DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
15 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
A number of you have been asking about Jessica Jiji of my staff: yes, she did it [laughs]. Over the weekend she had a boy. She named him Jake. Both she and the baby are doing fine. So, congratulations to her and her husband Jeff. Jeff, Jessica and Jake.
We are going to have a guest at the noon briefing: John Langmore, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development. He will talk to you after we're done about the Comprehensive Report on the Implementation of the Outcome of the Social Summit for Development.
**Kosovo Albanian Political Leaders Sign Agreement to Share Provisional Management with UN Mission
At 10 a.m. in Pristina, the leaders of the main Kosovo Albanian political parties -- Ibrahim Rugova, Hashim Thaci and Rexhep Qosja -- signed an agreement by which they agreed to share the provisional management of Kosovo with the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). The Interim Administrative Structure formed by the agreement paves the way for the dissolution of all parallel structures in Kosovo.
The new structure, to become operational by 31 January, will consist of eight members -- the three Kosovo Albanian leaders and an as-yet-unnamed Kosovo Serb, plus four members of the United Nations mission, and each side will have an observer.
The Secretary-General's Special Representative, Bernard Kouchner, who witnessed and accepted the Agreement on the establishment of the Joint Interim Administrative Structure, told reporters at a news conference following the signing, "This is a breakthrough, a historical moment for Kosovo".
He continued, "This is not the end of the process, but the beginning of a process -- toward substantial autonomy, and to self-government after elections". Dr. Kouchner said, "I think this is the first real success of the mission".
Noting that the work of the United Nations mission had been hampered by the activities of parallel structures in Kosovo, Dr. Kouchner said the new structure would involve the people of the province directly in their own affairs, thus contributing to the mandate given to him by the Security Council and the Secretary- General. The Kosovo Transitional Council, which has been the highest level advisory body in Kosovo, will maintain its consultative role.
You can read more about this agreement in a press release, and a transcript of the news conference which is available in my office.
**Security Council: Secretary-General Opens Debate on Africa
This morning, the Security Council began its open debate on Africa, for which 47 speakers had been inscribed as of 10:45 a.m.
The Secretary-General opened the meeting by telling the Council that it should show sustained and effective interest in African conflicts and "avoid giving the appearance of sporadic or purely rhetorical reactions to crises without any follow- up". He noted that today's meeting was intended to make a difference "not just in words, but in action".
He urged the Council to act promptly to bolster the ceasefire in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to provide additional resources to United Nations peacekeeping efforts in Sierra Leone and to strengthen coordination with Africa's regional and sub-regional organizations.
We have copies of his opening statement in my office.
The Secretary-General was followed by Peter Hain, Minister of State of the United Kingdom for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who was presiding over today's debate. All speakers have been given a time limit of five minutes for their speeches. Even so, the open debate is expected to continue into the afternoon.
Also during the afternoon session, the Council will hold a formal meeting on the extension of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). The current mandate is set to expire tonight, but the Council is considering a draft resolution to extend its mandate by six months, until 15 June next year.
Yesterday afternoon, the Security Council heard a briefing by the Secretary- General's Special Advisor on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, who discussed the proximity talks held at Headquarters between the two parties. Those talks, you'll recall, adjourned yesterday after the Secretary-General and Mr. de Soto held nine meetings each with His Excellency Glafcos Clerides and His Excellency Rauf Denktash.
Also yesterday afternoon, the Council voted, 14 to 0, with one abstention, to extend the mandate of United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 29 February next year. Namibia was the sole abstention.
Tomorrow, the Council has scheduled an open meeting on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
**Vieira de Mello in Tokyo to Attend Joint UN Donor Conference for East Timor
Sergio Vieira de Mello, the head of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), is on his way to Tokyo, where tomorrow night, he will attend the beginning of a two-day donor meeting for East Timor, at which more than 100 officials from 29 countries are expected to participate.
The meeting, which is being co-hosted by the United Nations and the World Bank, will begin at 7 p.m., Tokyo time, with a dinner for the heads of the delegations.
Then, on Friday morning, the opening session of the donors meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. Mr. Vieira de Mello and East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao will deliver statements on behalf of the United Nations/East Timor delegation.
The World Bank estimates that between $260 million and $300 million will be needed over the next three years for East Timor's reconstruction. Immediate needs are estimated at $86 million for humanitarian assistance and emergency relief, $76 million for reconstruction and development and $15 million for external financing of UNTAET's budget.
**Notes from East Timor
Also in East Timor news, the Director of UNTAET's Human Rights Division, Sidney Jones, met yesterday and today with members of the Indonesian National Commission of Inquiry, which has been exploring human rights violations in East Timor.
UNTAET's Human Rights Division also intends to distribute some 1,000 copies of a Glossary of Human Rights Terms, in four languages. The Glossary was prepared by United Nations volunteers while they were in Darwin, following their relocation from East Timor during the post-balloting violence.
**Criminal Tribunal Update
At the invitation of Carla del Ponte, the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Milorad Dodik, the Prime Minister of the Republika Srpska, will visit the Tribunal in The Hague tomorrow. This will be his first visit and he will have meetings with the Prosecutor, the Deputy Prosecutor and other Tribunal officials.
At a press briefing in The Hague today, Graham Blewitt, the Deputy Prosecutor, said there were consistent signs that the Republika Srpska, which was one of the entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was cooperating more with the Tribunal than in the past.
**Afghanistan Humanitarian Update Available
We have the weekly humanitarian update on Afghanistan which reports that the first phase of the United Nations crosslines assistance for Afghans displaced into the Panjshir Valley has been successfully concluded upon delivery of 750 tons of food and other emergency supplies such as warm clothing and blankets. Further convoys will be needed.
**FAO Report Warns of Food Crisis in Somalia
A report released today by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says some 1.6 million people are cut off from relief operations in Somalia, and many have already died from starvation. The FAO report, "Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa", blames the crisis on increased fighting in Somalia's long-running civil conflict and the impact of a recent drought that resulted in a poor harvest.
Overall, the report, which is prepared by FAO's Global Information and Early Warning Service, says that 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa face exceptional food emergencies. Most of the worst affected countries, including Angola, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan, are suffering from recent or ongoing civil conflict.
We have a press release from FAO with more details.
**UN 2000 Lighting
Near the end of this year, the United Nations will mark the millennium -- and the forthcoming Millennium Assembly -- in style by displaying the slogan "UN 2000" in lights. The Secretariat Building will be lit up to read "UN 2000" on the west side of the building -- the side facing First Avenue -- on 27 December, and then on the east side -- that's the side facing the river -- on 28 December. In case of bad weather either day, the lightings will take place on 29 December.
If you want photographs of this event, you can download them from the United Nations Web site or get them from our photo library, starting on 28 December. And if you want more information, call Dan Shepard at 963-2339.
A reminder that tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. the panellists of the Rwanda Inquiry will present their findings of their report, which was presented to the Secretary- General this morning.
The report is expected to be transmitted unofficially by the Secretary-General to members of the Security Council in English only in the early evening of today.
And we hope to have the report posted on the Internet for you by 10 a.m. tomorrow, which would be just after the press conference by the panellists.
And finally we passed out to you yesterday a customer satisfaction survey.
We've been at it for three years now, but we still think we can improve our service to you. So if you would share with us your thoughts of what you think we're doing right and what you'd like changed. And there's a survey drop box that we've set up in our office. Drop off your comments to us by Christmas, if you don't mind.
That's all I have for you. Any questions before we go to Shirley?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Briefly, the Security Council meeting -- is there going to be any resolution or statement following this or is this just an open debate.
Spokesman: That's a good question. To my knowledge there's not going to be any formal action. We'll have to see whether the President will issue a statement to the press. We'll check with them and get back to you.
[Shortly following the noon briefing, the Spokesman made the following statement in answer to this question: No. There will be no formal document coming from the Security Council meeting on Africa, but the Security Council President may make an oral statement to the press, but that is not yet definite.]
Question: On Kosovo, is there any concern that there wasn’t even a token Serb representative at this signing ceremony. I mean, it kind of just confirms what I would think a lot of Serbs would feel that they're being knocked out of governing Kosovo anyway.
Spokesman: Well, they weren't there because they chose not to be there. They are unhappy with their security situation as you know, and in protest they have decided not to participate in a number of UNMIK activities. It's certainly our intention to have the Serb community represented. It's our intention to provide as much security for them as we can. We realize the level of security at the moment for them is unacceptable. But over the long haul, we feel that the Kosovo society has to include all the elements that were there before this conflict erupted and that includes Kosovo Serbs. So we think it's just a matter of time. We'll keep pressing them, inviting them to participate. There's a seat reserved for them on this new entity, this new body. And we hope that they'll eventually appoint someone to participate.
Question: So did Dr. Kouchner approach someone in particular to fill this seat, or did he just issue a blanket invitation and they turned it down?
Spokesman: He has had, from the beginning, regular contact with Serb leaders -- civilian leaders, political leaders and religious leaders. So I'm sure he was in touch with these people about the possibility of serving. They chose at this time not to do so. But as I say we will continue to press them to participate.
Question: Regarding this disappointment on Iraq yesterday, has the Secretary- General any other ideas or has he made any additional comments?
Spokesman: No. The action by the Council that the President had hoped would take place yesterday did not. I think they're still struggling with the idea of getting the maximum amount of support possible for this resolution. There's talk now that it will come at the end of the week, although that's not official yet. So, the Secretary-General is just watching, watching this drama unfold.
Briefing by Spokeswoman for General Assembly President
At the start of this morning’s plenary meeting, the General Assembly paid tribute to the memory of the late President of the Republic of Croatia, Franjo Tudjman, who passed away over the weekend. The Assembly observed a minute of silence in his memory. This was followed by tributes by the Chairmen of the regional groups --Cameroon, Bangladesh, Czech Republic, Saint Lucia and Luxembourg -- and the United States as host country. The representative of Croatia responded.
The Assembly then began taking action on draft resolutions dealing with the year 2000 computer problem; the Day of Vesak; strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance; cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; and the situation in Central America. The Assembly will also consider the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, most probably this afternoon, given the time.
As the morning meeting got under way, Lesotho introduced a draft resolution on global implications of the year 2000 date conversion problem of computers (A/54/L.61). After hearing seven speakers on the item, the Assembly adopted, by consensus, a text, as orally revised, in which it requested all Member States to continue their efforts to solve the Y2K problem before the roll-over date of 31 December.
The Assembly then took action on a draft resolution on “International recognition of the Day of Vesak at United Nations Headquarters and other United Nations offices”, (A/54/L.59), which was introduced by Sri Lanka. The Assembly resolved that, without cost to the United Nations, appropriate arrangements would be made for international observances of Vesak at United Nations Headquarters and other United Nations offices, in consultation with the relevant offices and with permanent missions wishing to be consulted. The Day of Vesak -- the day of the Full Moon in the month of May each year -- is the day most sacred to Buddhists who commemorate the birth of Buddha, his attainment of enlightenment and his passing away.
The Assembly is then expected to take action on seven draft resolutions on strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance, to be introduced by Finland, Russian Federation, Ukraine, Canada and Grenada.
The texts deal with safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel (A/54/L.70); international assistance to and cooperation with the Alliance for the Sustainable Development of Central America (A/54/L.29/Rev.1); humanitarian assistance to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (A/54/L.66); economic assistance to the Eastern European States affected by the developments in the Balkans (A/54/L.67); assistance for humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and development for East Timor (A/54/L.68); emergency assistance to countries affected by hurricanes Jose and Lenny (A/54/L.69); and assistance to the Palestinian people (A/54/L.52).
On United Nations/Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) cooperation, the Assembly will have before it a draft resolution (A/54/L.64) and an amendment proposed by Azerbaijan (A/54/L.65). By the draft text, the Assembly would encourage further efforts by the OSCE to foster security and stability in its region through early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation, as well as through the continued promotion of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. Other operative paragraphs commend, support or welcome OSCE activities in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Croatia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Central Asia. Azerbaijan’s amendment would have the Assembly fully support the activities of the OSCE to achieve a peaceful solution to the conflict in and around the Nagorny-Karabakh region of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Regarding the situation in Central America, the Assembly will have before it a draft resolution (A/54/L.24/Rev.1), having been informed by the Secretary-General that should it adopt the text, requirements of $187,700 would arise. In the text, the Assembly would commend the efforts of the peoples and the Governments of the Central American countries to re-establish peace and democracy throughout the region and promote sustainable development. It would welcome the progress achieved in implementing the Guatemala Peace Agreements, as well as the efforts of El Salvador to fulfil the commitments set forth in peace accords. The Assembly would request the Secretary-General and other bodies to continue to support and verify in Guatemala the implementation of all the peace agreements signed under United Nations auspices, and would also request him to continue to lend his full support to the initiatives and activities of the Central American Governments to consolidate peace and democracy.
The Assembly will also take action on draft resolution, “Q”, on small arms, contained in the report of the First Committee on general and complete disarmament (A/54/563), having been informed by the Secretary-General that should it adopt the text on convening a United Nations conference on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in June/July 2001, it would cost $723,100, plus $448,900 for summary records (A/54/663).
When the Assembly takes up the item on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina this afternoon, it will have before it the comprehensive report of the Secretary- General on the fall of Srebrenica (A/54/549), including an assessment, on the events dating from the establishment of Srebrenica as a safe haven area in April 1993 until the endorsement of the Peace Agreement by the Security Council on 15 December 1995. Under a draft resolution on the item (A/54/L.63/Rev.1), the Assembly would, among many provisions, welcome the adoption of the New York Declaration of 15 November 1999 in which the Joint Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina agreed to important steps for moving forward the process of fully implementing the Peace Agreement and demand its full implementation. The Assembly would insist upon the need to surrender all indictees to the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for trial, and would demand that all the parties fulfil their obligations to hand over to the Tribunal all indicted persons in territories under their control and to cooperate with its work.
At two meetings tomorrow, the Assembly will debate Security Council reform. So far, 65 delegations are inscribed on the list of speakers on agenda item 38, entitled “Question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters”.
On Friday morning, the Assembly will consider the reports of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural). Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab just announced that on Friday afternoon, the Assembly will take action on a draft resolution on the return and restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin (A/54/L.24/Rev.1), and one on assistance in mine action (A/54/L.71). The Assembly will also consider two items: the situation of democracy and human rights in Haiti, and observer status for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in the General Assembly.
This afternoon, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) will take action on a draft resolution on international trade and development (A/C.2/54/L.36/Rev.1).
Among a long list of items on the Fifth Committee’s (Administrative and Budgetary) agenda this morning, it is taking action on a draft resolution dealing with the financing of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (A/C.5/54/L.18). By the text, the Assembly would appropriate $427,061,800 gross for the establishment and maintenance of the Mission for the period from 10 June 1999 to 30 June 2000, and would apportion $302,061,800 gross among Member States. The Committee is beginning general discussion on the financing of the peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone and East Timor. It is also taking action on a draft resolution dealing with the reporting procedures, functions, investigations and operational independence of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (A/C.5/54/L.17). Additionally, the Committee is taking action on draft decisions relating to the peacekeeping assessments of the three newest Member States, Kiribati, Nauru and Tonga (A/C.5/54/L.20-L.22).
As to the appointments of Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab, this morning he met with the Ambassadors of the succeeding States of the former Yugoslavia, before presiding over the plenary. He will attend a luncheon hosted by Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed in honour of David Rockefeller. This evening, he will attend a dinner and a special evening with Dr. Billy Graham at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Spokesman: Are there any questions for Shirley?
**Questions and Answers
Question: What is the status of the draft resolution by the former Yugoslav States? Was the meeting the President held with the Ambassador about that?
Spokeswoman: The President will inform the Assembly that draft resolution A/54/L.62 is postponed to a future date. That draft deals with the equality of all five successor States to the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. And yes, I believe the meeting this morning was about that subject. The President has met with those delegations on several occasions.
Question: When will the programme budget for the biennium 2000-2001 move from the Fifth Committee to the General Assembly?
Spokeswoman: Your guess is as good as mine. I have no idea.
Question: Who are the co-sponsors of the draft resolution on the return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin?
Spokeswoman: I don’t have the draft with me, but I’ll give you that information later. [The co-sponsors of A/54/L47/Rev.1, which was introduced by Greece on 7 December, are: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Gabon, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Hungary, Lebanon, Malawi, Mali, Mongolia, Republic of Korea and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.]
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