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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
4 March 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, and Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for Secretary-General


** Gaza

On Gaza, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reports that it is still concerned by fuel shortages.  According to UNRWA, 30 out of 87 ambulances run by the Ministry of Health and the Red Crescent in the Gaza Strip have been unable to function because of the lack of fuel.  In addition, all 140 water wells in the Gaza Strip have now run out of fuel, leaving all Gazans with intermittent water supply at best.  UNRWA adds that four of its schools in Gaza and Rafah have sustained damage as a result of Israeli operations in the area.

** Middle East

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, has expressed her profound concern about the upsurge in violence in Gaza and southern Israel.  She also said she was worried that several hundred school children from 20 schools took part yesterday in a Hizbullah-organized demonstration outside UN headquarters in Beirut.  Coomaraswamy said she was concerned by the participation of children in political activities, which can expose them to further violence and insecurity.


**Questions and Answers


Question: ... Second, I understand that yesterday you addressed the concerns expressed by the Egyptian Ambassador regarding the smuggling of weapons to Gaza.  But he also expressed another concern in that he said the Secretary-General “should know”, in his language, that Gaza is an occupied territory.  Can you address that?

Spokesperson:  There’s nothing changed.  We have always said that Gaza is part of the [Occupied] Palestinian Territory.  It is Occupied Territory.

Question:  And the Secretary-General understands that?

Spokesperson:  This is an understood thing in everything we say about the Palestinian Territory.

Question:  Michèle, given the situation in Gaza and it growing out of hand, and US Secretary of State Rice is also on her way, is the Secretary-General thinking about or advising anybody to call a meeting of the Quartet, so that the peace process is saved, which many say cannot be saved?  Is he making any extra efforts towards that end to salvage the situation?

Spokesperson:  You will be informed as soon as there is a Quartet meeting decided on.


Question:  With reference to your characterization of the Gaza Strip as still being occupied territory, I want to make sure I understand this.  The UN regards the Gaza Strip as being occupied territory even though the Israelis, apart from some incursions such as recently, have pulled out of the territory two and a half years ago?

Spokesperson:  Gaza is recognized by the UN legally as part of the [Occupied] Palestinian Territory, so that includes, as you know, the West Bank and Gaza.


Question:  In the statement on Gaza, he mentioned Hamas attacks as terrorist attacks.  Why is he really categorically clear about it, whereas in other areas, he doesn’t mention the same word terrorist attack, with the absence of any definition of terrorism in the United Nations?

Spokesperson:  Well, there are agreements on acts of terrorism, no agreement on terrorism itself; as you know, it has not been defined by Member States.  So, there is nothing more I can say on this.

Question:  Why he only used this term only when it came to Israel, but not to other parts of the world?

Spokesperson:  No, I think he has used it before.  I can clarify this and get other information for you, but I don’t have anything more to add on the issue of defining terrorism.  It is defined by Member States, it is defined by convention.  They never agreed on a definition of terrorism.

Correspondent: He did not describe Israeli attacks on civilians in Gaza –- whole areas were obliterated, whole families killed, and they were not considered as terrorist attacks.  But a rocket from Gaza into any Israeli territory was considered by him as terrorist attack.

Spokesperson:  I will take note of your statement.

Question:  It’s a double standard, isn’t it?

Spokesperson:  I will take note of your statement.

Question:  It’s not a statement.  It’s a question… [talkover]..

Spokesperson:  It’s not a question.

Question:  We need agreed a broad definition of what terrorism is here.

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General cannot himself define terrorism.

Question:  So, can how can he describe something as terrorist?

Spokesperson:  He has used the term in the context of acts of terrorism.  He has not defined an organization or anyone as being a terrorist organization, or as a terrorist group.  Yes?


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For information media • not an official record

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