DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
1 December 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
**Despite Protesters, Secretary-General Continues Partial WTO Programme, Heads Home
The Secretary-General is in the air somewhere between Seattle and New York. He was blocked by demonstrators from giving his address to the World Trade Organization (WTO) yesterday.
Thousands of demonstrators clogged the streets leading to the site of the WTO Conference, keeping the Secretary-General and other speakers pent up in their hotels. The opening ceremony at which he was to speak was cancelled, although the Conference itself was officially declared open at 2 p.m. local time.
The Secretary-General was able to continue with the rest of his programme, however. He chaired a lively meeting with Bill Gates, Sr., of the Gates Foundation, which was also attended by representatives of other foundations, at which they discussed ways the private sector might stimulate economic development in poor countries.
Later in the afternoon, about 150 people who braved the hostile conditions on the streets turned out to hear the Secretary-General address an event sponsored by the Rotary Club. One of those people was Washington Senator Patty Murray. In the question and answer session that followed, some of the issues raised were: protection of refugees, debt forgiveness, AIDS, and sanctions against Cuba. We hope to have a tape of that session by the end of this afternoon when [Associate Spokesman] Marie Okabe returns from Seattle.
The Secretary-General also had his scheduled private meeting with Bill Gates, Jr., before attending the WTO official dinner.
As for his speech, please treat it as if it had been delivered.
**Secretary-General Welcomes Mandela as New Facilitator of Burundi Peace Process
I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesman on the subject of Burundi:
The Secretary-General welcomes the designation by the eight Arusha Regional Summit on Burundi of Nelson Mandela, the former President of the Republic of South Africa, as the new facilitator of the Burundi peace process. He hopes that the prestige and authority of Mr. Mandela will reinvigorate the process in Arusha after the death of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.
In view of the current political and security situation prevailing in Burundi, the Secretary-General views the designation of Mr. Mandela as a timely decision on the part of the regional leaders, and joins in their call on all the Burundi parties to extend maximum cooperation to the new facilitator towards the successful and urgent conclusion of the peace negotiations. The Secretary-General reiterates his view that there is no alternative to a negotiated settlement of the Burundi conflict, and he pledges the full support of the United Nations for the new facilitator.
**Notes from East Timor: Exiled Nobel Laureate Horta Returns Home
Sergio Vieira de Mello, the head of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), returned from Australia to Dili today, bringing with him Jose Ramos Horta, the Nobel Laureate, who returned to East Timor for the first time after 24 years in exile. Ramos Horta told a welcoming crowd, "We have in New York a great, good friend, Kofi Annan, and we have here is East Timor the second best man that the United Nations has, Sergio Vieira de Mello." He was obviously happy to be home.
Independence leader Xanana Gusmão also returned to East Timor today from Jakarta, where he had successful talks with the Indonesian authorities. Indonesia announced the release of 18 East Timorese prisoners and the reopening of air traffic between Indonesia and East Timor.
The population of Dili, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates, is now over 138,000.
**Human Rights Team Continues Inquiry on Violations in East Timor
The members of the International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor are in Dili, where they have been meeting with eyewitnesses of violations, and hearing testimony to killings and deportations. Their forensic expert has carried out preliminary examinations of some of the bodies that had been found recently in West Timor, but there are no conclusions yet on that examination. They also met with independence leader Xanana Gusmão and Bishop Carlos Belo. On Saturday, the Commissioners went to Los Palos, in the east of the region, where killings had taken place during and after the voting period.
The Commissioners are scheduled to stay in Dili through the second week of December. They are still awaiting Indonesian visas that would allow them to go to Jakarta and West Timor.
**Notes from Kosovo: Transitional Council Calls ‘Flag Day’ Killing Misuse of Liberty
The Kosovo Transitional Council today condemned the Monday attack on a Serb family, in which a man was shot to death and his wife and mother-in-law beaten by a mob during the celebration of "Albanian Flag Day".
Special Representative Bernard Kouchner issued a statement on behalf of the Council, which called the attack "a grave misuse of the liberty awarded to the people of Kosovo by the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) and KFOR, to peacefully celebrate the Albanian 'Flag Day'".
UNMIK police are continuing their investigation of the attack, and reported that the two women had been transported to a hospital in Nis, Serbia. Due to their injuries, the women will not be able to speak for several days, police say.
UNMIK police are issuing a flyer asking for witnesses to the attack to provide information.
Also in Kosovo, yesterday's registration of vehicles in Pristina resulted in the registration and provision of license plates to 75 cars. The holders of the licenses will need to return for registration certificates after insurance companies are approved.
**Iraq Programme Update
Yesterday afternoon, we received the regular update from the Iraq Programme. It says that during Phase VI, which ended on 24 November, Iraq exported 389.6 million barrels with an estimated value of $7.457 billion.
As of 29 November the Office of the Iraq Programme had received 1,237 contracts for humanitarian supplies under Phase V. Of those, 1,102 have been circulated to the Security Council’s Sanctions Committee. Also, 910, worth $1.52 billion, have been approved and 192, worth $526 million, have been put on hold.
For Phase VI, the Office has received 1,022 contracts worth over $2 billion, and circulated 737 of them to the Sanctions Committee. Of those, 509 worth just over $1 billion have been approved, and 180 worth $344 million have been put on hold.
You can get those details from the report with more precise dollar figures if you are interested.
**Security Council: A Day of Rest, Then Back to Work
It's the first of the month, so the Security Council is not holding any meetings; instead, the new Council President, Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of the United Kingdom, will hold bilateral meetings with Council Members.
Yesterday evening, however, the Council completed its work for November by voting unanimously in favour of a resolution that requested the Secretary-General "to take the administrative steps necessary for the equipping of up to 500 military observers" in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Tomorrow, the Council is expected to take up the programme of work. It is also expecting a briefing on the upcoming Cyprus talks by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Alvaro de Soto, and it may also take up the renewal of the "oil-for-food" programme, which is otherwise set to expire on 4 December.
Following his briefing to the Council, Alvaro de Soto will hold a press conference in this room about the logistics, but not the substance, of the Cyprus talks.
Once we get the Security Council’s programme, we’ll have some idea of what time of the day Alvaro will be briefing you.
**UN Honors ‘Children Left Behind’ on World AIDS Day
Today is World AIDS Day. The United Nations is commemorating the occasion with a series of events, most notably the ceremony in honour of "The Children Left Behind" which began in Conference Room 4 at 10 a.m.
Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette welcomed three children from three different continents who had been orphaned by AIDS, and told the gathering that, over the next decade, the number of such "AIDS orphans" is expected to grow in Asia, the Americas and the newly independent States of the former Soviet Union.
The worst crisis, she warned, is in Africa. "AIDS now kills more people in Africa than war." She added that “AIDS is turning children into orphans more quickly than governments and family structures can cope”.
Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), added that AIDS has brought to the world images of different kinds of families: "grandparents surrounded by children; teenagers heading households, caring for younger brothers, sisters, cousins; children tending ill and dying parents and communities of children without parents".
We have his and the Deputy Secretary-General's messages in full in my office.
Then, Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), drew attention to the special problems of AIDS orphans this morning at a press conference in this room in which the report, "The Children Left Behind", produced by UNAIDS and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), was released.
We have reference copies of the full report upstairs, or you can ask UNICEF for copies.
The entire World AIDS Day programme can be seen live on your in-house channels, and is also being cast live on the Internet via a special Web page .
**UNDCP to Establish AIDS Prevention Projects in Four Eastern European Countries
The United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), in conjunction with UNAIDS, announced today it will establish four new AIDS prevention projects in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Ten percent of HIV infections worldwide, or nearly three and a half million people, are due to intravenous drug use. The Central Asian/Eastern European region had the greatest percentage increase in HIV infections in the world in 1999, and intravenous drug use is a leading cause of the increase.
You can see a press release with that information.
**Vanuatuan Island Devastated by Earthquake, Tsunami
On Saturday, an earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter Scale hit the Vanuatuan island of Pentecost. The earthquake was followed within 15 minutes by a tsunami, or tidal wave, that swept ashore on the southern tip of the island. Eight fatalities and about 40 serious injuries have been reported. The tsunami flattened all low-lying structures of the town it hit, including the brick schoolhouse, leaving only the church still standing. The United Nations system has offered a range of financial assistance, including the possibility of an emergency grant to pay for relief items or logistics, and assistance with the assessment of needs for immediate relief and long-term recovery.
We have a situation report from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on that incident.
**FAO To End TeleFood Campaign with Concert in Jamaica
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will end this year's TeleFood Campaign with a three-hour concert that will be held this Saturday at James Bond Beach –- is that true? -- in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Sounds nice [laughter].
In a joint appeal to raise money for food projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, FAO Director Jacques Diouf and Jamaican Prime Minister Percival J. Patterson said that the global telecast of the concert would use music to send "a message to create public awareness, solidarity and hope for the hungry".
The concert will be televised internationally and can also be seen on the FAO homepage, for 30 days after the concert.
We have a press release upstairs with details.
We also have two press releases from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) concerning the WTO meeting.
There were questions this morning about a report from Afghanistan saying that the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator there, Erick de Mul, had been taken to the front lines north of Kabul by the Taliban authorities to confirm that there were no child soldiers fighting on that front. This was apparently in response to the Secretary-General’s report on Afghanistan that reported that all sides in this conflict had been using child soldiers. We understand that De Mul will be seeing senior Taliban officials, and we are waiting to get a report from him following those meetings. Until we do, we will have no further comment.
Any questions before we go to Shirley?
**Question and Answer
Question: Can we get the names of some of the pharmaceutical companies that are leading the fight against AIDS?
Spokesman: I’ll see if we have those and I’ll get them for you if I can.
All right. Shirley.
Briefing by Spokeswoman for General Assembly President
After hearing 11 speakers this morning on the situation in the Middle East, the General Assembly voted on two draft resolutions on the subject. At the time of the briefing, the Assembly had begun taking action on four drafts on the question of Palestine.
The two draft resolutions on the situation in the Middle East relate to Jerusalem (A/54/L.40) and to the Syrian Golan (A/54/L.41). By adopting the text on Jerusalem, by a recorded vote of 139 in favour to 1 against (Israel), with 3 abstentions (Swaziland, United States, Uzbekistan), the Assembly determined 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 deplored the transfer by some States of their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem in violation of Security Council resolution 478 (1980), and it again called upon them to abide by the relevant resolutions in conformity with the United Nations Charter.
By adopting the text on the Syrian Golan, by a recorded vote of 92 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 53 abstentions, the Assembly called on Israel to resume the talks on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks and to respect the commitments and undertakings reached during the previous talks; called 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 demanded 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. Lebanon and Israel spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The four texts on the question of Palestine deal with the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (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 the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (A/54/L.45). In an explanation of vote before the vote, the United States said it opposed all four drafts.
By adopting the draft on the Palestinian Rights Committee, the Assembly would authorize the Committee to continue to exert all efforts to promote the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, and to give special emphasis to the need to mobilize support and assistance for the Palestinian people. By adopting the text on the Division for Palestinian Rights, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to continue to provide the Division with the necessary resources and to ensure that it continued to carry out its programme of work as detailed in the relevant earlier resolutions.
By adopting the draft on DPI’s special information programme on the question of Palestine, the Assembly would request DPI to continue that programme for the biennium 2000-2001, and to promote the Bethlehem 2000 Project, within existing resources. And by adopting the text on peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine, the Assembly would express its full support for the ongoing peace process; note with satisfaction the commencement of the negotiations on the final settlement, and call upon the parties, the co-sponsors and others to exert all the necessary efforts and initiatives to ensure the continuity and success of the peace process, and its conclusion by the agreed time.
This afternoon, the Assembly will take action on 48 draft resolutions and four draft decisions contained in 22 reports of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) (A/54/551-572). One report, A/54/563, on general and complete disarmament, alone contains 22 draft resolutions. Recorded votes are expected on 22 of the 52 texts.
Yesterday afternoon, the Assembly’s programme for Monday, 6 December, was announced. As the first item in the morning, the Assembly will take up the third report of the General Committee (A/54/250/Add.2), concerning an additional item entitled “International Recognition of the Day of Vesak”. The Assembly will also consider two notes from the Secretary-General (A/54/236 and A/54/624), dealing, respectively, with an additional item entitled “Financing of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor” and with the need to reopen agenda item 15 (c), on the election of members of the International Court of Justice, in light of the vacancy that will occur in the Court as of 29 February 2000 with the resignation of Judge Stephen Schwebel, its President. As the last item for that morning, the Assembly will take up item 167, “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. In that connection, the Assembly will have before it draft resolution A/54/L.48, which will replace draft resolution A/54/L.5 and the amendment contained in A/54/L.10, which were withdrawn.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial), at two meetings today, is taking action on a number of draft texts dealing with specific actions related to the particular needs and problems of landlocked developing countries; science and technology for development; women in development; developing human resources for development; international migration and development; conservation and sustainable development of Central African forest ecosystems; implementation of and follow-up to the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and the nineteenth special session of the General Assembly; the Convention on Biological Diversity; protection of global climate for present and future generations of mankind; implementation of the outcome of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States; cooperation between the United Nations and the Southern African Development Community; and linkages and synergies among environmental and environment-related conventions.
Addressing this morning’s observance of World AIDS Day, Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab said that for the first time in history, millions of children are being orphaned because of AIDS. Had they lived in wealthy parts of North America or Europe, their fate would already have been declared a human tragedy. Instead, most of the victims live in Africa, a continent scarred by oppression, poverty, disease and shattered by back-breaking debt burden, fratricidal wars and recurrent hunger. As the disease wipes out Africa’s advances, the continent is rushing headlong into an almost indescribable development catastrophe. Africa has very little margin for maneuver in the face of a new crisis – that of AIDS orphans -- he said, adding that Africa cannot begin to face the crisis alone. Copies of his statement are available in room 378.
The President met this morning with the Permanent Representative of Belgium, Ambassador André Adam, to discuss Security Council reform. He will attend the luncheon in observance of World AIDS Day, as well as this evening’s activities at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
Spokesman: Any questions for Shirley? If not, thank you very much.
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