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Source: Secretary-General
Department of Public Information (DPI)
8 September 2011

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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the noon briefing.


**Questions and Answers


Question: Speaking of which, reports, there are reports out from Gaza, from, sorry, from Ramallah that some sort of Palestinian letter, either by the Palestinian Authority or by activists, was sent to the Secretary-General. Has such a letter been received by the Secretary-General? What is your understanding of this, the nature of this?

Deputy Spokesperson: Mr. Serry has received the letter and he is in the process of transmitting it to the Secretary-General.

Question: Received a letter from?

Deputy Spokesperson: From I believe it was an activist; a member of an NGO.

Question: An activist? Meaning you don’t perceive this to be an official Palestinian request for membership of the UN?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’ll have to wait till the letter is received in the Secretary-General’s office and its contents are read.

Question: But you said Serry has already received it, so I assume that you know the content of it?

Deputy Spokesperson: No, I don’t know the content of it, no.


Question: Yes, concerning the Palmer report, considering Turkey apparently rejects the findings and has ramped up hostility, if you will, diplomatic hostility with Israel, is the Secretary-General considering getting involved and trying to intervene, and now that the investigation called for by both sides has been completed, is the Secretary-General going to try to intervene and bring Turkey and Israel back together to get past this incident?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General is constantly looking for ways to bring people together. So I am sure that, you know, as the situation evolves, he will define a role for himself, if there is one for him to play. In the meantime, he has called on the leaders of both countries to find a way to come together and to resolve their differences, and to establish the relationships that are needed not only by Turkey and Israel, but also by the Middle East in general in terms of the greater stability and greater dialogue in the region.

Question: And this was his report, I mean, he set up the mechanism for this report in response to the international community’s outcry about the incident. Um, and Israel has accepted those findings, including the negative portions of it regarding Israeli’s IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) core accessory force that was used. Turkey has rejected it and so, doesn’t the Secretary-General have a stake in the credibility of the findings and try to bridge this gap that, hope that the study was supposed to help bridge?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, like I said before, he regrets very much that the study did not resolve the outstanding differences, and he has called on the leaders of both countries to try and come together and to establish a kind of dialogue that they had before the incident took place.


Question: And I want, can I ask a follow-up on from, I mean, yesterday? I had asked you this thing about the ICC (International Criminal Court) question, it came, I asked it again to Mr. Deiss, which is, what is the role of the Secretary-General if in the case of an observer State, if a, if a, if a country becomes an observer State and the UN is the, you know, takes the document for the joining of the ICC, is it automatic or does he have some discretion, and I’m, I’m, I mean, I guess maybe you don’t have the answer yet today, but I wanted sort of it’s coming right up this … being a live issue.

Deputy Spokesperson: No, but I think the best thing to do, Matthew, is to ask the ICC.

Question: The UN definitely has a role. I mean, two Member States have said the paper gets filed with the Secretary-General; one has said he has some discretion, the other one says he doesn’t. So I just wanted to know what he understands, or Patricia O’Brien of OLA (Office of Legal Affairs), who we’ve repeatedly asked to come give a briefing, what her understanding of the legality of the Secretary-General’s role because it is more important, it’s, it’s important what the Secretariat thinks its role is, not what the ICC thinks your role is — do you see what I mean? So, I just, what I am trying to get, it seems like maybe you just, it’s Ms. O’Brien, but we’ve asked to have a briefing, she hasn’t come, maybe this one question can be answered by OLA?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’ll see whether what we can get for you.

Question: Okay.

Correspondent: A follow-up on Matthew’s question. Actually we would love to have somebody to brief us on that subject. I mean, it’s, we really want to know what will happen, how it will happen, and who decides. And the UN has not so far given us any information on that.

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, just to set things straight, normally what we comment on is on things that have taken place, not on hypothetical situations. Right now, there is no situation, and I would prefer not to comment on anything until we have a situation that we can comment on. Right now, it is hypothetical.

Question: [inaudible]… about the procedure, not the… [inaudible].

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’ll try and get you some information on the procedure for that.

Question: Following up on things that didn’t happen, the Palmer report question, is there any second thought in the Secretariat about the role the Secretary-General has played here? There is a lot of criticism that the Secretary-General, by insisting on forming a committee and issuing a report, actually exacerbated the animosity between Turkey and Israel, rather than made them closer. Is there any second thought about that aspect of it?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General set up the committee in an attempt to try and bring both parties together. The fact that the committee did not succeed, through no fault of its own, to bring both sides together is regrettable and he regrets the fact that they haven't succeeded in doing it.

Question: But has it exacerbated it? I mean, because that is a comment, I mean, had, you know, let sleeping dog lies and, let sleeping dogs lie, and he didn’t. He actually awoken sleeping dogs and they started barking at each other.

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I don’t think it is a question of letting sleeping dogs lie; I don’t think if you, to use the analysis, both countries were, had their positions staked out and what the Secretary-General tried to do was create a forum for a dialogue for these countries to come together, air their differences, and try and find common ground. So, there is no question that the Secretary-General tried to bring both countries together. Regrettably, thus far, it hasn’t worked. But the attempt was made to bring both countries together and to engage them in a dialogue that is necessary.

Correspondent: Now again these questions about whether Palestinian, it’s a hypothetical question, crop up, cropping up again and again, whether if the Palestinians become a State or not, if their observer status will they have, I mean, something to do in ICC and so forth. Obviously these are the questions which are wracking the mind of the journalists and other people. Well, so, I mean, it would be well-advised the United Nations that Ms. O’Brien or somebody comes up and tells us what is this hypothetical situation that has been created should be corrected or not.

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the hypothetical situation is in the process of happening. We are going to see what happens, and on the basis of what happens, we will then take steps to provide the proper information.

Correspondent: And on that, we would like to get that Serry letter as early as possible, as soon as the letter arrives here and as soon as you can muster the ability to produce it to us.

Deputy Spokesperson: As soon as we have something to share with you, we will do it. Yes?


Correspondent: I just want to echo what some of my colleagues said. What we all need is the Legal Department to tell us the difference between an observer and observer State, because it seems to me, within the UN system there is very little difference between the Vatican and what the Palestinians are now. And then, secondly, the difference seems to be that if the UN agrees they are some kind of a State — the Secretary-General, the Legal Department — then they can sign treaties and join the ICC, ICJ, whatever. And that is a mass legal confusion, and everyone, you know, you can’t go by what the different parties say, you need a definitive explanation here.

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, once we have a definitive explanation we will give it to you. But right now we are not…

Correspondent: But that’s what the problem is. Right now is when we need it. You know, you have all sorts of people saying they automatically become voting members of the UN. We know that’s not the case, and you know, it’s very confusing. It’s not even in the Charter, it’s not listed anywhere. And we would use it, we need it now, not when they join or don’t join or get their status lifted or not, but by then it’s too late. We are not going to write about it after that.

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as I’ve said, when we have something to announce, we will announce it. Giampaolo?

Correspondent: If I may, because this has become a recurrent request to the podium. So we are really asking if you can do any effort, the best you can to have a legal expert that gives us a definite and final explanation, legal explanation, about this. Otherwise the next press conference we are going to ask the same question; everybody. So we agreed in the sense that we need an answer and you said that the answer exists. So, is good that 48, 72 hours is okay, and I am sure that you will do your best to…

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’ll see what we can do on that.

Question: One more question about the letter; you said it was by an activist. Does that activist have a name, affiliation, anything like that?

Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have the name of the person, no. I believe we know the name but I don’t have the name of the person myself, personally, right now.

Question: Okay, could you get that for us as well?

Deputy Spokesperson: We’ll try and get it for you, yeah.

Question: Thank you. And what affiliation as well?

Deputy Spokesperson: Yeah.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record

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