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

29 June 2010

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

29 June 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

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.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General has left New York and is on his way to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he will be attending the events tomorrow to commemorate the country’s fiftieth anniversary since independence.

This evening, he is to attend a gala dinner hosted by President Joseph Kabila.  And he expects to have bilateral meetings with President Kabila and several visiting Heads of State while he is in the country.

** Kyrgyzstan

Turning to Kyrgyzstan, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says the situation is calm, with the needs of vulnerable persons having changed during the last days.  It now appears that the need for food and water has decreased as people have found ways to get access to these commodities.  However, vulnerable groups still find it difficult to obtain medication, either due to limited funds, lack of functioning pharmacies or lack of specific types of drugs.

The Government of Uzbekistan says that all refugees have left the country, except close to 400 who need hospital treatment.

The UN refugee agency, or UNHCR, says humanitarian access to different parts of Osh, Jalalabad and villages in southern parts of the country is gradually improving.  It estimates that 375,000 people are still displaced in Kyrgyzstan, including refugees who returned from Uzbekistan.

The head of the agency, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, will visit Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday and Thursday.  He’ll meet Kyrgyz officials, including the President, and assess the situation of internally displaced persons on the ground.  We have more on this in press releases available from my office.

** Afghanistan

The UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) confirms that a shooting took place late this morning in Kabul, involving one UN vehicle and two UN personnel.  One United Nations staff member, an Afghan national, was killed.  The other Afghan staff member was unharmed. 

The United Nations offers its sincere condolences to the family of the staff member who was killed.  The circumstances of the shooting are not yet clear.  UN security teams are working with Afghan security institutions to assist investigations.

The United Nations condemns violence against any of its personnel under any circumstances.  Those responsible for this killing should be brought to justice without delay.

**Security Council

Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro addressed the Security Council’s open debate on the rule of law, which began this morning.  She said that, as the world faces new and evolving threats to international peace and security, such as transnational organized crime, terrorism and piracy, the Security Council should place the rule of law at the centre of its response.

The Deputy Secretary-General said that, as a prevention tool, the United Nations should prioritize security, access to justice and legal protection for all to make it more likely that disputes within society are resolved through legal, rather than violent, means.

At the same time, she said, in response to international crimes, the United Nations must redouble its efforts to build national capacities to hold alleged perpetrators accountable.  We have her statement to the Council in my office, and we also have the remarks by Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Patricia O’Brien.

**International Court of Justice

In separate votes this morning, the Security Council and the General Assembly have elected Xue Hanqin of China to fill a vacancy in the International Court of Justice.

** Guinea

In a statement we issued yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General congratulated the Government and the people of Guinea for the peaceful atmosphere in which they conducted the 27 June presidential election.  As Guinea awaits the results of the vote, the Secretary-General calls on all concerned to continue to respect their commitments to a peaceful process, based on respect for the rule of law, and to accept the outcome.  The full statement is available online.

** Burundi

Yesterday I was asked about Burundi.  The Secretary-General takes note of the presidential election that took place on 28 June.  In regard to the rest of the electoral cycle, the Secretary-General calls on all Burundians, and their political parties, to continue settling their disputes through peaceful means and an inclusive dialogue, and he urges them to persist in consolidating national cohesion and their hard-won peace.

** Guinea-Bissau

I was also asked yesterday about the appointment of a new Chief of Staff in Guinea-Bissau.  The United Nations takes note of the appointment of Major-General Antonio N’djai as the new Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces of Guinea-Bissau.  The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Guinea-Bissau, Joseph Mutaboba, is consulting national and international stakeholders on the way forward, particularly with respect to security-sector reform, addressing impunity, restoring respect for the rule of law and strengthening democratic governance.  Our goal is to secure the cooperation of all concerned, including the military leadership, in the continued pursuit of our peacebuilding mission, which includes as a central feature the introduction of vital reforms in the security sector.

**Press Conferences

At 1 p.m. in this room there will be a press conference by the United Nations Office for Partnerships, entitled “Women’s empowerment through sport, civil society serving gender equality and the MDGs”.  And then at 2.30 p.m., there will be a press conference by the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of Finland, Paavo Väyrynen, in conjunction with the ECOSOC high-level segment, which is taking place this week.

And looking ahead to tomorrow, we have confirmation that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, will be available to speak with you at the Security Council stakeout area once he’s finished briefing the Council.

And I would note that Jean Victor Nkolo is with us — the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly — and he will be here to update you on the work of the General Assembly following my briefing today.

So, questions, please.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Martin, we’ve heard some reports that the Uzbek Government is forcing a lot of the refugees to return back to Kyrgyzstan, and it’s not necessarily safe to do so.  In what way is the UN dealing with the repatriation of refugees, in particular of the unwilling ones being forced to come back?

Spokesperson:  Well, I was asked a similar question last week.  And so I guess my response will be similar, with one addition.  Firstly, we haven’t been monitoring specifically, on the Uzbek side of the border, returns to Kyrgyzstan.  We have been trying to ascertain from people on the ground, who have returned, the extent to which the return was voluntary.  And in addition, as I just mentioned, Mr. Guterres, the High Commissioner for Refugees, is going to be in Kyrgyzstan tomorrow and Thursday, and I’m sure he’ll be trying to get a full picture of the plight of internally displaced persons, including those who have returned from Uzbekistan.

Correspondent:  It’s kind of a conundrum in a sense that some of these refugees have family that they can stay with, but they are actually being forced back into a place that clearly doesn’t want them there.  So they’re being put in danger, and I am surprised that the UN isn’t monitoring those that are being forced back.

Spokesperson:  I’ve just said that we are.  I said that we’re trying to speak to those who have returned to try to find out the extent to which they returned…

Correspondent:  You’re monitoring mostly the ones that are coming willingly [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Those who are back inside Kyrgyzstan, as I mentioned, according to the Government of Uzbekistan, there are about 400 refugees who are receiving medical treatment.

Question:  Thanks, Martin.  There has been a link established between the Russian spy ring that’s being prosecuted by United States courts and the Russian Mission to the UN.  My question is:  does the UN have any policy or any jurisdiction over whether a Member State’s Mission is used for espionage?

Spokesperson:  That’s really not something that you would expect me to comment on, I think, James.  Okay.

Question:  Oh, sure.  I just wanted to follow up on these two announcements that you made on Burundi and Guinea-Bissau.  In the Burundi election, there was only one candidate, and since then grenades have been thrown at the Electoral Commission, killing two people.  You’re saying Ban Ki-moon takes note of it.  What does that mean?

Spokesperson:  I said he took note of the presidential election.

Question:  Is that some kind — “taking note” means he doesn’t view a one candidate’s election positively, or he views the throwing of grenades as unhelpful?  What is he taking note of?

Spokesperson:  Of the presidential election that took place on 28 June.  And what it also says — I can repeat it for you — is that he calls on all Burundians and their political parties to continue settling their disputes through peaceful means and inclusive dialogue; peaceful means and inclusive dialogue.  And that’s a message that he took directly to the people, including the President, when he visited Bujumbura earlier this month.

Question:  I was just wondering, maybe if you could get [inaudible] like at the Security Council, like taking note.  Is he troubled by it?  Is he concerned by it?  Is he just aware of it?  I just want, if you could give…

Spokesperson:  Well, for now it says what it says, Matthew.  It says what it says.  There may be more coming from the Mission subsequently, but that’s what we’re saying at the moment.  And importantly, he stressed on the spot, when he was there in Bujumbura, and he’s saying it again now, through me, as he is on his way to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that this is a process after a conflict, and there needs to be some persistence here to work to consolidate national cohesion.  No one is saying that they’re there yet.  But they need to push ahead with that.  And in doing so, they need to be as inclusive as possible.  Okay, and you want to add something on Guinea-Bissau, did you say?

Question:  No, I think it’s just you used exactly the same phrase, and it seems like, I think the question you were asked yesterday is whether the UN, which had expressed concern about this individual getting the post, is concerned now that the person has gotten the post.  And I guess, I put the two together, maybe “taking note” means there is concern. I just wasn’t sure.

Spokesperson:  Well, it’s not for me to try to parse or interpret the wording.  I think, probably, I’d have to leave that to you.  But, what I would say with regard to Guinea-Bissau is that I think we’ve made pretty clear that one of the key aspects of this is security-sector reform.  And that it’s not just our Special Representative, Mr. Mutaboba, but other national and international partners and stakeholders who’ll be talking about this.  And also restoring respect for the rule of law.  So again, this is another work in progress, I would say.

Question:  Okay.  I want to ask, yesterday the Security Council, the President, this month’s President, Claude Heller, said that there is a concern, certainly in his Mission, but I think on the Council, about how to combat the Lord’s Resistance Army; that with MINURCAT [United Nations Mission in Chad and the Central African Republic] pulling out and MONUSCO [United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] shrinking, what used to be MONUC, that there may be fewer UN peacekeepers and intelligence in the area where the Lord’s Resistance Army is massacring civilians.  So he’d said that there has been a request to the Secretariat to come up with some kind of a plan rather than just report on the massacres that take place.  I wanted to know — maybe you can do it now or maybe sometime later — what the UN’s plan; whether it’s DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] or this Mission in Central African Republic, whether the UN actually, whether such a plan is being developed and how it will address the withdrawal of peacekeepers from both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and…?

Spokesperson:  Yeah, sure, we can look into that.  And I am sure my colleagues from DPKO will be able to provide an answer on that.  I would simply reiterate that in both cases, the mandates were subject to Security Council approval and scrutiny.  And that we made abundantly clear our view that, what our preference was in both cases.

Question:  You’re saying that there is a need to share intelligence between these various missions?  That somehow with each Mission being looked at separately and having its own separate resolution, whatever.  I’m not trying to — if you can check to see what DPKO is doing on this.

Spokesperson:  Sure.  I’m sure they would be happy to help.  Right.  Okay, yeah, other questions?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  We haven’t heard much recently about this long-enduring conflict in Western Sahara.  What is new in this area, and what is the Personal Envoy, Mr. [Christopher] Ross, doing at this stage?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t have anything to add beyond what we’ve said before, most recently, that clearly, Mr. Ross continues to try to work with the parties, with a view to having another informal round of consultations.  But I don’t have anything fresh to add at this point.  Again, I’m sure my colleagues are listening right now, and if we have anything to add, then I’d come back to you perhaps in the same way that I have on Burundi and Guinea-Bissau today.  Okay, any other questions?

Question:  Just to follow up on that.  Yesterday in the North Lawn Building, the representative of the Polisario Front said Ban Ki-moon is the first Secretary-General in a while that hasn’t visited Western Sahara.  This seemed to be of concern to the Polisario Front.  He said that Kofi Annan visited; Boutros-Ghali.  So, I guess, I just wondered, is that a conscious decision?  He is a big traveller.  Is there some reason that he hasn’t gone to Western Sahara?  Is he, I think he might go there?  Or is it that he thinks it wouldn’t be helpful to go there?  Others have gone, why not him?

Spokesperson:  What was the last bit?

Question:  No, others have gone there.  That was sort of the point they were making.  I mean, I am not, and I think it was raised to one of the, I have actually witnessed it being raised to one of Ban Ki-moon’s advisers.  But I just wondered if there is some reason that we are unaware of that he hasn’t gone there?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out.  As you rightly point out, he is on the road a lot but he is also here a lot.  And his physical presence in one location or another does not mean that he is not giving attention to a topic.

Question:  And also I just wanted to, there are reports today that Sudan is closing its border with Libya, due to the Darfur.  It’s unclear to me whether it’s just JEM [Justice and Equality Movement] or other rebels.  But is there some response by UNAMID [United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur], might be the one to this, and is there any UN involvement trying to mediate this cross-border dispute between [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Right.  Well, we’ve seen the media reports, as you have.  And this is a sovereign matter and the UN really doesn’t have any comment on the decision.  But UNAMID has not received any reports of military activities in the area of the border between Sudan and Libya.  And I’d note that the closest UNAMID team site is actually 600 kilometres away from the border.  Okay.

Question:  I had one more, if you don’t mind.

Spokesperson:  Sure.

Question:  This came up right before this briefing.  DESA [Department of Economic and Social Affairs] did a briefing of a big report they issued about the global financial crisis.  And it makes various proposals of, basically, things that the G-20 and others should do.  And the introduction or the preface is signed by Ban Ki-moon.  So, I am just wondering whether, it makes proposals, like there should be a closing down of tax havens; there should be a multilateral authority to regulate financial services; the world should move away from the dollar standard to SDRs [standard drawing rights].  Are these, which are all very interesting proposals, but are they Ban Ki-moon’s proposals?  And if so, did he raise them at the G-20 while he was there?

Spokesperson:  A lot of those specific points, this is a survey; it’s a report, and the Secretary-General very often writes a foreword to a report that’s being launched.  I know that he did not raise that entire laundry list that you’ve mentioned there at the G-20.  We’ve mentioned what his three priorities were at the G-20.  He said it himself at the stakeout on Monday, and he said very clearly:  jobs, and the need for a green recovery, and the need to invest in health and health systems.  And that all of this is because, by investing in developing countries, in the countries that are most vulnerable, you get a big return for everybody concerned.  And we’re not talking about a return for business; we’re talking about a return for the people.  And that’s where the focus has been. There are many, many ideas that are out there.  You could also, maybe you did, I wasn’t watching, but you could also have asked the representatives on the panel to what extent these were specifically endorsed by the Secretary-General or not.

Question:  No, I did ask, but it wasn’t answered.  But thanks, I really appreciate it.  And I mean, maybe you can just, I’m sure he is very busy; he has many things to do.  So, I am sure that the many reports to which he signs the preface, he doesn’t read the whole report.  But does he skim the report?

Spokesperson:  Don’t assume anything, Matthew.  He is a voracious reader, that’s for sure.  That’s for sure.  Just to give you an example; on the flight back from Toronto, the wheels are not even up on the plane and he’s already reading reports and other information that’s being given to him, handed to him as he gets on the plane.  He immediately starts to read.  So don’t assume anything, all right?

Correspondent:  [inaudible] these are like the Secretary-General’s reports to the Security Council on missions.  Not, I mean, I am just wondering on this one, because it’s…

Spokesperson:  He reads a lot.  Yeah.  Okay, Jean Victor.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Bon après-midi, and good afternoon.

Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, President of the General Assembly concluded today a three-day official visit to Cuba.

After participating yesterday morning at a wreath laying ceremony at the José Martí Monument in Havana, President Treki met with President of the National Assembly of People's Power of Cuba (ANPP).

On 28 June, Dr. Treki held talks with Bruno Eduardo Rodríguez Parrilla, Foreign Minister of Cuba.  He also met with José Ramón Machado Ventura, First Vice-President of the Council of State and Council of Ministers, and later with Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment.

Today, 29 June, President Treki travelled to Guayaquil, for an official visit to Ecuador.

That’s what I have for you today.  Questions?  Yes, Dr. Abbadi.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [inaudible] thePresident, as you indicated, has been visiting these countries in Latin America.  And he has also visited several countries in Africa and the Middle East recently.  I wonder if he would be inclined to want to come and give a press briefing at some stage?

Spokesperson:  I will ask the Presidentto do such a briefing when he returns early next week.  And we will see what he says.  I will do so.  I will ask him.  Yes, Matthew.

Question:  Sure.  I have got two.  One is just, I will do it in reverse order.  There is a lot of, there is, was a meeting, just this meeting, in conference room 8 by the Security Council about this so-called Gender Entity, and it would seem, and it seems like at least the staff of the President of the General Assembly has taken a central role in trying to bring the parties together.  Can you characterize how close things are and when you would anticipate a General Assembly vote on creating this new agency?

Spokesperson:  We are anticipating the process to go according to plan.  What the specific outcome will be, I cannot tell already. But you are quite right to say that the Officeof the President has been very deeply involved in this very important subject matter.  But this is still work in progress, so we have to give it a bit more time to see what comes out of that. Yes, Dr. Abbadi.

Question:  The President also visited Venezuela, as you indicated.  What message did he take to the Venezuelan Government?

Spokesperson:  Well, he discussed with the Venezuelan authorities what he would discuss with any other Government when he is invited by a country, and in this case, important matters on the agenda of the General Assembly.  And we put out some very detailed readout following his meetings with President [Hugo] Chavez and other senior officials in the Venezuelan Government.  I can share that with you again.  Yes, Matthew.

Question:  I want to ask [inaudible] I wanted to ask about the President’s visit to Cuba.  Some months ago, there was this hunger striker in Cuba, Orlando Zapata Tamayo who starved himself to death, and the Secretary-General, after some days, said that he joined others in lamenting the death, I believe, he joined Raul Castro even in lamenting the death of this hunger striker.  There is another one, Guillermo Fariñas, who is said to be near death.  And I am just wondering, it’s a matter of some international concern.  Was he, was the President of the General Assembly, one, is he aware, was he aware of the previous death of Mr. Zapata Tamayo and of the current hunger striker Fariñas, and does he have any view or, given that, I mean the Secretary-General, I think it’s a legitimate UN question just in the sense that the other branch has taken a view.  Was he aware of it when he was there, and what does he, what’s his view?

Spokesperson:  Well, the President of the General Assembly follows international events all over the world.  But he speaks for all 192 countries.  And he really cannot, I think, get involved at that level of specificity, although this is a very important matterthat you raise.  You may want to follow it up with the specific bodies that deal with human rights like the Human Rights Council, or some other officials here at the Secretariat.  As you are fully aware, the Presidentabides by all the resolutions and the pronouncements of the General Assembly on questions of human rights.

Question:  But I mean, he does put out, I’m not saying that he has to in this case, I just, I’m actually just sort of, I’m almost like factually interested in whether it’s something that he was aware of that was there, and if there is any readout of the various meetings that you…

Spokesperson:  Well, the President is fully, he is fully aware of all the main situations going on in the world.  And it’s also my duty to make sure that nothing falls in between the chairs, so that he is fully briefed.  He gets, just like other senior officials, the necessary daily briefings on what’s going on.  But he follows that very, very closely.  But in this very specific instance, you may want to follow that with the relevant bodies thatwould cover such matters.

Question:  There is also, I mean, just back to the Gender Entity, Cuba is pretty active in this debate and has one, has an issue of somehow countries having to submit reports to a centralized UN body and how they would comply with this Gender Entity.  Does he discuss those kinds of things with him?  What did he discuss in this three-day visit to Cuba?

Spokesperson:  Well, in Cuba, he discussed the coming review on the Millennium Development Goals; he discussed matters that have been addressed, or that are going to be addressed inthe General Assembly, such as transnational organized crime, trafficking and so on, and we will ask him actually when he comes back whether he will find time to brief you on his visits.  Just like Dr. Abbadi was asking, I think it should be a good thing if he does so.  If he doesn’t have the time, we will have to apologize.  But, it’s getting late in the session.  But I will definitely ask him.  Yes, Dr. Abbadi.

Question:  [inaudible] would soon preside over a very important summit in September on the implementation of the major goals.  Is he doing anything special to prepare for this meeting?

Spokesperson:  Absolutely.  The President of the General Assembly, Dr. Treki, is very much engaged in the preparation of this very important rendezvous.  Everywhere he has been, he has been beating the drum on that subject and making sure that the representation of countries will be at the highest possible level.  And also making sure that in our Office and with all the bodies that are involved in this, the meeting is very, very well-prepared.  This is an extraordinarily important subject matter for the whole UN system and for the family of nations, the Millennium Development Goals.

Question:  At this stage, does he have any idea on how many Heads of State and Government will attend the summit?

Spokesperson:  We’ll have to go back into the file and check this and maybe this is one question you may want to ask if and when thePresident briefs the press when he comes back.

Thank you.  Have a good afternoon.

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