DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OF OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
27 August 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.
Good afternoon. Today, our special guest at the noon briefing is Carl Bildt, one of the Special Envoys of the Secretary-General for the Balkans. Welcome.
Security Council members had a formal meeting on East Timor today, during which they adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the United Nations mission in East Timor for another three months, and expanding its civilian police and military liaison component. This new structure is being established in anticipation of the next phase of the United Nations presence in East Timor, after the popular consultation that will take place next Monday.
Before the vote, five non-Members spoke. None of the Members of the Council took the floor because the President read a short statement after the vote, affirming the views of the Council that the popular consultation of the East Timorese people represents an historic opportunity to decide their own future.
The Security Council is now holding an orientation meeting on Afghanistan in a formal session. The Council first heard a briefing on the current situation in Afghanistan by Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary- General for Political Affairs. Close to 30 speakers are expected to take the floor.
Still on the Council, yesterday afternoon, the Council had consultations on Burundi, as we announced earlier. They were briefed by Ibrahima Fall, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, and it was on the peace process and remaining obstacles.
This morning in Dili, the Special Representative of the Secretary- General Ian Martin reaffirmed that the ballot will go ahead, as scheduled, on Monday. He said, "We are continuing to make all the preparations necessary to open polling throughout East Timor on Monday". Referring to the violence which occurred in Dili yesterday, he said that, "it is essential that the
Indonesian Police, who under the agreement have the responsibility for security for the popular consultation, take action to arrest and remove weapons from those who continue to move about freely with them, to threaten, and as we have seen yesterday, to kill.
Meanwhile, in Lisbon, there was another round of senior officials' talks yesterday. Ambassador Jamsheed Marker, the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, chaired the meeting, and at a press conference yesterday afternoon said that they had taken note of the intention of the Government of Indonesia to release Xanana Gusmao by mid-September.
During the Lisbon meeting, they discussed the most recent developments in East Timor. They also reviewed the establishment of the East Timorese Consultative Commission, which you might recall, is composed of 25 members, 10 nominated by each side and appointed by the Secretary-General, and five appointed by the Secretary-General after hearing the two sides. The Commission will be finalized before the result of the ballot is announced. They also agreed in Lisbon that the senior officials will establish a sub- group to deal with the technical aspects of the implementation of the results of the consultation. The group will work very closely with the Consultative Commission.
The transcripts of both press conferences are available in our office upstairs.
The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, today joined a protest for the release of political prisoners still being held in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. He urged the international community to exert pressure for the release of detainees and missing persons.
Kouchner marched with hundreds of demonstrators who were trying to call attention to the more than 5,000 Kosovar Albanians believed to be detained in Serbia. Addressing the protestors, Kouchner announced that the Kosovo Transitional Council would create a special working group to address the issue. He said, "It is against all the laws of human rights and the Geneva Convention not to tell these families about their relatives. This is barbarism to treat people this way and you will be helped by the United Nations (and all the nations of the world)." We have a press release upstairs with more information.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) announced today a new plan for resuming higher education in the province. The plan is based on the principle that all communities must be able to share the facilities and opportunities, which belong to them without discrimination or segregation. It prohibits the exclusive use of any institution by one group or another. The plan envisions a fair, secure and practical sharing of university public facilities, according to time-sharing arrangements to be worked out by the parties themselves.
On another front, the Mission is now re-integrating more than 1,000 employees of the Kosovo railway work force in order to bring food, shelter and other crucial supplies to the province before winter. Earlier this week, UNMIK located and registered some 800 Albanians around Kosovo who had worked previously for the railway system; most of them had lost their jobs in 1989. The Mission is working to integrate these former employees with another 640 Serb and Albanian workers who have been brought back to the railway system over the last three weeks.
You can read more in the briefing notes from Pristina, which are available in our office.
As we told you yesterday, there are some 7,000 internally displaced Afghans living in the former Soviet diplomatic compound in Kabul. Today, we learned that the World Food Programme (WFP) is going to continue providing food to these people for an additional month. That food ration was set to expire today, but WFP decided to extend it, given the increasing number of displaced people in the compound, their vulnerability and the low probability of their return in the short term.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that an additional 150 internally displaced persons are arriving in Kabul each day. The city now has about 30 to 40,000 internally displaced persons in total.
The United Nations is also concerned about the situation in the Panjshir Valley, which is very difficult to access with humanitarian aid even in good weather. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast, just told the Security Council that a five-member United Nations team left for the area last Sunday to assess the situation there.
You can pick up copies of the briefing notes from Islamabad and from UNHCR in Geneva in our office.
Also on Afghanistan, I can tell you that the Special Rapporteur for Violence against Women of the Commission on Human Rights has scheduled a visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan next month. Radhika Coomaraswamy will be in those countries from 1 September to 11 September. In Afghanistan, she will analyze the nature of violence against women and discuss possible solutions with the various parties. **Liberia
Moving on to Africa, a joint WFP/NGO mission to Zorzor last week, found over 25,000 internally displaced persons who had fled recent fighting in the Upper Lofa County. Unconfirmed reports indicate that many more may still be making the 80-150-kilometer trek from the Vahun-Kolahun-Voinjama area in Upper Lofa County to Zorzor. WFP is planning to provide a week's ration of food to the internally displaced persons. Some non-food items, including blankets and jerry cans have been delivered by non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
**Tribunal on Law of the Sea
As we promised you yesterday, we received word from the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea on its decision in the cases brought by Australia and New Zealand against Japan.
You'll recall that Australia and New Zealand filed their cases at the end of July against Japan for its failure to conserve the stock of Southern Bluefin Tuna. They claimed that Japan's actions threatened to seriously damage the tuna population, and asked the Tribunal to order that Japan immediately cease its unilateral experimental fishing of the Bluefin Tuna.
Today, the Tribunal decided that all of the countries concerned should refrain from conducting an experimental fishing of Southern Bluefin Tuna, except with the agreement of the other parties or unless the experimental catch is counted against the annual national allocation given to each country.
We have a press release on this available upstairs.
**Earthquake in Turkey
We also have two press releases on the United Nations response to the earthquake in Turkey. From the World Health Organization, we have a report on the importance of water and sanitation systems in controlling the spread of disease following the tragedy. And the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is announcing that it will provide more than $7 million for water and sanitation projects in Turkey.
Saint Lucia this morning became the eighty-fifth country to sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. So far, the Statute has four parties. It needs 60 to enter into force.
Mali fulfilled its regular budget obligations today, by making a payment of over $20,000. This makes Mali the ninety-third Member State to pay in full the 1999 contribution.
**Week Ahead In conclusion, we have our "week-ahead" feature available upstairs. I am going to mention some of the highlights from the week ahead very quickly: on Monday, the Security Council has scheduled consultations on Kosovo; on Tuesday, the Council has scheduled consultations on the Central African Republic and on Haiti; on Wednesday, the Presidency of the Security Council rotates from Namibia to the Netherlands. Thursday and Friday, the Secretary-General will be in Moncton, Canada, participating in the Summit of the Francophonie. Also on Friday, we'll have a briefing here by the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM) on the Microcredit Summit Campaign report.
This is all I have for you. Are there any questions before we go to our guest?
Question and Answer Session
Question: According to the Secretary-General's reports on Haiti, the five- year United Nations operation in that country was a disaster. What option do small countries have against bad judgement either by the Security Council or the Secretary-General? I know that Cuba, in that situation, is suing the United States. What can a small country that finds itself in a situation of disaster do?
Deputy Spokesman: You are expressing your own judgement on the actions of the international community.
Correspondent: This is in the reports of the Secretary-General 32, 33 and 34. It is a disaster.
Deputy Spokesman: Haiti is a very complex situation. As you know, it has been on the agenda of the Security Council, and of the General Assembly, and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). There was a recent resolution by the ECOSOC that you are very familiar with. Obviously, the problem has a lot to do with the Haitians also, and the decisions that are needed in order for the process of democratization and elections to go on. If you wish, we can discuss this issue at length. I would prefer not to take time of this briefing right now, going on about this.
If there are no other questions, we will move on to Carl Bildt, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Balkans.
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