DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OF OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
29 June 1999
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, Fred Eckhard:
We have some people in the room with us today, thanks to 23 visiting journalists from around the world who are here taking part in a multi-regional visitors' programme. Welcome to the briefing.
Let's start, as usual, with Kosovo. We are planning, at your request, to have a background briefing on tomorrow morning's "Friends of Kosovo" meeting that would be chaired by the Secretary-General. The briefing would be at about 4:30 p.m., by a senior official here in room S-226. The meeting tomorrow of the "Friends" will start at 8 a.m. and is expected to take place in Conference Room 7, which is down by the Viennese Cafe.
We have one addition, one more addition to the "Friends" Group -- Denmark - - so we have an updated list of the "Friends" for you in the Spokesman's Office. We are expecting the Secretary-General to give you a readout of the "Friends" meeting immediately afterwards, something like 12 or 12:30, and that would be in Conference Room 4, which is also down by the Viennese Cafe. And we'll keep you informed when these details get firmed up. As of now, we count 12 foreign ministers who will be part of this Group. And we've indicated in the list of "Friends", the updated list of "Friends" we put out today, we've indicated which ones will be represented at the foreign ministers' level at tomorrow's meeting.
On the eve of tomorrow's meeting, we have learned that commitments to the United Nations police force in Kosovo have now reached more than 900. We are hoping to bring in large contingents (numbering from 150 to 200) every five days starting the beginning of next month. Eighteen countries have made concrete commitments. They are Austria, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Italy, Kenya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Romania, United Republic of Tanzania, Turkey, United Kingdom, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, five teams of two officers of the international police contingent that arrived two days ago were sent out to the five brigade headquarters of KFOR -- in Mitroveca, Prizren, Pec, Urosevac and Pristina. Their role will be to advise KFOR on civilian police functions in each of the KFOR sectors. The rest of the 35-member contingent will be fanning out to the 29 municipalities and to the border points.
The Secretary-General's Acting Special Representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello, visited Urosevac earlier today where he met with the international security force, as well as with local leaders and humanitarian agencies assisting the reintegration of refugees. De Mello will be going to the tense city of Mitrovica again on Wednesday.
Many residents of Kosovo, meanwhile, had no access to television or radio, as the largest broadcast outlet -- Radio-Television Pristina -- remained shut down for the second straight day following an aborted attempt to set up a new management structure aimed at power-sharing between Serb and Albanian personnel. An emergency meeting degenerated into a shouting match and the departure of the Serb staff. The United Nations mission is now tasked with trying to name a senior management figure to act as the director of the Radio-Television Pristina.
As scheduled, the meeting of the United Nations-chaired joint civilian commission on the thorny area of health bringing together Kosovo's Albanian and Serbs was taking place in Pristina today.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today that the number of spontaneous returns to Kosovo declined on Monday to 29,300 from 34,500 on Sunday, and 41,700 on Saturday. It is too early to say whether this decline, which the UNHCR has been anticipating, will continue. It may reflect the fact that most of the refugees who have the means to arrange their own return, and who have a place to go, have already done so. The need for organized and assisted repatriation is likely to grow. Earlier today, the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration organized a second repatriation movement from camps in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Around 320 refugees returned by bus to Pristina and Urosevac.
UNHCR staff in northern Kosovo, especially in the Pec area, report that shelter for returnees continues to be the biggest problem. UNHCR's shelter expert estimates that up to 45,000 houses in Kosovo are so seriously damaged as to be uninhabitable. UNHCR staff have been distributing tents to the refugees.
The UNHCR and its partners are stepping up efforts to help the growing number of returnees. Each returnee from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia should receive food assistance on arrival. This is provided by the World Food Programme and consists of 12 kilos of flour, 1 kilo of sugar, a kilo of beans, and a litre of oil. Also provided are blankets, mattresses, hygienic kits, jerry cans, candles and plastic sheeting.
The UNHCR and its implementing partners have opened eight food distribution centres, and more than 60 secondary distribution points have been opened in these areas. Rapid developments on the ground have necessitated a sudden increase in spending for shelter materials, repair of damaged buildings and transport for refugees. The UNHCR said it is left with only $2.4 million for the Kosovo operation for the month of July unless fresh contributions are received.
The following rather lengthy statement is prepared by Jamsheed Marker, the Secretary-General's Personal Representative for East Timor, and I will read the entire thing.
"The Secretary-General deplores in the strongest terms today's attack on the Maliana regional office of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET). According to UNAMET personnel, approximately 100 persons, reportedly pro- integration militia members, threw rocks and stones at the office while UNAMET staff and local East Timorese took refuge there. Several people were seriously injured, one UNAMET staff member was hurt and the office was extensively damaged. The Secretary-General's Personal Representative for East Timor, Jamsheed Marker, and his Special Representative for the Popular Consultation, Ian Martin, have protested the attack to the Indonesian authorities in Jakarta and Dili.
"The Secretary-General holds the Indonesian Government, which has responsibility for bringing law and order to the Territory, accountable for allowing such an attack to occur, and deems any assault on UNAMET personnel or property completely unacceptable. He calls on the Indonesian police to investigate the incident and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
"In the 5 May Accords, signed in New York by Indonesia and Portugal, Indonesia undertook to create an atmosphere of peace and security in East Timor before the August popular consultation. The Secretary-General reiterates his call on the Indonesian Government to fulfil its commitments under the Accords by taking the necessary steps to rein in militia activities; begin disarming armed groups, in cooperation with UNAMET; provide protection for United Nations offices; and create a climate conducive to the holding of the popular consultation.
"The Secretary-General wishes to make clear that such acts of provocation and vandalism will not deter UNAMET from fulfilling its obligations as set forth in the 5 May Agreement and Security Council resolution 1246 (1999)."
Ian Martin also gave a press conference today, and we have the transcript of that, giving further details of this incident in East Timor. You can pick that up in my Office.
The Security Council is holding consultations this morning to take up the Secretary-General's report on the situation concerning Western Sahara. They were briefed by the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bernard Miyet. Under other matters, the Council is expected to discuss issues related to the question of Palestine, as well as East Timor.
After consultations, the Council has planned a formal meeting on Cyprus where they are expected to adopt a resolution extending the mandate of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). The Council may also have a formal meeting to adopt a presidential statement on East Timor.
**United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, today expressed concern that certain aspects of the legal proceedings against Abdullah Öcalan have deviated from international standards on the right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal.
She cited worries about his pre-trial detention, which included 10 days incommunicado. She also said that the lawyer-client privilege of confidentiality was breached, and that his lawyers were repeatedly subjected to threats and harassment.
Mrs. Robinson said she recognized the seriousness of the charges against Öcalan, but added that in view of concerns about the lack of due process, it was particularly disquieting that the Court had sentenced him to death. She also urged the Government to respect Mr. Öcalan's right to appeal.
We have the full text of the High Commissioner's statement in my Office.
Following the Secretary-General's report on Cyprus which was circulated last week, out on the racks this morning is a letter from the Secretary- General to the President of the Security Council on his intention to appoint Anne Hercus as his resident Special Representative and Chief of the United Nations Operation in Cyprus, with effect from the first of July.
Until 1992, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Cyprus was resident on the island. Since then, we have had non-resident special representatives. In his letter to the Council, the Secretary-General noted that since he took office in 1997 he has been considering the advantages in the longer term of having a resident Special Representative of the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General also placed on record his warm appreciation for the important contribution the previous Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Diego Cordovez, made in the search for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
As diplomatic efforts are under way to end the fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there is apparently no let-up in fighting in the South Kivu area of the eastern part of that country. Refugees arrived at a rate of 100 per hour over the weekend in the Tanzanian town of Kigoma. Confirming what prior groups have told the UNHCR, refugees reported battles between Mayi-Mayi factions, which are backing Kinshasa, and rebel groups, resulting in massive civilian displacement.
Refugees say women are being pressed into both sexual and domestic service by Mayi-Mayi groups and that males of fighting age who have traditional marks on their chests or arms are being taken away by rebels, who suspect them of being Mayi-Mayi fighters.
Last week's arrivals in the United Republic of Tanzania included two expatriate priests -- they are from Italy -- who were held for 40 days by a Mayi-Mayi group after being accused of sympathizing with the rebels before being released unharmed. The priests described the humanitarian situation in South Kivu as "truly catastrophic".
More than 80,000 refugees have fled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Tanzania since last August.
As we noted in the week ahead, the Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters is meeting here at Headquarters through tomorrow.
Board members are discussing biological weapons, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and missile issues. Also on the agenda for the current session is the situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
This afternoon, the Deputy Secretary-General will address the Board, and we'll distribute copies of her speech as soon as we can.
The UNHCR officially ended its operation in northern Mali at a ceremony in the Malian capital of Bamako on Friday, 25 June. Almost all of the 305,000 Malians who became refugees or were displaced within the country following the Tuareg rebellion in 1990 have now been returned to their homes.
More than 130,000 were refugees and were helped by the UNHCR to repatriate voluntarily, mainly from Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Algeria and the Niger. The UNHCR spent nearly $240 million between 1995 and 1999 on the refugee programs and to rehabilitate 638 returnee sites in Mali.
Today, we've already had two, I see, and this afternoon, Julia Taft, at 2 p.m., Deputy Head of the United States delegation to the General Assembly special session on population and development, and then 3 p.m., Francis Deng, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons, to discuss his recent trip to Colombia. This morning was Clare Short of the United Kingdom and President [Alberto] Fujimori of Peru.
A few details on television coverage were asked for yesterday. From Wednesday during the "Friends of Kosovo" meetings and the special session, United Nations Television will provide coverage of arrivals outside the Delegates' Entrance and photo opportunities. The feeds from -- all the coverages will be as follows:
In-house channels 31 or 3 -- live coverage from the "stakeouts", "photo opportunities" and other coverage and taped playback of press conferences when possible.
In-house channels 38 or 6 -- live coverage of the General Assembly meeting and of the luncheon hosted by the Secretary-General in honour of the participants of the special session.
And, finally, on in-house channel 78, 97 or 12 -- live coverage of all press conferences.
**4 July Fireworks
Finally, for you who want to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July, if you're planning to be in the city that weekend and you want a front-row seat from United Nations Headquarters, you can have access to this Building through the Visitors' Entrance starting at 6 p.m. The fireworks will go from about 9:30 to 10 p.m. If you want to bring guests, you can pick up tickets on a first-come, first-serve basis from the Pass and ID Office. We have a circular on that for any of you who are interested.
** Question-and-Answer Session
Question: On East Timor, does this attack presage postponement of the elections?
Spokesman: No, I don't think so. It's, it is, as I understand it, the regional office closest to the Indonesian border. It's a place where we most anticipated there could be trouble if there was, and it turned out that there was. President Habibie has assured the Secretary-General he would do everything he can to get the security situation under control, and we hope he would do that.
Question: Do you have information about the reason why the Indonesian militia attacked the UNAMET position?
Spokesman: You're talking about the incident of today? As I mentioned to you, the Special Representative gave a press conference in East Timor with details of the incident, and also I read a statement. You can get those two texts in my Office.
Question: Also on East Timor, there are reports this might not have been a spontaneous event, and that, in fact, the police might have been notified at least a day and a half ahead that this might happen. Is the Secretary-General concerned that the Indonesian military and police are not up to their responsibilities according to the Agreement?
Spokesman: I want to stick to what we said. In the statement, he calls on the authorities, who are responsible for security, to fully investigate this matter and to prosecute those who are responsible, whoever they may be.
Question: [If it was said that] this was a fight between integrationist and anti-integrationist forces, and some United Nations people got in the way. Rocks that were being thrown ...
Spokesman: Well, I don't think we've had the chance to investigate the specifics of what happened. Our preliminary assessment will be included in Ian Martin's statement to the press today. Any time an international staff member, or local staff member, for that matter, is injured on a United Nations mission, we do conduct our own investigation, which I'm sure we'll be doing. But we hold the Indonesian authorities responsible for investigating this incident and for prosecuting those responsible.
Question: Just in case you might have misread, [President] Fujimori, I don't think spoke today. I was expecting him at 3 o'clock at the General Assembly.
Spokesman: I know I didn't see him. This may be mistyped then. I'll have to double check. I know he's going to be here tomorrow. I'll have to double check that.
Question: This briefing about tomorrow's meeting, can you say something about the position of the United Nations and the various parties -- like summarized for every body, or is there any special issue that you think could be raised?
Spokesman: The background briefing on the "Friends"? The Secretary- General is going to have a meeting with his senior staff members involved in Kosovo this afternoon from 3 to 4 p.m. and that will be the latest information available concerning Kosovo, and it will set the stage for his presentation to the "Group of Friends" tomorrow. So, we hope after that meeting to give you a few more details about the agenda for the meeting and, maybe, give you a status report on where things stand in the field and what we consider our acute needs. And we'll be glad to offer that to you on background basis at 4:30.
Question: A couple of points. I think the Fujimori thing and the Clare Short thing is likely to be tomorrow, I'm told by the British Government next to me. On Kosovo, are we to expect that the meeting of "Friends of Kosovo" tomorrow will coincide with the announcement of a permanent representative or not?
Spokesman: The Special Representative we can't yet say for sure. The Secretary-General was on the phone throughout the morning, trying to finalize the selection of a permanent Special Representative for Kosovo. I think we're still hoping that he'll be able to announce it tomorrow, but as of this morning, we still couldn't say for sure that will happen. So, it remains a hope.
Question: Did Sergio Vieira de Mello sign off on the curfew that KFOR imposed on Pristina yesterday, last night?
Spokesman: I don't know for sure, but I know he meets with General [Michael] Jackson daily, and they confer on all these kinds of things. So, my assumption will be, yes. But, if you like, we'll try to double check for you by calling the mission. We couldn't get through this morning. There's something wrong with the satellite phones, so we didn't have vast current information this morning, as we normally have.
Question: You didn't say that the Secretary-General believed that the attack in East Timor is actually a violation of the May 5th Agreement. Is it?
Spokesman: The attack on United Nations staff? Of course.
Question: Indonesia violated the May 5th Agreement it signed with Portugal.
Spokesman: These individuals who threw the rocks violated the Agreement. If Indonesia is to live up to their part of the Agreement, they must get these lawless individuals under control -- and these militias -- which they have resolved to do and told us that they would do. So, we need to be convinced that they are acting in good faith, and to this point we assume that they are. But they need to work a little harder to prevent incidents like this from happening again.
Question: On that, if I can have a follow-up. The police under the May 5th Agreement is supposed to have sole responsibility for security. But there's a report today that the army is officially in charge of security, along with the police. So, is that not another violation of the Agreement? Spokesman: First of all, I don't know that that is so or not. I'll have to check to see what we know before I try to answer that question.
Question: I saw something the other day that KFOR troops were helping Serbs leave their areas and transporting them to Montenegro. Does that mean the United Nations endorses the Serbs fleeing, to become refugees?
Spokesman: No. As you know, we have been appealing to the Serb population to stay put and have a go at coexistence with the Albanian population of Kosovo. But sometimes in these situations where people have decided to leave -- and we can't dissuade them -- we may decide -- for their protection -- to escort them, but to the border. I'm just speculating. I don't know what happened, or might have happened in this particular case you're citing.
Question: There are indications that the Orthodox Church in Kosovo has sent a message to the Secretary-General. Do you have such a message?
Spokesman: I have to see. We have messages everyday, so I have to see whether we've received anything from the Orthodox Church. Okay, thanks very much.
**Briefing by Spokesman for President of General Assembly
Jadranka Mihalic, spokesman for the President of the General Assembly, in her briefing, said:
First of all, this afternoon the plenary of the General Assembly will meet to consider the report of the Fifth Committee contained in document A/53/485/Add.5. That concerns the budget of the United Nations Mission in East Timor through 31 August this year.
Then tomorrow morning, the General Assembly will begin its twenty-first special session for the overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994. The session is scheduled to last through this Friday. The provisional agenda has been issued already. It is document A/S-21/1. There are copies of the list of speakers available in the Spokesman's Office, and also the list of speakers has been posted on the Internet, at .
The session will be opened at 10 a.m. by the Chairman of the delegation of Uruguay. And then, following the minute of silent prayer and meditation, the Assembly will appoint the Credentials Committee which will then meet tomorrow afternoon. It will proceed with the election of the President for the special session. The Assembly will also have before it the report of the Commission on Population and Development Acting as Preparatory Committee for the Special Session. The Preparatory Committee is scheduled to complete its last session this afternoon. It will actually meet at 3 o'clock.
Following the adoption of the agenda, the Assembly will proceed with the general debate on the overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the Programme of Action adopted at the 1994 Cairo Conference. The first speaker in the general debate will be His Excellency Alberto Fujimori, President of Peru. He will be followed by the Vice-President of Colombia, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, and the State Counsellor of China. Ghana, Poland, Lithuania, Germany, Belgium and Austria will be represented in the debate at the ministerial level. The remaining speakers tomorrow morning are Iraq, South Africa, Latvia, Spain and Côte d'Ivoire. Sessions are also planned from 3 to 6 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. on all three days of the special session.
The note for correspondents, Note No.5568, outlining the media arrangements for the session, is already available on the racks. I'm told that the background press release on the session should be available, probably, in half an hour. Also the UNFPA press kit is available on the third floor at the press counter.
Secretary-General's Spokesman: Any questions? I have been told that I was wrong on all four press conferences. They are all tomorrow: Clare Short, Alberto Fujimori, Julia Taft and Francis Deng. Thank you very much.
* *** *
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|