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

13 May 2011

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

13 May 2011
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, everybody, and welcome to the briefing.

**Guest at Noon Briefing

As you can see, today, my guest is Angela Kane, the Under-Secretary-General for Management.  And Ms. Kane is here to brief you on the financial situation of the Organization, and to answer your questions.  So, Ms. Kane, the floor is yours.

[Press conference by Ms. Kane is issued separately.]

So I have a couple of other items.  And Jean Victor Nkolo, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, is also here to brief you after me.

**Statement on Pakistan

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the suicide bombing in Pakistan.

The Secretary-General condemns today’s attack at a military training centre in the north-west of Pakistan, which reportedly killed more than 80 people and injured many more.  The United Nations stands by Pakistan in its efforts to combat terrorism, which continues to claim the lives of so many of its citizens.  The Secretary-General extends his deepest condolences to the Government and people of Pakistan and the families of the victims.

** Myanmar

Vijay Nambiar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Myanmar, completed his three-day working visit to the country today.

He said that he had engaged with senior members of the new six-week-old Government and with other stakeholders, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and members of the Central Executive Committee of the National League for Democracy.

Mr. Nambiar said that the United Nations welcomes the important themes and reforms announced by President Thein Sein in his inaugural speeches, but stressed that implementation is key.  He said that, in all his meetings, he emphasized the need for the release of all political prisoners and inclusive dialogue with all segments of society, as well as greater outreach to the international community to ensure that proposed reforms enjoyed broad buy-in.  There is no time to waste if Myanmar is to move forward.   And we have Mr. Nambiar’s press remarks in my office.

**Security Council

Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, has been briefing the Security Council in its consultations this morning on the Secretary-General’s new report concerning the protection of civilians in Chad.  The report also provides information on human rights violations, including reports of arbitrary arrests and detention, particularly at the time of legislative elections in February.  So far, Ms. Amos noted, the withdrawal of the former UN mission, MINURCAT, does not appear to have adversely affected the security situation in eastern Chad.

After Ms. Amos’s briefing has ended, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe is expected to give an update to Council members on a range of recent political issues.

And earlier, the Security Council unanimously extended the mandate of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire until the end of July.

**Occupied Palestinian Territory

And just coming back to Ms. Amos, I can tell you that she is setting out on a four-day trip to the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, starting tomorrow.  She will be accompanied by the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva.

During her visit, the Under-Secretary-General will meet representatives from the most vulnerable people, particularly those living in the West Bank's “Area C”, in East Jerusalem, in Gaza and in Sderot.  She is also scheduled to hold meetings with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, high-level Israeli officials, humanitarian organizations and international partners on the ground.

** Syria

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) cited reports today from non-governmental organizations that suggest that between 700 and 850 people have been killed in Syria since the start of the protests on 15 March, and thousands of other people arrested.  The High Commissioner’s Office cannot verify these numbers but deems the reports to be extremely worrying, and it urges the Government to exercise utmost restraint and stop using force and mass arrests to silence opponents.

The Human Rights Office has been in contact with the Syrian Government, seeking their full cooperation on the Human Rights Council-mandated fact-finding mission to assess the situation on the ground.  And that team should be ready to deploy as soon as it is granted access.

And meanwhile, just yesterday, the High Commissioner’s Office received written confirmation from the Permanent Mission of Yemen in Geneva welcoming a visit by a human rights team to Yemen at the end of June.  And there are more details in the Geneva briefing notes.

** Libya — Refugees

Staff from the UN refugee agency met with three Ethiopian men who say they are among only nine survivors from a boat carrying 72 people that left the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in late March.

One of the men told UNHCR staff in a Tunisian camp that their 12-metre-long boat, destined for Europe, ran out of fuel, water and food, drifting for more than two weeks before reaching a beach in Libya.  He added that military vessels passed their boat twice without stopping, but that a military helicopter dropped food and water onto the boat.  The boat’s passengers had paid smugglers $800 to make the journey and were expected to operate the boat on their own.

One man told UNHCR that people started to die one by one on the boat, followed by further deaths from exhaustion upon reaching a beach between Tripoli and the Tunisian border.  And there is more information on this on the agency’s website.

**East Africa

More than 5.5 million people have been displaced by internal conflicts and natural disasters in 10 East African countries since April.  And that’s according to the latest Displaced Populations Report from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which notes that the affected populations include both refugees and internally displaced persons.

In addition, some 8.8 million people have been affected by drought.  Ethiopia was affected the most, with 3.2 million people now in need of humanitarian aid.  And inside Somalia, more than 50,000 people were displaced by a combination of armed conflict and natural disasters during the month of March alone.

**Secretary-General’s Appointments

I have two appointments for you today.

The Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, have appointed Aïchatou Mindaoudou Souleymane of Niger as the Deputy Joint Special Representative (Political) in the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).  And Ms. Mindaoudou will replace Mr. Henry K. Anyidoho of Ghana.

The Secretary-General has also appointed Ms. Amina Mohamed, a Kenyan national, as Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).  Ms. Mohamed will succeed Ms. Angela Cropper of Trinidad and Tobago.

And we have more information on both appointments in my office.

**Press Conference Monday

And then finally, on Monday, at 1:10 p.m., there will be a press conference to launch the summit of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  And speakers will include Mirna Cunningham, Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Time for a few questions.  Yes, Giampaolo?

**Questions and Answers

Correspondent:  Martin, thank you.  On 1 March, on behalf of UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association], we sent a letter to Ms. Patricia O’Brien copied to you requesting, you know, out of [inaudible], her presence here in the press room to answer journalists’ questions.  We never got an answer from her; maybe we can get it from you today or soon, or at least if you can convey that the request still remains, and last time that she appeared here was in 2009, I mean, we would be pleased to have her.

Spokesperson:  Sure, I’ll pass on the message.  Okay, Erol?

Question:  Martin, yesterday, on the meeting of the Security Council, at least three countries supported, of the permanent member countries, supported EULEX [European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo] mission of the investigation upon the, another report from Mr. Dick Martyn.  Now, while the Secretary-General in his report supports the investigation, it was not clear, at least to me, what is the position of the Secretary-General, whether the EULEX should continue with this investigation, or UNMIK [United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] should at least interfere or overtake whatever.  That’s number one.  And number two, can you confirm that the Secretary-General is going to meet with Mr. Enver Hoxhaj, foreign minister of Kosovo today, and what is on the plate for this?

Spokesperson:  On the second, there is a meeting with the gentleman you mentioned.  On the first point, I did go into this at some length yesterday when I was asked a very similar question about this investigation, or potential investigation, following up on the resolution that was adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.  And as the Secretary-General says in the report, there is a need for a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into these serious allegations, with a strong witness-protection programme and with the full cooperation of all relevant stakeholders.  And he has added in that report that UNMIK is ready to extend its full cooperation to any investigation that may be conducted.  The Secretary-General received correspondence on this from the Foreign Minister of Serbia, and as you know, the Secretary-General is also meeting Mr. Vuk Jeremić this afternoon.  The letter from Mr. Jeremić was forwarded by the Secretary-General to the Security Council, and clearly it is for the Security Council to respond if they wish.  The Secretary-General believes that there is a need for a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into these allegations.  Yes?

Question:  Besides that — just a follow-up — besides that, what is the position of the Secretary-General, whether EULEX is capable to do it on its own or UNMIK should be part of that?

Spokesperson:  This is not for the Secretary-General to determine.  He — as you already know — the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo has already worked very closely with EULEX and will continue to do so.  And as I said, that UNMIK, the Mission in Kosovo, is ready to extend its full cooperation to any investigation.  Sylviane and then Masood?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Do you have any update on the UN assessment team mission to Deraa in Syria and some other cities?  And do you have also news to give us on fresh contact between Mr. Ban Ki-moon and the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the Secretary-General did speak to President al-Assad recently — not in the last couple of days, but recently.  I don’t have any further news on that score.  As for the assessment team, I’ll check with my colleagues from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  My understanding is that the assessment team has not yet been able to get in.  Obviously, this is something that the Secretary-General raised directly with the Syrian President, and subsequently a green light was given.  That green light seems to have gone back to amber, if not red.  Obviously, we’re really keen that the assessment team can get in as soon as possible.

Correspondent:  Because it was a week ago.

Spokesperson:  We know how long ago it was, and we’ve been pushing extremely hard.  As soon as there is a green light that allows the assessment team to go in and to have the access that it needs, then the assessment team will go.  They’re ready to move.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  On this issue of Israel withholding the payment of taxes to the Palestinian Authority, I know the Secretary-General has spoken once to the Israeli Prime Minister.  Has there been a follow-up on that?  Because they continue to withhold taxes and not pay it to the Palestinian Authority, which is basically, their own, but this is like a [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  No, there hasn’t been a follow-up to that.  But his position remains the same.  Richard?

Question:  Okay, and also on this thing, another follow-up on this prisoner exchange.  Is there a follow-up at all on that, on the prisoner exchange between the Israelis and the Palestinians?

Spokesperson:  Not aware of anything at the moment.  If there is any news on that score, we’ll let you know.  Richard?

Question:  With the toll rising in Syria, I know the Secretary-General prefers quiet diplomacy, but when does it come to a point where he goes more public to say that he was promised the assessment team would get in and to say that enough is enough?  And the second question you may have addressed…

Spokesperson:  Well, first, let’s answer the first question, Richard.  It’s simply not true that he has been doing that through silent diplomacy.

Correspondent:  No, I said prefers… I didn’t say…

Spokesperson:  He has spoken very clearly about that, most recently on Wednesday in Geneva.  He said that he was disappointed that the assessment team had not been allowed in, something which President al-Assad had discussed with him.  It had been promised; that promise has not been kept, and we need to ensure that that is kept.  He has spoken very clearly about it.

Question:  Will Mr. Nambiar — and you may have talked about this in days when I wasn’t here — is there a planned press conference when he returns from Myanmar?

Spokesperson:  Well, he has spoken at the airport before leaving Myanmar today.  His remarks, his statement to the journalists is available; we’ve made it available.  If there is any opportunity for him to speak further when he returns, I’ll let you know.  And certainly I will relay that request.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Does the Secretary-General believe that the situation in Bahrain has ramifications on the region?  Does he believe it has any repercussions and could spread to the region?

Spokesperson:  Well, each country is a case unto itself.  There are specific circumstances in each country.  But what you are seeing, there is a common thread that you’re seeing across the region — in the Middle East and North Africa — that people are wanting to see change, they are demanding change, and it is for the leaders in those countries to listen to what the people are saying.  In addition, clearly, any violence, any repressive measures, wherever they happen to be in the region at the moment, have a destabilizing effect in the country concerned, obviously, and does not help the broader picture across the region.  But you need to look at everything.  Each case is separate.  I think that’s an important point.

Question:  I understand.  I hope, I believe you have seen today’s Los Angeles Times report on the situation in Bahrain that people fear most the hours when they are asleep, which is between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. when they are — they can’t be more peaceful than that.  Houses are ransacked, cars are stolen, people are attacked, taken — 1,000 people missing already.  And today there was an attack on a mosque.  Is there any other step to prevent further escalation in the situation there that the interntional community should do to prevent that from happening?

Spokesperson:  We remain extremely concerned about the situation in Bahrain.  The Secretary-General has spoken out repeatedly on this matter, so has the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including earlier this week.  This is something that we take extremely seriously and are keeping an extremely close eye on.  People should not have to go to sleep in fear.  Yes, Matthew; we’ll make this the last question.

Question:  I have a couple of questions on Myanmar, Sudan and an appointment, so I’ll try to do them very quickly.  On Myanmar, in Myanmar…

Spokesperson:  I am just interested, you moved, but…

Question:  Sure.  Yeah, yeah, I did.  It seems like I’ve been installed in that side of the room, I’ve got to migrate over.  But on Myanmar, although Mr. Nambiar made a statement, several groups have been critical, saying that he didn’t mention the ethnic minorities, he didn’t mention there was breaking of a ceasefire in Shan State.  So I am just wondering, is that…?

Spokesperson:  Well, how do you know he didn’t mention it, Matthew?

Correspondent:  There was a statement that they put out and I have a press release from Burma Campaign UK, saying Nambiar seems to have no sense of urgency about the situation in Burma… But…

Spokesperson:  And how do you know… how did they know that Mr. Nambiar did not mention those matters?

Correspondent:  Because there is a written statement; they sent me a copy of his written statement and…

Spokesperson:  Well, you don’t have to receive a copy of a written statement from an NGO.  We have provided that written statement, Matthew.

Correspondent:  I understand.  Well, I guess what I am saying…

Spokesperson:  And just because the statement doesn’t mention specific matters in the detail that you would like, it doesn’t mean that they weren’t mentioned.  For example…

Question:  [inaudible] by the Government?

Spokesperson:  For example, Matthew, for example, it says “inclusive dialogue with all segments of society”, and it talks about the release of all political prisoners.  What is your next question?

Correspondent:  No, my question, I guess, my question, is given this disparity between what some people saw as visitors and the very diplomatic language used in his statement, there has been a request by UNCA to have him give a press conference here — not in Bangkok, not in Naypyidaw, but here in New York.  And I think…

Spokesperson:  It’s actually in Yangon where he spoke, Matthew.

Correspondent:  Okay.  So given that there is an UNCA request and there seems to be a lot of respect by the Secretary for UNCA, it seems like, unless there is something more important that he has to do, that would be very good to be able to ask him if he met with the ethnic minority groups; what he thinks of Shan State.

Spokesperson:  Sure, I’ll relay your request once he is back in touch.

Question:  Okay.  There is also this  I’d asked you about this before — these 80 reported dead in fighting in South Sudan or Unity State.  There has now been a statement by the South Sudan Government that a two-star lieutenant of the Sudanese Armed Forces was found among those killed there, which would seem to give credence to their allegations that Khartoum is behind these various rebel groups in South Sudan.  So I wanted to know whether UNMIS, Haile Menkerios, whether that’s been verified or not given the seriousness of the allegation or Government support of these rebels?

Spokesperson:  I’ll ask.  Next one?

Question:  And on the appointment, you mentioned two, but there was this CAR… Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Central African Republic, Radhika Coomaraswamy, in this room said that Margaret V-O-G-T of Nigeria has been given the post and so does the Nigerian Mission.  So I am wondering, what’s the slowdown in the Secretariat confirming what the country of origin and Ms. Coomaraswamy seem to state as a fact?  Is there some slowdown with that?

Spokesperson:  I know you like to do so, but you don’t have to read anything particular into that.  It’s simply when we have the paperwork that allows us to make that announcement.  It doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been made; it doesn’t mean that there is something untoward going on.  It’s simply a question of having the information at hand to be able to tell you officially.  It’s as simple as that.

Okay, Jean Victor, it’s all yours.  And have a very good weekend.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon.

**President Deiss in Lebanon

We’ll start with the President of the General Assembly in Lebanon and Italy.

The President of the General Assembly, Joseph Deiss, today arrived in Beirut.  Since 2007, President Deiss has been a member of the Strategic Council of Saint Joseph University in Beirut.  In this capacity, he will attend the inauguration of a campus at Staint Joseph University today.  On the fringe of his private visit, President Deiss will pay a courtesy call on Michel Sleiman, President of Lebanon.

**President Deiss in Italy

President Deiss will be in Italy on 16 and 17 May.  He will attend a conference hosted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Security Council reform.  He will also hold bilateral talks with Italian authorities.  In Rome, President Deiss will also meet with the Executive Director of the World Food Programme.

**President Deiss meets Vice-Chairman of Chinese People's Political Advisory Body

Yesterday, the President of the General Assembly met with Zheng Wantong, Vice-Chairman of the eleventh National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Mr. Zheng was leading the first high-level delegation from the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China's important political advisory body, to the United Nations.  President Deiss and Vice-Chairman Zheng discussed important topics on the agenda of the sixty-fifth session of the United Nations General Assembly.  Mr. Zheng expressed China’s appreciation for the theme of the sixty-fifth session, "Reaffirming the central role of the United Nations in global governance", which sets the tone for multilateral cooperation and partnership in the face of global challenges, such as climate change and rising energy and food prices.  President Deiss thanked the People’s Republic of China for its strong commitment to the work of the General Assembly and the United Nations.

They also discussed green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development.  President Deiss and Vice-Chairman Zheng emphasized that green economy, when effectively tailored to individual national-development priorities and conditions, can create jobs and contribute to economic growth.

That’s what I have for you today.  Questions?  Yes, Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  On the Security Council reform meeting that is going on now in Rome, it’s happening 15-16, I am assuming.  Ambassador [Zahir] Tanin is also, I am assuming going to attend that meeting.  Basically they are asking for consensus in the reform of the Security Council.  I want to know, will Ambassador Tanin when he comes back, because I have made that request earlier will he be able to come and brief us about it also, what, where the process is now?

Spokesperson:  I presume so.  I think that this meeting is an important step in the process, in the conversation on Security Council reform, and I have already put your request on to Ambassador Tanin.  I spoke to him last Thursday, and I am pretty sure that when both Ambassador Tanin and President Deiss come back from Italy, they will look into that, and Ambassador Tanin will brief you in due course.

Question:  Do you know how many countries are attending it — more than 100 or… about [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have the final list in front of me right away, but I know that it is a very important number of countries attending in Rome.  And you know for meetings like that, confirmations continue to be updated as the preparations proceed.  But maybe later this afternoon I’ll let you know.  Yes?

Question:  On the same subject, the… yes, they said that it will be probably more than 100 country attending that, and due to this high number, if it is respected at the end, everybody show up, what is the message of the President of the General Assembly to this group that, you know, that the reforms of Security Council must be more inclusive?  Is this signal attending the meeting in Rome organized by Italian and group, you know, that everyone knows that is united for consensus, that they are sustaining different position on other, but you know they’re more select in…?

Spokesperson:  Thank you Giampaolo.  I see that you being an Italian, or from Italy, you know the number better than I do, so, I’ll double check this afternoon.

Question:  [inaudible] Italian Mission…

Spokesperson:  Yeah, that’s fine.  Well, I think indeed we are talking about 100-plus participants, but we’ll find out later today how is this number confirmed or otherwise.  As you know, the Security Council reform is a Member State-driven process.  However, I promise to you that you will have the PGA statement and position on the day of the meeting.  We have to leave it to the participants to…

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  We will try, we will try.  I’ll do my best.  Yes?

Question:  Jean Victor, can you tell me exactly… do you know yet exactly when is the election for the new PGA, and have the Asian, has the Asian bloc yet said who their candidate is going to be?

Spokesperson:  I will have to come back to you on that because that requires a very specific response.  I don’t have a specific date in mind, and you may want to check with the Asian Group what is the status of the process so far; but I can come back to you on the specific date maybe later today.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I mean… I just… actually it’s a follow-up on that.  Can you, maybe when you look on your side, can you confirm that it’s Qatar and not Nepal and that the current Perm Rep will be the next PGA?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think it is common knowledge that the Asian Group has made a decision.  But you have to wait for the process in the General Assembly to take its course before a formal announcement can be made.  I will not be in a good position to do so at this stage.

Question:  Sure.  I want to ask you about this… or about the PGA’s time in Istanbul, at the LDC meeting.  There is this photograph that exists of a dinner there of Mr. Abdullah Gül of Turkey, President Deiss, and next to him is this Andry Rajoelina, the coup leader of Madagascar, who attended the meeting, but there has been quite a bit of controversy, since the AU doesn’t recognize him as the leader as it’s viewed as a kind of a rogue Government.  And I wanted to know, since they sat next to each other for that dinner, what did they discuss?  Was that…?  Ban Ki-moon has said he didn’t meet with him, although he was at the table, but Mr. Deiss was seated directly next to him.  So I am wondering, do we have… can we get a readout, you know, in whatever way is possible of this, their interactions?

Spokesperson:  The reason there will be no readout is because there was no meeting, no interaction.  You will have to ask Turkish authorities about the arrangements for that event.

Question:  Is there any… I mean, does he have any… are there any issues raised by the President of the General Assembly sitting next to a leader who is not recognized by his regional group and is viewed as a coup leader?

Spokesperson:  That was not a General Assembly meeting per se.  Our position remains the one that was published on the occasion of the general debate here in September.

Question:  Okay.  And also, just finally, do you have any, I had asked you before about this Syria’s run for the Human Rights Council, and you’d said that there could be no comment until it was worked out.  Now Syria has switched places with Kuwait and has said that it will run in 2014.  Does the President… I mean, I am just taking the chance here, does the President of the General Assembly think that’s a positive outcome, a good result of diplomacy or does he have no comment on it?

Spokesperson:  Good try.  Even that change that you report and that you have heard about doesn’t change our own position on the fact that the process still has to run its course through the Human Rights Council and thereafter, if and when this comes to the General Assembly.  But you know the very strong position that the President of the General Assembly has taken on the question of human rights and this position is reflected in his statement of 1 March when Libya was suspended.  Yes, Giampaolo?

Question:  [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Can you say it again?

Question:  You are kind of allergic to give us some news, right?

Spokesperson:  Absolutely not.  I will simply not give you news that I do not have or that is not confirmed.  I am very happy with news.  What is the news that you want to have?  Let me know.

Correspondent:  No, no, in general…

Spokesperson:  No, I think I cannot go out of my way and give you news that is neither formal nor official nor confirmed.  And this, I think, goes to the question of who will be the next PGA?  This we’ll just have to let the course run through the proceedings.  I am sorry.

Correspondent:  Strong rumours that make the news, yeah.

Spokesperson:  Well, rumours, whether small or very strong, do not make news.  Not yet.  Thank you very much.  Wish you a pleasant weekend.  Au revoir.

* *** *

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