DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
10 July 2008
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon, all.
My guests today are Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Myanmar Dan Baker, both of whom will brief you on this morning’s launch of the revised appeal for Myanmar.
At 4 p.m. today, the Secretary-General will brief you here, in Room 226, on return from his recent trip to North-East Asia.
That press conference, it will be a half hour, will be followed by another at 4:40 by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
The UN-AU mission in Darfur reports today that the attack on a UNAMID patrol resulted in the deaths of seven UNAMID personnel, five Rwandan peacekeepers and two police officers, one from Ghana and the other from Uganda, and that 19 others were wounded, 14 military and 4 police, and not 22 as reported initially. Seven UNAMID vehicles were removed by the attackers. Two other vehicles were burnt and an armoured personnel carrier was vandalized.
The joint UNAMID military and police patrol team was on a patrol to conduct an investigation into the killing of civilians in the area when they came into attack. The perpetrators were aboard 40 vehicles mounted with heavy machine guns, anti-aircraft weaponry and recoilless weapons. During the attack, the team was engaged in a heavy and sustained fire, which lasted for about three hours, resulting in the loss of lives and severe injuries. A preliminary fact-finding investigation is under way, which will be followed by an official investigation. This is the additional information we have on the incident we talked about yesterday.
The Security Council will meet at 3 this afternoon in a formal meeting, to consider the future of the Sanctions Committee dealing with Rwanda. After that, the Council has scheduled consultations on the Middle East, where Council Members have been considering a draft resolution in recent days.
Yesterday afternoon, the Council heard from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, who said that if we do not live up to the commitments undertaken in Paris, then we will jeopardize the support that we depend on, both in Afghan public opinion and in the public opinion of donor countries. Also, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes briefed the Council on his recent trip to Afghanistan, telling them that humanitarian needs there are serious and growing. The Council President also issued a press statement condemning in the strongest possible terms the attack on UNAMID peacekeepers in Darfur, and stressing that any attack or threat against UNAMID is unacceptable.
** Middle East
The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, travelled to Gaza today to see how stalled UN humanitarian projects might be able to resume given the cessation of violence that was declared last month between Gaza and Israel. Those projects included housing, environmental and sanitation works in Khan Yunis. He also saw first-hand the effects that sewage problems were having on Gaza. Serry’s office in Jerusalem, known as UNSCO, says that the current lull in Gaza offers an opportunity to improve the situation there and that a resumption of UN projects could contribute to efforts to solidify the recent calm.
** Chad , Central African Republic
The Secretary-General’s latest report on Chad and the Central African Republic is out on the racks today. In it, he expresses deep concerns about the repeated rebel incursions into Chad. He says that the fragile security climate has impeded humanitarian access and that security will remain unpredictable without a lasting resolution of tensions between Chad and Sudan. He also appeals to the Government, the UN Mission and the European Union military force (EUFOR) to expedite the training of the Chadian integrated security team so that they can help protect refugees and internally displaced persons in the north-east.
Meanwhile, the situation in the north-eastern part of the Central African Republic remains calm following the signing of a peace agreement between the Government and one of the main rebel groups who had been active in the region. The Secretary-General is hopeful that this agreement will help launch an inclusive political dialogue aimed at addressing the country’s political and security crises.
A joint United Nations and European Union expert team is being deployed today to the Philippines at the request of national authorities to assess the situation of a capsized ferry containing large quantities of highly toxic chemicals. The chief of the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit stresses that, if not handled properly, this could be a disaster upon a disaster. The team, comprising a marine chemist, an eco-toxicologist and a civil protection expert, is expected to spend one week in the Philippines to help provide a clear overview of the situation, determine priority needs, and identify any gaps in international aid being offered and provided.
**Food and Agriculture Organization
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is warning that climate change could have a strong impact on fishing and aquaculture. The changes vary by region, but for communities that rely heavily on fisheries, any decreases in the local availability or quality of fish for food will threaten livelihoods, FAO says. Some 42 million people work directly in those industries, the great majority in developing countries. Fish is also the world’s most widely traded food and a key source of export earnings for many poorer countries. Already, fish species that thrive in colder waters have been moving into more limited habitats nearer the polar regions. There have also been changes in ocean water salinity, and the seas are also becoming more acidic, with probable negative consequences to many coral reefs. We have more information upstairs.
**United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has requested “reinforced monitoring” at four World Heritage Sites that are under particular stress. The sites are: The Port of the Moon in Bordeaux, France, because of concern about the visual impact of planned new river crossings; Timbuktu in Mali, over the possible impact of new construction near the site’s three mosques; the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu in Peru, because of deforestation, the risk of landslides, uncontrolled urban development, property governance and illegal access; and Samarkand in Uzbekistan, over the lack of adequate regulations on new roads and buildings that could affect the integrity of the traditional urban fabric. Seven other sites for which reinforced monitoring was requested last year when the mechanism was first created remain on the list. There is more information upstairs.
Over in Nepal today, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights along with the Federation of Nepali Journalists concluded its second capacity-building programme for journalists on human rights in a post-conflict environment. 25 journalists, including 10 women, from 13 districts in the eastern region attended the four-day programme, which outlined basic human rights information and engaged participants in discussions on how to report on human rights in Nepal. A third training is scheduled in September.
**Press Conferences Tomorrow
And, as announced, our guest tomorrow will be again, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, who will be here in a few minutes, who will brief you at that time, tomorrow, on the crisis in the Horn of Africa. He will be here shortly. That’s all I have for you today.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Michèle, tomorrow is the thirteenth anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. Does the United Nations plan to do anything to commemorate anything on that? Will the Secretary-General mention that? Basically, what’s going to happen? Is anybody going to address that or not?
Spokesperson: I don’t have that yet for you but I will get you the information for you on what specifically is being done. As you know, we did talk about the fact that when there was a request from the mothers of Srebrenica, that we felt the UN will not rest until it can efficiently participate in the prevention of such tragedies as that which occurred there. And we also said that we won’t rest until those indicted for having planned, orchestrated and carried out the attacks were brought to justice. And I don’t know what the Secretary-General will be doing tomorrow on that issue but I will let you know.
Question: Any comment on the second missile test today by Iran?
Spokesperson: No, we don’t have any comments on that.
Question: On Darfur, Michèle, did the initial investigations into the incidents of the killings that happened yesterday, did it show anything about who was behind the operation?
Spokesperson: You are talking about which killings?
Question: The killing of the five or six of the UNAMID force in Sudan. Did the initial investigation show anything about who was behind the attack? And also, how far does Mr. Ban Ki-moon feel that these repeated incidents of attacks on UNAMID in Darfur are happening because UNAMID is ill equipped and still lacks a lot of military equipment?
Spokesperson: The initial information that we have we gave to you. The way it happened was very concerning. We have an investigation going on, but we don’t have data on who did it, on who the culprits are.
Question: In a former issue of The New York Times, there was an article by a former deputy investigator into the peacekeepers in the Congo and he alleged that the United Nations had failed to take action against those responsible, those involved in gun smuggling in the Congo, the Pakistani and Indian peacekeepers.
Spokesperson: As you know and as I’ve mentioned several times here, whenever there is a situation in which peacekeepers are either considered responsible for any act in any country, on any mission, whether it be MONUC or any other mission, the follow-up action has to be taken by the country of those peacekeepers, in this specific case, by the peacekeepers who were actually suspected of having participated in the traffic.
Question: Mr. Gambari was due to go to Burma this month. When is he going and is he going also to other countries in the region?
Spokesperson: I don’t know yet. We don’t have a specific date for him. As you know, he has a standing invitation. However, he hasn’t decided on a date yet, because, as you can understand, it requires quite a bit of preparation before he goes there.
Question: Is it this month or next month?
Spokesperson: I don’t know yet. I don’t have a specific date, sorry.
Question: About Pakistan, and I’m sorry if I missed it, but is there any reaction into the requested investigation into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto?
Spokesperson: The question has been asked several times while you were away, on a regular basis, and my answer has been that the Secretary-General is considering the request by Pakistan and right now it is still being studied by our legal affairs group. And the Secretary-General is meeting this afternoon again with the Foreign Minister, and this will be one of the issues that will be discussed.
Question: Right, but I thought today would be the day that he’s going to give his answer to the Foreign Minister.
Spokesperson: I cannot say that. I cannot confirm that.
Question: A question on Mr. Gambari. Can you confirm that he has resigned from his role in the Niger Delta peace talks and if so, does anyone have a comment on that?
Spokesperson: As you know, his role in the Niger Delta peace talks is a role that he’s undertaking on his own. And he’s on leave with the UN when he’s undertaking that role. So whatever happens in that situation we cannot comment on.
Question: But will he tell the UN when that role no longer exists?
Spokesperson: Of course he will.
Question: Has he told you yet?
Spokesperson: Not that I know of. Okay, thank you. I’m going to invite Mr. Holmes and Mr. Baker to come up right now.
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For information media • not an official record
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