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Press Conference by General Assembly President

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Updating the press on the latest developments regarding the work of the sixty-fifth General Assembly, Joseph Deiss, the 192-member body’s President, today highlighted a host of upcoming topical debates and took questions on the push for Palestinian statehood, as well as on the status of the negotiations to reform and expand the Security Council.

He also told reporters at Headquarters that the United Nations had been dealing with several international events lately. In the context of his regular meetings with the Presidents of the world body’s other principal organs, he had met yesterday with Nestor Osorio, Permanent Representative of Colombia and current President of the Security Council, to discuss important regional issues, focusing mainly on Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, Western Sahara and the Middle East. They had also discussed Council reform, as well as other global issues, including the thematic debates he had convened.

On Côte d’Ivoire, he said that following the arrest of former President Laurent Gbagbo earlier in the week, he had met yesterday with Youssoufou Joseph Bamba, Permanent Representative of Côte d’Ivoire. The Ivorian diplomat had relayed a message from President Alassane Ouattara that Mr. Gbagbo and his wife were well protected and would not be harmed. He had also stressed that the Ivorian Government supported the establishment of an international commission of inquiry regarding human rights abuses committed in the wake of disputed elections four months ago, no matter which side the alleged perpetrators belonged to. Mr. Deiss expressed the hope that the international community would continue to assist Côte d’Ivoire, as the West African country now faced the challenge of healing and reconstruction.

Turning next to Libya, he said that following the consensus resolution adopted by the Assembly on 1 March to suspend Libya from the Human Rights Council, he applauded Member States who had shown determination and unity in implementing the United Nations Charter “in order to ensure that human rights are respected and violations of these rights are punished.”

He went on to highlight several of his recent trips abroad, including official visits to Germany, United Kingdom, Finland, Liechtenstein, and the Russian Federation. During those visits, he had discussed with the respective authorities various issues, such as global governance, in particular the relationship between the Group of Twenty (G-20) and the United Nations; Security Council reform and United Nations reform in general, the Millennium Development Goals and the follow-up to last September’s high-level plenary meeting; and the upcoming Conference on the Least Developed Countries that will take place from 9 to 13 May in Istanbul.

He had also discussed the Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS, to be held from 8 to 10 June in New York, the summit on Non-communicable Diseases planned for September, the ongoing process ahead of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, as well as the situations in Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan and the Middle East.

As for the Assembly’s slate of upcoming activities, he said the Assembly would be keeping up its intensity during the coming weeks and months with a number of thematic debates in line with the discussions held Monday on “the rule of law and global challenges” and another, set for Thursday, 14 April, on “human security”. Further, on 20 April, the Assembly would hold an interactive dialogue on “harmony with nature” and on 19 May, it would discuss “international migration and development.”

He said that, in June, there would be quite a few such informal thematic debates and interactive dialogues, starting with the “green economy” on 2 June; “intercultural dialogue”, on 15 June; an informal civil society hearing on non-communicable diseases on 16 June; and “global Governance” on 28 June. In July, he said the Assembly would hold a thematic debate on the “responsibility to protect” on 12 July. That same month, on the 25 to 26, it would hold a high-level meeting on the World’s Youth. “So you see, we are quite busy on many important topics,” he said, adding that he was meeting almost daily with groups and individuals on revitalizing the Assembly.

To a question on the Assembly’s consideration of Palestinian statehood, which might be presented to the world body in the fall, he said the procedure for admission of a new Member States was set out in the Charter. The concerned entity must first submit an application or request to the Secretary-General. That application should, among other things, lay out in detail its ability to maintain relevant States institutions. That application would next be transmitted to the Council, which would pass it on to the Assembly. A new State was admitted if it received a two-third majority vote.

“I can assure you that the Assembly will be ready to do its work, but the decision is up to the parties and to the wider United Nations,” he said. While he was in touch with the parties, he hoped the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East peace process would be able to assist them in re-starting the face-to-face talks that had been stalled since September. He added that, as delegations looked ahead to the possible creation of a Palestinian State, in the meantime, he hoped that Southern Sudan would soon become the world body’s 193 Member State.

On Security Council reform, he noted that the facilitator of that process, Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan, had compiled all the positions into a working paper that had been received “quite positively”. At the same time, negotiations on that text had not yet begun in earnest. As for charges that some States had not been flexible enough, he said that change would only come when there was a broad “appetite” for it.

So far, there was clear agreement that the Security Council must change, but opinions on what form the 15-member body would take and how its working methods would be adapted varied widely. He believed the most crucial questions to answer were whether new members would be added to permanent or non-permanent categories, or both, and whether there would be some transitional phase to test one or the other solution before reaching a final decision. “I hope there will be some movement when the negotiations get started,” he said, apologizing for not going into further detail. He wished to maintain his impartial position as monitor and guide for the negotiations.

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