DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Ahmad Fawzi, Director, News and Media Division, Department of Public Information, and United Nations Spokesman on the Middle East.
Good afternoon. I’ll start the briefing and Ahmad Fawzi will be joining us shortly to give you an update on the Middle East.
The first announcement is on the Secretary-General’s travels.
The Secretary-General will leave for official visits to Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Wednesday -- that’s tomorrow.
In Haiti, he is expected to hold meetings with President René Préval, Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis and Foreign Minister Jean Reynald Clérismé. He is also expected to address a joint session of parliament.
He will also meet with senior officials and contingent commanders of the UN Mission in Haiti.
In the Dominican Republic, the Secretary-General is expected to meet President Leonel Fernandez, as well as the Presidents of the upper and lower houses of the Congress and the Supreme Court. He’ll also address a gathering of Government officials and civil society.
The Secretary-General will be accompanied by his wife, Nane Annan, and he is expected to return to New York over the weekend.
Earlier today, we gave you a readout of the Secretary-General’s breakfast with the permanent five members of the Security Council.
Back to Haiti, there is a report -- the Secretary-General’s latest report -- on the UN Mission in Haiti. It’s out on the racks today.
In it, he says that with the successful completion of the national elections, a page in the history of Haiti has been turned and, Haitians have a unique opportunity to move towards a future of stable and peaceful development.
But, he adds, the country’s needs remain vast, and the challenges are immense, as the sources of instability still exist, and the national security capacity to address them remains inadequate.
He calls on donors to provide urgent and generous support for the Haitian authorities to address these needs.
And today, in the Security Council, as you know, Ghana assumes the rotating presidency of the Security Council for the month of August.
Council members are holding bilaterals today on the monthly programme of work.
And tomorrow, the Ghanaian Ambassador will come to this room at one in the afternoon –- that is scheduled for 1 p.m. -- to brief you on that programme of work for the coming month.
Turning to Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, Jan Pronk, is headed to West Darfur today for a two-day visit, in order to discuss with the authorities, humanitarian workers and representatives of internally displaced persons (IDPs), the security situation in many areas of the State, including in IDP camps, where Government workers were recently killed.
Also, in a joint statement issued today, Pronk and the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission in the Sudan, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, have expressed concern about the fighting that took place recently in an area in North Darfur.
They called for an immediate cessation of hostilities there, and reiterated that a military solution to the conflict is not an option to be pursued by any of the parties.
And there’s a copy of their joint statement upstairs.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
And turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Special Representative there today called on the Congolese to remain calm and patient during the ballot counting, now under way across the vast nation.
The UN Mission, meanwhile, reports that ballot counting has been completed at the majority of the 11,843 voting stations, and that results continued to reach the 62 designated local results computation centres throughout the country.
The Mission says the process is experiencing some delays due to poor road conditions, and lack of necessary equipment at certain results computation centres in the capital, Kinshasa, and in the provinces of Bas-Congo, Ituri, and southern Katanga.
And on Somalia, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General there told the Council of Ministers of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development –- or IGAD -- that the continuation of dialogue between the Transitional Federal Government and the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts was an essential first step towards a solution to the present situation in Somalia.
Speaking earlier today in Nairobi, at a special meeting called by Kenya’s Foreign Ministry to address the unfolding crisis in Somalia, Fall said the UN Security Council had expressed its willingness to consider a partial lifting of the arms embargo on Somalia. That, he said, will allow a possible peace support mission into the country, if it judged that such move would contribute to peace and stability in Somalia.
And there’s a press release from the Special Representative’s Office upstairs on that statement.
The UN mission visiting Nepal, to explore possible UN assistance to that country’s peace process today, continued its intensive consultations and travelled outside of Kathmandu for the first time in order to gain a fuller understanding of the situation on the ground.
The leader of the mission, Staffan de Mistura, told reporters today that he is “confident” and “optimistic” that the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal can arrive at a common understanding on the issue of arms management before the Mission returns to New York on Thursday.
And, on Tajikistan, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has released a $20,000 emergency cash grant, following two earthquakes that hit that country on Saturday. OCHA reports that immediate needs include tents, blankets, mattresses, food, clothing, fuel and medication.
And there’s a press release on that subject.
And, meanwhile, at UNICEF, today marks the start of “World Breastfeeding Week”, a programme launched by UNICEF to promote the health benefits of breastfeeding and, to help mothers ensure their babies are being properly fed.
Though breastfeeding rates are increasing in the developing world, UNICEF estimates that 63 per cent of children under 6 months are still not adequately breastfed.
UNICEF also released a global study today, which estimates that as many as 275 million children are currently exposed to domestic violence.
And there’s more on both items upstairs.
And tomorrow, at 11 a.m., we have the Permanent Mission of Luxembourg sponsoring a press conference by the World Federation of UN Associations on the occasion of the Federation’s sixtieth anniversary.
And that’s what I have for you. I will turn to Ahmad who will give you the Middle East briefing, unless you have some questions for me.
**Questions and Answers
Question: You read the statement from Mr. Swing. Since yesterday’s briefing, one of the parties in the Congo -– the Congolese Rally for Democracy –- has alleged massive fraud, etc. Does Mr. Swing have any response to that?
Deputy Spokesman: I think his appeal for calm and patience during this ballot counting is his message of the day, and that is, these are initial, preliminary results that are coming in local areas. And, I understand the final results will not be done until something like 20 August. So there’s a way to go.
Question: They’re saying things like this, [inaudible], vote-buying, things that don’t necessarily, that are not dependent on what results are announced on 28 August. So I’m wondering. Is Mr. Swing going to do this interview with the press here?
Deputy Spokesman: We’re trying to get him to do a videoconference, and we’ll let you know when that might be. I thought we were going to set something up in the next few days. So, let’s look into that after the briefing.
[The Deputy Spokesman later added that a videoconference had been scheduled for Wednesday at 2 p.m.]
Question: The Iranian President, Ahmadinejad, made a statement about the Security Council resolution that was passed yesterday. Does the Secretary-General have any reaction to that?
Deputy Spokesman: The Secretary-General does not have an immediate reaction to what was reported in the press. But on the issue of Iran, I think his position has not changed and he’s looking forward to a [positive] response from the Iranians.
Question: Do you have any contact with the President or with his head negotiator about Iran, or about the fighting in the Middle East?
Deputy Spokesman: He has had contacts, telephone conversations, in recent weeks, but not over the last 24 hours. No.
Question: I’m sorry, you mentioned François Lonseny Fall at this meeting. I’ve seen his statement. The talks between the Transitional Government and the Islamic Courts have been put off for 15 days. Did that happen before [inaudible]? He’s saying it should continue. Does he have any response to the Prime Minister of Somalia asking that those talks be put back?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, his mandate, as you know, is to try to pursue this dialogue, and that is what he’s doing. The press reports did -– yes, I’m sure that he’s seen the press reports, but that doesn’t change his effort in trying to bring the two together.
Question: Yesterday, this came up. Can the UN say whether Ethiopian troops are in Somalia or not? Since he was at this meeting of the group that includes Ethiopia, let me rephrase it this way, did he ask Ethiopia if it’s invaded Somalia?
Deputy Spokesman: I have no details of that nature of the meeting. We have his main remarks. If that has come up, I am sure that the wires would have picked it up. But, his mandate on this remains and his primary objective is to pursue this dialogue.
Question: Is there some reason why a UN envoy wouldn’t ask if one country had violated the sovereignty of another>
Deputy Spokesman: I think Mr. Fall is looking at the totality of the picture, and is working within that, and is pursuing his objectives.
If there are no other questions for me for now, I will turn over to Mr. Fawzi -- Ahmad Fawzi.
Briefing by Middle East Spokesman
Thank you, Marie.
**Secretary-General’s Breakfast with P-5
So, you all know about the readout from the P-5 breakfast that the Secretary-General had. I hope you’ll bear with me… sorry?
You want me to repeat that? The readout? You were all given, by the Spokesman’s Office, a readout of the Secretary-General’s breakfast with the P-5. So, if you would like me, for the record, I’ll tell you that he organized, the Secretary-General, at his own initiative, a breakfast meeting with the Ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council.
His aim was to have a frank discussion on all the aspects of the current crisis in the Middle East, without talking points, without advisors. And, they discussed how the Security Council can work together to ensure a quick and speedy resolution of this conflict.
So, what did they discuss? Cessation of hostilities, a ceasefire -- and the difference between the two, a political framework for a settlement, the composition and deployment of the proposed stabilization force for Lebanon, and the humanitarian situation, which is being described by some of our agencies as a disaster, not only in Lebanon, but also in Gaza.
The Secretary-General was satisfied with the outcome of this breakfast meeting and his discussions with the P-5, which permitted a clarification of the critical issues on the table and a discussion of the timelines.
**Humanitarian/Lebanon and region
I hope you’ll bear with me because I have a few things I’d like to say about the humanitarian activities of the United Nations in the area of conflict, and also, some of the problems that we’re facing. And I’ll get through them as quickly as possible.
All our agencies are mobilized to the best of their abilities to help the people of Lebanon, and of Gaza and the West Bank, but, the process is very stop-and-start because of the conditions on the ground. As you know, the conditions are treacherous; some of the roads are not functioning, and also because of the security situation. We’re not getting security clearances for our convoys to go through as regularly as we would like them to go through, and, also, we’re being hampered because of shortages in funding and shortages in fuel.
In fact, the fuel crisis is acute in Lebanon. Lebanon is a fuel-importing country, and its reserves of fuel are dwindling. They have two or three days left of fuel. We hope that, in the next 24 hours, we will be able to receive, we will be able to resupply Lebanon with fuel. We are working with our colleagues in Jerusalem to get clearances for safe passage for fuel ships to come to Beirut. Fuel is so critical –- I’ll give you one example –- three hospitals in the south have had to shut down because of lack of fuel; three hospitals have had to close because of lack of fuel.
UNIFIL issues a press release every day, and I urge you to get a copy of their press release from the Spokesman’s Office. But, just very quickly, they reported that this afternoon the IDF entered Lebanese territory in the general area of Ayta Ash Shab, in the western sector, and heavy ground fighting is reported in this area.
They said exchanges of fire continued, with a somewhat reduced intensity along the length of the Blue Line in the past 24 hours. Hizbollah continued to fire rockets and mortars, albeit on a lower scale, and the IDF continued its shelling as well.
UNIFIL also, as you know, provides to us details on the work it has been doing to deliver food and water to the towns in southern Lebanon. And, all of this is in the press release. [www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/]
**Troop Contributors Meeting
We spoke about the troop-contributing meeting yesterday and that it had been postponed, well, it’s now been rescheduled, as Marie may have announced, to Thursday. The Secretary-General had wanted to hold a technical meeting to discuss with countries, with potential troop-contributing countries, to discuss the formation of the force, the mandate of the force, and all the technicalities, maybe not even the mandate of the force because that will come from the Security Council, and the composition of the force will depend on the mandate of the force, of course.
The Spokesman's Office had announced earlier that the meeting, as I said, was rescheduled for Thursday. It’s being organized by DPKO and will be chaired by Jean-Marie Guéhenno.
A few convoys were cancelled today because of the security situation. Out of three convoys, only one was allowed to the south. And, the World Food Programme reports that it’s increasingly frustrated, following the decision today by the IDF to allow only one of the three planned humanitarian convoys to proceed to southern Lebanon. Out of the 18 trucks planned for convoy, only six trucks carrying food and UNICEF supplies will reach Tebnin.
Just to give you an example of how treacherous the roads are: it usually takes about an hour to drive from Beirut to Tyre –- it now takes, under normal circumstances, it would take an hour –- it now takes eight hours. Such is the condition of the roads.
WFP has managed to coordinate the delivery of supplies such as flour, canned food and vegetable oil to Tyre and Qana yesterday. UNFPA has also been sending supplies, or trying to, from Beirut to the south, for families and children. UNICEF is targeting children from nine months to 15 years to vaccinate them against measles, and is distributing vitamin supplements to protect against contagious diseases. All of this, I must emphasize, is being carried out under extremely difficult conditions, but we’re doing the best we can.
There is a sitrep prepared by OCHA, which is also available the Spokesman’s Office. I spoke about fuel. One last point on Lebanon, related to funding. As you know, I had mentioned yesterday, that OCHA -– the humanitarian appeal for Lebanon, the flash appeal -– had been for $150 million. OCHA is reporting that nearly $25 million in pledges and commitments have been received. Large quantities of bilateral aid outside the UN appeal have also been pledged, but channelling aid through the UN appeal allows the humanitarian community to have a better overview of how well needs are being met in the various sectors. The pledges so far, $12.4 million, and the commitments –- the commitments are money that has been promised but not received yet, $12 million -- have gone to coordination, to health and to shelter.
A quick look at Gaza because, as a UNICEF press release says, as the international media is focused on the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Lebanon, sadly enough, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is on the verge of being forgotten. So, a reminder that all is not well on the West Bank.
Since last week, I have a sitrep from our man in Gaza, whom I speak to every morning. He says that 38 Palestinians were killed by IDF strikes, 7 of them children. This includes the killing of two women and a child in the past 24 hours. Around 130 Palestinians have been injured. Nine houses, allegedly belonging to militants, were targeted with rocket attacks. And, 1,433 people are now sheltering in schools of UNRWA. As you know, UNRWA is the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.
Electricity supplies remain erratic since the missile attack on the Gaza power station on 28 June. Cycles are currently six hours on and six hours off.
On the West Bank, external closure was announced by the Minister of Defense for the last two days. All Palestinians from the West Bank are banned from entering Jerusalem and working in Israel.
That’s all I have in terms of reporting to you. How can I help you with your questions? Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Yesterday, the Lebanese Foreign Minister said Lebanon wanted a “UN force” as opposed to a “multinational force”, which is being stipulated by the United States and others. Can you tell me why he is demanding a UN force and what is the difference between the two? Will the composition of a UN force be different from that of a multinational force?
Mr. Fawzi: I can answer that for you. First of all, I think you should ask the Lebanese Acting Foreign Minister what he means, but, I can tell you the difference between a UN force and a multinational force. As you know in this room, I believe a UN force to be a force of “blue helmets”, in other words, in the classic peacekeeping definition of the term. That would be a peacekeeping force with certain rules of engagement and flying the UN flag.
A multinational force would be one composed of what has become known by the term “a coalition of the willing”; Member States willing to provide troops under the command, say of one Member State. In the past, it’s been, for example, the United States -- in Iraq in 2003 or indeed in Iraq in 1990-1991. This is a force that would have a mandate from the Security Council to perform a certain specific mission. But, it would not be a UN force as such. They would not be wearing blue helmets, they would be wearing their own national uniforms, with a Security Council mandate.
Correspondent: OK. It would have to be mandated by the Security Council, I understand that. But, obviously, he was suggesting that he does not trust a so-called force -- which the United States would not be part of -- to be able to maintain peace scrupulously. That is the understanding I came away with, as to why he was insisting on that.
Mr. Fawzi: Thank you for that interpretation. I have no comment on what he trusts or what he doesn’t.
Question: Does Annan support a UN force or a multinational force?
Mr. Fawzi: He hasn’t made his preference known one way or the other. He is urging Member States to resolve their own differences, and that is why he’s called for this technical meeting so we can discuss… lay down the groundwork for a force and give time to the politicians to decide what the mandate will be.
Question: A couple of questions. One is, at the time of the death of the Observers at the Khiyam outpost, it was said that there was only Hizbollah activities 5 kilometres away. Is that still the case, or has the investigation yet revealed that there was Hizbollah activities perhaps closer to the outpost. My second question is what is the UN’s estimate for how many Hizbollah fighters there are? I mean, the UN has been monitoring the situation for 28 years, so could you give us an idea, from the UN, of how many Hizbollah fighters there are?
Mr. Fawzi: On the your first question regarding Hizbollah activities around Khiyam when the four UN Observers were killed, we have nothing further to what was said to you or to a similar question the day we answered those questions. There is an investigation going on -- its something we call a “board of inquiry”, that’s an internal UN inquiry into what happened on the day. As you know, as we all know, the Israelis are doing their own investigation. The Secretary-General has made his preference clear for a joint investigation.
We’re awaiting the outcome of both the Israeli investigation for the moment, and our own inquiry by our own people in UNIFIL and UNTSO, which will answer that first question. So I’m very sorry, I don’t have anything further to what we announced at the time. On your second question about how many Hizbollah fighters there are, I don’t have a figure. I’m not sure that the UN would necessarily have a concrete figure of exactly how many fighters they have, and they themselves probably wouldn’t announce it publicly, but I’ll see what I can do. I’ll go through the files and see if I can give you a rough estimate of what kind of force we’re talking about. Benny?
Question: Two questions. First, is the board of inquiry also looking into why four Observers, whose job it was to observe a ceasefire line that was created in 1949, were left in the middle of a war zone without any protection? And secondly, you highlighted, when you said “and besides the humanitarian situation in Lebanon, we are also monitoring…” I thought you were going to say there’s another side to this, but you said “we’re also monitoring the humanitarian situation in Gaza”. Any interest in the humanitarian situation in Israel during a time of war?
Mr. Fawzi: Yes there is great interest Benniy, and I’m glad you asked that question. We are very concerned with casualties on all sides. And the death of a Palestinian child is equally tragic as the death of an Israeli child, as is the death of a Lebanese child. I’m sorry I don’t have figures for the Israeli side for the past 24 hours or the past 48 hours, but I will certainly look into it. If those figures are available, I will make them known immediately. Your insinuation is rejected out of hand. There is concern for human life, wherever it is.
On your first question, you asked that question yesterday to Mr. Guéhenno, and again, there are several responses. Yes, UNTSO was created back in 1949, but its mandate has evolved over the years and it is there to observe activities along the Blue Line at the moment. Of course, the inquiry will look into why these unarmed Observers were kept where they were. However, let me just repeat again, for probably the third or fourth time: we were given assurances by the combatants that they would not be touched. This is, after all, an observation point that has been there for a very long time and its coordinates are well known to the combatants, so we believed the assurances were given. I’ll leave it at that at the moment.
Question: Will the inquiry also look into the validity of that belief? I mean, this is a war zone. In war, shells don’t always end up going where they’re intended… I don’t know.
Mr. Fawzi: You know, I think that, if we’re going to go into the philosophy of questioning the validity of beliefs, it’s going to take much longer than the few minutes we have here at the briefing. But, I’d be happy to have a longer discussion with you about it. I would, really. But, in a situation of war, you believe what the Generals are telling you. Yes. You believe it the first time, and the second time. But, if then, your people are killed the third time, you start to question it. Logic. I’ll take a question from someone who hasn’t asked a question, and then I’ll go back to James and Masood.
Question: Can you give us a list that the things that the board of inquiry is investigating? Obviously they’re investigating, you’ve said, what Benny’s just brought up. But, like the activities of Hizbollah or how close they were on that particular day. Can you give us list of the three, four or five key points that are being investigated? Also, can you say whether this e-mail that the Canadian casualty had written with very detailed activity of Hizbollah in recent weeks is also being studied as well, along with the reports he would have given more privately to the UN?
Mr. Fawzi: Certainly. I’ll try to get that. I don’t have it with me, and I don’t know exactly what their terms of reference are. I’ll have to talk to UNTSO and UNIFIL about that and come back to you.
Question: Yesterday, the Acting Foreign Minister laid out the Lebanese Government’s seven-point proposal for a ceasefire and also to find a way out of this crisis. Do you have any direct reaction from the Secretary-General? And also, Syria has said that it would welcome a UNIFIL force instead of an international force. Is Syria in direct contact with the Secretary-General on this?
Mr. Fawzi: On Minister [Tarik] Mitri’s proposal to end the crisis, I think we are -- and when I say we, I mean the Secretariat -- of course taking into consideration all the proposals to end the crisis, and certainly those coming from the Acting Foreign Minister of Lebanon. And we take them very seriously, and the Secretary-General is actually meeting with him today, as you know. But, I can’t give you the Secretary-General’s immediate reaction to each of the seven points at the moment. I’ll have to wait until after his meeting with Mr. Mitri.
On Syria’s position welcoming a UN force instead of multinational force. Well, there are many positions surrounding this force at the moment and the UN Secretariat and the Secretary-General are not expressing a preference yet, until we have heard all the views and until we see the mandate. It all depends on the mandate they get from a Security Council resolution. So, we are eagerly awaiting the adoption by the Security Council in the next few days -- we hope, it may take longer, but we hope it takes a shorter time than usual -- to come up with a resolution that would define the mandate of such a force.
Yes, Mathew? I know I’ve passed over you James, but you’ve already asked a question. I’m giving a chance to someone who hasn’t asked a question, and then I’m going to come to you. I’ve also passed over Masood, and he hasn’t complained.
Question: I have two questions. You’ve mentioned three hospitals that have been closed for lack of fuel. You named one, but do you have the names of the other two? If you don’t have them could you get back to me?
Mr. Fawzi: I’ll get them.
Question: And the other question is more open ended. The … I don’t know if looting is the right word but … the attack on the UN’s building in Beirut, what has the UN said about that? What’s the Secretariat’s interpretation of why it was targeted? Do they think the attack was directed at the Security Council for inaction, or at the UN for other reasons? What is the status of the building and the employees? Where is work being done?
Mr. Fawzi: Yes. Well, what we said on the day was “angry demonstrators”. They were angry at the world for letting this happen, the international community for not stopping the war, and they vented their anger on the UN building. But, I hasten to add that the Lebanese Government intervened as quickly as possible, including the Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, Hizbollah and the Lebanese Government, appealing to the crowds to stop the violence. And we were very grateful for that, because there were no injuries, probably as a result of them calming the situation.
There was material damage, which we haven’t assessed yet. The staff largely had been evacuated from the building, so there were no casualties as I said. We have also seen protests and demonstrations at UN facilities in other places, in Gaza, there was a peaceful protest yesterday, in Cairo at UN House, and in other locations. But, we have said that we understand the frustration of the Lebanese people and we were grateful that there were no casualties. Yes James?
Question: I don’t know whether you want to answer this or Marie wants to answer it, but there have been some reports from Britain that the Secretary-General’s been going behind the back of the British Government by calling former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to push the appeal for an immediate ceasefire. Can you confirm that?
Mr. Fawzi: Do you want me to answer that?
Deputy Spokesperson: Yes.
Mr. Fawzi: Marie has said I can answer that question. No. I deny it categorically. There may have been a telephone call to Jack Straw, but it was purely personal. It had nothing to do with what you’re talking about.
Question: But what’s personal at this stage…?
Mr. Fawzi: Well, I’m not going to go into the Secretary-General personal phone calls. Masood?
Question: I agree with Benny, there should be figures given about how many children died in Israel. But, there should be figures given about how many people died in Lebanon, or how many children have died in Palestine. That way, we can prepare and look at where this thing is leading to…
Mr. Fawzi: I actually announced it yesterday -- Monday -- or Friday, that the casualties on the Lebanese side were “x” and the casualties on the Israeli side were “y”. I think there were 50 dead and 19 injured.
Correspondent: You should give the figures, so we can compare.
Mr. Fawzi: Thank you Masood for your comment.
Question: I have two quick questions. How can you explain to the Arab world what mechanism has crippled the United States right now. And…
Mr. Fawzi: How can I explain how who is crippled, sorry?
Question: Well, it is now said widely in the Arab world, from commentators to politicians, that the United States is crippled.
Mr. Fawzi: The United States is crippled?
Question: The United Nations, sorry. The United Nations has been crippled, since the moment this crisis started. What is the mechanism that has really hampered the efforts of the UN so far? That’s question one. And also, what would you make of the announcement by the Syrians that they are readying their troops? What is the UN’s reading of the message coming out of Damascus?
Mr. Fawzi: So you have two questions: why is the UN crippled and how can we explain it to the Arab world, and the Syrian troops on standby. You’re asking for a UN reaction on that?
Well, as everyone around here who’s been following events knows, the UN is not crippled. I would say in answer to that question that it depends which “UN” you are talking about. And there are several UNs to several people, if you ask them. The UN I’m talking about is the wider UN of the humanitarian agencies, funds and programmes. Their work is hampered to a certain extent, but they are extending as much humanitarian care as they can, under very difficult circumstances. So, while there is frustration on the ground in the region as to the delivery of humanitarian supplies, they are still doing a valiant job in trying to reach people. And that’s not just the agencies. UNIFIL is also playing a role here.
Correspondent: I think he’s talking about the difficulties in stopping the war.
Mr. Fawzi: Now, I’m getting to what Masood has helped me out with -- thank you very much, Masood -- the political machinery of the United Nations. Again, here, I think you’ll find that the Secretary-General and his colleagues have spoken out against the war, offering solutions, saying there is no military solution to this crisis. There can only be a political solution to this crisis, so, for God’s sake, stop killing each other and get to the negotiating table. He said it in more diplomatic language, of course. But, I know the question is being asked out there. How many more children have to die -- on the Israeli side, on the Palestinian side, on the Lebanese side -- for people to stop killing each other and throwing bombs at each other?
There is no military solution to this crisis, and we have said it time and time again. And we have appealed to the parties to stop pulling the trigger and to start talking about a longer-term, more comprehensive solution to the crisis. So, I wish you and your colleagues would ask this questions to Member States of the United Nations, especially Member States of the Security Council. And the Secretary-General has also said “put your differences aside”. In fact, I think he used the word “beg”. “I beg you to put your difference aside.” He pleaded with the Council on Sunday to set their differences aside, to stop the killing. And that’s where the paralysis comes from. It comes from, sometimes irreconcilable differences between States. And it’s what we saw before the Iraq war in 2003: a division in the Security Council that led to us being unable to stop the war.
On Syria putting its troops on alert, all I can say is I have no comment. I just wish people would stop thinking about military solutions to this problem. There is no military solution, and that’s all I’ll say.
There have been a few hands up before you came in Mark. And Benny and Masood, you’ve had a chance, so I’ll take those two ladies and I’ll come back to you.
Question: I just wanted to ask you about that ship full of fuel they are trying to get into Lebanon. You said before that OCHA had asked for $150 million, but that only $25 million had been received so far. The Arab world is famous for giving bilaterally -- like Saudi Arabia pledged $1.5 billion. In terms of the fuel, is this coming from UN stores? Is it coming from the Gulf or the Arab world, or is it something that was bought with the $25 million? Is there going to be any special appeal to the Gulf States regarding fuel, since you said this was such an important problem?
Mr. Fawzi: Thank you very much. That’s a very interesting question, to which I don’t have an answer, I’m afraid. I know that WFP is organizing these shipments, so it could be that it has something to do with the appeal. Are we organizing a special appeal to the Arab States? No. We put out a flash appeal for $150 million to the entire world, including the Arab world. So, we do hope that they will respond generously. But, certainly, we are aware of bilateral contributions being made, and we don’t want to discourage those in any way. The more the better. But, I’ll try to find out where this fuel is coming form and I’ll try to let you know.
Question: About the troop contributors meeting on Thursday. I’m wondering what they can discuss if they are meeting without a mandate that even determines what type of personnel.
Mr. Fawzi: Well, we’re calling a technical meeting and, for this purpose, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department that always organizes peacekeeping missions and already is managing 18 complex missions around the world -- one of the largest in the Organization’s history being in the DRC. So Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the Under-Secretary-General, is chairing that one. What can they discuss? They can discuss who has what, who might be able to deliver what. But again, I think that Member States will be very reluctant to even say what they can contribute until they know… “Tell me the mandate”, they’ll say, “and I’ll tell you what I can give”.
But, what will be discussed at this meeting is what we call the technicalities: airlifting, composition, what do we need on the ground? What does the situations need? Now, I’m guessing here, form past experience, that they will study the various scenarios. If we are asked to beef up UNIFIL, what do we need? If we are asked to scrap UNIFIL and reconstitute a new force from scratch, what do we need? What are the parameters here? How large is the buffer zone? What are the needs of the people on the ground, etc? So, it’s really the logistics and technicalities of a force. Politics are being discussed separately.
Ok. I’ll take Mark, Richard, Benny, Masood, and then I’ll come back to you.
Question: You mentioned the IDF obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian aid. I was wondering to what extent the UN also has to negotiate safe passage from Hizbollah? Are they offering that cooperation, especially in light of the attacks at the UN headquarters, if you also saw threats to the UN from that quarter as well?
Mr. Fawzi: The short answer is yes. I wouldn’t say threats, but I have heard in various meetings -- and I don’t have the details with me here -- that yes, Hizbollah has posed some obstacles to some convoys.
Question: Can we have more information and the who, what, where, when and how on that?
Mr. Fawzi: Yes.
Question: You said the SG keeps begging the participants to stop fighting, but, in this rare breakfast where the talk was frank, did he beg these big five to come together, because the US and others are not listening to him. He said he was dismayed Sunday, that they didn’t ask for it. What is he telling them? And secondly, what is his latest thinking on the troops? Is he more interested now in getting some sort of “wink, wink we’re going to stop fighting for a day”, and get an emergency contingent of troops in there, even before a larger force? Is he interested in getting some type of emergency coalition of the willing to just be on the ground, as a way of getting the participants to say “well, we don’t want to hit these people, we’ll stop”?
Mr. Fawzi: That’s an interesting idea, but I can’t confirm that that idea is on the table. What did they talk about? I gave it to you earlier in the readout. And, I know you don’t want to hear about a readout, you want some nitty-gritty, and I’m afraid I wasn’t there. As you know, there were no note takers or advisors at the meeting. But, I do know that they discussed the various concepts of a force, and that the Secretary-General again asked them to put their differences aside, in order to resolve this crisis as soon as possible.
We all know there are differences, and you probably know better than I, some of the details of those differences between Member States. And yes, he did ask them to set those differences aside and move along quickly on the question of a mandate of a force and who’s going to be able to give what, and which countries will be able to contribute, so we’ll see where that goes. Benny, Masood.
Question: There are reports that the Secretary-General is considering becoming the interlocutor to Syria and Iran. Is he considering it? I understand the French have urged him to do that. Is he considering any trip to Syria and Iran, which have both been outside of the diplomacy so far?
Mr. Fawzi: The Secretary-General has had his contacts with both countries, Syria and Iran. Is he considering a trip soon? Not that I’m aware of. Are you aware of any trip Marie? No? Ok then.
Question: Perhaps someone on his behalf then, to act as an envoy to either of those two countries?
Mr. Fawzi: Look. When the time comes, I’m sure that he won’t hesitate to name an envoy who will go to the region, again, if need be. The time has to be right for such a visit. At the moment, I don’t hear that it’s being planned. But I know that there are contacts going on.
Question: Since UNIFIL has been discussed endlessly in the past few days, can you tell me, since it was created, how many peacekeepers have been killed by Israel and how many by Hizbollah? That has become a bone of contention.
Mr. Fawzi: You understand that I don’t have it to hand, but I will have to check with my colleagues in DPKO. I hope they hear me now. It’s a sad subject to research, but yes. Sir, then I’ll go to the back there, and that should be the last question.
Question: On the troop-contributing meeting. We were told that it was cancelled… postponed, because of a lack of a political framework. But, there’s been no political framework in the past 24 hours and now it’s suddenly come up again… it’s been rescheduled for Thursday. You said yourself, five minutes ago, that you think that many of the countries are saying “tell us the mandate and we’ll tell you what we can give”. So, why was it cancelled yesterday, if it wasn’t for the political framework? Under whose pressure? And why was it rescheduled now? There are some 40 countries going to this meeting, but only two or three have talked about contributing possible troops. Could you give us some examples?
Mr. Fawzi: I’m sorry, I don’t have those countries. It would be interesting to get it if there are 40. It is interesting. Of course, many of them have had past experience in peacekeeping and that experience will be very, very useful in this discussion. I really don’t think that it was important why the meeting was postponed -- whether it was for technical reasons or logistical reasons. I can try to make up a reason for you.
But, to be serious, I will ask the organizers why it was postponed. It was postponed to another day. Not cancelled.
Correspondent: But, there’s been no political advance in the past 24 hours, and now it’s on again.
Mr. Fawzi: Well, that’s what you say.
Question: Well what has changed logistically?
Mr. Fawzi: Nothing. Nothing has changed.
Question: Why is the Secretary-General not chairing it? As you said,
Mr. Guéhenno’s chairing it now.
Mr. Fawzi: It was always going to be chaired by DPKO.
Question: There were some rumours that the United States didn’t want…
Mr. Fawzi: I’m not going to get into rumours. C’mon guys.
Question: To your contention that the ultimate settlement has to be political, I can understand that. But, what ideas to you have, or what ideas had been floated at breakfasts on the 36th and 37th floors or whatever, as to how you guarantee that Hizbollah, or for that matter any similar organization anywhere in the world, isn’t going to take advantage of a cessation of hostilities or truce, and run right back in? How do you prevent that from happening? I see impatience building in large parts of the world -- even places that might be sympathetic to Hizbollah or the Palestinian cause -- with small military organizations threatening the security of one country and, simultaneously, the sovereignty of another country from which they operate.
Mr. Fawzi: I, personally, humble civil servant that I am, have no guarantees of anything. However, what the Secretary-General has called for, time and time again, and at the risk of being repetitive, I’m going to repeat what he has called for; a cessation of hostilities to give us space for the humanitarians to do their job and for the politicians to do their job. Now, it is the job of those politicians to come up with a political framework that would lead to a ceasefire that would be acceptable and respected by both sides -- by all parties.
And, by “all parties”, we mean, here, the parties to the conflict: Lebanon, Hizbollah and Israel. Those guarantees will be built into any political agreement that will form the backbone of a ceasefire. And it is only then that the mandate of a force can be decided, which will go in to monitor that ceasefire and enforce it.
Deputy Spokesperson: I have one thing. An addition on the video teleconference with William Swing, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and chief of Mission, it is now scheduled for 2 p.m. tomorrow on the 32nd floor in the Situation Centre.
* *** *