DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
13 June 2003
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman
The following statement is attributable to the Spokesman, regarding the Quartet meeting in Amman, Jordan.
“The Secretary-General will participate in a meeting of the Quartet Principals in Amman, Jordan, on 22 June. The meeting follows the recent Aqaba summit at which both Israel and the Palestinians agreed to begin implementing the Quartet’s “Road Map”.
“The Secretary-General believes the Amman meeting will be a timely opportunity to discuss what the Quartet might do to help generate further momentum in the difficult search for peace. He believes very strongly that the parties should not allow themselves to be deterred by acts of violence and terror. They should show restraint in their words and actions, so that a revived peace process can gain traction through implementation of the Road Map.”
This morning, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast updated the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, as part of its periodic briefings on this issue.
The past month, Prendergast said, has witnessed the most promising openings in the political process since the autumn of 2000. The personal engagement of President Bush and the successful summit at Aqaba were developments of the highest significance, which generated enormous hopes and expectations. Yet, at the same time, we also witnessed the continuation of the sort of violence, by both sides, that has snuffed out every previous effort to renew the peace process.
In this situation, it is essential that the parties choose the road to peace. “Violence only leads down the abyss”, Prendergast added.
Israelis and Palestinians need to stay the course, he told Council Members, and to do so they will need help.
“With this objective uppermost in our minds”, he said, “the Quartet principles will meet in Jordan on 22 June”.
He also briefed them on the humanitarian situation of the Palestinians, which, he said, had not improved despite the tentative steps towards renewal of the political process. In fact, the situation has worsened due to tightening of the closures, which is also severely hampering the work of the UN agencies in the Gaza strip.
The full text of his briefing is available upstairs.
Council members have now left the open briefing and are continuing their discussions on the Middle East in closed consultations.
Today, in Baghdad, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello, met Hamid Majid Musa, Secretary-General of the Iraqi Communist Party as part of his continuing consultations with various political leaders in Iraq.
Mr. Musa stated that his party always believed that there was an essential role for the United Nations in Iraq, both before the war and after. They discussed the current transition and explored how to advance the political process.
De Mello stressed the importance of the role of women in peace, reconciliation and development. Musa agreed that they should be given a greater role in the new Iraq.
Tomorrow, de Mello will travel to Basra. This is the start of his visits to the provinces. In Basra, he will meet with political figures and representatives of civil society. He will also visit a UN Quick Impact Project and meet the staff of UN agencies operating in the region.
**Iraq -- Humanitarian
On the humanitarian front, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today that there had been a flurry of news reports indicating an increase in the number of children on the streets in Baghdad.
UNICEF considers this situation ripe for the exploitation of children. In the chaos of the post-war environment in Iraq, UNICEF says, normal community networks for the protection of children were not fully functioning. In this regard, UNICEF strongly supported getting all Iraqi children back to school as a way of protecting them from exploitation and injury.
The various factions involved in the Liberian Peace Talks are expected to meet face-to-face for the first time today in Akosombo, Ghana.
It is expected that the meeting will iron out the differences on the draft ceasefire agreement.
The UN Representative at the Peace Talks is the Secretary-General’s Representative for Liberia, Abou Moussa.
On the humanitarian front, the World Food Programme said if security conditions permit, the resumption of food distribution to refugees and internally-displaced people in camps near the capital Monrovia would be done soon by a team of nine national staff with the help of non-governmental organizations.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it remains extremely concerned about the chaotic and dangerous security situation in Liberia and its humanitarian impact. UNHCR fully supports the ongoing efforts to reach a cease-fire and the High Commissioner has urged the subsequent deployment of a peacekeeping force to monitor it and to allow the rapid resumption of humanitarian activities for Liberia’s suffering population and refugees.
**Security Council Mission
The Security Council mission led by French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablière is now in Bujumbura, Burundi, where they have meetings scheduled with Vice President Alphonse Marie Kadege and with President Domitien Ndayizeye.
Upon arrival in Bujumbura yesterday, Ambassador de la Sablière made a statement in which he expressed his congratulations to the Burundian people and the various political parties and groups for the successful conclusion and signing of ceasefire agreements. He also expressed the Council’s support for the peace process and invited armed movements, which have not yet done so, to join that process.
Tomorrow, the Council delegation travels to Kigali to meet with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.
We also just received a report on the Council’s three-hour visit to Bunia yesterday. During the visit, the delegation received a briefing on the deployment of the Emergency Interim Multinational Force by its commanding officer, French General Jean Marie Thonier.
The meeting with the members of the Ituri Pacification Commission (IPC) was to reinforce the support of the international community to that democratically elected body. The third meeting was with the NGOs and the humanitarian community. They raised fears that Bunia could become a big camp for displaced people if the mandate of the Multinational Force is to exclusively secure that town and its surroundings. They encouraged the United Nations to put an end to impunity in Bunia as the only way to discourage further violence and human rights violations against civilians.
The Cameroon-Nigeria mixed commission considering ways to follow up on the boundary ruling of the International Court of Justice of October 2002 has concluded its fourth meeting. The meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, discussed the progress towards the planning and implementation of the demarcation exercise of the land boundary as well as other issues. We are expecting a communiqué of the meeting, which was chaired by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah.
The Secretary-General met yesterday afternoon with Maurice Strong, his Personal Envoy. Mr. Strong reported on his recent consultations and activities particularly with regard to the humanitarian situation in the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK), including a recent meeting of the World Food Programme in Rome on its projects in that country, and on other relevant issues.
They also discussed further steps in pursuing the Secretary-General's initiative to support the current efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement of the impasse on the Peninsula. They noted that recent visits by the Swiss Foreign Minister [Micheline] Calmy-Rey and a U.S. bipartisan congressional delegation led by Representative Curt Weldon [R-PA] to the country have been helpful in contributing to this process.
The Secretary-General is keeping in close touch with these efforts as part of his role to support and facilitate a peaceful resolution of the situation.
We have upstairs a statement from the Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, expressing his grave concern at the recent murder of a Guatemalan human rights activist, José Israel López.
The World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed its first ever donation from the Russian Federation, an $11 million contribution to WFP’s emergency operations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Angola. We have a press release on that.
The World Health Organization (WHO) today is removing its recommendation that people should postpone all but essential travel to Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi and Tianjin regions in China due to the outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) there. The latest statistics on SARS indicate a total of 8,445 probable cases, including 790 deaths.
In other news, WHO and the International Labour Organization have launched new measures on controlling tuberculosis in the workplace, which could protect millions of workers from the disease. We have press releases on all those items.
From the UN Environment Programme, Palau has become the 50th country to ratify the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, starting a 90-day countdown to the agreement's entry into force in September. We have a press release on that.
Over 100 participants from about 70 countries will meet next week in Marrakesh, Morocco, to take the first steps towards implementing one of the key commitments made by the world’s leaders at the 2002 Johannesburg Summit; that is, to develop a 10-year framework of programmes for sustainable consumption and production.
**Press Conference on Monday
On Monday, at 11 a.m. in this room, the Canadian Mission will be sponsoring a press conference by Watchlist, a network of non-governmental organizations working to protect the security and rights of children in armed conflict. They’ll be talking about their latest report, and about the impact of war on children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
**The Week Ahead at the United Nations
And as usual on Friday, we have the Week Ahead next week at the United Nations to help you plan your coverage.
That’s all I have. Serge?
Questions and Answers
Question: Fred, there was some report that the intention of the United States was to remove some troops from the DMZ in North Korea. Did the question come up with Mr. Strong?
Spokesman: I had no indication that that subject had been discussed. All they gave me was the paragraph I read here. I suggest that you perhaps ask Mr. Strong directly. I can also ask for you to see if I can release any more details of their discussions.
Question: Is that item an important item for the Secretary-General?
Spokesman: I think the security implications of such a move are considerable and I am sure he is looking at that issue closely. I can’t say though, whether it has been discussed with Mr. Strong.
[The Spokesman later announced that the proposed deployment of troops had not been discussed in Mr. Strong’s meeting with the Secretary-General.]
I am losing my voice, I am sorry. Mohammed, No?
Okay, thank you very much.
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