Press Conference by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe

28 September 2009

Press Conference by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe

28 September 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe

In meeting after meeting, the intensity of activities on peace and security during the first week of the General Assembly’s sixty-fourth general debate had been incredible, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, said during a press conference at Headquarters today.

“It was an extraordinary week in terms of doing exactly what the UN is supposed to do and pushed front and centre the discussion of the most serious international events of the day,” Mr. Pascoe said, stressing the importance of coherence within the international community as it sought to solve the world’s most pressing issues.

During a week that featured an unprecedented level of diplomacy, the Secretary-General had met with representatives of more than 75 countries, particularly over both weekends before and after the first week of debate, he noted.  A whole series of meetings beyond those attended by the Secretary-General had also been held, specifically among Member States.

Mr. Pascoe said that in many of the meetings, the warm reception and frequent mention of peace and security reforms -- particularly the emphasis on preventive diplomacy and the Peacekeeping Department’s New Horizons initiative -- was obvious.  The Secretary-General’s vision of establishing a new platform for ensuring peace and security was beginning to bear fruit.

Among the week’s highlights were the Security Council’s disarmament discussion and the emergence of the best consensus in years on non-proliferation.  Tied to that had been discussions about Iran’s nuclear file, particularly revelations about its newest enrichment facility and, as of this morning, its latest missile test.  He pointed to the Secretary-General’s statement following his meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday for the fullest analysis of those issues.

Concerning the Middle East, he said the Quartet had talked extensively about the status of the peace process.  United States Special Envoy George Mitchell had given a briefing.  Also important had been the many meetings to coordinate where the international community was headed on the most critical regional issues.

“What emerged from all of these discussions was a very strong feeling that we needed to be moving this process forward together,” he said, highlighting the sense of urgency applied to both the things that were going well, such as developments on the West Bank, as well as those that were not, like access in Gaza.

A sense of urgency was also palpable during discussions of the International Contact Group on Somalia, he said, noting the increased support for the Transitional Federal Government.  It was clear that the path to peace and stability in Somalia would be difficult.  But that was an improvement over the last few years, when a lack of interest in that conflict-ridden country had prevailed.

He said there had also been a shift on Sudan.  Although a large, formal meeting on Sudan had not been held, there were continuous discussions on working together on looming problems.  The emphasis on deploying peacekeeping troops in Darfur, which had been quite strong in recent years, had been replaced somewhat by a focus this year on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the referendum on South Sudan, scheduled for 2011.

The Secretary-General had met with the Prime Minister General Thein Sein of Myanmar this morning and had also hosted a meeting of the Group of Friends of Myanmar, which had featured the participation of 14 Foreign Ministers.  The latter had revealed the evolution in the international community’s views.  On the one hand, there was clear interest in keeping Myanmar’s feet to the fire regarding the release of political detainees, including Aung San Suu Kyi.  If there was gong to be a serious political process in the country, they had to be able to participate.  On the other hand, there seemed to be clear agreement that “sanctions as sanctions” would not work.  They had to be balanced by positive outreach.   

Among other issues that were important to the United Nations were supporting national efforts to bring the Cyprus issue to a conclusion, he continued.  On Pakistan, discussions with President Asif Ali Zardari and with the Friends of Democratic Pakistan had underlined that efforts to consolidate stability and democracy must maintain a strong focus on anti-terrorism, as well as on the deeper social and economic concerns.

Efforts to resolve the crisis in Honduras had not produced results, Mr. Pascoe said.  The situation had taken a “seriously bad turn”, with recent threats on the Brazilian Embassy where exiled President Manuel Zelaya was staying.  It would be a disaster, he stressed, if any actions were taken to violate international law on the inviolability of embassies.  Also concerning was the de facto Government’s turning of the screws internally by closing news outlets and enacting state-of-emergency measures against the population.

With respect to Sri Lanka, the Secretary-General had reiterated the need to get the internally displaced persons out of the refugee camps during a morning meeting with the prime minister, foreign minister and the minister of defence, Mr. Pascoe reported, adding that a political resolution to the civil conflict and accountability were needed.

Responding to a question about expectations ahead of tomorrow’s Security Council meeting on Afghanistan, he said that the United Nations had sensed all along that the elections would be difficult.  Currently, the process to review the vote was moving along, with the international complaints panel evaluating 10 per cent of the ballots rather quickly.  If a second election was called for, it was hoped it could be completed before the winter snows.

He confirmed press reports that yesterday’s bilateral meeting between the Secretary-General and Vice Foreign Minister Park Gil Yon of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which had focused on such things as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), had been positive.  During the session, the Secretary-General had urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to return to the six-party talks, and, perhaps in response to a new Japanese Government and important proposals by the President of the Republic of Korea, there seemed to be a decision “to engage after a summer of not wanting to engage”.

When asked if that meant there were signs that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would resume six-party talks, he clarified that they had not indicated they were ready to return to those talks.  Rather, their attitude had been “softer and friendlier”.

Asked if recent news reports on political corruption in Pakistan had come in the Secretary-General’s meetings with representatives of that country, he said that the Secretary-General had emphasized, as he did in all cases, that aid should get to the people for which it was intended.

Responding to a follow-up question, he highlighted the Secretary-General’s recent appointment of Jean-Maurice Ripert as Special Envoy for Assistance to Pakistan.  Currently, cooperation among the Government of Pakistan and other donor Governments was being established 

He said, in response to a request for comment on allegations that the United Nations was interfering in the internal affairs of Honduras, where recent events had actually unfolded in a fully constitutional manner, that no one had yet found a constitutional provision that supported the President’s being hustled to another country by the military.  He stressed the sensitivity of coups in Latin America and efforts there to develop constitutional and civilian-led Governments, emphasizing that the involvement of the military in the removal of a president would inevitably cause a strong reaction beyond the Honduran Constitution.

“People really feel that it’s very important in Central America that Governments in power not feel threatened by military removal even if it’s backed by lots of other people,” he said.  The United Nations had offered to get involved in the current situation if both sides wished.  But the prevailing view was that the Organization should not elbow its way in if regional organizations were taking the lead, as they were in this case.

Pressed to explain comments by the Secretary-General in his last press conference that supported President Manuel Zelaya, he said that the Secretary-General had been working from a General Assembly resolution. 

Asked to elaborate some of his past quoted comments on Sri Lanka, Mr. Pascoe explained that he had actually said that Sri Lanka’s story on mine clearance was better than the one that had gotten out.  This was a slightly different spin than what had been reported.

He confirmed that the recent incident where internally displaced persons had been shot leaving welfare camps in Sri Lanka had been addressed in the Secretary-General’s meeting, and the United Nations had been firm that the camps should be thinned out.  Moreover, the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka should be discussed by the Security Council.

When asked about the United Nations response to the United States call for a harder line with Iran in accordance with non-proliferation policies, he said the Organization had been consistent in its position on non-proliferation.  That was also the case with the Secretary-General, who had called for Iran to adhere to all Security Council resolutions.  The international arms control agenda had been dormant for far too long, and it was hoped that it would now move forward.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.