Question of Palestine home
25 April 2002
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FRED ECKHARD
SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Thursday, April 25, 2002
ANNAN, FACT-FINDING TEAM TALK BEFORE UN-ISRAEL MEETING
Secretary-General Kofi Annan and members of his staff, who will be meeting at UN headquarters this afternoon with a visiting Israeli delegation, met via teleconference with Martti Ahtisaari and members of his fact-finding team on the Jenin refugee camp.
Ahtisaari had with him Sadako Ogata and Cornelio Sommaruga, as well as his military adviser, Gen. (ret.) William Nash, and his police adviser, Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald. The new legal adviser, Tyge Lehmann, was also there, as well as support staff.
The Israeli experts will meet at 4:00 p.m. today with a UN team headed by Kieran Prendergast, the Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs. Others on the UN side will be Legal Counsel Hans Corell, Assistant Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi and Military Adviser, Gen. Timothy Ford.
Meanwhile, in Geneva this afternoon, Ahtisaari and his team held further internal organizational meetings, which will continue through Friday. It was decided that Nash would be assisted by two military staff officers. More experts will be brought on board as needed.
The team expects to be in the Middle East on Saturday.
Asked whether the United Nations expected further talks beyond today, the Spokesman said, “Our hope is that we can wrap this up quickly.”
Asked whether the team was awaiting a “green light” to go to the Middle East, Eckhard added that the United Nations was basing its actions on what Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer told the Secretary-General earlier, that Israel expected to cooperate fully with the team. What is happening today, he said, is a clarification.
He would not characterize Israel’s position, but noted that Peres had called the Secretary-General this morning.
Asked whether Peres had objected to Sommaruga, or other team members, the Spokesman said he did not believe the Foreign Minister mentioned objections to any individuals. He said some criticisms of Sommaruga were based on unfounded allegations going back several years, adding, “Most fair-minded people are convinced that Mr. Sommaruga is a towering humanitarian figure of impeccable reputation.” The Secretary-General has full confidence in him and is not considering any changes.
Asked about the two military staff officers assisting Nash, the Spokesman said their names have not yet been announced.
SECURITY COUNCIL TO MEET TODAY ON MIDDLE EAST
On Wednesday afternoon, the Security Council held brief consultations on the Middle East, in which Syria circulated a resolution on behalf of the Arab Group. By the end of consultations, the Syrian draft was put in blue.
The members of the Council agreed to put off a vote on the draft, preferring to wait until the Secretariat meets with the Israeli delegation this afternoon. Once those talks end, they can then move into consultations on the Middle East and receive information from the Secretariat on the result of the talks, and then take up the Syrian draft again.
That meeting has been scheduled for 6:00 p.m. today, with a briefing by Kieran Prendergast.
Council President Sergey Lavrov, who earlier had relayed to Israeli Ambassador Yehuda Lancry the Council’s
about Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s confinement in Ramallah and on the fact-finding team, was to talk to Lancry again to underscore the urgency of the Council's concerns on those two matters.
On behalf of the Council, Ambassador Lavrov was also to inform the Secretary-General that he can count on the Council's full support in his efforts to implement