DAILY BRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
28 October 2002
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Richard Sydenham, Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General
**Central African Republic
The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the armed confrontation that broke out last Friday in the Central African Republic between insurgents loyal to the former Chief of Staff and Government forces. The Secretary-General reiterates his condemnation of any attempt to take power by force of arms and calls on the insurgents to lay down their weapons.
The Secretary-General calls on the international community to provide urgently the logistical and other assistance needed by the Inter-African Observation Force agreed to by the leaders of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States at their summit earlier this month in Gabon.
**Moscow Hostage Incident
We put out a statement on Saturday reflecting the Secretary-General’s response to the end of the hostage situation in the Melnikov Street Theatre in Moscow.
The Secretary-General mourns for those whose lives were lost in this incident, and extends his deepest condolences to those who lost their loved ones and his sympathy to those who were injured. As the Security Council affirmed last week, the taking of hostages was a heinous act of terrorism that cannot be justified under any circumstance.
We have copies of the full statement upstairs.
**Security Council on Iraq
The Security Council this morning began closed-door consultations on Iraq in the presence of Mohammed ElBaradei, the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and Hans Blix, the Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC).
The Secretary-General also attended those consultations and he made a few comments to the press as he exited the Council just a few minutes ago. And we'll provide a transcript of those comments shortly.
**Security Council: Women and Peace
The Secretary-General is planning to return to the Security Council this afternoon when he opens a meeting on “Women and peace and security.”
Drawing attention to his recently released report on this subject, he notes that women’s groups and networks at grass-roots level have provided many examples of the imaginative strategies and flexible approaches required for effective conflict prevention. However, with few exceptions, women are not present in formal peace negotiations, he says.
We have copies of his embargoed statement upstairs in my office.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo Report
Despite the recent positive developments in the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there nevertheless continue to be serious challenges. That’s one of the Secretary-General’s observations in his latest report to the Security Council on the United Nations Mission in that country.
The fragile peace process, the Secretary-General writes, is in danger of being reversed due to the heavy fighting in the eastern part of the country. He urges all parties to put an end to all hostilities.
The report is upstairs.
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Mustapha Niasse, continued discussions over the weekend in Pretoria, South Africa, with representatives of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, along with representatives of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo and the Congolese Rally for Democracy –- GOMA.
The discussions are being conducted in a constructive atmosphere, he reports.
Mr. Niasse tells us that progress is being made and that he remains optimistic, although certain points are requiring further discussions by the various parties.
The Special Envoy continues to meet with the various groups gathered in Pretoria and is also facilitating bilateral contacts between the parties themselves.
Kosovo’s municipal elections took place peacefully on Saturday, and, based on early returns, an estimated 54 per cent of all registered voters –- including nearly 58 per cent of the people voting inside Kosovo itself –- cast their ballots. Election Day proceeded without any incidents of election-related violence, and some partial results are scheduled to be released this evening, with final results tentatively scheduled for 2 November.
Unfortunately, the calm that took place on voting day was shattered yesterday, when the president of the Municipal Assembly in Suva Reka and two other people were shot dead in that municipality. United Nations police have a suspect in custody and are continuing their investigation into the killings. At this time, it is unclear whether the killings were politically motivated, or whether any other people besides the suspect in custody were involved.
The Secretary-General’s report on Liberia is out today as a Security Council document.
He notes that the Liberian Government has reportedly proposed the allocation of half of its 2002 to 2003 budget to defence and security requirements, a development he describes as “a powerful indication that no immediate relief is in sight” for the people of Liberia.
He urges the Security Council to remain engaged with Liberia.
No date has been decided for Council consultations on this report.
We have upstairs a number of Human Rights-related items.
First, yesterday in Riyadh, Dato' Param Cumaraswamy, the United Nations Human Rights Commission’s Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, presented his preliminary findings following a week-long visit to Saudi Arabia. His speaking notes are available upstairs.
There are two reports that are out on the racks that I would like to flag. The first is from John Duggard, the United Nations Human Rights Commission’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967.
The second is the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.
The Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation in Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, urged the Myanmar Government to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) into the country to investigate allegations of human rights violations.
During a fact-finding trip which ended today, Mr. Pinheiro declined an invitation to travel to Shan State, where the army were allegedly linked to sexual violence against the ethnic minority, because he considered a short visit would have been inappropriate to conduct a comprehensive assessment.
Instead, he proposed to the Government to allow ICRC to have an adequate presence in the country to assess the humanitarian situation on an ongoing basis.
We have a press release with more details.
The World Food Programme is forecasting massive food aid needs in 2003 -- at just under 5.3 million tons. This figure excludes anticipated emergency requirements in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as well as World Food Programme emergency operations currently under formulation for Côte d'Ivoire, where the full magnitude of need is not yet defined.
Approximately 75 per cent of the 2003 emergency food requirements are attributed to the massive humanitarian crisis in Southern Africa and the widespread drought in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The year 2003 is expected to put considerable strain on the Programme’s ability to address the food aid requirements of less high-profile, yet no less needy, operations.
The Programme has issued separate press releases on the food needs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Horn of Africa.
**Secretary-General on Dubai Forum
The Secretary-General, in a message delivered today at the start of the three-day Dubai Strategy Forum in the United Arab Emirates (which focuses on the need to create networks for economic growth), said that, by gathering for their dialogue, the delegates at the Forum have shown an awareness that “more and more of the challenges we face –- from environmental degradation to drug trafficking and the spread of diseases such as AIDS –- transcend borders.”
We have copies of his message upstairs.
**Secretary-General on Joseph Garba
The Secretary-General is scheduled to speak just about now at a memorial service for former General Assembly President and Nigerian Ambassador to the United Nations, Joseph N. Garba.
We have copies of his comments upstairs.
We have a couple more press releases to highlight for you today:
The Food and Agriculture Organization’s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture has just concluded its ninth session. The Commission has warned that inappropriate granting of intellectual property rights could jeopardize confidence in the new international network of plant collections. (See Press Release SAG/109.)
We also have a press release from the World Health Organization (WHO), embargoed until Wednesday on the launch of the World Health Report 2002.
We put out a letter from the Secretary-General to all United Nations staff last Friday afternoon, in which he announced that the office of the United Nations Ombudsman –- who is former Jamaican Ambassador Patricia Durrant –- is now operational.
He said that the office of the Ombudsman is intended to complement the internal justice system at the United Nations, and it will be an open, readily available and confidential source of support for staff at all levels, and will assist in resolving problems and overcoming problems and conflicts in the workplace.
You can obtain further information about Ambassador Durrant’s office on its Web page, and we also have a secure e-mail address, both of which are available in my office.
Tomorrow, starting at 10 a.m. in the Millennium United Nations Plaza Hotel, just across the street, the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General will be among the participants at a seminar, sponsored jointly by the Peacekeeping Department and the International Peace Academy, and it's one of the events marking the tenth anniversary of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
The seminar is called “Past, Present and Future Challenges in Peacekeeping,” and, although attendance is by invitation only, accredited United Nations correspondents can view the entire proceedings on live video at the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium or on United Nations television (Channel 16 or 67).
And, finally, our guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Joseph Chamie, the Director of the United Nations Population Division, and he will be presenting the latest key information on international migration.
That is all I have for you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Anything on Cyprus sir?
Answer: Do you want to be more specific?
Question: What I want to know is if the Secretary General is planning to meet with Mr. Denktash, who is still in New York?
Answer: Then let me tell you what we have. Mr. de Soto, the Special Adviser on Cyprus, is in the region; he was in Athens last week. He will be seeing Mr. Clerides in the next day or two. He is in touch by telephone with Mr. Denktash's staff here in New York. In the second half of the week, he will go to Turkey for a further round of consultations there. He will be back in New York towards the end of the week to report to the Secretary-General. Time is pressing, and a stocktaking is required at this time, so that the Secretary-General can make a decision on how he can assist in moving the process forward. On a reported United Nations plan, de Soto said a few days ago, "There is no United Nations plan. No plan has been unfurled or unfolded.” And Kieran Prendergast, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, did visit Mr. Denktash in the hospital on Friday, and that was a private and a social visit.
Question: The factions in Somalia seemed to have some kind of agreements; do you have any further information? Is there a response from the Secretary-General?
Answer: We are encouraged by developments there. I think it might be a little bit too soon to proclaim victory for the forces of peace. But it is certainly a step in the right direction. As far as further details, if you check with someone in my office, she'll be able to tell you the latest from the cable traffic.
Spokesman for the General Assembly President
This afternoon the General Assembly Plenary takes up the report of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Mr. Claude Jorda, President of the Tribunal, will introduce the Report. The Plenary will then take up the report of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, with Ms. Nevanethem Pillay, the President of the Tribunal, introducing that report.
The First Committee continues its discussion of draft resolutions on all disarmament and international security agenda items
The Second Committee discusses sustainable development and international cooperation and operational activities for development, and begins general discussion on the follow-up to the outcome of the special session on children.
The Third Committee continues general discussion on elimination of racial discrimination and the right of peoples to self-determination. And this afternoon the Committee will take decisions on draft resolutions on rights of children, International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People and advancement of women.
The Fifth Committee continues general discussion of the Capital Master Plan, and then starts discussion of human resources management issues.
And the Sixth Committee has before it the International Law Commission report and Establishment of the International Criminal Court.
In his remarks at the tribute to the late Major-General Joseph Garba, who presided over the forty-fourth session of the United Nations General Assembly, from 1989 to 1990, President Kavan describes Major-General Garba as “an extraordinary person, a man of many talents, who had received many distinctions and awards and who had contributed richly to the work of the United Nations”.
“During his Presidency of the General Assembly, he facilitated world peace and security, through obtaining consensus resolutions on the subjects of poverty, drug trafficking and apartheid. Perhaps he will be best remembered," President Kavan goes on, "for his untiring and relentless efforts to champion the cause of South Africa against apartheid. The adoption of the Convention on Rights of the Child was another important achievement during his presidency.” Those remarks will be posted shortly on the President’s Web site.
Just to update you, tomorrow, the General Assembly takes up the report of the International Court of Justice and, on Wednesday and Thursday, the Plenary discusses the report of the Secretary-General on Strengthening of the United Nations: An Agenda for Further Change.
Any questions? Thank you.
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