DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
10 September 2001
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**World Conference Against Racism
The World Conference Against Racism closed early on Saturday afternoon in Durban, South Africa, after intensive and often difficult deliberations on a number of issues.
Delegates adopted a Declaration and a Programme of Action that commits Member States to undertake a wide range of measures to combat racism and discrimination at the international, regional and national levels.
However, a number of delegations made known their reservations or disassociations on certain issues, including those relating to the Middle East and to the legacy of the past.
In answering a reporter’s question on the conference, as he came into the building this morning, the Secretary-General said that delegations had worked hard to find common language. He added that he thought it was regrettable that the Conference “was overshadowed by all the acrimonious discussions in the non-governmental organization conference, and also the whole discussion about the Middle East and the reparation issue because there were lots of victims”, he said.
“The conference was about victims", "the conference was about the future; the conference was to try and come out with a plan of action and a declaration that would mean something to all those people in the room and around the world who are victims of discrimination”, he said.
When asked if in light of what transpired in Durban, these types of conferences could be considered a waste of money, the Secretary-General agreed that Durban did not go as well as had been expected, but that “it does not mean that the world coming together to discuss common issues and find a solution is not a proper thing to do”.
The full transcript of his remarks this morning are available upstairs in my office, as is the statement he issued over the weekend on the outcome of the Conference Against Racism.
Closing remarks made during the final session of the Conference as well as the final documents from Durban are all available on the Conference’s Web site.
The Security Council is holding a number of open meetings this morning.
First, they met to adopt a resolution lifting sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. You will recall that on 6 September the Secretary-General sent a letter to the Council confirming that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had complied with the provisions of resolution 1160, and that the Council could, therefore, wish to reconsider the sanctions in that resolution.
The Council then met on East Timor. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, briefed Council members on the elections held in East Timor on 30 August. He described the process from the campaign to the actual voting day, the counting of votes, and the certification of the results today by the Independent Electoral Commission.
Guéhenno noted that of the 16 parties that contested the elections, 12 won seats in the 88-member Constituent Assembly.
He also said that in the next few days the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Sergio Vieira de Mello, hopes to announce a new Cabinet which is expected to be composed entirely of East Timorese and to reflect broadly the election's outcome.
Guéhenno noted that the forthcoming report of the Secretary-General on East Timor will present the planning for the Mission which will follow on the current United Nations Transitional Administration Mission in East Timor (UNTAET).
All Council members are taking the floor and some five or six other Member States are expected to speak as well.
Following that meeting, the Council is expected to meet to adopt a Presidential statement on East Timor.
This afternoon, the Council will hold a private meeting with the troop-contributing countries to the United Nations Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE). This is the first time the Council holds a formal meeting with troop-contributing nations. As you know, until now Council members met in a more informal setting with troop-contributing countries. This change comes as a result of resolution 1353, adopted this year.
The Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission for East Timor, Bong-Scuk Sohn, certified the results of the 30 August elections held in that territory.
At a ceremony today in the East Timorese capital Dili, Sohn told the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Sergio Vieira de Mello, that the East Timorese “sent a signal to their community leaders, and indeed to the whole world, that for them, a successful electoral process was more important than any particular outcome”.
More than 200 diplomats, political leaders, newly elected Constituent Assembly representatives, media and the public attended the event.
The full text of the Chairman's statement is available in my office as well as today’s briefing note with more details on the ceremony and the memorial service for the victims of the Tumin massacre, which happened in Oecussi in September 1999.
**Secretary-General's Annual Report
The Secretary-General's annual report is out. In it, he -- and it’s on the racks today -- the Secretary-General says that Member States did him a great honour in appointing him to a second term and added, "We have achieved a great deal over the past five years. I firmly believe, however, that we can and must do better."
He says in the report that he has reinforced efforts to move the United Nations from a culture of reaction to one of prevention. A draft plan of action on peace building is now being finalized to serve as a practical guide for the United Nations system on formulation and implementation of coherent peace-building strategies.
He notes that, in June, he issued his second report on improving peacekeeping capacity, and says that some of the proposed measures will require immediate investment for future benefits, while others will require political compromise. He is convinced, he adds, that their adoption will improve the United Nations capacity to respond to the demands made of it.
The Secretary-General also mentions recent elections and protests that have led to changes of government in countries ranging from Côte d'Ivoire and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to Peru and the Philippines.
He says, "These examples suggest that public awareness of democratic rights -- such as freedom of the press, the rule of law, and free and fair elections -- is rising, and that citizens are beginning to act upon this awareness. They are holding their leaders accountable."
You can look at the report as well as updates on United Nations political and peacekeeping efforts and other details. You can find it in my office.
**Secretary-General's Meeting with the General Assembly President
The Secretary-General will meet this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. with Foreign Minister Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea, who is to be the President of the fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly.
That session, as you know, will formally begin tomorrow, and the Secretary-General will open the session in the morning with the traditional ringing of the Peace Bell near the entrance to United Nations Headquarters.
This afternoon, at 4:30 p.m., the outgoing President of the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly, Harri Holkeri, will brief you in this room about the work of the Assembly during the past session.
The Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) is out as a Security Council document today.
The report, which recommends a six-month mandate extension, is scheduled to be discussed in consultations on Thursday and with the troop-contributing countries the day before. Adoption of the mandate extension is expected next Monday.
In the latest report, the Secretary-General notes the continued progress in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme and the deployment of the United Nations Mission into the diamond-producing areas of Sierra Leone.
While describing these developments as giving grounds for cautious optimism, he reminds readers that many more challenges may be encountered in the months ahead, and in particular, the months leading up to the elections.
He says that in order to enable the United Nations Mission to carry out the tasks of providing security and logistical assistance for the elections, the force requirements are being further reviewed to determine whether the military strength of the Mission needs to exceed the 17,500 ceiling in place now.
An electoral assessment mission, which just returned from Sierra Leone, is preparing a report that will serve as a basis for an operational plan for the role of the United Nations Mission to support the elections.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports today that it has learned that up to 10 Afghan staff of the aid organization International Assistance Mission have been detained in Kabul by the Taliban.
As you recall, we had issued a statement by the Secretary-General on 31 August regarding the treatment by the Taliban of international staff of the same aid organization in which he warned that the action by the Taliban against the aid community could have serious consequences on the provision of international humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan.
The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kenzo Oshima, today appealed to the Taliban to take steps to assure the security and freedom to operate of all aid workers in accordance with international law.
We have the full text of his appeal in my office.
**661 Iraq Sanctions Committee
Out on the racks is the report of 661 Iraq Sanctions Committee to the Security Council. It covers the activities of the Committee from 6 December 2000 to 3 July.
The Committee will be meeting this afternoon in a closed session to continue its discussion of prices for Iraqi crude destined for the European and United States markets.
After the meeting, the Chairman of the Committee, Ambassador Ole Peter Kolby of Norway, will brief journalists in Conference Room 7.
The United Nations Electoral Observer Mission in Fiji today issued a press release summarizing its findings as it observed the voting process and the counting of ballots in that country. The Mission concludes that, at this stage, the election result reflects the will of the people of Fiji.
It adds, "The next step for Fiji will be the formation of a Government in accordance with the nation's constitutional procedures and the results of the election. It is the clear intent of the Constitution that the formation of the Government should include political parties according to their level of support, reflecting the will of the people as expressed in the election."
The Mission notes several complaints lodged with it that claimed irregularities during the voting, and it expresses its concern that voter turnout may have been somewhat influenced by a perception of underlying intimidation. That perception, the Mission says, highlights the need for all parties to allow democratic governance to take root in Fiji.
You can see the press release in my office.
**International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
From The Hague today, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), for the first time in its history, began work simultaneously on three trials. Two Bosnian Croats and five Bosnian Serbs were tried in the three separate cases.
The holding of the three simultaneous trials comes after the appointment of six new "ad litem" (or short-term) judges, who took their declarations to serve the Tribunal last Thursday. The new trials reduce to 15 the number of people accused by the Tribunal who are awaiting trial.
Late last week, we issued a press release with specific details on the three cases that began today.
**Deputy Secretary-General in Italy
The Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette, arrived in Turin, Italy, yesterday morning. She was greeted by the Mayor as well as by Ambassador Giorgio Giacomelli, who is the Vice-President of Globus et Locus, an association which promotes links between the global and local communities, and which supports the work of the United Nations.
This morning she was awarded an Honorary Degree by the University of Turin. In her acceptance speech, she focused on globalization. She said that people have always traded, moved, colonized and migrated.
"What makes our era different", she said, "is the degree of inter-penetration, and the speed with which change is taking place".
We must respond "as a true world community", she stated. One response is the "globalization of values". And she explained: there is the need to create a wide, more expansive definition of our duties to our fellow men and women in the global village, and to ensure that globalization benefits them all -- economically, politically and socially".
The full text of her speech is available upstairs.
We received one payment today. Bulgaria became the 114th country to pay in full its regular budget dues for this year, and that was with payment of just over $130,000. We're behind last year when on this date we had 126 Member States paid in full.
**State of the World's Children 2002
We have in my office embargoed copies of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)report, "The State of the World's Children 2002". The report will be launched on Thursday at UNICEF House across the street and is embargoed until then.
The Seventh Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change will take place in Africa for the first time later this year. The Government of Morocco and the secretariat of the Conference today signed a host country agreement for the meeting, which will take place in Marrakech from 29 October to 9 November. And we have a press release on that.
**General Assembly Press Kit
I'm also told that the General Assembly press kits are now available in English and in French at the documents counter. And please be aware that they are embargoed until 5:00 p.m. tomorrow evening.
As I already mentioned, the General Assembly President, Harri Holkeri, today at 4:30 p.m.
And then tomorrow, I have three, starting at 11:15 a.m. Odyek Agnoa, the Economic Affairs Officer for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), will give a press conference to launch a report by UNCTAD entitled "Economic Development in Africa".
Then at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, who is the Special Representative for the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), will speak to you following the Security Council consultations on that mission. And he'll either come here, if he finishes with the Council on time, or he'll talk to you at the stakeout.
And then 5:00 p.m., Han Seung-soo, President of the fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly, will give a press conference in this room.
That's all I have for you. Sorry, that was a bit longwinded.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Do you have a schedule to announce concerning talks with
Mr. Clerides who will be here tomorrow?
Spokesman: No, we have nothing to add to what we said at the end of last week. So there is nothing new on Cyprus.
Question: Will there be any talks between Mr. Clerides and the Secretary-General or Mr. de Soto?
Spokesman: I believe Mr. Clerides is coming here as the President of Cyprus. In that capacity he will most likely meet with the Secretary-General. But, what's happening with the talks -- whether they can be resumed, whether
Mr. Denktash will change his mind and decide to participate -- we don’t yet know. [He later announced a correction, saying that Mr. Clerides was coming to New York at the Secretary-General’s invitation.]
Question: What time do you anticipate a text of the Secretary-General's Council on Foreign Relations remarks, and do you have any idea what he wants to tell the policy people?
Spokesman: I don't know what the subject of that speech will be. We'll see if we can get it for you. Tomorrow morning is probably a sure bet. If we can get if for you by the end of today we will, on an embargoed basis.
Question: Unrelated follow-up. When was the last time the Secretary-General spoke with President Bush? Has he spoken with him since the United States departure from Durban?
Spokesman: I'm not aware of any recent conversation he's had with the United States President. I would have to check with his office to see if they've spoken, but I'm not aware that they've spoken recently.
Question: At this point is the United Nations expecting both Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Sharon? Are they both coming?
Spokesman: We are expecting President Arafat, and I don’t know that we've heard from the Israelis yet -- who will represent them here at the General Assembly. The Secretary-General has urged Prime Minister Sharon to attend, but I don't think we've heard back from them yet.
Thank you very much.
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