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

3 December 2010

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

3 December 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.  Sorry for the slight delay.

**Côte d’Ivoire

On Côte d'Ivoire, I can tell you the Secretary-General has been extremely actively involved in monitoring and handling this unfolding situation.  He has been speaking to several leaders and his Special Representative in Côte d’Ivoire, Choi Young-jin, to coordinate the response to the events there.  He spoke with President [Nicolas] Sarkozy of France yesterday.  This morning and again just now, he called Jean Ping, the Chairman of the African Union.

And he has also spoken this morning with the Presidents of Burkina Faso and Nigeria, and with the President of the Security Council, Ambassador [Susan] Rice.  He will be speaking with Catherine Ashton of the European Union a little bit later and I would also expect a statement from the Secretary-General quite soon on this topic.

[The Spokesperson later issued the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General:

The Secretary-General supports today’s certification by his Special Representative of the result of the 28 November run-off presidential election in Côte d’Ivoire.  He accepts his Special Representative’s analysis and evaluation, taking into account all aspects of the outcome of these elections is in accordance with the announcement made by the President of the Independent Electoral Commission on 2 December.  The Secretary-General commends the people of Côte d’Ivoire for their active participation in these historic presidential elections.

The Secretary-General congratulates Alassane Ouattara of the Rassemblement des Houphouëtistes pour la Démocratie et la Paix (RHDP) on his election and calls upon the President-elect to work towards lasting peace, stability and reconciliation in Côte d’Ivoire.

The Secretary-General also calls upon President Laurent Gbagbo to do his part for the good of the country and to cooperate in a smooth political transition in the country.

The Secretary-General wishes to emphasize that the will of the Ivorian people must be respected, and calls upon all Ivorians to accept the certified outcome and to work together in a spirit of peace and reconciliation for the stability and prosperity of their country.  All persons must refrain from any violence or action that would cause any disruption in society.  The Secretary-General warns those who may incite or perpetrate violence that they will be held accountable.

The Secretary-General assures the people of Côte d'Ivoire that the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), in cooperation with the international community, will undertake all possible actions, within its mandate to preserve peace and security in the country.  He also wishes to emphasize that the United Nations remains deeply committed to supporting the successful conclusion of the Ivorian peace process in all its aspects, and looks forward to working closely with the President-elect and the future Government of Côte d’Ivoire to this end.

The Secretary-General commends the efforts of all those who have worked tirelessly in support of the political process in Côte d’Ivoire.  The Secretary-General also commends the work of UNOCI and the United Nations Country Team, under the leadership of his Special Representative Mr. Y.J. Choi.]

**Statement on Guinea

We also have a statement that was issued this morning on Guinea.  The Secretary-General welcomes the conclusion of the presidential election process in Guinea following the 3 December certification by the Supreme Court of the final results of the 7 November run-off polls.  The Secretary-General commends the people of Guinea, the national authorities, political leaders and their supporters for the conduct of the election and calls on all Guineans to accept the results and to move forward in peace and national reconciliation towards a stable and prosperous future.  The Secretary-General congratulates Mr. Condé on his election and trusts that the President-elect will spare no effort in consolidating and promoting national unity.  We have the full statement in my office.

**Pascoe Visit to Nepal

The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, arrived in Nepal earlier today for a two-day visit to assess developments in the peace process and the arrangements to conclude the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN).

During the visit, Pascoe is set to hold discussions with the Government, political parties, the diplomatic community and other key stakeholders on what needs to be done to ensure a smooth transition to the post-mission period.

Today, he met with President Ram Baran Yadav, as well as with the acting Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister.  He also met leaders of the political parties and members of the Special Committee that supervises, integrates and rehabilitates Maoist army personnel.  They exchanged views on what needs to be accomplished in the remaining time before the completion of Mission’s mandate on 15 January next year.


The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has wrapped up its emergency shelter programme in southern Kyrgyzstan, having provided temporary homes for more than 13,000 people whose houses were damaged or destroyed during the June violence.  Deadly clashes that month claimed the lives of more than 400 people and uprooted another 375,000.  The agency’s focus in Kyrgyzstan is now shifting to reconciliation, in particular promoting the rule of law and human rights.

**Secretary-General’s Reports

Available now in my office and online are several reports by the Secretary-General to the Security Council.  They include reports on the work of our peacekeeping force in Cyprus, UNFICYP, and the Secretary-General’s mission of good offices in that country.  Other reports concern the situations in Iraq, Côte d'Ivoire, and the Central African Republic.

**Deputy Secretary-General

The Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Turin, Italy, over the weekend.  On Monday, 6 December, Asha-Rose Migiro will chair the annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the United Nations System Staff College.  The Deputy Secretary-General will return to New York on 7 December.

**Press Conference

And today at 1:15 p.m., Joseph Deiss, President of the General Assembly, and Theo-Ben Gurirab, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, will hold a joint press conference to brief correspondents about the joint parliamentary hearings that have been taking place yesterday and today here at United Nations Headquarters.

That’s what I have for you.  I am happy to take questions.  Yes, Anita?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Our guys in Haiti were wondering if they could get some clarification or a little bit of elaboration on Secretary-General’s report this morning to the General Assembly, because there was a part where he was saying that the problems with the election were, quote, more serious than initially thought.  So, their question is:  is he saying that the UN disagrees with the OAS [Organization of American States]-CARICOM [Caribbean Community] mission conclusion that the elections, although they were flawed, were not enough to invalidate the election, or does the UN think the elections were valid?  I guess that’s the bottom line.

Spokesperson:  Okay, well, I’ll have to defer to my colleagues…

[The Spokesperson later said that the assessment of the OAS-CARICOM observation mission was that the elections were valid, despite numerous irregularities.  Therefore there is every reason to hope that a democratic transfer of presidential and legislative power is still possible.]

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  Yes, absolutely, sure, sure.  Okay, other questions?  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, one, first welcome back. 

Spokesperson:  Thank you.

Question:  Second, on Ivory Coast, can you… a couple of things, can you… is Mr. Choi going to brief the Council later today on this announcement by the Constitutional Court turning back… turning yesterday’s results over?  And also, does Mr. Choi and UNOCI, do they have the raw numbers the election as has been reported?  And if so, what are they… when do they intend to announce their count of who won, Mr. Ouattara or Mr. Gbagbo?

Spokesperson:  Well, I can tell you that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General has just finished a press briefing in Abidjan, where he has delivered a statement on the certification of the result of the second round and I would hope to be able to bring you that as soon as possible.  And as I say, in addition to that — maybe you had not yet entered the room — I would expect a statement from the Secretary-General quite soon in fact, on the same topic.

Question:  Has been asked to brief the Council, do you know?

Spokesperson:  Who?

Correspondent:  Mr. Choi.

Spokesperson:  I think I would prefer you to check with the Security Council presidency — with the [United States] Mission — on that.  What I can tell you is that the Secretary-General, as I was saying just a little while ago, did speak to Ambassador Rice this morning, along with a number of other leaders in the region and elsewhere.  So, this is obviously something that is moving quite fast and we expect to issue the statement from the Secretary-General quite soon.  I can tell you that on the ground our Mission has increased patrols and it’s tense, but there have been no major security incidents of concern today.  That’s what I can tell you, for now.

Question:  [inaudible] I just wanted to know, I was just speaking to an Ivorian, I guess diplomat, who is… their argument is that in the north the vote was deeply flawed and ballot… I just… it made me wonder, what was ONUCI’s sort of presence in the north?  Maybe you can answer it now or sort… file… find later in the day, but if that’s the argument by the Gbagbo camp, I just wonder what percentage of UNOCI was deployed there, whether they had any sort of knowledge of the type things that are being alleged, it seems important to figure that out.

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the mission have a very specific role, which is to provide this certification.  And as I say, that statement by Mr. Choi has just been read out by him in Abidjan.  I am expecting to be able to pass that on to the media here.  You will have seen the media reports I am sure, yourself.  I am expecting to be able to pass that on to you.  And that does give I think quite a lot of detail that would help you.  Yes, other questions?  Yes, Eva?

Question:  Thanks.  Two questions, one about MINUSTAH.  Mr. [Edmond] Mulet said today that he was threatening to withdraw the troops of MINUSTAH in Haiti if the people, or maybe, I don’t know, some politics, politicians there don’t, you know, don’t agree with the elections that were held last Sunday.  If you have more details about that.

Spokesperson:  Sure.

Question:  And then the second question is about the meeting between Ban Ki-moon and Hillary Clinton.  We had a readout saying that they talked on different topics, about the WikiLeaks too, about the complications caused by the comments placed by WikiLeaks.  Farhan, your colleague, said the other day that they were checking, the UN was checking the authenticity of these documents, and that you were going to respond in an appropriate manner.  Can you give more details about this meeting, what is the UN doing to check if these documents are authentic or not, and which is going to be your action or response?

Spokesperson:  Okay.  Well, starting with Haiti, I mean, this one particular story uses a word in its headline which I think overstates what the actual quote attributed to Mr. Mulet says.  As you know, the Special Representative, Edmond Mulet, holds regular consultations with international actors in Haiti.  And he was expressing his personal assessment of future cooperation from the international community should the electoral process lose its transparency and legitimacy.  And the Special Representative is also of course concerned about the credibility of MINUSTAH in Haiti if the incumbent Government is seen to disregard the will of the Haitian people as evidenced by the elections.  So, that’s what I have for you on that. 

On WikiLeaks, the readout we provided did indeed speak of complications, and to help to simplify that reference to complications, we can tell you that the Secretary-General thanked, in the meeting, Secretary Clinton for clarifying the matter at the start of the meeting, and for expressing her concern about the difficulties created by the leaking of alleged diplomatic cables.  The Secretary-General reiterated his commitment to work in a transparent manner and they reaffirmed the need for the United States and the United Nations to continue to work together on many issues of pressing concern based on mutual trust and confidence.  That’s what I can tell you.  Okay.

Question:  Are you checking the authenticity of these documents as Farhan said two days, on Monday, I think?  We were asking, some colleagues were asking what is, which is the response from the UN?  According to the WikiLeaks documents saying that it seems that diplomats from the [United States] were ordered to spy or get kind of information from Ban Ki-moon [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Yeah, and as we said at the time, as we said at the time, we’re not in a position to be able to say whether that particular document is real or not, whether it is genuine or not.  And it’s not for us to do that.  It’s not for us to do that.

Question:  I just said what Farhan said, we’re going to find more information…

Spokesperson:  That’s right…

Question:  …we need more to say…

Spokesperson:  Well, of course, that…

Question:  …and he said that.

Spokesperson:  I don’t deny he said it.  Not least because I have been following very closely what’s been happening here and what’s been said and what hasn’t been said.  What I am telling you is that we don’t have that information.  Yes, of course we speak to [United States] officials about this matter.  But what I want to stress is that the meeting between the Secretary-General and the Secretary of State in Astana started with the reference to WikiLeaks and to that whole saga, it was raised by Secretary Clinton, and then very swiftly moved on to all of the other topics that we mentioned.  And it was quite a long meeting, detailed meeting, on the topics that we referred to, including the Korean peninsula, Sudan, Somalia and other areas of concern.  And I think that’s where I want to leave for now.  Yes, Masood, yes?

Correspondent:  Welcome back.

Spokesperson:  Thank you very much, thank you.

Question:  By the way, on Monday there was press briefing by Mr. John Ging on the Occupied [Palestinian] Territory, especially Gaza, in which he had said basically that whenever Israel allows the goods to come in, it does, it has a good effort on the population, but on the whole most of the crossings are still being closed.  And they are only allowed when Israel allows them to open.  So, has the Secretary-General had any more talks with the Israelis since his ongoing — I know there is an ongoing conversation going on — when is the last time when Secretary-General talked about Gaza with the Israelis?

Spokesperson:  I think you characterized it neatly.  This is something that the Secretary-General raises consistently in meetings with — or in conversations with Israeli officials.  He has consistently said that the crossing points should be opened.  It’s only when there is easy access not just for goods, but for people, that the people of Gaza will be able to prosper and flourish in the way that they deserve.

Question:  So, you can’t say when he had the last conversation with the Israelis?

Spokesperson:  Well, you know as well as I do that the Secretary-General has spoken to Israeli leaders quite recently, not in the last week, for example, but quite recently.  And this is something that he has consistently raised and will continue to do so because he believes it’s very important.  Yes?

Question:  [inaudible] the Secretary-General discussed it with the Quartet members, I mean his presence in Astana?

Spokesperson:  In Astana there was no gathering in that format.  Yes, all of the countries were present, but they didn’t meet in that format.  As I just mentioned…

Question:  [inaudible] a meeting for them to discuss, for example the settlement issue [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  As I say, it was a topic that was covered during the meeting with Secretary of State Clinton, and this is something that is obviously given a very high priority by the Secretary-General.  He continues to follow it very closely, and that’s why it was very important that Secretary Clinton was able to brief him on the latest efforts in this regard.  But there was no — I just want to be clear — there was no specific meeting.  Otherwise, of course, it would have been well known, there was no specific meeting in that format in Astana.

Question:  I got you on the issue of the WikiLeaks.  The authenticity of these documents hasn’t been disputed by the Secretary Hillary Clinton or Susan Rice yesterday, and others.  I mean, why is the United Nations still not sure whether they are authentic or not?

Spokesperson:  It’s not for us to say that.  It’s simply not for us to say that.  What we have said is clear, and I think that it is a side issue.  It’s for others, notably the United States authorities, to pronounce on their authenticity or otherwise.

Question:  Is it not a matter of concern for the Member States here who are delegates and they want to safeguard their information…?

Spokesperson:  Well, there are 192 Member States, and I don’t speak for them.  They can speak for themselves.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  …isn’t it?  To ensure… to ensure that the premises and everything is clean of espionage.

Spokesperson:  There is a very clear distinction here, that Member States speak for themselves.  The United Nations as a Secretariat doesn’t speak for the Member States.  They speak for themselves.

Question:  Yeah, but it really should be, I mean, clean of any devices or any buggings or any kind of things.  Shouldn’t they, I mean, check about that?

Spokesperson:  Who are they?

Question:  I mean, the Secretariat, and the people in charge of the…

Spokesperson:  Well, that’s a different matter and that’s not something that I would want to get into here.  All I would want to say is that, as Farhan said last week, he quoted the relevant passage that refers to privileges and immunities and the inviolability of the premises of the United Nations — and that’s very clear.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  I wanted to ask you about Sudan and Myanmar.  But, just maybe related to this, and maybe you won’t answer it, maybe you will.  But, two… one question is with the construction of the North Lawn Building.  Is it possible, without getting into specifics that would compromise anything, to describe whether precautions were taken on eavesdropping and other devices?  And also, some questions have been raised about whether… who is in charge, the [Capital Master Plan] or otherwise of… not to distrust anyone, but the construct, obviously there is a lot more people coming on to the UN campus, many of them New York hires of Skanska and other [Capital Master Plan] contractors.  Without, you know, casting aspersion on anyone, are security checks being made?  And this may or may not relate to the WikiLeaks things, I just wonder if there is some… if there is some description of that you can come up with which doesn’t compromise…?

Spokesperson:  No, there isn’t, Matthew, because I think it is fairly standard drill that we wouldn’t talk about security arrangements.  You just don’t do that.  So, what was your question on Sudan?

Question:  Oh, yeah, on Sudan, there is a report that the SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army] is saying that 12 of their soldiers have been killed in an ambush by government-supported militias in Unity state.  So, it seems like it’s a pretty high number in a big clash.  I wonder if it’s something the UN has heard of and can confirm or deny or is going to go verify it.

Spokesperson:  Well, what I have been told is that we are aware that an SPLA truck with approximately 35 soldiers and their families was reportedly ambushed by an unknown group around 8 o’clock.  This was on 1 December between Tamoa and Tubarit in Unity State, as you said, while travelling from Mayom to Bentiu — excuse my pronunciation of these places — a joint monitoring team that comprised SAF [Sudan Alliance Forces] and SPLA and led by the UN Mission in Sudan that went to Bentiu hospital where most of the casualties were brought by an SPLA truck.  And the first report by that monitoring team confirms that 11 people were killed on the spot.  And then one died in the hospital I just referred to.  Ten people were wounded.  However, the identity of the attackers is still not known.  The team, I mean, the monitoring team, will be conducting patrols to the incident site and will meet with SPLA commanders and local authorities to try to further investigate this.  That’s what I have for you.

Question:  But does, I mean, I guess without knowing, the SPLA has said that they believe it’s a government-backed militia, and I just wonder, does the UNMIS [United Nations Mission in the Sudan] see any connection between this and the upcoming referendum?  Is this viewed [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  As I’ve said, they’re investigating it.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  They’re investigating it, yeah.  Okay.  Yes, Barbara?

Question:  Martin, can you just clarify what the role of the UN is in Côte d'Ivoire in terms of verifying election results?  I probably should know this, but it seems to have a different role there than, say, in Afghanistan, where it didn’t make a statement on the validity or not.

Spokesperson:  The sequence is that the Independent Electoral Commission announces provisional results.  And that’s what happened.  And then submits them to the Constitutional Council.  The Constitutional Council reviews complaints and proclaims final results.  And then it’s for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to certify the results in keeping with his mandate, which is set out in a Security Council resolution, the number is 1765.  So, that’s what I can tell you.  So, there is a very clear Security Council mandate for the United Nations in the person of the Special Representative Choi Young-jin to certify the process.  And as you know, this is what has been happening just pretty much as this briefing started.  And I would expect that there would be details of what Special Representative Choi said in Abidjan to be made available quite quickly, with a statement from the Secretary-General to follow swiftly thereafter.

Question:  So, in essence it is giving the election international legitimacy or not?  It’s the stamp of international acceptance?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, it’s called a certification.  And that’s how it is described.  I would ask you to take a look at the resolution if you want to check what the overall parameters are.  But there is a very clear sequence of events, and that’s why, as you will have seen the events unfold in the last 24 hours, the Special Representative has spoken now after the other parts of that sequence, the other steps in that sequence, and you will have seen what he said and you will be able to read the statements on the certification of the result of the second round of the presidential election quite soon, I think.  If you have colleagues in Abidjan, as I am sure you do, they probably already have it.  Yes, first of all, I’m just taking one question here, then I am coming to you.  Yes?

Question: Just a technical question.  Rob Vos and DESA [Department of Economic and Social Affairs] put out a very interesting report, I believe it was on Monday.  I just wanted to know, does the Secretary-General comment on these reports or does he leave them to speak for themselves…

Spokesperson:  I’d have to check on that.  I’d have to check on that and come back to you.  Yes?

Question:  Yes, Martin, I just was following up on the process of certification.  Does certification mean that the results are correct?  You see, because…

Spokesperson:  But that…

Question:  …you know, there has been wide scale criticism of certification by a UN representative in Afghanistan of the elections he certified.

Spokesperson:  I would ask you to wait for two things.  One, to be able to read what Mr. Choi has actually said, what he has pronounced in Abidjan, before you make any further conclusions.  And secondly, to wait to see what the Secretary-General says in the statement, which I would expect very soon.

Question:  The second is:  was the United Nations informed about this unannounced trip by President [Barack] Obama to Afghanistan?  And is the President meeting any UN representatives in Kabul?

Spokesperson:  I’d have to find out from my colleagues in the Mission there.  I don’t know the answer — I’d have to find that out.  I guess by its very nature, if it’s unannounced, it’s unannounced.  But, let me find out.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Okay.  There are two pretty brief factual questions.  One is on Myanmar.  Is it possible to know the length of the visa that was given to Vijay Nambiar, when he made his visit over the Thanksgiving hol… what was here the Thanksgiving weekend?  And also, I wanted to know, there is this memo that came out entitled Korean Peninsula/DPRK Policy Committee Discussion, 6 December 2010.  That, you know, it seems to be a UN document.  While you were away, Farhan said it was a very junior, or hadn’t been seen by people in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.  But I just… I wonder if… Some kind of description.  It seems like, whatever happened with the document and is there going to be a 6 December Policy Committee of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General meeting about the Korean Peninsula?

Spokesperson:  On the first, on the visa, I’d have to find out.  It may be that that’s something that we wouldn’t want to comment on, but I’ll find out.  And on the second, on the memo, Farhan has given you a characterization.  I don’t have anything further to add on that.

Question:  [inaudible] wondered there will be this meeting on 6 December.  I don’t know if he said yes or no at that time I asked him sort of ended the question [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  As I understand it, I don’t believe that meeting is taking place, but I can, if that is not the case, and it is taking place, I will let you know.  But my understanding is that it is not.

Question:  That’s great.

Spokesperson:  All right, okay.  Thank you very much.

* *** *

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