN radio station is to put on rebel…

Spokesperson:  Well, this is a UN-sponsored radio station, not a UN radio station, as I understand it.  But the point is that the coverage of the elections just as one example — but an important example — was marked by neutrality and professionalism, and as I have mentioned just now, a commitment to the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

Question:  Just one more on Somalia since you’re going to Turkey... Yemen…

Spokesperson:  Yeah, I am just about to run.

Question:  Absolutely.  Yemen has announced the death penalty against six Somali pirates.  Given, you know, the role of the UN and of OLA [Office of Legal Affairs] and Patricia O’Brien and sort of suggesting to Member States how pirates should be addressed, what does the UN, does the UN Secretariat, OLA or Secretary-General, what do they think of these death sentences recently announced in Yemen?

Spokesperson:  Well, there are two points.  You are quite right that this is a topic — not the specific case, but the question of piracy — this is a topic that is clearly part of the agenda at this conference on Somalia in Istanbul on Saturday.  The second point is, as you well know, the United Nations speaks out quite clearly on the use of the death penalty, namely that it should not be used.

Question:  So, this is the speaking out clearly about these death sentences?

Spokesperson:  I beg your pardon?

Question:  I mean, is this the speaking out clearly about these particular death sentences?

Spokesperson:  The use of the death penalty anywhere is something that the United Nations would not be in favour of.  I am going to hand over now to Mr. Adlerstein with apologies for being slightly late.  And also Marie, very kindly, is going to moderate.  Okay, thanks very much.

[Press Conference by Michael Adlerstein, the Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan, issued separately.]

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