DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OF OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General:
Good Afternoon. The Security Council is meeting this morning to discuss a number of items. First, the Council heard a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hedi Annabi on the latest situation in Angola. This will be followed by another briefing by Olara Otunnu, who is the Special Represenative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. Mr. Otunnu, as we announced before -- and he was here with you last week, I believe -- just came back from a trip to a number of countries in Africa.
Under other matters, the Council is expected to take up Kosovo. A draft resolution on this matter may be tabled in the course of the morning.
**Western Sahara: Troop Contributors Meeting
Closed consultations among members of the Security Council and troop contributors were held this morning at 10 a.m. These consultations were on the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). The Security Council is expected to take up the Western Sahara issue tomorrow.
Also under Security Council matters, in a communication to the Security Council late last evening, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia informed the Council that it had declared a state of war in the country.
The United Nations continues to maintain a reduced presence in Belgrade. We have about ten staff there now.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which as you know is the lead agency that was assisting the war victims in Kosovo before the air strikes began, has now regrouped in Skopje in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where they have set up an operations center.
From Skopje, UNHCR staff report that the border with Kosovo was quiet today and that no significant movements of refugees have been recorded.
For the record, according to UNHCR, since the beginning of the conflict in Kosovo a year ago, some 450,000 people have been displaced by fighting -- more than 260,000 of them in Kosovo; 25,000 in Montenegro; 30,000 in Serbia; 16,000 in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; 10,000 in Bosnia; 18,500 in Albania and some 100,000 in different countries in Europe.
**Special Rapporteur for the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Roberto Garretón, today strongly condemned the recent surge of violence in North and South Kivu.
In a statement issued out of Geneva, the Special Rapporteur describes one incident at the end of February in Rutsuru, where some 70 people, including seven women and two children, lost their lives during military operations led by the forces of the Congolese Rally for Democracy and their allies.
He also expressed in his statement deep concern at the report of the massacre of 200 civilians that would have been killed between 19 and 21 March in various villages in Kivu.
The Special Rapporteur solemnly calls on all regular armies and armed groups fighting in the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to respect international humanitarian law. He urges the parties to take urgent measures to end, as quickly as possible, the cycle of violence in which civilians are the principal victims.
The full statement of Mr. Garreton is available in French only in our office upstairs.
**Secretary-General's Address to Economic and Social Council
In an address to the Economic and Social Council this morning, the Secretary-General focused on partnership. He said the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions are improving their cooperation, both at the policy level and on the ground, where it counts most.
The Secretary-General also talked about the partnership between the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council. He pointed out that under Article 65 of the United Nations Charter, the Economic and Social Council may furnish information to the Security Council and assist the Security Council at its request. Cooperation between these two bodies can help the United Nations respond to the challenges of peace-building and long- term development, he said.
The full text of the speech is available in our office.
I am just receiving the transcript of the Secretary-General's remarks upon entering the building this morning. As usual, the full transcript is available in our office. He was asked about Kosovo and his statement of yesterday, where he said, "I think my statement was very clear and I did state
Daily Press Briefing - 3 - 25 March 1999
the principles that underline the use of force as far as the United Nations is concerned".
He was also asked about his other contacts. He said that this morning he would be speaking with [NATO] Secretary-General Javier Solana, and he will be having a direct assessment of developments from Mr. Solana.
On Sierra Leone, I would like to note that the situation in the country has caused an exodus of some 450,000 people. Recently, one of our colleagues from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was in Sierra Leone on a humanitarian assessment mission, and he has just returned. So if any of you are particularly interested in the situation in Sierra Leone, please contact our office and we will make arrangements for you to meet with this colleague who just came from the country.
The United Nations Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) has issued a statement expressing concern over the facts that led Judge Henry Monroy to resign as the judge in Bishop Juan Gerardi's murder case. Bishop Gerardi was killed last year, two days after he launched a report on human rights violations that occurred in Guatemala during the conflict in that country.
The United Nations Mission, complying with its mandate, is verifying the facts that Judge Monroy gave to justify his resignation. Among these facts are undue pressure and lack of support by the Judiciary, as well as his health condition.
Details on how the United Nations Mission is handling the situation are available in a press release issued by MINUGUA last evening in Guatemala City. We have copies of it in Spanish in our office.
**Preparatory Committee for General Assembly Special Session
As you know, the Preparatory Committee for the upcoming General Assembly special session to review the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development continues its meetings today.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) invites you to hear personal testimonies by individuals from developing countries on what has been achieved since the Cairo Conference. That event will take place at 3 p.m. in Conference Room B.
We also have upstairs in our office a wrap-up press release of the meetings of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. It concluded its session today.
Daily Press Briefing - 4 - 25 March 1999
Question: Twelve o'clock was the deadline for the Security Council to communicate back to the Secretary-General on the Rwanda inquiry. Has the Secretary-General received a response yet?
Deputy Spokesman: The Secretary-General did not receive any response yet. This is a deadline that the Council itself has. But, no, the Secretary- General did not receive any reaction yet.
Question: Has he been notified when they expect to?
Deputy Spokesman: No, I don't think so.
Question: Has there been any further movement on Lockerbie?
Deputy Spokesman: If there is, I don't think we will know, unfortunately, and yesterday we had the question from one of your colleagues here. This matter is considered to be of such sensitivity that it will be dealt with in a very cautious, discreet and confidential manner. So I do not think that we will be able to announce any developments. We'll know when they happen.
Question: You mentioned a draft resolution is in the works on Kosovo?
Deputy Spokesman: It is expected that in the consultations which the Council is holding this morning, under the item "other matters", that Kosovo would be taken up. And it was expected that the Russian Federation would introduce a draft resolution. I don't know the content of it yet though.
Question: Does that mean there is a hope of some coming together that would allow the adoption of a resolution?
Deputy Spokesman: We'll have to see how things evolve, how the Council members will react to it.
Question: Did you say that Yugoslavia was declaring war to Yugoslavia?
Deputy Spokesman: No, what I said... if I find my note here, give me one moment... is that yesterday, late last night, Yugoslavia informed the Council that it had declared a state of war in the country. We have a copy of the text available in our office. You can take it and you can read the whole thing.
Question: What does that mean?
Deputy Spokesman: Well if you read the note, then we can talk. If you still need clarification, then we can talk about it.
Daily Press Briefing - 5 - 25 March 1999
Question: You said that it was planned that the Secretary-General would speak with the Secretary-General of NATO. Is this going to be the first conversation that they have had since this crisis started? I would also like to ask if you could answer me in Spanish, and if you say again the number of people that have been displaced, in Spanish.
Deputy Spokesman: I will answer first in English. No, this is not the first contact of the two Secretaries-General. They have regular contact. If there are no other questions, then perhaps I could do the Spanish portion for you outside of the briefing so that we don't take up everyone else's time.
Question: On the displaced people, there's 450,000 displaced by the fighting in Kosovo?
Deputy Spokesman: Yes.
Question: I'm a bit confused with how if there are 100,000 in different countries in Europe, (inaudible) they are displaced by the fighting in Kosovo.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, they left the fighting in Kosovo to go to other countries. They are refugees.
Question: So they are originally from Kosovo? So 18,500 from Kosovo, now in Albania. And there's 260,000 in Kosovo that are just in the hills?
Deputy Spokesman: In different locations within Kosovo, in the region. Thank you very much.
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