DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
26 September 2001
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Jan Fischer, Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
**Statement by Spokesman for Secretary-General on Subject of Middle East
We’ll start today with a statement attributable to the Spokesman on the subject of the Middle East.
“The Secretary-General warmly welcomes the meeting today between Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and President Yasser Arafat. He is extremely pleased that the parties have agreed to resume full security cooperation and to exert maximum efforts to sustain the ceasefire.
“He is also encouraged by the reiteration of their full commitment to implement the recommendations of the Mitchell Report and the Tenet understandings. He is heartened by the prospect of the concrete steps to be taken by the parties as set forth in the joint communiqué issued after the meeting.
“He hopes that this meeting will result in a sustainable dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians and that the current cycle of violence can be brought to an end and the peace process resumed.”
As extensive efforts are ongoing among UN agencies and relief groups to cope with the unfolding humanitarian crisis involving Afghanistan, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today said it needs $252 million to carry out its emergency operations.
In a funding appeal presented to donors, the UNHCR said it was preparing for an influx of up to 1 million refugees into Pakistan, 400,000 into Iran, 50,000 into Tajikistan and 50,000 into Turkmenistan. The UNHCR is also making additional contingency plans to supply aid to 500,000 people inside Afghanistan if the need arises.
A larger UN appeal being compiled by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is expected to be finalized in time for a meeting in Berlin of the Afghan Support Group tomorrow. And as you know, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kenzo Oshima, is attending that Berlin meeting.
Meanwhile, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan today said that the number of internally displaced persons inside the country could double from the current 1.1 million to 2.2 million persons. The Coordinator’s Office also reported that limited radio communication, only from one office, is being permitted in the city of Herat, which is being monitored by a Taliban representative.
In New York, the Security Council will have its weekly consultations on Afghanistan tomorrow.
The Secretary-General, as he came into the Building this morning, was asked by CNN about the situation in Afghanistan, and he responded by noting that the needs of the average Afghan have not been forgotten.
Referring to the September 11 attack on the United States, he said, "It is clear we should go after the perpetrators and those who committed this crime, but we should also be sensitive to the needs of the Afghan people who have lived through several decades of war, lived under a leadership they did not elect freely and cannot remove, and have gone through three years of drought."
At the same time, he said his advice to the Taliban was that they honour the obligations demanded of them by the Security Council and cooperate with the international community in making the culprits accountable.
The Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) began its new session yesterday in Montreal, Canada, and the Organization's President, Assad Koitate, opened the meeting by proposing that a high-level international conference on aviation security take place.
Koitate told the Assembly meeting, "The terrorist attacks of 11 September in the United States represent the greatest threat ever to civil aviation security. For the first time, aircraft have been used as a weapon of destruction."
He proposed new means to deal with this threat, including a resolution to develop an action plan on strengthening airline security. The proposed resolution being considered suggests some interim measures to bolster security in the air, including a recommendation to require that cockpit doors remain locked during flight and that airport security controls be upgraded. The proposed resolution also urges all of the 187 States that participate in the ICAO to strengthen their cooperation in apprehending and prosecuting those who misuse civil aviation as weapons of destruction.
The resolution will be considered over the course of the two-week meeting now under way in Montreal, which is to end on 5 October. Yesterday afternoon, we put out a press release from the Organization with more details.
**Terror -- United Nations Volunteers
The United Nations Guides have been assisting the Red Cross in a project called “Register to let others know you are OK”. Kiosks have been set up all over New York City where people will be able to register and enable the Red Cross to handle the thousands of calls from all over the country regarding survivors. The Tour Guides’ skills in languages and in dealing with people have been a valuable addition to the project.
Also more than 100 staff members responded to a call by the Office of Human Resource Management for volunteer interpreters for the Family Assistance Centre on Pier 94. These volunteers, many with multiple language skills, can provide interpretation in 38 languages.
We’ll have a note to correspondents on these two things later today.
The Security Council held closed consultations this morning on Cyprus. Before they started, the Council President, Jean-David Levitte of France, welcomed Ambassador John Negroponte of the United States, who was attending consultations for the first time since he presented his credentials last week. All Council members welcomed him warmly.
Alvaro de Soto, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, then briefed Council members on recent developments in relation to the Secretary-General's mission of good offices on Cyprus.
The Council President is expected to have a statement to press at the end of the Cyprus consultations.
Following that, the Council will hold three consecutive formal meetings. First, they are expected to adopt a resolution on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Council members are expected to endorse the efforts of members States to implement the Framework Agreement and to strongly support the establishment of a multinational security presence in FYROM at the request of its Government.
A presidential statement on the Central African Republic will be considered next. The Council is to reiterate its call on all parties for political dialogue, national reconciliation and respect for human rights. It also is to encourage the international community to make substantial and urgent contributions to the recovery of the Central African Republic.
The third formal meeting is on Burundi. Council members are expected to adopt a presidential statement where they strongly support the installation on 1 November of the transitional government in that country. The statement is also expected to express concern for the increase of violence and at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Burundi.
The UN Mission in Sierra Leone reports on the visit of a delegation from the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to assess the infrastructural needs of the country. The leader of the delegation, Senator Amadu Ali of Nigeria, said that Nigeria, South Africa and Libya had pledged at an earlier OAU Summit to assist Sierra Leone in repairing infrastructure damaged during the war, and were now in the country to identify areas that needed assistance.
**Report on Peacekeeping
The second report of the Security Council's working group on peacekeeping operations, chaired by Jamaican Ambassador Curtis Ward, is out on the racks today, detailing the group's examination of the Secretary-General's report, "No Exit without Strategy", concerning the ways that UN peacekeeping operations end.
The working group has drafted a note by the President of the Security Council, included in its report, which, among other things, notes the importance of setting up milestones to support a comprehensive and integrated approach to peace-building and of strengthening the Council's partnership with troop- contributing countries. It also encourages cooperation with regional organizations, where appropriate.
A former Rwandan Finance Minister, Emmanuel Ndindabahizi, was transferred yesterday from Belgium to the UN detention facility in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, following his arrest by Belgian authorities on 12 July at the request of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
He has been indicted by the Tribunal on five charges of genocide, incitement, and crimes against humanity for extermination and murder. He is alleged to have led a systematic campaign of violence against Tutsis in the Kibuye prefecture during the country's 1994 genocide.
Pino Arlacchi, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, will make remarks at a signing ceremony taking place here at Headquarters. It should be going on right now. At the ceremony, the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime will be signed by Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago will also sign the two Protocols to the Convention. Other signings this afternoon, Pakistan will sign the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Budget news today, we have three more Member States making full payment of their 2001 regular budget dues. Angola and Cambodia made payments of more than $20,000 each and Nigeria made a payment of more than $600,000. The number of fully paid up Member States now stands at 122.
We have one more World Chronicle programme. It will be screened at 3:30 p.m. on in-house channels 3 or 31, and this one will feature Andre Heitz, the General Secretary of FICSA.
Press conference today at 4 p.m., as I mentioned yesterday, with Renato Ruggiero, the Foreign Minister of Italy, who will review the role of the United Nations in shaping a common strategy against terrorism.
**Noon Briefing Guest
And the guest at tomorrow’s noon briefing will be Carolyn McAskie, the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, who will speak about the appointment of a new Regional Coordinator for Afghanistan.
That’s my news for you; I will take any questions before we go to Jan.
**Questions and Answers
Question: The Secretary-General spoke with President Lahoud (Lebanon) yesterday; what was the subject of the discussion?
Spokesman: I can’t give you all the specifics on that. I know that one of the subjects they discussed was the timing of the general debate, the timing of the resumption of the general debate, and the Secretary-General, I believe, passed on the information that I gave to you a few days ago. The President of the General Assembly is continuing to consult with the regional groups on the basis of the information provided by Mayor Guiliani to the Secretary-General that the general debate should not be resumed before late October. He and the Secretary-General will talk again in another week. That was one of the subjects; I don’t know what else might have been on the agenda.
Question: Did they talk about the Francophonie, which will take place in Beirut, Lebanon?
Spokesman: I am not sure whether that would have come up in terms of a possible conflict of scheduling between the Francophonie Summit which is the 26-28 October and the possibility that the general debate could resume around that same time. That might well have come up.
If nothing else, Jan, do you have anything for us today?
Briefing by the Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly
No, I have actually arrived empty-handed today and I am basically here in case you have any questions. But let me just say that I checked in the GA Hall about 11:30 a.m. and there were still six speakers left on the speakers’ list. As you know, they are discussing the annual report of the Secretary-General and they should be rounding up just about now.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General: Any questions for Jan?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Regarding Monday’s debate on terrorism, when will we get a speakers’ list on that, and what are the rules regarding the length of the speeches?
Spokesman for GA President: It will be 15 minutes, and the speakers’ list should be available probably sometime Friday. It is still being changed, I have been trying to get a copy myself, but they are very reluctant to give it out because it is undergoing a lot of changes. Some delegations have decided to upgrade their presence and others, for various reasons, have decided to downgrade their presence and that affects the order of the list. I think that if you are interested in particular countries, I can probably give you a provisional idea of when they are scheduled so far. But a full list, earliest on Friday.
Question: What kinds of levels of representation are you looking at, is it mostly diplomats or government?
Spokesman for GA President: As of a couple of days ago, I think there was one foreign minister scheduled to speak. I understand now that there are a couple of more foreign ministers coming, but it will mainly be the permanent representatives, the ambassadors that are already here in New York.
Question: Which nations are sending their foreign ministers?
Spokesman for GA President: I don’t have that information yet, it is two or three that we are up to now, but I have been informed that this is changing all the time.
Question: What is the level of representation of the United States:
Spokesman for GA President: At this time, I do not know who will represent the United States.
Question: It seems to me there is some payment authorization in Congress on the arrears, do you have any comment on that?
Spokesman for the Secretary-General: Yes, we issued a statement yesterday, welcoming the action taken by the House of Representatives to approve the $582 million. As far as I know, the legislation adopted was close enough to the one in the Senate and the next step is for it to go to the President for signature. I am not an expert on those procedures. Anyway, presidential signature, then it becomes law and then they cut a check. I think it may take about 30 days between the final approval and receiving the check. That is what the Americans have told us, and we are looking forward to receiving it. This also gets us into October when the new US fiscal year starts, and we understand there is also a substantial amount of money in the pipeline under the money already appropriated for the new fiscal year. So we are looking forward to getting a substantial amount of money from the United States between now and the end of the year. We will keep you posted if you like.
Question: What would be a priority, would it be peacekeeping operations? I understand that you owe a lot of money to several countries.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General: We have been saying consistently that this $582 million goes right to Member States whom we owe for their contributions to peacekeeping. Yes?
Question: At the appropriate time, will we be able to determine exactly who gets what out of that and how much?
Spokesman for the Secretary-General: I don’t know if that will be possible because we are also expecting payment of US arrears to the peacekeeping account which is separate from the $582 million. So if there is a lot of money coming in, the $582 million and the peacekeeping arrears, then all of that money would be
going to these contributors. I am not sure we would be able to break it down, but I know that Joseph Connor does intend to spread that money evenly and proportionately to all the contributors to peacekeeping.
Question: Who made that decision, can he make that decision on his own?
Spokesman for the Secretary-General: Normally, it is within his competence to make those decisions. I don’t know whether in this case he would consult with the Secretary-General because of the amount to be distributed. But the Secretary-General has confidence that he would do it fairly.
Thank you very much.
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