Secretary-General's press encounter upon arrival at UN headquarters
New York, 2 February 2005I've just come back from the African Union Summit where I had a chance to discuss with the leaders the UN reform proposals and the Millennium Development Project, as well as other crises on the continent – Sudan, Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And I was also able to sit down with President [Omar Al-] Bashir of Sudan and his Foreign Minister with my representative [Jan] Pronk, for us to tell them exactly what we think should be done, and the fact that the situation in Darfur was not getting any better, and it was essential that they took every step to bring the situation under control. And, of course, they were, at that time, studying the report of the Commission.
I also was able to discuss with the Chairman of the African Union their plans for deployment and the need to accelerate it. And they have indicated to me that they'll be fully deployed by the end of February.
I'll take your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, what role, if any did you play or are you playing in the effort to get Mr. [John] Garang and Vice-President [Ali Osman] Taha to come to the Security Council next week? Are they going to come? And also, what do you expect that session, which I guess you may also address, to achieve?
SG: I think we thought it would be very good if we had Vice-President Taha, Mr. Garang and the African Union representative on the ground, as well as Pronk for them to come to the Council when the report is being discussed. And the Council may have questions for them and explain to them what it is that we want. We will discuss not only the situation in Darfur, but also the implementation of the peace agreement – the comprehensive peace agreement between the North and the South, which we expect to have positive impact on Darfur if the parties are serious and get down to serious work.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, as a quick follow-up to that, the Commission has asked for a speedy action by the Security Council. What are you going to do to do that? And my question is about Mr. [Paul] Volcker's report tomorrow. As you know, he has already been critical of some of the UN auditing of processes. What steps are you taking, what further steps are going to be taken, and how important is this report for the United Nations and its image?
SG: On your first question, I think the Commission's report is very clear. It makes very serious recommendations to the Council, and urges the Council to take prompt action, prompt action not only to bring those who have perpetrated crimes, serious crimes, to justice, but also as a warning to others in the sense that this may help improve the situation. I hope the Council acts quickly on the recommendations of the Commission.
Tomorrow's report from Mr. Volcker, we look forward to receiving the report and we will study it and implement its recommendations. We ourselves are taking measures to strengthen some of our management practices and we will be making some announcements and taking some concrete action very soon.
You would also remember that during the last General Assembly, I myself asked the General Assembly to review the mandate of OIOS [Office for Internal Oversight Services] ten years since its establishment to see how we can strengthen it and give it appropriate authority to do its work.
Q: On Sudan, what did you tell the Sudanese leaders they should be doing?
SG: Well, we shared with them the reports we've received on the ground that the situation was getting worse, including the bombing of a village which they denied, that they needed to do this and really take measures to reign in the Janjaweed and others, and indicated that if they do not do that, as far as I'm concerned, sanctions were still on the table and the Council may have to take further action.
[Mr.] Pronk, who was there with me went back to Sudan and is going to pursue some of the issues we discussed with the Government.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, how do you see or do you see a way to break the impasse between the feeling that the ICC – the International Criminal Court -- is the way to prosecute those in Sudan and the US objection to that Court?
SG: I think my own position on the ICC, I think, is quite well-known to you. It's a Court I support. But this is a decision for the Security Council to take. And I think the Commission was right in saying that it is important that urgent action be taken, and the perpetrators be brought to justice.
The Commission recommends a referral to the ICC. There is, as you know, a debate going on in the Council. I hope they will come to an understanding and take the essential action to prosecute those responsible. They must be prosecuted whichever way the Council decides to go. They have to be prosecuted.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, there seems to be a trend of creating a moral equivalency between the Government in Sudan and the rebels. And more and more, I hear that the rebels are just as bad. Do you have a view on that?
SG: I think the Commission's report did indicate that there have been atrocities committed also by the rebel side, and we know of instances where villages have been attacked by the rebels. Obviously the Government is much bigger and with the Janjaweed has much larger resources, but that does not deviate from the fact that the rebels indeed have also committed atrocities, and I suspect there may be names of some rebels on the sealed list that the Commission gave me.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, on oil-for-food, how critical is this report to you, personally, the stake in it? And your new Chief of Staff has told people that he expects some hard blows for the Organization in this. What kind of changes are you talking about? We have heard about it. There has been no big shakeup. What kind of management changes would stop some type of corruption like this from happening again?
SG: First of all, the report is going to come out less than 24 hours from here. I don't think we should go ahead of ourselves and prejudge it. Let me wait and see, and study the report when I get it. Do I look worried? [laughter]
Let me also say that we will look at the report when it comes. Obviously there will be some harsh judgments on some of the things that we have done in this Organization, but I don't know exactly what is going to be said, and I need to wait to see it to do that. When I talked of management changes I was talking about improved accountability, transparency and other additional changes that we are working on that will be announced shortly.
I know most of you are interested in shakeup of senior staff; there's not going to be any blood on the floor. There will be changes, but it will be done in a civilized way.
Q: Your views about the Iraqi elections, please.
SG: The Iraqi elections? I think the way the Iraqis turned out in large numbers to vote showed the courage of the Iraqi people. The Security Council itself has said that the day the Iraqis govern themselves must come soon, and they should take charge of their destiny, and it showed the determination of the Iraqi people to want to do that. I think it was a very essential step in the political transition process which has several other steps to run in the course of this year. I think what is important is that now that the elections are behind us every effort should be made to bring in the Sunni nationalists, the Sunnis who have not participated actively and did not vote in large numbers. This is a time for dialogue, a time for reconciliation, and a time to work with everyone as they draw up the constitution, organize the referendum, and go for a new election in December 2005.
Q: A question on UNDP's Arab Development Report. One writer who participated in the writing of the report, has been saying that UNDP has come under pressure from the Americans with regard to the way the American occupation of Iraq has been described in the report. Could you give us your views on that? And the other thing, it is said that oil for food is being used to push you to go down a certain route on Iraq and Sudan. Is that fact or fiction?
SG: Let me, on the first one, say that I do not have all the details. I know there's been quite a lot of discussion going on about the release of the report and some aspects of the report, so I cannot give you a detailed answer, but my colleagues at UNDP can.
On your second question, I think we need to separate oil for food from other issues. Some people may want to link it and may think it can be used to put pressure on me, but my conscience and the mandates of the Security Council will guide me in implementing the decisions of the Council, whether it is Iraq or Sudan, and I'm not going to bend because of some investigation.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the Volcker commission is investigating whether your son was involved in any oil deals himself. What is your reaction to that, and if they find anything that your son did, illegally or unethically, what will you do?
SG: I think this is something that the Volcker Commission is looking into, and I think we all have to patient until he comes out with his report.
Q: Can you give us a sense of whether you are talking to your son about this at all?
SG: Wait for the Volcker Report.
Q: Do you have any comment on your appointment of President [Bill] Clinton as the new chief for tsunami reconstruction?
SG: I have nothing to add to the two statements that came out yesterday, President Clinton's statement and the one that my Spokesman issued, but as he indicated, we will have an occasion to revisit this issue when President Clinton joins me here for us to do the formal appointment.
Q: Did you inform President [George W.] Bush of that decision?
SG: Yes, the White House knew I was going to do that and it was okay with them.
Q: Sir, people are saying that the Americans and the Israelis have basically said no to the appointment of Sir Kieran Prendergast as your new Middle East peace envoy. Is that correct? Have you come under pressure? Do you have any intention of naming your Special Envoy soon?
SG: I intend to name a Special Envoy soon. And of course the name of Sir Kieran has been floated as one of the candidates. So whether it is Sir Kieran or somebody else, I will have a competent person on the ground. He would have been perfect. But we don't work in a vacuum.
Q: En Francais s'il vous plait. [question on Sudan Commission of Inquiry report]
SG: Je crois que le rapport est clair…
Q: [inaudible] on round of informal talks, and on the issue of Security Council reform, they are fairly inconclusive. What would you say to Member States now, a month before your report comes, to urge them along to come to some sort of agreement on Security Council reform?
SG: I would prefer to hold my counsel at this particular moment. It doesn't mean that a time will come in the future when I wouldn't speak up.
Q: Are you concerned that there is a deadlock at this point?
SG: Not really, it is very early in the game yet. I mean, when I was in Abuja the African leaders were very seized of this problem, and they were discussing it very, very seriously, and have just set up a Committee of Ministers to try and resolve the issue by February. They were focusing on one option.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, there is some report about the forthcoming summit within the next three days between Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian side in Sharm-el-Sheikh. Is the United Nations going to participate in that, or observe it, and what is your assessment of the situation right now regarding the peace process?
SG: No, we've not been invited to participate. But I did meet with President [Hosni] Mubarak two days ago in Abuja, and he did indicate to me that he was making an effort to bring the two leaders together, and I encouraged it because I thought it was a positive development. I think we do have an atmosphere and an opportunity in the region to try and move the peace process forward. Apart from President Mubarak's meeting, there will be one in London on the 1st of March, and there will be other initiatives. And the Quartet may meet around the same time at the principals' level to try and press on with the process.
Q: Who is going to be at the March 1st meeting?
SG: I haven't seen the list of participants yet, but the United Kingdom government is the one putting that together.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, on oil-for-food, do you think that you have been let down by people in your staff working in the oil-for-food over the past months, and do you still maintain confidence in Mr. Benon Sevan?
SG: I think you all seem to be very interested in the oil-for-food. The report is going to come out tomorrow. So tomorrow by this time you will be busy writing about it. Why don't we wait 'til then. Thank you very much.<