Secretary-General's press encounter following luncheon with Security Council members [unofficial transcript]
New York, 17 March 2008SG: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is a great pleasure to see you again. We had a very good Security Council informal luncheon meeting. During our meeting, we discussed the situations in Darfur, Sudan, Kosovo, Chad, also Somalia and Cyprus.
As you know, I am just back from my trip to Senegal, where I attended the Summit meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), where I participated and tried to encourage the leaders of both Sudan and Chad to sign the agreement to improve their relationship. It was very encouraging that two countries have signed this agreement to improve their relationship, and the international community needs to encourage [them] to implement faithfully, to respect the mutual territorial sovereignty between the two countries.
With these brief remarks, I will be prepared to answer your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, on Kosovo, in light of the fighting that took place today, there are reports both in Kosovo and in Serbia that senior UN officials here in New York are very angry or upset with the UN team in Kosovo, for ordering the storming of the UN Court in Mitrovica, particularly today, which is exactly four years after the ethnic Albanian riots against Kosovo Serbs, and exactly a month after Kosovo's declaration of independence. I wonder if you could say whether this is correct? Are you upset that this day was chosen?
SG: As I issued my statement through my Spokesperson this afternoon, I deplore these violent attacks against UNMIK police and KFOR personnel that occurred earlier today in Mitrovica, Kosovo. UNMIK has been implementing all these relevant Security Council resolutions, particularly 1244, and UNMIK will continue to operate, guided by 1244. There were no such plans for that, particularly today, and I understand that they were simply carrying out their necessary duties to bring stability and order to Kosovo. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 stipulates that UNMIK carries [out] its duties all throughout Kosovo.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, a couple of things on the situation in Tibet. Do you believe there is a role for the United Nations to play, particularly in light of the Dalai Lama's request for an international investigation of what's going on there? And what would be your message to the Chinese Government about how they should be handling the situation, based on what you know of what's been happening?
SG: I have been closely following the recent development of the situation in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. I am increasingly concerned about the tensions and reports of violence and loss of life in Tibet and elsewhere. At this time I urge restraint on the part of the authorities, and call on all concerned to avoid further confrontation and violence, and I stress the importance of a peaceful resolution.
Q: Do you see a role for the United Nations to play?
SG: We will continuously monitor the situation, and we will get back to you.
Q: I notice that in the things that you mentioned that you had discussed with the Security Council, Tibet did not show up. Is that a threat to international peace and security, in your view, the situation there?
SG: We have not discussed this matter, and it was not on the agenda.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you said that you discussed Cyprus. Can you tell us what is the next step?
SG: I think the international community should seize the momentum, and window of opportunity, when Mr. [Dimitris] Christofias, the new Cyprus President was elected, and is committed to resolution of this issue. I met Mr. [Mehmet Ali] Talat during my stay in Dakar, Senegal, and he also expressed his willingness to engage in constructive dialogue. In that regard, I have decided to dispatch Under-Secretary-General [for Political Affairs] Lynn Pascoe as leader of an assessment team, to engage in dialogue with all the stakeholders there. We hope that we will be able to see improvements and make some breakthrough in this long pending issue in Europe.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, what have you heard from the Security Council regarding Kosovo? Did you hear 'we told you so' regarding what is happening today? And what are you intending to do if the situation really goes from bad to worse?
SG: I will continue to discharge my duties, and the duties of the SRSG of UNMIK will be guided by Security Council Resolution 1244. When I had a meeting with Serbian Foreign Minister [Vuk] Jeremić during my stay in Geneva, he told me that the Serbian government is also committed to Resolution 1244. Therefore I would really urge the Serbian Government and authorities to influence the Serbs and their people to fully abide by this Security Council Resolution, so that UNMIK can operate and discharge their duties there.
Q: You have a history of having one-on-one conversations with President [Omar Al-] Bashir of Sudan. Did you have another one on this trip, and can you tell us anything about what you said to him and what he said to you?
SG: I had two separate meetings with President Bashir this time, in addition to a long participation in the mini-Summit on Sudan-Chad. That mini-Summit on Sudan and Chad was attended by several heads of states of Africa, including the Presidents of Senegal, Gabon, the Central African Republic, in the presence of the UN Secretary-General, myself, and the Secretary General of the OIC [Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu] and the African Union Chairperson, [Alpha Oumar] Konaré. There were also participating several European Union friends and American representatives. There we were able to encourage them to sign an agreement to improve their relationship. After that I had two separate bilateral meetings with President Bashir - one with senior officials attending, and one tête-à-tête meeting for about an hour. We agreed to expedite the deployment of the hybrid operation with increased [numbers] of African forces, particularly [from] Egypt and Ethiopia. Then we will be able to deploy non-African peacekeepers, particularly from Thailand and Nepal. I had a very good meeting with President Bashir.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, back to your visit in Dakar, Senegal, where the Islamic countries voiced their concern about Islamophobia spreading in the western world, especially in view of what is in Danish cartoons, and the new film. What is it that you can do to stop this divide which keeps on increasing between the Islamic world and the western world? And you have yourself recognized that.
SG: This so-called very unfortunate word of Islamophobia – this is something we must really cut; we must try our best to cut the very unfortunate negative linkage between Islamophobia and the Muslim world. The international community has taken many important initiatives, and this is one of my serious concerns as Secretary-General - how I can contribute, how the United Nations can contribute in cutting this negative linkage between Muslims and [that] very negative image of them.
In fact, most of the Muslim people have been victims themselves. As recently as January this year we have successfully launched the Alliance of Civilizations. The member states have also taken many initiatives like the Dialogue among Civilizations, and Interfaith Dialogue. We must use all these necessary initiatives among the Member States so that Member States, the international community as a whole, can have a better, and more, appreciation of the cultures and religions and thinkings and traditions of other cultures. This is very important. Unless we address this issue properly, we will be seeing more victims and more unfortunate incidents happening. Therefore I am very much committed to that.
The Organization of the Islamic Conference Summit meeting discussed this matter among the leaders at length, and I hope that the OIC summit meeting this time has made a great contribution to that. Many Arab, Muslim leaders are very concerned, and they are very much committed to addressing this issue through close dialogue and exchange of cooperation with other world leaders.
Q: My question is about Tibet again, I am sorry Mr. Secretary-General, to repeat this question, but, how many numbers of casualties did you receive as reported from the field, and did you have any words with the Chinese authorities about this incident?
SG: As I said, I am closely monitoring the situation. As for the exact number of casualties, I would have to check again. I had a meeting with the Chinese Ambassador this morning, and also we discussed this matter. I expressed my concern and my views to the Chinese Government.
Q: [translated from the French] On Sudan-Chad, were there any commitments taken by the two countries that they would this time respect the agreement they signed? On Somalia, was the subject discussed with the Security Council?
SG: As you know, there have been some agreements previously signed and concluded between the two countries. While this agreement may also have taken some elements of existing agreements, it has also good positive elements to ensure the mechanism [for] implementing these agreements, including joint patrols along the borderlines to ensure that no military incursions will take place. They are also asking for some guarantees from the international community. This will have to be discussed later on, as a follow up measure.
It was very encouraging that the two countries' leaders have signed this one, in the presence and witnessed by the Secretary-General of the UN and many other international stakeholders.
On Somalia, we are now very seriously considering what course of action the United Nations, the international community, should take. First and foremost, I think the international community must strengthen AMISOM [the African Union Mission in Somalia], and secondly we are now considering, together with Security Council members, how we can increase our presence, the United Nations presence, there, so that we can really help the TFG [Transitional Federal Government] to carry on their domestic, political, reconciliatory dialogue and bring about peace and stability.
I had again a very good meeting with President [Abdullahi] Yusuf [Ahmed] during my stay in Dakar this time.
Q: On Lebanon. You will be meeting in ten minutes with Dr. [Samir] Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces [Party]. Who asked for this meeting? What are you going to tell him? Do you have anything in mind to tell him? What kind of message do you have in mind to tell him?
SG: I am going to meet him at 3 o'clock today. It's already 3 o'clock, so I have to run now! That's a good excuse! [It's] at his request. I have already met him twice, during my visit to Lebanon. In fact, I have been meeting all the leaders of all parties to facilitate dialogue among the political leaders in Lebanon. It is quite worrisome and I am concerned about this continuing constitutional void. This is very dangerous. I hope the Lebanese people will really be able to take the opportunity to seize the moment, when the whole international community is trying to help the Lebanese Government and people to overcome this very dangerous political situation.
I am going to discuss, and express my concern, and try to urge again the Lebanese leaders to consolidate their dialogue. Again, I had a very good meeting with Prime Minister [Fouad] Siniora in Dakar, Senegal. I again urge that this constitutional void be overcome by electing a president of Lebanon.
Thank you very much.