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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
26 February 2008

Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

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

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning held an open meeting on the Middle East.  It is now holding closed consultations on the same topic.  Briefing Council members this morning, the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, said the Annapolis process needs to continue and needs support.  But it can only be sustained by real changes on the ground, he added.

On the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Mr. Serry said the imposing presence of the barrier, expanding settlements, unremoved outposts, the system of closures and constant military incursions have grave implications for the human rights, economic life and social fabric of the entire population.  He added that, in Gaza, the deprivations of basic human dignity are even more acute and the sense of abandonment and frustration is palpable.  Mr. Serry said the security situation for both Israelis and Palestinians remains deeply concerning.  He said he was particularly alarmed at the number of incidents on both sides where children are being killed or injured.

Also briefing the Security Council this morning was Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, who recently undertook a mission to the region.  Mr. Holmes said he found conditions for the people of Gaza “grim and miserable and far from ‘normal’”.  He also highlighted his visit to the Israeli town of Sderot, which has been targeted by more than 4,300 rockets since 2004.  Mr. Holmes said the rockets are aimed at hurting civilians and clearly constitute terrorism.  Hamas must act to stop the rockets immediately, he added.  At the same time, however, Mr. Holmes stressed that, whatever the provocation and illegality of the rockets, the effective Israeli isolation of Gaza is not justified, given Israel’s continuing obligations to the people of Gaza.  It amounts to collective punishment, he said, and is contrary to international humanitarian law.  We have the full remarks by Mr. Serry and Mr. Holmes upstairs.  And both officials will head to the stakeout after consultations to take your questions and I’m sure we’ll be informed here and we’ll let you know.


Question:  My other question is similar to a question I asked last week.  It was on the situation, obviously, in the occupied Palestinian territories.  A senior PLO representative had said that they will unilaterally declare a State if talks with Israel fail.  And I know you said you’re not going to answer hypothetical questions, but what are the Secretary-General’s thoughts on the parallels that are being drawn between the Kosovars and Palestinians? 

Spokesperson:  That is a hypothetical question.  The Secretary-General will not answer that one, but you might want to ask -- I’ve been informed that the UN’s Coordinator for the Middle East Process, Robert Serry, and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, will soon be heading to the Security Council stakeout.  I know many of you are interested.  They should be there in around 5 to 10 minutes, so I’ll just take maybe one more question and then we’ll stop here.  Yes?


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