DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
30 November 1999
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Shirley Brownell, Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General
**Secretary-General to Address World Trade Organization Today
The Secretary-General is in Seattle. He is expected to deliver his address in about two hour's time. Embargoed copies of his speech, as amended late yesterday in one place, have been available to you for a while.
Then, later today he will meet with the Rotary Club of Seattle, and I understand that after his address -- the text of which is available in my office -- he will take questions from the audience. There may be some press in the audience too, so we'll be monitoring anything he says and we'll give you a transcript if we think it's worth your while.
**Security Council: Month-end Wrap-up Agenda
The Security Council wraps up the month of November with a full schedule of work today.
First, they began with informal consultations on the renewal of the United Nations Civilian Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH), the mandate of which is to expire at midnight tonight. Council members are ready to vote on a resolution to continue MIPONUH's existence until 15 March of next year when it can be replaced by a new International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti (MICAH). That vote is expected to take place after the meeting on conflict prevention, which is continuing right now.
Also, the Council informally discussed a draft resolution to determine a date for holding an election to fill the expected vacancy in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), when Justice Stephen Schwebel's resignation takes effect. Justice Schwebel is scheduled to leave his post on 29 February.
Also in their informal consultations, the Council took up the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- there was a question on that yesterday --in which Member States have been discussing a draft resolution on equipping 500 military observers with the intention of eventually deploying them in that country.
Next on the agenda, the Security Council turned to unfinished business from yesterday, when the open debate on its role in conflict prevention was suspended last night at around 8 p.m. That debate resumed after these consultations; we have 13 speakers still to go. Once that debate concludes, the Council will read a Presidential Statement on conflict prevention.
They will then hold formal meetings on the Haiti resolution and on the ICJ resolution. There is a possibility that the Council may return in the afternoon for informal consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where work remains to be done on the draft resolution.
And that should do it for this month. Tomorrow, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Ambassador of the United Kingdom, will replace Ambassador Danilo Turk of Slovenia as Council President, and will hold bilateral meetings with the other members concerning their programme of work for December.
**UN Mission in East Timor will be "Lean", rely on "Local Resources", de Mello says
Sergio Vieira de Mello, the head of the United Nations Mission in East Timor, is in Sydney, Australia today, where at a press encounter he was asked about controlling the cost of his Mission. "I intend to keep it lean," he said, "as small as possible and rely as much as we can on local resources, or train them as a matter of urgency so that they can take over even before independence. That is what we are there for."
We have the full transcript of his comments to the press.
He returns to Dili tomorrow, and will be accompanied by Nobel Laureate Jose Ramos Horta, who will be returning to East Timor for the first time after 24 years of exile.
**UNHCR Opens New Repatriation Route From West Timor; Staff Confrontations with Militia Continue
Meanwhile, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced in Geneva today that they have opened a fourth repatriation corridor along the border with West Timor to speed the return of refugees. One thousand returnees went back through that new crossing since yesterday. In all, about 110,000 people have now returned to East Timor, and the Indonesian Government estimates that about 140,000 people still reside in refugee camps in West Timor.
The UNHCR staff continue to be confronted daily by the militia, and the agency is pressing the Indonesian Government to separate the militia from the refugees. West Timor is the only place in the world where UNHCR staff must have heavy military or police escort to enter refugee camps.
**Notes from Kosovo: UNMIK Kicks off Vehicle Registration Programme
The United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) started the temporary registration of all motor vehicles in Kosovo today when Special Representative Bernard Kouchner placed the first license plate on the first car at the registration centre in Pristina. He said, "This is the most visible sign of law and order in Kosovo. With the return of regular license plates, it will be safer on the roads of Kosovo."
The people of Kosovo have until next 31 March next year to register their vehicles at UNMIK registration centres. UNMIK plans to open six more registration centres throughout Kosovo.
Also in Kosovo news, one of two Egyptian police who was injured in a bar-room dispute over the weekend was transported to a hospital in Vienna; the other is recuperating in Kosovo. The incident, which occurred Saturday night in Gnjilane, was not regarded either to be an attack on UNMIK or an ethnic attack.
**UN Peacekeepers land in Sierra Leone
The first group of 130 Kenyan troops landed in Sierra Leone at 9:30 p.m. local time yesterday, much later than expected. The welcoming ceremony was postponed till this morning. The deployment of the 6,000 peacekeepers expected in Sierra Leone will take place throughout December.
**Notes from Sierra Leone: Mission Reports Surge in RUF Disarmament
Meanwhile, there has been a surge in the disarmament of former rebel fighters from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). More than 500 ex- combatants have registered and surrendered their arms after an appeal from Foday Sankoh, their leader. There are now 1,342 that have disarmed from the RUF, 494 from the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, and 515 from the Civil Defense.
However, problems persist in other part of the country. UNHCR reports the arrival of about 700 people at the Guinean border yesterday. They were reported to be fleeing attacks by rebels in northwestern Sierra Leone. These refugees come in addition to the 192,000 Sierra Leonean refugees already in Guinea.
**World AIDS Day Tomorrow
The number of children orphaned by AIDS is skyrocketing, according to a report that will be released here tomorrow by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
The report, "Children Orphaned by AIDS: Front-line Responses from Eastern and Southern Africa," highlights the plight of children below the age of 15 who have lost one or both parents to AIDS-related causes. According to the report, by the end of this year, 11.2 million children will have been orphaned by AIDS worldwide, with 95 percent of the "AIDS orphans" living in sub-Saharan Africa.
The report is being launched here tomorrow, on World AIDS Day. As you'll recall, the United Nations commemoration will begin at 10 a.m. in Conference Room 4, and participants will include Jordan's Queen Noor, United States First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Harry Belafonte.
Although we won't be able to provide copies of the report in time for World AIDS Day, we do have a press release upstairs, which is embargoed until 2:30 p.m. GMT tomorrow -- that is, 9:30 a.m. here in New York.
**In Seattle, WHO's Brundlandt Appeals to World Trade Ministers for Better Access to Essential Drugs
Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), says that one-third of the world's people still lack access to essential drugs, and she says that "those in charge of global trade must place this striking market failure at the core of their attention."
Mrs. Brundtland's appeal comes at the start of the third Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in Seattle today. WHO has put out both her comments on how health concerns should be addressed in trade talks and a background paper on trade and public health; those releases are available in my office.
**Dhanapala to Speak at Disarmament Forum in Peru
Jayantha Dhanapala, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, says that Latin American and Caribbean countries today show an awareness of the "absolute need to settle inter-State problems without violence". He makes that comment in a speech that he will deliver tomorrow at a forum on 'Disarmament and Security: A New Latin American and Caribbean Agenda for the Next Millennium,' which will be held in Lima, Peru.
The event is a cooperative effort by the United Nations Disarmament Department and the Government of Peru, along with the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean. Its purpose is to review progress in the region on disarmament.
We have advance copies of Dhanapala's speech in my Office.
**Press Conferences Tomorrow
We have a press conference scheduled for 9:30 a.m. tomorrow for you early birds. Dr. Peter Piot, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Urban Jonnson, the UNICEF Regional Director from eastern and Southern Africa and Harry Belafonte, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, will discuss this report that I just mentioned to you on children orphaned by AIDS.
And then, the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) has asked me to announce that you are invited to a briefing and a discussion with Ambassador Marjatta Rasi of Finland, on the agenda of the European Union at the United Nations during the Finnish Presidency of the European Union. That will be tomorrow, Wednesday, at 11 a.m. in the UNCA Club on the third floor - - you know where that is.
That's all I have for you. Are there any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: There's an article in The New York Times today about the incident in Kosovo. So I wanted to ask you if you have any information that the man who was killed in Kosovo had driven through the crowd gathered there?
Spokesman: No. I don't have those details. The crowd that surrounded the car was huge, that's all I know. It was difficult to see what was going on, so by the time our people got through the crowd, the car had already been turned over and set on fire; the man had been shot and the women were lying on the ground crying for help.
Question: So there had been no previous quarrel? They were just frightened and attacked.
Spokesman: Again, I don't know the details. I know that ethnically they were Serbs, they were in the middle of a large ethnic Albanian crowd and they were attacked.
Question: What do the new license plates in Kosovo look like? Are they Yugoslav license plates or do they have a special designation -- could they become an issue currency wise, as a symbol of independence?
Spokesman: I'll have to find that out for you. There should be no symbols except of substantial autonomy, which is the programme that we're following as mandated by the Security Council.
Question: I understand that there's a pretty healthy trade in stolen automobiles in that part of the world. When someone brings a car to be registered there, are there going to be some checks in place to see whether it's been listed as stolen and then smuggled into Kosovo?
Spokesman: The United Nations police there have already had a program for stopping vehicles and trying to verify ownership. They've recovered a number of new Mercedes Benz's and other valuable cars that it turned out were indeed stolen. I'd have to check whether there's any computer link to ownership records Europe-wide, but I'll get back to you on that.
Question: Do you have any additional information on the Cyprus talks?
Spokesman: Yes. The plan is for Alvaro de Soto to brief the Security Council sometime this week, possibly Thursday, concerning the logistics and maybe the substance of the talks. There is a news “blackout” on the talks that the Secretary-General agreed on with the parties. So I think that Alvaro plans to brief you after he's briefed the Council -- not on substance, just on procedures -- so you'll get a sense of timing and format and that kind of thing. You can ask him any questions you have except on substance [laughter].
Question: As there was for the last round [of talks], will there be at least some sort of photo opportunity for those of us in TV to show that the talks have begun?
Spokesman: I'm sure we can arrange that. We've already been discussing with the Information Department how to make that happen.
Question: Is Hillary Clinton coming as the First Lady or as Senatorial Candidate Clinton?
Spokesman: She's described [in the press release] as “First Lady”.
Question: Is there a feeling at the United Nations that someone running for a national office shouldn't really use the United Nations as forum. Spokesman: You'll have to speak to the sponsors of this event. I'm sure Mrs. Clinton is here, in whatever capacity, to support the cause that this program is about.
Question: I'm wondering if the Secretary-General or any other member of the Secretariat meets with the Permanent Five Members of the Security Council when they are discussing issues like “oil-for-food”, or at any other time when the other members of the Council are not present?
Spokesman: To my knowledge, no, although I'll have to double check for you. These meetings, to my knowledge, are not held on the premises, but are held at one of the missions and what feedback we get from them I don't know. I know I'm pretty much in the dark about what they're discussing, so I don't know who they brief in the Secretariat. I'll try to find out for you if there was any member of the Secretariat at that particular meeting, though.
[Shortly after the briefing, the Spokesman made the following statement in response to this question: No member of the Secretariat met with the Permanent Five Members of the Security Council during their discussions on the 'Oil-for-Food' Programme.]
Question: With the conflict in Chechnya intensifying, and many other organizations and Governments speaking out against the violence there, does the Secretary-General have a recent position on this issue?
Spokesman: the Secretary-General, if you'll recall was the first to speak up on this issue, and his second statement, I think, was pretty strong and still stands. To my knowledge, he has nothing at this time to add to what he has already said.
Briefing by Spokeswoman for General Assembly President
Today, the General Assembly is considering the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East. After hearing the remaining 14 speakers on the first item this morning, the Assembly commenced hearing 38 speakers in the debate on the second. When it has heard all the statements, the Assembly will, tomorrow morning, take action on two draft resolutions on the situation in the Middle East and four on the question of Palestine. Last year, all six texts were adopted by recorded votes.
The four draft resolutions on the question of Palestine were introduced on Monday afternoon by the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Ambassador Ibra Deguene Ka of Senegal. Those texts pertain to the Palestinian Rights Committee (A/54/L.42), the Division for Palestinian Rights (A/54/L.43), the Department of Public Information’s special information programme on the question of Palestine (A/54/L.44) and peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (A/54/L.45). The related reports are those of the Palestinian Rights Committee (A/54/35), and of the Secretary-General (A/54/457).
The representative of Egypt will introduce the two drafts on the situation in the Middle East, the first of which deals with Jerusalem (A/54/L.40). By its provisions, the Assembly would determine that Israel’s decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem is illegal and therefore null and void; it would deplore the transfer by some States of their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem in violation of Security Council resolution 478 (1980), and would again call upon them to abide by the relevant resolutions in conformity with the United Nations Charter.
By the second draft, on the Syrian Golan (A/54/L.41), the Assembly would call on Israel to resume the talks on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks and to respect the commitments and undertakings reached during the previous talks; it would call upon all the parties concerned, the co-sponsors and the entire international community to exert all the necessary efforts to ensure the resumption of the peace process and its success; and would demand once more that Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967 in implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions.
In his report (A/54/457), the Secretary-General expresses the hope that progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track will soon lead to movement on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks so that peace, security and stability may be achieved for all peoples in the region on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978) and the principle of land for peace. Another report (A/54/495) contains the replies received from six Governments on steps they had taken or envisaged taking to implement last year’s resolutions, 53/37 and 53/38, on Jerusalem and Israeli policies in the Syrian Golan.
Tomorrow afternoon, the Assembly will take action on 22 reports of the First Committee, on disarmament and international security issues. The list of Committee reports can be found in A/C.1/54/INF/3.
I wish to draw your attention to additions to the Assembly’s programme of work. On Wednesday, 8 December, in the morning, the Assembly will take up item 46, entitled “Causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa”. On Tuesday, 14 December, in the morning, open-ended informal consultations of the plenary on item 49(b), “the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations”, will be held in Conference Room 1. With regard to the scheduling of item 38, “Question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters”, the President informs the Assembly that he is still holding consultations and will inform the members in due time.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) is meeting this morning to conclude its general discussion on human resources management, including the issue of gratis personnel. Discussion will also conclude concerning revised estimates arising out of resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council. Items on programme planning and pattern of conferences will be introduced and discussed.
Today is election day in Namibia, and this morning Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab went to cast his vote, at the Namibian Mission, in the country’s national and parliamentary elections. This afternoon, the President will preside as the Assembly continues hearing statements on the situation in the Middle East. This evening, he will attend a reception hosted by the Permanent Representative of Slovenia, Danilo Turk, in his capacity as President of the Security Council for November, in honour of all those involved in the work of the Council.
That's all I have.
Spokesman: Any questions for Shirley? Ok. Enjoy your lunch.
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