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

28 September 2011

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

28 September 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 Nihal Saad, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon everybody.

**Security Council

In a formal meeting this morning, the Security Council agreed to send the application received last Friday from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the Standing Committee on new admissions.  The Standing Committee will hold its first meeting on the matter this Friday at 10 a.m. in Conference Room 1.

This afternoon, the Security Council has scheduled closed consultations on Kosovo.

**Middle East

Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, expressed his concern at the decision taken yesterday by Israeli authorities to advance planning for a large number of new settlement units in East Jerusalem.

He said the decision ignores the Quartet’s appeal of last Friday to the parties to refrain from provocative actions.  This sends the wrong signal at this sensitive time.  Mr. Serry added that settlement activity is contrary to the road map and to international law, and undermines the prospect of resuming negotiations and reaching a two-State solution to the conflict.

And you’ll recall that the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, told the Security Council yesterday that the latest settlement decision was of particular concern.


The Secretary-General spoke at a counter-terrorism event this morning, noting that 10 years ago today, the Security Council took a momentous step against the threat posed by terrorism to international peace and security.

The adoption of resolution 1373 (2001) was a milestone in the strong leadership of the United Nations in combating terrorism globally.  Five years later, the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy was unanimously adopted.

The Secretary-General stressed that terrorism is still as potent a threat today as it was a decade ago.  He welcomed the Council’s resolve to ensure that no effort is spared to strengthen international action against this global peril.  The Secretary-General’s full remarks are available on our website.


The Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, is starting a three-day visit to Haiti today.  She will review the humanitarian situation and assistance being provided to people affected by the earthquake of January last year and the cholera epidemic.  In Port-au-Prince, Ms. Amos is scheduled to meet internally displaced communities, President Michel Martelly and key humanitarian officials.


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that in Somalia, 4 million people are in crisis, 3 million of them in the country’s south.  Some 750,000 people are at risk of dying in the next four months.  More than 1,000 Somalis continue to arrive in Kenya every day, with the Dadaab camp hosting nearly 450,000 people.  By the third week of this month, food supplies are estimated to have reached some 1.85 million people – nearly half of those who need food assistance.  And there is more information on this online.


The Group of Friends of the Secretary-General on Myanmar met at the ministerial level yesterday afternoon, and the Secretary-General issued a press statement afterwards.  In it, he said that the Group recognized the significance of recent developments in Myanmar and welcomed President Thein Sein’s pledge for Myanmar to “catch up with the changing world”. 

The Secretary-General said that real opportunities for progress exist, but the Government must step up its efforts for reform if it is to bring about an inclusive — and irreversible — transition.  In particular, he said, the authorities must cultivate improved dialogue with all political actors and release all remaining political prisoners.  His full statement is online.

**Press Conference Today

I am pleased to note that Nihal Saad, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, is here in this room and she will brief you after this.

And then at 3 p.m., there will be a press conference to mark the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Security Council resolution 1373 (2001).  Speakers will include Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, the Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations and Chair of the Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee, and Assistant Secretary-General Mike Smith, Head of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED).

So, I am happy to take questions before I then hand over to Nihal.  So, please, questions.  Yes, Tim?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Some press reports have said that the Secretary-General had a rather stormy meeting with the Syrian Foreign Minister [inaudible] this week, and [inaudible] we could have a very brief report on that.  Could you comment on that?

Spokesperson:  Well, I wasn’t in the meeting, but I checked with those who were.  And I think it would be accurate to say that there was a long and frank exchange of views.  The meeting focused on Syria, and not on other topics.  The Secretary-General has repeatedly and publicly called for the violence to stop and reforms to start.  And he did that again yesterday.  I shouldn’t read too much into the length of the readout itself, but sometimes less is more.  Yes?

Question:  Martin, about this latest report that in India the movement of the Kashmiri militants has begun against the… against the Indian forces and eight Indian, eight Kashmiris were killed in India [inaudible].  This is a report which is published in the New York Times, I think attributed by AP or something.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about this?

Spokesperson:  We’re aware of the reports, but I don’t have anything at the moment.  Should that change, I’ll let you know. 

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Okay.  Yes?  And I think I know what the question is, but…

Question:  We have the same question [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  You have the same question?  I’ll need to check…

Question:  Can I repeat it for the colleagues…?

Spokesperson:  Please repeat what the question is, because otherwise it looks simply as though we have some inside track.  Please do.

Question:  Yes, well, the Italian press, we asked you if there was any reaction or extra information on the situation of these Tunisian migrants who were removed by… from the camp on the island of… Stefan…?

Correspondent:  Lampedusa.

Spokesperson:  Lampedusa, yes.

Question:  …and transferred by boat to the port of Palermo in Sicily and stuck there.  I think this is the fourth day.  There are hundreds of people — someone said 700, the Italian Government says only 300 — and there are two boats, and they are there.  Is there any official reaction about that?

Spokesperson:  These are serious reports.  I have asked for some information from our colleagues who deal with this, notably UNHCR, the refugee agency, and as soon as we have something, we’ll let you know.  But I don’t have anything at the moment.  I am going to chase it again right after this.

Question:  [inaudible] they already started repatriation, by plane.

Spokesperson:  Who is they, who is they?

Question:  The Italian Government started the repatriation of those Tunisians by plane from Palermo and also from Cagliari.  I mean, another boat was sent to Cagliari in Sardinia and that, so it looks like the decision is to, from the ships, put those immigrants on the planes and repatriate them to Tunisia.  But, so at this point the question is, is this what the UN expects from… how to handle a situation like this?  Whether up…

Spokesperson:  As I say, this is certainly something that our colleagues at UNHCR, the refugee agency, would be looking at.  And as soon as I have something from them, then I’ll make sure that you have it too.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  The Secretary-General had a meeting with the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] this morning, and I am wondering if you could tell us what was discussed at the meeting and what was planned for discussion and if there are any specifics regarding [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s] nuclear programme or general North-South relations or Six-Party Talks?

Spokesperson:  It’s correct, they did meet this morning.  I am still awaiting the readout though, the readout from that meeting, I was not in it.  So once we have that — I understand the evident interest there is in this — as soon as I have a readout then I would certainly make sure that you have it.  Yes, Masood, yeah?

Question:  [inaudible] when does Israeli decision to allow [inaudible] in East Jerusalem is like in your face.  I mean, one side they say that there is going to be no preconditions.  My question is simply this, that, Mr. Robert Serry had now made a statement, Mr. Pascoe made a statement, why has the Secretary-General not weighed in on this — this is a very crucial matter — himself?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, Robert Serry is the Special Coordinator.  And he reports to the Secretary-General.  He is the… as I mentioned before here, he is also the UN envoy in the Quartet.  The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs was briefing the Security Council yesterday.  And as you know, he also reports to the Secretary-General.  I think you can take it as read that their views are expressing the views of the Secretary-General on this matter.  Okay?  Yes, and then I am coming to you, Matthew.  Yes, yeah?

Question:  My question is about Saudi Arabia.  So, in Saudi Arabia, a woman who drove a car was sentenced to be whipped 10 times.  And I think Saudis are violation of women’s human rights.  Is there any reaction from the UN about this sentence?

Spokesperson:  I’ll have to check.  I don’t know whether our colleagues in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have had something specific to say on that.  Let me check whether we have anything.  I would simply say that human rights are universal rights.  That means they are for everybody.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask about Kosovo and Sudan.  But first I wanted to ask you a follow-up about this incident with the Turkish delegation.  Were you able to find out the number of extra passes that was given to the Turkish delegation and by… whether it was by Protocol, because within Security. they continue to say that there was unprecedented number of passes and that this was in fact one of the causes of the incident.  How many passes were given?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know the answer to that, Matthew.  So, if I get an answer, I’ll let you know.

Question:  And also, I wanted to… you’d said yesterday that it was implied that Mr. Gregory Starr, the [Under-Secretary-General] for Security, wouldn’t give a briefing.  I was told that a David Bonji, who is actually the sort of chief, I guess of that… of the… Headquarters security, did speak to officers at a line-up, and I wonder, whether it’s possible that he would be an individual, if Starr for whatever reasons wouldn’t brief on the matter, why an individual, more, I guess, involved that’s spoken to other officers about it could do so?

Spokesperson:  I can certainly ask.  I think as you probably know, it’s unlikely, but I’ll certainly ask.

Question:  On… on Kosovo, I know that the… I mean there is a… I know that there is… there is a briefing this afternoon of the Council.  But I wanted to… to ask you.  There has been a breakdown… the [European Union] process between Serbia and Kosovo has been suspended today and what’s the… I don’t know if it’s the [Special Representative]… the acting [Special Representative of the Secretary-General or who is going to be briefing the Council, but is there, either there or here, is there some, you know, UN Secretariat response to the seeming deterioration of the situation in Kosovo?

Spokesperson:  I am not sure who is going to be briefing in the Council this afternoon.  But, I mean the Secretary-General said earlier this month that he would urge Pristina and Belgrade to continue this European Union-facilitated dialogue and build on the successes so far.  That remains the case.  And I mentioned that yesterday.  It is important that this dialogue should continue.  And he has also said publicly that they need to take practical steps to implement the agreements that they have already reached.  And obviously, we are concerned about the violence that’s been taking place, and the Secretary-General would urge all sides to make every effort to avoid an escalation of tensions and thus to prevent confrontation and violence in northern Kosovo.  And I can also tell you that the UN Interim Administration Mission, UNMIK, is working closely with all sides to identify a way forward.

Question:  And then… then just to switch to another country, in Sudan, the Government has shut down… has officially now shut down a newspaper called Al Jaridah and I wanted to… to… I know that there are… there are… I mean, I guess it… it has to do to some degree with reporting on the… these… these conflict zones of… of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, and I just wonder, what’s the… if there is a UN reaction other than [the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] or whatever, which I am sure we can pursue, but given the UN DPKO’s [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] kind of long-time interest and presence in Sudan, is this something that the Secretariat or DPKO or those missions or their… their remnants or Mr. Menkerios has any comment on?

Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll check if they have any specific comment.  But as we have repeatedly stated, freedom of the media is absolutely vital in all contexts, and that includes this one.  Okay.  Yes?

Question:  On Kosovo still, is there a decision to replace Zannier, I mean to be somebody at the place of Zannier has been taken.  And if it’s not yet, if the name is not there, I had the impression that the Serbian Foreign Minister and also the Russian Ambassador a couple of weeks ago said that there were some countries that had control… I don’t remember, I can’t quote exactly the words, but they said like the decision is delayed because there are some countries that are not… you know, they don’t… don’t give the freedom to the Secretary-General to choose yet the person who will replace Zannier.  And do you have any reaction to this?  I mean, what is there [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Well, when the Secretary-General has made the appointment, then we will announce it.  I don’t have anything on that at the moment, okay?  But as you know, the Mission has an acting [Special Representative of the Secretary-General], someone, and obviously the Mission continues to work in the normal way.  So, any other questions?

Question:  Can I ask one more question?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  In Haiti, there is a… there is a… a document has emerged of the Martelly Administration moving to create a… to recreate a Haitian army to patrol the border, essentially to replace MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] at some later date.  They have been briefing a lot of countries, embassies in Port-au-Prince about it and I wondered, is… has MINUSTAH been shown this document?  What’s MINUSTAH’s, or the UN system as a whole and all of its components…?  Is it advising on that?  Does it have any comment on it?  But more is it going to be involved in this evolution in Haiti towards having…?  Some peo… human rights groups have said there may be problems with it, but is the UN involved?  Is it aware of it and will it be involved in the formation of a new Haitian military?

Spokesperson:  Well, we’ve seen the reports on this.  And obviously, any decision on creating a force to complement the Haitian National Police for national defence and civil protection is in the hands of the Haitian authorities, and Haiti is after all a sovereign country.

Question:  Have they asked for UN help that you are aware of?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know the answer to that.  We can check.  But as I say, any decision of that nature would rest with the Haitian authorities.

Okay.  All right, thank you very much.  And I am very happy to hand over to Nihal now.  Welcome.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

So, how have you been? Busy week, uh?

Well, as you all know that the general debate, the annual debate of the world leaders, came to a close yesterday.  The [President of the General Assembly] last evening gave his closing remarks.  And the President of the General Assembly said that it was time to focus on tackling the range of issues raised over the past week from all the world leaders that converged here, from climate change and sustainable development, to United Nations reform and the application for a Palestinian statehood.

At the beginning of his remarks, as a matter of fact, he also paid tribute to the passing away of the Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Mathai of Kenya.  And we have distributed the readout of the statement that has been issued by the office of the President of the General Assembly yesterday, and it’s available on our web site, as well for you who have not had the time to look at it.

As you know also, this debate drew the participation of almost 111 Heads of State and Government, as well as a host of Vice-Presidents, Ministers, senior Government officials and one Crown Prince.  There have been a total of 191 States taking part at the meetings last week.  And the newest Member of course was South Sudan, and three Observers took part as well.  And the President of the General Assembly, Mr. [Nassir Abdulaziz] Al-Nasser said that coming together is only the start.  Working together will only get us to the end.  And probably you have seen his statement, you have had a readout of the statement as well, we’ve posted that on our website and it is has been distributed to all of you.

Before I start taking your questions, I would like to answer a question that I have received from one of our colleagues.  And it is regarding Palau.  And the question was about Palau’s request, actually to the, that the General Assembly seek a legal opinion from the International Court of Justice on the responsibilities of States under international law to ensure that activities carried out under the jurisdiction or control that emit greenhouse gases do not change other States.

And I actually responded to that procedurally, each Member State has the right to seek a legal opinion from the International Court of Justice, and through the General Assembly, of course, and the General Assembly would in its part trigger a vote and the simple majority is required at this point.  And then the [International Court of Justice] would be deciding on an advisory opinion, or would be giving an advisory opinion at this point.

So, that’s my response to that question that I have received earlier.

Any more questions?   Yes, Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [inaudible] just that now that the general debate is over, I think the… the… Ambassador Tanin who is in charge of these negotiations between Member States on [inaudible] Security Council has… had not had a press conference in a very long time.  We’d like to know where it stands, where this process stands and what does Ambas… what has Ambassador Tanin so far achieved or if at all anything has been achieved?

Spokesperson:  Yeah, as a matter of fact, there is a letter, and the letter is already posted on our website, because the President of the General Assembly has sent out a letter on 16 September particularly about that issue.  He was informing all Member States that he has appointed H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin, the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, to chair the intergovernmental negotiations on his behalf.  So, this is where we stand at this point.  He is going to be continuing doing his work in the intergovernmental negotiations.

Question:  Will, will Ambassdor Tanin be coming here any time to brief us about the progress [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  This I will have to check with Ambassador Tanin himself, and we will see what, I will get back to you on that matter.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you about… because of the… the President of the General Assembly’s… I guess what I… at what I at least understand to be his role about this incident that took place on 23 Friday, either during or just before the Abbas speech in which the Turkish delegation had a ramble, and/or run-in, or dust-up, or tussle with UN Security leaving one with bruised ribs, another taken to the hospital.  An apology was given by Ban Ki-moon to Turkey.  I wanted to know, first, what is the President of the General Assembly’s role in terms of delegations, how they behave in the building, their relation with UN staff, what’s your understanding of the event, you know, that took place?  I guess that’s an open-ended question.

Spokesperson:  Well, I guess this is something that has to be entirely, this is something entirely has to do with the Secretariat, and you’ve been asking Martin, as I have seen, today and a couple of days earlier about the incident.  He gave you answers to that.  So the President of the General Assembly at this point has nothing to add or to say regarding the incident.  It is being entirely handled by the Secretariat.

Question:  But I guess… I mean, not to, and I don’t want to, he is free to hear it, but I haven't really been getting a lot of answers, so I wanted to ask, like does the President of the General Assembly play any role in the credentialing of people to come into the building, because Security says Turkey was given 22 passes instead of the regular number?  And I wanted to know, what’s the… I mean what is the role of the President in terms of decorum and how the actual general debate runs, you know, that’s…?  I mean, I guess, I understand in the first instance I have asked, but I haven't gotten the answers.  So I wanted to know what your office’s role is in this.

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t have an answer for that, because as I said, this is something that is entirely handled by the Secretariat, and you’ve asked Martin the same question and…

Question:  What if two delegations were involved, would that be in your shop?  I mean, is it… is it… is…

Spokesperson:  Excuse me?

Question:  What if two delegations, as opposed to UN Security, if two… I mean, I’m wondering since this involves, you know, the behaviour, right or wrong of a… of a… of a country that came to the general debate run by the President of the General Assembly.  That’s why I don’t understand that you have no role whatsoever in this.  Is that really true?

Spokesperson:  We do not have a role at this point.  It’s entirely being handled by the Secretariat.  Yes?

Question:  Yes, it’s about the Security Council report.  I understand there is a letter posted and Ambassador Tanin was again reappointed.  I would like just to know if the President of the General Assembly, apart from the fact that there is this special envoy — if you want to call it — Ambassador Tanin was that already, but nothing happening in the last year, he has been reappointed.  If the President of the General Assembly thinks that he will assume a new role, maybe, in the discussion with the countries that push for this reform; we know what countries are — India, Germany, Brazil, Japan, and other countries [inaudible] the so-called united for consensus that looks like they want to stop… Well, they don’t say they want to stop, but they have been the ones that slow down the process.  I would like to know if the new President of the General Assembly thinks that he should assume a new role, or he just wait for Ambassador Tanin to figure out and then he will…?

Spokesperson:  Perhaps if you go back to the speech on… the closing remarks and before, the President of the General Assembly has made himself clear about where he stands regarding this issue in particular.  He is not going to be assuming a new role, as you are alluding, but as I said that he is… has… he has placed his full confidence in Ambassador Tanin, and he is hoping that the intergovernmental… he is going to be pushing the intergovernmental negotiations forward and this is the basis of any steps forward in this regard when it comes to the UN Security Council reform.  So, the process is going to be forthcoming, but it is basically built on the consensus, the will of the Member States.  And it is the collective will of the Member States.  So this is what I have to tell you as far as this point is concerned.

Any more questions?  Okay then, thank you.

* *** *

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