|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Daily Press Briefing by the Office 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 Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
**Noon Briefing Guest
John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, will be our guest today. He is supposed to arrive in a few short minutes and he is here to brief you on his recent mission to Chad and Sudan, and to take your questions on humanitarian issues.
I’m also told that Jean-Victor Nkolo, the Spokesperson for the General Assembly, will be here to brief you, but he has to get here quickly, because John Holmes is going to be here at 12:15 p.m.
**Secretary-General on Women Police
The Secretary-General, here at UN Headquarters, this morning addressed a meeting on increasing the participation of women in UN police operations. And copies of those remarks are available in the Spokesperson’s Office.
**Secretary-General’s Statement on Afghanistan
We also are expecting a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the Consultative Peace Jirga in Afghanistan. And we should have that shortly.
And I have one more announcement on the Secretary-General, which is about his travels. On Monday, the Secretary-General is scheduled to be in Washington, D.C., where he will open the Women Deliver 2010 Conference, which brings together some 3,500 participants from 140 countries and is the largest ever conference on maternal health, according to the organizers.
There is a press release with more information on this event and we’ll have embargoed copies of the Secretary-General’s opening remarks for you later today or over the weekend. And we will get them out to you in advance of the delivery.
While in Washington, D.C., the Secretary-General plans to address the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria and meet with the National Association for Evangelicals. He is also scheduled to meet with United States Senator John Kerry.
Later on Monday, he returns to Africa. This time, the Secretary-General goes to South Africa, where he will discuss the Millennium Development Goals and attend the opening of the [2010 FIFA] World Cup, as he told you. From there, he travels to West Africa. And the countries he will visit are Burundi, Cameroon, Benin and Sierra Leone.
The Secretary-General plans to be back in New York on 16 June.
**Secretary-General’s Statement on Afghanistan
And I now have that statement on Afghanistan, which I will read.
The Secretary-General congratulates the Government of Afghanistan and the participants of the Consultative Peace Jirga on the process and outcomes of this important three-day dialogue.
This is a significant step towards reaching out to all Afghan people to promote an inclusive dialogue aimed at achieving stability and peace in Afghanistan.
The United Nations supports these national efforts to end conflict in Afghanistan, and remains fully committed to working with the Afghan authorities and people as they strive for a peaceful life. Copies of this are available upstairs.
And as you know, earlier today, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing the deployment of additional police to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The Mission will now have 680 more police officers added as a temporary surge capacity with clearly defined objectives, focusing in particular on building the capacity of the Haitian National Police.
And on Cyprus, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser there, Alexander Downer, spoke with the press at Larnaca Airport earlier today. And he had been asked to read a statement by the Greek and Turkish Cypriots which said:
“The talks are continuing on the agreed United Nations basis. All chapters are being negotiated with the aim of increasing the points of convergence on the understanding that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
Also, Mr. Downer is expected to be in New York next week to brief the Security Council, supplementing the Secretary-General’s recent report on the good offices mission in Cyprus. I believe that is next Thursday.
And a couple of items from Geneva which I would like to draw your attention to. One is from the World Health Organization (WHO) that says that, between 20 March and 24 May, at least 1,400 casualties had been reported from three of Mogadishu’s hospitals in Somalia. Roughly one quarter of these persons had been children. And in at least one hospital, one third of the victims had been women. And you can read more about that from the WHO briefing in Geneva.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
And meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the appeal for the Democratic Republic of the Congo is currently 30 per cent funded. And you can read more about that as well.
**World Environment Day
And tomorrow is World Environment Day. The theme this year is “Many Species. One Planet. One Future.” And in a message, the Secretary-General says that biodiversity is in peril as species are becoming extinct at the fastest rate ever recorded. He appeals to all to help sound the alarm, get involved and speak out, and to develop a new vision for biodiversity. His message is available in the Spokesperson’s office.
Greening the Blue
And today, on the eve of World Environment Day 2010, the UN is launching a new website called Greening the Blue. It is designed to improve the UN’s communications on its internal sustainability performance. You can find out more information by going to that site.
**The Week Ahead at the United Nations
And we have “The Week Ahead” for you for your planning purposes.
And I mentioned at the beginning that the Secretary-General will begin his travels again on Monday.
So that’s what I have for you. We’ll have Jean Victor before we have John Holmes.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Two questions, one is Myanmar and the other one is Somalia. On Myanmar, there are these various reports, including from a defector from that country, Sai Thein Win, that Myanmar is seeking to develop nuclear weapons with technology received from North Korea. I’m wondering whether the Secretary-General or particularly his good offices, or Vijay Nambiar, are aware of that report and what they think of it?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have only seen the press reports. I am sure that they have seen press reports. As for a follow-up on that, we have a query in to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], and I think that is where our first port of call should go — probably to the IAEA on that.
Question: Is that because the good offices doesn’t work on this issue?
Deputy Spokesperson: This is just a press report that you’ve just mentioned. We’ve seen the press report and our first enquiry has been to the IAEA.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that IAEA said: “IAEA has seen the media reports and continues its analysis of information on Myanmar, as it does with information on other countries.”]
Question: Can I ask about Somalia? [Ahmedou] Ould-Abdallah has been quoted that he is leaving in July and seeks to remain as an adviser to the Secretary-General. I just want you to confirm that he is leaving, and to confirm or deny that Augustine Mahiga, the Tanzanian ambassador, is going to be named the SRSG [Secretary-General’s Special Representative].
Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing on any appointments.
Question: But Ould-Abdallah has said publicly that he is leaving in July. Is that the case?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing on that.
Correspondent: He said it.
Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing on appointments for Somalia today.
Question: I now have read the Secretary-General’s statement again and again. As you know, Marie, there is another ship headed towards Gaza and Israeli authorities are again threatening to use the same amount of force that they did in the case of the first one. Has the Secretary-General or anybody else in the United Nations had any conversations with the Israeli authorities in order to somehow figure out a way out of another crisis that is brewing?
Deputy Spokesperson: The Secretary-General, as he has told you, and as I have told you yesterday, has been in very close consultations with all the parties since he spoke to you. And on the matter of the reports that you are reading, he has again and again appealed that everything should be done to prevent another incident of the kind.
Question: Has he spoken with the Israeli authorities recently?
Deputy Spokesperson: He is in touch with all parties on various levels throughout this time.
Question: And he has not received any assurances or anything of that…?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing further than that he has been in consultations. And from his side, you heard that his call has been for everybody to act with a sense of care and responsibility, and in accordance with international law.
So, we’ll turn over to Jean Victor before we welcome John Holmes.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
I have three items today. First, on the fire tragedy in Bangladesh. The President of the General Assembly, H.E. Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, has learned with deep sadness the tragic news of the fire incident that has resulted in the loss of over 115 lives, and injuries to many others. On behalf of all Member States and on his own behalf, the President of the General Assembly sends his prayers and condolences to the bereaved family members and to the people and the Government of Bangladesh on this tragedy.
Second, on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity. In response to questions by correspondents seeking his views on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, the President of the General Assembly expressed his support for human rights for all persons without any distinction or discrimination. The President of the General Assembly believes that violence, or discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, is unacceptable. On Security Council reform, Member States met on 2 and 3 June for the fifth round of the inter-governmental negotiations on Security Council reform to begin consideration of the text prepared by Ambassador Tanin, the chair of the inter-governmental negotiations. Ambassador Tanin presented the negotiation text he produced. Ambassador Tanin will brief the press here on Tuesday, 8 June at 2.00 p.m.
That’s what I have for you. Questions? Yes.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Sorry, Jean Victor, on what you were saying about the President’s attitude to homosexuality, how does that tally with his previous comments when I seem to remember him saying that homosexuality was simply wrong?
Spokesperson: I wouldn’t use the word attitude. This is a statement by the President of the General Assembly, and this statement which is being put out today is what stands. That’s the latest I have for you.
Question: So, is he saying that he is retracting what he said before?
Spokesperson: I think that the statement stands on its own, and it is very clear and I cannot add anything further. Yes, Matthew, yeah.
Question: There was yesterday in the NGO committee of ECOSOC, there was a vote in which an NGO called the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission was blocked from becoming or getting consultative status, pretty much just on the grounds of the issues that they work on by a number of countries — Egypt, China, Russia, Qatar. So, I am wondering if the President of the General Assembly has, you know, given his role in the UN system and what he said about what you just said and what he said about civil society, does he support that kind of a vote to block a group that works on, which they claim is discrimination that works on this very issue? Can you seek his vies on this, on yesterday’s vote?
Spokesperson: I’ll try. But for the time being, I don’t have the facts that you are reporting. I don’t have all the facts in front of me. So, I wouldn’t like to comment really much further. What I would like to say however is that this statement by the President of the General Assembly is in line with the General Assembly proceedings and work on this subject. When it comes to accreditation and the ECOSOC work, I think you may want to direct your question to them. But I don’t have all the fact with me now. And if possible, if there is a statement or position by the President on that subject, — there may, there may not be — I will come back to you on that. Yes.
Question: Two questions: One, is there a possibility for the press to see the text that Ambassador Tanin had presented as the draft text? Is that possible before the press conference so that we have an ability to ask questions about it? And that’s one. And the second has to do with the President of the General Assembly being on his trip and speaking about opening the border crossings and encouraging unity among the Palestinian sect factions. Is there any activity coming out of that trip that in the past there has been an emergency session as some of the pressure on the Security Council actually to pass 1860; that probably wouldn’t have been passed if there hadn’t been the fact that it was, you know, a plan to have an emergency session of the General Assembly under uniting for peace if the Security Council didn’t act, and, you know, is there anything that’s going to be done by the Member States with regard to the General Assembly so that opening the border crossings is something that gets treated seriously and that 1860 is finally enforced in some way?
Spokesperson: On your first question; we’ll put it to Ambassador Tanin. But you may want to wait when he briefs you on Tuesday to find out. But ahead of that briefing, we’ll see if he is willing to share the text with you. But you are of course free to ask him all the questions you want at the briefing on Tuesday at 2 p.m. here. On your second question, we still do not have any indication that something will lead to the kind of meeting you are referring to because no Member State really has come, or regional group has come forward with that kind of opening up of that kind of proceedings. But the President of the General Assembly is a facilitator, he is a consensus builder and unity among Palestinians and others has been a central theme of his work. And peace in the world is something that he has consistently tried to facilitate. But on the question of the proceedings in the General Assembly following what happened in Gaza, I think you’ve got to revert to decisions by the Human Rights Council and the pronouncement of the Security Council on that. At the General Assembly for the time being, we will limit ourselves to what the President stated, which I reported here, when he was in Qatar and before that, the statement that we put over the weekend on Monday.
Question: Can I just follow up? When there was the attack on Gaza by Israel, the President that time was (Miguel) d'Escoto Brockmann, and he came and tried to figure out what could the General Assembly do and what could the President do. And I just wonder if President Treki has some of that same, you know, feeling of what, is there something possible and is he looking for a way that the General Assembly can be involved to try to help the situation? There is a new boat that’s planning to make the trip and they have asked for UN protection; you know, I don’t know who gets asked about that. But, is there any considerations in the General Assembly to take that seriously?
Spokesperson: Needless to stress that I cannot and will not speak for Father d'Escoto Brockmann. I speak for Dr. Treki, the President of the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly. On the incident in Gaza, President Treki put out a pretty comprehensive statement on Monday, and I would like to refer you back to that statement. I mean, there are some very specific demands that the President made and he expressed himself on the whole issue, and I don’t think I should add anything on that.
No further questions? Thank you very much, and have a pleasant weekend. Thank you.
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