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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-02-23

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From: The United Nations Home Page at <> - email:






Monday, February 23, 2009

(The following press encounter by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon substitutes for the noon briefing today.)


SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON: : Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is a great pleasure to see you.

Today, I convened and chaired the eighth meeting of the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General on Myanmar to discuss the current situation in the country and ongoing efforts in the context of my good offices mandate. The Group heard a briefing from my Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, on the outcome of his recent visit to Myanmar.

The Group of Friends continues to express unified support for the continuation of our good offices efforts. Our Myanmar interlocutors have also indicated the importance they attach to the good offices work. My Special Adviser is prepared to extend the UNs political facilitation with both the Government and the Opposition to build on these efforts.

It would be disappointing if this were not followed now by meaningful steps in response to the specific recommendations made by the United Nations in the context of my good offices. This is the time for Myanmar to seize the opportunity before it to send positive signals.

In this regard, I note that following the visit of my Special Adviser, the authorities of Myanmar have announced an amnesty which reportedly includes some 23 political prisoners as of now, including individuals whose names Mr. Gambari discussed with the authorities during his visit.

I wish to reiterate my call for the release of all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the resumption of dialogue between the Government and the Opposition without delay and without preconditions.

I reminded all the Friends that they all have an important role to play, including neighbouring countries and ASEAN members who are best placed to appreciate and help address the challenges and opportunities facing Myanmar.

It is in the interest of the international community as a whole, however, that we should collectively find ways to encourage Myanmar to move towards meeting the expectations and concerns of the international community.

To that end, I am committed to make every effort to continue to implement the mandate entrusted to me, with the cooperation of Myanmar and the support of the international community.

Thank you very much.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you have a situation where it seems like the Security Council diplomats are saying they are too divided really to do much on Myanmar right now. You have disappointment over Mr. Gambaris last visit. You have a signal from the regime in terms of the release of political prisoners. Is it time then for you to use, Sir, your position, and go to Myanmar to use your personal influence to get them to move ahead?

SG: First of all, the recent visit by Professor Ibrahim Gambari made a positive contribution to our ongoing negotiations and consultations with the Myanmar authorities. I would welcome this announcement of amnesty as a first step towards a larger and bigger implementation by the Myanmar authorities. There are still hundreds and hundreds of detainees [held] under political reasons. As I said, I would urge again the Myanmar authorities to release all the detainees, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

I am willing to visit Myanmar again, to build on my visit in May last year. I understand, I believe that there are a range of issues of mutual interest between the United Nations and Myanmar that could be usefully discussed, including political issues. We have discussed this issue during this Group of Friends meeting, and I am encouraged by such a strong show of solidarity and support by the members of the United Nations on the continuing of my good offices role. We have a unity of support. But at the same time I would like to see some unity of approaches among members. This is what we are now continuing to consult with the countries concerned.

Q: Will you go?

SG: I will try to visit, but there may be some issues - first of all I have to discuss with the Myanmar Government, about timing, about agendas which I would be able to discuss, but nothing has yet been discussed. As a matter of principal, I am telling you that I am willing to make a return visit to build upon what I had discussed last May, including the political issues.

Q: Is it fair to say that you would like to see a lot more progress in terms of the release of prisoners, national reconciliation and more inclusive government action before you actually go to Myanmar?

SG: It is the expectation of the whole international community that we see the full democratization of Myanmar. For that to be possible, the Myanmar Government should take the necessary measures, on the basis of what they have committed, including the release of all political prisoners. The international community is ready to provide necessary support, socio-economic support to Myanmar, and there should be positive measures taken by Myanmar. But I would not say there should be any preconditions for my visit. This is a part of ongoing consultation and negotiations and efforts by the international community, and also entrusted to me by the General Assembly. Therefore, as I said, there are a broad range of issues which will be very beneficial for the Myanmar authorities to discuss with me during my visit, if that visit is realized.

Q: On the Canadian Prime Ministers visit todayyou met with Stephen Harper earlier today, Mr. Secretary-General. Can you tell us what you talked about with the Prime Minister of Canada?

SG: Canada is one of the very important Member States, sharing the major goals and objectives of the United Nations. We discussed how we can accelerate ongoing efforts to discuss climate change; we discussed the situation in Afghanistan, and I appreciated the Canadian Governments commitment and strong contribution to Afghanistan. We also discussed the current global economic crisis, how the international community, together with the United Nations, can address this issue, with particular emphasis on the plight and challenges of the most vulnerable countries. We also discussed how we can expedite the process of releasing my Special Envoy, Mr. [Robert] Fowler.

Q: Any reaction to the ICC [International Criminal Court] announcement, Sir, that they will issue the ruling on Mr. [Omar al-] Bashir on March 4th? And are you in touch with the authorities to assure the safety of UNAMID forces, Sir?

SG: The ICC is an independent judicial organization. This is their decision. I know that they have announced this morning that their judgment will be given on March 4th. I am awaiting their judgment.

Q: Human Rights Watch has said that 2,000 civilians have been killed in Sri Lanka since the beginning of the year. I know that the Tamil Tigers have written a letter to the EU, to the UN and others, offering a ceasefire but not to lay down their arms. Before, you said that you werent calling for a ceasefire because it wasnt on the Security Councils agenda. Now, having heard hopefully from Mr. [John] Holmes, what do you think should happen in Sri Lanka at this time?

SG: Mr. Holmes had a very good visit to Sri Lanka. He had meetings with many senior government officials, including President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa. The UN deplores the increasing casualties among civilians trapped in the intense fighting between the government and the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] over the last several days and would strongly support a suspension of fighting for the purpose of allowing safe passage of the civilian population trying to flee the conflict.

There is an urgent need to bring this conflict to an end without any further unnecessary loss of civilian life and destruction of Sri Lankan society. The United Nations renews its call on all sides to pursue serious efforts toward political discussion to achieve an orderly end to the conflict.

Thank you very much. As you know, I am leaving for Africa today, and I will see you. Thank you.



The Secretary-General strongly condemns yesterdays suicide bombing in Mogadishu which took the lives of 11 Burundian soldiers from the African Union contingent in Somalia (AMISOM) and seriously injured 15 others. He is deeply saddened by the loss of life, and wishes to express his heartfelt solidarity with the African Union and with the Government of Burundi which has shown commendable and steadfast leadership in Somalia.

There can be no legitimate justification for this and other recent attacks targeting AU forces that are deployed with the sole purpose of helping the Somali people bring peace and security to their country.

The Secretary-General believes AMISOMs continued commitment and sacrifice in Somalia must be backed by wider support from the international community so that it can effectively carry out its mandate under difficult circumstances.

The United Nations will continue its own efforts to provide the mission with critically needed assistance.

The UN Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, also condemned yesterdays attack and pointed out that the killings came a day after the Somali Parliament had approved the new Cabinet drawn up by the Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke. I am sure that this attack was carried out to detract attention from positive developments concerning Somalia, Ould-Abdullah said. There is a new Government which is going to be based in Mogadishu to help people focus on returning their lives and their country to normality.


The Secretary-General is honoured to accept the generous sum of $40 million as a contribution from the Emir of Qatar to United Nations humanitarian agencies for programmes to meet the emergency needs of civilians in Gaza.

The Secretary-General is particularly grateful to Qatar for allocating $10 million from the pledge to go to the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). CERF provides fast, reliable, equitable and targeted humanitarian assistance to emergencies around the world. The contribution is especially welcome as it comes at a time when global humanitarian needs are expected to grow in light of the interconnected challenges of the food crisis, the global financial crisis, climate change and intensifying armed conflicts.


The Secretary-General, in his new

report to the Security Council on the UN Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), says that the successful holding of provincial elections there last month was an encouraging accomplishment, which yields a more representative and inclusive political process at the local level.

He expressed his hope that the Iraqi leaders will embrace this opportunity and build a positive momentum towards national dialogue and reconciliation.

He adds that, in the coming months, attention is likely to shift towards the issue of disputed internal boundaries and the status of Kirkuk. The UN Mission, he said, is laying the groundwork with key interlocutors in Baghdad and the disputed areas as a priority.

He adds that he left his recent visit to Baghdad convinced that the expansion of UNAMI and its greatly increased activities have been welcomed widely throughout Iraq.


The mother of abducted UNHCR staff member John Solecki has appealed to the people of southern Pakistan's Balochistan province to help secure his freedom.

"To our friends in Balochistan, please help us find John and have him returned safely to his family, friends and colleagues," Rose Solecki, 83, said in an audio recording released in Pakistan over the weekend. "John has helped many people in Balochistan and now my son needs your help."

Solecki was abducted and Syed Hashim, a driver with UNHCR for 18 years, was killed as they drove on February 2 to the refugee agency's office in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan. Solecki was head of the office.


The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo Alan Doss was in North Kivu on

assessment mission this weekend. Doss was there to gauge progress in the situation on the ground, and he met with Congolese civil and military authorities. He also met with UN peacekeeping civil and military officials, as well as with members of the international facilitation team.

Doss was accompanied by regional representative of the UN Refugee Agency, which was taking the lead in the voluntary repatriation of Rwandan refugees and disarmed former Rwandan rebels and their dependents. He also received a briefing from Congolese military officials on the joint Rwanda/DRC operation against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).


The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has opened two new Information Centers in southern Rwanda.

The centers are among a dozen such facilities established by the Tribunal throughout Rwanda as a handover of historical documentation to Rwandan specified in the Tribunals completion strategy and within the framework of its cooperation with Rwanda.


The Human Rights Council this morning

concluded its 10th Special Session after adopting a resolution on the impact of the global economic and financial crises on the universal realization and effective enjoyment of human rights. By that resolution, the Council expressed deep concern that the universal realization and effective enjoyment of human rights were challenged due to multiple and interrelated global economic and financial crises.

Also in the resolution, which was adopted by a vote of 31 for and 14 abstentions, the Council underlined the urgent need to establish an equitable, transparent and democratic international system to strengthen and broaden the participation of developing countries in international economic decision-making and norm-setting.

The Council also expressed grave concern that these crises threatened to further undermine the achievement of the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals.



The Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting for the seventeenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development opened today at UN Headquarters. The purpose of the meeting is to prepare the groundwork for the May session, during which the topics of agriculture, land, rural development, drought, and decertification will be considered.

At the May session, there will also be a particular focus on the challenges facing Africa, where nothing short of a Green Revolution is needed to reverse decades of stagnant agricultural productivity.

Addressing the gathering today, Sha Zukang, Under-Secreretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the food security crisis, the global recession and climate change all threaten progress toward sustainable development goals. More integrated solutions that combine economic, social, and environmental elements are needed to carry the process forward, he said.


The Secretary-General will address a special event this afternoon on philanthropy and the public health agenda, and he intends to say that the role of philanthropists is crucially important in advancing that agenda.

He will say that we have a lot to learn from what we have been doing in the fight against malaria.


Today, the ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber I announced that it would issue on Wednesday 4 March 2009 its decision concerning the Prosecution application of 14 July 2008 for the issuance of a warrant of arrest against President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan.

The decision will be made public by the normal way of a press release and publication on the Courts website.

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

United Nations, S-378

New York, NY 10017

Tel. 212-963-7162

Fax. 212-963-7055

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