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

8 December 2010

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

8 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.

**Secretary-General in Cancún

The Secretary-General will return from Cancún, Mexico, later today, after attending high-level events this afternoon on deforestation and on financing climate change efforts.

The Secretary-General addressed the Climate Change Conference in Cancún yesterday, telling delegates that the world is looking to them to adopt a balanced set of outcomes.  We do not need final agreement on all issues, he said, but we do need progress on all fronts.

He said that the Cancún Conference could take significant decisions on forests, on adaptation, on technology and on the creation of a new fund for long-term climate financing.  And Governments also need to make progress on mitigation, on anchoring national commitments, on accountability and transparency, and increasing clarity on the future of the Kyoto Protocol.  Nature will not wait while we negotiate.

He later told reporters:  “This is not a sprint, but a marathon.  It is important to keep taking determined steps forward.”  We have his remarks available online, as well as readouts of some of the meetings he has been holding.

** Côte d’Ivoire

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire, Choi Young-jin, held a press conference in Abidjan earlier today, during which he explained the UN’s certification process of the presidential election.  Choi said that the will of the people, as expressed on 28 November, is irrefutable.  He said that he used three different ballot tabulation methods to arrive at the fact-based conclusion that Alassane Ouattara had won the election.  There’s more in a press statement from the mission in the Spokesperson’s Office.

**Security Council

And the Security Council held consultations this morning on Côte d’Ivoire.

And then after that, Council members received a briefing in an open meeting from Sahle-Work Zewde, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Central African Republic.  She said that the country is at a crossroads, adding that the elections scheduled for 23 January must be transparent, free and fair.  And she discussed the lack of security in Birao, as well as the atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army, adding that the Government is not in a position to address this state of affairs without adequate means and resources.  We have her remarks in my Office.

And then this afternoon, the Security Council plans to hold consultations on Cyprus, as well as on sanctions concerning Liberia.

** Middle East

Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said today that he is concerned that Israel has not heeded the Quartet’s call to freeze settlement activity in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  He reiterated that settlements are contrary to the Road Map and international law, and their continuation is causing a crisis of confidence in the effort to bring about meaningful political negotiations.

Serry also said he was pleased to be informed by the Israeli Government today of its decision to allow exports from Gaza.  He hopes that a full range of exports will be permitted and that crossing capacity will continue to be adjusted as necessary to meet demand.

And meanwhile, Serry said that the potential precedent set by today’s Israeli court decision, which led to the transfer of a Jerusalem Palestinian Legislative Council member to Ramallah, is worrying.  We have his full remarks available in my Office.

**World Food Programme

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed the news that three Latvian men working as helicopter aircrew for the WFP United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, have been freed after more than a month in captivity.  The World Food Programme said that the three Latvians — a pilot, co-pilot and mechanic seized by gunmen in the South Darfur capital of Nyala on 4 November — would be flown to Khartoum before travelling home to Latvia.   There are more details in a press release from the World Food Programme.

**World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) has endorsed a rapid new tuberculosis test which the agency says could revolutionize care and control of the disease.  The test provides an accurate diagnosis in about 100 minutes, compared to current tests that can take up to three months for results.  Evidence points to a threefold increase in diagnosis of patients with drug-resistant TB if the new test is implemented, the World Health Organization says.

**United Nations University

The United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) will hold its fourteenth Annual Lecture on 9 December, from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. in the ECOSOC Chamber of the North Lawn Building.  The title of the lecture is "Reforming the International Monetary and Financial Architecture".  And this Annual Lecture will feature José Antonio Ocampo, Professor at Columbia University and former Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.  There is a press release available with more details.

**Guests at the Noon Briefing Tomorrow

The guests at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, and Catherine Bragg, the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.  And they will be here to brief you on their recent missions to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

**Stakeout Tomorrow

And then tomorrow at 12 p.m., Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, will speak to correspondents at the Security Council stakeout.

** Haiti

And I’ve just been handed a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Haiti.

The Secretary-General takes note that the preliminary results of the Presidential and legislative elections which took place on 28 November in Haiti have been announced.   He is concerned about allegations of fraud and remains committed to supporting free and fair elections that reflect the will of the Haitian people.  He also notes that these results are not final and are subject to the provisions and processes stipulated in the electoral law.  He urges all candidates to exhaust the formal remedies and legal procedures, which will allow a clearer picture to emerge.  This would be a solid base on which to move forward.

The Secretary-General expresses his concern over the acts of violence and civil unrest that have taken place in the aftermath of the announcement of the preliminary results.  We remind all candidates that they have a personal responsibility to encourage their supporters to remain calm and to stop violence.  A peaceful solution to the current situation is crucial not only to confront the cholera epidemic in the short term, but also to create the conditions in the medium term for recovery and development from the earthquake.

I’m happy to take questions.  Yes, Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  On Haiti, maybe you have responded to this earlier, but there is a report by the French expert that in Haiti in fact the cholera epidemic was brought upon by the Nepalese peacekeepers when they arrived there.  Do you have any response to that, or have you already responded to that?

Spokesperson:  I spoke at some length about this yesterday, Masood, during the briefing.

Question:  I just wanted to find out about this other one about the Middle East peace process that President [Barack] Obama’s Administration’s official has been cited as saying today that, as far as they are concerned, they have abandoned the Middle East peace process because Israel and the Israeli Prime Minister do not want to respond to their pleas to freeze settlement activity.  Now, in spite of what Mr Serry has said, they’re saying what is the alternative left for the Secretary-General?  Can he force Israel to somehow freeze the settlement, or since the United States is abandoning its efforts, what can the Secretary-General do?

Spokesperson:  Well, I am not going to characterize what the United States is or isn’t doing.  What I can tell you is that the Secretary-General is obviously aware of what has been happening, not just in the last 24 hours or so, but in recent weeks, as we mentioned yesterday, in the framework of the Quartet.  And Robert Serry has made clear his concern that Israel has not heeded the Quartet’s call to freeze settlement activity.  Obviously, as Robert Serry has said, there is a crisis of confidence, and we need to be able to move forward with meaningful political negotiations.  I would expect to have something a little later from the Secretary-General on this.  But I don’t have anything at the moment.  Yes, Khaled?

Question:  If the issue is decided within the Quartet, did the United States consult first before this decision to give up the settlement issue and move on to a different strategy?  Has this move been coordinated with the SG, as a member of the Quartet?

Spokesperson:  As I say, I have told you quite clearly what Robert Serry has had to say about this already today.  His statement is available, and as I say, I would anticipate having something a little later from the Secretary-General.

Question:  One last follow-up:  if the US decides now that it wants to move back to indirect negotiations, as the reports say, instead of the direct ones on the settlement, will the Secretary-General back this move?

Spokesperson:  I am not going to answer a hypothetical question.  All I will say is that the Secretary-General is committed to working with all of the players in the Quartet and those on the ground in the region.  Yeah, further questions?  Yes, James?

Question:  It’s a continuation on the same theme.  The Palestinians have said previously they’re considering seeking statehood recognition within the UN, and over the last few days a few Latin American countries have said that they recognize the State.  Could you just explain the technical process by which the Palestinians will become a Member of the United Nations?

Spokesperson:  It’s a matter for the Member States.  So Member States recognize countries, States.  That’s the way that it works.  And then membership is then up to the Security Council, as I understand it.  But as I say, it’s for the Member States to decide.

Question:  Is that traditional process, for example, a proposal of a resolution to the UN Security Council and then it goes to the General Assembly for a two-thirds vote or…?

Spokesperson:  Let me check on that.  But it is very much in the hands of the Member States.  Yeah?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Is the SG welcoming the decision by Ecuador and Brazil to recognize the Palestinian State?  Does he consider this a reasonable alternative to the status quo?

Spokesperson:  As I said, recognition or non-recognition is really up to Member States.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, a couple of questions on Haiti, Sudan and Côte d’Ivoire.  On Haiti, I wanted to… could you… first, just in terms of… There have been a lot of protests of the results that were just announced, and it’s said that the headquarters of [René] Préval’s party have been lit aflame, and the article says there was no UN peacekeeping presence.  Has the UN’s terms of engagement or protection presence changed at all?  Why were they not there while this party headquarters was burned down?

Spokesperson:  Well, you say they weren’t there.  Let’s check.  As you just heard, the Secretary-General is concerned about the acts of violence.  I just read you that statement.  The unrest is continuing after the release of the election results.  And as you know, MINUSTAH, the Mission, has a very clear role in supporting the Haitian National Police on the ground.  Let me find out.  I’m sure we’ll be able to tell you precisely what has been going on on the ground.

Question:  And I wanted to ask, there is also, there were reports about this camp, Corail, saying two things.  Saying, number one, that there was no… 100,000 people lived there and that the polling station wasn’t open on 28 November, and also quoting the NGO that runs the camp as having warned Nigel Fisher that it’s a time bomb for [inaudible] having received no response by the UN’s cluster system.  And I just wonder, what is… is the UN aware of this, of the lack of the ability to vote of 100,000 people in the camp as reported, and also of this… What’s being done to cut off the spread of cholera to this concentration of 100,000 people?

Spokesperson:  Well, the first thing is that what the Mission has been saying and what the Secretary-General has also said is that there are formal channels.  There are legal procedures to be able to appeal or to lodge complaints about the conduct of the elections, the preliminary results of which were announced last night.  And there is a time frame for doing that, and that’s so any complaints that surface should be lodged and then they can be looked into by the appropriate authorities.

With regard to cholera, I think that this is an important point that the key task for humanitarian workers on the ground is to help those people and to avoid the further spread to the extent that it is possible.  Now, as I understand it, an appeal was made for funding to help the people on the ground — $174 million was required and requested specifically for cholera, to help to fight this epidemic on the ground.  So, it’s only 20 per cent funded.  That makes the work of the humanitarian teams on the ground rather difficult.  And of course, any tension on the ground — tension in Haiti as a result of unrest, because of the release of the election results — that also hinders the work of humanitarian staff trying to treat people and to prevent the further spread of cholera.

Question:  I understand all that.  I guess I just… it seems like this article that’s in the Min Post, I guess Minnesota, saying… quoting this guy, Brian Castro of the American Refugee Committee, saying it was raised in a cluster committee meeting, that he’s received no response and a request to interview Fisher went unanswered.  Obviously he is busy, but I wonder if maybe you can get some answer from MINUSTAH what… I understand even despite the lack of funds… what is… can nothing be done, are they unaware of this warning by the NGO that actually runs the camp?

Spokesperson:  You mean that particular camp?

Question:  Yes, that camp.

Spokesperson:  Let me find out.  But I think the suggestion that nothing can be done is clearly not right.  As much as can be done is being done.  More could be done, undoubtedly, if all the funding was received.  But as that funding continues to flow in, the people on the ground are doing, the people across Haiti from the UN and from NGOs as well, are doing their very best to help to fight this outbreak and to treat those who have already shown the symptoms of cholera.  You said you had another question.

Question:  Okay, sure.  This is on Sudan, in a related question on Darfur and Abyei.  One, on Abyei, yesterday P.J. Crowley, the State Department Spokesman, said that’s the US Administration’s new view, that a referendum in Abyei by 9 January will not take place, is impossible.  And I just wondered if that’s UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan] or the Secretariat’s view as well?  Then also, I’ve heard that a request made to UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] for the report that they were supposed to do on the Tabarat killings of 2 September, near Tawilla, the one that the Secretary-General summoned Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari to speak about.  Anyway, somebody that asked him was told that there is no report for external dissemination available on it, and I just wonder, what is the UN’s final finding?  Did it do the right thing, in apparently not getting out to the site despite the warning by relatives of those killed?  Are all such reports confidential, and in which case, how is the Security Council or the international community to assess the level of violence and killing in Darfur if these new reports never come out?

Spokesperson:  Well, that’s a very long question.

Question:  This is the only time I’ll ask it, but if there is anything the UN can say about those killings, I’d like to know.

Spokesperson:  Well, I hear your question, I think, and let’s look into what the Mission tells us.  In the very beginning you asked about Abyei.  Reaching a solution to the Abyei dispute is a top priority for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement implementation and for the stability of Sudan.  That’s what I can tell you.

Question:  Does UNMIS still think the referendum can take place in January?

Spokesperson:  I’ve told you what I can tell you, okay?  The deadline is, as you well know, 9 January.  Yes?

Question:  It’s not a question, but do we have Mr. Le Roy today?  Alain Le Roy?  Wasn’t he scheduled to do a briefing at the noon briefing?

Spokesperson:  I don’t believe so, I don’t believe so.  I don’t believe so.  Right.  Welcome though he would be.  Okay, all right, thank you very much.

Question:  Can I just ask one question? 

Spokesperson:  By all means. 

Question:  Okay.  So, it was… yesterday Russia made a request to the Secretariat that a statement made at the end of the open meeting on Côte d’Ivoire be corrected.  You said I should ask the US Mission.  I’ve seen now the press release on the meeting, and it has what Susan Rice says; there is no correction at all.  And I guess I just want to know, does this mean that the Secretariat agrees with the US’s view that there are no provisions for correction or including making public an objection made in a closed consultation?

Spokesperson:  Well, you said you were going to ask the US Mission, did you?

Question:  I did.

Spokesperson:  And?

Question:  And their position… their national position, I take it to be, is that there are no provisions for that.  Does that… Is that the UN’s position?

Spokesperson:  Well, two things.  First of all, as I told you yesterday, they were closed consultations; I was not in the closed consultations.  I can’t tell you what transpired there.  That’s why you need to refer to the Member States of the Security Council.  On the technical point, this is something that was said.  You heard it said, I heard it said, that it was in the open part, before the closed consultations.  It was said.  And that’s why it’s in the record.

Question:  Right.  So Russia’s request was either rejected or denied or not [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Well, you need to ask the presidency of the Security Council what happened to, about that specific request, okay?  It’s the presidency, the country in the Security Council that presides over the Council that month, presides over the Council.  And that’s why you need to speak to them about that particular aspect…

Question:  You’re responsible for a UN press release, [inaudible] US response.

Spokesperson:  It’s not a question of ultimate responsibility; it’s a division of labour.  And I will, in addition, check with my colleagues from the Security Council Affairs Division to see if they have anything to add on the technicalities that you are raising.  Yeah, it looks like you might have a question before I close.

Question:  Yeah, yeah, because I just heard him on my antennae, I just got in here.  I talked with some people last night who, I think that, to me, are credible, and they’re saying that Ambassador Rice, in her national capacity, could make that statement, but not as President of the Security Council.  And I’m only coming from what journalists who have been here for a long time have said to me; we do not in any way pretend to be experts, but it is a begging question.  So, you know, I don’t want it to be a back-and-forth with Matthew, but it’s…

Spokesperson:  Look, as I said to you, the Security Council is presided over by one of the 15 countries in the Security Council each month, and presides over the Council.  If there is some technicality, it is indeed for the Security Council Affairs Division to advise on those technicalities.  If there is something further that I can say on it, I will, of course, tell you.  But you heard it said in open session, I heard it said in open session — it was said.  And if there has been a request from another delegation to look at it, then it’s for the presidency of the Security Council to address that.  And if there is any further technical advice from the Security Council Affairs Division, then obviously we can let you know.  Okay?  All right, thanks very much.  Great, thanks.

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