DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
26 January 2004
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
I am sorry I am a little late. And welcome to our visiting journalists from India and Pakistan.
**SG in Stockholm
I’ll start with the Secretary-General, who is on his way to Paris now. But earlier today, he says the world must do more to prevent genocide from ever taking place again, including the possibility of having the States that are party to the Genocide Convention to set up a Committee to Prevent Genocide.
In an address to the Stockholm International Forum in Sweden today, the Secretary-General said that genocide has happened in our time, while States even refused to call it by its name, to avoid fulfilling their obligations.
All of us, he said, failed to prevent genocide in Rwanda and in Srebrenica; with the United Nations, he noted, “instead of reinforcing our troops, we withdrew them”.
Although the United Nations has since reformed its peacekeeping work, he added, the day has yet to come when we can say with confidence that the world would respond effectively, when confronted with a new Rwanda or Srebrenica.
The Secretary-General also recommended establishing a special rapporteur on the prevention of genocide, who would report directly to the Security Council. We have copies of his speech upstairs.
After he gave that speech, the Secretary-General attended a luncheon hosted by the King of Sweden, and, in the afternoon, he had a private meeting with the former UN chief weapons inspector in Iraq, Hans Blix.
He also met with Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, with whom he discussed Norway’s efforts to strengthen the peace process in Sri Lanka, and also spoke about peace prospects in Sudan and the Secretary-General’s high-level panel for change.
Yesterday, when he arrived in Stockholm, the Secretary-General met with Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, with whom he discussed Cyprus, UN reform and the UN role in Iraq. Transcripts of his press encounter after that meeting are upstairs.
The Secretary-General then traveled to Paris, as I mentioned earlier, where tomorrow, he is scheduled to attend a working luncheon, hosted by French President Jacques Chirac, and attend a Global Compact meeting.
**SG in Davos
Before arriving in Stockholm, the Secretary-General had a busy weekend in Davos, Switzerland, where he held bilateral meetings in the margins of the World Economic Forum.
On Saturday, the Secretary-General met with the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and we put out over the weekend a statement saying that the Secretary-General was encouraged by the constructive exchange they had on Cyprus, in which the Prime Minister indicated his Government’s strong desire for the Turkish Cypriots to resume talks with the Greek Cypriots, with a view to resolving outstanding issues by May 1.
The Secretary-General told the Prime Minister he would study his position carefully, and indicated that his good offices were still open if the parties were to demonstrate the will to conclude an agreement, with UN assistance, including the holding of referenda, by May 1.
And before leaving Davos on Sunday, the Secretary-General had a breakfast with the chief executive officers of some of the world’s largest corporations to discuss the Global Compact. He challenged them to think of ways to make the Compact more effective.
We should have the Secretary-General’s travel press release from his weekend activities out later today or by tomorrow morning.
Here at UN headquarters, the Security Council is holding an open meeting today on post-conflict reconciliation and the role of the United Nations.
Tuliameni Kalomoh, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, talked about the need to effectively combine the number of instruments the international community has at its disposal in post-conflict situations. Tribunals, truth and reconciliation commissions, amnesties, reparations, targeted assistance programmes and the return of displaced persons are a few he mentioned.
Foreign Minister of Chile, Soledad Alvear, speaking in her capacity as Security Council President, also read out a message from Archbishop Desmond Tutu. We have copies of that statement upstairs. We also expect a press statement to be read at the end of today’s meeting.
And for the record, late Friday afternoon Chilean Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz, in his capacity as Security Council President, read out two press statements -– one on the Central African Republic and the other on Burundi. Both are out as press releases.
And turning to Afghanistan, the Acting UN Special Representative in Afghanistan, Jean Arnault, was present today when President Hamid Karzai signed the Afghan Constitution, formally putting the document, agreed to earlier this month, into effect. It took a few weeks for the Constitution to be signed after its adoption, to reconcile the Dari and Pashto versions of the text.
In another issue relating to Afghanistan, the Secretary-General says that, despite some progress made since the fall of the Taliban, women in many parts of Afghanistan continue to face gross violations of their rights, which are seriously hampered by culture, customs and the lack of security.
In a report to the Economic and Social Council, which is out on the racks today, he notes that many Afghan women suffer from domestic violence, and early and forced marriages.
Also today, we have upstairs the press briefing notes from Kabul, which mention the visit to Afghanistan next week of the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
We have an appointment announcement: Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appointed Major-General Alain Pellegrini of France as Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), to succeed Major-General Lalit Mohan Tewari, who relinquishes his post on 17 February. We have the new Force Commanders’ bio available upstairs in the Spokesman’s office.
**DSG In India
And then the Deputy Secretary-General is on an official visit to India from 25 to 30 January. Today, she will be participating in the ceremonies to mark Republic Day.
On Tuesday, she will make the keynote address at the 6th Asian Security Conference organized by the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, on the theme United Nations, Multilateralism and International Security. We have available upstairs embargoed copies of her speech.
And during her visit, the Deputy Secretary-General will meet with Indian government officials, as well as the UN country team.
**Human Rights/Racism conference
Racism, discrimination, xenophobia -- these are some of the topics being addressed at a Human Rights Commission meeting, which began in Geneva today.
Bertrand Ramcharan, the acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, addressed the meeting, which focused on developing tangible anti-racism recommendations in the areas of poverty education, and the issues of standards. We have copies of his speech upstairs.
**Annan Peacekeeping Centre
And over the weekend, the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre was opened in Accra, Ghana, and the Secretary-General said he was deeply honoured and moved that a forum to share the experiences of Ghanaian peacekeepers was named after him.
In a message delivered over the weekend, the Secretary-General noted that UN peacekeeping has undergone a dramatic surge in activity, with six major UN operations underway in Africa alone and several more in the planning stages.
**Small Islands conference
The last item I have –- a one-week forum of Small Island Developing States opened this morning in the Bahamas. Attended by some 300 representatives of small islands, donor countries, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and experts, the forum is preparing the ground for the International Conference for the 10-year review of the Barbados Programme of Action on Small Islands, to be held in Mauritius in August.
The conference will address pressing environmental issues for small islands such as the rising sea levels due to global warming and vulnerability to cyclones, as well as matters of good governance, trade, tourism, transport, communications, and the incidence of HIV/AIDS.
And that’s all I have for you today. Can I take your questions? Yes?
Questions and Answers
Question: Marie, there is tremendous anticipation over when and how the Secretary-General will respond to last week’s request to send an electoral team to Iraq. I saw the transcript of the press opportunity in Stockholm in which the Secretary-General said “I think in fact today or tomorrow or by Tuesday”. Can we conclude now at noon here and five o’clock, six o’clock in Europe that it probably will not be today?
Associate Spokesman: Well, as I said, he is just taking off where he is on the way from Stockholm to Paris. So, it is towards the end of the day in Paris. So, as of now that’s all I can tell you. He mentioned last night he would be making his decision between then and Tuesday. I’ll try to get something a little bit more definitive for you by the end of the evening in Paris.
Question: Even if it’s just for (inaudible), in other words not to be repeated but just unofficially.
Associate Spokesman: Yes, absolutely.
Question: Thank you.
Associate Spokesman: Anything else? Yes, Bill?
Question: The Turkish Prime Minister, Mr. Erdogan has asked the Secretary-General to select a new negotiator for their process there. Is the Secretary-General going to respond positively to that request and appoint someone?
Associate Spokesman: On that, I’d like to refer you to the Secretary-General’s remarks he made. He made some fairly extensive remarks following his meeting on Saturday. And in addition we have the official statement upstairs. Yes?
Question: Marie, you refer to the high-level panel for change. What’s the latest in there?
Associate Spokesman: I think we flagged to you in ‘The Week Ahead’ that there may be some members, I can’t remember their names right now, of the high-level panel here for an NGO/DPI conference this week. If you go upstairs, I think we can pull that information out for you and may be you can ask them in person.
[She later told the correspondent that panel member David Hannay is scheduled to speak this Thursday at the DPI/NGO briefing at UN Headquarters
Anything else? If not, have a good afternoon. Thank you.
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