New York

27 December 2006

Press encounter by the Secretary-General following Security Council consultations on Sudan

(informal transcript)

SG: As you know, the [Security] Council is still in the process of discussing the President of Sudan's letter to me. They are encouraged by the positive tone of it and [Ahmedou] Ould-Abdallah, who carried the letter to Sudan, was also able to give them his sense and the gist of his conversations with the President. The President has accepted the three-phased approach as a package, and we will have to move ahead and implement it, push it –even those who have some doubts to test it –and push it very quickly. The Council will need a further briefing on the technical aspects of it by DPKO [the Department of Peacekeeping Operations], which will be done early next month. We are looking at the operations comprehensively: not just the peacekeeping aspects, but also to re-energise the political process as well as consolidating and pressing for the cease-fire, and making the Cease-fire Commission as active as possible.

Q: Mr Secretary-General ?

SG: You can say, “Ambassador”. [laughter]

Q: I would hope for all our sakes that this is maybe the last time the Security Council is going to meet before the end of the year. At least for myself, and I'm sure for many of us in the UN Correspondents Association, we want to wish you Godspeed in your next career.

SG: Thank you very much.

Q: Could you tell us what you see as the tests that are really critical for meeting this? And could I also ask you one question, could you let us in on one secret: Where are you going to be at midnight on New Year's Eve?

SG: Let me say that the best way to test it –We have three phases, in fact, we are in the middle of implementing phase one, and we are going to accelerate that, and of course as a way of testing the government's willingness to cooperate. So we are going to move very quickly on that. And obviously, there was a question of whether the UN officers can use a blue beret; that has been resolved. And at a meeting yesterday, they confirmed that. So they will be working with all their UN accoutrements and move expeditiously to take their positions. And these are some of the tests that we will place before them.

We also intend to work very expeditiously with the Chairman of the African Union, Mr Alpha [Oumar] Konaré, to name the joint special representative, and of course the commander, who hopefully will also bring some fresh ideas to the operation.

[As for] where I'll be, I'll be somewhere in Manhattan at midnight on 31 December.

Q: In this building?

SG: No, I hope not. Unless there's a major crisis around the world, but if I'm in this building, I hope you'll be here with me. And you were just pleading, “We shouldn't do that to you.”

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, to follow up on that same question, I haven't heard a “but”, and there have been a lot of “buts” out of Sudan. Is this Tripartite [Committee] going to give Sudan certain censorship over each peacekeeper who walks in?

SG: No, I think the idea of a Tripartite Committee is really to facilitate implementation, not to take decisions, not to discuss the size of the force or any operational aspect. But we did it in full transparency. In fact, even the African Union communiqué indicated that, when it comes to determination of the size of the force, it should be left to the African Union and the U.N. And the size of the force was determined by the on-the-ground assessment undertaken jointly by the African Union and the U.N. It's not a political issue, it's a technical determination.

Q: D'abord, est-ce que vous faites confiance au président soudanais? Est-ce que vous trouvez que sa réponse est claire, et 2) que va faire l'ONU au Darfour, est-ce qu'on va voir des efforts plus rapides?

SG: Evidemment, là nous sommes dans les mains des états-membres. Il nous faut des troupes, il nous faut des equipements On va essayer d'aller aussi vite que possible. Evidemment ça suppose aussi que le gouvernement soudanais va cooperer pleinement pour leur permettre au moins d'aller au Darfour pour aider la population. Pour le moment, la lettre est positive mais on va commencer a pousser pour voir si vraiment il [inaudible] travail [inaudible] Ils l'ont dit à M. Ould Abdallah.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, we've heard some skepticism by some members of the Council about the Sudanese letter. Looking back at the history, do you think there is momentum now? Do you have more faith?

SG: Obviously, when there have been so many disappointments, it is only natural that there will be some doubts and hesitations. And this is a challenge for the Sudanese Government to prove to the international community that it means business; it stands by the letter it has written to me, which I have shared with the Council; and it stands by its discussions with my envoy, Ould-Abdallah. And so we are now going to press ahead, and I hope this time there will not be disappointments.

Q: Sir, if I might move to Somalia, please. Are you satisfied with the way the Security Council has been dealing with the issue? Some people are saying that they are giving time to the Ethiopians to finish whatever they are doing there.

SG: I think the Council is in a genuine debate, and I hope they will be able to conclude their discussion. Today, for example, there was a meeting in Addis Ababa, between the African Union, the Arab League and IGAD [the Intergovernmental Authority for Development] to discuss the Somali situation. As you know, IGAD has indicated that they would want to deploy troops to Somalia. I'm not sure they will be able to do it in the current climate. But they have also appealed, which I have done myself, on the parties to go back to the table, which they had started in Khartoum, and try and resolve their differences through dialogue and seek reconciliation. And I would also appeal to neighbouring countries to stay out of the crisis in Somalia and respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia.

Q: Are you calling for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, like the African Union?

SG: I have already spoken to the [Prime Minister] of Ethiopia about that, and it is essential that neighbouring governments stay out of this.

Q: Would you be recommending whether the U.N. should be sending a peacekeeping force to Chad and the Central African Republic, or is that one you are going to leave for your successor?

SG: We sent a technical team to the ground. They have submitted reports to the Council, which the Council is studying at the moment. And obviously, we are concerned with the spillover effect of the Darfur crisis. And the Council will be looking at several packages: a light package and a heavier one. And I think, depending on how things evolve, the Council will have to make a judgment, in consultation with my successor. I wouldn't want to box him in.

Q: Two questions, if I may. One on Sudan: [Are] there any further guarantees, as the interpretation of the letter itself had been met with such skeptical reaction by some members of the Council. The interpretation of the letter itself has been, “What did you say about what the Secretary-General specifically told us?” [inaudible} Was there any discussion of guarantees or guarantors?

And my question on Somalia, you said you spoke to the [Prime Minister] of Ethiopia; you told him what you thought. What was his answer?

SG: We are going through that again. Anyway, on your first question, we did discuss the issue of past disappointments. It came up. But most Council members saw the letter as a positive indication that we should build on. I also reminded the Council that even though, in that chamber, we are often only discussing crises, we should not forget some of the successes. From Angola to Sierra Leone to Liberia to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Afghanistan, to East Timor to El Salvador and a whole series of issues that they have resolved. And in each case, at some stage or the other, we had some doubts. In some cases we even thought the whole operation was going to unravel. But we need to be persistent, we need to be determined, we need to test it and press ahead. So there wasn't a request or a need for guarantee as such, and I don't know who in the room, or in the world, could have given a guarantee. But we need to work very hard and press ahead.

With regards to my conversation with the [Prime Minister] of Ethiopia, I also talked to other leaders in the region about the need to work together to dampen the conflict in [Somalia]. I think he listened to me, he indicated that it is a limited operation and they will be out very shortly. And I think he has since said that publicly himself.

Q: Just a clarification. What do you mean a limited operation that is going to be done, over with, that they withdraw very shortly if what happens?

SG: I think he mentioned, he said that to the press himself. I don't want to go beyond that, he indicated that they are not there for a long stay, it is a limited operation. And hopefully they will be out in a few days.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, President [Omar al-]Bashir in his letter to you, said that there would have to be another Security Council resolution, I believe on financing. What do you see is the timing of that, when will they have to get to work on that to make sure there is a flow of phases?

SG: The procedure here is that after the Council has taken a decision, it has to go to the ACABQ [Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions} and then to the Fifth Committee and to the General Assembly, and that will take some time. And therefore in the discussion, we would appeal to the donor community to continue assisting the African Union in the meantime until all the administrative and financial approvals are given by the various organs, assuming the Council approves the package. Which I expect it will.

Q: Do you think that the lifting of the arms embargo on Somalia was a wise action by the Security Council on the sixth of this month?

SG: I think the Council members are still here, they haven't left, and I think you should wait for them and put that question to them. Thank you.