Question of Palestine home
1 May 2002
Press encounter with Mr. Kieran Prendergast following his introduction to the Security Council
of the Secretary-General's letter conveying his decision to disband the Jenin Fact-Finding Team,
1 May 2002, 8:15pm
KP: Good evening. You wanted me.
Q: Is the mission definitely called off for tomorrow?
KP: All I wanted to say to you, and all I can say to you, is that the
Secretary-General has written to the Security Council
to tell them of his intention to disband the fact-finding team tomorrow, and the Council is now considering its response to the Secretary-General's letter.
Q: What could keep the Secretary-General from taking that drastic measure of disbanding this mission?
KP: I think I want to concentrate on, if you look at the letter, and it is going to be published as an official Security Council document, you will see that he has come to that decision because he believes that the objections that the Government of Israel has to deployment of the mission are fundamental objections, and therefore they are most unlikely to be overcome.
Q: How seriously would you consider, or would he consider, the option of allowing the team in some sense to go forward in Geneva with a fact-finding effort?
KP: Well, we consulted the team about that, and the team were very clearly of the view that in order to produce a credible report, a full report, an accurate report and a balanced report they would need to go to Jenin, they could not do it from Geneva, therefore we discarded that option and the Secretary-General was left with only one option which was to decide to disband the team.
Q: Is there anything the Council can do to keep this thing alive, Sir?
KP: Well, that will be for the Council to consider, won't it? I can't usurp their prerogatives.
Q: What options could they investigate tonight that would keep it alive?
KP: Well, you see, I am not a spokesman for the Council, so I can't tell you what they would do. I can tell you what we are doing, in the Secretariat, but the rest you can either ask them, and there are lots of them about, or you can speculate.
Q: You talk about it in the letter, about regret. Is this something that you and the Secretary-General have worked on? It has almost been two weeks. He hints at it. I know we can't show a letter on TV, but can you talk about the level of regret over what's happened now, the fact that the team won't go there.
KP: Well, the idea of a fact-finding team wasn't the Secretary-General's in the first place. The idea was actually an Israeli idea. It was only on the basis of assurances from two Israeli Ministers of full Israeli cooperation that the SG went ahead and that was the basis that the American government tabled
that welcomed the Secretary-General's intention. I think the Secretary-General thought it was a good idea and in everybody's interest to have an impartial and accurate, credible, comprehensive report on the facts in Jenin. So of course he regrets that that is not now going to be possible it seems.
Q: What does this mean for precedent now? It seems like now, next time the UN wants to send a fact-finding team to any part of the world, you can stonewall the UN for a week, and it will back down.
KP: Well, I think it's an acceptance of the reality that it's not possible to do the job properly without the full cooperation of the Government of Israel, and I think that what has changed is that the cooperation was assured in the beginning and the cooperation has been withdrawn for reasons about which you will have to ask the Government of Israel.
Q: Was it Secretary-General Annan's intention to leave the door open to the Council by saying Thursday instead of just
KP: I think you got that one slightly wrong. Tomorrow is Thursday. The SG has announced his intention. I think that is a
courtesy to the Council, but I have been in the consultations of the Council and I think the general wish of the Council is to support the Secretary-General and to respect his judgment.
Q: But if he's disbanded the mission, why not do it forthwith, why wait until tomorrow?
KP: Do you remember when I just mentioned the word "courtesy"?
Q: Did you receive a letter from the Government of Israel?
KP: No, we have had no formal communication in writing of the decision of the Security Cabinet.
Q: So there is no way a 24-hour further delay could happen as has been suggested by some inside?
KP: Well I suppose it would, but then what would be effect if the Council were to ask the Secretary-General to delay for 24 hours and then there was no change. I am not sure that would be very good for the credibility of the Council.
Q: What about the list - have you received the list from the Israelis saying that this is a six point [inaudible]
KP: I explained to you that we have had no written communication from the Government of Israel.