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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
13 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.


** Middle East

On the Middle East, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes is scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem tomorrow, Thursday, to begin his first official UN visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel.  During the five-day trip, Holmes will make field visits to Gaza, the West Bank and Sderot to assess the humanitarian situation in those areas.  He will also meet with senior officials and representatives of the UN and aid agencies, as well as members of the donor and diplomatic community.  We have a media advisory on this upstairs.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I was wondering if there’s any comment by Mr. Ban Ki-moon on Israel’s announcement to build over 1,000 new houses in and around eastern Jerusalem.  What’s his position to this?  And also, regarding the visit of John Holmes to Gaza, is he going to meet with any Hamas leader there?

Spokesperson:  We can get more information on who he’s going to meet, and we’ll certainly have more on his visit tomorrow when he gets there, concrete information.  Your first question about the new housing in Jerusalem that is being planned; we already talked about it yesterday and I said that the position of the Secretary-General has not changed and that the UN is against the construction of any additional settlements.

Question:  Will he be raising this issue with Bush when he meets him two days from now?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know yet.  When he meets him, we’ll find out.  I’ll let you know whether this was discussed or not.  They are discussing a number of issues and I gave you a list; the Middle East is one of them.

[The Spokesperson later told the correspondent that John Holmes will not have any meetings with Hamas officials during his mission.  However, the United Nations regularly has technical-level contact with Hamas on the implementation of humanitarian programmes and for security.]

Question:  More on the calls.  The call with Tony Blair; I assume the topic was the Quartet and Gaza.  Did climate change arise and did anything else arise?

Spokesperson:  No, Mr. Blair briefed the Secretary-General on his recent travels to the region, and they discussed the way forward, specifically the situation in Gaza, and this is all I have at this point.  It was about his role as special envoy.


Question:  I want to follow up on the Quartet.  The UN is a major part of the Quartet.  Does it have anything to say when its envoy is getting a contract for $2 million a year?

Spokesperson:  I think this was already discussed within the Quartet.

Question:  What is the UN position then?

Spokesperson:  At this point, I don’t have a specific position.  Obviously, it was felt that there was no conflict of interest.  Any other questions?  Thank you very much.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record

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