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26 April 2002
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FRED ECKHARD
SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Friday, April 26, 2002
UN, ISRAEL TO CONTINUE TALKS ON MIDDLE EAST TEAM
A visiting Israeli delegation met Thursday for two and a half hours with a UN team headed by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast. The talks were professional and constructive, the United Nations believes, and provided an opportunity to clarify a number of points.The Israelis then asked to resume this morning at 9:00 a.m. while they sought instructions from their capital overnight.
This morning, they called to say that the Israeli Cabinet was still meeting and therefore they didn't have their instructions. The talks resumed at noon, before the groups broke up for lunch. Prendergast told reporters today’s session was “constructive.”
[Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a statement issued through his Spokesman later Friday, said, "The discussions between the United Nations and the Israeli delegation on the fact-finding team that will look into recent events in Jenin camp have concluded. These discussions took place in a cordial and constructive atmosphere. Clarifications on the up-coming mission were provided by the United Nations. The United Nations has been informed that the Israeli Cabinet will take a formal decision on the matter on Sunday morning, 28 April. The Foreign Minister has requested that, due to the Israeli Sabbath, the team arrive on Sunday. Given these special circumstances, the Secretary-General has agreed to this request."]
Asked by the Associated Press and the Times of London as he left the Security Council this morning if he were concerned about press reports out of Israel that the office of the Prime Minister had issued a statement requesting that the
UN fact-finding team
be held back until points of dispute are settled, Secretary-General Kofi Annan answered, "No. I think our talks are going reasonably well."
He added, "We are giving them the appropriate clarifications and I do expect the team to leave tomorrow. I don't think there's any reason for further delay."
In the April 23
by the President of the Security Council for April, Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov said that the Council expects the expeditious implementation of
and full cooperation of Israel with the Secretary-General and with the fact-finding team.
In Geneva, the fact-finding team today is continuing its organizational meetings and identifying its requirements.
Asked about where the team would travel, the Spokesman said that team leader Martti Ahtisaari had not announced its program, but its mandate is to investigate events at the camp in Jenin. He understood that the team is preparing to leave for the Middle East on Saturday.
Asked about whether a counter-terrorism expert had been added to the team, the Spokesman said he was unaware one had. However, he noted, the team’s police adviser, Peter Fitzgerald, could be expected to ask for additional help, as military adviser Gen. (ret.) William Nash had done. [He said later that two Irish police officers would be added to the team.]
The Spokesman declined to answer questions on specific details of the talks until they conclude.
Asked about precedents for how the Secretary-General could report back on the team’s findings, the Spokesman said the Secretary-General would have to make a decision later on whether or not to make those findings public, but his inclination in past instances has been to go public.
Asked about the Israeli officials with whom the Secretary-General discussed the team, the Spokesman noted his recent discussions with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer.
SECURITY COUNCIL TO DISCUSS MIDDLE EAST THIS AFTERNOON
The Security Council has scheduled further consultations on the Middle East at 3:30 p.m., following a short briefing they received late Thursday afternoon from Kieran Prendergast on the progress of the talks with the Israeli delegation.
After that briefing,
Security Council President Lavrov said
that Council members noted various political efforts underway to achieve the goals set out in the Council’s resolutions. They expressed the hope that all these efforts would bring about positive changes on the ground, including a non-violent resolution of the situation around Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah and the arrival of the fact-finding team by the end of the week.
He added that, during this afternoon’s consultations, the Council would receive an update from the Secretariat and would have another round of discussions, with the participation of the Departments of Political Affairs and Peacekeeping Operations, on the Secretary-General’s initiative for a multinational force for the Palestinian territories.
MARY ROBINSON ADDRESSES CLOSE OF HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, in her
to the closing session of the Commission on Human Rights today in Geneva, said that two shadows – the worsening situation in the Middle East and the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks – loomed over the recent session. She noted that many statements during this session “affirmed the importance of upholding fully human rights and humanitarian law standards in combating terrorism.”
She added she was worried about a possible trend during this session that would seek to weaken the Commission’s protection role, which she said could be seen in some votes that showed “a preference for an approach excluding action if consensus was not possible.”