UNSG press encounter after UNSC Consult - 28/7/6
New York, 28 July 2006 - Secretary-General's press encounter following the Security Council consultations on the Middle East
Q: Welcome back. Are you tired?
SG: A bit tired, but it's the nature of the world we live in.
I've just come back from the conference in Rome, where there was a broad understanding on the need for a political agreement and a political framework which will allow us to move forward. This would include not only the political agreement, but also a military force that would go to the south to help strengthen the sovereignty of the Government of Lebanon. The emphasis should be on strengthening the Government of Lebanon to take charge of its territory and to extend its authority throughout the country, and be able to implement [Security Council] resolution 1559 fully. Lebanon is in a very difficult situation and does need the sustained support of the international community.
Obviously, we did not get a consensus on cessation of hostilities, so some believe that the conference achieved nothing. But I think we did make good progress on the other aspects.
Mr. [Jan] Egeland is briefing the Council on the humanitarian situation. As you know, I've just sent him in a few days ago and he was able to visit all the areas affected. And he's sharing his impressions with the Council and will be able to speak to you when he comes out of the Council. So I will leave him to brief you on the humanitarian situation.
But the people in Lebanon need our help. And I think many battles are being fought on the soil of Lebanon, and some have absolutely nothing to do with Lebanon. And we should focus on the needs and the safety and the future of Lebanon. Thank you.
Q: Secretary-General, how do you feel? Do you feel that Rome and the Security Council consultations about the Presidential Statement regarding the deaths of the military observers - do you feel that it's a failure, and how would you comment on that?
SG: Right from the beginning, you noticed that I've been pushing for action. I think the time has come for us to really be action-oriented and concrete steps that can be taken to help the protagonists and the civilians who caught in the middle. We've gone beyond statements and exhortations. We're looking for concrete, practical steps to take action. And whilst in Europe, I did talk to several countries that may contribute troops for the stabilization force, and I look forward to meeting with some of the governments here, organizing a meeting here early next week with potential troop contributors to begin to really move things ahead.
Q: Will you use every power and moral authority at your disposal to ask the Security Council to stop the carnage in Lebanon that's going on, which everybody recognizes as such, but nobody is able to do anything about it. Will you be able to do that?
And also, tell me, in exclusivity, 1559, can it be implemented exclusively, without also implementing resolutions 242 and 338?
SG: All UN resolutions must be implemented. I'm not promoting selective implementation of UN resolutions. They are all important, and as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I seek to promote implementation of all UN resolutions.
And as to the first part of your question, let me say that I just came back from the Council chamber; I just came out of there. And they are also anxious and concerned that something be done. They're anxious and concerned that they should be seen as taking action and, indeed, do take action that will make a difference on the ground. So I hope that self-induced pressure is going to turn into some concrete action.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, two things. Could you clarify to us please, when you spoke in Rome about bringing in Iran and Syria, would you kindly explain if you meant to bring them in as part of the solution; like 1559 says, this is Lebanese position, it's not Syria or Iran? Or did you mean that only exclusively through asking them to stop alleged weapons and support that they're extending to Hezbollah? And so what are the conditions, from your point of view, it's not a ceasefire. From you point of view, what are they now?
SG: Sorry, I didn't get the last part of the question.
Q: Some people are calling for a ceasefire and we know that a ceasefire, period, is not happening. So to bring about the ceasefire, you've been thinking about this I'm sure -- ceasefire, how? How do you do that?
SG: I think on your question, let me say that the emphasis should be on Lebanese sovereignty, working with the Government and the people of Lebanon to take charge of their territory and their destiny. I think that is the cardinal principle that should drive all the efforts that the international community is involved in.
On the question of who has a contribution to make as we attempt to achieve that objective, obviously, we need to work with the Lebanese. We need to work with the region. And when I said the region has a role to play, including Syria and Lebanon – because at the discussions, we had some of the regional partners, but these two were not there. And everybody knows that they do have influence on Hezbollah and, if we're going to be able to resolve this issue, not only do we need to work with the Government of Lebanon, but we should encourage those who have influence to bring that influence to bear. And I think it is normal. I mean, we all, for example, turn and look to U.S. and say the U.S. has influence on Israel and should try and work with Israel for us to find a solution. I think the same logic applies to the other side – whoever has influence. That should not diminish from the authority of the Lebanese Government.
On the question of a ceasefire, obviously, ceasefire in these situations will have to be negotiated. I called for cessation of hostilities which, hopefully, will lead to ceasefire. Cessation of hostilities can be called for and the parties, if they are agree, can just stop fighting to allow certain things to happen, to allow the sort of work for us to deal with the humanitarian emergency that Jan Egeland is briefing the Council on now. You will need that cessation of hostilities to put in the force anyway, you know. And of course, a ceasefire obviously will have to be negotiated, and that may take a while.
Q: Hezbollah is not a state, sir. So how do you do it? Who's negotiating here?
SG: I think we have had many situations where agreements have been reached. First of all, there is a Government of Lebanon that is a counterpart here. The Government of Lebanon has its own links and Hezbollah is a member of the Government, and they talk to each other. But even besides the fact that there is a Government of Lebanon, there are many examples in history, I don't need to tell you this, where there have been negotiations and ceasefires agreed with militias, with insurgencies, which has allowed peace processes to move forward.
Q: Secretary-General, do you feel that the Presidential Statement issued by the Security Council on the four observers will affect the appetite of troop contributing countries?
SG: I think the whole unfortunate event which happened with the UN peacekeepers and the time it took the Council to be able to react, has had a bit of a pall on them, but I hope they all realize the urgency and the importance of what we are dealing with and will be able to come forward with troops. As I said in Rome, I've had the opportunity to speak to the Prime Minister of Israel on this issue, and he indicated to me that he couldn't believe it could be intentional. He offered his deep sorrow and seemed genuinely upset about it, which we accept. He has indicated that he is going to do an investigation. I have urged that we do a joint investigation, because we will do our own investigation. It would be best if we could do a joint investigation. Otherwise, we will have two reports on the table. But I think we should all hold our horses until the results of the investigation are out. And I was grateful to receive the Prime Minister's apology and expression of sorrow, which is normal.
Q: Do you foresee that the solution would have to include the Hezbollah becoming part of the Lebanese army, in some form or another? And you also mentioned battles that have nothing to do with Lebanon taking place in Lebanese soil. Is this, in any sense, that you see that this is a proxy war with Iran and Syria going on in Lebanon?
SG: I said many wars are going on – many battles. So don't draw me into that now; we'll be here for quite a while.
Let me say, on your specific question, that I think the Lebanese themselves were discussing this. In fact, the question of the disarmament of Hezbollah was very much on the national agenda. During the national dialogue, this was one of them, Hezbollah was part of the discussions. There has been suggestion in the past by the Lebanese that they would want to transform Hezbollah into a sort of a national guard, bringing it under the command of the army. Whether this is still on the table or not, I do not know. But they need to find a way of disarming Hezbollah and creating a situation where there will be one authority and one gun, and extend the authority through the territory. And this where the international community needs to work with them and give them the support, the space, by deploying the stabilization force.
Q: Does that mean transformation rather than disarmament?
SG: I think it's said that there's many ways to skin a cat.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, a couple house-keeping things. Are you planning to call a meeting of potential troop contributors for an international force, Monday or any other time this week? And what do you know about a possible ministerial meeting at the UN? And thirdly, are you planning any missions to Damascus or Tehran?
SG: You have lots of house-keeping issues. [laughs]
Let me say that, yes, we will be bringing together a group of countries that may be potential troop contributors, hopefully on Monday. Obviously it will be preliminary discussions, because we do not have the mandate of the Security Council yet. And it is the mandate, and what the troops are being asked to do, that would eventually help governments make up their minds whether they participate or do not participate.
With regards to a possible ministerial meeting, there has been talk about it. I first heard about it when we were in Rome, that there may be a need for a Council meeting at the ministerial level, probably sometime next week. But I don't think any date or time has been fixed yet.
For the immediate [period], I have no travel plans for Iran or Syria. But that is for the immediate. If it is necessary, obviously, I will do it.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, earlier you talked about reports regarding the Israeli attack on the UNIFIL post. We got indications yesterday that Israel wasn't standing around, waiting, cooperating with the United Nations. Do you foresee you're going to get cooperation from them?
SG: Well, the Prime Minister was very correct and very forthcoming. He did not promise that he accepted a joint investigation. I suggested it, and he said we'll look at it. But he didn't promise that they will do it. We are going ahead with our own investigation, and I thought it would have been best if we did a joint one, so that we don't have two reports on the table and begin another debate as to which is the correct one and which one is acceptable, and which one is not. But in any event, it is important that a thorough investigation be conducted and the reports be made public. We will make ours public too, if we do not end up with a joint investigation.
Q: To take a wider view, sir, do you see any rising consensus on the part of the international community that organizations or militias or military or paramilitary organizations that operate within the boundaries of one state and threaten the security of an adjoining state, and simultaneously the very sovereignty of the state from which they operate, simply will not be tolerated by the international community?
SG: I think in this particular situation, you do have a Council resolution, 1559, which has attempted to deal with the issue of units within a state which are armed, asking for disarmament of all militia, Lebanese and non-Lebanese. I think we need to be able to contain terrorism. We need to be able to deal with those who commit these atrocious acts. But in seeking effective action against terrorists, I think, one, we need to focus our action on the perpetrators of the crime, and be concerned about its impact on civilians in the vicinity. And we should also be careful that our fight against terrorism, effective action against terrorism, does not erode our basic belief in human rights and the rule of law.
But you are right that terrorists cannot be given a free reign. So on that, I think, the international community has made it clear, we need to work together to root out terrorism. I myself have put forward a comprehensive proposal for a fight against terrorism to the General Assembly, which they are looking at now. And I hope the Member States will come to an agreement on how they come together to fight terrorism
Q: One question on the Congo, please. There's an op-ed in the New York Times today by a British television journalist who filmed a village in the Congo in April being burned while MONUC [UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] stood by, this was reported in The Guardian. His op-ed in the Times says that he was never contacted by MONUC during their investigation. And then, earlier today at the noon briefing, we were told that the allegations have been thoroughly investigated and found untrue. There's also Peter Karim, who took the UN peacekeepers hostage and has now been incorporated into the Congolese army. I guess, with both of these as the backdrop, is the UN system so committed to the elections that it's doing half-dash investigations of MONUC abuses, and why would Peter Karim, who you said would have personal accountability, be allowed into the Congolese army?
SG: First of all, let me say that we are serious about the Congolese elections. We are working very hard with other partners to ensure that we will work with the Congolese people and leaders to resolve the conflict that has engulfed their state for so long. It is the first time they are going to have a chance to vote in over 40 years, and we are working with them. And we hope we'll be able to organize the elections in a reasonably secure environment.
I do not have details of the issues you've raised, and I'm not aware that Karim has been recruited in the Congolese army, but I will look into these issues.
Q: Mr. [Dmitry] Titov gave a briefing, and he said that he was aware that that was part of the deal for the release.
SG: I'm not aware of this.
Q: When you were in Rome, you said at the end of the meeting that you will urge the Security Council for a cessation of hostilities and ceasefire too. How urgent is it, if urgent had been two weeks now, and we are talking about perhaps a week, days, and more weeks?
SG: I sense your frustration, and the sense that we are behaving as if we don't know the meaning of the word “urgent”. But as I said this morning, we have really had a lengthy discussion on this in the Council. And the Council members themselves are beginning to get frustrated, and I hope that will lead to some action.
Q: Sur le Congo, nous sommes à deux jours des élections. L'ONU s'est investi énormement dans ce processus. Est-ce que vous avez un appel à lancer aux électeurs qui vont se rendre aux urnes le dimanche prochain?
SG: Je demande aux Congolais et aux Congolaises de vraiment participer activement mais il faut éviter les violences. Et je demande aux dirigeants politiques et les leaders politiques d'accepter les resultats des élections. On ne veut pas voir au lendemain des élections que des gens demandent des manifestations et demandent à leurs supporteurs de se rendre dans la rue en critiquant les gens qui ont gagné. Dans ce genre d'élections, il y a des gagnants et des perdants. Il y a une règle du jeu et je demande aux Congolais de l'accepter. Tout le monde les soutient. Nous sommes en train de les aider à batir un état et j'espère qu'ils vont saisir l'opportunité de vraiment vaincre leurs differences à travers le vote [Pluto] qu'à travers, disons, d'autres moyens.