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29 April 2002
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FRED ECKHARD
SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Monday, April 29, 2002
ANNAN SAYS ENTRY OF FACT-FINDING TEAM IS URGENT
With the Israeli delegation that was here last week having returned to Israel, Secretary-General Kofi Annan, upon entering the building this morning,
CNN that the UN's discussions with the delegation had been constructive and useful, clarifying a number of issues of concern to the Israelis.
He said he had given to the Israelis and the Palestinians letters indicating precisely how the fact-finding team would approach its work.
"I think at this stage," he said, "it is very urgent that we go in, find out what happened and put all the rumors and accusations behind us."
At this point, the United Nations is awaiting the Israeli response to the Secretary-General's letter, which was sent on Saturday, with copies shared with the Security Council.
Asked about what response the United Nations was expecting, the Spokesman said it was awaiting a written reply to the Secretary-General’s letter. The Secretary-General, he said, had been on the phone with a number of officials over the weekend, including Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and UN Ambassador Yehuda Lancry. Annan expected a response today, he added.
Eckhard, responding to a question from a journalist who had seen a letter from Lancry replying to the Secretary-General, said the United Nations was unaware of that letter.
Asked about the letters, the Spokesman said they clarified the work the team would do and its three principal members. In the letters, the Secretary-General invites the Israelis and Palestinians to present any relevant information to the team.
Asked how the Secretary-General reacted to the delays in the team’s dispatch, the Spokesman said the Secretary-General “had a certain amount of understanding about the heaviness of the agenda” Israel faced this weekend, including the dispute over Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s confinement, but said it was urgent the team go in now.
Asked why the United Nations believed the issue would be resolved, the Spokesman said the optimism stemmed from the “relatively good exchange” during the UN-Israeli talks last week. “We don’t see any insurmountable obstacles,” Eckhard said, “but it’s up to Israel to reply.”
Asked about whether there had been a misunderstanding between Israel and the Secretary-General about the composition of the team, the Spokesman said the Secretary-General, on April 19, had spoken to Peres and Defence Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer, who had each told him of Israel’s intention to cooperate fully with any team he sent.
FACT-FINDING TEAM CONTINUES WORK, ADDS PERSONNEL
continued its work in Geneva through the weekend while awaiting further instructions from New York.
The names of the two new additions to the team to work with military adviser Gen. William Nash were released in Geneva. They are Col. Miles Wade of the United Kingdom, who worked with Nash in the Balkans, and Major Francois Xavier Thomas, a planning specialist with the French Army.
Two aides to the team’s police adviser, Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald, have also been added. They are Inspector Patrick Leahy of the Irish Police, who arrived today, and who has experience in UN operations in Bosnia, Cambodia and Namibia. The second aide is Assistant Commissioner Dermot Jennings, also of Ireland, who has extensive experience in counter-terrorism work. He will join the team shortly.
The forensic expert for the team, Dr. Helena Ranta, will be joined by three other forensic experts from the University of Helsinki. Dr. Ranta is in Geneva, and her three assistants will be arriving soon.
Asked whether the team would leave without a decision by the Israeli Cabinet, the Spokesman said the team would travel only with the cooperation of the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Asked why it wouldn’t go without such cooperation, he added that it would not be productive to go to the area without the ability to perform the necessary tasks, which would require the cooperation of both parties.
He added, in response to further questions, that he did not want to speculate on whether the team would be pulled back to New York.
MIDDLE EAST TO BE DISCUSSED BY COUNCIL THIS AFTERNOON
The Security Council will meet at 3 p.m. today to continue its consultations on the
, after having held consultations Sunday afternoon in which Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast briefed them on the fact-finding team to
. Prendergast will also brief today.
After the Sunday consultations, Security Council President Sergey Lavrov
the press that Council members remain firm in their insistence on the full implementation of
Security Council Resolution 1405
and are concerned at the continued delay in the arrival of the fact-finding team. They also supported the Secretary-General’s letters, sent over the weekend, to Israeli Ambassador Yehuda Lancry and Palestinian Ambassador Nasser al-Kidwa containing clarifications about the team.
Lavrov added that the Council members expect a “positive report” on the team today.
The Council had discussed the team on Friday afternoon, as well, and also exchanged views at that time about the Secretary-General’s proposals for a multinational force in the area. Both Prendergast and Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno participated in that discussion.