DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
26 April 2004
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
The record on achieving the goals to which world leaders agreed at the Millennium Assembly is mixed, the Secretary-General said today, although it is not too late to regain the path on which we set out with such hope.
The Secretary-General this morning opened the yearly meeting that brings together the Economic and Social Council, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. He told them that nations must demonstrate clearly by next year that they are truly serious about reaching the Millennium Development Goals. We have copies of his remarks upstairs.
And also today, we have as our guest Oscar de Rojas, Director of the Financing for Development Office in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, to talk to you about today’s meeting.
As you know, on Saturday, the settlement plan for Cyprus was approved by the Turkish Cypriots and rejected by the Greek Cypriots. As a result the Foundation Agreement will not enter into force.
Speaking to reporters a short while ago, the Secretary-General said that “we’re all very disappointed that the reunification efforts did not succeed.”
He added: “I hope, now that they have woken up to what has happened, they will reflect and take necessary steps to get back to the table.”
In a statement, read out Saturday evening in Nicosia by his Special Advisor for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, the Secretary-General said that a unique and historic chance to resolve the Cyprus problem has been missed.
In the statement, the Secretary-General said he intends to give careful thought to the implications of the result. Meanwhile, he added that Cyprus will remain divided and militarized as it accedes to the European Union, and the benefits of a settlement will not be realized.
During the press conference, de Soto said that his Good Offices mission would begin to close down.
This morning, de Soto began to pay farewell calls to a number of leaders on the island, including Tassos Papadopoulos, Mehmet Ali Talat and Serdar Denktash.
De Soto will make his way back to New York and brief the Security Council
**SG on Iraq
The Secretary-General was asked today by CNN about the situation in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, and said that it is tricky and dangerous to fight in a built-up area.
He noted that the Coalition Provisional Authority and the military on the ground have been extremely careful. The Secretary-General added, “I hope they will succeed in working out a political settlement,” without having to fight their way into Fallujah. We have a transcript of that press encounter. It will be ready shortly upstairs.
**Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
The following statement is attributable to the Spokesman concerning Darfur in the Sudan:
“The Secretary-General is encouraged to learn that the Government of Sudan and the armed opposition in Darfur have agreed on a framework for continuing talks to address the problems in Darfur in a comprehensive manner. He urges the parties to continue negotiations in good faith.
“The Secretary-General further calls on the parties to adhere to the ceasefire and do everything possible to prevent attacks on civilians. He underlines the need to assure unimpeded access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the civilian population.
“The Secretary-General commends the African Union’s decision to send a ceasefire observer mission to Darfur and encourages its speedy deployment.
“The Secretary-General assures the parties, the Government of Chad and the African Union of the United Nations’ support and cooperation in restoring peace in Darfur.”
Meanwhile, the temporary ceasefire in western Sudan is allowing humanitarian aid workers first time access to hundreds of thousands of displaced people who were previously unreachable. UNICEF, in a press release, outlines the relief work that is underway.
With the onset of the rainy season in June, the potential for outbreaks of disease due to inadequate shelter and crowded living conditions is a serious threat.
A UN assessment mission went to RyongchonCounty in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on Saturday, and confirmed that the area had suffered a significant loss of life and experienced extensive damage to housing and infrastructure following last Thursday’s train explosion.
The mission says that there is no need for international search and rescue operations, but there exist considerable immediate needs to provide shelter to affected families and to repair damaged buildings.
UN agencies have been providing medical supplies from existing programs to Ryongchon, and the UN system is also making available emergency grants to respond to the disaster.
At 3 p.m., the Security Council is scheduled to hold consultations on the issue of the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Under other matters, the Council is expected to hear a briefing on the latest developments in Côte d’Ivoire.
**DRC - experts to monitor flow of arms
Out on the racks today is a letter from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council, informing him that he has appointed the four members of the group of experts who will monitor the arms embargo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The four experts, from Cameroon, Canada, France and the United States, are part of the monitoring mechanism established by the Security Council in March to review information on the flow of illicit weapons to armed groups in the DRC, as well as the presence of any foreign military in the DRC.
From northern Uganda, thousands of people have fled settlements in northern Uganda in recent weeks following a series of raids by rebels of the feared Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
Due to the recent LRA raids and reports of extensive population displacement in northern Uganda, representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), World Food Programme, and the Ugandan Government traveled to the affected area over the weekend to assess the situation.
The UN Mission in Afghanistan reported that an explosive device hit the rear wall of a warehouse in Kunduz leased by UNHCR last Thursday, although no injuries or casualties were reported.
Also last Thursday, the Mission says an unidentified man died while detonating an improvised explosive device on the road to the airport in the southern city of Kandahar. Another explosive device detonated near a UN electoral vehicle traveling on that same road later that day, damaging the vehicle’s panels and windscreen.
The United Nations is investigating these incidents, and UN staff remain in Kandahar, although all UN operations in the region have been temporarily suspended until the investigations are completed. We have further details in yesterday’s briefing notes from Kabul.
An historic agreement to adopt a unified global response to tackling the AIDS epidemic was reached yesterday in Washington, UNAIDS announced. We have a press release upstairs with more details.
Also, UNAIDS and UNICEF today jointly appointed action star Jackie Chan as a Goodwill Ambassador who will work on behalf of efforts to tackle AIDS. He is also interested in dealing with issues involving children affected by armed conflict.
Eighteen years ago today at the Chernobyl power plant, the world suffered the worst nuclear accident in its history. In a statement issued to mark the occasion, the Secretary-General reaffirms the resolve of the United Nations to ensure that the ongoing needs of the people of the region are not forgotten. And we have copies of that statement upstairs.
We also have several messages by the Secretary-General. One on the new Asian highway, one on international trade, and one on the NigerRiver Basin.
*NUFPA – Population award
Then the internationally acclaimed demographer, John C. Caldwell, and the Addis AbabaFistulaHospital, a pioneer in the treatment of childbirth injuries, have won the 2004 United Nations Population Award.
The awards will be presented in July at a ceremony here at U.N. Headquarters. We have a press release upstairs on that.
**Press conferences today
Finally, press conferences starting this afternoon: 1:15 p.m. Jan Karlsson, the Co-Chairman of the Global Commission on International Migration, and others, will be here to bring you on the activities of that Commission. Then at 4:00 p.m., UNDP’s Millennium Development Goals campaign office will be sponsoring the launch of the 2004 Social Watch Report entitled “Fear and Want: Obstacles to Human Security.”
**Press conferences tomorrow
Then tomorrow, three press conferences: At 11:00 a.m., Dr. Kirstin Leitner, the World Health Organization’s Assistant Director General for Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments will brief on two reports -- one on the sanitation challenge, and another on costs and benefits of global water and sanitation improvements.
And then 12:45 p.m. Rubens Ricupero, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) will brief on the 11th UNCTAD conference taking place in Brazil in June.
And finally at 3:30 p.m. the Prime Minister of Sweden, Goran Persson, will have a press conference in this room.
**Guest at noon tomorrow
And our guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Johan Schövinck, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, from the Department Economic and Social Affairs. And he will brief you on the findings of the World Youth Report 2003. This is the first comprehensive UN publication to examine the global situation of young people since the UN adopted the World Programme of Action for Youth in 1995.
That’s all I have for you. Yes, Evelyn?
Questions and Answers
Question: Are any of these reports available now, or is tomorrow going to be one these days of a press-conference-a-minute where nobody writes anything? And secondly on Cyprus, is there any reason for the UN to continue a peacekeeping force there? And what’s going to be the future of that once it expires in June? Are there any members who would support protecting the Greek Cypriots from the Turks?
Spokesman: I don’t think I am prepared to answer those questions. I don’t think that we have answered them for ourselves. I think we want to let the dust settle and think through what the options are for the UN force on Cyprus and then discuss them with the Security Council. But today I have no guidance. On the reports; we’ll see if we can shake loose any of them on an embargoed basis today to make it a little bit easier for you tomorrow.
Question: It won’t be done!
Spokesman: It won’t be done? We’ll try. Mark? [He later released two of the reports embargoed.]
Question: On North Korea, what kind of access has the UN been getting? Has it had a free hand basically to do its work as it sees fit or has it been directed at every stage by the Government?
Spokesman: Are you talking about this latest mission concerning the blasts side?
Spokesman: Why don’t I put you in touch with someone from OCHA or UNICEF who has been there or who might be able to give you a report concerning what’s actually happening today, whether they’re having any problems of access. I haven’t any reports of that. Bill? [He later said that the UN team had not complained of access problems.]
Question: Are Mr. Mountain or Mr. Brahimi going to be coming to the stakeout before or after their meetings with the Secretary-General?
Spokesman: Not after those meetings. I spoke with Mr. Brahimi this morning about coming to the stakeout after he briefs the Security Council tomorrow, and he has agreed to do that. And we were in touch with Mr. Mountain’s office this morning to see when he might be free to see you. I don’t think we’ve fixed the time, but we’re working on it. Yes, Abdurrahim?
Question: Fred, three questions on Iraq: The first one I realize you dealt with on Friday. But Mr. Brahimi went on American television on the weekend on a show that I understand was taped on Friday. And he (Inaudible) his criticism of Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories. How does Mr. Brahimi or the SG explain the fact that he is being so openly critical of the Israeli Government at this particular point in time?
Spokesman: How does he explain?
Spokesman: He was asked a question and he answered it.
Question: But why is he being so openly critical of the Israeli Government at this particular stage of his mission in Iraq?
Spokesman: He was criticizing Israeli policies and saying what he felt the impact of those policies were on the region and in particular on Iraq, which is of course, his responsibility here at the United Nations now. The Secretary-General commented briefly on this this morning and you will see the transcript of that once it’s ready. And of course, you’re welcome to ask Mr. Brahimi when you see him tomorrow about what he said.
Question: May I ask a follow up? The Bush Administration before and during the war in Iraq, said several times that a solution to the problem between the Israelis and the Palestinians goes through Baghdad. In light of the statement made by Mr. Brahimi, does the Secretary-General agree with that assessment?
Spokesman: I don’t think you want to start linking the Secretary-General with policy statements by individual Member States. The Secretary-General’s views on the Middle East as we said on Friday, are laid out in public statements he has made over seven years and are well known.
Question: Just a final one on the hand over of sovereignty. The Bush Administration has recently been saying that on the 30th of June a partial handover of sovereignty will take place. What does the UN call the 30th of June now? Is it partial or complete?
Spokesman: I took that question on Friday and I said that Iraqis are in the process of deciding on the nature of the transitional caretaker government. That to the extent that Mr. Brahimi can help them in that, he will. He is not going to take a position himself on what the outcome of these deliberations should be. They’re ongoing. So, no comment, in other words. The lady all the way in the back?
Question: This is in regards to the question asked earlier. It is in reference to Mr. Brahimi’s comments on the Middle East. Does the UN think this helps him or hurt him in the region?
Spokesman: I have no comment on that. Yes, sir?
Question: My question is on Cyprus. After the referendum results in Cyprus, Greek Cypriots will join the European Union and Turkish Cypriots will be left out in the cold. Do you not think this is a glaring injustice and what does the UN plan to do after this?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General did his level best to get the two sides of the island to agree on a formula for reunification. One of those two sides rejected his proposal in the referendum on Saturday. And I think both sides have to live with the consequences. The Secretary-General said this morning what I just mentioned to you. That he hopes they’ll wake up now that they see what they’ve done and agree that they have to come together with some kind of solution eventually. And he hopes they’ll start working on it. But his good offices effort ended on Saturday. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: The Greek Cypriots have rejected the settlement plan by a big majority –- some 76 per cent. And the Secretary-General he is going to look into the implication of this (Inaudible) ...action. Would that include other referendum concerning other long-lasting conflicts?
Spokesman: Include a what?
Question: Other referendum. Concerning other long-lasting conflicts? Other proposals? Other settlement plans?
Spokesman: Ooh, I don’t know. I mean, I saw some editorial comment today that said had the referendum gone positive, the Cyprus formula might have had useful applications in other conflicts around the world. That may or may not be so, I don’t know. But I don’t have an answer to your question.
Question: There is something I am not clear about. And that is, the UN is not going to take away its ditch (?) that it separates in Cyprus between the north and the south? I mean, they’re going to stay there apparently, for a while.
Spokesman: Who are going to stay there?
Question: The United Nations peacekeeping...
Spokesman: Peacekeeping force.
Question: ...Peacekeeping force is going to stay there. Does that mean that the frontier between the north and the south will be open or open one day a week, do you know?
Spokesman: That will be for the two parties to decide and the peacekeeping force that’s there will continue to monitor. When they have opened that border the peacekeepers facilitated the crossings from both sides. That can continue if the two sides wish to do so. But the larger question for the UN now is what is the mandate for UN peacekeepers in Cyprus? Neither the Security Council nor the Secretariat has yet addressed that question in detail. Yes?
Question: Just one quick note to what you just said: is it my understanding that in fact the peacekeepers were largely financed by the south, and now that they are joining the EU they won’t want to finance it any more?
Spokesman: Well, we’ll have to see what that turns out to be. Yes, Ma’am?
Question: What is Mr. Brahimi’s schedule for the rest of the week?
Spokesman: He will be consulting with various Secretariat members; mostly likely representatives of Governments. I don’t have any specific details of his programme. If you want us to find out specifics, you can ask me after the briefing, we’ll see if his office can give us any more detail. Yes, Mark?
Question: (Inaudible)... on the NPT meeting next year. Does the Secretary-General have any views at this stage as to what measures need to be taken in terms of updating, changing refocusing whatever, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, or is that something that he does not want to be...?
Spokesman: Let me put you in touch with someone in the Disarmament Division after the briefing to see if they can answer that question. All the way in the back?
Okay. So, now I will ask Oscar de Rojas to come up to the podium.
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