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United Nations Daily Highlights, 00-01-31

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <> - email:





Monday, January 31, 2000


In Geneva today, Secretary-General Kofi Annan presided over proximity talks on Cyprus, first with Glafcos Clerides and then with Rauf Denktash.

Each of these meetings began with a one-on-one session, followed by a session with the full delegation.

The talks are expected to go on about 10 days, and from Tuesday, they are to be chaired by the Secretary-General's Special Advisor on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto.

At an exchange with correspondents at the Palais des Nations today, the Secretary-General said the process was likely to be complex. As with the talks in New York, there will be a blackout on the substance, and the Secretary-General declined to give details of his meetings today.

Annan said that there was a hope of reaching a comprehensive settlement this year if there was a spirit of give and take and the right mood to compromise.


The report of the five-member International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor, issued this morning as a UN document, stated that the evidence they gathered "clearly demonstrates a pattern of serious violations of fundamental rights and humanitarian law."

The violations included systematic and widespread intimidation, killings and massacre, humiliation and terror, destruction of property, as well as violence against women and displacement of people.

The Commission found evidence that, as well as supporting and directing the militias in the violence, the Indonesian armed forces was also directly involved. They also found evidence of knowledge and approval of the violence by the top Indonesian military command.

The Commission recommended the establishment of an investigative and prosecutorial body and an international human rights tribunal, including Indonesian and East Timorese judges, which would receive complaints, conduct trials and sentence those found guilty.

In his covering letter transmitting the report, the Secretary-General said the recommendations merit careful consideration. He noted the commitment shown by Indonesia's President Abdurrahman Wahid to support the investigation fully and prosecute of the perpetrators through the national process underway.

In a letter to the Secretary-General, also issued today, Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab rejected the call for an international tribunal and says the Indonesian judicial system is functioning and capable of dispensing justice. He asked that the international community respect the principle in international law of first exhausting national remedies.

In Geneva, Mary Robinson, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: "It is my hope that efforts to hold those responsible for the atrocities in East Timor accountable will go on so that there is no impunity."

Asked about how the Secretary-General would respond to the Commission's report, the Spokesman noted that Annan had sent the report to the Security Council, General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights. The Secretary-General said the report merits "careful consideration." He also mentioned, in his covering letter, the need to pursue investigation of what happened by strengthening the capacity of UN personnel on the ground in East Timor.

However, the Secretary-General also made clear in his letter that he would await action by the intergovernmental bodies and by the Indonesian Government. Mills noted that Indonesia's national human rights commission released its own report on East Timor today.

The Spokesman added that the issue for an Indonesian tribunal is "whether the national processes are capable and willing," and he noted the Indonesian Foreign Minister's statement that Indonesia's judicial processes are functioning


Also issued today is the first report of the Secretary-General to the Council on the work of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). The report covers the activities of the United Nations in East Timor since last 25 October, when the Security Council authorized the Mission.

The Secretary-General said the Mission's first three months have seen "strenuous efforts" to set the foundations for an independent East Timor.

However, he noted that 80 percent of the populations currently lacks visible means of support, and more than 50 percent is illiterate. He said substantial efforts will need to be made to educate and train the population; for the time being, he added, humanitarian agencies are one of the largest employers in East Timor.

UNTAET reported today that this week, the first East Timorese working in the public service have received their stipends.


The Security Council began its work with two formal meetings at 9:30 a.m. to extend the mandates of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, both of which were set to expire at the end of today.

The Council unanimously extended both missions for six months, until the end of July, and it also issued a Presidential Statement on Lebanon.

The Council then went into another formal session to wrap up its month-long debate on Africa. Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fr&eacute;chette opened the meeting by saying that no other part of the world is in greater need of help, and none has greater potential to reward efforts to help.

Reviewing the Council's actions over the past month, she noted progress in dealing with conflicts in Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Sierra Leone, and added that the Council "has shown a greater sense of urgency than ever before" on Africa.

She also warned, "Presidencies come and go as the months pass, but Africa, with its deep wounds and its heroic efforts, remains with us month after month. Our commitment to heal those wounds and to support those efforts is worth nothing unless it matches deeds to words -- unless it is strong and, above all, sustained."

Also among those speaking at today's session were President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia, South African Foreign Minister Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma and Namibian Foreign Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab.

Today's meeting was the last under the presidency of the United States. Starting Tuesday Ambassador Arnaldo Manuel Listre of Argentina will take over as President of the Council.

Asked about follow-up by the United Nations on Africa, the Spokesman noted efforts to expand UN missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone and progress in deploying a UN Office in Angola. "On a number of fronts and in a number of areas, the United Nations' efforts are continuing," he said.


This week, Francesc Vendrell, the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, will begin his first trip to the region, in which he hopes to visit officials of the Taliban movement and the Northern Alliance, as well as the Governments of most of the neighboring countries.

His trip begins this Thursday, when he is scheduled to arrive in Islamabad, Pakistan. Then, for about two weeks, he intends to visit Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Russia, before returning to New York. After this initial listening tour, Vendrell will be based at the UN Special Mission for Afghanistan's headquarters in Islamabad.

Prior to beginning his trip to the region, Vendrell yesterday delivered a message on behalf of the Secretary-General in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to mourn Neelan Thiruchelvam, a Sri Lankan politician and human rights activist who was murdered last year.


The Angolan National Assembly has approved the Status of Mission Agreement with the United Nations, according to UN officials in Luanda, Angola.

The Secretary-General, in a letter to the Angolan Government on August 2, 1999, said he intended to proceed with the establishment of the UN Office in Angola that would be staffed with the personnel necessary to deal with political, military, police and other civilian authorities, in order to explore effective measures to restore peace.


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) announced in Paris today an operation designed to ensure that, on March 8, which is International Women's Day, would be the day that "women make the news." It is encouraging the media worldwide to ensure that women journalists have editorial charge over the news for that day.

UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura, in his appeal today, said the initiative intends to draw attention to the "glass ceiling" that women journalists still face, and to push for equal opportunity for all journalists.

The Secretary-General, in a message supporting the initiative, said that there is not a single issue in the news that is not also a women's issue, and that women should cover all issues "with equal strength and in equal numbers." Further information is available on UNESCO's web site.


Asked about whether the Secretary-General was satisfied with the Russian Government's response to his statements on Chechnya, the Spokesman said that Annan felt his message had been understood. However, Mills, added, there was a gap between the Secretary-General's views and those of the Russian Government. Annan had voiced concern that Russia's actions in Chechnya be proportional and take account of the need to protect Chechnya, while Russian officials have emphasized a military solution, he said.

The UN oil experts left Baghdad this morning, the Spokesman said, and should arrive in Amman, Jordan, shortly. Their report will be available by the end of February or early March, he said.

Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fr&eacute;chette marked the opening today of the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests. "You can help make a decisive turn away from 'business as usual'," she told the Forum, adding that, despite some encouraging trends and new approaches, progress has been too slow in developing sustainable forest management.

The United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo announced in Pristina today that the appointment of mid-level leaders of the Kosovo Protection Corps -- about 58 members in each region -- would take place this week and next week.

Bahrain, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Guatemala, Luxembourg, Monaco and Samoa made their payments to the UN regular budget in full for the year 2000, putting the number of countries which have made their payment in full at 42. Bahrain made a payment of approximately $179,000, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea made a payment of around $158,000, Guatemala around $189,000, Luxembourg around $715,000, Monaco around $42,000 and Samoa just over $10,000. Today is the deadline for countries to meet their Charter obligation by making their full payment to the UN regular budget. Last year by this time, 32 countries had paid in full. (For this year's Honour Roll, click here.)

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia became the 11th country to sign the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. The Convention, which was approved by the General Assembly last month, was opened for signature on January 10, and will enter into force 30 days after it has been ratified by 22 countries.

  • The guests at today's briefing were Andre Roberfroid, the new Deputy Executive Director for Programme and Strategic Planning of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and Ciro de Quadros, Director of Vaccines and Immunization for the Pan American Health Organisation.
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