Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

Preview Language:   English
25-Jun-1997 00:17:08
Briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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Fred Eckhard began today's press briefing by reading the following statement:

"The Secretary-General has been deeply saddened by the news of the death of the Commandant Jacques Cousteau, whose active and visionary life in the cause of marine biology was a landmark contribution to the protection of the global environment. In this week, when world leaders gather at the United Nations to recommit themselves to the goals set forth by the Earth Summit, let us redouble our efforts to protect the marine environment to whose preservation Jacques Cousteau dedicated his life."

The text of the statement was available in the Spokesman's Office, he added.

Regarding the talks on Cyprus scheduled for 9 to 13 July, Mr. Eckhard said the Secretary-General had informed the two communities that they would take place near Amenia in Dutchess County, New York, at a private conference centre called Troutbeck. That was about a 90-mile trek up the Hudson river, north of Manhattan.

Mr. Eckhard invited the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) to begin discussions with the Spokesman's Office on press arrangements for the talks. He said that would facilitate coverage of the Secretary-General's opening statement at the talks.

Outlining the Security Council's schedule for today, Mr. Eckhard said it would hold consultations on the Secretary-General's report on the mandate of the United Nations Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) and on his good offices report on Cyprus. It would also consider the Secretary-General's report on Liberia (document S/1997/478). Hedi Annabi, Assistant Secretary- General for the Office of Operations at the Department of Peace-Keeping Operations, would brief the Council on Liberia; and the Under-Secretary- General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast, would brief it on Somalia and the Great Lakes region of Africa.

The joint United Nations/Organization of African Unity (OAU) Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region, Mohamed Sahnoun, who had attended a mini-summit of francophone African States in Togo, was not expected to return to New York until next week, he added.

The Secretary-General's report on the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES) would be released today, Mr. Eckhard continued. In it, the Secretary-General recommends a two-phase exit strategy of the Transitional Administrator to successfully complete peaceful reintegration and the withdrawal of UNTAES from the region. The Secretary-General expresses concern that a quick transfer of authority to Croatia and the withdrawal of UNTAES in the short term could lead to a mass exodus of Serbs, which would create a major humanitarian crisis in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and would also have negative repercussions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly in the Republika Srpska.

The United Nations human rights advance investigative team had a two- hour meeting in Kinshasa yesterday with Mr. Mbaya, the Minister for Reconstruction and Emergency Planning of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and his senior aides, Mr. Eckhard said. It was the advance team's second substantial meeting at the ministerial level, and it agreed to present the Minister with a draft proposal outlining its views on issues pertinent to the Commission of Inquiry's investigation.

Mr. Eckhard drew correspondents' attention to a report released by his Office late yesterday concerning the first round of direct talks on Western Sahara, held in Lisbon between Morocco and the Polisario Front. He said the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, James Baker III, had presented what he called "some bridging notions" to the parties for their consideration. Mr. Baker expected the parties to meet again next month.

Contrary to press reports that the delegations "looked gloomy", Mr. Eckhard said that, according to United Nations sources, the talks went particularly well and everyone was looking forward to the next round.

There was little information available yet on the visit to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Yasushi Akashi, other than confirmation that he had arrived yesterday in Pyongyang, Mr. Eckhard said. Mr. Akashi was accompanied by media representatives, so it was not clear why it was difficult to get information.

On the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mr. Eckhard said Congolese soldiers had rioted yesterday in Kisangani, apparently because of dissatisfaction over their pay. But they took it out on the humanitarian community and others, looting offices and private homes. Then, to top it off, they went to the town prison and opened the gates, freeing all the prisoners. This morning, the situation was reportedly calm again, he added.

Trinidad and Tobago had acceded yesterday to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had acceded to on 20 June, he said. To date, there were 95 parties to the Convention and 165 signatories.

Bangladesh and Senegal had paid their 1997 assessed contributions in full, with both paying the minimum assessment of $106,508, he said. To date, 68 Member States had paid in full their 1997 assessed contributions to the United Nations regular budget.

Tomorrow was the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Mr. Eckhard said. The Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna and Executive Director of the United Nations International Drug Control Programme, Giorgio Giacomelli, had given a press conference earlier today. Reading from a statement, he said the Secretary-General had appealed for united action "at the national and local level and down to the individual family, to attack this threat to human life and basic human security". The Secretary-General also said, "Our first priority must be to reduce the exposure of young people to drug abuse ... . Do not shirk your responsibilities. Do not stand by while others do the work." (For the full text of the Secretary-General's statement, see Press Release SG/SM/6265/Rev.1- SOC/NAR/761/Rev.1.)

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) would launch its 1997 campaign titled "Children Living in a World with AIDS", in Brussels on Friday, 27 June, Mr. Eckhard said. A report on children and AIDS would be released and an embargoed press release on the subject was available in the Spokesman's Office. He said UNAIDS was a Geneva-based programme, co-sponsored by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank.

The Secretary-General would meet with Ted Turner of Time Warner and CNN at 4 p.m. today, to mark the hook-up of CNN International's signal to the Headquarters Building, Mr. Eckhard. The service was only available in the United States by a special satellite hook-up, which CNN had provided to the United Nations as a gift. The Secretary-General had mentioned to Mr. Turner, when they met in Atlanta earlier this year, that he would like to see CNN International. Although the service would go on officially at 4 p.m. today, it could already be seen on in-house channels 55 and 57. "There will now be a bit more international news in this little international corner of the United States", he added.

Mr. Eckhard then announced the following press conferences which would take place in room S-226:

This afternoon, at 1:15 p.m., by the Environment Minister of the Republic of Korea, Kang Hyon Wook, and the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Elizabeth Dowdeswell, on the Seoul Declaration on Environmental Ethics; at 2:30 p.m., a briefing by francophone non-governmental organizations would be in French without interpretation, but a moderator would summarize the main points at the end of the meeting.

At 4 p.m., a press conference by Commonwealth Ministers -- the Australian Minister for the Environment, Robert Hill; the United Kingdom Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, John Prescott; the Adviser to the President, Science, Technology and Environment of Guyana, Navin Chandarpal; and Sir Humphrey Maud, Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.

Tomorrow at 11 a.m., the Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Hennadi Udovenko.

A correspondent asked for confirmation about reports from Cyprus this morning that a United Nations document had been prepared which would be presented to both sides. Mr. Eckhard said the reports were correct. Information had been presented to the two sides and they had "leaked it". The document would not be released. Nor could he say anything about the talks on Cyprus, which were very sensitive.

In reply to a question from another correspondent, Mr. Eckhard said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Angola, Alioune Blondin Beye, might brief the Council tomorrow. He would try to bring Mr. Beye to attend tomorrow's briefing. However, the United Nations Transitional Administrator for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium, Jacques Klein, might also brief Council members tomorrow. Assuming both men addressed the Council tomorrow morning, the Spokesman's Office would try and arrange for one to attend the noon briefing and the other to speak to correspondents at an alternative time.

A correspondent asked who was in charge of any changes to the Code of Conduct for United Nations staff. Mr. Eckhard said the draft code had been presented to the Staff-Management Coordination Committee (SMCC-XXI) for their review and comments. He suggested the correspondent address his questions to Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed, who had been designated President of the Committee effective 1 July, or any of the staff representatives who were participating in it.

In response to a question for more information about the two-phase strategy for the withdrawal on UNTAES, Mr. Eckhard, reading from the Secretary-General's report, said that in the first phase the Transitional Administrator would devolve to Croatia executive responsibility for the major part of civil administration of the region, while retaining his authority and ability to intervene and overrule decisions should the situation deteriorate and the achievements of UNTAES be threatened. He did not see anything further in the report about the time period for the first phase.

Again reading from the report, he said "in the second phase, subject to satisfactory Croatian performance, the remaining executive functions would be devolved, with Croatia assuming full responsibility for the region and the gradual reintegration of the Transitional Police Force into the Croatian police force".
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