Question of Palestine home
3 June 2010
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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
**Secretary-General on Gaza
And just to recap, the Secretary-General, as you know, back from his Africa trip, yesterday discussed with all of you his consultations with concerned parties about the way forward on an investigation following the deaths during the Israeli operation on Monday. He is discussing with all parties, including the Security Council, the options for a prompt, credible, transparent and impartial investigation. The full transcript of those remarks, as you know, are also out and available online.
Today, his Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, said that he was deeply concerned at reports from Gaza that Hamas has broken into a number of non-governmental organizations’ (NGOs) offices in Gaza City and Rafah in recent days, and closed them down, confiscating their materials and equipment in the process.
Serry said that this targeting of NGOs, including UN partner organizations, is unacceptable, violating accepted norms of a free society and harming the Palestinian people. The de facto authorities must cease such repressive steps and allow the reopening of these civil society institutions without delay. And that’s a statement available for you upstairs.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Yeah, Marie, do you have any reaction, the Secretary-General’s reaction to Israel’s rejection, outright rejection, of any international investigation into the incident…?
Deputy Spokesperson: Masood, on this matter I think the Secretary-General’s transcript from yesterday still stands. He said he would be engaging in consultations, he had begun that process already while he was in Africa. He continued that yesterday and he asked, I think when he spoke to all of you he said that these consultations will be ongoing, that it may take a while before getting back to you. So, no, he will not be commenting on all the news reports that you read about the subject.
Question: Marie, I was not here yesterday, but I was watching carefully what Secretary-General, over the live TV, what he has said. And when you just mention prompt, and he said that yesterday. What does it mean? What is his feeling of urgency, beside the public, strong public condemnation statement that he issued, etcetera? Is he willing to go a little bit more forward and have something more personal, calling the Prime Minister of Israel and asking him for lifting the siege, I mean the blockade, of Gaza, and then follow up on that?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think all of those issues were addressed by the Secretary-General when he spoke to you and your colleagues at the stakeout yesterday. I mean, he has been continuously calling for the lifting of the blockade; that is a known fact. Yesterday, in terms of the investigation, I think he told you that he had begun consultations the minute he got off the airplane from Africa. He met with, he started with, you know, telephone calls. He talked with the United States Secretary of State, he met with members of the Security Council, including the President of the Security Council, he met with Israeli and Turkish Ambassadors and the entire Arab group. And when he was asked numerous times at the stakeout about the way ahead, he said that this is a process that he would not be able to talk about openly and that, you know, he wants to make sure that, given the decisions taken by both the Human Rights Council and the Security Council here, that he has to continue talking with the concerned parties to come up with the best way forward. Yes?
Question: A follow-up on my question [inaudible]?
Deputy Spokesperson: Sure.
Question: Marie, in the mean time, while Secretary-General was speaking to my colleagues, we have also reports that the Israeli Prime minister is calling these calls for lifting the blockade hypocrisy. On the other hand, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is saying that these Israeli policies are unsustainable. What is his feeling, the Secretary-General’s feeling, on this?
Deputy Spokesperson: Erol, again, I have nothing beyond what the Secretary-General said to you yesterday afternoon on this. Talk Radio?
Question: Marie, just a request, could we get — considering this is a follow-up to the South Korea — could we get someone to speak to us at some point, and not at the Korea Society where it’s a closed meeting, but where we could actually hear from the South Koreans on what is taking place? Just as a request, because it is something that is very pressing, and since that call was made in Geneva today that they’re basically declaring near war, it would be important to get someone here to tell us exactly what’s going on besides just a readout from a meeting the Secretary-General had. And the follow-up question that I am having about the Gaza situation is that I heard recent reports that, this morning, that certain food products are being allowed into Gaza and the Israelis are actually preventing other food products from getting in. Is there an update on that? Has UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] made any specific statement about why certain food products are allowed to get in and certain items are not?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, that’s something that we can certainly, you can address directly to UNRWA. We have asked UNRWA as well as UNSCO [Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East] for an update on the humanitarian situation, because, as you know, the Secretary-General again mentioned this to you yesterday, but both Mr. Serry and Mr Grandi have been tasked, in addition to their regular duties on the ground, they have also been tasked to see how they can get the humanitarian aid from the flotilla out to Gaza. And that is something that they are undertaking. And again, I would refer you to the remarks by the Secretary-General on that issue in which I think he makes pretty clear about that his envoys are working on this, but that they will, this aid needs to get to its destination without any strings attached. So, this is something that they are working very hard on the ground.
Question: Just a follow-up. Food was never an issue, I mean, food was never, like Israelis allowed the food to get in, it was other equipment…
Deputy Spokesperson: On that issue, as I said, we will follow up with others.
Question: Okay. Now they’re implementing…
Deputy Spokesperson: I just want to paint the bigger picture of what they’re working on in addition to their regular, that would be part of their regular duties dealing with what can and what cannot go into Gaza.
Question: I’m just trying to see if there is a connection between the investigation on the flotilla and now eliminating certain food items from getting in, because that was never…
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, you can also ask the Israelis what they’re letting in and what they’re not, in addition to UNRWA. Yes, in the back?
Question: Marie, the Secretary-General made first remarks to the Israeli attack to the ships on, when he was in Kampala. And he said he was shocked, and used very negative terms in regard to this raid, middle of the night. Now, yesterday’s press conference, his tone was smoothed down and then he was calling the raid as that, even a few times. Was he urged by someone, by some power to [inaudible] his statement in regard to the raid?
Deputy Spokesperson: I cannot hear you very well, but I think if you’re referring to what his remarks about his position regarding Gaza is concerned, I really do urge you again to look at his statement and how he appeals again on many fronts. But…
Deputy Spokesperson: But he says, for example, this tragedy only highlights the serious underlying problem. The long-running closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is counterproductive, unsustainable and wrong. It punishes innocent civilians. It must be lifted by the Israeli authorities immediately. He is looking at… on many levels. If you look at his statement, I am sure that what you are saying is not substantiated. Yes?
Question: A couple of quick questions. Gaza, [inaudible] and Rwanda. You keep, I mean I understand that you’re saying look at the transcript, I understand what the Secretary-General meant. I want to ask a very specific question. He was asked, what should happen with this ship that’s steaming towards Gaza, the Rachel Corrie, because it seems like it’s an important thing to, he said that he, all parties should act responsibly, with caution. So, I guess what I want to know is, what does he mean? Should the ship turn back or should Israel not board it with commandoes? It’s not clear from the transcript what, who, you know, what caution would mean in this case of a ship of humanitarian aid heading towards Gaza.
Deputy Spokesperson: I think what he’s saying is very clear. He is saying everything must be done to prevent another incident of this kind. All concerned should act with a sense of care and responsibility, and in accordance with international law. At this sensitive time, it is essential to avoid provocations. And the United Nations has raised its concerns about this with international partners and the Israeli authorities.
Question: So, it’s clear, does he mean that the ship approaching Gaza is a provocation?
Deputy Spokesperson: Matthew, I have read to you what he said.
Question: I know. But it’s not clear. I guess that’s what I am saying. It’s not clear at all. It’s not clear, what is a provocation? Is Israel boarding a ship a provocation? Or is the ship going to Gaza a provocation?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think it is intentionally phrased this way as his general views on the situation now.