DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
15 November 2007
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon all.
The Secretary-General has arrived in Beirut, Lebanon, where he told reporters upon arrival that he will meet with a series of Lebanese leaders in order to assist Lebanon in securing democracy. This afternoon, he will meet separately with Speaker of the Parliament, Nabih Berri, and the leader of the March 14 movement, Saad Hariri, before having a working dinner this evening with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
The Secretary-General said that Lebanon now stands at an important crossroads in its modern history. A free and fair election of a new President, according to constitutional rules without foreign interference, is a milestone in the development of Lebanon as a vibrant democracy. He asserted that the new Lebanese President should enjoy the broadest possible acceptance, so that he or she can represent all Lebanese.
We have his remarks upstairs.
Earlier today, the Secretary-General had been in Tunis, where he had addressed the international conference on counter-terrorism taking place there.
He told the conference that the United Nations 192 Member States made history just over one year ago when they adopted the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy as a visionary yet practical guide for international activities to counter terrorism. “However,” he added, “our work together is just beginning. Now we must implement the Strategy in all its dimensions.”
Before leaving Tunisia, the Secretary-General also met with that country’s President, as well as with the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Following his meeting with Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Secretary-General said that they had discussed, among other topics, Tunisia’s sustained economic growth, its progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals, and how to counter terrorism.
** Darfur - Headquarters
The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean Marie Guéhenno, after his briefing to the Security Council on the joint UN-African Union operation, known as UNAMID, yesterday afternoon, told reporters that the clock was ticking. If that force did not have the necessary capacities in critical areas by the start of next year, when it was due to take over from the existing AU mission, he said, it meant that “the mission in 2008 will not be able to really meet the expectations, [and] that it will not be able to make the difference that the world wants it to make, and that it may become a failure, so this is a very important moment”.
The Security Council President told reporters after that briefing that Security Council members underlined the importance of full cooperation by all parties, including the Government of the Sudan, and the urgent need for remaining capability gaps to be filled towards the formation of the hybrid force
On Darfur, the AU-UN Darfur peace process Envoys went back to Khartoum from Asmara, where they had held consultations with representatives of Governments neighbouring the Sudan, including Eritrea's president.
The two Envoys held a press conference at Khartoum Airport and said they were now stepping up efforts to encourage some of the larger rebel forces to find common ground and attend the second round of negotiations with the Sudan's Government in December.
The UN Special Envoy, Jan Eliasson, spoke on the progress of the peace talks, saying they had wanted to start in greater glory with a lot more people present. He went on to say that the discussions that now go on with such intensity in Juba, in Darfur and elsewhere, are because we now have at least the beginning of the process.
On Kosovo, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Joachim Rücker, today said that clarity on Kosovo’s future was critical for the communities in Kosovo and to ensure stability in the region. He also said he continued to have faith in a positive outcome to the Troika-led negotiations process.
On the general elections, scheduled to take place this Saturday, Rücker said that preparations were fully on track, and that the UN Mission in Kosovo was ready to help deploy mobile polling stations, in case certain voters were refused access to polling areas.
Rücker was speaking to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Permanent Council in Vienna. We have more on that in my office.
On Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the human rights rapporteur for Myanmar, today ended his five-day visit to that country, at the invitation of the Government of Myanmar.
As he departed, Pinheiro spoke to reporters, telling them that, among his other stops, he visited the Insein Jail twice, with the second visit taking place this afternoon, when he met some political prisoners. He also provided details of his meetings with Myanmar officials, the UN country team, monks, detainees and representatives of ethnic groups over the past five days.
We have a press release upstairs with more details on that subject.
The Security Council, following consultations this morning, began a private meeting on Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which it heard from Nikola Spiric, the Acting Chairman of that country’s Council of Ministers, and from the High Representative dealing with the country, Miroslav Lajcák. That meeting is continuing right now.
Also, we have out on the racks today an exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the Security Council concerning the appointment of Daniel Bellemare as the Commissioner of the International Independent Investigation Commission for Lebanon.
** Sierra Leone
On Sierra Leone, the Secretary-General has extended his warmest congratulations to President Ernest Bai Koroma, on his inauguration as President of Sierra Leone.
In a message delivered by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, Carolyn McAskie, he also congratulated the country’s people on a peaceful and transparent electoral process.
He added that Sierra Leone faced an era of hope; its people were looking to their new Government to consolidate peace, ensure sustained economic growth and heal ethnic and national wounds. The road ahead would not be easy, he said, but the United Nations stood ready to provide continued support, including through the Peacebuilding Commission.
We have the text of the Secretary-General’s message upstairs.
Yesterday, the Co-Investigating Judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia held consecutive adversarial hearings to examine the question of the provisional detention of former Cambodian Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith. After deliberations following those hearings, they decided to provisionally detain both of them.
**United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime - Cocaine
The head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime is warning that high demand for cocaine in Europe is creating dangerous insecurity in West Africa. Addressing the Conference on Cocaine in Madrid, Antonio Maria Costa said security in West Africa was “under attack” by criminals who are using the region as a hub for trafficking drugs from South America to Europe.
He urged cocaine users to take greater responsibility for the consequences of their addiction. And he especially called on celebrities to stop glamorizing cocaine use and the lifestyles of “stars turned junkies”.
In other news from UNODC, we also have an embargoed copy of a press release on its Afghan Opium Survey for 2007. That press release is embargoed until 4 a.m. tomorrow New York time.
**Food and Agriculture Organization
In its annual report on The State of Food and Agriculture, published today, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says targeted payments to farmers could help promote environmental protection and mitigate the effects of climate change.
FAO says financial incentives could be used to encourage farmers to provide carbon storage, flood control and clean water, as well as to conserve biodiversity.
It cautions, however, that such payments are not the best solution in all situations, as they could result in a reduction in demand for agricultural employment or increases in food prices. We have more information upstairs.
**Deputy Secretary-General Travels
The Deputy Secretary-General will depart for Israel tomorrow, to attend, as a guest of honour, an international conference in Jerusalem on “Women’s Leadership for Sustainable Development”.
While there, she will also meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, as well as with UN staff, and pay a visit to Yad Vashem.
Then, next Monday, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to the Occupied Palestinian Territory for meetings with the Palestinian Foreign Minister and Minister of Women’s Affairs. She will also visit a UN project there.
The Deputy Secretary-General will then travel to Geneva to deliver an address to the sixteenth session of the General Assembly of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. While in Geneva, she will also be meeting with local Government officials and heads of UN agencies and staff.
**Clarification on Turkey - PKK
Yesterday, a journalist posed a question on “terrorism by the PKK”. We now have additional guidance in response, which is as follows:
The Secretary-General fully understands Turkey’s national security concerns. In that regard, he continues to urge Iraqi authorities to do everything possible to curtail armed groups using Iraqi territory to launch cross-border attacks on Turkey. At the same time, he reiterates his previous appeals to Turkey to avoid any actions that might exacerbate an already tense situation in the region.
**Upcoming Press Conferences
Tomorrow at 2 p.m., there will be a press conference by Dr. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, Director of the Indonesian National Executive Agency for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Aceh and Nias, who will provide updates on the tsunami recovery efforts in the country.
This is all I have for you. Thank you. Any questions? Yes, Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Michèle, tell me, the Secretary-General is going to Jerusalem and going to Israel. He is not going to be visiting the occupied territories?
Spokesperson: No, the Deputy Secretary-General.
Question: The Deputy Secretary-General, but not the Secretary-General?
Spokesperson: Not the Secretary-General, no. The Deputy Secretary-General. The Secretary-General is in Lebanon today, and from Lebanon he will go to Valencia where they will have an IPCC release of their latest report.
Question: Okay. I have a question on Iraq, I wanted to find out, the United States is claiming that Iraq is now relatively, become relatively calm, less bombs exploding, less children, less people are being killed. Does the Secretary-General agree with that position? And is there any report by his Special Representative on the situation in Iraq now?
Spokesperson: Nothing new at the moment. As soon as we get something, we’ll let you know. We don’t have anything new at the moment, since we have had the last report, which you had.
Question: For quite some time, his Special Representative has not issued any sort of assessment of Iraq, has he?
Spokesperson: Well, he has recently, about I think a month ago you had an assessment.
Question: But since then?
Spokesperson: Since then no, we haven’t had anything.
Question: Thank you.
Spokesperson: You’re welcome. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Michèle, welcome back.
Spokesperson: Thank you.
Question: During his visit to Tunis, did the Secretary-General discuss the terrorism that struck the three Maghreb States: Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco?
Spokesperson: He did discuss terrorism issues. I don’t know what the details were at this point. We don’t have a complete readout of the meeting but we do know that they did discuss that. Yes?
Question: You mentioned, I forget what country it was for, a newly appointed female Special Representative. I don’t recall where, which country that was, if you could just detail that. And also, when can we expect a new appointment to succeed Mr. [Michael] Williams as Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process?
Spokesperson: Well, at this point I don’t have an answer to your last question. The first one, you can have it upstairs. You can have a complete summary of her biography and everything else, her CV. Yes?
Question: Yes Michèle, there was a resolution passed by the Second Committee asking for a report by the Secretary-General to be submitted to the General Assembly about the outcome of the World Summit on Information Society activities, a summit in Geneva and then in Tunis and I wondered where that request goes with regard to the Secretary-General. Who will be looking at that request and considering how to follow up on it? Is there a way I could get some information about it?
Spokesperson: The person who can best answer this question is right sitting right in front of you, Janos.
Question: Well, it went to the Secretary-General. I just wondered, in regard to the Secretary-General…
Spokesperson: It is a process. It is an intergovernmental process so it went to the Secretary-General but it has to… Janos will answer your question.
Yes, anything else? Thank you very much. Janos? You have a few things to say? Not very much he said, before starting.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
I don’t want to keep you too long. Originally, the idea was for me not really to brief since you just had the President here, so the only reason why I am here is just to flag a couple of things that I know that you are following, and it’s important because it’s happening today.
This is what is happening in the Third Committee. As you may know, action has started already yesterday on the draft resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty and regarding the amendments to this draft resolution. There were 14 of them. Ten of them were voted on yesterday, and four more were voted on this morning. None of them received -- none of those 14 written amendments, which are L documents available to all of you -- have received the necessary majority to be accepted. At the moment, I just came from the Third Committee, they’re looking at oral proposals from the floor. There were three or four of them. And they are taking action on that. So we’ll see where that goes. So far none of them, or the ones that have been voted on, have not received a majority. And then most likely what will happen is that the vote will be taken on the actual draft resolution, as it is contained in document L.29. Hopefully that will happen today.
And, if you look at the Journal, there are a number of other things scheduled for action today in the Third Committee. And I’m flagging that because I know that those are again things that you have been interested in.
One of them is action to be taken on the draft resolution concerning the institutional building aspects of the Human Rights Council. That is scheduled for action today. Let’s see if the Committee will actually have time for that. What is available for you upstairs in the documents counter is the famous programme budget implications of that resolution, which are finally out in a document, so you can read that.
There’s also an amendment to that, to that draft resolution, which refers to the code of conduct of rapporteurs. If you are following this closely, then you would have seen that the original draft resolution on the institutional building aspects of the Human Rights Council does not include a part on the code of conduct for the human rights rapporteurs. The amendment that is now out amongst the documents, and that will also be considered when this issue comes up in the Third Committee, includes a reference to this issue, meaning the code of conduct (Code of Conduct for Special Procedures Mandate-holders of the Human Rights Council). I don’t want to go too much into detail on this. Those of you who follow it know what I’m talking about. The documents are out there.
Also, there’s another resolution, draft resolution, that you have all been interested in, actually two of them. One is on eliminating rape and other forms of sexual violence in all their manifestations, including as instruments to achieve political objectives. That is also scheduled to be taken up today with its amendments. And there’s a new one, a new amendment out on that, I think it’s L.85, by the African Group. So there is some action on that, some movement behind the scenes, definitely. Whether, again, time will be available for the Third Committee to take this draft resolution up as well, let’s see. If it happens, it should happen this afternoon. If not, then of course as time permits tomorrow, if there is a meeting tomorrow. Originally the Third Committee did not have an open meeting scheduled for tomorrow, but then action will follow on Monday.
Also, I know that you’re following, again still with the Third Committee, you’re following draft resolutions on various country-specific aspects of the work of the Third Committee. Those resolutions are expected to be up for consideration, as far as I know, on Monday.
One draft resolution that I know that you have followed is the one on Myanmar. The reason why I’m mentioning it is because that draft resolution has programme budget implications, which is now out in document form, available upstairs on the documents rack.
That’s about all I have, unless you… oh wow, everybody has a question. I should have said I’m not briefing. Please go ahead.
**Questions and Answers
Question: On the amendments and oral arguments on the death penalty question. What were some of the additions, what are the nature of those?
Spokesperson: I don’t, I don’t want to take up all the time here. All those things are available for you there. Just look at the various different draft texts. They’re very small additional things. And then look at also, yesterday for example, if you look at the, the DPI (Department of Public Information) press release covering the debate in the Third Committee, it gives you a pretty good run-down of not only what the amendments were supposed to be about, but also the positions of the countries, because those amendments were introduced formally yesterday. So you get a good feeling of what they were, what they were about. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: I’m sorry, I missed the President’s briefing because of logistics problems. But had I been here I would have asked him this question that I would like to put to you.
Question: Does the President identify progress in the reforms of the Security Council, with commitment on the part of Member States to reform the Security Council?
Spokesperson: I would rather not paraphrase the President at this point because he, in fact, has two very solid statements on where things stand as far as the reform of the Security Council is. One that he delivered right at the beginning of the debate on Monday, and the one that he made as a closing statement yesterday. Those are available on the website of the President. They’re very clear and detailed. And yesterday, in fact, in my noon briefing, I did quote extensively from his closing statement.
Also, the President, and some of your colleagues here know, has been asked three or four questions on this. He himself mentioned it in his introductory remarks today to all of you, and then in three or four questions he went into detail as to where things stand on Security Council reform, which way he wants to go. And the press conference is available on the webcast, and I know that there’s going to be a write-up of that. So I would urge you, suggest, that you would look at that.
Question: I did read the statements. The problem is that, once you read the statements, you get the impression that there is actual progress in reforming the Security Council, while in fact we know that there is no concrete progress. So my question again is whether he identifies commitment on the part of States to reform the Security Council, the Council, with actual progress in reforming the Security Council.
Spokesperson: Well, again, I mean, please listen to what he has said today. But, I mean, obviously the President is going to work -- and he has mentioned this, and he has mentioned it today -- he’s going to work with the Member States. So if the Member States have shown and expressed commitment, he’s going to work with that and he’s going to build on that commitment. That’s what, that’s what his next steps are going to be, to put that commitment to a test and see where that can lead. Please.
Question: It was appreciated that he could come, and I just wonder, do you, will he come fairly regularly? Do you have any idea yet about that? That is a very nice thing to happen.
Spokesperson: I’m only a Spokesperson for this President, I don’t know how it was with previous Presidents, how often the Presidents briefed you. But I think the idea has always been for the Presidents to give you a regular update of where things stand. Definitely for this President, it is his intention to give you a regular update as often as he can in person, and of course with me coming as often as I can. Basically I’m coming every day, and I’m available. But yes, the idea is, and this is what we discussed with the President, is to be here with you sometime at the end of December or the second part of December, when the first part of the session wraps up. So to give you an idea of what has been achieved in the Committees, where things stand with various different issues and then what are the next steps.
Some of which he has already sort of given you, some with broader brush strokes, some with finer lines. But by December, most of these things again will be sort of more fine-tuned, with more of the details available. And I know that he’s very keen on briefing you regularly, so even as the first part of the session wraps up, when we get into January, February and onwards, he’s going to come on a regular basis. Obviously, if you have very concrete requests, very concrete questions for him, we can do it either through me, or I can, of course, ask him to come, or you can always approach and request an interview.
Question: Is there the possibility that the draft resolution on the programme budget implications will not be taken care of today because of the amount of work in the Third Committee?
Spokesperson: You’re referring to the programme budget implications as far as the Human Rights Council report is concerned? That is not taken care of in the Third Committee. What happens is that for the Member States to discuss the Human Rights Council report draft resolution, they wanted to be clear on what are the programme budget implications. Now that report is out, that talks about a little over $8 million that this, if it’s accepted the way it is, that’s how much this will entail. But what happens is, and I’m giving you a hypothetical scenario, if the draft resolution is voted on, and the understanding is that there will probably be a vote, because you have stressed this to me the last time we talked about it, not you personally but some of your colleagues, that Israel had openly asked for a vote on this, so let’s say there’s action, let’s say it’s in the form of a vote, let’s say it passes, then what happens is that the programme budget implications will go to ACABQ (Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions), which will look at it, make its recommendations, and then it goes to the Fifth Committee. And the Fifth Committee will pronounce itself on it because -- and let’s, please remember this rule -- no draft resolution is going to go in front of the General Assembly plenary for final action until there is action on the budgetary implications. So what we have to do next is wait for the Fifth Committee to look at the programme budget implications.
Now the next question, of course, that may be on your mind is whether the Fifth Committee is going to look at the programme budget implications of this draft resolution if it gets there on its own, or will it wait for other programme budget implications to come together and look at the whole issue in totality. Generally speaking, and don’t hold me to my word, but most likely what to expect is that the Fifth Committee will look at programme budget implications in their totality, which is, to me at least, quite understandable. Member States want to have a good solid view of what, in general, are programme budget implications over the various different possible resolutions, rather than going piecemeal. So basically, when all of that is in, they’ll look at it, they’ll make their judgement on it, and then finally action will be taken at the level of the plenary.
Had there not been, and sorry to keep you, but had there not been any programme budget implications, please also know, and this is -- for example, for the death penalty draft resolution -- how these things come up from the Committee to the level of the plenary. What happens is that the Third Committee wraps up its work, has a report that goes to the plenary, and that report contains all the draft resolutions that need action in the plenary. So in other words, draft resolutions from the Third Committee do not go individually, as they are sort of accepted, to the plenary, but once everything is done then it goes.
Question: Just with regard to process, is that alright? Process with regard to this resolution about the requested report from the Secretary-General, will it go through the same process? So the Second Committee would put it on its reports, and then the plenary would have to vote to agree to request that? Is that the process?
Spokesperson: We talked about this, I know, you’ve asked Michèle, you’ve asked the President. I will come back to you, but basically, if we’re talking about a draft resolution within the Second Committee, and I’m talking hypothetically because I don’t know the exact details, but if what you’re referring to is a draft resolution that calls upon the Secretary-General to report on a certain activity back to, possibly, the General Assembly, but since it’s the Second Committee it will probably go to the Second Committee, then what happens is that this will go to the General Assembly, if the action is positive, meaning that it is accepted. Then, of course, the request will go to the Secretary-General’s office to do the report. The Secretary-General will probably work with the relevant departments and come up with a report, which then will go to the sixty-third session, and in there it will probably be allocated to the Second Committee. This is the hypothetical pattern if, in fact, that’s what the request was about, because you have to put in the request, to say that we request, and I’m being again hypothetical, we request the Secretary-General to, the request usually is supposed to say not only what they request, from whom, but by when. Is it for the sixty-third session, is it for the sixty-fourth, when? So, and whenever that is due, that’s when it’s going to come up. And Mr. Abbadi?
Question: At the conclusion of the sixty-second session of the General Assembly…?
Question: Yes, this session. What are the plans of the President? Is he contemplating visiting any capitals? Has he been invited to, by any countries, to visit?
Spokesperson: In what capacity would that happen?
Correspondent: In his official capacity as President of the GA.
Spokesperson: The session, the sixty-second session will finish on 15 September 2008. After that, he’s not the President of the General Assembly anymore, so he does not have an official capacity in that sense. He has a capacity…
Correspondent: No, I mean the session.
Spokesperson: Do you mean the first part of the session?
Correspondent: This session.
Spokesperson: First part of the session? The session does not finish on 31 December. No, it’s the first part of the session that we may talk about. But the session, the sixty-second session of the Assembly, goes on until September. So if what you’re asking is whether the President has on his programme travels, visits, invitations to various capitals next year, the answer is yes. And he has mentioned that in the press conference. Yes, he’s invited to a number of different…
Question: Did he specify which countries invited?
Spokesperson: I don’t, I don’t have a list, but we can certainly look into that and give you an idea of roughly which are the places where he has been invited.
Thank you very much.
* *** *
For information media • not an official record
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