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Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

20 January 2000

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General:

Good afternoon.

**Security Council

This morning, the Secretary-General met with Senator Jesse Helms, who is the Chairman of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Then, as you all know, Mr. Helms addressed members of the Security Council. That gathering was open to other delegations and to the press.

The Senator covered a range of issues regarding the United Nations. He appealed to the Council to learn from past mistakes and make the Security Council a more effective tool for peace and security. However, he said, the American people will never accept the claims of the United Nations to be the "sole source for legitimacy on the use of force" in the world.

John Ruggie, a Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, will have an informal briefing in my Office around 12:30 on the work of the United Nations. This briefing is primarily intended for reporters up from Washington who cover the Senate Committee. Any of you who are interested are welcome to attend, but we expect it to be a kind of “basics” briefing.

`**Statement on Turkey and Greece

This statement is attributable to the Spokesman [for the Secretary- General]. “Today, Turkey and Greece signed a series of cooperation agreements in Ankara, during the first official visit of a Greek Foreign Minister to Turkey in almost 40 years. Both Greek Foreign Minister Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Cem pledged to push ahead with further improvement in relations between the two countries. Foreign Minister Cem is expected in Athens in early February.”

The Secretary-General is encouraged by these developments. He warmly welcomes the constructive steps taken by both Governments to establish a new basis of cooperation and understanding. The Secretary-General is confident that the improved climate will lead to a better future for all the peoples in the region.

**East Timor

Six Indonesian lawyers, representing top officers of the Indonesian military, arrived in Dili today. Coincidentally, the United Nations Mission in East Timor today established the East Timorese Customs Service.

The Indonesian lawyers, therefore, became the first customers of the new immigration officers, and had their passports stamped with the UN insignia. The lawyers then held meetings with three religious leaders to collect information concerning the role of the Indonesian military in the post-referendum chaos during which hundreds of East Timorese were killed. A group of protesters followed them around carrying posters, which in the local language read, "We love the Indonesian people, but we hate the actions of the Indonesian military. Justice must go forward."

Meanwhile, the equipment and personnel have arrived that will permit Dili to have a state of the art mortuary. The refrigeration units arrived yesterday, along with 1,300 kilograms of supplies, and two forensic experts arrived from New South Wales, Australia, today.

**Meeting with Trade Union Representatives

At 11:30 this morning, the Secretary-General met with Bill Jordan, the General Secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), and with other senior trade union representatives. They agreed on the critical need for cooperation to deal with the challenges of globalization. In particular, the Secretary-General and the union leaders issued an agreement, which we have made available upstairs, emphasizing the importance of the Global Compact, which asks corporations to demonstrate good corporate citizenship by abiding by human rights, labour rights and environmental principles.

We also have available upstairs a list of the trade union leaders who met with the Secretary-General this morning.

Following this briefing, at 12:45 p.m., Mr. Jordan will be here to take questions from you. We expect that he will be accompanied by the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, John Ruggie.

**Report on Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council on the United Nations mission on the Democratic Republic of the Congo came out as a document late yesterday.

Against the backdrop of a deteriorating military situation since his last report in November and on the assumption that the leaders of the countries concerned are prepared to recommit themselves to the Lusaka Agreement, the Secretary-General proposed an expansion of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He recommended that the deployment of a total force of 5,537 be concentrated around four reinforced infantry battalions. These will be located at four separate sites; provisionally, Mbandaka, Mbuji Mayi, Kisangani, and a fourth point somewhere in the south-east, yet to be determined.

An eventual third phase, assuming the parties’ continued compliance with this agreement, would involve such issues as the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; agreement on peaceful disarmament, demobilization and integration of the armed groups named in the Lusaka ceasefire agreement; and, border security.

The Secretary-General also reported on the dire humanitarian situation in the country where nearly 1 million people are displaced, and he called for a major improvement in funding and resources. In this context, he also mentioned that the official exchange rate set by the Government has led some agencies –

which are now being charged as much as $600 per night for a hotel in the country’s interior- -- —to consider suspending operations in the country.

The Secretary-General reiterated his position that the Lusaka Agreement remains the best hope for the resolution of the conflict and for the time being the only prospect of achieving it. This month will provide the leaders of the countries concerned, he said, with a unique opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the Agreement.


From the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), we have a press release on the trafficking of children and women, which you can pick up in my Office.

**International Criminal Court

At 3 p.m., we have a signing by Ukraine of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court. Ukraine would, therefore, become the ninety-third signatory. So far, six countries have ratified.


We have a press release from the World Health Organization (WHO) on a new worldwide effort to eliminate lymphatic filariasis, one of the world’s leading causes of disability.

**Honour Roll

We have a payment today from Azerbaijan, which becomes the twenty-first Member State to pay in full for the year 2000, with a check for approximately $67,000.


I mentioned yesterday that Erick de Mul, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, would be our guest at the briefing today, but with all of the attention on Senator Helms, we thought it would be better if he came tomorrow. So you’ll see him at here at the briefing tomorrow.

That’s all I have for you.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Just 10 minutes earlier, Ambassador Jovanovic of Yugoslavia contested the report of the Secretary-General, saying that the report was “out of touch with reality” and gave “a rosy picture” of the situation in Kosovo.

Spokesman: I think given the large presence that the United Nations has on the ground in Kosovo, we have every basis for a realistic assessment of the situation there, which is contained in the Secretary-General’s report.

Question: If you’ll allow me to follow up, when I asked him what he actually contested, he said he was not contesting facts, but the conclusion of who was responsible for the deteriorating situation in Kosovo.

Spokesman: I didn’t hear the Ambassador’s comments. I have nothing to say on it.

Question: Should we read anything into the Secretary-General’s absence while Senator Helms was making his speech?

Spokesman: No, the Secretary-General -- as I already said -- met with the Senator just before the session opened.

Question: The speech was a very important speech for the United Nations. When Vice-President Gore spoke [in the Council], the Secretary-General was there. Why did he choose to be absent?

Spokesman: I already told you -- the Secretary-General met with the Senator. They exchanged views. The Secretary-General has a staff that can read and analyse the speech, and I’m sure they will. He had representatives in the room, but he has other things to do.

Question: Will the Secretary-General be speaking today?

Spokesman: No, he has nothing scheduled. Do you mean to the press?

Question: Yes.

Spokesman: No.

Question: Otherwise?

Spokesman: No. Not in the Council nor publicly to anyone, as far as I know.

Question: I heard that there is a report in print that the Secretary- General has appointed or submitted a list of names on the coordinator for Kuwaiti detainees. Is this correct? Has he picked someone yet and what is the procedure?

Spokesman: He has not submitted a letter and, to my knowledge of the procedure, he would not submit a letter. Certainly, he does not have to seek the Council’s approval; the resolution authorizes him simply to appoint a coordinator. So he has not sent any names to the Council. At this point, he is focusing on the selection of an Executive Chairman [of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Investigation Commission for Iraq].

Question: Is there any indication of when he will make that nomination?

Spokesman: Not until after the matter of the Executive Chairman is resolved.

Question: But that could drag on for quite a while.

Spokesman: We’re hoping it won’t.

Question: Is there any reaction by the Secretary-General to the remarks made by Senator Helms? Spokesman: At this point -- none. It’s a Council event and the other members of the Council are now responding. That’s what it was intended to be -- an exchange between the Senator and the members. The Secretary-General has no comment, at least at this time.

Question: What is the status of Serbian -- I mean, Yugoslav -- requests for the return of their security forces to Kosovo? That is, for controlling the borders with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania?

Spokesman: I would have to check that.

Question: Do you have figures for the return of the Serbs?

Spokesman: We can get them for you.

Thank you very much.

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