20 August 2007


20 August 2007
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE BY Under-Secretary-General for political affairs

The relations of the United Nations with regional organizations and the planned establishment of a United Nations office in Central Asia were among the main issues discussed at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, last week, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

Describing his participation in the meeting, he said:  “We made a good start on working on our ties with that regional organization”, as called for in Article VIII of the Charter.  While the United Nations had not had “very much to do” with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the past, participants at the meeting welcomed the United Nations presence in Bishkek.  Representatives discussed numerous issues of mutual interest in the Central Asia region, including those of drugs, water and counter-terrorism.  There was also a warm welcome expressed for the regional office the United Nations was planning to open in Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan, towards the end of this year.

He added that, during the meeting, he had had an opportunity to talk with the President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Kyrgyzstan, and the Presidents of Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, as well as other participants in the meeting, including President Karzai of Afghanistan.

Continuing, he said his trip to Asia had also included Beijing, China, and Nepal, where he had wanted to see how the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) was doing and how the election process was going.  In July, the parties in Nepal had agreed to hold the previously postponed elections to the Constituent Assembly on 22 November.  “We are getting all the pieces of the election together,” he said, adding that the process was in good shape.  The challenge now was to create a political climate conducive to holding the elections, and encouraging everyone, publicly and privately, that things stay on course so they can fulfill “this really incredible process that has been going on in Nepal and move on to the next stage”.

Responding to numerous questions about his interaction with China’s representatives, he said that the discussions had mostly focused on the coordination of policies in Africa and “other trouble spots that we deal with”, including Kosovo and Darfur.  Clearly, China was very involved on the African continent, and he was making his “usual points” about the importance of the international community working together and the need to make sure that any new wealth that was brought in did not become something to fight over, that it actually reached the people.  Another aspect of the discussion had been focused on how China could use its growing influence in the area “to be helpful” in some preventive diplomacy areas.  His Chinese interlocutors had made the point that they wanted to cooperate closely with the United Nations and work on the main issues together.

Among other issues, the question of Taiwan had come up, he continued.   China had raised concerns about what Taiwan was doing at the moment -- trying to get an increased role at the United Nations.  He had made very clear what the position of the United Nations had been on that issue “for many, many years”.

Asked if the issue of human rights issues in Myanmar, including the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, had been discussed, he said that they had been mentioned, indeed.  A few weeks ago, China had been very supportive of the mission of the special envoy for Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, understanding the importance of not only discussing the issues, but also working on them together.  “We reaffirmed some of that ground, because Gambari had been there and discussed it at great length.  We didn’t go over it at great length when I was there, but I think that it is important,” he said, also stressing the importance of having a coordinated international position in that regard.

Asked about the role of Central Asia in responding to the energy needs of the world, he said that there had not been much of a discussion on that subject at the meeting, but it had come up in statements and some bilateral discussions.  Represented at the event were such major producers of energy as the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, as well as many consumers of energy, including China.  The question was whether they could all work together in the future to stabilize the energy situation.

Regarding the Organization’s role in that regard, he said that he did not think that the United Nations had much of a role in the region at this point.  Currently, the main issue in most of Central Asia was the question of which direction the Kazakh oil and Turkmen gas was going.  The talk was mostly about the pipelines and their directions, rather than any real details about how to stabilize the market.

Asked to respond to a concern by the European Union that the truth and reconciliation commission in Nepal might give amnesty to human rights violators, Mr. Pascoe said that the issue was at an early stage of discussion.  The very idea of a truth and reconciliation process was to produce truth and reconciliation in the end, and public discussion was very important in that regard.

He added that United Nations representatives had had a dialogue with the Nepalese authorities on that issue.  Of course, he had pointed out that he did not believe that people should have impunity for crimes.  “We will see how this process goes,” he said.

To a question about the possibility of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization becoming a “UN-east”, he said that the Chinese had been the main driver of that organization, together with the Russians.  The organization was very much focused on the problems of Central Asia, such as drugs coming out of Afghanistan, for example, and looking for means of finding “some mutual ways” to resolve them.  Countries of the region needed to cooperate more closely on their common problems, including the “perennial problem” of water.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.