Question of Palestine home
19 July 2006
PRESS ENCOUNTER WITH DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL,
MARK MALLOCH BROWN,
UNHQ, 19 July 2006
MMB: Let me just have a quick opening word, and then the floor is to you.
The Secretary-General will be back tonight and will address the [Security] Council tomorrow. But I just didn’t want, and he didn’t want, the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Lebanon and Gaza to go unnoted by us in the meantime.
In his eyes, this situation, where more than 200 Lebanese lives have been lost; 500 people or more have been wounded; there has been displacement, and affected people up to perhaps as many as half a million at this stage; and with absolutely no end to the hostilities in sight, his concern about this situation only grows. As you know, he has said repeatedly that while obviously there needs to be a political and security solution to the crisis, what there needs to be now is a cessation of hostilities. Civilians are very unfairly bearing the greatest brunt of this conflict in Lebanon. And, as well, civilians have lost their lives in Israel. And this loss of innocent life by people who are not combatants to this conflict is in breach of humanitarian law, but it is in breach of the kind of world I think we all believe in. And so the need to bring this to a stop while we find a longer term political and security solution is one that he will be stressing tomorrow in the Council.
Q: This morning Ambassador [John] Bolton said that the call for a ceasefire is really too simplistic. How, he said, can you negotiate a ceasefire with a terrorist group, that that’s not where you start. You start with implementing [Resolution] 1559. You are saying, “No, we got to get a stop here first.”
MMB: Well, I used the term that the Secretary-General prefers to use, which is a “cessation of hostilities” which is perhaps at initial stage just both sides saying, we stop, we pause. But as I said, you then need a very real political negotiation to put in place a settlement which addresses the political and security dimensions of this. And which, as the Secretary-General has indicated, might then be backed by a new UN expanded stabilization force. So you have got three phases to this - you need to stop the killing of civilians; you need to put in place a negotiated longer term settlement; and as part of that, you may need to look at enhancing UNIFIL with perhaps a new mission with a robuster mandate and perhaps more force. And there are some other things, like having the Lebanese army able to operate across the country, so there are lots of things down the road. But I think the basic point is, saving or losing life is a very simple business. He is right in that regard. And I think we have got to just face the fact: innocent civilians are being killed, and that is just not right. These are not people who are party to this conflict, and the Secretary-General will go on appealing for an end to this violence.
Q: There is a report today in the New York Times that says that the Bush administration and Israel have agreed that this campaign can continue for another week to twelve days, in order to wipe out the Hezbollah. Now, whatever the reasons, where does the United Nations stand on this particular aspect?
MMB: The United Nations thinks this should not continue. That it is enormously important to stop the violence and allow this to be resolved by intense diplomatic negotiation. I think the Middle East is littered with the results of people believing there are military solutions to political problems in the region, and the region has paid a heavy burden for that assumption in the past. I think we still believe that, on humanitarian grounds, but also to enable ultimately a sustainable solution to this, one which allows Israel and its neighbours to live at peace with each other, continued conflict does not help that.
Q: Mr. Deputy Secretary-General. You just referred to it as a new UN force, rather than a possible multinational force outside the UN. Ambassador Bolton has indicated that he would prefer looking at a multinational force as opposed to a UN force, something along the lines of the force in Sinai. And also I would like your response to the fact that the Syrian Government made clear that it did not want Terje Roed-Larsen to go to Damascus.
MMB: On the first point, I think this is really absolutely up to the Security Council and in consultation with the Secretary-General, to decide what character and label such a force would have. I think we are a long way from that, and I think it is very properly something to be debated. As I have said, we have got to deal first with the issue of stopping the fighting and getting a negotiated solution. A force comes at the end of that process, and you know, I don’t think we are wedded to a particular version of this. The Secretary-General has had a number of leaders say to him they would prefer a UN force, but I think we have seen that this can be done a number of different ways. For us the criteria would be what is the most effective way to do it.
On your second question, obviously the Secretary-General considers it his business to choose who to send on good offices missions of his own. He has heard the Syrian point on that. It is not an issue, because the mission isn’t going to Syria at the moment, but he reserves very much the right to make his own choices about who represents him in different meetings.
Q: They’re not going because they were told that Roed-Larsen wouldn’t be received by [President Bashar al-]Assad, correct?
MMB: They are not going – I mean certainly that has been heavily speculated and it is clearly the case that the Syrians didn’t want him. We are lucky enough to miss having to make that judgment, because the driving reason for bringing them back was the fact that tomorrow’s Security Council meeting has now become a pretty major moment in all of this, where the Council has said they want to be briefed by the mission. Ambassador Bolton has been calling for that, as have other members of the Council. The Secretary-General is now himself going to brief the Council, and will be meeting later in the day with Secretary [of State Condoleezza] Rice and possibly [European Union High Commissioner] Javier Solana who has also been in the region. He wanted the mission here. We have to decide where we are going next with this, because obviously the mission hasn’t found easy answers in the region, and we want to work out where to go next.
Q: I just want to be clear on this. The mission did not plan to go to Syria, before returning? Or it cancelled the plans because of …
MMB: The mission did plan to go to Syria. One of the issues we would have had to grapple with is what to do about Roed-Larsen, given what the Syrian Ambassador has told you, and indeed what we knew. The issue became moot, because the Secretary-General decided that he wanted them back here to brief him and the Council. But I am not telling [you] there wasn’t an issue. It’s just, what would have been a tough choice was one he didn’t have to make because he needed them back here.
Q: Does the Secretary-General consider sending the mission without Terje Roed-Larsen, so that he can have diplomatic contact with the Syrians?
MMB: Well, he has spoken on the phone to President Assad and, there’s no doubt that, if this diplomatic initiative of his continues, he will want a team to visit Damascus. No doubt, this is an issue we will have to face down the road.
Q: Even without Terje Roed-Larsen?
MMB: We’ll have to face the issue is the point. I’m not going to speak for the Secretary-General.
Q: So, “yes”.
MMB: It is not a “yes”.
Q: It’s, he’s considering.
MMB: No. What I said … You have asked a hypothetical, “If he goes to Syria, would Larsen be on the trip?” At this point, we don’t have a trip planned to Syria, having decided not to go on this mission. We’ll face that issue when we get to it.
Q: On the issue of Secretary Rice and Javier Solana, what are we looking at for tomorrow? What is this going to be, a dinner at the Secretary-General’s residence? What are they going to talk about? What is the plan at that meeting?
MMB: It will be a private dinner. There will be a broader meeting, either before it or the following morning with the mission and others, because really, at this point, we are trying to get everybody on the same page about the facts of what’s happening in this very confusing situation. But also, of course, to see to what extent there is a common international position, because there is no doubt that the ability of the international community to influence these extremely dangerous events in the region will be enormously helped if everybody is as close to each other as possible in terms of the messages they are delivering to the leaders of the region.
Q: Does the UN force in southern Lebanon have any contact with Hezbollah, and what are Hezbollah saying to the UN about agreeing to a cessation of hostilities?
MMB: I am going to let the Secretary-General report tomorrow on the different contacts we have had with different groups. But I think it goes without saying that anyone who has visited southern Lebanon knows Hezbollah are a very prominent presence, not just the military side of Hezbollah, but running many of the social services of the region as well. They are not out of sight – they run many of the hospitals and schools as well. But in terms of what messages we have got from all the parties that either the Secretary-General himself has talked to or his negotiating team talked to, I am going to leave that for him for tomorrow.
Q: You’ve already mentioned the tragedy of civilians dying. But I was wondering if the UN believes the moment has arrived where the UN and the international community could work together to disarm and disband the Hezbollah militia, once and for all?
MMB: What I said, I think, just before you came was two things, which is step one is to try and stop this violence against civilians. In some way, win a break to it, to allow negotiation to come in. It is, I think, very clear that negotiation does need to tackle the root causes of this problem, and you’ve touched on one of them.
Q: But negotiation has, so far, failed to yield a result of implementing [Security Council resolution] 1559 fully.
MMB: No so long ago, you were crediting 1559 as one of the few successes of the UN in your eyes. 1559 has been extremely successful, vis-à-vis the Syrians, and evidently less successful as regards Hezbollah. And so I think that will be one of the issues the Council will want to look at: how to address the issues and conditions of 1559 that have not yet been met.
Q: Isn’t it an Orwellian use of the English language to say that you decided not to send the mission to Syria after you were told that it couldn’t go, and say that with a straight face?
MMB: Bloombergian or Orwellian, it is not what I said. What I said was the mission had been invited to Syria, but there was a question mark over one of its participants. That issue of how we should address that was solved for us by the fact that the Secretary-General felt that tomorrow’s debate and the visit of Secretary Rice and Solana had now become such major decision points in terms of how we go forward that the mission should come back. There had been a desire to have the mission briefing here, so the visit to Syria became, at that point, moot.
Q: Why should 1559 be taken as an exclusive? Over and over, this situation developed from Palestine situation, after the kidnapped one [soldier], where again and again people are calling for resolutions 338 and 242 also to be implemented. As President Bush himself would say, now we have to resolve the situation in the overall context and not in parts.
MMB: That’s right, and I think everybody is saying that Security Council, whatever the side of the debate you are on, everybody recognizes that the Security Council has go to engage again around the new situation, look at what are the issues that have go to be solved for a just peace which satisfies all sides of this conflict. Certainly, that is more than just the issue of 1559. Thanks.