Secretary-General's press conference
New York, 15 June 2006SG: Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I expect you've all heard that the British government has said it is willing to have Charles Taylor serve any prison sentence imposed on him by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the United Kingdom. This should make it possible for the trial to be transferred to The Hague. I am very grateful to Prime Minister Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett for this statesmanlike decision, which marks another step forward in our battle against impunity for the most heinous crimes.
On a sadder note, I was greatly distressed to hear that over 60 people have been killed and more than 40 injured in Sri Lanka, when a bus was blown up by a mine. It is wholly irresponsible and unjustifiable for combatants in any cause to plant mines that can have this kind of tragic result. And it shows how desperately important it is for all parties in Sri Lanka to renew the ceasefire and halt the slide back into full-scale civil war.
As you see, there is plenty going on in the world, and much of it finds its way to this building. We are currently working on Iran, Iraq, the Palestinian crisis, the investigation into the murder of former Prime Minister Hariri, relations between Syria and Lebanon – and that's just in the Middle East. We are also working on HIV-AIDS and migration. We are working on Timor-Leste. We are also working on Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and a lot of other issues in Africa – especially, of course, Darfur. Only this week we were able to peacefully settle a border dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon, two African countries that have known conflict before – saving who knows how many thousands of lives and millions of dollars. This is precisely what the UN was set up to do – to prevent wars.
In fact, all of the things I have listed are things the world expects the UN to do. They are just some of the many reasons why we have to keep the Organization working even while we reform it, but also why we need reform, so that it will work better.
And the fact is, we are moving ahead with reform. Both the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission will hold their first meetings next week. We have an Ethics Office, with stronger protection for whistleblowers in the Secretariat. Member States are now working on the reform of ECOSOC, on a resolution on development, and on the review of mandates. Next week I shall transmit to the Assembly the comprehensive review of accountability and oversight, which has been carried out by an independent panel. And I shall very soon submit my proposals for procurement reform, as well as terms of reference for the new Independent Audit Advisory Committee, and the supplementary detail on my management reform report which the Assembly has asked for.
Clearly a lot of Member States are reluctant to negotiate under the pressure of the spending cap, but I hope we shall soon see agreement to lift it. Certainly I sense a strong desire among the whole membership to move ahead with reforms that are very much in the general interest, because they will make the Organization more effective and more efficient and more useful to all its Member States.
Now let me take your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, welcome to the press conference. My first question to you is that, in an article in The Financial Times about two days ago, you chided the United States for using the power of the purse to force the reforms over here, saying it might lessen the chance of reforms going through. And then you also called upon the developing countries and other nations to what you called shed the rhetoric, because if they don't they'll be pitted in a battle between rich and poor, and that it will undermine the United Nations for good. So, can you please comment as to what has happened since??
SG: I think my message is very simple: that the reform of the United Nations is in the interest of all the Member States. We can have no differences on the issue of better management; everyone wants a better and effective management of the United Nations, and it is important that Member States find a way of working together. And we need to do away with this atmosphere of mistrust and come together in the common interest, and strengthen the Organization. And I sense, in the last few weeks, that is beginning to happen, and I am encouraged. I think the sort of tensions and poisonous atmosphere we saw earlier in the year seems to be dissipating, and I am confident that the Member States will come together and reform this Organization. I have given you an indication of all the issues that they are working on.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, today in Geneva the Human Rights Council begins deliberation on, among other things, one item agenda that will single out Israel and make it – you know, a State-specific agenda. Do you think that by dismissing the Israeli – one Israeli version of events last week as odd, you contributed to those who want to revert to the old ways of the Human Rights Commission? And also, could you describe your relations with Ambassador Bolton?
SG: Let me first of all say that one of the reasons for reform of the Human Rights Commission is to move away from some of the past practices that we have all criticized, when it comes to selectivity and politicization of the Commission. Under the new Council we've made it clear that each Government will have its record reviewed. No country can claim to have a perfect human rights record. And so, I hope we are not going to see a situation where the Human Rights Commission focuses on Israel, the record of its – but not on the others. We've also indicated that they should start by reviewing the records of the members of the Council itself, and so I hope we are moving away from this selectivity and politicization of the review mechanism of the Commission.
On the second part of your question, obviously I was reacting to press speculation which indicated that what happened on the beach was a mine placed; and I did indicate that it was odd. You should know that my comment on that press report came before the report of the investigation came out, and as we speak I'm not sure we have a definitive report on the investigation. And I think we should all hold our horses until the Israeli Government puts out a definitive report and comment further. What I can tell you, that is, during this period I've had the chance to have a very long conversation with Prime Minister Olmert directly, and I have also spoken to President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, and I will continue my dialogue with them.
As to Ambassador Bolton, I work with him as I work with the other 190 ambassadors, and I think, as Secretary-General, I've worked well with his predecessors and I will continue to work well with him and the 190 other ambassadors who are responsible for this place.
Q: Yes, on Sudan: While you and others have promoted the Darfur Agreement as a start, as the only game in town, it doesn't really include disarmament – a schedule for disarming the Janjaweed, who've totally ignored it and in the recent trip are doing what they always did, both in Sudan and in Chad, until there's no one left to cleanse. How can a UN peacekeeping force tackle them, despite any kind of planning that's being done, short of shooting people?
SG: I think the first thing I need to say is that we need to maintain the pressure on those who have signed the Agreement to live up to the Agreement that they have signed. That goes for the Sudanese Government, that has responsibility for the disarmament of the Janjaweed, and for the rebel groups, and to maintain the pressure on the two rebel groups that are outside the Agreement to join the process.
For the moment, I think we have several important things to do. The first, in my mind, is to find ways and means of strengthening the African Union force on the ground, giving them the material and logistical support they need to be able to do their work much more effectively and assure protection of the people on the ground. And we are working hard with the African Union on that, and there will soon be a pledging conference in Brussels to raise money and logistical support for that force. Because even if a UN force is going to take over, that is going to take time, and so it is important that we support this force to do what they do better and offer protection. It is also important that we get the parties and the African Union force that is on the ground to begin implementing aspects of the Agreement; that has to take place urgently.
The second thing really is to intensify our humanitarian efforts and raise the resources that we need to be able to assist the internally displaced; and you saw the conditions when you visited the region. And here, I am happy to say that Jim Morris has reported to me that by October he may be able to go back to full rations. You remember, he cut back. And that, I think, will be good news for the needy.
In the meantime, I have Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the head of peacekeeping operations, leading a joint African Union and UN assessment mission on the ground for us to be able to build forces and present a plan to the Security Council, which will hopefully authorize a UN force. In the meantime, we are in touch with Governments, trying to drum up troops, so that once a decision is taken we can move quickly to deploy.
But coming back to your question, those who signed the Agreement have to be made to live up to the Agreement. And the African Union forces on the ground should be strengthened to do what they can. We are not on the ground yet, and cannot therefore take this on.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, on the Brammertz report, today the Security Council will strengthen the mandate of [the International Independent Investigation Commission}, which somehow links his job to the investigation of the other 14 cases of assassination and assassination attempts. It will ask you to help out. How do you perceive, from your own point of view, this particular task? What does strengthening mean, and is there a need for better linkage? Have you been in touch with President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, since you gave the official opinion of the United Nations regarding the delineation of borders ? given that in your own report regarding resolution 1559 (2004) you called this a key to the resolution of lots of problems in Lebanon? Have you urged them to delineate borders?
SG: On your first question, I think the strengthening implies that Brammertz and his team will give further technical and advisory assistance to the Lebanese authorities in their investigations. We will do whatever we can to assist them to get to the bottom of these investigations.
On your second question, I have indicated that the two countries will have to do their delineation. I have not been in touch directly with the Syrians about this. But that is something that is not excluded. If at some stage it becomes necessary, I will be prepared to assist both parties in doing the delineation, as we did help Lebanon and Israel with the South.
Q: What will make it necessary then in your view?
SG: The two parties have to agree to do the delineation. It is a matter for the two parties to agree on. If they agree to do the delineation and seek our help, we will be prepared to support them.
Q: On the next Secretary-General, I understand you don't appoint your successor. But I understand that you have experienced being a candidate at the same time as you were Under-Secretary-General. Do you have any, not advice ? but what is important to be Under-Secretary-General and a candidate at the same time?
SG: First of all, the Under-Secretary-General has to focus on his work. He has to focus on his work as Under-Secretary-General, and his responsibilities to the United Nations. If he or she is elected, he or she will have to resign and take up the new responsibilities.
Q: Secretary-General, you said in your opening statement, or in answer to a question, that you thought the poisonous atmosphere had lessened around the subject of reform. That was not the conclusion I drew from the comments of Ambassador Bolton earlier this week. He reiterated the same argument he made last week, that the speech by Mark Malloch Brown was the biggest mistake he had seen here since 1989. He specifically said it would set back the cause of reform.
You have spoken to Condoleezza Rice since then. Do you have any other indication from the American Government that they will not take the incident of last week as hard as Ambassador Bolton seems to be taking it?
SG: I have seen no signal that the American Administration is either backing away from the reform or believes that the reform process has become much more difficult over the past week. I have also had contacts with quite a lot of Ambassadors from all the groups in this building. I think they share my view that the atmosphere is better. They are determined to move ahead and reform the Organization. I have indicated what we have already achieved and what we will be doing.
I think it is also important that we put things in context. Reform, I repeat, is a process, not an event. It is not an event that is held at Madison Square Garden: you go there one evening and it is over. It will go on. We can look at three stages: what we will achieve between now and the end of June ? and I think that there is quite a bit that Member States will have to show for; what will be achieved between now and the end of this General Assembly session; and what will be achieved at the next session. Of course, when my successor comes he or she may even put forward additional proposals for reform. So it is an ongoing process. Member States should bear that in mind and work methodically to achieve as much as they can.
I think the reform proceeds, and it will proceed. The cap on the budget will be lifted. There will be no crisis, as far as I can see, this month. I think the Member States understand that the Organization has work to do. Our raison d'être, as I indicated, is to carry out the activities I have listed and the mandates that they [Member States] have given us. Reform, yes; but it was supposed to make us more effective and more efficient. So for someone to say that because you have not reformed to my satisfaction, I am going to pull the plug and stop all the activities, is going to be a very hard sell for other Member States to swallow ? and rightly so.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, in her recent report to the Security Council, the Chief Prosecutor of the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Ms. Carla Del Ponte, said ? actually, requested ? additional authority for her office, from the Security Council, in order to be able to locate or apprehend fugitives from justice in the former Yugoslavia, since nobody, as she pointed, is actively searching any more for the fugitives. What is your view on that, especially in the light that already some Member States criticized that statement from Ms. Del Ponte, and criticized the work of the Tribunal at all?
SG: It is regrettable that some of the greatest culprits have not been caught yet and are not in the dock. Here I am referring to Mladic and Karadzic. I think the Governments in that region, with NATO forces, have had many years of search, and they have not been able to produce either one. It is not, in my judgment, realistic to expect the Yugoslav Tribunal and its Prosecutor to do more than NATO forces and Governments cannot do, and go and locate Mladic or Karadzic and bring them to The Hague. I do not have the full details or the statement of the request of Carla Del Ponte. But it would seem to me an unlikely event that the Court or the Tribunal working on its own can arrest and deliver these men to The Hague.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, can you report to us on the latest efforts to set up a tribunal of an international nature on Lebanon?
And on the Sudan, how do you view the condition by the Sudanese Government that any UN forces should not tackle Sudanese, including the Janjaweed?
SG: Let me start with the tribunal. We are working on the tribunal. We are in very close contact with the Lebanese authorities. We are discussing with the Minister of Justice and his team. As you may recall, Nicolas Michel, my Legal Counsel, has been to Lebanon. They sent a team here. We are proceeding very professionally, and we will set up the court. It will be a competent court that will try all the cases that Brammertz and his team are preparing. I cannot give you a date of when the tribunal will be set up. But we are making progress.
On the Sudanese situation, obviously, once the Peace Agreement goes into force and we have UN peacekeepers on the ground, or other peacekeepers, one of the things that one will have to tackle down the line is the question of disarmament. They have lots of weapons on the ground. Of course, in the Agreement itself there is an understanding that Janjaweed will be disarmed. I would think the easiest way to disarm the Janjaweed would be for the Government of the Sudan to do it, since they are allied to the Government. But, of course, the disarmament should not be limited only to the Janjaweed. Other groups would also have to be disarmed, to be able to pacify the environment for the population.
Q: The Government failed, and so far they have not succeeded, and you know that very well, in disarming the Janjaweed. The conditions they are putting ? Omar Al-Bashir ? to the mission [is that] no Sudanese, including the Janjaweed, should be tackled by the UN forces.
SG: You mean, should be disarmed by the armed forces?
Q: They should be armed by the Sudanese only, and not by the UN forces. That is what was in the briefing we were just given at the Security Council.
SG: Ideally, the Government can disarm them. Fine. But what we want is effective disarmament. I think it is immaterial who does the disarmament. If the Government assumes the responsibility to disarm them and gives the assurance that it will do it, and then it does it, it need not worry about others wanting to get involved. In fact, ideally the best form of disarmament is to work with the Government and the population. If the Government is going to do it, it should be encouraged to do it, and we expect the Government to do it, as it is its responsibility and its duty.
Question (interpretation from French): On Somalia, today the European Union asked the United Nations to partially lift the embargo affecting Somalia as the only way for the Government in power to exercise its authority throughout the country. Are you going to send a request to the Security Council on that matter? As regards the meeting that is being launched today by the United States Department of State, what is the United Nations position on that meeting?
The Secretary-General (interpretation from French): As for the first question, I believe that it is up to the Security Council to discuss that matter. Frankly, it is not as easy as all that. We have a situation of a country which is completely destabilized, with all sorts of militias and armed people. There are too many weapons in that country. Would the solution be to lift the embargo and to have even more weapons come into the country, or is there another way to pacify the country, reconcile the population and see what might be done further? We already have the Somali Government, the Islamic group, the warlords and others, so it's a question that has to be studied very seriously before taking a decision.
As to the meeting scheduled by the United States, The United States Will consult with other countries – not many, and I am not even sure that we are invited. In any case, it is a good step forward that they begin to get involved and discuss with other countries to see what can be done to help Somalia. And so I am rather encouraged by that meeting.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, Warren Hoge picked up a little bit on this question. This is just going a little further. A big debate opened up recently on the issue of the impartiality of UN officials. You yourself have come out with statements – for instance, back in 2004, ahead of the election, you mentioned that the war in Iraq was illegal. Recently you defended?
SG: What is [partial] about that? How does that take sides?
Q: It would be interesting to hear your definition of impartiality, but be that as it may, you defended Mark Malloch Brown recently for his speech, in which some critics said that he criticized the United States. How do you view impartiality and what do you say to some of your critics who are saying that, actually, the timing of, for instance, your remarks about Iraq and Mr. Malloch Brown's remarks are coming ahead of some crucial elections in the United States?
SG: First of all, as international civil servants, we don't get involved in national politics. I have been here many years; I have watched many elections and I have not been involved in any of the elections or the campaigns.
We deal with world events. Events happen and this Organization is sometimes required to act on them. Depending on the direction of events, you may say something that may not necessarily fit the position of one party or the other. They may take it amiss and think you are criticizing them or taking sides, but that is never the intention. For example, the example you gave, that when one says that something is illegal or the war is illegal, one is taking sides. That is very difficult to accept, and in fact the way I read the Mark Malloch Brown statement, it was an appeal for a stronger United Nations. It was telling the Member States – the most powerful and the others – “Let's work together. Let's defend the UN. Let's reform the Organization. It is in everyone's interests”.
And quite frankly, I think that when one reads the statement simply, honestly and sincerely, it is difficult to come to other conclusions than the one I am reciting here. We may quibble about one word here and there, or publicity given to one station and not the others or whatever, but basically the thrust of the message is “Let's defend the UN. Let's strengthen the UN. Let's work for the UN. Let's get the word out wide and far about the contributions this Organization makes and our need for this Organization”. I think that was the basic message.
Q: A quick follow-up on that.
SG: Of course, you're not going to let this thing die, I see.
Q: No, of course not. Are you suggesting, then, that Bolton's comments that this was an attack on and an insult to the American people was a distortion of the speech? And also, in relation to your answer to Warren's question, I think you said that the budget cap will be lifted by the end of June. Have you gotten assurances, either from Secretary Rice or Ambassador Bolton, that they are going to support that?
Actually, the question I had was on the Sudan. The Sudan has expressed concerns that the peacekeeping force going in would be a Trojan horse that would be dragging people into the International Criminal Court (ICC). The head of the ICC was here yesterday asking for UN Security Council cooperation. I think he doesn't want to have a situation like that the Balkans, where Mladic and Karadzic are not brought to justice even where there are peacekeepers. So if you can square that circle it would be great.
SG: Let me start with the insult. Quite frankly, obviously, I am not American. I have traveled around the country; I have had the chance of spending some time in what you may consider “middle America”, in Minnesota. I think they are very smart people; they are very kind and understanding people; and they are also very sophisticated voters. As you can tell, they've sent some wonderful people to the Congress and the Senate, from Humphrey to Mondale to Wellstone and others. And I do not think they will read the Mark Malloch Brown statement as insulting, condescending or rude – honestly, knowing the Minnesotans and the people in that part of the world, as I do.
So we are reading these speeches differently and I have given you my reading of the speech, which I think was the real intent and spirit behind the words of Malloch Brown. Let's forget where the speech was made, the audience and all that, and really just focus on his words.
On the question of the cap, obviously we all want to see reform move ahead, and reform is moving ahead. As I indicated from my contacts with the Member States, they are quite keen to make progress and build on what has been achieved already. I think the cap idea came up as a way of putting pressure to maintain reform. I think that by the end of the month, the way we are going, you are going to see quite a lot of progress and Member States will realize that reform is running apace and there is no need to maintain the cap, and they will come to an agreement to lift it.
I have not got any assurance from the Secretary of State. I speak to the Secretary of State very often, but I have not raised this issue with her because, quite frankly, it is not one of the hot-button issues or the biggest crisis we are dealing with today. Reform goes on, but there are major issues around the world that I also discuss with her.
On the Sudan, you have raised a real issue. In fact, I have Jean-Marie Guéhenno on the ground now and the Sudanese are, of course, worried about the role of the ICC and what it means for some of the people indicted, and whether the UN forces are going to go there to arrest Sudanese who are indicted by the Court.
First of all, the Security Council has not settled on the mandate yet. Our mandate is going to be much, much broader. Our mandate is going to be to help implement the peace agreement, to protect the people in the vicinity of the peacekeepers, and to help the Sudanese people – and particularly the people of Darfur, not just the people of Darfur but also in the South – to pacify their country and build a unified country. Hopefully, the kinds of agreements that have been made for the South and Darfur would also have an impact in the wider country. When we talk of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, it should be an agreement that pacifies the entire country and makes each Sudanese feel that they are living in peace and in harmony with their neighbours.
Q: Mr. Secretary, CNN would invite you and Ambassador Bolton to watch, on the 22nd of this month, the United States play Ghana at a soccer tournament. Perhaps you'd be interested. And also maybe –
SG: We are very good. Be careful: Ghana is very good.
Q: I was going to ask you to assess this World Cup.
And also – my French is not that good – can you clarify the complicated Somalia picture? Is it a good thing that the Islamic Courts Union has taken control and restored some calm, or are you concerned that it's a Taliban re-run and strict religious laws are being enforced, and curfews, and it'll become a haven for troublemakers?
SG: Honestly speaking, I don't know much about the Islamic Court group. What I can say is that the people of Somalia are totally fed up with the warlords who brought such misery and destruction to their country, who have terrorized them for over 15, 16 years, that I suspect most Somalis, except those with vested interests, will say “Good riddance”. Having said that, is this sharia court able to bring about law and order and also respect the rights and liberties of the individuals? Or is it going to curb their rights and offer security but not civil liberties? We also have the Transitional Somali Government, which is based in the south, and they are also now beginning to engage the Islamic Court group. So the situation is very fluid. What is important is that we find a way of getting the Somalis to work together to eliminate the violence that has plagued that country for 16 years and begin to restore some order. And I would urge them to work together – the Islamic Court, the Transitional Government and the population. And so, we need – I have my Representative to Somalia is coming back today, and he will brief me on the situation, and I think I will have a better sense of what is going on on the ground. But I hope this is not – I've heard the reports that it's Al-Qaida and it's going to be a re-run: I have no evidence to support that. But what I can say is that the people have been fed up with the warlords and probably had helped the other side defeat the warlords, just to get their liberty back.
Q: Following, Sir – thank you very much for being with us. Following also on Somalia: Sir, would you have immediately a plan of action for Somalia? Today, the United States is gathering for the first time today at the Norway Mission early this afternoon a group of contact, to have some first approach. Do you have the feel that you're here a little bit sidelined, that the Washington now is taking the initiative? And would you have a plan, immediately, a plan of action on behalf of the UN, since today you would be an observer only?
SG: Let me say that to have a plan for a country you must engage also the country: you have to deal – the country must be involved. You must engage, and they must assume some sort of ownership, which implies organizing and working with the Somalis to reconcile and identify the group or a Government that speaks for them. In fact, until recently – even as recently as last week – they have been working with IGAD [the Intergovernmental Authority on Development], the East African Group, an indication that IGAD will send in a peacekeeping force to help them. We often do not compete with regional organizations. Where the regional organizations take a lead, we support them, and we've been following this IGAD thing with my own representative on the ground. If it gets to the stage where the UN has to get in directly and work with the Somalis and the IGAD, obviously we will work with the Somalis. And we have been working with the Transitional Government, and we worked with them through the discussions and the formation of the parliament and the Government. And, of course, we had the other groups emerge. So we need to really clarify the situation and find a way of getting the Somalis to work together, and then, if need be, the international community moving in to help them. We cannot have a plan for them: we have to have a plan with them, and discuss it with them. And so we need to help them, if need be, organize themselves and then to relate to us and come up with a plan that we both work towards to stabilize the situation.
Q: Just a follow-up on Somalia before my main Q: Was it wrong for the US to be backing these warlords?
Now, my main question is: You've got six months left. Management reform aside – and perhaps Darfur aside, as you've discussed it – what are going to be the main priority loose ends that you'd like to tie up before you leave your post as Secretary-General? Amongst them, would bringing Zimbabwe back into the international fold be one of those priorities?
SG: I would not have supported warlords. I don't think I would have recommended to the UN or the Security Council to support warlords.
On the question of my – the next six months, I think, Mark, you were out of the room when I listed a whole list of issues that I'm working on and we are working on: in the larger Middle East, from Iran to Iraq; Congo and others; and Timor-Leste. And, of course, my plan to go to Zimbabwe is still very much on the table. I look forward to seeing President Mugabe on the 1st of July in Banjul, when I attend the African Union Summit, to discuss this issue further with him and possibly set a date for my visit. I think Zimbabwe is a country that had given a lot to that region. Zimbabwe, in economic and agricultural terms, was one of the – breadbaskets of the region, and has the capacity of doing that. I think it's in a very difficult way. We need to think of the Zimbabwean people. We need to do what we can to help Zimbabwe and the people and do not sit back for the country to totally collapse and begin to help pick it up: it would be much, much harder then. And so, I believe we, the international community, should find a way of assisting Zimbabwe to come back to the fold and to turn around its economy and its social systems.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, on your successor: During your trip to Asia you said that the next SG should be an Asian and an outsider. But those criteria would have disqualified you, as a career UN person, and would now rule out your long-time colleague Shashi Tharoor, who was nominated today by the Government of India. So, why do you say that the next SG needs to be an outsider? And, the second part, what do you view as your legacy?
SG: I think, let me answer your question by saying yes: on the question of the Secretary-General coming from Asia, yes. I said most Member States believe that the next Secretary-General should come from Asia. And if that is the case, then the post is Asia's to lose.
On your second question, I did not make a specific recommendation that the individual comes from outside. The question was asked, “Is the individual going to come from inside or outside?”, and I said that Governments seemed to be looking outside. It's not that I was recommending that the individual comes from outside. Obviously, the more the merrier and, as I have indicated, if an Under-Secretary-General is elected, he or she will have to resign. In the meantime, his or her responsibility is towards the Organization, and I will have to make sure that that is respected.
I think legacy – maybe, given the agendas I gave you, I still have quite a lot to do, and I am determined to work till 31st of – midnight, 31st of December. And if some of you are in the building, maybe I might have the opportunity of waving you goodbye then. And then, after that, Nane and I will take a very long holiday. I think she deserves it, perhaps, even more than I do. And I will have plenty of time to reflect on legacy then.
Q: Sir, you've criticized the international community for pulling out of East Timor too precipitously. I wonder if you have a similar criticism of the elements under your control: were you aware of the problems of governance in East Timor? Was the United Nations intelligence good enough? If not, why not? If it was good enough, did you use it to give advice effectively to East Timor, or were there faults made by perhaps UNDP or DPKO in terms of how the UN responded institutionally?
And on a separate question, Sir, the Australians seem to be resisting the idea of making the force in East Timor a UN peacekeeping force. Do you have any concerns about that? Do you favour this type of hybrid operation, or would you like to see a unified operation?
SG: I think, on the question of East Timor, things move very, very quickly. It was a question of personalities and a question of leadership, and also a way of handling the resignation or dismissal of a large portion of the force – about 600 of them – and the conditions under which it was done. We were aware that there were tensions amongst the leadership, but I don't think that any of us expected this to explode the way it did, because these are people who have fought together, these are people who have worked together and stood against a colonial power. They knew each other well, and we had not really expected them to go to the extent that they did.
We did offer some advice, and of course you cannot impose advice – you can only offer good advice and leave the Government and others to decide what to do with it.
On the question of the peacekeeping force, for the moment the Australians are on the ground. It is a very difficult situation. This is not a multinational force or a coalition of the willing. The East Timorese authorities sent four individual letters to these Governments and signed four bilateral agreements with them, so they are all there independently. And we have also been encouraging them to coordinate their efforts. I suspect they will have to be there for six months or longer, even if we were to put in a new UN force. It is going to take quite a while.
For the moment, the East Timorese are asking for police, that the UN should send in a police force – a sizeable number of police – as quickly as possible, because they assume the military aspects will be taken care of by the Australian, New Zealand and Malaysian military presence. If we do go in with a police force and strengthen our presence, for a while we will have to cohabit with the other forces – Australia and the others – and it will in the long term depend on the arrangement that the Security Council works out and what the Governments agree on. If the Security Council were to decide to put in a new UN peacekeeping force, which would include troops and police, and the Australians were to decide to join that force, they would have to come under UN command. If they were to decide to operate independently and the Council were to accept it, then it would be cohabitation, just as we have in Kosovo, where the UN operations exist side by side with the NATO forces, which report elsewhere and are funded elsewhere.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, we know that the UN Charter says very clearly and in a short way that the Secretary-General should be the chief administrative officer. Clearly, over the years that role has evolved. Based on your nearly 10 years on the job now, what do you see as the job description and what would you say are the essential skill set and attributes that are required?
SG: This is the kind of question that I hesitate to answer at this stage. I will tell you why – I am not being coy or anything, because whichever way I answer it I am drawing up a job description and I can be accused of drawing up a tailor-made job description for one or the other of the candidates. But let me just say that the job is much, much wider and much bigger than chief administrative officer. You do have to be the chief diplomat of the world; you do have to take on the negotiations; there are lots of other issues that the Secretary-General gets involved in, and it is not just as an administrative officer. But I think I should be careful not to define it strictly.
Q: Would you at least say that, at times, it is a mission impossible?
SG: Oh yes. I mean, at times it is mission impossible, and as I told you when I took the job, someone described it as a job from hell. That was one of the first cables I got, and I don't think he was far wrong.
Q: Sir, when you took over your job about 10 years ago, I remember asking you whether you had inherited the Cyprus problem. I asked if you were going to solve this problem during your tenure. I asked the same question of Waldheim, and he said “oh yes”, but it is still a very live problem, like a long-lasting soap opera of the UN. Since you have a limited time now, do you still think that this problem might be solved? Your plan, which carries your name, was rejected by the Greek Cypriots. Was it a lost opportunity, or what is the next step they can take now?
SG: Let me start by saying that you have to admit that I got closer than most. I got closer than most, but we were not able to resolve it. I am still in touch with the parties, and I recall my last meeting with Mr. Papadopoulos in Paris, where we discussed the need to resume the talks. I pointed out to him that I would want to see more action than words; I would want to see the gap between words and action narrow a bit more to convince me that the parties are ready to move. At that point, he and Talat, who live very close to each other, had not even met in about two years and we had been trying to get them to meet.
The situation has been complicated further by the fact that Cyprus is now a member of the European Union and Turkey is seeking to join the European Union. You saw the controversy last week on the question of expanding the Union agreement to cover the 10 new members, including Cyprus. So when you are negotiating and you have one country sitting in the club and the other seeking to join the club, it does not make it easier. Quite frankly, I think that this situation has complicated the process.
I am going to be sending Gambari to the region very soon. He will go to Cyprus and then to Greece and to Turkey to take the pulse, and come back to report to me as to what the situation is and whether there is enough movement for us to begin to look at what further steps we can take to push the parties forward. For the moment, I cannot promise you that I will resolve it between now and the end of December, but I did get close.
Q: This is a question about Asia and human rights. The media in China and Central Asia reported your remark earlier this week that you praised the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in its meeting for its work against terrorism, extremism and separatism. And it said that you praised this, as I am sure you know, UNHCR has criticized Uzbekistan for requiring that people be deported and locking them up. China has cracked down on its Ulghur minority. So I wonder if you have any guidance for the balance between human rights and fighting terrorism and, totally separately, whether you would consider supporting a freedom of information act at the United Nations in the six months that remain to you, maybe even imposing it in the Secretariat, as an experiment? Those are two different questions.
SG: May I ask for clarification on your third question? What do you mean by “freedom of information act at the UN”?
Q: Okay, I'm sorry. The Staff Union report that just came out suggested that documents be made available not just on a whim, but as a right, to the media or to the public, as many Member States have such a law. I think Mr. Bolton has said, and a variety of people have said – and I think you even said in your reform proposal that you would favour something like that. So I just wanted to hear whether you would actually implement it.
SG: I think, on the question of effective action against terrorism and civil liberties and human rights, my position is very clear: that there can really be no tradeoff between effective action against terrorism and civil liberties and human rights of the individual, and that if we undermine human rights, if we undermine the rule of law in our fight against terrorism, then we are giving the terrorists a victory they could never have won alone. And this is why I've been quite concerned about some of the excesses I've seen around the world when it comes to the fight against terrorism. It's been very easy for many Governments to just put the T-word on someone and then move against them, and expect that nobody asks questions. So we have to be very, very careful not to undermine the basic rule of law in the fight against terrorism.
As to my message to the others, I think it was a gathering that was going to talk about security and the fight against terrorism, and it was to encourage them in that direction. I'm very much aware of the High Commissioner's difficulties with the Government you mentioned. I've had the opportunity to speak to the President myself at the time when the bulk of them were allowed to leave. And we are working on the four, and in fact the High Commissioner, Mr. Guterres, spoke to me about it, that we should make sure that there's no enforced refoulement, particularly when they may be at risk if they are sent back against their will. And not only that: he has made arrangements with other Government that are willing to accept these four. So, it's not that they will be stateless; we have homes for them. So we are asking the Government to hand them over to the High Commissioner for Refugees; and Mr. Guterres has worked very hard and has homes for them, and I urge the Government to let them go.
On your freedom of information act – or, freedom of information in the sense of making information available – I think, as an Organization, we are pretty open. In fact, sometimes I say this is one of those buildings, [if] you have two copies, consider it published. And it's all over. But I think we should be more forthcoming. We should release as much information as we can. Of course, there are certain informations that you cannot release, because it does cause problems. Sometimes, some of you have asked me what is the nature of your conversations with this President or that Prime Minister or others, and I've had lots of confidential discussions and others that I cannot release till much later. And so, we do have rules where certain things are embargoed for a certain period. But beyond that, we should be open and forthcoming.
Moderator: Last question.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the United Nations worked really hard to bring about disarmament of warlords in Afghanistan. Now President Hâmid Karzai says that he's going to re-arm them. These warlords in Afghanistan are no different than the warlords in Somalia. Do you have any comments on this, Sir?
SG: My position on the warlords in Afghanistan is the same as on the warlords in Somalia. They deserve no support. One should not arm them. And it is shortsighted: by empowering these people, you are making it much more difficult to stabilize the country. One should find other means of bringing law and order. You cannot rely on lawless men to create law and order for the general public. They will work in their own interest, and we've seen it in the past. And they are not going to change their spots overnight.
Thank you very much.