Secretary-General's press encounter before the Security Council meeting on UN Cooperation with Regional Organizations (unofficial transcript)
New York, 17 October 2005Q: Mr. Secretary-General, is there a possibility that the mandate of the [Detlev] Mehlis investigation would be widened to include the suicide of the [Syrian] Interior Minister, and when are you expecting to get the report?
SG: I've read a lot of things in the press, but I don't think I can say that there is any serious discussion of that issue. I expect to get the report by this weekend, hopefully, on the 21st.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, have you been personally intervening or have you intervened on the UNMEE situation regarding the helicopter grounding and the limitations it patrols in? And how bad is that situation going to get? How quickly, in terms of impact, on the effectiveness of the peacekeeping mission?
SG: Obviously, we need all our tools -- helicopters, trucks, communication -- to be able to operate. We are placed in a situation where the Government has not been cooperating and has limited the movements of our troops. Some were isolated in certain positions and so we've begun regrouping them and positioning ourselves in a manner that protects the men. Obviously, our procedures and operations have been impeded. And if this continues, we will have to take some very hard and critical decisions as to the usefulness of staying there if we cannot operate.
Q: Have you been on the phone with any Eritrean authorities imploring them to reverse this?
SG: We've sent messages, but I haven't spoken to them directly myself.
Q: Can you comment on the elections in Iraq and tell us what you really think will change now? How will this make things different?
SG: I think the Iraqi population showed incredible courage, going to vote in large numbers despite the security situation on the ground. We had hoped that the constitutional process would have been an exercise that would have been totally inclusive, and pull together all the Iraqis, helping with reconciliation. Obviously, that did not happen and has not happened. So it is very difficult to say what happens after the votes are counted. And I think your question implies, would the violence cease after this process? I don't think we can legitimately expect that, given the facts and what we know. But at least, they have chosen to use ballots and not bullets. And I hope this is a lesson that will auger well in the future. But I don't expect it to have the kind of immediate impact on the violent situation that your question implies.
Q: Just a follow-up on the role now for the UN in moving things forward. What is the role at this point?
SG: We've always been active in trying to encourage them to work together, to make the process inclusive, and to push for reconciliation. The next phase, we were to help them with the elections in December, and we will continue to assist them if they so desire.
Q: Have you received an explanation from Eritrea?
SG: We have not been able to get any explanation out of the Government. You know that our relationship with the Eritrean Government has not been an easy one. And we are not the only organization or entity with difficult relations with that Government.
Q: Ethiopia and Eritrea are putting arms into Somalia. The inflow has increased this year. The Security Council has not taken any action towards these Governments. Can you explain why?
SG: You seem to have an evidence, maybe the Council doesn't have that – [that] Ethiopia and Eritrea are sending arms into Somalia. I know there are lots of arms in Somalia and, of course, the border is porous. But I don't have evidence to go to the extent you have, of accusing the Ethiopian and Eritrean Governments of sending in arms and, therefore, demanding a Council reaction.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, one of the experts hired by the United Nations on the constitution said it was a blueprint for splitting the country three ways. Now that it will probably pass, do you agree?
SG: Obviously, the situation in Iraq is very delicate and is very critical. That is what the whole struggle is about -- the powers of the region versus the centre. If you have strong regional governments, does that auger well for the unity of the government or, given the situation on the ground, [would it] lead to the split up of the country? I think we need to see how things develop in the next couple of weeks or months to be able to decide which direction things are likely to go. But the question is a legitimate one.
Q: Secretary-General, going back to Lebanon and the Mehlis report, you have now received the request – a written request – from the Lebanese Government to extend the mandate of Mr. Mehlis. Will you be telling the Security Council, recommending to it that the mandate be extended? And if so, what will that include exactly? And how would you also respond to fears voiced by a few in Lebanon and abroad about the report possibly being politicized?
SG: Let me say that I have spoken to Mehlis, but I will wait for his full report to be able to make a judgment whether to extend the mandate or not, and if we do extend the mandate, what specifically would it entail, and what would they need to do. So I will not be able to answer your question fully until I receive the report on Friday.
I hope the report, which is a technical one, is not going to be politicized. I know there have been lots of political commentary and lots of discussions about it, but from where I sit, I'm determined to make it as technical as possible