21 August 2006

Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown at Press Encounter Providing Update on Troops for Lebanon at UN Headquarters, 18 August 2006

Deputy Secretary-General:  I just want to say a few remarks first, and then open to take any questions you have.

I just want to essentially elaborate on the meeting of yesterday at the Troop Contributors Meeting and the briefing I gave you as I came out of it.

First to say that, while, as I said yesterday, we kept the show on the road, and there was relief that we somehow had not got derailed by some surprises yesterday in terms of the commitments to deploy, nevertheless the next few days are going to be very challenging to make sure that we meet this commitment of 3,500 troops, or 7,000 boots on the ground in 10 days from now.

The first point I want to make is this concern that a number of militaries have expressed the need to have the rules of engagement or the con-ops (concept of operations) - now, the ball is in their court in that, yesterday, they were given the full briefing that we gave in hard or electronic copy for them to send back to their capitals, and today they are getting their full rules of engagement and con-ops so that their capitals will have it this weekend, their own military planners will have the material that they have said they needed to make their decisions final.

Now, that is very important to us because the particular appeal I want to make today is that Europe comes forward with troops for this first wave.

We got a good response yesterday, as many of you have noticed.  However, the firm commitments came from Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Nepal, and as we argued yesterday and want to repeat this morning, that is enormously helpful and a major contribution, but we want this force that we deploy to have a kind of multinational, multilateral character so that it enjoys the confidence of both sides.  We have said before that a Muslim-European, or a European-Muslim force -- because of both groups' interest in this situation if you like - bring, when you combine them, a legitimacy that satisfies both sides to this conflict.  It is very important that Europe now steps forward.  There are some promising signs -- good news out of Italy this morning of agreement by the Government, agreement by the two commissions of the two houses -- so what now they need is these famous rules of engagement and con-ops to tell us exactly how many, when, they will be able to deploy.  I think good news [is] expected out of Finland in the coming hours as well.  That German announcement was extremely important yesterday.  It's substantial, but it is mainly the marine and customs which is key to getting this blockade lifted, but is additional to the 3,500 that we need for the Blue Line deployment.

So, appeal one to Europe to harden up their commitments so that we have the right balance of forces to deploy, to be legitimate and politically effective at the end of this 10 day period, and secondly, an appeal for the so-called enablers.  We have always said that it is not just boots and troops and the arms and equipment they carry, but it is the support of helicopters, engineers -- well, we got a good offer yesterday of the 200 French engineers -- but we need more.  We have got to reopen the road system both to enable the movement of humanitarian supplies but also to allow our troops to play that monitoring role and get-between-the-combatants role, which is so important.  So we need those enablers -- logistics, medical, engineering and others, helicopters -- to make sure that we can carry out this mission.

Now, I do want to say just one final thing, which is on a completely different subject -- Darfur.

We are extraordinarily concerned -- as yesterday's Council brief, the letter that the Secretary-General to the Council demonstrates.  We are extremely worried about the deterioration of the humanitarian and security situation in Darfur, and the absence of a clear political path to the deployment of the UN force.  It's been discussed.  There's a draft resolution out.  But please, ladies and gentlemen of the press, don't forget Darfur.  We, all of us as an international community, whether in the Secretariat of the UN, or the press corps, find it hard to keep two stories in the air at once, but it is very, very important that we all pay lots of attention to Darfur.  Something very ugly is brewing there.

Thank you very much.

Question:  Mark, can you give any more specifics about what you have heard from Italy?  Have they made a firm commitment?  Where do things stand with them?

Deputy Secretary-General:  They have made a firm commitment, but they are not yet firm on numbers.  They want over the weekend to look at these rules of engagement and the con-ops to come firm on numbers and dates for deployment.  It's clear that they will be part of this first wave of troops, that there will be Italian soldiers, we expect in the first 3,500.  How many is unclear, and how many would come later, so the Government has approved it this morning, the Cabinet, and both houses of the Senate and the House of Deputies have approved it in the commissions they have that approve this while they are out of session.

Question:  What type?  Infantry, engineers?

Deputy Secretary-General:  I don't know the exact details, but they include -- well, I can tell you this -- a significant component of frontline troops.

Question:  The Indonesians gave you a very generous offer yesterday.  Is that acceptable to the Israelis?

Deputy Secretary-General:  Well, as a number of people have said, the final word on what is acceptable is ours, and these troops are deployed in Lebanese territory, not Israeli territory, but as a matter of good form in peacekeeping you want a force which is broadly acceptable in its composition to both sides, which is why we have talked about this European-Muslim core to the force, and I think the issue is balance.  The more we can fill this force out with a number of key nationalities providing major pillars or legs to it, the more the Israelis can be persuaded to look at its overall composition rather than focusing singularly on particular contributors.

Question:  Have you spoken to them about Indonesia?

Deputy Secretary-General:  We have spoken to the Israelis.  The Foreign Minister was told when she was here, Ms. [Tzipi] Livni, the likely contributors from that side, and I think they are reflecting on it.

Question:  Mr. Deputy Secretary-General, on the other commitments -- the Nepalese, the Bangladeshis, the Malaysians, the Indonesians -- do you have any indication which of them can get boots on the ground within 10 days?  Can any of them?

Deputy Secretary-General:  Well, Nepal, for example is offering a battalion which is just finishing duty in Sudan, so if we can match it with lift it may be one that could be moved very quickly.  That is what the Nepalese representative suggested, but that is exactly the follow-up we are doing now, with each of these, to see just how quickly we could get them into position, into theatre.

Question:  Anybody else or would they appear to be the ones best able to get in quickly?

Deputy Secretary-General:  They were the ones who, in yesterday's meeting, gave a plausible line on how they may be available for very quick deployment.  The Bangladeshis have told me that their troops are quickly available as well, and I think we have just got to take this one by one, and understand each of their logistics issues and availability, and I don't want to get too far down on the individuals.

Question:  Have you had any more positive signals from France at all?

Deputy Secretary-General:  Not since yesterday, except I think it is very important to say that in the meeting yesterday, the French representative affirmed that the rules of engagement and con-ops which they had studied carefully and indeed been consulted on as they were being developed -- well, they felt were very acceptable and correct and a reflection of the resolution that France had obviously been an author of.

Question:  The resolution stipulates the issue of a report by the Secretary-General in a week's time, which is, of course, today.  Is it going to come out today?  And what should we expect from it?

Deputy Secretary-General:  You are going to be frustrated because it is not going to come out at a press-friendly time.  It is going to come out today.  We are very anxious to respect that deadline.  But it will be late today.  It will describe progress on the three fronts -- political, humanitarian and peacekeeping deployment, and I think it has a good story to tell on each.  On the political, that we have already dispatched the first mission to the region of [Terje] Roed-Larsen and Vijay Nambiar.  They will have left about now from Europe on a flight to Beirut so they will be in Beirut today.

On the humanitarian reconstruction we have been remarkably successful in being able to move convoys in the days since the cessation of hostilities took hold.  Bridges are open again, key road links are open.  There has been no opposition to our bringing in relief supplies by boat.  So, that's been a real success over the last week.  And on the peacekeeping side, you can imagine, we will be recounting what has been going on on that front as well.

Question:  [inaudible] this weekend.  Is it then ... they basically ... that where they can decide whether they can send it out in the next few days, and by Tuesday are you still going to have another meeting to finalize:  okay, we've had these firm commitments, we are sending them out...?

Deputy Secretary-General:  They will get them today.  They are going out from New York this morning, in fact.  Frankly, at the meeting yesterday, we kept them until the meeting to make sure that there were no issues raised which would force us to significantly revise them.  We didn't hear anything which would force us to do that.  And really not surprisingly, because the rules of engagement and the con-ops is faithful to the resolution itself, and the military advisers of interested countries have been very involved in informal discussions over the week.  So, I don't think capitals, when they get them today, would have any reason for surprise.

The core thing that capitals have to get over the hump on, is the character and purpose of the force which is consistent with the resolution, which is that it is not an offensive force, it's not going to go in there and attempt large scale disarmament.  Rather it is going to police the political agreement which triggers disarmament, called for under the resolution and, therefore, it will make a prudent use of force.  It calls very clearly in the rules of engagement, as it did in the resolution itself, that where combatants forcefully resist a demand from UNIFIL or from the Lebanese army to disarm, UNIFIL will then exercise use of force, if it has to, to force that disarmament.  I think we have been very clear on that; this is not going to be a force which can be characterized as a force of occupation, or a force of offensive effort to disarm Hizbollah, but is going to provide Israel with that security guarantee that this political agreement, which will ultimately call for disarmament, [it] does already in the resolution, will be enforceable.

Question:  Have you received any commitments from the Arab countries to participate in this force?  We understand Morocco, Egypt may need time to consider or to study the rules of engagement.  What about Jordan and Saudi Arabia?

Deputy Secretary-General:  Well, I think in yesterday's discussion the one that was seen to be, the one that hinted at a serious possible involvement was Morocco.  That's not to rule out the others, but the one which seemed to be the most forthcoming.  But certainly I don't want to mislead you, did not make a commitment yesterday, but said they were waiting with great anticipation for the rules of engagement et cetera, was the Moroccan representative.

Question:  Is there going to be another Troop Contributors Meeting?  And secondly, on a related issue, the Arab League has asked for a ministerial meeting of the Security Council to send an Arab delegation to sort of restart the whole Middle East peace process.  Is this something that the Secretary-General supports?

Deputy Secretary-General:  On the first one, there certainly will be a second, third, fourth, fifth and many more meetings of troop contributors.  That is a standard piece of business, once you have a force formed.  I think the next days won't be about a meeting, they will be about individual follow-up with the different potential contributors.  But once we have firmed things up, and we have contributors who are committed, then as a standard operating procedure we will want them to come together to meet as a group and have them work through with those common issues that they will face.  But there is nothing scheduled at the moment.  At the moment it is one-on-one follow-up.

Question:  So, this follow-up meeting, the first one, when you get these, could that possibly take place next week?

Deputy Secretary-General:  I wouldn't be surprised, but at the moment there is nothing scheduled.  It is whether it would be useful or not.  Our objective is very clear -- 3,500 on the ground by, I think, [28 August], and we will meet, call, do whatever combination of contacts is necessary to get to that deadline successfully.

On your second point, Amre Moussa, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, has briefed the Secretary-General on the initiative.  The Secretary-General has, on his behalf, shared Amre Moussa's thoughts on it with a number of other Security Council members, and it is going to be discussed in a ministerial meeting this weekend.  It's a process in motion.  I think the Secretary-General is certainly well disposed to it in the sense that, you know, he very much asked the drafters of resolution 1701 to make sure that there was a final paragraph in there which said, you know, even if we can fix this problem, we must recognize more than ever the need to have a comprehensive peace for the Middle East.  So, anything which can advance that he does, but I don't think he's in a position to want to comment on the specifics of the proposals at this stage, which are anyway under development.

Thank you all very much.

Question:  When do the 10 days start?

Deputy Secretary-General:  Yesterday.

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