DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OF OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
10 June 1999
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by the Spokesman of the Secretary-General, Fred Eckhard.
The Security Council is just concluding consultations on the draft resolution on Kosovo, and it is expected to go into a formal meeting. This follows receipt of a letter by Secretary-General Kofi Annan from his North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) counterpart Javier Solana, which confirms that Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) security forces have begun to withdraw from Kosovo and that NATO air operations against the FRY have been suspended.
The Secretary-General, upon arrival at United Nations Headquarters this morning, told reporters that following the deployment of international security troops in Kosovo, to secure the environment, the United Nations intended to prepare the ground for the refugees to go in. He cited demining as one of these tasks. He said preparations on the ground needed to be in place before the refugees could return.
As the Special Envoy for the lead agency responsible for refugee repatriation, Dennis McNamara, of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), today cautioned refugees against rushing back into Kosovo before an international security force declares it is safe for them to return.
"We -- all the United Nations agencies -- will go with them. We will take them back to their homes when it is safe and help them rebuild. But we urge the refugees not to rush ahead of us. Our message to them is wait until it is safe. We are working with the security force, and we will do it together", Mr. McNamara said.
United Nations humanitarian agencies are poised to return to Kosovo as soon as the security situation allows them to do so.
**Materials on Mine Awareness for Refugees
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has developed two sets of leaflets and posters on mine awareness which have been field-tested and approved by the inter-agency mine-awareness peer group. So far, 70,000 leaflets and 30,000 posters have been distributed within the refugee camps in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. We have samples here, and if you want to take a look at them, you can do it after the briefing.
In addition, mine-awareness plays will be developed with local theatre groups, and radio messages and TV spots will also be developed in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Local teachers will also be given training in mine-awareness education so that they, in turn, can train children to recognize dangerous places and to behave appropriately.
**Planning for Civilian Component
United Nations planning for the civilian component of the implementation of the peace agreement is accelerating. The Secretary-General could submit to the Security Council the name of his choice for his Special Representative in Kosovo this afternoon or tomorrow. An advance Headquarters team could go to Kosovo as early as this weekend, should the Council approve the enabling resolution this afternoon.
After this morning's deliberations on Kosovo, Council members will hold consultations starting at 3:30 p.m. on Sierra Leone and East Timor.
During the Sierra Leone consultations, held with a view to a formal meeting, Council members will review a draft resolution on the extension of the mandate of the United Nations observer mission in that country. Following that, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast will present the Secretary-General's report on East Timor. A draft resolution on the establishment of the United Nations Mission in East Timor is also expected to be introduced.
Francesc Vendrell, Director of the Division of the Department of Political Affairs, will brief correspondents on East Timor at the end of the Council session. That is likely to happen at 5 p.m. or later.
The Secretary-General's report on the activities of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), covering the period December 1998-June 1999, is expected to be out on the racks early this afternoon.
In the report, the Secretary-General says that during the past six months the situation along the ceasefire lines remained stable. The UNFICYP continued to use its best efforts to maintain the ceasefire, responding quickly to incidents. These were mostly minor, but the increasing practice by members of the opposing forces of engaging in provocative behaviour along the lines heightens the risk of more serious incidents and thus gives cause for concern.
The Secretary-General concludes that, under current circumstances, the presence of UNFICYP on the island remains indispensable for the maintenance of the ceasefire between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides. He, therefore, recommends the extension of the mandate for a further six-month period and informs the Council that he is consulting the parties concerned on the matter and will report to the Council as soon as consultations are concluded. The Secretary-General is expected to report to the Council on his mission of good offices and diplomatic efforts on Cyprus by the end of this month.
**Istanbul Meeting between Georgian and Abkhaz Sides
The Istanbul Meeting of the Georgian and Abkhaz Sides on Confidence- Building Measures, chaired by the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Georgia, Liviu Bota, closed yesterday after two days of deliberations. At the closing session, both sides adopted the Istanbul Statement of the Georgian and Abkhaz Sides on Confidence-Building Measures. The Statement sets forth a full agenda for further contacts. It was agreed that three working groups will reconvene next week to discuss such matters as security, the return of refugees and strengthening of economic ties. Other meetings between the two sides will address the exchange of hostages and prisoners, and the establishment of a mechanism for joint investigation of terrorist and subversive acts.
**World Food Programme on Republic of Congo
The World Food Programme (WFP) said today that the appalling condition of thousands of people returning to the Republic of the Congo capital, Brazzaville, has forced it to borrow $1.5 million from its emergency fund to meet the most immediate food needs of 100,000 of the most seriously affected people.
The returnees -- all Congolese -- who are mostly women and children, have spent the last several months in the bush, subsisting on leaves and roots. "We are seeing a large new flow of people emerging from the forest each day, many in a dreadful state after having walked up to 200 kilometres into Brazzaville", a WFP emergency officer was quoted as saying in a news release issued in Abidjan. It is available for you upstairs.
**Anti-Corruption Memorandum Signed in Hungary
Yesterday in Budapest, Hungary, Pino Arlacchi, Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, and the Minister of Justice of Hungary, Ibolya David, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cooperation in the field of anti-corruption. The MOU, the first of its kind, focuses on the assessment of corruption and anti-corruption activities in Hungary. A note with more details is available in my Office.
**Briefing by WHO on Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
The World Health Organization (WHO) will hold a briefing on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control at 11 a.m. on Monday, 14 June, in the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium. This Convention represents the very first multilateral treaty on tobacco control.
At the briefing, Dr. Derek Yach, Project Manager of the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative, will review the process, content, intention and potential impact of the Framework Convention.
United Nations delegations and agencies, non-governmental organizations and the media are invited to attend. Background material will be available at the briefing.
**FAO on Belgian Dioxin Scare
The widening Belgian cancer scare from dioxin-contaminated animal products is another clear warning that animal feeds can have a direct impact on the quality and safety of foods, according to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) statement released in Rome today.
The FAO is urging its members -- 175 countries and the European Community -- to immediately take further steps to assure good quality and safe animal feed, as well as foods for human consumption. The FAO said it has produced a draft Code of Practice for Good Animal Feeding containing a series of steps that can help to prevent feed contamination problems.
The draft FAO Code is being considered for adoption by a joint FAO/WHO body that sets international food standards. For more details, see the FAO press release.
**International Public Relations Forum
The second annual International Public Relations Forum, co-sponsored by the Department of Public Information (DPI) and the Public Relations Society of America International Section, will take place today from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Conference Room 7. The theme is "Public Relations and the United Nations: the Private Sector and Social Responsibility". Speakers include Gillian Martin Sorensen, Assistant Secretary-General for External Relations; David Finn, Chairman and CEO of Ruder Finn, Inc.; and Paul M. Ostergard, Chairman and CEO of Citigroup Foundation. The panel will be moderated by Barbara Burns, Managing Director, Consultants in Public Relations.
**Documents Out on Racks
Out on the racks this morning, the Summary of the Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean, 1998. This document says that 1998 will be remembered as one of the most problematic years for the region, as a result of the severe effects of the international financial crisis that broke out in Asia, tumbling export prices, which led to a further deterioration in the balance of payments, and adverse weather conditions on a perhaps unrivalled scale: first, El Niño, which affected the entire region, and then a series of hurricanes that ravaged a number of Central American and Caribbean countries.
Also available on the racks is the Annual Report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator for 1998.
Trinidad and Tobago gave us a cheque for over $176,000 today. We now have 74 Member States which made their payments in full so far this year.
A briefing by the Economic Commission for Africa, which was previously scheduled for 6 p.m. today, has been cancelled, due to the events relating to Kosovo. The briefing will be rescheduled.
Question: What kind of team is going to Kosovo this weekend? What will they be doing?
Answer: I said, at the earliest, this weekend. It will be a cross- section of the civilian component, consisting of humanitarian workers, possibly human rights monitors, police experts, and -- we hope for your sake -- a spokesman. There will also be a team leader. They could be going as early as this weekend, but probably not later than Monday.
Question: Is there any way of saying what will follow this?
Answer: This is really the headquarters component. The idea is to get established in Kosovo and prepare the way for future waves of civilian members of the team. If the Secretary-General announces a special representative today or tomorrow, that person, it is hoped, will be able to get into the region relatively soon, as well, and oversee the civilian component right from the beginning.
Question: Where would the headquarters be?
Answer: They will be going into Pristina, and I assume that is where they will be establishing their headquarters.
Question: How will they be going in -- flying or over land? If over land, have the mine-free routes been secured?
Answer: I don't know the answer to that question, but they will be going in on the heels of the military component who will be rapidly taking over the territory that the Serb security forces are evacuating. So, I assume the routes that they are taking have all been secured.
Question: The name of Yugoslavia is not on the list of speakers at the Security Council. Traditionally, the country involved always participates in the debate. Do you know if they have requested it and they would not let them talk or did they just not request to participate?
Answer: The revised speakers list that I saw at 12:02 p.m. on my way down here had the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on the list.
Question: How would you describe the civilian component? Where would the financial resources come from? Will the Secretary-General make recommendations to the Council to that effect? What kind of recommendations will he be making?
Answer: The Secretary-General will be presenting his concept of the structure of the mission to the Council shortly. I can't say it is going to be today, but it will be soon. That paper will include notions of the financing, how it will be done, as well as notions of partner organizations. Already I have talked to you about the concepts that the Secretary-General has been floating among the Member States for a number of weeks -- the four pillars concept, refugee return, policing, reconstruction and development, institution- building. The European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were expected to play an important role in his scheme of things, but I don't want to say any more about that now until he is ready to present his final concept to the Council.
Question: There is a letter from representatives of Bosnia and Slovenia stating that Yugoslavia is not a Member of the United Nations. Do you have any comment on this letter addressed directly to the Secretary-General?
Answer: No, that is really a matter for Member States. Their position is a matter of record. Yugoslavia as a country is a Member of the United Nations, and, in fact, I believe it was a founding Member of the United Nations. The question is what rights of membership would be accorded to the existing Government. Certain restrictions have been put on this Yugoslav Government participation, and ultimately the question of succession is one of those things that are wrapped up in the overall negotiations on Yugoslavia as a whole. They still have a lot of negotiating to do among the former republics of Yugoslavia as to who inherits the debts, the legal responsibilities and the obligations under treaties. These are fairly complicated negotiations.
Question: Will there be a component from the International Criminal Tribunal on the Former Yugoslavia in the advance team?
Answer: I think their intent is to go in very early. Whether they will be prepared to go in this weekend or Monday, was not yet clear from talking to them this morning.
Question: Who will have the ultimate authority -- will the representative of the Secretary-General be responsible to NATO commander or will they be parallel?
Answer: They will be parallel and separate. The important thing for us is that the Secretary-General will be responsible for the civilian mission and all its components, so that other organizations would be at work, but everyone's efforts will be coordinated by the Special Representative of the Secretary- General. That person will coordinate with the military commander -- and coordinate closely -- but one will not report to the other.
Question: Will that create a precedent for other organizations, where a regional organization would decide that it would share the responsibility of the Security Council?
Answer: Well, it is rather typical for peacekeeping operations that there is a military and civilian components, which coordinate. Although in different United Nations peacekeeping missions the military commander or the civilian head of mission would be paramount. I don't know that this is setting precedents for any other organizations. I expect, it's a complex enough mission that it will be setting precedents -- a variety of them.
Question: Russia has expressed some concerns about the cost of their military component in this mission. I understand that this is not something that the United Nations is running. Is there any way that the United Nations could reimburse Russia for its role in this operation, since it may be complicated, for example, for NATO to provide the reimbursement?
Answer: We are not involved in the military side, so this is something that NATO and the Group of 8 are dealing with. We'll just have to see what they come up with. As far as I know, there is nothing still decided on how Russia will participate and whether or not there will be any financial offset of their costs. But it is not a United Nations matter.
Question: Is there any legal provision that says that if it is not a United Nations matter, then the United Nations would not be able to finance it?
Answer: It's not a United Nations peacekeeping operation organized by the United Nations, commanded and controlled by the United Nations and paid for by the United Nations, so I don't see where the authority would come from to pay for any elements of the military component.
Question: Does the resolution mention autonomy of Kosovo? Do you foresee that, at some stage, the United Nations would be involved in such a process?
Answer: You will see the resolution, and there is a reference to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Question: How legitimate and binding would be an agreement signed by an indicted criminal Slobodan Milosevic?
Answer: I am not quite sure what your question is. The immediate goal of the implementation force is to secure the environment in Kosovo for the return of refugees, and there is a reaffirmation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. There is not a detailed provision, other than for a substantial degree of autonomy for Kosovo, or how that would be worked out. Carl Bildt referred to a limited nature of this agreement, how it is not a detailed plan as Dayton was, or as Rambouillet attempted to be. There are still things that need to be worked out concerning the long-term political arrangements, but the short-term goal is: secure the environment, get the people home safely, build democratic institutions, and prepare Kosovo for a substantial amount of autonomy within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Question: What I am saying is, there were a lot of other conditions, stipulations and some sort of agreement between the sides -- NATO, the United Nations and Yugoslavia. Speaking about the authority of Milosevic, he is an indicted war criminal. How legitimate and binding would an agreement with him be?
Answer: I think the Secretary-General has addressed this question. Yugoslavia is a Member State of the United Nations; the current Government in Belgrade controls the situation in Yugoslavia. You sometimes have to deal with the Devil -- I think, the Secretary-General said, quoting Count Bernadotte -- in order to save lives. So that is the broad philosophical framework. The Prosecutor is going about her business. She has brought an indictment, and we will see whether President Milosevic is ever brought to trial under that indictment. But that is a separate track from this. For the purpose of this agreement, everyone has dealt with President Milosevic, and it is expected he will live up to his part of the bargain, as the international community will live up to its.
Question: What is going to happen to Kukan and Bildt? Does their term, so to speak, end?
Answer: Carl Bildt addressed that question yesterday both in the Council and he may have done so afterward, saying that their mandate goes beyond Kosovo. It's for the Balkan region, it's south-eastern Europe, and, therefore, it is broader and longer term, and they feel, he said, fully employed.
Question: How concerned is the Secretary-General about the future development and the debt situation in Latin America and the Caribbean?
Answer: Well, you know he has consistently spoken in favour of debt relief for developing countries. I think, that probably speaks for itself. I mean, it goes without saying that he is concerned about the development of this region, as he is for all regions. But debt relief is something that he has strongly advocated and continues to do so.
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