DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
10 June 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. I’ll start off with an appointment today.
The Secretary-General is pleased to announce the appointment of Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria as the new Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, succeeding Sir Kieran Prendergast. That appointment is effective 1 July 2005. Mr. Gambari will serve until the end of the Secretary-General’s term.
Mr. Gambari currently holds the position of Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa. In that capacity, his functions include promoting the UN and international support for African development in general, as well as, more particularly, the New Partnership for African Development, known as NEPAD.
Mr. Gambari served as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission to Angola, from September 2002 to February 2003.
And, we have a full biographical note regarding Mr. Gambari, available upstairs.
**Statement on Darfur
I now have a statement on the Sudan:
“The Secretary-General welcomes the news that NATO and the European Union will be airlifting African Union peacekeepers into Sudan’s Darfur region -- something he has strongly advocated and sought to facilitate over the last six months or more.
“He believes this assistance will help to ensure the timely expansion of the African Union Mission in Sudan, and he looks forward to additional practical support and encourages donors to make good on the pledges given at the conference, which he co-chaired with AU Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konaré, in Addis Ababa in the month of May.
“The Secretary-General also welcomes the long-awaited resumption of the negotiations in Abuja between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan Liberation Movement, as well as the Justice and Equality Movement on a political settlement in the Darfur conflict.
“He urges all parties to make full use of these talks, under the able mediation of African Union Special Envoy Salim Ahmed Salim, so that an early political settlement to the conflict may be concluded.
“The Secretary-General emphasizes the long-lasting security for the people of Darfur can only be based on a negotiated resolution of the conflict.”
And, the statement is available upstairs.
Also on Sudan, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says a first group of internally displaced people have left the camps in Sudan's South Darfur province for their home province of West Darfur under a Government-run return operation closely monitored by the UN refugee agency and other humanitarian organizations.
Yesterday, 200 displaced people left Kalma camp near Nyala, South Darfur, on 20 trucks provided by the Sudanese Government. They are part of the total 30,000 displaced people, or about 6,000 families. The Government plans to return them to their areas of origin in West Darfur.
UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration are carefully monitoring the return movements and are conducting interviews with the displaced people this week, in order to make sure they are returning to West Darfur on a voluntary basis.
**Statement on Ethiopia
Concerning Ethiopia, the Secretary-General has spoken several times in the last few days to both Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the Opposition leaders in Ethiopia. He has urged a peaceful resolution of the situation and called for respect for the electoral outcome.
The Secretary-General will continue to monitor the situation closely.
On travel regarding the Secretary-General, he will be in Paris next Monday and Tuesday. On Tuesday, he will deliver an address at a major international event attended by international business leaders hosted by President Jacques Chirac, with the support of the Global Compact.
The conference, which will be held at the Elysee Palace, is entitled "The Business Contribution to the Millennium Development Goals", and almost 200 CEO participants of the Global Compact from over 30 countries have confirmed their participation.
The Secretary-General will also have official meetings with President Chirac of France and the Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy. While in Paris, he will also have a working lunch with French President Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He will also have a separate bilateral meeting with Mr. Blair on Tuesday. And, we expect the Secretary-General to be back in the office on Thursday.
Turning to the Security Council, there are no meetings or consultations of the Council scheduled today. Members of the Security Council will hold their monthly luncheon with the Secretary-General in a short while.
Turning to Iraq, the Secretary-General, in his latest report to the Security Council, says that a successful completion of the political transition in that country requires tangible progress in improving security and the living conditions of all Iraqis.
The report says that the drafting of a national constitution over the coming months provides a historic opportunity for Iraqis to come together. The UN Mission’s Office of Constitutional Support, headed by Nicholas Fink Haysom, is engaged with key members of the Iraqi Transitional Government. And in the coming months, the UN will further increase its efforts to maximize its assistance.
The UN is equally committed to continue its role supporting the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq in preparation for the planned constitutional referendum, as well as for the next elections.
The continued lack of a secure environment continues to severely limit our own ability for the UN to implement its mandate fully, and exposes its staff to considerable risk, the Secretary-General added in the report.
Turning to the UN Mission in Haiti, we received reports that one of its peacekeepers and three Haitian civilians were wounded, one severely, in a shooting in Cite Soleil, yesterday.
The wounded were part of a joint UN-Red Cross patrol which was gathered in front of a hospital when they came under fire. The wounded include two Haiti Red Cross volunteers, and they’re all receiving medical treatment.
And, we have more information upstairs in a note from the UN Mission in Haiti.
Turning to Côte d’Ivoire, the joint patrols by the troops of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire and the Defence and Security Forces of Côte d’Ivoire are ongoing in Duékoue and its surroundings, the site of recent ethnic violence. The UN mission continued helicopter reconnaissance in the zone of confidence.
Duékoue remains tense, but the situation there is improving, according to the UN Mission. Residents are gradually getting back to conducting normal commercial activities. And the reports we’ve received is that the market is open and people are moving about the town.
From Kosovo, Soren Jessen-Petersen, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of Mission in Kosovo, today met in Belgrade with Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and other senior officials from Serbia and Montenegro. He welcomed the continued openness and progress on dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, and underlined that the UN Mission in Kosovo remains ready to facilitate such a dialogue.
And, we have a press release available upstairs.
President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, James Morris, today called for greater efforts to eradicate child hunger and malnutrition in Africa, ahead of next month’s summit of the G-8 leading industrialized countries, which is taking place, as you know, in Scotland. President Obasanjo was in Rome for discussions with Morris, as well as to address the WFP’s governing Executive Board.
In celebration of the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, which is this month, as you all very well know, the UN is offering free guided tours on a first-come, first-served basis on Sundays during the rest of this month.
The 30-minute lecture tour offered during this promotion includes visits to the Security Council Chamber and General Assembly Hall. The UN Foundation is providing funding for the free tours, and background information is available upstairs.
Looking ahead to next week, at 10 a.m. on Monday, the General Assembly will elect a President for its 60th session. The President-elect will then hold a press conference at 11 a.m. in room 226, following his election.
The Assembly will also elect that morning other members of the General Committee, which includes 21 Vice-Presidents, as well as the Chairpersons of its six Main Committees. And, elections will be held, as well, for the Bureaus of each of those Committees.
And, today being Friday, we do have the “Week Ahead” available for you. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Has the Secretary-General made a determination whether he’ll be resending his verification team back to Lebanon to fully verify implementation of resolution 1559?
Associate Spokesman: No, I have nothing to add further than what the Secretary-General told you yesterday, I think, right outside of this room, saying that, obviously, this was something that he was looking at.
Question: Mr. [Terje] Roed-Larsen is heading to Syria tomorrow and he’s scheduled to meet with Mr. Assad, President [Bashar al-] Assad. One of the subjects, according to some reports, is to ask Mr. Assad to give him some maps, in order to demarcate the borders between Shebaa and Deir El-Ashayer. Can you elaborate on that and give out some more information?
Associate Spokesman: No, I cannot. Mr. Roed-Larsen will be meeting with the President in the coming days. He’ll be delivering a message to him, and we’d like President Assad to be the first one to hear that message.
Question: Stephane, I don’t know if I understand well, but is the Secretary-General ready to start again in Cyprus? Do you have anything to tell us about that?
Associate Spokesman: What I can tell you is that the Secretary-General is currently considering what steps to take in the pursuit of his good offices mission on Cyprus, following the pulse-taking visit recently by Sir Kieran Prendergast to the region.
The Secretary-General has been fully briefed on the concerns and views of all parties, including the concerns of the Greek Cypriots that led them to vote the way they did last year, as well as the concerns of the Turkish Cypriots about the situation in which they find themselves, despite the way they did vote last year. Any steps the Secretary-General takes in the pursuit of his good offices in pursuit of his mission of good offices will be based on his assessment on how best to assist the parties to find, as only they can, a mutually acceptable settlement that can be approved by the people on each side.
In this context, as is well known, the Secretary-General reported to the Security Council in May of last year on his mission of good offices, and the Security Council would normally respond to such reports in order to give the Secretary-General support and advice as to the future.
Question: As a follow-up on that, Steph, the Cypriot Foreign Minister put out a statement this morning objecting to at least what some in the press interpreted as the Secretary-General saying that he was going to resubmit the plan that was defeated by the Greek Cypriots last year. Is there comment on that specific issue because, as I say, there’s this statement objecting to the Secretary-General planning to resubmit the plan?
Associate Spokesman: I really have nothing further to add to what I’ve just said, and I can give you the text of what I’ve read after.
Question: On Iraq, the U.S. military commanders have rejected the Secretary-General’s report on Iraq, saying that there are no widespread human rights violations over there. Does the Secretary-General have any response to that?
Associate Spokesman: The Secretary-General’s report stands as it is. It’ll be up to the Security Council to debate it and to discuss it.
Question: Also, I wanted to find out about, I don’t know whether that’s within your purview to answer -– in UNICEF, I believe, some 13 officers have been suspended or removed. Do you know anything about that, or should we ask UNICEF directly?
Associate Spokesman: No, I don’t, but we should both ask UNICEF.
Question: On Mr. Roed-Larsen’s trip to Syria –- do you know when he’s arriving in Syria, and when specifically is he meeting with President Assad, and if, in fact, he will end up going to Lebanon?
Associate Spokesman: At this point, the trip is only to Damascus, and I don’t have an exact date and time for his meeting yet.
Question: In Iraq, how many international staff and officers do you have right now? I have another question about Sudan. Do you have any information about today’s meeting between rebel groups and the participation of Mr. [Jan] Pronk?
Associate Spokesman: No, I’ll try to get you some information on your second part, on the Sudan. On the first, we have, and these are rough figures, approximately 50 substantive people on the ground, plus a larger number of security people. The main office is obviously in Baghdad, and we do have liaison offices in both Erbil and Baasra that are up and running.
(It was announced immediately following the briefing that Mr. Pronk and his top political adviser are at the talks in Abuja).
Question: Steph, can you just give us a little status report on the Hariri investigation? And also, if you have a sense when the SG might decide if the verification team will return to Lebanon?
Associate Spokesman: I don’t know when he would decide that, but obviously it’s something that, as he told you, is being considered. On Hariri, nothing major except to say that Commissioner [Detlev] Mehlis is there, and at some point we will announce that the mission is operational.
Question: Steph, I wanted to ask about what you said today on the people from the Kalma camp returning to West Darfur. Is there adequate infrastructure there, or are they just going to dump them off? And, is the African Union going to protect them when they go back to their towns?
Associate Spokesman: Obviously, the UN humanitarian agencies will be monitoring these returns to make sure they are done in a proper manner, and as you said, that these people are not dumped there. But, I will get you more details on those exact movements.
Question: And on the African Union, do you know if they’re going to be stationed there?
Associate Spokesman: I don’t know about those exact spots, but I’d rather not speak without having the facts, so I’ll check on that.
Question: The Secretary-General’s meeting this afternoon with the G-4 Ambassadors, was this at his request or their request, and in either event, can we get a read out?
Associate Spokesman: Yes, you can get a read out, and I’ll find out who requested the meeting.
(Following the briefing, it was announced that the meeting with the G-4 was being held at the Group’s request. Regarding a read out, the Spokesman’s Office understood that some of the four Ambassadors would be speaking at the Security Council stakeout following that meeting.)
Question: What is the purpose of resubmitting a report to the Security Council that the Security Council rejected last year?
Associate Spokesman: Well, obviously, for the Security Council to reconsider, to consider the report, and you know, it would only be normal for the Security Council to respond and give the Secretary-General the support and advice on the good offices mission.
Question: But, they gave that advice last year; they did not accept that report.
Associate Spokesman: I’m not going to hypothesize about what may or may not happen in the future.
Question: Well, is the Secretary-General asking the Security Council to take action or respond to the report, and then is it his position that he will take no further steps in pursuing his good offices until there is a response?
Associate Spokesman: I have nothing further to add than what I’ve already said on Cyprus, unfortunately. Yes?
Question: Steph, regarding the SG’s trip to Paris, did you say he’s having a joint meeting with Blair and Chirac?
Associate Spokesman: Yes, he’s having a working lunch with both the Prime Minister and the President, and then he’ll have separate bilateral meetings with both of them, as well.
Question: Do you know what’s on the agenda -– is reform perhaps ... ?
Associate Spokesman: Let’s see. Reform is always on the agenda, the G-8 summit, and development aid will, I’m sure, play high on the discussions as well.
Thank you very much.
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