Mideast peace process/Protection force – SecGen press conference at UNHQ – Transcript (excerpts)




Question: Would you kindly tell us, after you had made it clear that you opposed the protection force in your interview with Europe One [Radio], have you spoken to Mr. Arafat about it? How does he feel about you taking positions? What is the message you are taking to the Muslims at the summit that you will be attending in Doha?

The Secretary-General: Let me first say that the answer to the question was that we need both parties to agree. In all these operations, we need the consent and cooperation of the two parties. As the Israeli Government made it clear that it would not cooperate, I did not see how the troops could be deployed. That was my statement, not that I am opposed to it. I have explained to you what the situation was, because quite frankly you need both.

On the question of what message I take to Doha, I think I am going to Doha to listen to the leaders. I trust we will have lots of discussions on what is going on in the Middle East, in particular the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But I would also expect the leaders to talk about the broader peace effort, which would eventually entail the Syrian and the Lebanese tracks.

Question: There has been a lot of discussion about trying to do something on Iraq. At the Doha summit, you are going to have the opportunity to talk to the senior Iraqi representatives there. Are you going to try and make some effort to see if you can get any response from the Iraqis on the question of movement on the resolution?

The Secretary-General: No, I will have a chance to talk to the Iraqi leadership in Doha and I suspect the discussions will be broad-ranging. I think the Iraqis, like many of the Member States here in this Organization, would like to see the impasse we are in broken and for us to move forward. And so I am looking forward to talking to them in Doha.

Question: Are you going to go with any proposals to try and move the process forward?

The Secretary-General: This is an issue the Security Council is dealing with and, obviously, whatever proposals that would help break the impasse will have to come out of the Council and with its support.

Question: On the protection force or the lack of it, have you spoken to President Arafat about it? What was his response? Are you in touch with the leaders of the region quite regularly?

The Secretary-General: I am in touch with the leaders of the region quite regularly. In addition to discussing the violence and the need to bring it down, we have also discussed the question of the fact-finding committee that should be established by President Clinton in consultation with me to get out the facts and to try to explain what was it that got us into this situation, that provoked the violence, and what steps we can take to ensure that it is not repeated in the future. Of course, we have also discussed the trips that the two [President Arafat and Prime Minister Barak] are going to make to Washington.

I have not talked to President Arafat since my interview yesterday, which was part of your question that I did not answer. But we expect to meet and have arranged to meet in Doha, so I will have the chance to speak to him there. I will be away from the States when he comes later on this week, but we will have a chance to meet in Doha.

Question: When is the fact-finding happening?

The Secretary-General: I hope it will be announced fairly shortly by Washington, because under the agreement, President Clinton was to set it up and lots of work has been done on it. I expect that it will be announced shortly.

Question: Do you have any expectations from the meetings this week that President Clinton is holding with both Prime Minister Barak and President Arafat? What would you like to see come out of it?

The Secretary-General: I think the fact that both of them are coming is a good sign. The fact that we are talking is positive and I hope that they will focus on what further steps can be taken to end the violence, to calm the situation and eventually open the way to dialogue and the resumption of the peace process.

Question: In your discussions with the Arab leaders, will you seek to better define the role of the United Nations in the forthcoming months, as relates to the peace process?

The Secretary-General: Obviously, we will discuss the peace process and the way forward. Whether I will get into details of the United Nations role with the leaders, I really can’t say at this stage. But I think what you are getting at is the sort of discussions that have been floating around that the format of the peace process may have to be modified slightly. I know that this is the wish of Chairman Arafat and also quite a few of the Arab countries, but the mediator, which is the United States and others, as well as the parties, will also have a word to say about this.

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