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6 October 1999

Press Briefing



At the conclusion of yesterday's noon briefing, Bernard Miyet Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, took questions from the press on the Report of the Secretary-General on the Situation in East Timor. He was introduced by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General. Following is a near-verbatim transcript of that briefing:

Spokesman: I would like to welcome Bernard Miyet, Under- Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, who is joining us to discuss with you the report of the Secretary-General on the Situation in East Timor.

Question: Since you had so much difficulty with the money for Kosovo, where is the money going to come from for Timor?

Under-Secretary-General: On the question of financing, I would say that the resources will come from the same sources. And we hope that for both Kosovo and East Timor, the Member States will, as the Secretary-General had asked, live up to their financial and moral obligations. So we try to impress this upon them. The report on the budget for Kosovo was prepared this week and will be submitted to the Fifth Committee so we will now be able to assess contributions to finance the international part of United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). We clearly still have requirements and a need for support for all the activities, which are the payment of civil servants, the infrastructures and the rehabilitation of the public services and utilities. For these we will also need voluntary contributions. This has been the case for Kosovo and it will be the case in East Timor.

Question: In East Timor, the request of the Secretary-General to create a new United Nations peacekeeping force to replace the Multi- National Forces (MNF), the numbers are almost 9,000. How quickly will you begin that transition between the United Nations force and the MNF force? And also, this police force, which sounds like the Kosovo model, is that something that will happen before the peacekeeping force goes into play and will work with the MNF? And are the Australians eager to go and are they likely to just put on blue hats and helmets.

Under-Secretary-General: On your first point, three elements of this transfer must be considered: the civilian, the police and the military. We will establish each component according to necessity. This does not mean that at the same time, for example, you will set up the civilian administration, or the United Nations peacekeeping operations will replace INTERFET and you take over the police.

For the military part, it is clear that we want to transform the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) into a United Nations peacekeeping operation as soon as possible. This is the understanding not only from the side of the Secretariat but it is also the wish of the Australians who lead the force as well as the troop-contributing countries, and in particular, those countries that need to be financially supported for their activities in this first phase.

A trust fund has been created with $100 million given by the Japanese and $5 million given by the Portuguese. But you cannot have the MNF running for months only financed through voluntary contributions. So most countries participating in the MNF would like to see this operation transformed into a United Nations peacekeeping operation.

We want a seamless transition. We want to avoid a situation in which there would be a gap between the end of INTERFET and the beginning of the United Nations peacekeeping operation. We do not want to create a situation where troops are withdrawn and there is a vacuum for a few days or weeks before the United Nations peacekeeping operation is organized. The Australians will have to and, I am sure, want to reduce the size of their own troops.

The second aspect of this transition is to be sure that not only should you have people coming in, but also have equipment and accommodations there too when they arrive. We are discussing with the Australians the possibility of leaving behind some equipment, at least on a temporary basis, (we could lease it) or if we have to soon introduce United Nations equipment.

The third point would be to have a new leadership and fresh troops when the situation has stabilized in such a way to allow for a seamless transition. I cannot give an exact day for that, but the idea is that it will be between two to four months to make sure that all the requirements are respected.

As far as the police forces are concerned, we already have the authorization to send 460 policemen out of the 1,640 that we want to deploy. We gave instructions to deploy them as soon as possible. Almost 180 of them are present either in Dili or Darwin and are ready to be moved to other locations as soon as security conditions permit, as well as when we get the logistical capacity to move them. We are working with INTERFET to establish a United Nations presence as soon as possible. It will be much more difficult logistically now since so much damage has been done and security is lacking in some areas.

Question: What does the plan envision the role of the FALINTIL will be? Is there any parallel with the Kosovo Liberation Army? I understand there is no aim to forcibly disarm them, but what role will they play during the transitional period?

Under-Secretary-General: These are questions that need to be discussed with the Special Representative as soon as possible. The FALINTIL has been very cooperative with the INTERFET until now and have shown restraint. They have respected advice given by INTERFET in order to avoid any kind of provocation.

Question: Do you feel that you have you received sufficient pledges for the 9,000 troops you envisaged and, along those lines, approximately what amount of troops to you expect to be held over from INTERFET into the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) force?

Under-Secretary-General: We are requesting the potential troop- contributing nations to provide us with figures. We have numerous commitments from different countries and we are assessing the situation in order to have a seamless transition. I am rather optimistic that we will be able to get the numbers. It is clear that we have to be sure that the countries that participate in the MNF provide troops that will remain. They could start with contingents that will be augmented later on.

Question: Can you give any kind of ballpark on costs? The initial requests for cost for Kosovo was $200 million. And how does the civilian side compare with Kosovo and do you think it will be an easier job since Timor is on its way to independence.

Under-Secretary-General: The status landscape is clearer than in Kosovo. Timor will have a clear-cut independence status on which you can build a new state. But as far as the costs, it's difficult to give a figure at this point. Don't use the $200 million figure to judge. That was only an advance financial authority. We will have to look closely at the civilian side but it does differ from Kosovo. Globally, I think that the East Timor operation will be more costly than the Kosovo one.

Question: What's the role of the National Council for Timorese Resistance (CNRT) in the civilian administration and do you have a deadline for the elections. What will the Portuguese role be? Do they have any specific role legally in the hand over of power? Is there any objection to Portuguese troops going in?

Under-Secretary-General: The CNRT will be a key player but it will be the objective of the United Nations to be inclusive in order to ensure that East Timor will start on the best footing. But, for the time being it is difficult to envisage bringing in the pro-integration militia representatives. . On the issue of the transfer of authority, we can think that it will be after two to three years. This was discussed with some East Timorese. The general election would come then, but this would have to be re-discussed with and among the East Timorese themselves.

The responsibility of the administration will be delegated to the United Nations, but we will cooperate with Portugal. But the responsibility will be a United Nations one.

The Portuguese military has not been included in INTERFET, but I feel that they are ready to participate in the United Nations peacekeeping operations. This is something that I feel can be discussed positively for the future.

Question: What sort of Security Council authorization is needed to deploy those "urgent measures"? What sort of timing and contribution are you looking for from Member States?

Under-Secretary-General: We already have civilian police in Darwin ready to move in. We have civilian personnel there ready to move as well. We will do it accordingly. It will be the responsibility of the Secretariat to assess the security conditions and to have the necessary means to move our people to the different locations. This is the way we'll move forward.

Question: Give me an idea of the "robust mandate" the United Nations peacekeepers will require to carry out this mission?

Under-Secretary-General: I would say you already have the "robust mandate" and would like to have the capacity to respond. Not to make war, but to be able to deter and to respond to hostile acts.

Question: Do you foresee having to go back to Indonesia between now and when the parliament ratifies the results to negotiate what the Secretary-General is going to integrate into East Timor. Or have the civilian police turned it over to you.

Under-Secretary-General: As I told you as far as the urgent measures are concerned, this was discussed last week in the Tripartite meeting with Indonesia and Portugal. It has been understood by everyone that we could implement these urgent measures without having to go back.

Question: What happens if the Assembly does not ratify this plan?

Under-Secretary-General: I'm not here to respond to this type of question, but the commitment seems to be there at all levels, in the political majority as well as in the opposition in Indonesia, and we expect on our side that this commitment will be respected.

Question: You won't begin the peacekeeping operations until the vote takes place, correct?

Under Secretary-General: Clearly the multinational force is already there.

Question: What about the hand-over to the United Nations forces?

Under-Secretary-General: The hand-over, as I told you will be in two to four months. As far as I know, the Indonesian parliament will discuss this question in a matter of days rather than weeks.

Question: I understand that Bosnia and Herzegovina made a formal offer of troops for this mission. Have you received that offer? Is it likely to happen?

Under-Secretary-General: This has to be seen in a global context of what we have and the needs of this operation. We are just looking at all these questions and we will come back when we have a full picture of what troops are available and what are the needs to ensure a seamless transition.

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