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

2 November 2010

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

2 November 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 in China

The Secretary-General will complete his Asia trip tomorrow with a round table discussion organized by China’s Central Party School in Beijing.  He is expected back in New York on Wednesday afternoon.

**Security Council

In its first consultations for this month, the Security Council approved its programme of work for November.  United Kingdom Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, the Council President for this month, will brief you at 12:30 p.m., in this room, so right after this briefing.

** Western Sahara

At the invitation of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary General for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, and with support from the Security Council, delegations of the parties to the Western Sahara conflict — that’s Morocco and the Frente Polisario — and the neighbouring States, Algeria and Mauritania, will gather in Greentree, Long Island, for two days of informal meetings on 8 and 9 November.

This continues the informal discussions begun in Austria in August 2009 and in Armonk, New York, in February of this year.  Solving the conflict in Western Sahara remains a priority for the United Nations, and we hope that this next meeting will be productive and will help the parties to move beyond the impasse.

** Haiti — Hurricane

Some of you asked yesterday for more information on the response in Haiti to the approaching tropical storm Tomas.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that the United Nations and its humanitarian partners continue to dispatch supplies to key areas across the country, while working to ensure that measures are taken to enable a response in Port-au-Prince.  It adds that supplies are being pre-positioned, notably in Jérémie, Les Cayes, Jacmel and Léogane, which are expected to experience the storm more severely.

Yesterday, Nigel Fisher, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti, led an inter-agency mission to those places, and also to Miragoane, and that mission is intended to evaluate the emergency preparedness measures implemented in preparation for the approaching storm.  Preparations are also being made in camps for internally displaced persons.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that one of the challenges after the storm will be the distribution of supplies due to any damaged roads and bridges, due to landslides and flooding.

** Haiti — Cholera

Staying with Haiti, as you know, additional tests of water samples from the military camp of Mirebalais were conducted last Wednesday.  We can now confirm that the tests were analysed by an independent laboratory and proved negative.  These tests follow previous ones conducted on Friday, 22 October, and Tuesday, 26 October, which also proved negative.

The UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) says it will continue to constantly test its installations in the interest of protecting the Haitian people and its own personnel.  The Mission remains committed to acting quickly, with complete transparency, and in close coordination with the Government, in all efforts to fight this epidemic and other issues in Haiti.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

That’s what I have, except to mention that tomorrow, our guest at the noon briefing will be Joan Clos, the newly appointed Executive Director of UN-Habitat [United Nations Human Settlements Programme].  I’m happy to take a few questions up until 12:30.  Yes, Bill.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  A statement put out by your Office said that the Secretary-General met with some Chinese officials and raised the issue of human rights.  Can we know which Chinese officials he spoke with, and some details of which issues relating to human rights were raised during those conversations?

Spokesperson:  Well, what it actually said was that the delegation with the Secretary-General has confirmed that the subject of human rights was discussed in the Secretary-General’s meetings with other Chinese leaders.  The Secretary-General has consistently raised human rights issues with concerned Member States at the appropriate opportunity.  Yesterday, the impression was created that the Secretary-General did not raise human rights issues at all, and this is simply incorrect.  The Secretary-General did discuss human rights issues with Chinese authorities, as I just mentioned, on this visit, and it’s wrong to conclude that because it was not raised in one particular meeting the matter had not figured at all in his discussion.

Question:  Are we going to be able to find out at some point, perhaps hopefully soon, which officials he met with and raised the issues, and which human rights issues he raised with those officials?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out a little more from the delegation, if that’s possible.  Other questions?  Yes, Joe?

Question:  Human Rights Watch yesterday raised the question that the Secretary-General had not spoken about these issues with the President of China because he’s campaigning for second term.  I wondered if you had a reaction to that.

Spokesperson:  Well, as I’ve just said, it’s simply incorrect to suggest that just because the Secretary-General did not raise the topic with President Hu Jintao that he didn’t raise the topic at all.  Given the time difference, I did not have, when I spoke to you yesterday at noon, I did not have a full overview of the other discussions that had gone on.  And that’s why the read-out that I had at that point was simply on President Hu Jintao.  But to make that leap, and to extrapolate from what I had said, to conclude that the Secretary-General didn’t raise it all, is not right.  He did, and he has consistently raised human rights issues, not just there, but with other concerned Member States when it’s appropriate, and where it’s appropriate.

Question:  And on the second term?

Spokesperson:  You know the answer to that, Joe.  The Secretary-General’s made very clear that he’s focusing on the job that he needs to do right now — which is, he has a five-year term, and he’s in his fourth year, and he’s very actively working on the various subjects that face him and the United Nations right now.  James?

Question:  Thank you, I have two questions.  Just getting back to what you were saying about Haiti, you said that the second round of tests had been taken, and that they came up negative.  Just expanding on that a little, does that mean that the UN is saying that it’s conclusive that peacekeepers did not bring cholera into the country?  Second, on Middle East peace.  Over the past couple of days, the Palestinians and Amre Moussa have spoken about the possibility, from the failure of direct negotiations with the Israelis, of bringing the issue through the United Nations, through some format.  The Americans and Israelis have both said that they see direct negotiations as the way forward, and to not go through the UN system.  I was wondering where the SG sits on this, because, although he’s a member of the Quartet, he would presumably also advocate for the United Nations as being a mechanism for solving these kinds of disputes.  So where does he stand on this issue?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think that… well, let’s deal with them one by one. On cholera and Haiti, all the soldiers underwent the necessary medical tests and, had they had diarrhoea or any other cholera-related symptoms, they would have undergone further tests, including for cholera.  But none of them had to, and as they were, and still are — they are healthy.  That’s what I can tell you on the first question. On the second, on the Middle East, you’re quite right that the Secretary-General is a part of the Quartet, and that he coordinates the role of the United Nations within the context of the Quartet.  Yes?

Question:  Yes, on China, Sudan and the Tribunal.  I wonder, just because I know there are a lot of questions, if there is some way to continue this after the UK briefing, that’s just a suggestion.  But on China, I wanted to ask you one thing.  Yesterday, this question of Mr. Sha [Zukang] and the award that he gave to the General, in some sense, in charge of the Tiananmen Square Massacre — what’s the… Now, with 24 hours, and since last week, did he do this?  And if he’s not on leave, and he did it during his time as a UN official, it’s a UN act, and what does Ban Ki-moon think of an Under-Secretary-General handing an award for a somewhat shadowy private foundation to a General who led a massacre of civilians?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t have anything further on that for you, but I would hope to have something further, as time goes by, but I don’t right now.

Question:  Does the UN have any comment on these arrests of Darfur human rights activists, both in Khartoum and in Darfur, the closing of a radio station, and can it confirm that Georg Charpentier has said that there should be none but an essential monitoring mission sent out from now until February, as some in Darfur are saying?

Spokesperson:  On the last question, we’ll check.  On the first, likewise on the middle one about the radio station, we are aware of those reports about the closing down of the radio station and the reported arrests of some journalists.  Clearly, we would urge the authorities to ensure that journalists can carry out their work freely.

Question:  Human Rights Watch did a report on these arrests and the activists, saying they note that UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] doesn’t report on human rights conditions, and that Charpentier hasn’t put out a report on this since November 2009.  Why did the UN stop reporting on these topics at this important time?

Spokesperson:  Well, you asked Ms. [Valerie] Amos that, and I think that she gave you an answer.  I don’t have anything to add to what she said last time.  Maybe there will be an update at some point from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, but I don’t have that at the moment.

Correspondent:  Sorry, I’m sorry…

Spokesperson:  Yes, there are other people who have questions.

Question:  I understand, but the difficulty is that if we start at 12:15, it becomes tricky.  But the human rights and the humanitarian reporting are two separate issues.  The humanitarian, I understand that it’s a joint thing with the Government, but the human rights reporting is something that just seems to have ceased, and some are now saying that there’s a Joint Monitoring Assessment Centre [JMAC] that in fact has reports of civilian deaths and doesn’t report them to the public.  Somehow they leak out to some, but… I guess I wanted to ask you… it’s two separate things.

Spokesperson:  Let me find out, Matthew.  Let me find out.  Okay, so, other questions.  Yes, Margaret?

Question:  Martin, if we can just go back to China for a minute, why wouldn’t the SG raise human rights at the highest level; in other words, with President Hu Jintao?

Spokesperson:  He raises it, as we said, where appropriate.  And he’s raised it, as we’ve said, consistently with Chinese officials, where it’s appropriate.  And that’s what he’s done.

Question:  Since we don’t know, I think it would help us in our reporting to know who the SG considers to be appropriate officials.  Can you find out for us? I know there is this time difference issue, but…

Spokesperson:  I would certainly like to be able to help you with that.  Yeah.  Yes, Talat?

Question:  Can you clarify the position of the United Nations on the Saudi initiative towards the Iraqi leaders?  Where do we stand, do they support this initiative?  Do they stand by and watch?

Spokesperson:  I think I was asked about this yesterday, and I don’t yet have a response.  I think, if I remember correctly, I was asked about it — yes.

Question:  Yes, you were, and I thought you said you’d bring an answer.

Spokesperson:  Yes, and I’m telling you, Talat, I don’t have an answer yet.

Question:  Okay, but do you expect the United Nations to be supportive of such an initiative?

Spokesperson:  When I have an answer I’ll be able to tell you.  I don’t know that yet.  I need to find out.  Yes, Khaled?

Question:  Mr. [Daniel] Bellemare, the Prosecutor General for the Special Tribunal [for Lebanon], can you clarify for us whether he is in town?  And if he’s not in town, whether he’s coming to meet with officials at the Secretariat or not.  I know that he comes here regularly for issues related to administrative…

Spokesperson:  That’s right.

Question:  But I’d like to confirm, is he in town?  Is he meeting this week with people?

Spokesperson:  As I recall, I mentioned that you might be able to find this out from the Tribunal.  I don’t have any information on his whereabouts at the moment that I’m aware of, that I could help you with.

Question:  Did the United Nations receive any emails from the Tribunal concerning his visit?  If he’s apologizing for not coming, perhaps because of the events in Lebanon?  Did you receive any communication regarding his trip to New York and the United Nations?

Spokesperson: I’m not aware of anything like that.

Question:  In follow-up to Haiti, the UN has underlined that the overflow water near toilets in the Nepalese camp in Haiti comes from a soak pit “reseeping” water from the kitchen and shower.  So, doesn’t this raise questions on the work of engineers, as definitely, water from the kitchen and showers is not supposed to overflow?  Has the United Nations been investigating on that engineering part?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I understand it, a soak, an adjacent soak from the pit, is under construction.  And also I understand that because this is a period of rain, the contractor has also agreed to come as many times as necessary to totally empty the soak pit and to ensure that it doesn’t overflow because of rain, which was the problem at the time, when journalists were there and saw water overflowing; it was indeed water from the kitchen and shower that overflowed from a soak because of the heavy rain.  Yes, Bill?

Question:  What is the Secretary-General’s view as to whether Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo should be released from a Chinese prison?

Spokesperson:  Well, when the Nobel Peace Prize was announced, the Secretary-General put out a statement, and he stands by that statement.

Question:  The statement didn’t include any printed reference to his release.

Spokesperson:  Yes, well, I’m telling you what the Secretary-General has also said, that he stands by the statement he made at the time, and that’s what I have for you at the moment.  And I can see that Ambassador Lyall Grant has arrived.  I will be able to answer more questions tomorrow.  And as you all know, I’m available at any time to answer questions.  My door is rarely closed.  So, thank you very much.

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