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

6 December 2010

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

6 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.

** C ôte d’Ivoire

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Côte d’Ivoire.

The Secretary-General remains deeply concerned about the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.  He has been in close contact with many world leaders, including President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, current Chair of the Economic Community of West African States, President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi, Chair of the African Union, as well as Jean Ping, Chair of the Commission of the African Union.  He is also consulting with former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who is currently in Côte d’Ivoire on behalf of the African Union.

And on Saturday, in another statement, the Secretary-General, amongst other things, reiterated his call for the Ivorian people to remain calm and patient and emphasizes that the United Nations, including the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), will do everything within its mandate to preserve peace and security in the country.

** Myanmar

The Secretary-General and his Chef de Cabinet, Vijay Nambiar, spoke to the Group of Friends of Myanmar this morning, to discuss Nambiar’s recent visit to Myanmar in his capacity as Special Adviser dealing with that country.

The Secretary-General told the Group of Friends that, regrettably, the conduct of the elections was far below the international community’s expectations.  Looking ahead, we need to keep encouraging the authorities to take steps to make the political transition broad-based and inclusive.

He said that the next two months will be a crucial period that could potentially determine the future course of Myanmar’s political development and its place in the international community.  The authorities, in particular, should be in a better position now to meet their responsibilities.  Mr. Nambiar will also brief Security Council members this afternoon on his trip to Myanmar.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning began an open meeting to hear from the senior officials of the UN Tribunals dealing with Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia as they prepare to complete their work.

Serge Brammertz, the Prosecutor for the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said that Serbia’s failure to capture the two remaining fugitives, Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić, is one of the foremost concerns, adding that Serbia still holds the key to their arrests.

And Hassan Jallow, Prosecutor for the Rwanda Tribunal, said that referrals of some key cases to national jurisdictions could possibly see the end of trials at the Tribunal by the end of 2011.

We have the statements by the Tribunal Presidents and Prosecutors available in my Office, and the two Prosecutors expect to speak to reporters at the Council stakeout later.

** Pakistan

Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, wrapped up her four-day visit to Pakistan yesterday by travelling to see the conflict-affected population in the northern part of the country.

She urged continuing support to Pakistan as it seeks to recover from that displacement as well as the more recent flood crisis.  She said that the world's attention is waning at a time when some of the biggest challenges are still to come.  Millions of people need continued assistance in terms of health care, education and agricultural support.

The United Nations recently launched the revised Flood Emergency Response Plan, requesting nearly $1.94 billion.  So far, 49 per cent of the funding requirements, or $958 million, has been received.  And we have a press release with more details.

** Cyprus

The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities held talks today in Nicosia, and they have agreed to hold further meetings later this month.  As you’ll recall, they met last month with the Secretary-General here in New York, discussing governance and power-sharing, among other issues.  The Secretary-General said at the end of those talks that he will meet again with the leaders in January in Geneva.

**Climate Change Conference

The Secretary-General will leave for Cancún, Mexico, tomorrow morning.  And later that day, he will address the opening of the high-level segment of the Climate Change Conference.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change says that two bodies concluded their work this weekend, putting forward draft decisions for adoption in the final plenary of the conference on 10 December.  The draft decisions include decisions on continued, strengthened support to developing countries’ efforts in adaptation and mitigation, including concrete technology transfer projects.

Countries also agreed to strengthen education, training and public awareness on climate change through increased funding for such activities, and to engage civil society more strongly in national decision-making and the UN climate change process.  The Framework Convention’s Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, said that this underlined the commitment of the negotiations to remain open, transparent and engaged:  “Faster and more effective action on climate change requires Governments to welcome the fresh ideas and active participation of all sides of civil society”.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

Just a few details on press conferences:  Tomorrow at 10 a.m., here in the library auditorium, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court will hold a press conference about key issues to be debated at the ninth session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

And then at 11 a.m., there will be a joint press conference by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice about the launch of the 2010 report card on gender and the International Criminal Court.

And then at 1 p.m., there will be a press conference by Ambassador Christian Wenaweser of Liechtenstein, President of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court, along with Judge Sang-Hyun Song, the President of the International Criminal Court, and Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.  And they will be here to brief you on the ninth session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

And so, that’s what I have, and I am happy to take questions.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Martin, you’ve said that the High Commissioner for Human Rights has turned down an invitation to go to Oslo for the Prize for Mr. Liu Xiaobo; is this right?

Spokesperson:  I would defer to my colleague in Geneva, the Spokesman for the High Commissioner.  As I understand it from what I have seen so far, this is something that she is unable to do because of her prior commitments.  But I would urge you to check with my colleague in Geneva just to be certain on precisely what has been said there.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  There is a poll out and reported in the Washington Post today that the Afghan population has lost faith in the United States, and that what you call the situation is getting bad over there…

Spokesperson:  Could you start again?  Masood, could you start again?  I wasn’t quite sure where you’re referring to.

Question:  Yeah, in Afghanistan, there is a poll out which was published by the Washington Post this morning, that the Afghan population is losing faith in the American leadership.  Now, what is the United Nations ambassador, SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] over there… has he submitted a report as to what is happening and why is the population of Afghanistan now weary of what is happening there now and what has happened that suddenly this change is coming about — one which says that Americans are finding success, others say “no”, the population, they report that the population has lost faith?

Spokesperson:  Well, I have also seen the media reports on this survey that was conducted for those media organizations, and I don’t have anything further for you on that.  I’ll certainly check with our colleagues in Kabul to see if they have anything to add to that.

Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any reaction to this report that in Israel, 846 settlements have been approved by the Israeli Government?

Spokesperson:  We’re talking about Israel now?  I think as we discussed last week, and on other occasions, the Secretary-General’s view is quite clear on the settlements question, and that has not changed.  Yes, Khaled?

Question:  Martin, thank you very much, sir.  Several human rights groups issued statements criticizing the recent elections that took place in Egypt and that they were marked by rigging in favour of the ruling National Democratic Party.  I was wondering if the UN has any reaction to that and the fact that the Egyptian Government refuses international monitoring of elections.

Spokesperson:  I’ll have to check for you on that, Khaled.  I don’t have anything for you.  Obviously, the Secretary-General is aware of the fact of the elections and the reporting there has been on the conduct of those elections, but I don’t have anything for you beyond that at the moment. 

[The Spokesperson later added that the United Nations had no comment on the elections and had not been involved in the electoral process.]

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  When will the SG be back to the Secretariat, and do you know when he is planning to have a press conference here?

Spokesperson:  He’ll have a press conference before the end of the year.  I need to check on the exact date, but it will be before people start to disperse for the Christmas and New Year breaks — so, quite soon.

Question:  Martin, have you received any complaint from Lebanon regarding the devices which exploded in South Lebanon recently, the spying devices which were implanted in South Lebanon and were remotely…?

Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge, Nisar, but let me check.  I am not aware of any such complaints being directed to us, but let me check.  Yes?

Question:  On climate change, do you have anything on technology transfer to the least developed countries?

Spokesperson:  Let me [see] if I can find out some more details.  I know that Bob Orr gave a fairly extensive briefing ahead of the Secretary-General’s trip to Cancún.  So, I don’t have any specific further details.  What I can say is that technology transfer is one of the key areas where it is conceivable that there could be, and should be, progress, even if, as we’ve been consistently saying, it’s unlikely that there would be a broad framework agreement overall; this is an area where it is possible to make progress and we would certainly hope that’s the case.  As for details on the precise mechanism, I’ll see if we can find out some more for you.  And I also know that on the ground in Cancún, the Secretary-General will be speaking to the media and there’ll also be other experts in the delegation who may be able to help your colleagues on the ground.  All right?  Yes, Joe?

Question:  Martin, has the Secretary-General sought assurances from either Ambassador [Susan] Rice or Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton that the programme to gather information about him and other top officials has ceased, no longer continues?

Spokesperson:  I don’t really want to go beyond what we said last week, which was that…

Question:  I’ve got that already…

Spokesperson:  Well, okay, so, it’s my aide mémoire then, rather than to read it out again to you, Joe.  What I am simply saying is that they had an important meeting where they discussed a large number of topics going right way around the world from the Korean Peninsula to Somalia and beyond.  On the topic that you refer to, obviously, they did discuss it at the beginning of the meeting as we said, and what they did was, and I will read this bit out, is that 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.  Okay?

Question:  Is he concerned that it is still going on?

Spokesperson:  I think I can restrict myself, and will restrict myself to what I’ve just said.

Question:  Did Secretary Clinton give what you would characterize as an apology to the Secretary-General?

Spokesperson:  Ask the State Department.

Question:  I’m trying.

Spokesperson:  Well, keep on trying, okay?  Yeah.  I am coming to you after that, Matthew, okay?

Question:  Yeah, thanks.  There is news from the ICC [International Criminal Court] [that] they’re going to begin a preliminary investigation into war crimes in North Korea, and I was just wondering if the SG had a comment on that; and if South Korea is not part of the ICC, then will the Security Council have to intervene in these investigations, and how will it happen?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is aware of the news that came out of The Hague on what the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said.  I don’t have anything beyond that.  I think you ought to check; as far as I understand it, the Republic of Korea is a signatory to the ICC.  And so, that’s one point.  But as for any further comment, let me check.  But the Secretary-General is certainly aware of this latest development from The Hague.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  Sudan and Côte d’Ivoire.  One is, in Sudan over the weekend, the President [Omar al-]Bashir Government has raided the offices of the transitional Darfur regional authority and has said Minni Minawi’s faction is now a target, a military target for the Government, if previously they were an ally of the Darfur Peace Agreement, and that they’re going to the South and will now be fighting.  What is the comment of the UN on the total unravelment of the Darfur Peace Agreement?

Spokesperson:  I have seen the reports.  I don’t have any specific comment at the moment.  But I know that my colleagues are checking with the Mission on that.  But we’ve certainly seen the reports.

Question:  Okay.  And they’re going to try to verify this raid on the transitional Darfur regional authority?

Spokesperson:  I’ve heard what you’ve said, and certainly we’ll try to check on that.

Question:  And then I have these two questions, one is one that I put in to you, which is whether… as it was reported by the Sudan Tribune that Mr. [Djibril] Bassolé, the Joint UN-AU Darfur mediator, has gone to Côte d’Ivoire to try to attempt to mediate there.  I wanted to know if you are aware of it, is it true or not?  And also, there is a letter by Jack Lang, who is this Special Adviser on piracy for the Secretary-General — well, he wrote to Laurent Gbagbo, as in his capacity apparently as Deputy Chief of the Socialist Party of France.  What I just wondered is — what are the rules applicable to a UN special adviser being in such a prominent position in a political party in his home country?

Spokesperson:  Well, it sounds like you answered your own question in regard to what his capacity was.  But let me find out more about that.  I don’t know about that.

Question:  Can you be both, I mean, can you be an acting party chief in a country or deputy and…

Spokesperson:  Let me establish the facts of the matter before I answer, Matthew.  And on Mr. Bassolé, as I understand it, that is not correct.  But I have asked for some further checks.  As you know, and I just mentioned, the former South African President Mbeki was in Abidjan over the weekend, and indeed today, on behalf of the African Union.  And so it may be that there is some confusion there, I don’t know.  But to my knowledge, it is not the case.  Okay, further questions?  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, in Easter Island, a lot of indigenous groups are saying that Chilean forces are using excessive force to evacuate indigenous people from their homes; at least 20 people were left seriously wounded on Saturday.  And at least one group has said that they have sent a letter to the UN asking for intervention.  So, have you received that letter, and what kind of action could the UN theoretically take?

Spokesperson:  Well, firstly, I am not aware that we’ve received a letter, but we’ll check, because quite often there is a time lag between when a letter is sent and when it is actually received and then when we become aware of it.  So that’s the first thing.  The second is that, on any action or otherwise, as you well know, the Secretary-General of the United Nations keeps a close eye on what is going on in various places around the world and when it comes to taking action or to intervening, that really does, as always, depend on there being a request from the parties — parties, plural — concerned.  That is a general statement, but let me find out what I can about whether that letter has been received or not.  Certainly again, the Secretary-General is aware of what was happening over the weekend.  Okay?  Yes, Khaled?

Question:  Thanks.  First, I am not sure, maybe you got this question before, but among the many, many documents leaked by WikiLeaks there was something in reference to Mr. [Daniel] Bellemare, the Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal [for] Lebanon, and how he sought assistance from the US Ambassador to Lebanon, asking the US to eavesdrop on behalf of the Commission.  Isn’t this a violation of the sort of impartiality of the court — that Bellemare goes to a certain country and asked them for eavesdropping on others?

Spokesperson:  Well, two things.  That’s something that I think that you ought to direct to the Tribunal.  And secondly, we wouldn’t comment in any case, on such a specific leak — allegedly leaked, alleged cable.

Question:  But the Legal Department here at the United Nations — it is sort of related relatively to the Court — but is it in the mandate of the Prosecutor General to go ask other nations to…?

Spokesperson:  As I say, I think we’re in the realms of the hypothetical, so I don’t really want to comment on that.  Maybe the Tribunal will have something to say.  All right, thanks very much.  Good afternoon.

Question:  [inaudible] a question about Somalia.

Spokesperson:  Somalia?

Question:  Yeah, there are these reports, in fact, well I’ll just cut to the chase, there is a former US official, Pierre Prosper, who has said that Puntland, the portion of Somalia, has hired a private military contractor, Saracen, to do anti-piracy work — that it’s being all funded by a Muslim nation that he wouldn’t name.  So what I wonder is whether, given Mr. [Augustine] Mahiga or anyone in the UN, given both the prohibitions against mercenaries and also the 1992 sanctions on Somalia, what does the UN say to Puntland pretty openly, or at least as acknowledged by a former US official, hiring a mercenary firm to patrol the coast of Somalia, and what’s the UN going to do in light of this report?

Spokesperson:  Well, thanks for the question, Matthew, and let’s see what we can find out.  I don’t have anything at the moment.  Thank you.  All right, good afternoon to everybody.

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