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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
10 August 2010



Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

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


DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL



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

Good afternoon, everybody.

**Panel of Inquiry

The Secretary-General has just begun a meeting with the four members of the Panel of Inquiry on the flotilla incident of 31 May 2010.  We expect to provide a statement after that meeting has concluded, to give you some details.  And also, the Panel will hold its own first meeting this afternoon.

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**Questions and Answers

Question:  Martin, Israel has threatened to pull out of the UN inquiry on the flotilla raid, following the Secretary-General’s statement that there is no agreement that the Panel would refrain from calling Israeli soldiers to testify. Apparently, Israeli officials are saying the agreement to take part in the probe was conditional on the panel relying on reports from Israel’s own military inquiry, not testimony from soldiers.  Could you confirm the Secretary-General’s position on this issue?  Was there an agreement?  Was there no agreement?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, as I mentioned at the start, the Secretary-General has just begun a meeting with the four members of the Panel of Inquiry.  That’s important to note.  To answer your question, the Panel is not designed to determine individual criminal responsibility, but to examine and identify the facts and circumstances, and the context of the incident, as well as to recommend ways of avoiding future incidents.  And for that purpose, the Panel will receive and review reports of national investigations into the incident, and request such clarifications and information as it may require from relevant national authorities.  For the conduct of its work, the Panel will decide what steps it will take and will work with the national authorities.  As repeatedly emphasized, the cooperation of the parties is crucial to the Panel’s work and today, the Secretary-General is renewing his call on the parties to fully cooperate with this panel.

Question:  But, that doesn’t really answer the question of whether there was an agreement or not that Israeli soldiers would not be called to testify.

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General spoke yesterday — and I don’t need to repeat what he said yesterday.  But what I can tell you is that, as we have repeatedly emphasized, the cooperation of the parties is crucial to the Panel’s work.  That’s one point.  And the other is that the Panel will decide what steps it will take and, of course, it will work with the national authorities.

Question:  Martin, could you…

Spokesperson:  Yes, Nizar?  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Would that be considered as the international standard?  I mean, if it is supposed to be independent and impartial etcetera, and adhering to the international standards, would this, I mean if it’s left to each national State to decide what happened, would that be international in this case?

Spokesperson:  It’s within the framework of the presidential statement of the Security Council and that’s one point.  The other is, as we’ve said, this is about receiving and reviewing the national investigations and then following up on that to ask for any clarifications or for further information.  It’s really important to recognize that this will work by cooperating with the national authorities and for the national authorities — the parties — to cooperate with the Panel.  And, as I said, the Secretary-General is renewing his call on the parties to fully cooperate with the Panel.

Question:  So, the whole role of the Panel is to review the investigations of each country?

Spokesperson:  No, you’re not listening to what I said, Nizar.  I’ve said that’s the first part of it; it then continues from there.  It will review the national investigations from both parties, and then it will request further information as required and seek clarifications as necessary.  And then, as we’ve said repeatedly, after that, it will be able to recommend ways to avoid future incidents.  So, it goes well beyond simply reviewing reports, it goes well beyond that and we’ve said that repeatedly.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  That still does not answer the question.  Has the Israelis informed the Secretary-General it could not participate with that condition that they have made?

Spokesperson:  As I’ve just said, the Secretary-General has just begun a meeting with the four members of the Panel of Inquiry.  Okay.  Yes, Ali?

Question:  Yes, after what we heard yesterday from the Israeli Prime Minister about the cooperation with the Panel, would you call especially Israel to cooperate with the Panel?

Spokesperson:  No, not especially.  No.  It’s about the parties.  And the Panel is meeting, as I’ve said, for the first time this afternoon.  And they will need to decide how they conduct their work, what steps they need to take, and in doing so, they will, obviously, need to work and cooperate with the national authorities; plural, not singular.  Yes, Benedict?

Question:  So, the first thing they are going to do is look at the national investigations, but second, they can request clarifications and additional information.  What exactly does that mean, request clarifications?  Do they go back to the national investigative boards?  Can they do anything else besides that?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I’ve said, they’re meeting for the first time and they need to decide how they conduct their work.  But they, first of all, need to receive the reports and, as the Secretary-General said yesterday, those reports, of course, are in the works. They are not completed yet.  Both of those national investigations, domestic investigations, or inquiries, or whatever they happen to be called, are still en train.  The Panel can, in parallel, start its work — it does not have to wait for the completion because there is already a lot of information available.  That information they will be collating.  But the point is, obviously, they will then look at the material they are provided once those national investigations, inquiries, have been completed.  And then they will need to take a view and it’s for the Panel to decide and they haven’t met as a group yet.  They are just meeting the Secretary-General and then they will be meeting as a group this afternoon.  It will be for the Panel to decide how they work and what they ask for.

Question:  Are they determining that today or were there any ground rules set beforehand?

Spokesperson:  They need to sit down and consider how they work together and how they work with the national authorities.  Yes?  First, then I’m coming to you.  Yes.

Question:  Just related to that, is there any possibility…  There have been some reports that the Human Rights Council might not go forward with its flotilla probe as a result of this?  Is there any credence to those reports at all?

Spokesperson:  Well, you’d have to ask the Human Rights Council because it’s a distinct body, as you know, but that’s not my understanding.  But you should ask them.  Yes, I’m sorry.

Question:  Yes, uh, there…just to clarify this…  I’ll ask you four or five very quick, brief questions that might shed a lot of light on this.  First off, when is the first working meeting of this UN Panel?  They are meeting the Secretary-General today.  I assume that’s sort of a meet-and-greet, but when do they actually sit down to begin?

Spokesperson:  Later this afternoon.  I said the Panel will hold its first meeting this afternoon.

Question:  And that’s separate from the…

Spokesperson:  Yes, separate.  Yes.  They’re meeting with the Secretary-General right now and then they will be meeting as a foursome later this afternoon.  As I’ve also said, we’ll provide a statement — a readout to use the jargon — of the meeting with the Secretary-General.

Question:  Okay, secondly, this question about Israel.  Has Israel communicated to the United Nations, or to the Office of the Secretary-General, that it does not want to cooperate with this Panel?  Has Israel actually communicated that or is it simply that Israel has reiterated their Government policy that no Israeli citizens will ever be interviewed by an international inquiry?

Spokesperson:  Obviously, we’ve heard the same as you have, statements in the media.  I can tell you, as I’ve said, the Secretary-General is meeting right now with the four Panel members.

Question:  But can you rule out that Israel has communicated in any formal way a message that they will not cooperate with this Panel?  Has any such message been received?

Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge.

Question:  Okay, then to follow this up:  does this Panel have any power to compel people to speak before it?  Any sort of subpoena power?

Spokesperson:  Absolutely not.  This is not an individual — this is not a criminal investigation.  We’ve said that clearly and repeatedly.  It’s not a criminal investigation and it’s not looking into individual criminal responsibility.  That is not its role.

Question:  And are there any penalties for somebody not complying with a request from this Panel to be interviewed?  Let’s say…

Spokesperson:  I think I already answered that question.

Question:  Okay, so and the last question is about the specific mandate of the Panel.

Spokesperson:  Okay, I didn’t count, but I think it might be more than five.

Question:  This is five.  I’ve been counting.  This is the fifth one.  The mandate of the Panel hasn’t been publicly revealed.  Is that something that you could reveal so that we could put to rest this question about what are the terms of operation of the Panel?

Spokesperson:  That’s not normal practice.  I think what’s important is that the Panel is allowed to do its work and to provide its findings and its own report in due course.  Joe.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  You always have to go one better, right?

Question:  Can you tell us who on the UN side I can talk to about the Turks and the Israelis to set this up?

Spokesperson:  What do you mean?

Question:  Well, before this was announced there was a lot of discussions about sides…

Spokesperson:  Well, this is done through diplomatic channels in a normal way.  But in addition, as I’ve said very clearly and on the record, the Secretary-General has also spoken by telephone with both the Israeli and Turkish leaders in the run up to the announcement of the Panel.  And that’s…

Question:  Is DPA involved?

Spokesperson:  Well, the people who would obviously need to be involved, and that would, of course, include people from the Department of Political Affairs.

Question:  They’re going…  It’s still to be determined what methods they’re going to use to seek clarification?  Amongst those methods could there be a request to interview members of the Israeli military?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t want to get into hypotheticals because they’re only meeting for the first time today.  They need to sit and discuss how they are going to work.  And in conducting their work, it’s going to be something that, as they move along, they will need to decide what steps to take.  So, I can’t sit here now and say precisely what they’re going to do, how they’re going to do it and when they’re going to do it.

Question:  Or what they can’t do.

Spokesperson:  That’s not something that I can say here now.  That’s for them to figure out in their meeting today.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.  And I’m coming to you then, Mercedes.

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Obviously and clearly this Panel will have a lot of work to do and they probably will need some kind of assistance from the UN.  What staffing resources are available, or will be made available to it?  And which department will assist them?

Spokesperson:  That’s being worked on.  At the moment, they obviously do need assistance, they will need assistance.  That’s being worked on now to find out who, how and where.  Yes.

Question:  Would the Legal Department would be…

Spokesperson:  That’s still being looked at — and yes, it’s still being looked at.  Yes, Mercedes, yes.

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For information media • not an official record

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