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

29 September 2010

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

29 September 2010
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

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

and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

So, good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.


My guests today, as you can see, are Bob Orr, who is the Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning, and Nick Haysom, who is the Director for Political, Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Affairs in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.  And as I think you know, they are here to review the last couple of weeks, the General Assembly period, the general debate period.  So, I think, Bob, you probably have a few opening remarks; perhaps Nick, too.  And then we can move to questions.  And once you’ve finished with Bob and Nick, I will have a few additional points for you.  Happy to take questions and then Jean Victor Nkolo will be here to brief you on matters related to the activities of the President of the General Assembly.  So, okay, over to you, Bob.

[Press conference by Assistant Secretary-General Orr and Director Haysom issued separately.]

Okay, thank you very much.  I will be able to give you a little progress report on a couple of other things and take a couple of questions before handing over to Jean Victor.  I would like to thank Bob and Nick for that.  That was very helpful, thank you.

**Security Council

Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, told the Security Council this morning that events in recent months, including the July Kabul Conference and this month’s legislative elections, have been crucial for the country’s transition.

On the elections, he said that, while early indications do not point to massive or systemic fraud, there were possibly widespread irregularities.  He said we should allow time for the electoral process rather than making premature judgments.

De Mistura said that the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) will continue to adjust to the priorities on the ground as set and driven by Afghans.  His remarks are available in my Office.

And de Mistura, we understand, plans to speak to reporters at the Council stakeout following the meeting on Afghanistan.

Prior to its meeting on Afghanistan, the Security Council voted unanimously to extend the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) by one year, until 15 September 2011.  The Council also voted to terminate sanctions measures on Sierra Leone.

And the Security Council also authorized a temporary increase of the authorized military and police personnel in the mission in Côte d’Ivoire (ONUCI), from 8,650 to 9,150.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, has begun a week-long working visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Wallström is there to follow up on a request by the Secretary-General for a coordinated and effective UN response to the recent cases of mass rapes in the North Kivu Province.

She will visit that region, and hold meetings with Congolese Government officials, UN and other humanitarian personnel, as well as members of the international community.

And meanwhile, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has set up a high-level panel to interview victims of these and other mass rapes that have occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The panel will give the victims the opportunity to share their experiences and views on how to address their grievances on various levels — be that legal, medical, psycho-social or socio-economic.  It will be chaired by Kyung-wha Kang, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.

**United Nations University

The Secretary-General and Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, have appointed 14 new members to the Governing Council of United Nations University.  The new appointees replace members retiring from the Council in 2010.  They will serve for a term of six years (2010–2016) and will join 10 members of the UN University Council who were appointed in 2007.  And we have more details in a press release.

As I mentioned, Jean Victor is patiently waiting.  Please, I am happy to take any questions you might have.  Yes, please?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Can we ask questions in French, please?

Spokesperson:  I can’t…

Question:  You can answer in English.

Spokesperson:  Well, why not ask it in English, then?  Anyway, whatever you prefer.

Question:  [in French] I would like to know what is behind the firing of Jean-Maurice Ripert.

Spokesperson:  So, two things here.  Firstly, you’ve seen the statement that announces the appointment of this Special Envoy.  What I can tell you additionally is that Mr. Ripert’s term finishes at the end of this year.

Question:  December?

Spokesperson:  That’s right.  That’s what I can tell you.  You will have seen that there is a major crisis that has been unfolding in Pakistan over a number of weeks, and the coordination role is a crucial part of that.  And this is something that the Secretary-General has been discussing with major players, and not least with the Pakistani Government.  That’s where we are.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  Actually, maybe related or not to that, I just wanted to follow up a question.  I understand that the head of the UN Office of Partnerships is leaving that post.  I wonder, how is that job appointed?  Is that just a direct appointment by the Secretary-General, and does he have candidates for that job?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out.  I don’t know the answer to that.

Question:  I wanted to ask — I had some other ones, but there is one that, what Mr. Haysom said that apparently 1 in 10 of these bilateral meeting of the Secretary-General during this general debate have been separate tête-à-têtes on seemingly un-summarized portions.  I just wanted to know…

Spokesperson:  This is standard, Matthew.  Let’s knock this on the head straight away.  First of all, he said 1 in 10 or 1 in 20.  And it was a figure he clearly plucked out of the air as a generalization.  He wasn’t saying — he didn’t have a spreadsheet in front of him that 1 in 10 or 1 in 20.  First thing.  Second thing is the very nature of diplomatic discourse is that if you have a tête-à-tête, that’s what it is.  You can’t expect then to have a readout of what someone is trying to speak about confidentially.  If the other party chooses to do so, that is for them to do and is not for us to judge.  That said, the readouts that we provided, and which we tried to provide swiftly and provide in some detail, are to help you in the best way that we possibly can.  Clearly you don’t seem to appreciate that.

Question:  No, I guess my question is just that, rather than take his estimate of it, is it possible to get the number of the bilaterals with tête-à-têtes?  And shouldn’t you put an asterisk on the ones that are incomplete summaries?  It strikes me like, to have a summary that leaves the most important issues out is worse than having no summary, in a way.

Spokesperson:  Well, you might want to ask your colleagues how useful or otherwise they believe the readouts have been.  That’s the first thing.  Second thing is to get involved in that kind of statistics, it really doesn’t work like that.  And here is why: because sometimes there will be a meeting that is scheduled to be with delegations and the Secretary-General and the other principal will decide, no; they think that it would be time better spent given that most of these meetings are 20 minutes, 15 minutes — just the two of them, because they have one specific topic that they need to deal with.  On other occasions, it can be the other way around.  So, it’s not terribly helpful for you or anybody.  We try to provide the information that we can in the best possible way.  Next question, next question?

Question:  I just want to ask one question actually about Israel in this situation, in which Israel made a representation about a promise they said the Secretary-General had made apparently in a tête-à-tête meeting.  The Secretary-General and your Office said that’s not true, we deny that.  So, it’s not the case that when Presidents or interlocutors make representations you don’t represent, it just seems like, given the controversy that surrounded the panel, given that the meeting with the panel wasn’t in his schedule, some conclude that he is somehow now ashamed of this panel or won’t include in the summary.  Why wouldn’t he include his panel in the summary…?

Spokesperson:  Matthew, with respect, with respect, the panel that you are talking about, we have spoken about that openly here.  We’ve told you about the fact that they met.  I don’t really see what your problem is there.  What is your next question?

Question:  I’ll ask this.  There is a report…

Spokesperson:  And then I might turn to some other people who might have some questions too.  In fact I will take a question from someone else first and then I’ll come back to you, okay?  Yes?

Question:  Thanks, Martin.  The relationship between Japan and China has been deteriorating since the Chinese boat collided with the Japanese Coast Guard ship.  And I think it goes far beyond their bilateral relation, because many regional countries are very concerned about how the situation develops.  And it could have a bad impact on the global economy or global stability.  Do you have any comments on the current situation?

Spokesperson:  Well, what I can tell you is that the Secretary-General hopes that China and Japan, which as you noted are two good neighbours, will resolve their current difficulties in an amicable way.  And I would also add that the Secretary-General believes that good cooperation between these two nations is essential.  That’s what I can tell you.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Martin, today in the United Nations General Assembly debate, the Indian Foreign Minister accused Pakistan of allowing its territory to be used by terrorists to attack inside India.  And yesterday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister said that he has asked the international community to intervene in Kashmir, where 100 people have been killed by the Indian security forces.  Now, my question is, the rhetoric now is going at a higher pitch and India and Pakistan have been at war three times already on the issue of Kashmir; will the Secretary-General at any point in time use his good offices to somehow intervene in this matter?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything to say on that right now.  If I do, then I’ll let you know.  But clearly we, like everybody else, have heard the speeches, but we don’t have any comment on them.  Yes, Giampaolo?

Question:  Did the Secretary-General have any occasion during the intense week last week of improving his relation with North Korea?  And any reaction to the North Korean appointment of the son of the great leader as the new [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Well, you will have seen that the Secretary-General had a meeting with the Vice Foreign Minister; that was one of the many bilateral meetings that took place.  You will have seen the readout, however satisfactory or unsatisfactory that may be.  But you will have seen the readout.  That’s what we can tell you.  On the second question, I think that you can imagine that the Secretary-General and other people in his immediate team of advisers [are] watching developments in the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] with the same interest that you are.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Did the Secretary-General welcome the fact that [United States] President Obama has asked [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu to extend the moratorium by two months to allow the peace process to resume?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General himself has called — as have many others, including President [Barack] Obama — for this moratorium to be continued because it provided an important space, time for the talks to become direct as opposed to indirect.  The Secretary-General has also, you’ve heard him say this week on a number of occasions, that he would wish for there to be progress on that front.  Yes, Matthew, last question, and then I am handing over to Jean Victor.

Question:  Sure.  There is an audit report about the World Food Programme (WFP) that’s been reported on quite recently which describes within the World Food Programme’s programmes in North Korea, unreliable and inconsistent data, lapses in financial aid accounting, and all of it leading to the idea that there may have been diversion of UN system aid funds to the Government there.  I am wondering whether the Secretariat has a response.  And as a follow-up to this previous question, two weeks ago I had asked you to provide a summary — and you said that, I think, that you would — of the Secretary-General’s relationship with Mahinda Rajapaksa prior to becoming Secretary-General, and whether the son-in-law of the Secretary-General served with Indian peacekeeping force in Sri Lanka in ‘87?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, on the son-in-law, it’s immaterial where he served at a time when he did not even know the Secretary-General’s daughter and indeed the Secretary-General’s daughter was a young girl.  So, that is absolutely immaterial.  It’s absolutely immaterial.  It predated the Secretary-General’s work at the United Nations.  It predates…

Question:  Has the Secretary-General ever spoken about Sri Lanka with his son-in-law?

Spokesperson:  Matthew, this is really a little strange.  Let’s answer the World Food Programme question, which is simply you can have a word with the World Food Programme, they are the people who are dealing with that,  and if they provide me with any additional guidance, I’ll be happy to give it to you.  Thanks very much.  Thanks very much, Matthew.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Bon après-midi, good afternoon.

This is I think a logical follow-up to the briefing by Assistant Secretary-General Bob Orr and Mr. Nicholas Haysom, reviewing the GA period.  So, from our own perspective I would like to say that the President of the General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Joseph Deiss, will deliver closing remarks later today at the end of the general debate.

Over the past days, President Deiss met with a number of leaders, chairs of regional groups and heads of various United Nations entities attending the high-level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, the high-level meeting on the Conference of Disarmament, and the general debate of the sixty-fifth session of the United Nations General Assembly.  The President of the General Assembly expressed his appreciation for the positive determination by Member States, as well as their pledges and actions aiming at achieving the internationally agreed objectives of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

The President of the General Assembly stresses that commitments, as expressed by developing nations and donor countries, are of equal importance. President Deiss thanks all Members States and Observers who made statements during the General Debate.  President Deiss hopes that the General Assembly will have a positive and constructive atmosphere in this session to support global issues as well as peace between Israel and Palestine.

The President of the General Assembly is particularly pleased with the support that speakers gave to global governance as a central theme for the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly, mainly on the need for a stronger, inclusive and open United Nations as the guarantor of global governance.

Now, some lists if you will bear with me.  As of today, 29 September, President Deiss had meetings with the Heads of State of the following countries:  Finland, Turkey, Slovakia, Serbia, Cameroon, Ukraine, United States, Switzerland, Montenegro, Malawi, Nauru and Timor-Leste.

The President also met with the Vice-President of Ecuador.  Moreover, President Deiss had brief encounters with the leaders of France, Austria and the German Chancellor.

At ministerial level, that is to say foreign affairs, home affairs or ministers of state, President Deiss met with the following countries:  Bahrain, China, Comoros, Andorra, Madagascar, Italy, Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Armenia, Algeria, San Marino, Germany, Egypt, Slovenia, Singapore, Austria, Spain, Tunisia, Brazil, Japan, United Kingdom, Nepal and Brazil.

The President of the General Assembly met with the following regional groups:  League of Arab States with the Secretary General of the League; Economic Community of Central African States, the Secretary-General of this organization; the Troika of the Southern African Development Community; and the African Union Chairperson.

The President of the General Assembly also met with heads of the following United Nations entities and agencies:  European Commission; United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN–HABITAT); United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); International Organization for Migration (IOM); and the President of the thirty-fifth session of UNESCO General Conference.

If you have questions, [inaudible].  Yes.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  My question is this.  He met with a lot of people, no question about it.  One hundred [inaudible].  But is he satisfied, because the big countries they don’t agree with his global governance that he was opening up and using the UN as a centre, as a guarantor.  Did he get feedback or did he get rebuke in this proposal?

Spokesperson:  We do not have, believe me, a long list of countries that do not agree.  But we have a long list of countries that agree and support global governance as a central theme put forward on the initiative of the President.  Believe me.

Question:  There are names there that, you know that they’re probably real G-8 G-20 so,

Spokesperson:  Well, if you have them; I don’t have them.  What I can tell you is what transpires through the bilaterals.  There is a very strong and overall agreement with the President on global governance as the central theme.

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Nkolo.  Now that the general debate is ending, will the President be in a position to give a briefing in here?

Spokesperson: I will definitively ask him.  We actually have this list, but it is not comprehensive simply because there could be other bilaterals or meetings today and there are still some speakers who, as we speak, take the podium.  We will definitely ask him.  This may happen, not necessarily today or tomorrow, but may be when the President comes back.  He has to take a short trip some time at the end of this week.  But we will ask him to do that definitively.  Yes.

Question:  First of, how it was decided whom the President is going to meet and whether any of the Head of the States or Foreign Ministers or other State officials that were requested the meeting with President of the General Assembly, but the meeting wasn’t realized for any reason?

Spokesperson:  Oh, there are so many reasons why meetings take place or cannot take place.  It can be technical, it can be question…

Question:  Do you have some names?

Spokesperson:  Well, you can put names in front of some of the countries that have been listed, clearly.  But what I am trying to say here is that some meetings didn’t take place may have to do with availability or scheduling, the President being on the podium or just not being available; or the other parties requesting not being available at a given time.

Question:  Is it fair to say the more of the meetings were not held or less that you read to us or about?  Can you give a certain number or approximate figure?

Spokesperson:  As you must have seen, the President has given priority to serving and facilitating and being present with and among Member States.  He spent a lot of time, and he is spending a lot of time on the podium.  And the President is very satisfied. He had the meetings that his time allowed him to have.  And this is quite a very important list.  Also, you may not want to give more prominence to quantity rather than quality.  In this [list] there was substance in these meetings.  All these meetings were very important, and the President gives equal importance, as he said, to both the donor countries and the developing countries.  They are equally important.  But the meetings that the President had are really the meetings that he could have had, when you consider the time available to him

Question:  Jean, just to finish with this matter, since you have started this.  Can you give us one, or two, or three names that requested to meet with the President, the president for any of the reasons did not meet them?

Spokesperson:  I really do not recall any name that really requested the meeting and the President did not make himself available; if that is your question.  The President always tried to make himself available, even considering that his time is very limited and that he is very much in high demand.  As you know, there are 192 Member States, and so many of them, sometimes all of them would like to have a meeting.  In this case, the President was able to meet all those who made the request.  And if a meeting that I may not have here in front of me did not happen, it is not because the President didn’t want to have it happen.  Just because of sometimes an impossible schedule or sometimes it cannot just be possible.  Yes, John?

Question:  As we [inaudible] some of the rest of the work of the General Assembly, is there any way in which you can characterize, I guess, how the Swiss President is operating differently than the Libyan President was?  Or to put it more flexibly, do you care to compare and contrast the Swiss and Libyan approaches at all?

Spokesperson:  Well, I am not going to compare the modus operandi of the previous Presidency to this one. Every president has his or her own style; his or her own leadership and his or her own way of doing things. Suffice to really note that really it’s up to you to make an assessment of how things are going.  But you must have noticed that the President of the General Assembly starts meetings on time.  That the President of the General Assembly is available to a very large number of constituents, and that the President of the General Assembly is very active, very committed, very determined and around the theme that he has put forward, which is global governance. I think that theme carries with it a personal engagement and a very strong commitment to do it right, because global governance is so important and the President is very much determined to further reinforce the General Assembly as the most important, legitimate and inclusive deliberative forum at the heart to of world affairs.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  The President of this General Assembly didn’t, I mean, he shares the opinion of his predecessor that the United Nations General Assembly should be made more effective and useful, as it is now much more I mean, ineffective?  Towards that end, how many Member States have come out and supported his region and what actions, if any, he can take to ensure that that region has somehow realized, or at least is on his way?

Spokesperson:  I was honoured to attend most of the bilateral meetings the President had with Member States, and I can assure you that the very big majority supported his views on that. And the President has shown great leadership.  But, also, he has a great listening capacity to intake what Member State are saying,  and I think that if you give it a bit more time you will see that in the next weeks and months this support will most probably materialize in some action and proceedings that will come to back what I am saying.

Question:  Similarly, on the United Nations Security Council reforms, will he still have Mr. Tanin as his front man towards that reform? Or will he be asking some other Ambassador to take his place?

Spokesperson:  I can’t read into the future.  But what I can tell you is that there is no change as we speak.  Ambassador Zahir Tanin is still the Chair of the intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform.  That hasn’t changed.  And I do not envisage or see why that would, or should.  But, let us leave it there, for the time being, and we will ask the President to come and brief you.  If there is news on that front, he will definitively be the most authoritative voice to spell it out.  Matthew.

Question:  I want to follow up to that.  You said you were present at most of these bilateral meetings.  Were you ever during this general debate asked to leave one of these bilateral meetings so that a tête-à-tête, as we’ve heard described this morning, could take place?  Private tête-à-tête?

Spokesperson:  Absolutely not.

Question:  All right, we’ll leave it there.  I wanted to ask, there was in the end of last night’s session President Deiss, you know, during the right of reply, there was this one, there was a speech by Cuba in which they took a lot of issue with the Swedish speech that talked about human rights and, they said eight, but actually maybe it is 10 countries.  And one point they made is that Sweden, they had asked Sweden to stay to hear the response in the right to reply session, but this was rebuffed.  I am just wondering, what is the practice on this?  Is it during the right to reply period, is it expected that a country to whom you know, a country said we object, we’re going to say it at the end of the meeting, should stay and respond in some way?  What’s the procedure if Sweden has some response to what Cuba said,, which is that it was, kind of accused him of hypocrisy and a lot of other things.  Is there a provision for Sweden to be able to take the floor today or in some way clear the record of why they said what they said or what their response to Cuba?

Spokesperson:  I think you are asking a very good question, but I am not sure I will be able to provide a very specific answer, because I don’t know whether there is a specific procedural position on whether a country should be made to sit when criticism that a Member State voiced is being rebuffed.  So, you may want to ask a country that made a statement and that was rebuffed whether or why they stayed, or they left and so on.  But, Member States have the sovereign right of staying or leaving or being in the room or outside of the room.  In this case…

Question:  [inaudible], if they wanted to?

Spokesperson:  In this case, in this case, in this case, I recall that there are several countries that decided to rebuff a specific statement made by another Member State, which shows that the General Assembly hall is a vibrant place for deliberation and discussion.  And that is very useful.  And a Member State has the sovereign freedom to decide to take the floor at any other given time when the proceedings allow.

Question:  Meaning that Sweden could take the floor today to somehow reply to Egypt, China and Cuba?  Or could they not; are they concluded?  You have to only do it during the right of reply session at which you were attacked or criticized?

Spokesperson:  Well, there are many — I don’t want to be pinned down on that very specific question, because one has to go back on what happened in the proceedings and so on.  But, I think that there are so many different ways through which a Member State can request to take the floor, including on point of order.  Rule 71, for instance.  So, that goes without saying that the GA Hall is precisely meant for Member States to take the floor.  And if they so wish, they can take the floor on a subject they desire to raise.

Question:  Just one last thing I wanted to ask.  Of last night’s right to reply there were some, at least two long-standing disputes — one between Iran and the UAE about islands and another one between Eritrea and Ethiopia about a demarcation and whether it is being enforced.  I just wonders, does the PGA, I mean are these statements just made sort of like ships in the night, or is it something that the PGA might have to take an interest, in some of these pretty and seemingly explosive disputes between states that are aired so publicly in the general debate?

Spokesperson:  Well I think it is very good that statements are made at the General Assembly Hall.  It’s always better to have jaw-jaw, rather than war-war.  So, I mean, talking about very harsh difficult issues, it is always better, and obviously that falls into the very good ear of the PGA, who takes that on board and who will definitively see if further proceedings or action are needed, or if he can assist with some kind of facilitation.  But, I am not saying that he is going to do that.  But, clearly the GA Hall is precisely meant for that, and this is not something that falls into the oblivion.  It’s something that is taken on board.  Yeah.

Question:  Okay, thanks.

Spokesperson:  Thank you.  I wish you a good afternoon.  Bon après-midi.

* *** *

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