Secretary-General's press encounter following monthly Security Council luncheon (unofficial transcript)
New York, 15 May 2007Q: Can I ask you about the Lebanese Prime Minister who has made this request to the Security Council. What is your view? Did you encourage the Security Council to endorse Prime Minister Siniora's request?
SG: As you are well aware, yesterday Prime Minister [Fouad] Siniora of Lebanon has sent me an official letter concerning the establishment of a special tribunal on the assassination case of former Prime Minister [Rafic] Hariri. He stated in his letter that, for all practical purposes, the road to ratification through constitutional procedures has no possibility, and therefore the Government of Lebanon believes that it is time for the Security Council to take necessary action.
I have discussed this matter with members of the Security Council this afternoon. I am of the view that, after having exhausted all diplomatic efforts by the United Nations, including myself, and having received an official request from the Government of Lebanon, asking the Security Council to take necessary action, I think it is necessary for the Security Council to take necessary action. I hope the Security Council members will debate on this matter and take necessary action. I am of the view, in my capacity as Secretary-General that, as a matter of principle, there should be no impunity for the perpetrators of political assassinations. It is important that there should be firm principles respected.
Q: A follow up – by necessary action do you mean that they should endorse the Siniora request, and also, do you have any indication whether others in the Council – Russia, others – think that there needs to be continued negotiations among the parties?
SG: I am not in a position to discuss all the informal discussions among the Member States, but as I see it, there was a general understanding among the Member States of the Security Council that it is time for the Security Council to take necessary action.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, there are those in the Middle East, and also those in the Security Council, who argue that this might actually sow the seeds of destabilization instead of stabilizing Lebanon, to go through the Security Council process. How much does that weigh in your mind, that such a move through the Security Council instead of establishing it through a national dialogue?
SG: The most desirable situation would have been for the Lebanese Government and people to agree on their national consensus. There may be a different assessment on how the situation will develop when the Security Council takes action on this matter. I am not at this time [about] to make any judgment on this matter. I only hope that the people and Government and countries in the region will behave responsibly.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, there was also this reported letter from President [Emile] Lahoud – I am not sure if you received it yet – who warned of instability; also some suggestions that the Syrian President had given you a similar message. First of all, if you could comment on that letter from President Lahoud, but also what kind of message would you give to the Lebanese people who might be feeling rather nervous now that the Security Council will take an action, that instability could result, and then they would be left to suffer another conflict? Thanks.
SG: Even at this time I would hope and urge the Lebanese Government and people to agree themselves on a national consensus to establish the special tribunal in accordance with the decision of the Security Council. It is absolutely necessary to send out a strong message that there should be no impunity for perpetrators who committed crimes, and particularly for political assassinations.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the Security Council, if it does as you advocate, will be taking sides in what is a very divisive dispute. Is this a good precedent?
SG: First of all, I have not seen much divisiveness in the Security Council. Of course, there are [divided] opinions within Lebanon and the Lebanese people. That is why we have exerted all diplomatic efforts, including myself. I engaged during the last several weeks, in telephone talks, bilateral meetings with many leaders in the region – including Prime Minister Siniora of Lebanon; President [Bashar al-]Assad of Syria; the League of Arab States Secretary-General [Amre Moussa]; the European Union; the U.S. Government; and the Egyptians and the Iranians; and many leaders in the world, to help promote national reconciliation in Lebanon. I am very much concerned that we have not been able to agree on any desirable path. Even at this time, it is desirable that they discuss this matter among themselves before the Security Council takes any action. You should understand that after such diplomatic efforts, Prime Minister Siniora has sent me an official letter requesting that the Security Council takes a binding action on this matter.
Q: Do you support a referendum regarding Lebanon, since the Lebanese people are totally split, and the Government is not representative of the people of Lebanon, and it is not constitutional, as Mr. Lahoud has put it in his letters. Do you support a referendum on the Tribunal in Lebanon?
SG: This is something which the Lebanese people should decide on - whatever the modalities or measures. If they think it desirable to reach a national consensus, I would support it. This Lebanese government is a democratically elected Government.
Q: What will be the consequences if the Security Council passed a resolution according to Chapter VII, and it was not implemented? I mean, what would be the punishment in case the Lebanese did not comply in this case?
SG: If the Security Council decides to establish a special tribunal, the special tribunal will be established and all the reports of the special Prosecutor [Serge] Brammertz investigations will be sent to the Special Tribunal and there will be necessary judicial proceedings.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, do you actually advocate the Security Council enact a Chapter VII resolution that will basically force it?
SG: It is up to the members of the Security Council on what provisions of the Charter they will invoke to establish a special tribunal. Prime Minister Siniora asked the Security Council to take a binding decision on this matter.
Q: Sir, there was a great deal of enthusiasm at the time of the Security Council Middle East debate, on the 25th of last month I believe, and then at this conference on Palestinian Rights in Pretoria, based upon the new Palestinian coalition Government. On the other hand there is tremendous factional fighting – I am sure you saw the picture full of flame on the top of the front page of this morning's New York Times. Have you been in touch with any of the principals involved, and is there anything you think that the UN can do to use its good offices to get this situation back on track?
SG: I am gravely concerned about all this continuing violence in Gaza, particularly among the Palestinian people, and I was going to talk to President [Mahmoud] Abbas to take the necessary measures to control the situation and to refrain from exercising all these violent means.
Thank you very much.