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PRESS CONFERENCE BY HEAD OF UN ASSESSMENT MISSION TO NEPAL

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

9 August 2006

Presenting the findings of a high-level United Nations assessment mission to Nepal at a Headquarters press conference today, Staffan de Mistura said the good news was that all of the parties in the Himalayan kingdom welcomed United Nations involvement in assisting the country’s “potentially fragile” peace process.

Mr. de Mistura, who headed the seven-day mission, said the parties had also agreed on the need to continue the peace process and not to return to the ten-year conflict that had resulted in some 15,000 deaths. That was also good news. The parties had also identified the main area of danger, namely the issue of arms management -- or the cantonment of both combatants and the army.

Under the cloud of what was happening in Lebanon, Nepalese authorities had felt there was a possibility that the situation in Nepal could deteriorate, he said. It was in that context that Secretary-General Kofi Annan had responded to a formal request from the Nepalese authorities for an assessment mission. Consisting of military, police, electoral and political and humanitarian experts, the mission had visited throughout the country, including an area controlled by Maoist combatants.

While Nepal was not breaking news in terms of current world affairs, he said he was pleased to announce that he had received two letters today, one from the Maoist Chair and the other from Nepal’s Prime Minister. Both letters were identical in that they agreed on a five-point platform for assistance meant to provide the country with the stability it needed to move ahead with the peace process.

Outlining the areas included in the platform for assistance, he said there was agreement on the need for United Nations involvement in human rights monitoring, monitoring of the code of conduct during the ceasefire and assisting in the management of arms and armed personnel on both sides. That would involve requesting the deployment of qualified United Nations personnel to monitor and verify both the confinement of Maoist combatants and weapons within designated cantonment areas.

He said the platform also included the monitoring of Nepal’s army to ensure that it remained in its own barracks and that its weapons were not used for war against any side. It also provided for election observation and support for the election of a constituent assembly and government. Concurrent with the mission, there had also been a renewal of the ceasefire.

Noting that he would be presenting the assessment mission’s report to the Secretary-General today, he said it would then be up to the Secretary-General to draw his own conclusions. Certainly, he was strongly encouraged that as part of the momentum generated by the mission, both sides had come to a common understanding on how to ask the United Nations to proceed with the most delicate part of the process -- arms management. At some point in time, would the United Nations or Nepal’s Government ask the Maoist guerrillas to disarm? a correspondent asked.

Responding, he noted that the process of arms and armed personnel management would ideally move in a direction in which both sides, including the Maoist combatants would reach the stage in which they would not need to be associated with their weapons. Once free and fair elections were held, there would be a completely different environment in which there would be a political mainstream. The crucial point was, at the moment, the agreement on the need for cantonment of the soldiers and the combatants and weapons verification under United Nations monitoring.

Asked if the large powers had been helpful on the ground in the process, he said the situation of Nepal was quite unique in that everybody was eager to see United Nations involvement. Everybody had been consulted in the process, including the five permanent members of the Security Council. The assessment mission had been quite a joint venture. While the mission had produced momentum on the opportunity for the process to move forward, that opportunity had been seized by the common desire for United Nations involvement.

Asked to compare the situation of Nepal with that of Lebanon, he said that while each case was different, any doctor would always argue the case for preventive medicine over more costly and involved procedures. In the case of Nepal, preventive medical assistance had a good chance of working, mainly because the patient was asking for the medicine.

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For information media • not an official record



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