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Source: Secretary-General
27 August 2001

The Austrian Foreign Minister first made a statement and answered questions.

The SECRETARY-GENERAL: Thank you very much Madame Minister, good morning ladies and gentlemen. I am also very pleased to be here to be in this beautiful part of Austria. And this morning, as the Minister has indicated, we’ve had a chance to discuss many issues including the crisis in the Middle East, the Balkans and she has indicated the issue of globalization and I also had the chance to thank her and through her the Austrian people for the contributions they have made to the United Nations whether is police deployment in peacekeeping operations or military and other assistance in the role you played actively in our organization.

And of course tomorrow I look forward to participating very much in the Dialogue for Civilization. I think we live in an interdependent era and we should really celebrate our diversity rather than be threatened by it. We should not need to detest the other to love what is part of our soul, to love our group; and I hope that the discussions tomorrow would be fruitful and of course again tomorrow I meet Mr. Denktash who has come from Cyprus to talk to me about the Cyprus crisis. We will now take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary-General, where is justice if sanctions are put upon Iraq, Libya and Sudan, while Israel gets away with criminal actions, thank you.

The SECRETARY-GENERAL: The Security Council is a master of its own deliberations. In all the instances or the crisis spots that you have referred to the Council having debated them carefully decides what action to take. Last week the Council had the chance of debating the Palestinian issue and the issue of observers. No concrete action was taken by the Council. But the Council is not insensitive to what is going on in the region and I as Secretary-General have been very engaged in this issue working with your President, I take it you are Egyptian. Working with your President, King Abdulla, the American administration, the European Union and the Russians in search of a solution to the tragedy that is taking place in the region. Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary-General, on our list we have got about the themes you talked with Mrs. Ferrero-Waldner is also mentioned the international organizations in Vienna. I wanted to ask you when will you make public your decision about the extension of contracts of your Under-Secretary-Generals, namely Mr. Arlacchi in Vienna. What will you do to restore the confidence in UNDCP and ODCCP which has been completely shattered by the UN report about Mr. Arlacchi and will you make public the UN report about the boat project.

The SECRETARY-GENERAL: Let me say that the decisions regarding Under-Secretary-Generals, their extension will be taken by me in the fall in New York. And of course these are decisions that will be made public. The report of the UN’ s version of Inspector-General is usually given to the General Assembly and these reports will therefore become public.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary-General, these were very dramatic hours in the Middle East this morning. An Israeli attack helicopter killed a Palestinian activist in Ramallah. Do you see in these circumstances still a chance for the Peres-Arafat meeting that was scheduled for that week in Berlin?

The SECRETARY-GENERAL: I have spoken to Foreign Minister Fischer and he is trying to see what can be done to organize such a meeting and of course the UN, as I indicated earlier, my own office has been quite actively engaged in this and we will do whatever we can to work with Foreign Minister Fischer to move the process forward. We should also be aware that no date has been fixed for the meeting. There is a talk of a meeting but the date has not been fixed. I think the situation in the Middle East is very worrying, is tragic as I have referred to it earlier, we have innocent people suffering and I think the international community has an obligation to do whatever it can to bring an end to this misery. I would also want to say that when it comes to the parties talking together, I have made it clear for many months that in my judgement it is when the killing is going on, when you are living that tragedy, that you must talk. The killings should underscore the urgency of getting together to talk. I do not see how you can bring the situation under control if the protagonists do not come around the table. And so what Foreign Minister Fischer is doing in order to bring the parties together is the right thing to do and I would encourage that.

QUESTION: How big is in your judgement the danger that this low-key warfare situation that we have on the ground will really escalate to a full war.

The SECRETARY-GENERAL: Well, I have already referred to this situation as tragic and I have had a chance to say that I am worried. I am worried that if we do not contain the crisis it could spread. It’s raised tensions in the region to levels that we have not seen in many years and it is a worry. So far it has not happened but it cannot be excluded.

QUESTION: A question to the Foreign Minister – Austria has rather made a step away from the UN by withdrawing its soldiers from Cyprus. In which area could Austria reinforce its offer of assistance to the UN again or also the EU – one of the items before was also EU-UN.

Austrian Foreign Minister answers.

The SECRETARY-GENERAL: If I may add a word that the UN force in Southern Lebanon is being restructured. It’s being restructured and we are reducing the force from this highpoint of last year of 5,600 eventually to two battalions with observers up to about 2,000. And so several other contingents serving with UNIFIL in Southern Lebanon will have to withdraw. Thank you.

QUESTION: Given the continuing escalation in the Middle East are you hopeful to get United States participating in Durban in the Conference on Racism, considering that the Palestinians insist on criticizing Israel in that forum.

The SECRETARY-GENERAL: Obviously each government has to take its own decision whether it participates in the conference or not. And that will be a decision for Washington. There are indications from Washington that if they do not get the language they want they may not participate. Efforts are being made and people are working on the language even as we speak. And Mrs. Robinson is already in South Africa working with other delegations. This is a matter between Member States. And usually at these conferences the Member States get together and negotiate a text. And I have encouraged all governments to be at the table to let their voices be heard and help negotiate a text. And hopefully seek a common ground, a common ground that will do what the conference is expected to do, really be forward-looking and come with a plan of action that will allow governments to take action to fight racism and discrimination and xenophobia and intolerance. No society is immune and we would hope that the conference will be able to come up with forward-looking suggestions and agree on a language that will permit participation by all.

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