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

5 July 2011

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

5 July 2011
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/ Thailand

You will have seen that statement we issued late last night on Thailand in which the Secretary-General welcomed the orderly conduct of the parliamentary elections and the promise by all parties to respect the will of the Thai people as expressed through the democratic process.

The Secretary-General hopes that the elections mark an important step towards genuine reconciliation, long-term stability and consolidation of democratic norms in the country.  He looks forward to working with the incoming Government and all parties in Thailand.

**Security Council

The Security Council adopted its programme of work this morning.

And Ambassador Peter Wittig, the Permanent Representative of Germany and President of the Security Council for the month of July, will brief you on this programme at 12:30 p.m., here in this room.

**Secretary-General Travel

And as we told you earlier, the Secretary-General will leave tonight for Spain, where tomorrow he will inaugurate the new United Nations Support Base in Valencia and take part in a meeting on Millennium Development Goals, food security and sustainable growth in Madrid.

The Secretary-General will then go on to Geneva to host a joint meeting with the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot leaders on Thursday.  And also on that day, he will launch the 2011 Millennium Development Goals Report during the High-Level Segment of the Substantive Session of the Economic and Social Council.

And then on Saturday, the Secretary-General will be in Juba to attend the independence ceremony of South Sudan.  He’s expected to meet with President Salva Kiir Mayardit, as well as with troops, staff and management of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).

**Somali Refugees

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says that the massive influx of Somali refugees into neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia continues.  In June alone, 54,000 people fled across the two borders — that’s three times the number of people who fled in May.

The agency adds that more than 135,000 Somalis fled so far this year due to violence compounded by a severe drought.  It estimates that a quarter of Somalia’s 7.5 million population is now either internally displaced or living outside the country as refugees.

The agency says it is particularly concerned by the levels of malnutrition among the new arrivals — especially children.  As part of its response, UNHCR is chartering a cargo plane to deliver 100 tons of relief items.  A land convoy of some 20 trucks loaded with thousands of tents and other aid is also on its way.

And there is more information in the refugee agency’s briefing notes today.

**Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Major investments to develop and improve clean energy technologies worldwide are needed to end poverty and avert the impact of climate change, according to a new United Nations report released today.

The World Economic and Social Survey 2011:  The Great Green Technologies Transformation, is published by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

It says that such technological changes will need to be on proportions similar to the first industrial revolution.

And the full report is available online.

**Secretary-General Appointment

The Secretary-General has appointed Michael Keating of the United Kingdom as his Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan.  Mr. Keating will also serve as the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator.

Mr. Keating succeeds Robert Watkins of Canada, who has been appointed as the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon.

And we have more information on these appointments in my Office.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

At 11:15 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference to launch UN Women’s flagship report “Progress of the World’s Women:  In Pursuit of Justice”.  Speakers will include Michele Bachelet, the Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women.

That’s it.  Questions.  Giampaolo, do you have a question?  I am deferring to you as head of UNCA.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes.  My question is this, do you know, do you have any news regarding the release of the list of the good Taliban and bad Taliban from the Security Council?  Secretary-General has any news of that?

Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge, but let me check, let me check.  I am not aware of that.  I realize something is in the works but I don’t know whether we have anything on that.

Question:  [inaudible] and perhaps what he is referring to that there is a de-listing of thing done by the…

Spokesperson:  Yes, I know.

Question:  …by the Taliban committee probably that list, do you have that list or can [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  I don’t.  That would be something that is dealt with by the respective committee.  Say again?

Question:  Sanctions Committee.

Spokesperson:  That’s right, that’s right.  But if there is anything further, then I’d let you know.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Martin, how satisfied are you with the dialogue going on in Bahrain — the current system of dialogue which started over the weekend?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think it is perhaps a little too early to pass judgement on that.  Obviously there have been a number of important developments in recent days relating to an inquiry into the events that have already taken place, and relating to a dialogue which as you well know, as you have asked me about this kind of matter repeatedly and understandably — it is long overdue.  So I think we’d need to wait a little bit to see how this shapes up.  But importantly, the Secretary-General has said that this is the way forward for there to be an inclusive dialogue.

Question:  But over 65 per cent of the people I mean, did not, are not represented in that dialogue.

Spokesperson:  As I have said Nizar, this is something that we need to look at.  It is early days.  But certainly there is a need for dialogue to be conducted and for it to be as inclusive as possible.

[The Spokesperson later added that the Secretary-General welcomes the start of a national dialogue in Bahrain.  He takes note of actions the Government has taken to create a conducive environment for the dialogue, including the establishment of an investigation commission, the transfer of some trials to civilian courts, and the release of some detainees.  He encourages the Bahraini authorities to take further steps to act in full accordance with their international human rights obligations.

As the dialogue process gets under way, he urges the Government to do everything possible to ensure a genuine, all-inclusive and meaningful dialogue that will lead to tangible political, economic and social reforms which meet the legitimate aspirations of all Bahraini people.  This will be essential for healing social tensions, as well as for promoting greater national unity and stability.]

Question:  On another matter, there has been some serious accusations against the integrity of the Special Tribunal of Lebanon.  A lot of information was shown on television; the involvement of Israel in the ongoing investigation and many other matters.  Is the Secretary-General satisfied about the way it is going or does he have any statement with regard to these accusations?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General firmly supports the work of the Special Tribunal.  Yes, Masood.

Question:  On this Gaza flotilla, which is now it seems to be stuck now in Greece for whatever reason, it’s been sabotaged some allege, and so forth.  Do you have any update on that? Is that, on that flotilla and as it is going on?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you would have to check with the organizers of the flotilla or the Greek authorities on the latest.  As you will have seen, the Secretary-General did speak by telephone with the Greek Foreign Minister and supports the initiative of the Greek authorities to take the humanitarian aid on Greek ships and for this to be done in close coordination with the United Nations.  This is something that the Secretary-General believes would help in two ways: one, it would help to reduce tensions; and, secondly it would help to ensure that aid gets to those who need it in Gaza.

Question:  What the Greeks are doing is confiscating the aid goods and putting it in another boat and sending it to Gaza.

Spokesperson:  I don’t think that’s the idea at all, Masood.  I mean, I think that the Greek authorities can speak for themselves on the exact modalities of what they are proposing, but the idea is to work with the non-governmental organizations.  And the Secretary-General has said, as you will have seen in the readout of his telephone conversation, that he hopes that the organizers of this flotilla would agree to this initiative as a way to ensure that the humanitarian goods do reach Gaza.  Yes, Evelyn?

Question:  On the Special Tribunal in Lebanon; it is not Israel that is the problem, since it might help since it lives next door.  It is this Wikileak letter that allegedly revealed that the Prosecutor asked the United States if it should after Syrians and which Syrians of the US [inaudible] were called or…  That’s… have you dealt with that at all or anyone in the UN?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the Special Tribunal is an independent judicial body, and we do not, we’re not involved in the work of the Special Tribunal itself.  What I have said is that we support the work that they are doing because it is crucial that there is a process of justice relating to this case and it obviously has broader ramifications in the region.  Yes, Matthew, and then I am coming to you.

Question:  Sure, I want to ask about Sudan and Srebrenica.  On, on, on, in Sudan, I know there was a statement by the Secretary-General welcoming this South Kordofan agreement.  Since then, President [Omer al-] Bashir has said that in fact the SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] North hasn’t taken the steps necessary to be deemed a legal political party, and basic people, that many people see this as a threat that will in fact that lead to continued fighting in Kordofan.  The SPLM North’s Al-Hilu has complained that the Egyptian peacekeepers sided with Government-sided militia and stood by as people were killed.  So I am wondering, what on both of those fronts, is UNMIS aware of Bashir’s statement, what do they think?  And what is the response to continued criticism of particularly the Egyptian peacekeepers in South Kordofan inaction as people were being killed?

Spokesperson:  I’ll ask about both.

Question:  Have you seen this, this, I mean or do you have any comment on this Dutch court decision on Srebrenica, which has now found an appeals in the Netherlands has found that Dutch UN peacekeepers at the time, you know, liable and responsible for the death of people under their protection?  Some people are saying based on this decision they are going to reopen the immunity of the UN in the case.  What’s the UN’s view of that decision?

Spokesperson:  Well, we’re obviously aware of the court’s ruling, and clearly we want to study the entire ruling in detail.  And that is something that we are in the process of doing.  Yes?

Question:  I have a couple of questions about the Palmer Report on the 2010 Gaza flotilla.  I had read in a BBC article that it is due out on Thursday; is there a possibility that you can confirm that, because if the Secretary-General is going to be abroad on Thursday, wouldn’t it be handed to him initially?

Spokesperson:  Well, a couple of things:  What we have said is that, and what the Secretary-General has said is that, more time was needed, and that time has been given.  I don’t think we are yet at the point where the report would be handed over.  If and when that happens, obviously we would let you know.  As a general point, — but don’t read anything further into this — as a general point the Secretary-General doesn’t necessarily have to be physically present for a report to be handed over, of course, although that is highly desirable.  But on the first part, simply to say that the Secretary-General made clear that more time was needed; and when we get to that point we’ll let you know.  Yes, I’ll come back to you in a second.  Yes.

Question:  Regarding the Secretary-General’s trip to Japan next month, I just wanted to confirm the dates from 7 to 9 in August; and what type of message the Secretary-General would like to deliver to the people of Fukushima and in Japan?

Spokesperson:  Well, we have not yet announced a trip to Japan.  When we get a little bit closer to a possible trip, then I think we will be able to give you more details.  The Secretary-General has made clear in interviews with the Japanese media that he would certainly like to be able to visit Japan to express his solidarity with the people of Japan; obviously as a result of both the earthquake and the tsunami, but also the nuclear accident which came along as a consequence.

Question:  At least at this point, can we confirm if he is visiting Fukushima?

Spokesperson:  I beg your pardon?

Question:  Can we confirm if he is visiting Fukushima?

Spokesperson:  No.  No, not at this point, no.  Yes?

Question:  Yes, it’s a follow-up to my earlier question.  In the same BBC article there was — I am paraphrasing — but the article said that one of the reasons for more time being given for the report was that there were really frenetic negotiations going on between Turkey and Israel, and that the language could be toned down.  If you’ve sent the report, can you tell me, is, was the language particularly harsh?  And in what way does it need to be toned down?  Is it the language itself, or is it a semantic thing or linguistic thing?

Spokesperson:  Well, I haven’t sent the report, is the short answer.  But what I would say is what we said at the time; and that is that there is clearly a need for the parties concerned to find consensus on the report, and the wording of the report.  And that’s why more time was given.  Yes, and then I am coming to you Iftikhar.  Please, Press TV.

Question:  Hi, thank you, Martin, sorry.  The Secretary-General was recently reported to have included the case of four Iranian diplomats in a recent report to the Security Council.  It is a 30-year-old case — 29-year-old to be exact — they were abducted in Lebanon these four Iranian diplomats and reportedly taken to Israeli authorities in occupied territory and no one has seen anything or heard anything of them since.  First, can you confirm that he spoke to the Security Council on it, if so what was the Security Council response to the Secretary-General?  And again, this is a 30-year-old case, but these were diplomats who were abducted, where would this lie on the Secretary-General’s priorities list as far as getting something like this addressed and solved?

Spokesperson:  I’d have to check on that; I don’t have details on that, and I’ll come back to you.  Iftikhar?

Question:  Yes, Martin, now that the Secretary-General has been re-elected, does he plan to shake up his Cabinet a little bit and bring in some fresh blood, or he is satisfied with the present team?

Spokesperson:  I think the message here is that it is relatively early days to be talking about what changes if any there would be, but I think the motto would be a mixture of change and continuity.  George?

Question:  Yes, Martin, there is an item in the [inaudible] that had last week dated Tuesday, the 28th, saying in Brussels the United Nations meeting in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace process will take place today and tomorrow; that is Tuesday, 28, or Wednesday, 29.  Do you have any results or outcome documents or reports from that meeting?  And just incidentally, is there any information yet on Monsieur [Alain] Le Roy’s replacement?

[The Spokesperson later said that the United Nations International Meeting in Support of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process, which was held in Brussels on 28 and 29 June, was one of a number of regular international conferences organized under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.  He added that the concluding statement of the meeting could be found online.]

Spokesperson:  On the first, I’d have to check; on the second, Farhan has already answered that question.  Yes?

Question:  Has the Secretary-General or any part of the UN had any comment on the riots that have recently taken place in Greece and in public continuing; and again the riots that are now taking place in England against the austerity measures that are being imposed by the IMF [International Monetary Fund]?  And has there been any comment made on the wisdom or lack of wisdom of those austerity measures, which are actually creating very serious social unrest?

Spokesperson:  No particular comment on that really, no.

Question:  Sure, I want to ask on Sri Lanka two things:  one is, there is this meeting till this afternoon with the opposition leader; I wanted to know, actually I wanted to know whether it is possible if there is going to be any kind of photo op for the… even the Sri Lankan delegates or UN Photo?  And I also wanted to know, just sort of yes or no, if the Secretary-General has now seen the Channel 4 documentary Killing Fields depicting war crimes and somewhat critical of the UN’s…?

Spokesperson:  On the first, UN Photo will certainly be there, and I know that you’ve already requested to the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit whether you can be present.  And I am checking on that.  And as for the other, as I think you already heard from Farhan in the last few days, a copy of the film, the documentary has been given to the Secretary-General.  I don’t know whether he has had the time to see it yet.  But as I have told you before as well, he has been fully briefed on its contents.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  I have seen reports that African Union in Malabo has called on African nations to disregard the ICC [International Criminal Court] arrest warrant for Colonel [Muammar al-] Qadhafi.  Is UN aware of this?  If it is, is there any reaction to that?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have any particular reaction at this point.  If I do get something further, then I’ll let you know.  Yes, any other questions?  Okay.  Yes, Matthew, last question because I know that Ambassador Wittig is coming soon.

Question:  Sure, I know that Young-jin Choi met with Laurent Gbagbo, and I think they put out a press release that he has offered him assurances of safety.  I just wanted to know what the UN’s, some people have questioned sort of what the legal status of Gbagbo is.  Is he officially arrested and charged in Ivory Coast; does he, being held sort of in limbo pending the ICC, what’s the UN’s, I understand the assurances of sort of physical safety, but what’s the UN’s understanding of the legal status of Laurent Gbagbo at present?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think that’s actually a question for the authorities of Côte d’Ivoire; and not to me.  I think you could ask the authorities in Côte d’Ivoire.

Question:  But isn’t it, if Mr. Choi goes to visit him, doesn’t he have some idea in his mind what the status of a prisoner is?

Spokesperson:  The point there was that Choi Young-jin was wanting to underscore the UN’s role in helping to provide protection, and also to underscore as I am sure you have seen in the press release that the United Nations believes that there needs to be dignified treatment, too.  And that’s where we would leave it now.

Thank you very much, and Ambassador Wittig will be here shortly, I think.

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