DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OF OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
18 June 1999
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, Fred Eckhard.
Sorry. The reason for the delay is that we're going to have a statement either by the Secretary-General or from me on his behalf on Kosovo. We're trying to get it cleared on the North Lawn. I still don't have it so I'll set aside the Kosovo item and hope I'll get the statement in the next few minutes.
Meanwhile, in the Security Council, they're holding consultations this morning on the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH). The Mission's mandate expires on Monday and Council members are expected to extend the mandate by another 12 months, as requested by the Secretary-General, and a formal meeting to adopt that resolution could happen today.
**Rwanda Panel Begins Work
The panel conducting an independent inquiry into the actions taken by the United Nations before and during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda arrived in New York yesterday afternoon. Today, panel members have begun a series of meetings to interview senior United Nations officials. First, at 10 a.m., they met with Assistant Secretary-General Ralph Zacklin in the Office of the Legal Counsel. At 11 a.m., they met with Iqbal Riza, the Secretary-General's Chief of Staff. The panel is scheduled to meet with the Secretary-General about now, and this will be followed by a luncheon hosted by the Republic of Korea. At 3:15 p.m., they come here to brief you. At 4 p.m., they will meet with Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Hédi Annabi, and then at 5 p.m. they meet with Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahima Fall.
You'll recall that this panel is headed by Ingvar Carlson, the former Prime Minister of Sweden. Its other members are Han Sung-Joo, former Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, and General Rufus Kupolati, who served as head of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, or UNTSO.
**Secretary General's Coming Trip
We were asked about the Secretary-General's forthcoming trip. I can give you some details now. He leaves on Sunday for an official visit to the Russian Federation. Sunday evening, while in transit in Paris, he'll meet with French President Jacques Chirac. He arrives in Saint Petersburg Monday, and then on Tuesday there he'll address the opening of the International
Conference titled, A Hundredth Anniversary of the Russian Initiative: from the first international peace conference, 1899, to the third, 1999".
The Secretary-General will arrive in Moscow Tuesday evening. He'll address the Russian Media Congress. On Wednesday and Thursday he'll have meetings with senior Russian authorities including President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and Special Envoy Victor Chernomyrdin. The Secretary-General will also meet with the Speaker of the Duma, Gennady Seleznev, and will be presented with the highest decoration of the International Informatization Academy.
The Secretary-General is scheduled to leave Moscow on Thursday and he'll go to the United Kingdom. That's for an unofficial visit. That same evening he's expected to meet separately with Foreign Minister Robin Cook and the Secretary for International Development, Clare Short. On Friday, he'll deliver the Princess of Wales Memorial Lecture on AIDS and will meet with Secretary of Defence George Robertson. On Monday he will speak on the "Dialogue of Civilizations" at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, and he's expected to be back in New York Monday evening.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for East Timor, Ian Martin, had a press conference this morning in Dili before he flew to Darwin, Australia, to meet with the first group of civilian police who will arrive in East Timor tomorrow, and the first team of United Nations Volunteers who will be the field electoral officers and are expected in East Timor next week. In his press conference, he said that the United Nations Mission's major concern remains the security situation. He described reports of continuing action by pro-integration militia in the villages apparently encouraged by the Indonesian military.
Mr. Martin said that his second major concern is that there is mounting evidence that, in breach of the Agreements, much of the campaigning by pro- autonomy groups is supported by public funds and by public officials in their official capacity. Mr. Martin also noted that there are real signs of progress in reconciliation talks convened by the two East Timor bishops. Upon arrival in Darwin, he welcomed the news that resistance leader Xanana Gusmao, and the leaders of the militias, had signed an agreement committing both parties to disarmament as well as an appeal to their followers to cooperate in creating a climate of peace and stability. "This is a positive development and good beginning", he said. The full transcript of the press conference is available in my office.
**Secretary-General Appeals on Kosovo
I'll now switch to the Kosovo item because I have the statement. This is in the first person so it's attributable directly to the Secretary-General, an appeal on Kosovo:
"I appeal to all parties and every citizen of Kosovo to show utmost restraint and patience as the long and hard work of peace-building and reconstruction begins. The United Nations and KFOR are committed to helping you, the people of Kosovo, create a peaceful, democratic and multi-ethnic society. I urge the Kosovo Albanian population to return to their homes, but to be patient, and to do so with the assistance of KFOR and the United Nations. I urge the Serbian population of Kosovo to remain in their homes and do their part to return Kosovo to a life of peaceful coexistence among all communities. The United Nations and KFOR are committed to ensuring the safety and security of all the people of Kosovo, regardless of ethnic background. I urge all parties to recommit themselves to creating a life of peaceful coexistence, which is the foundation for lasting peace in Kosovo and throughout the region".
**On the Ground in Kosovo
Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Acting Special Representative, today visited by helicopter areas of reported widespread damage and displacement, the towns of Djakovia, Pec, Drnica and Orahovac. He's now in his daily meeting with KFOR Commander General Michael Jackson. He will shortly meet with Vetan Surroj, a newspaper editor from Pristina who went into hiding during the hostilities. His staff today concluded an agreement with the Power and Water Authority that will provide more security to the technicians working there in the hope of regularizing service. Parts of Pristina had water today.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that 50,000 refugees have returned to Kosovo spontaneously in the last three days. There have been nine casualties from mine incidents since the refugees began their spontaneous trek home, ignoring appeals to stay put until it is safe. Sergio Vieira de Mello finalized a plan today to establish a Mine Action Centre in Pristina by early next week. KFOR is responsible for supervising demining activities until the civilian component can assume responsibility. There are four civilian deminers in Kosovo at present, with more on the way, and we have a handout from our Mine Action Service here in New York with further details. That will be available in my office, probably in about an hour.
The World Food Programme (WFP) took a convoy of food supplies to thousands of Serbs isolated in the town of Urosevac. Citing Yugoslav sources, UNHCR estimates that 50,000 to 60,000 Serbs have left Kosovo in the last three weeks.
**The International Tribunal for Rwanda
The hearings in the trial of Georges Rutaganda were completed yesterday in Arusha, Tanzania, when the Prosecution and the Defence made closing submissions before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The Prosecutor has asked the Tribunal to impose the maximum sentence of life imprisonment on Rutaganda, a former leader of the Interahamwe Rwandese militia. He had pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. We have a press release in my office.
**Education for Democracy Conference
"Making education for democracy an international priority", is the main theme of a conference opening today in Palermo, Italy. Pino Arlacchi, the Executive Director of the Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention, will address the conference tomorrow on the theme, "law enforcement's role in building democracy". Hillary Rodham Clinton, the United States First Lady, is delivering a key-note address at the Conference today on the theme, "the culture of lawfulness and the advancement of democracy". We have a note from Mr. Arlacchi's spokesman in my office if you want more details.
**Human Rights in the Russian Federation
Today in Moscow, Mary Robinson, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Russian Foreign Minister, Ivan Ivanov, signed the biggest technical cooperation agreement the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) has ever concluded. The $3 million dollar agreement will concentrate on human rights education and training in the Russian Federation. This concluded Mrs. Robinson's week-long official visit to the Russian Federation, and we have a press release in my office.
**Canadian National Executed in United States
Last evening, Joseph Stanley Fauder, a Canadian national convicted for a murder committed during a robbery, was executed in Texas. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, had sent a letter yesterday to United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the pending execution. We mentioned that yesterday.
**UNCA Press Conference Postponed
The United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) has asked us to announce that the meeting with United States Ambassador Peter Burleigh, which was scheduled today for 3:30 p.m., has been postponed due to the Rwanda Press Conference in this room at 3:15 p.m., and you'll be notified of a new date for that briefing.
**The Week Ahead
The Week Ahead, you can pick up in my office, but let me give you a few highlights. Monday, the High Commissioner for Human Rights is convening a consultative forum in Geneva to discuss long-range strategies for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Balkan region.
Tuesday, a review of international preparedness for dealing with the year 2000 computer bug, the Y2K problem, will take place at United Nations Headquarters. Wednesday, the Security Council will hold consultations on East Timor, and I believe the Secretary-General's report is coming out on Tuesday. Thursday, the Commission on Population and Development, which is acting as the preparatory committee for the General Assembly's upcoming special session on the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, will begin a four-day meeting here in New York.
That's all I have for you. Any questions?
**Question and Answer Segment
Question: When will Ambassador Marker be back in town?
Spokesman: That I don't know. He just left yesterday, didn't he? I'll have to check for you. I don't know.
Question: Regarding the press conference this afternoon on Rwanda, has this panel met with anyone prior to the meetings today?
Spokesman: No. To my knowledge, they're formally beginning today. I think they've probably done planning and research and so on, but their interviewing began today.
Question: So, in terms of the press conference, what should we expect? Are they sort of just going to lay out what their plans are?
Spokesman: I think so. I doubt they can talk about the content of any of the interviews that they had today. They're just beginning their work.
Question: Do you have a read-out from the meeting with Ambassador Monteiro (Permanent Representative of Portugal to the United Nations).
Spokesman: No, if you'd like, we'll get you a read-out.
Question: Anything yesterday with the Libyan Ambassador?
Spokesman: That was a follow-up to the meeting of last week with the Ambassadors of Libya, the United Kingdom and the United States, and it's, of course, in preparation for the Secretary-General's 90-day report, called for by the Security Council, which is expected the first week of July.
Question: When the Secretary-General returns from his official visit, is he meeting with the group again (on Libya)?
Spokesman: I don't know if there'll be a further meeting. I can't say now if there will be.
Question: Can you say anything about the Cuban meeting with the Secretary-General?
Spokesman: No. If you like, I'll look into it.
Question: When will you announce the Special Rep?
Spokesman: Not this week, maybe next week, maybe the week after that. Meanwhile, Sergio's doing a good job on the ground. A lot is getting done there. We're pleased with the pace of the work being done. We're still daunted by the amount of work and planning that's required for this mission, but we feel that in this meantime that we're waiting for a Special Representative to be named, the mission is in good hands.
Question: If it did come next week, how would it work, with the Secretary-General in Europe on Friday and Russia before Friday? Would the announcement come out of Russia or the United Kingdom?
Spokesman: Well I don't know, we haven't given thought to that. I assume it would come out at this briefing. Okay. Thank you very much.
* *** *
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|