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Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

1 April 2002

Press encounter following Secretary-General's briefing to the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East and the question of Palestine (unofficial transcript), New York, 1 April 2002

SG: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I just briefed the Council on developments in the region and my concern about the current escalation. I told the Council that we all keep saying it could never get worse and yet it gets worse by the day. And I appealed to them to work hard to implement their own resolutions, particularly 1402 and 1397. I also believe that they should not only work collectively, but individually through their capitals to have an impact on the situation and to implement these resolutions. I would want to say that now that the parties are locked in the logic of war, we need to do all that we can to move them back to the logic of peace. But the leaders, the parties have to be conscious that it is even more important that they pay attention to civilians and respect international humanitarian law, which is applicable even in situations of war. So I would appeal to them to be very careful about how civilians are treated and respect international law in this respect.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the United States appears to be taking the position that 1402 requires a ceasefire before a withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied territories. There seems to have been a broad view early Saturday morning that this had to be done right away. What is your interpretation of what 1402 means?

SG: I share the Security Council view that there was no sequencing and that things have to move ahead very quickly. And in fact, before the vote, the President of the Council indicated to the members that this was the understanding on which members were going to vote on that resolution.

Q: Mr. Secretary, we had a resolution obviously on early Saturday morning, and now the Arab Group is proposing another resolution calling for the implementation of that resolution. Does it worry you that this is not going anywhere, it dilutes the value and credibility of the UN and the Security Council?

SG: I think this is an issue for the members to decide. But obviously, the Council has to be seized of the issue. My appeal to them was to collectively and individually do whatever they can to implement the resolution. Whether they will think the best way to do it is by passing another resolution or bringing their influence to bear on the parties is something that I will leave them to decide.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, do you think this resolution that's just been passed has a shelf life - that there is a time, a number of days, after which it is necessary to revisit it?

SG: I think the Council should stay constantly seized of the matter because the situation, as I said, is not getting better. In fact, I shared my personal view with the Council that it would take a real optimist to think that we've hit rock bottom. I think it's likely to get worse. So the Council should stay actively engaged and try and do whatever they can to pull the parties back.

Q: Is it helpful to the process that a member of the Security Council chose to boycott the actual vote - a pretty rare occurrence - Syria. I know you don't want to say anything about a member country, but does that bode badly for what may come in terms of the dialogue?

SG: I think we all like to see the Council act unanimously and on important issues like this, when the whole world comes together, we tend to have a greater impact and force. But given the fact that the vast majority of the Council members voted for the resolution, I think its impact is quite powerful.

Q: Have you thought about or ready to maybe go another step, to actually get behind the idea of sending some sort of monitoring - or a third party mechanism in there to stand between the forces or invoke Chapter 7 in a resolution?

SG: No. The question of third party presence was invoked this morning. And in my contacts with leaders around the world, the issue came up very strongly this weekend. So the issue is coming back to the forefront. And I just appealed to the Council that they should think it through and decide how we deal with that. But I think it's very much in the forefront now.

Q: Was this presented by you, Mr. Secretary-General, as a new proposal to overcome the deterioration of the situation?

SG: I did not specifically put it forth, but it came up in the Council discussions and I informed the Council that in my contacts with leaders around the world that issue has been raised by many of them.

Q: Are you ready to support that idea?

SG: I will be discussing it with the Council. I think what is clear is that the parties left to themselves cannot resolve this issue. They need a third party to help with the mediation and perhaps in other forms too.

Q: There was another car bomb explosion today. Critics of you say that you are too biased towards the Palestinian view, that Israel's very security is at risk, and that they have to take terrorism and go at the source.

SG: My answer to those who say that is that peace and security are two sides of the same coin, and you cannot have security without looking at the political aspects of it. And in fact, when you look at the statement I made to the Council this morning, I make that point very, very clearly. We tried security only for 18 months and what have we achieved? I think it is time for us to reassess and reconsider what other elements we should bring to the table. Thank you.

For information media - not an official record