DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
9 December 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 General Assembly President.
Briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
Very early this morning, the Presidency of the Security Council issued a statement saying it had decided to allow access to the Iraqi declaration to those members with the expertise to assess the risks of proliferation and other sensitive information, and that that was the beginning of its immediate review of the declaration.
This review, the Presidency of the Council said, will be in close coordination and consultation with UNMOVIC and the IAEA, and will assist them in producing a working version of the declaration as soon as possible.
The Presidency received the declaration through UNMOVIC and requested its Executive Chairman, Hans Blix, to make it available to the Council members mentioned above.
Copies of the statement are available upstairs.
When he came into the Building this morning, the Secretary-General was asked about the Iraqi declaration, and he said it was important to allow the inspectors to do their analysis and report to the Council before making any comments.
As you know, the Iraqi declaration was handed over to the United Nations on Saturday evening in Baghdad. The nuclear file was then taken by the IAEA to Vienna, and the biological, chemical and missile files, along with a full copy for the Security Council, was taken by UNMOVIC to New York where it arrived last night at 8:40 p.m.
Both experts from UNMOVIC and IAEA have started going through the material.
Meanwhile, the inspectors continued their work over the weekend and today. UNMOVIC and IAEA teams visited a number of sites over the past three days, including the chemical factory at the Falluja III site and a warehouse complex adjacent to the Tuwaitha site.
In terms of staffing, an additional 25 inspectors arrived in Baghdad on Saturday -- 21 are from the IAEA and four from UNMOVIC. The total number of inspectors currently in Iraq is 15 for UNMOVIC and 27 for the IAEA. Another 25 to 30 inspectors, all from UNMOVIC, are expected to arrive in Baghdad tomorrow.
**Statement on Indonesia
We have the following statement attributable to the Spokesman concerning Aceh:
“The Secretary-General welcomes the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities between the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement, in Geneva today.
“He congratulates both parties on this important step, which he strongly hopes will pave the way for a return to peace in Aceh. He commends them for their commitment to pursue a peaceful settlement of the conflict, in a manner consistent with the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Indonesia. He also congratulates the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue on its role in bringing about the Agreement, and expresses his gratitude to all those who are prepared to contribute to its implementation.
“The Secretary-General reaffirms his readiness to assist the Government of Indonesia in its effort to achieve economic and social development, as well as a successful democratic transition.”
**Sunday Statement on Sri Lanka
This statement, also attributable to the Spokesman, was issued over the weekend concerning the Sri Lanka peace talks:
“The Secretary-General welcomes the conclusion of the third round of Sri Lanka peace talks, during which the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) agreed to explore a solution founded on internal self-determination based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka. It is his earnest hope that further progress towards a lasting settlement acceptable to all communities will be made in future rounds.
“The Secretary-General lauds both parties for their commitment to the peace process and Norway for its role as facilitator.”
Today, the Security Council is holding consultations on several items.
The first item is Georgia, with a briefing by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Heidi Tagliavini, on recent developments, and then Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guehenno, who has just returned from a visit to the region.
The second agenda item is Angola, with a view to a formal meeting on a resolution concerning the issue of sanctions imposed on the former rebel group, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).
Also on the agenda is the upcoming Security Council mission to Kosovo. Ambassador Ole Peter Kolby of Norway, who is leading the mission, is expected to introduce the mission’s programme.
At 3 p.m., the Security Council has scheduled two back-to-back private meetings on the Central African Republic, one with the Central African Republic's Prime Minister, Martin Ziguele, and the other with the Permanent Representative of Chad.
And at 3:30 p.m., a meeting of the Council’s Committee on Counter-Terrorism is also scheduled for today.
For those of you covering the Council activities, I’d like to draw your attention to the Colombian Presidency’s Web site, which contains a useful annotated agenda of the Council programme.
To recap, the Security Council President, Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso of Colombia, read a press statement late Friday afternoon on the first anniversary of the Bonn agreement on Afghanistan, in which Council members reiterated their support for the efforts of the Afghan Transitional Administration.
On Cyprus, this morning, the Secretary-General was asked if he was ready to submit a revision of his 11 November proposal for an agreement to end the Cyprus problem.
And he replied, “We have got the comments from both sides and we are looking at a revised text which I hope will be ready shortly, and we will share them with the parties.”
Meanwhile on the ground, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, is continuing his intensive consultations.
Over the weekend, Mr. de Soto met separately with the Greek Cypriot leader, Glafcos Clerides, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash. He also held meetings with advisers to both.
More consultations are being held today. Mr. de Soto saw Glafcos Clerides this morning and Rauf Denktash this afternoon. Mr. de Soto was scheduled to see Mr. Clerides a second time later today.
On Timor-Leste, a two-day donors conference, attended by more than 200 representatives of the international donors community, members of missions and agencies, has opened in Dili.
In his address to the conference, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste, Kamalesh Sharma, drew attention to the country’s development challenges. He said: “A significant proportion of the population, 41 per cent, lives below the poverty line, and in some parts of urban area the unemployment rate is as high as 43 per cent, and nearly half of the adult population has difficulty in reading and writing.”
He urged the continued support of the multilateral and bilateral donors, saying, “the economic and social well-being of Timor-Leste is vital for the long-term stability of the country”.
**Law of the Sea
This morning in the General Assembly Hall, the 20th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Law of the Sea Convention was commemorated, and the Secretary-General took the occasion to praise that treaty as “a milestone for the rule of law and for the United Nations”.
He said the Convention’s framers created a treaty that provides for the rational exploitation of both the living and non-living resources of the sea and for the protection of the marine environment. But he warned that, over the past two decades, implementation of certain aspects of the treaty have been inadequate, with the world’s fisheries becoming increasingly depleted and the marine environment becoming seriously degraded.
We have copies of his remarks upstairs.
Just before that meeting, the Secretary-General met briefly with Javier Perez de Cuellar, who was Secretary-General when the Law of the Sea Convention was opened for signature in 1982. And Mr. Perez de Cuellar was invited as a special guest to today’s ceremony.
**Secretary-General to Columbia
The Secretary-General will be attending a ceremony tonight at Columbia University, where he will be receiving an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
In his speech at the ceremony, the Secretary-General will underscore that the life that women in southern Africa represent is being threatened by two emergencies: famine and AIDS. He will send out a strong message that if we want to save Africa, we must save Africa’s women first.
We have the embargoed speech available upstairs.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Michael Steiner, is in Washington, D.C., today, where he will brief U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell about the general situation in Kosovo and the Balkans.
Tomorrow, Mr. Steiner will be in New York for internal meetings with senior officials here, before returning to Kosovo on Wednesday.
We have a press release on Steiner’s trip, as well as one from the UN Mission in Kosovo about the burial on Saturday of two children who died in a grenade explosion in Kamenica a day earlier.
We have four countries signing treaties today.
The United Arab Emirates became the 145th country to sign the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
The three Protocols to that Convention were also signed today. The Protocol concerning trafficking in persons was signed by Japan and Lebanon; the Protocol on firearms was signed by China and Japan; and Japan also signed the Protocol on the smuggling of migrants.
That’s all I have for you. Any questions before we go to Richard?
Questions and Answers
Question: Fred, according to your information, when shall we expect a ruling on the documents [that] arrived from Baghdad from the Security Council?
Spokesman: I think you’ll have to allow time for the documentation to be reviewed by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It’s to be vetted, as you know, for security reasons. And a substantial amount of it, I don’t think we can even say how much yet, will have to be translated. So I think it’s anyone’s guess how long this will take. But you might have noticed, if you looked at the Web site of the Colombian Presidency, that Iraq will be on the agenda of the monthly luncheon that the Secretary-General has with the Security Council tomorrow. Yes?
Question: We are finding very different or even contradictory statements about where this document is and how it’s being processed. Can you tell us whether the United Nations is being involved in making copies of this declaration and when are you going to be distributing it to members of the Council?
Spokesman: I realize your question is concerning the Secretariat’s role in copying and I don’t know the answer to that question. As far as the other elements of your question, I think I’d have to refer you to the President of the Council. I can’t go beyond what I said earlier about the Presidency’s statement last night saying that they had asked Dr. Blix to pass on copies to members of the Council with the relevant expertise in these areas. So I think that’s as far as I can go. The rest will have to be for the Presidency to answer. Yes?
Question: Can you tell me which Security Council members have the expertise to assess the risk of proliferation?
Spokesman: If you look at the statement issued by the Presidency last night, they refer to the five permanent members who are also the five nuclear Powers on the Council.
Question: Nobody else? Just those five?
Spokesman: That’s my understanding, yes.
Question: When the Secretary-General says that the revised text [on Cyprus] is going to be ready shortly, he means when? In a few hours? Today? Tomorrow?
Spokesman: I think if he wanted to be more specific he would have been. You heard me say that there is a rather intense schedule of meetings that Mr. de Soto is having with the two parties. So, clearly they are trying to bridge the gaps based on the substantive comments given by both sides to the initial draft. So we are rushing as fast as we can to come up with the next draft. But I don’t think we can say whether it will be hours or days, but we have our eye on Copenhagen on 12 December.
Question: Can you tell us if the Secretary-General received an invitation from the European Union to go to Copenhagen?
Spokesman: I don’t know if he received an invitation, but you heard him say this morning that as of today he has no plan to go to Copenhagen. Yes?
Question: How close or how far apart are the two plans that were submitted by the two sides?
Spokesman: I think Mr. de Soto said that he would not comment substantively at this time. And, therefore, I am not going to either. We’ll just have to allow his good offices to continue to work to try to bring the parties to agreement on a single text. Yes?
Question: Have you had any information about the scheduled meeting between Mr. Annan and Recep Erdogan in the following days?
Spokesman: I believe that the Secretary-General has invited Mr. Erdogan to meet him here some time tomorrow. I don’t have the specific time yet.
**Briefing by the Spokesman for General Assembly President
In an opening statement to the special commemorative meeting on the 20th Anniversary of the Opening for Signature of the Law of the Sea, General Assembly President Kavan said: “The elaboration of the Convention represents an attempt to establish true universality in the effort to achieve a just and equitable international economic order governing ocean space. For the first time, the Convention offers a universal and complex legal framework for sharing the oceans as a common heritage of mankind. The text of the Convention is not only the result of codification of customary law, but it embodies the progressive development of international law, as well, and also constitutes the International Seabed Authority and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The high number of States parties to the Convention is the best proof of the magnificent success of all those who participated in the work.”
In his statement, President Kavan goes on to commemorate the eminent persons who created the Convention, some of whom are no longer with us to participate in today’s session. “We are grateful to them”, he says, “and their presence is ensured through the fruit of their work. The new law of the sea established by the Convention is based on the idea of the oceans as a common heritage. This concept must be understood not only as sharing the benefits offered by the sea but, above all, as sharing the responsibility for its protection and conservation in order to ensure the ecological balance of our planet and for future generations
to maintain and enjoy.” The statement is available as a press release and is on the President’s Web site, while the list of individual tributes is available at the documents counter.
The plenary then heard statements from the Secretary-General; Ugo Mifsud Bonnici, former President of Malta, who paid special tribute to the late Ambassador Arvid Pardo of Malta; Tommy Koh, President of the third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea; the Chairpersons of the five Regional Groups; Don KacKay, President of the twelfth meeting of States parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea; Martin Belinga-Eboutou, President of the Assembly of the International Seabed Authority; Satya Nandan, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority; Judge Raymond Ranjeva, on behalf of the President of the International Court of Justice; Judge Alexander Yankov, on behalf of the President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea; and Peter Croker, Chairman of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
In the afternoon, there will be two informal panels to commemorate the Convention with the overall theme “The Dynamism of the Convention: challenges for the present and solutions for the future”. There are a couple of changes to the panellists. On the first panel (Chairman Ambassador Cristian Maquieira of Chile), the panellists will be: Satya N. Nandan, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, Rolf Fife of Norway, and Professor Shabtai Rosenne of Israel. That’s on the first panel.
On the second panel, Ambassador Hasjim Djalal of Indonesia (as Chairman), Felipe Paolillo of Uruguay, Michael Bliss of Australia and Professor Bernard Oxman (United States). Those panels are starting this afternoon at 3 o’clock.
This afternoon, the Second Committee takes action on the report of the Economic and Social Committee on science and technology for development, on Habitat II, and on the third UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries.
Also this afternoon, the Fifth Committee will open general discussion on the proposed programme budget for 2004-2005, and will conclude general discussion on the programme budget for 2002-2003.
Tomorrow, the General Assembly plenary continues discussion of the oceans and the law of the sea, in regular session.
Any questions? Thank you.
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