DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OF OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
28 May 1999
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Noon Briefing Guest
Good afternoon. Our guest today is the Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, John Langmore. He will summarize the conclusions of the Preparatory Committee for the special session of the General Assembly on implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development. This "prep com" was held in New York from 17 to 28 May. So hold your breath a little bit, I'll do my own briefing and then, afterwards, Mr. Langmore will have a few remarks and will be available to answer your questions.
The Secretary-General concluded his official visit to Sweden today. At a press conference in Lund this morning, the Secretary-General said, in response to a question, that he felt the indictment of President Milosevic by The Hague Tribunal would complicate the peace process. He added, however, that he did not expect it to be an unduly complicating factor in the relations of the United Nations with Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, who is in Belgrade today, as you know.
The Secretary-General also expressed his concern for the situation in Kosovo, which has destabilized the entire region -- from blocking the Danube River to driving tourists away from the Adriatic Coast. "Yugoslavia is being destroyed", he added, "which could prompt a Serb exodus, compounding the problem. This is why", he concluded, "we are intensifying our efforts to find an end to the conflict."
At midday, the Secretary-General participated in the commencement ceremony at the University of Lund, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Faculty of Law. From southern Sweden, the Secretary-General went to Copenhagen, Denmark, en route to New York. While in Denmark, he was scheduled to meet with Danish Prime Minister Nyrup Rasmussen. The Secretary-General is expected back in New York Saturday morning.
The Secretary-General is also expected to have a brief press encounter after his meeting with the Prime Minister. Both the transcript of that press encounter and the transcript of the press conference this morning, once available, will be announced to you. The transcript of the press conference was being finalized, and you should have it very soon.
On Kosovo, the World Food Programme (WFP) said today that shortages of food inside the embattled province are so great and widespread that swift action is needed immediately for the people entrapped by the conflict. A senior WFP officer, who travelled through Kosovo this week as part of the United Nations humanitarian mission, said the scarcity of food in the province is such that even a swift political settlement in the war will not bring an end to the crisis of supply for inhabitants. Copies of WFP's press release are available in our Office upstairs.
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), new arrivals of Kosovar refugees in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have again fallen to low levels, but that newly arrived refugees reported horrific stories of recent events in two villages in the Kacanik municipality. Only a handful are crossing at the main Blace border post in the last two days, and those have said that six buses were turned back yesterday at certain checkpoints before Blace. In a positive development, the UNHCR reported that Skopje authorities have agreed to open a new 20,000-strong capacity refugee campsite in north-western former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that vaccination has been started among refugees hosted in families in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Five thousand children were vaccinated during the first week of operations. Average coverage in the country is more than 90 per cent. The vaccination campaign for children and new arrivals will continue in the camps on a weekly basis.
The UNHCR also reports that an estimated 400 refugees arrived in northern Albania Thursday, despite a flare-up in fighting in the border area. UNHCR staff pulled back from the border because of the fighting and remained away from the border area as of midday today. The UNHCR is very concerned that this could draw incoming artillery fire from the Serb side with disastrous effects for the refugees.
**Statement on Kashmir
I now have a statement attributed to the Spokesman. "The Secretary- General remains very concerned about the hostilities near the line of control near Kargil. He is encouraged by direct contacts that have taken place between the Prime Ministers and other officials of India and Pakistan, and by their continued willingness to pursue their dialogue on a number of issues, including Kashmir. The Secretary-General is in contact with both sides and is following developments closely."
**Statement on Argentina and United Kingdom
Another statement attributed to the Spokesman: "The Secretary-General welcomes the new spirit of understanding and reconciliation in the relationship between Argentina and the United Kingdom, which was manifested at their recent meeting in London. He is pleased that both Governments have decided to continue to work together on issues of common interest."
UNHCR in United Republic of Tanzania
The UNHCR reports today that a surge in fighting between the Mayi Mayi and rebel forces in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has caused a dramatic increase in the number of Congolese refugees fleeing across Lake Tanganyika to the United Republic of Tanzania, with over 4,800 arrivals registered in Kigoma since Tuesday. This morning, UNHCR staff say that one boat of refugees has already put in and another two boats have been sent to Tanzanian lakeside villages to collect other new arrivals. The last three days have pushed the total number of Congolese arrivals, since the outbreak of the war last August, to over 61,000.
As part of the efforts of the United Nations to help facilitate an end to the conflict, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Democratic Republic of the Congo Peace Process, Moustapha Niasse, arrived in Libreville, Gabon, on the second to last stop of his current mission to the region. Mr. Niasse will be travelling to the United Republic of Tanzania next week before returning to United Nations Headquarters to brief the Security Council next month.
**Report on Central African Republic
The report of the Secretary-General on the Central African Republic is expected to be out today. It describes the recommendations of the Secretary- General for what logistical, personnel and other preparations the United Nations mission in that country -- the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) -- should make to support the upcoming elections there. In the report, the Secretary-General also urges the Government to expedite its own preparations for the elections through the Mixed and Independent Electoral Commission (CEMI) sworn earlier this month.
There is no Security Council meeting today. The presidency of the Council rotates at the end of this month -- this weekend. It will go from Gabon to the Gambia, and bilateral discussions, as usual, will be held on Tuesday, the first working day of the month. On Wednesday, the Security Council is scheduled to meet to discuss its programme of work for the month of June. Also on Wednesday, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Sergio Vieira de Mello, is expected to brief the Council on his recent needs-assessment mission to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. We are hoping for a press briefing by Mr. Vieira de Mello following his briefing to the Council.
**The Week Ahead
Continuing with the highlights of our week ahead feature, Monday, of course, is a holiday in New York so the Office will be closed. The Spokesman's Office will have the usual duty-officer mechanism in place. The Deputy Secretary-General is leaving for Manila today, and on Monday she will address the World Conference on Governance, hosted by the Government of the Philippines. While in the Philippines, she will also have meetings with the President and the Foreign Minister of that country. From Manila, she will go to Bangkok, where she will chair a meeting of the United Nations regional commission. It is a coordinating meeting similar to the one she recently chaired in Santiago. She will also have meetings, while in Bangkok, with the Acting Prime Minister and the Acting Foreign Minister of Thailand.
So that is my summary of the week ahead, which is shorter because of the holiday here. The schedule is available in writing in our Office upstairs. Are there any questions before we move on to our guest?
Question: The Prime Minister of Pakistan has written a letter to the Secretary-General about appointing a special envoy on Kashmir. Have you received the letter and what was the response of the Secretary-General?
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, the letter has been received and I don't have any other comments at this time to share with you regarding either its content or a reaction.
Question: The United Nations Security Council resolutions remain unimplemented, which is the cause of this conflict in South Asia. Does the Secretary-General plan to initiate anything for the implementation of those resolutions on the area to remove those tensions once and for all?
Deputy Spokesman: The Secretary-General is in contact with both sides. Let's see what comes out of those contacts.
Question: Does he plan to initiate anything for the implementation of those resolutions?
Deputy Spokesman: I have no further comment to make at this time on this. And if there are no further questions, we will move on to our guest.
* *** *
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|