Secretary-General's press encounter with the Presidents of Cameroon following a joint meeting on the 10 October 2002 ruling of the International Court of Justice
Geneva, Switzerland, 15 November 2002Following is a transcript of the Secretary-General Kofi Annan's press encounter in Geneva on 15 November 2002, with the Presidents of Cameroon and Nigeria following a joint meeting on the 10 October 2002 ruling of the International Court of Justice.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan read out the following joint communiqué by the delegations of Cameroon and Nigeria at door 4 of the Palais des Nations, Geneva, at 6:15 p.m.:
"At my invitation, President Paul Biya of Cameroon and President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria met met here in the Palais to follow up on the ruling of 10 October of the International Court of Justice. In this connection, the two Presidents acknowledged the importance for their countries of respecting their obligations under the United Nations Charter.
"The Secretary-General welcomed President Biya's and President Obasanjo's renewed commitment, as Heads of State of law-abiding countries, to renounce the use of force in their bilateral relations and pursue peaceful ways for the settlement of their boundary differences, as well as the constructive spirit which prevailed throughout the various meetings held during the day.
"In the course of these meetings, both parties agreed to identify a number of confidence-building measures which would pave the way to resolving many of the issues which are the subject of the ICJ ruling. These include measures considered by the two Heads of State in Paris on 5 September and those agreed upon at the ministerial meeting of the Joint Commission in Abuja on 30 September 2002, as well as additional relevant measures.
"In addition, the two Presidents agreed on the need for a meeting between the two sides at Summit level at the earliest possible opportunity, to discuss defence and security issues of common concern.
"The two Presidents further agreed to ask me to establish a mixed commission of the two sides, to be chaired by my Special Envoy, Ahmedou Ould-Adballah, to consider ways of following up the ICJ ruling and moving the process forward. The mixed commission will meet in Abuja and Yaoundé on an alternating basis. The first meeting will be held in Yaoundé on 1 December 2002.
"The mixed commission will consider all the implications of the decision, including the need to protect the rights of the affected populations in both countries. The commission shall, inter alia, be entrusted with the task of demarcating the land boundary between the two countries. It will also make recommendations on additional confidence-building measures such as the holding, on a regular basis, of meetings between local authorities, Government officials and Heads of State; developing projects to promote joint economic ventures and cross border cooperation; the avoidance of inflammatory statements or declarations on Bakassi by either side; troop withdrawal from relevant areas along the land boundary; eventual demilitarization of the Bakassi Peninsula with the possibility of international personnel to observe withdrawal; and reactivation of the Lake Chad Basin Commission.
"The two Presidents agreed to consider what further assistance their countries would need from the United Nations, and to meet again in due course under my auspices to review the progress achieved.
"I reaffirm my personal commitment and that of the United Nations to continuing to assist Cameroon and Nigeria in their efforts to settle their differences peacefully."
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, it seems that you're still a long way from resolving this problem, do you feel that this has been a significant advance today ?
SG: I think this is a very, very good beginning; we've made a good advance and I think we have to accept that this is a complex issue, and it is going to take goodwill and lots of hard work from both sides, with all of us, to work, to put it in motion. I'm very, very encouraged by the two meetings we've had, the goodwill of the two leaders and their determination to resolve this issue peacefully, and I'm sure we will be able to do that.
Q: Monsieur le Secrétaire général, la déclaration de Genève n'est-elle pas une espèce de révision du verdict de la Haye ?
SG: Je ne sais pas comment vous pouvez dire ça. Je crois que c'est dans l'esprit et dans la lettre de la décision même que nous sommes en train de travailler. Donc, je ne suis pas de votre avis.
Q: Y a-t-il suffisamment de garde-fous dans la déclaration de Genève pour qu'il n'y ait pas d'autre volte-face comme on a connu il y a quelque temps ?
SG: Où ça ?
Q: De la part du Nigéria.
SG: D'abord, le Président du Nigéria est là. On a eu une très bonne discussion. Il y a eu des commentaires au Nigéria mais le Président nigérian n'a jamais rejeté cette décision. Donc, je ne sais pas comment on peut déclarer qu'il y a eu volte-face.
Q: Est-ce qu'on peut considérer que cette question est résolue ?
SG: On ne peut pas dire que la question est définitivement résolue. Comme je viens de le dire, on a fait un grand pas en avant et on va résoudre les problèmes, mais on ne peut pas les résoudre aujourd'hui, il faut un peu de temps. Je ne sais pas si le Président nigérian veut dire quelque chose ?
President Obasanjo of Nigeria : Thank you very much SG. Nigeria has neither rejected nor accepted -- and I will say that -- Nigeria has neither rejected nor accepted . And the purpose of this meeting is to find a way forward, and we are finding the way forward.
Q: Mr. President, the Court ruling said you have to abide without any conditions to the ICJ's ruling. So, are you "going back" on the International Court's ruling ?
President Obasanjo of Nigeria : If we were going back, I would not be saying to you that we are finding the way forward.