26 March 1999


26 March 1999

Press Briefing



The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, Deputy-Spokesman for the Secretary-General:


The Security Council held informal consultations on Kosovo this morning prior to going into a formal session to vote on a draft resolution sponsored by Russia, Belarus and India, which demanded "an immediate cessation of the use of force against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." The Secretary- General was in attendance of the formal meeting.

The vote, which happened a few moments ago, was three in favour -- Russia, China and Namibia -- and 12 votes against. The resolution was not adopted because it did not obtain the required number of votes. As you know, a majority of nine votes is required, including the votes of the five permanent members of the Council.

Canada, Slovenia, the Netherlands, the United States and the Russian Federation spoke prior to the vote. After the vote, the United Kingdom, France, Argentina, Malaysia and Bahrain were scheduled to speak. After these Council members, other non-Council members are scheduled to speak. These are Ukraine, Belarus, Cuba, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and India.

**Kosovo -- Humanitarian Situation

Also on Kosovo, the Secretary-General said today that he is "obviously quite concerned about the humanitarian situation" and hopes that the situation will swiftly allow the United Nations to go back in to Kosovo to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need.

In Geneva, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, also expressed grave concern about the plight of civilians in Serbia's Kosovo province, three days after most international observers and aid workers had left the area.

High Commissioner Ogata demanded that all sides in the Kosovo conflict refrain from attacking civilians and warned that those guilty of atrocities will be held accountable by the international community. A "reduced international presence in Kosovo does not mean impunity". She also urged Kosovo's neighbours to keep their borders open to those wishing to flee the troubled province.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), meanwhile, also reported that there has been a trickle of refugees crossing from Kosovo to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia but no major exodus. One reason

why so few people cross is that they are probably afraid of using the roads in Kosovo, which are full of military and police checkpoints.

**Security Council

After the formal meeting underway is over, the Security Council has scheduled consultations on Western Sahara. Council members are expected to hear a briefing by a senior official of the Department of Peacekeeping.

The cooperation between the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council, a subject raised by the Secretary-General yesterday in his statement before the Economic and Social Council, was also expected to be discussed in the Security Council consultations which will follow the formal meeting now going on.


Speaking to reporters in Islamabad today, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, Erick de Mul, said that five international staff members have returned to Kabul, while five others are in Kandahar. He also said that the Consolidated Appeal for Afghanistan, which was seeking $115 million for the highest priority activities, has generated only $14 million so far. We have upstairs in the Spokesman's Office copies of the briefing notes on the Afghanistan situation.

**Trial of Khmer Rouge Official

The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia, Thomas Hammarberg, told the press today that the purpose of his meeting yesterday with the Prime Minister of Cambodia had been to clarify the official Cambodian position. He stressed that "There were no negotiations".

Before the meeting, the Prime Minister submitted a written clarification to the Secretary-General, which said that Ta Mok would be tried in an existing domestic court. Whether other Khmer Rouge leaders would also be tried will be decided by the court's prosecutor. This tribunal may seek the assistance of legal experts from foreign countries. This written clarification by the Cambodian Government is being issued as an official United Nations document, so it will be available very soon to you.

**Cambodian Refugee Camps in Thailand

Also on Cambodia, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that the Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand are now empty. The last group of 705 Cambodians left Thailand on 24 March to return to Cambodia. Altogether, 50,000 refugees have returned, of whom 35,000 returned with the assistance of the United Nations through UNHCR. We have a briefing note with more details upstairs.

Daily Press Briefing - 3 - 26 March 1999

**Humanitarian Situation in Tajikistan

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance has informed us that the humanitarian operations in Tajikistan are severely threatened due to the poor response to the United Nations Inter-Agency Consolidated Appeal for 1999. Out of the $24.7 million required, donors have provided only $617,000 for humanitarian operations. The programme focuses on assisting with resettlement and reintegration, as well as providing food security for internally-displaced persons and refugees. These programmes, along with the demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, are vital to underpin the peace process stemming from the General Agreement of 1997.

**The Week Ahead

As you know, next week will be a very short week here. We have two holidays; one on Monday, which celebrates the Moslem holiday Eid Al-Adha, and on Friday we have the Christian observance of Good Friday.

On Tuesday, there will be a formal Security Council meeting on the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). The Mission mandate expires the following day.

The Secretary-General will address the National Model United Nations at United Nations headquarters, also on Tuesday.

On the same day -- March 30 -- the Humanitarian Panel on Iraq will meet.

On Wednesday, 31 March, the Prisoner of War and Kuwaiti Property Panel on Iraq is scheduled to meet.

I have just highlighted some of the activities for next week. We have the full list, which is a short one because it is a short week, in the Spokesman's Office upstairs if you want more details.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Given the statement about the humanitarian situation, has the United Nations received any formal request for humanitarian assistance for Kosovo?

Deputy Spokesman: The United Nations was there with its humanitarian programmes, and the staff had to leave for security reasons. The intention is to go back as soon as security permits. That is what the Secretary-General said this morning.

Daily Press Briefing - 4 - 26 March 1999

Question: Do you foresee the Secretary-General speaking again after the Council vote on the resolution, which basically frustrates a good deal of what the Secretary-General said the other night about a NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] intervention?

Deputy Spokesman: I don't think there will be a statement.

Question: Moving from Kosovo a little, the President of Haiti yesterday established a new Government by decree. Does the United Nations have any comment on the validity of this Government?

Deputy Spokesman: We hope that this, as well as the announcement a few days ago on the provisional electoral council, are steps that will help Haiti overcome the current political and institutional crisis.

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For information media. Not an official record.