DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
20 November 2002
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by the Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, Hua Jiang, and the Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly, Richard Sydenham.
Briefing by Deputy Spokesman for Secretary-General
**Statement on Cyprus
The following statement was issued yesterday, and I'd like to read it into the record.
"Last November the 11th, when the Secretary-General conveyed to the Cypriot leaders his proposal to bridge the gaps between them and break the deadlock in negotiations, he asked them to convey their reaction to Mr. de Soto, his Special Adviser, within a week.
"On Monday, the Secretary-General received a letter from Mr. Clerides expressing his readiness to begin negotiations without delay on the basis of the document that is before the two leaders. He has not yet received such an indication from the Turkish Cypriot side.
"We understand that Mr. Denktash remains hospitalised in New York and that he requires consultations before he can provide the United Nations with the reaction that was requested.
"The Secretary-General is very concerned. A way to get negotiations under way needs to be found urgently, because further delay could result in the disappearance of the opportunity that is at hand. The plan the Secretary-General has submitted has a calendar designed to allow the parties to seize this opportunity, and that requires the main issues to be resolved prior to the Copenhagen European Council. The calendar is part and parcel of the plan.
"The Secretary-General has asked Mr. de Soto, his Special Adviser, to meet him in Europe at the end of the week so as to take stock and examine what the United Nations can do to bring the process forward."
Out on the racks is the Secretary-General’s latest report on UN operations in Cyprus. In it he reviews the operations of the UN peacekeeping force, including its many humanitarian activities which have brought together thousands of Greek and Turkish Cypriots in the buffer zone. UN peacekeepers also performed humanitarian tasks in support of Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the north and Turkish Cypriots living in the south.
Despite the recent calm along the ceasefire lines, the Secretary-General recommends a further extension by six months of the force’s mandate. He considers the UN force’s presence on the island as essential to the maintenance of the ceasefire between the two sides.
We expect the Security Council to hold closed consultations on Friday morning to discuss the mandate renewal.
Hans Blix, the Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, and Mohammed ElBaradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and some of their colleagues left Baghdad at 8 a.m. local time this morning for Larnaca, Cyprus. Shortly after arriving, the two paid a courtesy call to the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Glafcos Clerides.
Mr. Blix will then leave Larnaca today for London, where he is to chair another meeting of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development’s Chernobyl Shelter Fund, on Thursday, 21 November. On Friday, 22 November, Mr. Blix is expected to have meetings at the British Foreign Office.
**Statement on Latest Mideast Violence
We have a statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
"The Secretary-General deplores the violence that killed at least seven Palestinian civilians, including three teenage children, and wounded a dozen more yesterday and today in the West Bank town of Tulkarem. Six of the deaths came during an Israeli military raid last night which killed a suspected militant. The Secretary-General once again urges the Government of Israel to desist from the use of excessive force in civilian areas.
"The Secretary-General calls on the parties to refrain from acts of violence, provocation and retaliation. He remains convinced that the use of force, irrespective of its target, will not yield victory for either side of this terrible conflict. Violence only deepens anger, bitterness and distrust, while making more distant the prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. In accordance with their obligations under international law, both sides must adopt every possible measure to protect civilian life.
"The Secretary-General once again emphasises that a political settlement remains the only viable solution to the conflict."
The Secretary-General is in Croatia today, where, upon arriving at Zagreb International Airport, he dedicated a memorial to the members of the UN personnel who had lost their lives while serving in the former Yugoslavia, and said that a new era was emerging in the region since their sacrifice. He said, in comments that we have available upstairs, “Even at the darkest hour of the conflict, it was the hope of a new era, based on tolerance, diversity and human rights, that sustained our peacekeepers.”
He then met with President Stjepan Mesic, and the two held a press encounter following their meeting; and we hope to receive a transcript of that encounter later today.
In the afternoon, the Secretary-General met with Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan. The Secretary-General welcomed Croatia’s efforts to improve its relations with its neighbours. The Prime Minister told him that he expected a final agreement on the Prevlaka peninsula in a matter of days. The two also discussed refugees, internally displaced persons and the missing.
After a brief meeting with Parliament Speaker Zlatko Tomcic, the Secretary-General then addressed the Croatian Parliament, saying that it was encouraging for him to return to Croatia to see how much has changed in the seven years since he last saw the country. He noted that Croatia was now at peace with all its neighbours and voiced his confidence that it will live up to its other international obligations and be “a factor of stability in the region”. He then met with Foreign Minister Tonino Picula, who thanked the UN for its peacekeeping and humanitarian work that has been done over the past decade. And he is also to meet with UN staff in Zagreb.
Earlier today, the Secretary-General met privately in Belgrade with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Carla Del Ponte, and also chatted with Tribunal staff in Belgrade, pointing out that its work does not target a nation or a people, but individual criminals. He also met with the heads of UN agencies and UN staff in that city, before leaving for Croatia.
Yesterday, after the Secretary-General met with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica in Belgrade, he spoke to the press and said he believed that Yugoslavia was making progress in creating a nation based on the rule of law, democracy and human rights. He said that he and Kostunica had discussed the relationship with the Tribunal, and he added, “We both hope that this issue will be settled as quickly as possible.” We have the transcript of his comments upstairs.
Today, Nane Annan, the Secretary-General's wife, visited the main children's hospital in Zagreb, where she spoke with staff about their trauma work to help young victims of child abuse and violence. She also met volunteers who take and refer child abuse calls from the public, as well as young people working as peer educators to warn their friends and peers of the dangers of HIV/AIDS.
The Security Council has not scheduled any meetings or consultations today.
Tomorrow, it has scheduled an open meeting to discuss Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.
**State of World’s Vaccines and Immunization
The World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank today launched "The State of the World’s Vaccines and Immunization" in Dakar, Senegal. The report shows that, while vaccines are the cheapest way of controlling the spread of infectious diseases, they are not reaching those that need them most. Low donor investment is cited by the report as a major reason for the huge gaps in immunization coverage between rich and poor countries. While children in developed countries have access to newer, more expensive vaccines for major childhood diseases, in sub-Saharan Africa only half the children have access to basic immunization against common diseases like tuberculosis and measles. Measles alone causes the deaths of more than 700,000 children a year.
The report says the current external aid to developing countries for immunization is $1.6 billion, but with the addition of $250 million a year at least 10 million more children would be reached with basic vaccines. A further $100 million a year would cover the cost of newer vaccines.
We have more information in the press kit available upstairs. A copy of the report is included in the kit.
**Universal Children’s Day
Today is Universal Children’s Day, the day on which the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is observed. To mark the occasion, Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF, said this year’s celebrations would be dedicated to the idea that children everywhere have the right to play. “The idea that many children grow up with no memory of play in their lives at all”, she said, “ is a staggering reminder of how badly we have failed our children.” We have a press release with more information.
Yesterday evening, the Secretary-General issued a message, delivered by Chef de Cabinet Iqbal Riza, congratulating the winner of this year’s UN Environment Programme Sasakawa Prize, Ashok Khosla, who founded in India the first national environmental agency in the developing world. In congratulating Khosla, the Secretary-General stressed the challenge to implement what was agreed at this summer’s World Summit on Sustainable Development, to achieve “a safer, more equitable future for all people”.
The message is available upstairs, as is another message delivered late yesterday on a new exhibition remembering veteran US diplomat Ralph Bunche.
The Food and Agriculture Organization today warned that, despite recent progress in the eradication of rinderpest –- a devastating livestock disease -– there is still a risk of the disease breaking out of its last stronghold in north-eastern Kenya and southern Somalia. The disease cannot be transmitted to humans, but can contribute to famine by wiping out whole herds belonging to small-scale farmers or tribal herders who depend on cattle for their livelihoods. And we have a press release with more details.
There are two panel discussions tomorrow to which I’d like to draw your attention.
First, at 10:30 a.m. in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium, there will be a discussion to mark the observance on 3 December of the International Day of Disabled Persons, dealing with the theme of “Independent Living and Sustainable Livelihoods”. Then, starting at 1:15 p.m. in Conference Room 6, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Nitin Desai will moderate a panel discussion on the ethical approaches to global problems advocated in a new book, Candles in the Dark, and several contributors to that book will speak.
This morning, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines signed the Protocol on Trafficking in Persons and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants, both supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The event was postponed from last Friday.
World chronicle programme number 875 with Andras Szollosi-Nagy, Deputy Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences and Coordinator of Environmental Programmes, UNESCO, will be shown today at 3:30 p.m. on in-house television channel 3 or 31.
This is an UNCA reminder, the executive committee will meet at 2 p.m. today to prepare for the forthcoming elections.
And that is all I have got for you, any questions?
Questions and Answers
Question: Can you tell us when Mr. Denktash would give an answer to the Secretary-General?
Deputy Spokesman: I have no information on that.
Question: Yesterday, he sent a letter asking for an extension. Are you going to give him the extension?
Deputy Spokesman: The Secretary-General said in the statement that was issued yesterday that he is very much, really very concerned and he did mention that the calendar is an important part and parcel of the plan. So, as was said yesterday, the clock is ticking.
Question: Can you tell us where and when he is going to meet with Mr. de Soto?
Deputy Spokesman: I have no information on that, at the moment. [The Spokesman's Office announced later that the meeting will be held on Friday in The Hague.]
Question: Do you have any response on US Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s comments on the Secretary-General's comments on US-British bombings of Iraq?
Deputy Spokesman: I don’t think the Secretary-General is going to respond to that remark.
Briefing by Spokesman for General Assembly President
In his remarks in the General Assembly plenary today on Africa Industrialization Day, President Kavan notes that the United Nations family observes the Day, “with the collective spirit of supporting and promoting the development of the African continent”. He also observes that over 30 of the 48 least developed countries are located in Africa. The theme for this Day is New Information and Communications Technologies (NICT). “NICT would facilitate human development, accelerate intra-Africa trade and improve access to markets of developed countries. Furthermore, NEPAD foresees the crucial role of NICT in the context of Africa’s recovery and calls for concrete and practical steps to develop a proper information and technology infrastructure.” The NICT would assist Africa in creating awareness and building capacity for national information networking activities and in facilitating public-private partnerships. The message is available as a press release and on the President’s Web site.
The General Assembly plenary then took up the item: cooperation between the UN and regional and other organizations in a joint debate. This debate is likely to continue tomorrow, as there are a number of draft resolutions being introduced and some 70 speakers so far inscribed on the list.
The Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, Wolfgang Hoffman, presented the report of the Preparatory Commission, and the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Rogelio Pfirter, presented the report of that organization. Following their speeches, a number of draft resolutions were presented and the debate will continue this afternoon.
The Second Committee considers draft resolutions on sustainable development and international economic cooperation, including implementation of Agenda 21: Protection of Global Climate and Training and Research.
And the Third Committee takes action on draft resolutions on human rights questions, rights of children and report of the Economic and Social Council.
Today also marks Universal Children’s Day and, in his message, President Kavan particularly welcomes the fact that 191 Member States have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. “This Convention”, he says “reflects consensus amongst all nations that it is important to guarantee fundamental rights and freedoms to children.” He concurs with Mary Robinson, the former High Commissioner for Human Rights, when she stated that “The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989 reflected the international consensus on a new vision of children; no longer as mere objects of protection who have needs, but human beings who enjoy rights.”
President Kavan, in his message, urges “all Member States and other actors involved with children to accord their priority to the needs of children. We all share the responsibility for our children. Let us do our best to guarantee a better future for them”. His message is available on the President’s Web site.
On a question about the number of closed meetings yesterday, I am waiting for some official figures, so that we might be able to see whether there is a trend here. But, in talking to people I get the impression that there is not anything unusual in the number of meetings going on. We are in the stage when delegates are negotiating the wording in the Main Committees, in the Second and Third Committees, which usually takes place in small informals. So, I don’t get the impression that there is an increased number of meetings that are closed. There are, of course, dozens of informals going on pretty much everyday, both here in the Building and at missions. But, I would get back to you with some official figures when I get them.
Any questions? Thank you.
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