|New York, 13 June 2006 - Secretary-General's press encounter following Security Council Meeting on Timor-Leste
SG: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
Let me first say a word about Palestine - how shocked and saddened I am by the latest missile attack by the Israelis, which killed nine people and wounded about forty. I have always maintained that there has to be proportional use of force, and governments have to be careful not to take action in areas where civilians are remotely likely to be put in harm's way, and that we need to respect humanitarian international law. I offer my deepest condolences to the families that lost their loved ones, and I would also want to say that, with regards to the [Qassam] attacks by the Palestinians, I have always condemned it and ask them to stop doing it. You will note that in all my reports to the [Security] Council, this has been reported to the Council, and in my own contacts with the two sides – with President [Mahmoud] Abbas and the Israelis – I have also maintained this. It was only last weekend that I spoke to the Israeli Prime Minister about this issue when the incident at the beach occurred.
Q: Mr. Secretary, the Israelis have done their own investigation into the first attack on the beach where that girl lost her whole family, and officials are saying that they are concluding that this is a mine that was on the beach, that sort of thing. Human rights organizations are saying that this is quite unlikely. Is it time for an international investigation - any which way – whether it is the High Commissioner for Human Rights, or any which way you might find it necessary on both of these attacks in protection of these Palestinian innocent civilians?
SG: To find a mine on the beach is rather odd. With regards to an international investigation of any kind, it would require the cooperation of the parties. We would need both the Israelis and Palestinian authorities to cooperate with such an investigation. Our previous attempts at such investigations were not too successful, and I think you remember very well, you are the first to raise this and maybe we need to see what – we haven't had a request from any of the others.
Q: But would you call on the Israelis and the Palestinians to allow an international investigation?
SG: I haven't seen the results of the Israeli investigation to be able to answer your questions. But I think one would need to look at the investigation - how thorough, how competent it is, and how acceptable it is for one to extrapolate from there.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, at a time when President Mahmoud Abbas is trying to force the hand of Hamas to accept the referendum, to instill the principle of the Road Map and two States living side by side in peace, Israel is conducting its offensive? [inaudible] missile attacks, targeting the efforts of President Mahmoud Abbas?
SG: I think we are living through a very difficult situation in the Palestinian territory. First of all, the Palestinians should find a way of unifying their efforts and coming together, and I think President Abbas and the other parties should work on bringing everyone together and define a common vision that they would all share. Division and infighting between the Palestinians does not help. I think that is the first issue one needs to focus on and settle. Obviously, given the tensions on the ground, the Israeli missile attacks have not helped either. We do accept that Israel has a right to defend itself and its population, but the issue of proportionality and respect for international humanitarian law is a basic requirement.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, yesterday Jan Egeland briefed us on East Timor and he said that the world is poor in addressing emerging crises. Today the International Crisis Group just put out a report saying that, if there is a high-level assassination in the Occupied Territories, Palestine would go into civil war. Are you considering using other diplomatic resources, such as the Quartet, or talking to other people about making a move in the area?
SG: The Quartet is constantly in contact. We do have conference calls, and we are in touch with each other, both at the Envoy level, and at the Principal level. I can assure you that we are all extremely concerned about these developments, and I am personally in touch with the leaders in the region. I spoke to Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert over the weekend, and I expect to speak to President Abbas shortly. And I am also in touch with my other Quartet principals, and I will also be in touch with other leaders in the region.
Q: But you have a position on assassinations, Mr. Secretary-General. Are you not repeating it about these assassinations – extrajudicial, is that what you call them? It is against international law, do you not stand by what you said?