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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

7 October 2009

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon, all.


I know a number of you have been asking in recent days about the UN role in the elections in Afghanistan, and in dealing with allegations of fraud concerning those elections.

My guests today will discuss what we have been doing to assist the Afghan authorities in holding the elections and responding to complaints of fraud. They are Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet; Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber, the Director of the Asia and Middle East Division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations; and Craig Jenness, Director of the Electoral Assistance Division of the Department of Political Affairs. We will also have the briefing by the Spokesperson of the President of the General Assembly right after our guests.

** Madagascar

Yesterday in Antananarivo, Tiébilé Dramé, the UN Special Envoy, read a communiqué from the International Contact Group on Madagascar expressing support for the Government of Madagascar’s request that sanctions imposed on the country be lifted. The communiqué also endorsed Madagascar’s request for international financial assistance, support for the political transition, including preparations for agreed-upon elections, as well as support for development and other aid projects.

We have the full text of the original French-language communiqué upstairs. And we will have a statement on this shortly. I hope before the end of this briefing.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding consultations at 4 p.m., to discuss a letter from Libya’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations. That letter requests an urgent meeting of the Security Council to discuss the fact-finding mission headed by Justice Richard Goldstone that looked into the violence in Gaza.

** Cyprus

Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat met today under UN auspices in Nicosia. The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, spoke to the press afterwards. He noted that the leaders mainly discussed the issue of governance, the presidency and related items. He added that the leaders will be meeting again tomorrow to continue the discussion on governance. They will also meet next Wednesday and Thursday as well.

Regarding the climate at today’s meeting, Downer called it “very friendly” and “very easy-going”. Asked about his personal links to Cyprus, Downer responded, “None of us in the United Nations are here to inject ourselves into the process as personalities of the process. […] We are not local people, and whatever solution Cypriots come up with, it won’t affect our personal lives because we will go back to our own countries and live our lives. We’ve come here to help. We have moved from our homes and our families to try and help here and help to do this job for the United Nations. It’s part of the wonderful work that the United Nations does all around the world.”

And you can read his full quote in the transcript we have upstairs.

** Honduras

Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, today arrived in the capital of Honduras as part of a high-level mission led by the Organization of American States (OAS). The aim of the mission is to promote dialogue and the restoration of democracy in Honduras. The UN's participation in the mission is at the invitation of the OAS.

In related news, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Koïchiro Matsuura, today welcomed the declaration by the de facto government of Honduras that it is lifting an emergency decree, which restricted freedom of expression. The UNESCO chief added that open and informed debate is an important condition for democracy and good governance. We have more on that upstairs.

** Lebanon

The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, met today with Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh, and he told reporters afterwards that the United Nations is very pleased by the calm that has been restored in south Lebanon and by the statements of commitment to resolution 1701 (2008) from all sides concerned.

However, he said, he and the Foreign Minister agreed that more needs to be done to move towards a longer-term ceasefire which would help confirm the calm and stability that now prevails along the Blue Line. Williams also reiterated the hope that the current atmosphere of dialogue in the country will allow for the formation of a national unity government as soon as possible. We have his statement upstairs.

** Gaza

Some of you have been asking for updates on the Gaza crossings situation. Right, Masood?

The Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) reports that, yesterday, 69 trucks made it into Gaza from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing. More than half of those trucks were carrying fruit, sugar, dairy products and frozen meat. In addition, more than 4,000 tons of wheat and animal feed made it though the Karni crossing. But the Nahal Oz fuel pipeline remained closed.

The day before, which was Monday, 80 trucks passed through Kerem Shalom into Gaza. Two of those trucks carried industrial diesel for Gaza’s power plant. Karni and Nahal Oz were closed that day. So we get daily briefings, daily accounts so you can have more information in the next few days.

**Renewable Energy

With only two months remaining until the climate change conference in Copenhagen, the Secretary-General has called on the 2009 Global Renewable Energy Forum to reaffirm the urgent need to shift towards low-carbon and resource-efficient economies.

In a message delivered by the UN Resident Coordinator in Mexico, where the event is being held, the Secretary-General said that everyone needs to understand the enormous benefits that green growth can bring in the form of new jobs, less pollution, better public health and improved food security.

The pursuit of energy efficiency and the expansion of renewable energy are not an indulgence for wealthy nations. They are a tool for all, he added. We have his remarks upstairs.

** Sudan

Some 40 years after it began operations in eastern Sudan, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warns that there are still no viable prospects for refugees there to voluntarily return to their countries of origin. In fact, according to UNHCR Sudan Representative Peter De Clercq, some 1,800 refugees continue to arrive there every month from neighbouring countries. Most of them are from Eritrea, with smaller numbers from Ethiopia and Somalia.

The UNHCR Representative also called on the Government of Sudan to work with aid agencies in ensuring the safety of humanitarian workers. He appealed for the release of two peacekeepers from the mission in Darfur (UNAMID) and two abducted female workers from the aid group GOAL.

We have copies of his remarks upstairs.

** Central Emergency Response Fund

The Secretary-General has announced the appointment of seven new members of the Advisory Group for the $450 million Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). The 16-member CERF Advisory Group provides the Secretary-General with expert advice on the use and impact of the Fund through the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes. The members include Government officials from countries that have contributed to or received funding from the Response Fund, representatives of humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and academic experts. You can find the names of the new Advisory Group members in a press release upstairs.

** Tonga and Samoa

Following last week’s devastating tsunami in the South Pacific, the United Nations Development Programme Director for the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, Jordan Ryan, is currently visiting Tonga and Samoa to ascertain additional support required for the recovery efforts. During his 2-day stay in Tonga, Ryan met with Government officials, donors and non-governmental organizations. He is now en route to Samoa, where he is scheduled to meet with the Prime Minister, Minister of Environment, and United Nations staff there. Ryan will also make a field visit to assess the damages.

**United Nations Development Programme

UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark is in Thailand, where she met with the Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in Bangkok to discuss issues related to climate change in the run-up to the Copenhagen negotiations in December. Yesterday, Clark visited a project aimed at improving the livelihoods of local fishermen by increasing the population of blue swimmer crabs. Since its inception, the project -- known as the Crab Condominium -- has increased crab numbers and doubled the income of fishermen in the local area. With UNDP’s support, the project’s success has been shared throughout Thailand and the region through conferences and capacity-building exercises. For more information on Helen Clark’s visit, please contact UNDP.

** Tajikistan

In Tajikistan, UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are supporting a nationwide campaign by Tajikistan’s Ministry of Health to immunize 2.5 million children against measles and rubella. The two-week campaign, launched 28 September, targets all children between the ages of 1 and 14. Health workers are carrying out the immunization at urban and rural health centres. Mobile vaccination teams are also visiting schools and kindergartens.

Meanwhile, an early recovery appeal launched by UN agencies and NGOs for Tajikistan in August following the destruction by the floods and mudflows of April-May 2009 has attracted $1.2 million in funding. But this is just 16 per cent of the nearly $8 million it seeks from the international community.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

And then just a heads-up: At 11 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference by the World Society for the Protection of Animals on the need to include animal welfare as an essential element in the sustainable development agenda. This press conference is sponsored by the Mission of Seychelles.

And at 1 p.m. tomorrow, as announced yesterday, some of the cast members and the Executive Producer of ABC’s Ugly Betty will be here with the Executive Director of Global Partnerships from the UN Foundation to discuss the Foundation’s “Nothing but Nets” campaign. They will talk about how the show’s new season raises awareness about malaria.

**Secretary General’s Statement on Madagascar

And finally, that statement came in, about Madagascar. It’s a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Madagascar.

The Secretary-General welcomes the progress achieved in Madagascar towards the establishment of a Government of National Unity. He urges the Malagasy leaders to quickly conclude the negotiations for the appointment of members of the transitional government and make the necessary concessions to ensure that the transitional process runs smoothly.

The United Nations will remain engaged in the mediation process through the Joint Mediation Team on Madagascar, chaired by former President of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano. It is committed to support the full implementation of the Maputo agreements and a rapid return to constitutional order through credible elections.

As I announced earlier, I’ll take just a few questions. Then we will have our guests and then you will have a briefing with the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President. Yes, Masood.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Just want to ask you, do you, does the Secretary-General have any reaction to this report published in the Washington Post which suggests that Mr. Kai Eide in fact sided with Mr. [Hamid] Karzai?

Spokesperson: May I ask you to reserve your questions for our guests coming to join us in a few minutes? Okay?

Question: Thank you Michèle. What does Mr. Ban Ki-moon expect out of this Security Council meeting on the Middle East today?

Spokesperson: Well, he doesn’t have any opinion on it. He’s waiting to see what the Council will decide -- whether they are going to hold a formal meeting and what they are going to do.

Question: Is there anyone from the Secretariat going to attend this meeting?

Spokesperson: Not that I know of, but of course, I will let you know if that changes. Yes.

Question: About this thing that you just said about update on the Gaza crossing.

Spokesperson: Yes.

Question: The thing that you… the thing that you gave me, I think, yesterday, thank you very much, it was given to me yesterday. Also, but is that the normal thing or is it just a trickle?

Spokesperson: We have been saying over and over again that it is insufficient. It does not meet the needs. But your question yesterday was how many of the crossings were open.

Question: Can you give us an update on the Secretary-General’s position on the Goldstone report now that he has had time to fully review it? Does he support the recommendations, which include, of course, the Security Council taking up the issue, which is what they are debating today?

Spokesperson: The process is going on right now. It’s in front of the Security Council. It was in front of the Human Rights Council. As I told you earlier, the Secretary General was waiting for the Human Rights Council to have an opinion on this. They are the ones who actually sent that mission out, so the Secretary-General has nothing to say at this point. We are waiting for the process to develop.

Question: Would he accept, if the Human Rights Council accepts this report and its recommendations, does he then automatically back the Human Rights Council?

Spokesperson: If the reports, if the recommendations concern what he as a Secretary-General has to do, he will of course follow it. Yes.

Question: Didn’t Goldstone write this and the Secretary-General just sent it to the Security Council?

Spokesperson: Goldstone submitted his report. It’s only if the Council, I’m talking about the Human Rights Council, asked the Secretary-General to do so that the Secretary-General can do so.

Question: Sorry, he didn’t ask the Secretary-General directly?

Spokesperson: He cannot.

Question: [inaudible] does this, Ban Ki-moon think this step would help or complicate the peace negotiations?

Spokesperson: It is a matter for the Security Council. Yes, Matthew.

Question: Sure. Michèle. Two questions. Iran and Myanmar, Office of Internal Oversight Services [OIOS]. On Iran, it’s… can you confirm that Foreign Minister [inaudible] when he was here complained to Ban Ki-moon about the United States taking a nuclear scientist of Iran while he was in Saudi Arabia?

Spokesperson: I’ll check what the readout said for you and I’ll check with someone who was at the meeting. I was not at the meeting.

Question: I wanted to just, on Myanmar, I was just down in the Fifth Committee. They just presented the OIOS report and one of the things that it says among many critiques is that up to 59 per cent of the UN funds spent through NGOs in Myanmar are not monitored at all and it says, she complains [inaudible] does that, that, this is a recommendation that was not followed as were other ones. When, can we get a briefing by Mr. [inaudible] and also by Angela Kane or whoever it is who decides to follow or not to follow the recommendations of OIOS?

Spokesperson: I can try to ask, but at this point, the process is right now in front of the Committee, as you said yourself. So we usually wait for the Committee to act on something before we actually do anything about it.

Question: Until December, I mean, when would this…?

Spokesperson: I don’t know.

Question: Alright, there’s just one thing. There’s reports of Burmese and Bangladeshi troops gathering on each side of the border. Is that something that the UN is monitoring in some way?

Spokesperson: I’ll find out for you whether we have monitors there. Yes.

Question: As you may, thank you Michèle, as you may know that yesterday there was a meeting between the DPI [Department of Public Information] and the United Nations Correspondents Association [UNCA] and other journalists in which Mr. Ahmad Fawzi offended all the journalists in, in the, working here, and he was giving some kind of evaluations to, regarding the journalist. Is, is it part of his business to do an assessment or an evaluation…?

Spokesperson: I’m sorry. This is an internal matter. It’s between the journalists and DPI. I will not intervene on this matter. Okay, thank you all, and I’m going to ask our guests to please come and join me.

Briefing by Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

I’ll be very quick, because I know that you have been here for a long time. I’ll be very brief, to tell you that Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, the President of the General Assembly, met earlier today with Mr. B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.

He also met separately with Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Also, another point, all Committees are holding their meetings in accordance with schedule, as you can see in the UN Journal. I would like to refer you to the Committee chairs if you have further questions. I’ve actually left in this room the list of the Committee Chairs and the Vice-Chairpersons. But if you have other substantive questions on specific proceedings that are ongoing at the General Assembly, we’ll be very happy to help you with some of our senior colleagues dealing with substantive issues. Yes.

**Questions and Answers

Question: What is the subject under discussion between the President and Mr. Pascoe?

Spokesperson: Well, Mr. Pascoe is the Chief of Political Affairs. As the USG [Under-Secretary-General] in the Secretariat, it is normal that, in line with items that are on the agenda of this sixty-fourth session, that the President of the General Assembly consults with the widest array of colleagues and stakeholders in the process. Yes.

Question: I wanted to ask you, I had asked you during the general debate about this Committee on Relations with the Host Country. In the past, the meetings, although there was some dispute about independent journalists being able to attend them, DPI always wrote up a press release of what was said. This year it hasn’t happened. I am wondering if that’s, is this a new, something new under, under President Treki or, what, can you give us a readout of what complaints were lodged in that meeting?

Spokesperson: I’ll really go and check if there has been a complaint and if there is one I’ll find out for you but on matters regarding the press and the reporting on the proceedings, I think this is something that I will check with my colleagues at DPI, with NMD, the News and Medias Division, to find out exactly, I don’t think…

Question: [inaudible] DPI. So I still don’t have an answer, answer, so I am trying to ask the General Assembly…

Spokesperson: I’ll check that for you.

Question: Okay. Thank you.

Spokesperson: I’ll come back to you on that. Thank you very much and good afternoon.

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For information media • not an official record

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