FRED ECKHARD, Spokesman for THE Secretary-General: Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Secretary-General: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to be with you again this morning. As you know, I have been travelling quite a bit since we last met, including a trip to South-East Asia and Australia, starting with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) X in Bangkok. I thought that UNCTAD X was an important meeting, and I hope it will mark a new phase in international economic relations, after the disappointment in Seattle.
The most moving moments in the trip came during my visits to Indonesia and East Timor. In Indonesia it was wonderful to witness the historic efforts of the Government and the people to overcome their many difficulties and advance into a new era of freedom and democracy. In East Timor I was depressed by the spectacle of destruction, but above all I was impressed by Xanana Gusmao and his colleagues, and by the determination of the people of East Timor to rebuild their country and achieve reconciliation, both with each other and with their neighbours.
Given the right kind of assistance, I have no doubt that East Timor can have a good and stable future. But the international community must remain involved for the long term. It would be tragic indeed if, after such suffering, we did not make the best of this promising moment in its history.
One other point that came up during the trip was the issue of a tribunal to try the Khmer Rouge who have been accused of genocide and other violations of international humanitarian law in Cambodia. I met with Prime Minister Hun Sen in Bangkok, and we had a very constructive discussion. But there are still differences to be settled before the trials can begin. The whole point of the United Nations being involved in this issue is to ensure that the special court which Cambodia is going to set up conforms to international standards of justice. I am sending a United Nations team, led by Hans Corell, to Cambodia next week to discuss the details, in the hope that we can reach agreement. And then the court can get on with its job. These discussions will start on 17 March.
While I was travelling, I kept hearing and seeing very disturbing reports about what was happening in Chechnya and about the terrible destruction and suffering caused by the hostilities there. And since I came back I have seen equally harrowing images of destruction and suffering -- caused this time by the wrath of nature -- in Mozambique and neighbouring parts of southern Africa. The people in both these places need help from the international community on a massive scale.
What is happening in Mozambique is all the more tragic because that country was considered one of the great success stories of Africa in the last decade -- and, I might add, a success story for United Nations peacekeeping and peace-building. It is bitterly ironic that recently The Economist Intelligence Unit had singled out Mozambique as likely to have the highest growth rate in Africa this year. But at least that means we know the Government and the people there can make good use of any aid they receive. Let me appeal once again to the whole world to give them as much help as possible, and as soon as possible.
In Chechnya, besides the humanitarian crisis, there are very troubling questions about violations of human rights and humanitarian law. I fully support Mary Robinson's emphasis on the vital importance of ensuring an international human rights presence to monitor the treatment of civilians and to seek access to detainees, and I am glad she is going to be able to visit in person next month. Meanwhile, my envoy, Mr. Homann-Herimberg, is in Moscow this week to reach a formal agreement with the Russian authorities on humanitarian action inside Chechnya, and to negotiate the detailed arrangements for implementing it.
But the main thing I want to announce to you at this press conference is the start of a major study on United Nations peace operations. You will remember that last year in my report on the disaster at Srebrenica, and again in my response to the Carlsson report on Rwanda, I said we must all do our utmost not to allow such horrors, and especially such appalling failures by the United Nations, ever to happen again. We must not promise too much, or raise expectations higher than are justified by the will of governments to act. But we must do whatever we can to raise the standards of international behaviour and responsibility.
I think we can only hope to succeed in that if we have a very clear idea of what has been wrong up to now. We need a clear set of recommendations on how to do better in future in the whole range of United Nations activities in the area of peace and security. These recommendations should also, of course, take account of, and build on, the considerable successes we have had in peacekeeping as well.
It is partly a question of being clear about what we are trying to do, what kind of forces we need to do it, what are the conditions in which different kinds of mission are appropriate and what you do when circumstances change and you need to move from one kind of operation to another. What do you do, for instance, if the peace you are trying to keep breaks down and large numbers of civilians are in danger of being massacred?
And partly it is a question of getting the nuts and bolts right -- of having the right structure for the United Nations Secretariat and proper planning and organization -- with clear lines of command, control, accountability and coordination between those carrying out these different tasks.
I hope the study I am announcing today will help us do both those things. And one reason why I am very hopeful about what we are undertaking is that Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi has agreed to chair the panel which will supervise the study. Mr. Brahimi, whom I think you all know, is one of my wisest and most experienced advisers, both in negotiating during conflicts and in running United Nations operations on the ground, both in South Africa and in Haiti. And I am glad to be able to announce the names of the seven other very distinguished people who have agreed to serve on the panel. Some of these people are experienced in peacekeeping and related activities, others in humanitarian relief and economic development. As you know, it is often the combination of military, humanitarian and economic tasks which poses the most difficult problems we often face.
Here is the list: Mr. J. Brian Atwood, former head of the United States Agency for International Development; Dame Ann Hercus of New Zealand, who was my Special Representative to Cyprus until last year; Mr. Richard Monk of the United Kingdom, who played a most valuable role in the International Police Task Force in Bosnia; General Klaus Naumann, former chief of the German defence staff and former Chairman of the Military Committee of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); Ms. Hisako Shimura, a professor and President of Tsuda College in Japan who served for many years in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations; General Phillip Sibanda of Zimbabwe, who was our Force Commander in Angola; and, finally, Mr. Cornelio Sommaruga of Switzerland, who has just retired as the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
There may be one or two more names later on. But already I believe these eight people between them bring unrivalled experience and wisdom to their very important task. I am grateful to all of them for making themselves available. They will be assisted by Dr. William Durch of the Stimson Center in Washington, whose expertise in this field is widely recognized and respected. He will conduct the research and prepare the drafts for consideration by the panel. I hope the report of the panel will be ready by July, so that Heads of State and Government have the chance to read it before they come to New York for the Millennium Summit, in September.
We have here with us this morning Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, who will stay behind after I have withdrawn to answer any questions you may have for him.
Let me now do my best to answer your questions.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, welcome. This is your first conference this year. We are certainly looking forward to seeing you more often on this stage.
In light of the announcement you made today, I would like to ask you my first question. How would you respond to those who are criticizing even requesting a court investigation about apparent unfulfilled responsibilities for more than a dozen high United Nations officials in the tragic and shameful case of Srebrenica?
The Secretary-General: That is a case, as you may know, that the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague has already commented on. Both the Prosecutor and her deputy have indicated there is no basis for any legal action against them. I think we also need to be careful when we take on those kinds of issues.
First of all, the United Nations and those who worked with the United Nations and the governments -- who offered troops, men and women, to go to these operations -- went there to assist; went there to try to stop the conflict; and went there to try to stop killings. Our efforts may not have been adequate, but that does not mean that we take responsibility for the killing. That is one of the reasons why a court has been set up. Those who have been accused are now being put before the Tribunals, both in Rwanda and in The Hague.
Question: I have [inaudible] questions [inaudible]. This being primary day, a big political day in the United States, two quickies.
The United States is the big player here still. Are you worried or concerned about a shift in power or party switching? How important is the United States in that process? And, two, has this day given you reason to tell us whether you have decided already whether you will pursue a second term?
The Secretary-General: I do not know what the United States election has to do with a second term.
Question: [Inaudible], I thought maybe you would get in the mood.
The Secretary-General: Let me start with the first question.
I think we are living in an era where multilateralism and globalization are the new paradigm; I do not think we can go back on that. Therefore, the United Nations is needed today even more than before. I think that when we look back to 1945, when the United Nations was established, it was a dream. In fact, others thought it was so starry-eyed it would never be a reality. But today the reality has caught up with the dream, and the role of multilateral institutions and the United Nations has become even much more important than it was before. I hope and believe that whoever wins the United States election and moves into the White House will agree with me that the United States needs a United Nations just as much as a United Nations needs a United States, and that it would not make a difference whoever wins.
As far as your second question is concerned, a second term is the last thing on my mind. I know it seems more pressing and more important for others than it is for me. I have work to do and I am carrying on with it.
Question: No decision?
The Secretary-General: I have answered your question.
Question: Are you receiving the political support you need from United Nations Member States to sustain the Kosovo operation? Can you tell us what you think are the most urgent needs for that operation to be successful?
The Secretary-General: I know you all met with my Special Representative, Bernard Kouchner, and with General Reinhardt, who are doing a great job on the ground. First of all, let me say what I have said before, that given what we inherited, I think we have done reasonably well. Bernard Kouchner and his team are working valiantly to improve the situation; and the situation has improved much in many parts of Kosovo.
We have pockets of problems. We need to stem the atrocities committed against minority groups. We need to work with the people in Kosovo to establish a fully working administration. But to do that we need material support from the Member States -- in terms of police and cash, and in terms of their releasing the right people to join us. This has been very slow in coming, as I think you heard from Mr. Kouchner.
After months of pressure, some money is beginning to come in. The European Union gave us 10 million euros last week. They had given 20 million euros before. There are indications they will release 35 million euros shortly. That is a good step which has to be sustained by all governments with the capacity to support this operation. Without that, we are going to have difficulties.
Of course, Bernard Kouchner also raised the question of the political future of Kosovo. I have had the chance to share with you my concern from the beginning that we are operating in a very ambiguous situation -- in a limbo -- because the future of Kosovo, the political outline, has not been defined. In Bosnia, the interim agreement managed to stop the war; but it also defined the internal and external controls of Bosnia. So when we went in we knew what to do, and the people knew what to expect. Without that decision, and living in that ambiguity, both communities will have a different understanding and it will be very difficult for Bernard Kouchner and the team to get their job done.
Question: I realize that you spoke to the President of Indonesia, and I realize that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is active, but how much longer can the United Nations tolerate refugees who were herded out of the country in two weeks, and are still out six months later? Are you going to go to the Council, or is this going to go on and on?
The Secretary-General: It was one of the primary issues of discussions between me and the Indonesian Government, including President Wahid. We agreed that all must be done to allow the East Timorese who are in West Timor to exercise free choice -- free choice in the sense that those who want to go back to East Timor should be allowed to go back without impediment; those who want to settle in West Timor, or in other parts of Indonesia, should be able to do so, reserving the right to change their minds and go back to East Timor if they later want to do so.
We also agreed that we should set up a joint High Commissioner for Refugees and an Indonesian Government task force to take care of this issue and assist those who want to go back. There was also a suggestion that the bigger camps should be broken up into much smaller camps to free the people from the control and intimidation of the militia. I suspect this will move forward fairly quickly, but it is something that is worrying to us. When I discussed it with the Indonesians, interestingly enough, they had even higher figures than we had. At that point, they thought there were 154,000 East Timorese in West Timor. They expected 60,000-70,000 to choose to remain and that the rest would want to go back. It is that figure that we are working with, and we are working with them to make sure they go back. We have also indicated that their own army should become much more active and prevent intimidation by the militia.
Question: According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees yesterday, it does not seem to be happening. I realize you have an agreement, but now what happens if nobody seems to be following through and getting the militia out of the camps?
The Secretary-General: I have to be in touch with Sergio Vieira de Mello and the team on the ground who were putting this together with those on the ground.
Question: As to the peacekeeping study, how much was this propelled by the two reports on Srebrenica and Rwanda? Were you thinking along these lines in any case? Are you prepared to look again at how the peacekeeping Department works or is structured if that should come out in the recommendations?
The Secretary-General: I have always said that reform is an ongoing process, something that we are part of, but we were propelled forward much faster by the two reports. I believed that it was not enough to issue the two reports and just leave it at that, and that it was essential that we draw the right lessons, not just from the two reports but also the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the whole United Nations peace operations, beginning with conflict prevention and preventive action to those extreme situations where enforcement is needed, and for us to take a critical look at past lessons, what has happened recently and how, collectively, we can improve the situation.
If it becomes necessary to change the structures and their management and how business is done in the house, in the Secretariat, bureaucratically, we will do it and we will have to do it. So, if the study were to come up and say that we should look at the structures and try to do something, we will not hesitate to do that.
Question: My question concerns the current situation on the ground in Kosovo. This morning, French peacekeepers were wounded. This raises questions about the objective of armed intervention. Do you think it is time to clarify the desired status for Kosovo? What is its political future?
The Secretary-General: Actually, we had the opportunity briefly to discuss this matter over lunch with the members of the Security Council yesterday. It is a matter of concern to me and to Bernard Kouchner, who spoke to you about this yesterday.
I hope to submit a report to the Security Council in April on the situation in Kosovo, taking into account the situation in the region as a whole. You cannot deal with the situation in Kosovo in isolation from the region. Events in Serbia and Albania have an impact on Kosovo, and vice versa. We must take the broader view, including on the question that you raised. By late April, I hope to be submitting a report to the Security Council, seeking to address a number of these points.
Question: Will it identify the status -- autonomy or whatever?
The Secretary-General: It would be difficult to do that in the report, but I hope that the report will at least provide some basis for discussing such matters in the Security Council.
Question: I have a question that would fall in the category of peacekeeping, and then some. I would appreciate as much detail as possible in your answer. First, what do you think of the Israeli decision to pull the troops out of Lebanon by July, in the context that came out in the Israeli Parliament? Secondly, I am sure you have contingency plans, I would assume, that have been discussed with the Lebanese, the Israelis and maybe the Syrians in case any of these three withdrawals happen: a) if it is in strict implementation of resolution 425 (1973); b) within the context of an agreement with Syria and Lebanon; and c), if it is unilateral. What happens to your troops out there? What plans have you got?
The Secretary-General: Let me start by saying that I think it would be ideal, and everybody would be relieved, if there were to be an agreement and the withdrawal were to be part of an agreement. By agreement, I mean settlement between Israel and Syria and Lebanon. If the withdrawal is conducted outside an agreement, it will obviously have an impact, regardless of how the issue is settled, on the United Nations troops in southern Lebanon. Whatever we do, what we actually do, will depend on the actual decisions taken at the time. Of course, in all these situations where you have a military presence, you do contingency planning and look at different scenarios.
Question: As a follow-up, have you, either personally or through envoys, been discussing these plans with the parties -- with the Israelis and the Lebanese in particular -- and what do you think of the Israeli decision? That was the first part of my question.
The Secretary-General: We have not yet reached the stage of discussing our contingency plans with the parties or the countries involved. I think the Israeli decision to withdraw from Lebanon has been on the table for a long time. As you know, it has been under discussion for quite a long time. Of course, July, in the scheme of things and in the discussions going on in the region, is a long way off and I hope that we will see some movement on the Syrian-Lebanese track. My own hope and sense are that it is still not a lost cause and it may be possible to get those talks off the ground. Real progress can be made if the parties come back to the table with an open mind and in a spirit of compromise and give-and-take.
Question: Has there been some reluctance on your part to address the lingering issues of Afghanistan and Kashmir, where the United Nations has been involved for so many decades?
The Secretary-General: You know what the United Nations is doing on Afghanistan. We recently held a meeting of the "6+2" and I also met only last week with an Organization of the Islamic Conference group that is trying to bring the Afghan parties together, led by the Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran, Mr. Zarif. I have only recently appointed an Assistant Secretary-General to head our operations in Afghanistan. So we are quite active and, of course, Mr. Brahimi, who is here with us today, has devoted quite a lot of time to the Afghan crisis.
As far as the region is concerned, you may know that I had planned a visit earlier this year, but it was not convenient to all the countries in the region and I would have preferred to visit all the countries in one swoop. It is a long way to go and keep going. That was impossible, so I have decided to find another suitable time to do it.
Question: Any plans after President Clinton visits South Asia during this month?
The Secretary-General: My travel plans are not linked to President Clinton's.
Question: I would like to ask for your comments on the intention of Bosnia and Herzegovina to open an embassy on the Greek side of Cyprus. Do you think this idea will harm the relationship between the two leaders?
The Secretary-General: I was not aware of this decision, and I do not see how that will complicate our negotiations.
Question: Do you think that they will continue if they open an embassy in Cyprus?
The Secretary-General: What would they continue if they open an embassy in Cyprus?
Question: Continue to discuss the situation.
The Secretary-General: If you are talking about the peace talks, the next meeting we are trying to schedule will be sometime in May, and I think the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina decides to open an embassy in Cyprus should, in my judgment, not have any direct impact on the peace talks.
Question: You spoke about Bernard Kouchner's emphasis on self-government and autonomy for Kosovo in the future. Mr. Kouchner himself talked about the need for a minimum of confidence between the two governments. This morning the Yugoslav envoy attacked both the United Nations Mission and KFOR, as well as your own report for basically not taking into consideration what has happened to the Serbs. How do you expect to have real autonomy and self-government in Kosovo without some kind of dealings with the Government in Belgrade?
The Secretary-General: I think that when Kouchner spoke to you yesterday, he raised the issue that we talk of substantial autonomy, but it has not been defined in any way. On the ground, he is dealing with a population that is thinking only of independence and is determined to have independence. That is the Albanian population. The Serbs have other ambitions and other dreams, and this is why he is saying that if the future political settlement is not clear, it is going to be difficult for us to get these two communities to deal with each other and with us.
I know that the Government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has been unhappy with the operations and with the way we are implementing the resolution. They believe some decisions we have taken which we have considered practical are steps towards independence: for example, issuing license plates, coming up with a currency, coming up with an identity card or travel document. All of these steps are for them signs of preparing Kosovo for independence.
We also feel that in the practical sense, you cannot administer a territory without some of these practical measures. So the statement you refer to is not surprising. We have been criticized from the beginning. We have a very difficult mandate. The ambiguities are now becoming clearer to almost everybody, and we are trying to do our best under very difficult circumstances.
But you have also touched on a very important issue, because we are talking of elections. If we are going to have elections, all of the residents in Kosovo, or people who are qualified to vote, must be registered, including those who have left the territory. Many of the Serbs have left. How do you register Serbs in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia if you do not have some contact with Belgrade? These are the issues that we are grappling with, and we hope we will be able to find some practical ways out.
Question: I should like to return quickly to Indonesia. A two-part question on the refugees. You are talking about setting up a joint commission, you are talking about setting up a joint task force, you are talking about breaking up the camps. To the international aid experts on the ground, it sounds like an awfully slow and bureaucratic response to something that they believe could really be resolved very rapidly. They say that if there were the political will among the Indonesian armed forces, they could take control of those camps in just one weekend. We know that there are gross human rights violations continuing. People are being raped, tortured, perhaps killed. And having taken control of the camps, the refugees could return. If they wanted, they could walk across the border in 24 hours. You might not want 60,000 refugees to return home at first, but it could be done. Are you concerned that the response is overly bureaucratic? Do you believe there is political will in the armed forces? I am not talking about the Government but the Indonesian armed forces. How long are you prepared to give them to resolve this problem? And on a related question on the issue of trying Indonesian military officers who have been accused of human rights violations, how long are you prepared to allow the Indonesian system to deal with it before the international community has to step in?
The Secretary-General: On your first question, let me say that I discussed this issue not only with President Wahid but with the Minister of Defence and the new Minister who replaced General Wiranto, and I impressed on them the need to get the refugees back as quickly as we can.
You referred to the arrangements and the discussions we have had as bureaucratic. Maybe they are bureaucratic, but we cannot do it without the support and the will and the firm direction of the Indonesian Government. That is why I went there to talk to them. The Indonesian political leadership has to give orders to its military to do that, and that is why I took the time to talk to all key players to impress on them the need for them to make sure the instructions are given and that the refugees should go back. I did not go and talk to the Indonesian military myself, but I talked to their political bosses, which is the way to do it. We will keep in touch with them and keep pressing for it to be done as soon as possible.
On your second question, I agree with the letter the Council sent to me that Indonesia should be given the chance to set up the trial. Indonesia has accepted the responsibility of prosecuting those who have been accused. What time-frame the Council should give them, I cannot say. But in my discussions with the Attorney- General, he had hoped that the trial would begin within three months.
Question: On your peacekeeping commission, are you expecting or even hoping that it might return to that hoary old chestnut of a standing rapid intervention force for the United Nations, which in East Timor might have been able to stop some of the worst of the atrocities there?
The Secretary-General: This is an issue that has been on the table for a long time. It is not a project the Member States are excited about for all sorts of reasons. Mr. Brahimi is here, but I am not sure if the panel will come up and recommend something like that. What they may, perhaps, want to look at is the SHIRBRIG arrangements, where troops of countries, particularly the Scandinavian countries, Canada and the Netherlands, have come together and each agreed to identify a high-readiness brigade that would be trained at home and would be on standby to participate in peacekeeping operations if the countries concerned were to decide to participate. And if they did, then headquarters elements could be on the ground within 48 hours and formed units within a month. That would be a major, major improvement on the four to five months it now takes the United Nations to put troops on the ground. But I am afra