SRSG Jenča took part in the Press Briefing by the office of the Spokesperson for the UNSGA
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia Ambassador Miroslav Jenca participated in the daily press briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General. The following is the excerpt from the briefing with Mr. Jenca's replies to journalists' questions.
Miroslav Jenča, Head of UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia: Good afternoon, Miroslav Jenca here.
Spokesperson: Miroslav, good to hear your voice. It's Martin Nesirky here in the briefing room with journalists who've been eagerly awaiting to hear from you. And first of all, thank you so much for being on the line late into the evening in Bishkek after, I am sure, another very busy day. Maybe the best thing is if you could say a few introductory words, and then I'll hand over for questions here from the journalists. And I guess we could look at maybe 20 minutes or so. Let's see how it goes. Over to you.
Mr. Jenča: Good afternoon to everybody. I have been working here very closely with the Interim Government, with the special envoys of regional organizations like OSCE, European Union and others, Russian Special Envoy was here as well. The priority is to ensure humanitarian access to those in need in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan. We're progressing here. Yesterday the mission of the UN; staff members here in Bishkek travelled there together with local authorities, with Interim Minister for Defence and the Minister for Emergency Situations. They agreed that they would have a presence at Osh airport. Regrettably, our offices in Osh city are not, one would say, secure enough yet to start operations there.
As far as humanitarian assistance is concerned, so we continue providing support from warehouses we have here. We expect two planes to land quite soon in Osh airport and to provide [the] necessary stuff to the people there in Osh and Jalalabad. Also, when we speak about assistance we need to prepare for the future. So today, maybe in a few hours, a flash appeal to donors will be released and we hope that there will be very active response to this flash appeal.
So this would be just for the beginning, and I am here ready to answer the questions; at least I will try to answer them. Over.
Spokesperson: Thank you very much, Miroslav. So questions. Please, maybe you could, as we're disembodied at both ends, identify yourselves; say who you are and who you work for. Please, first question.
Question: Do you have enough people in Osh and Jalalabad to distribute aid to the people?
Mr. Jenča: For the time being we are cooperating with Red Cross and local NGOs here. We are in the process of deploying people there after ensuring conditions for proper [deployment]. As I mentioned, our team was there yesterday with the Minister of Defence and other official representatives of the Kyrgyz Government. So this is work in progress. On the other side of the border in Uzbekistan, there the situation is different because the conflict was on the other side of the border, so there is quite a strong presence already and the Uzbek Government is cooperating significantly here.
Question: There are conflicting figures; there are 400,000 or 500,000 people displaced, becoming refugees. What is the exact number and are those refugees coming back, or are they still outside the country? Have you been able to verify anything of that sort as of yet?
Mr. Jenča: Regrettably we have not been able to verify these figures [because one] cannot move freely and the security problems are there. The situation is quite fluid. As to the figures provided by OCHA, we estimate the total of 300,000 IDPs in Kyrgyzstan, and between 80,000 to 100,000 refugees on the Uzbek territories. There is still some movement going forward.
Question: Today at the US State Department, Secretary of State Clinton said, "It would be premature for people to conclude what the source of this violence is, meaning Kyrgyzstan. But there are a number of facts contributing. She said the US and the UN are seeking the cause of the unrest. What do you think of that? Is the UN seeking the cause of the unrest? Is there any doubt about it?
Mr. Jenča: We are, of course, looking at what happened there but I think here a proper investigation should take place. And such investigation should be part of a reconciliation and confidence-building process. There is a lot of hatred, tension, emotions, and one of the major challenges we have here is to have a proper reconciliation process. So an investigation should go hand in hand with reconciliation and confidence-building.
Question: From the people you've talked to, do they feel they would be more secure with the presence of some outside security force? And is this something that you believe could be helpful in reducing tensions, and is it something that is being discussed with all of the key players that you've been in contact with?
Mr. Jenča: I have talked to the people here, so many of them voiced this opinion, meaning that they think that some presence, an international presence, would be needed. We have been discussing issues like this with our partners and definitely there are a lot of challenges as far as police are concerned. So we also discussed how these issues could be addressed in the best way. Since it is about an international presence, it requires consultation with other countries in the region and the organizations that would be able to ensure such a presence. Here I have to also add, it is about the decision by the Interim Government here. As you know, the chief of the Interim Government, Roza Otunbayeva, requested Russian leadership to send military forces, but in fact requested protection of strategic objects, like dams, and the latest I heard was that there has been some progress here.
Question: You came out very strongly saying that the referendum should definitely go forward on 27 June, but many people are saying with this many people both having been chased out of the country and others displaced, that in fact, certainly the ethnic Uzbeks that would be entitled to vote otherwise might be disenfranchised if it is done that fast. Why are you so in favour of rushing forward with the referendum and what safeguards will there be that the group targeted here is actually able to vote? And a question about borders, there are now reports that Kazakhstan has closed its borders to ethnic Uzbeks with Kyrgyz passports. What is your office [at the] Regional Centre doing about these border closings, mostly by Uzbekistan, but now by Kazakhstan [too]? Do you see this as a problem, and what is the UN system going to do to try to make sure that people that need to flee or are fleeing, [or] can flee?
Mr. Jenča: To your first question concerning referendum, I think that [inaudible] what I said is that also it is up to the Kyrgyz Government, to the Kyrgyz power structures, to decide when the referendum should take place, keeping in mind the situation on the ground. It is, after all, a Kyrgyz process. We are the United Nations, advising the Central Asian Commission on the need to have an inclusive process and technically sound votes, including consideration of the factor of IDP participation. The situation and environment for the referendum is fluid and, therefore, we will continue to follow very closely. So recently I had a meeting with the chair of the Central Election Commission and he was very confident that the election could take place as planned. However, as I mentioned, the situation is fluid and we have to follow it very closely.
To your second question, what we are doing as far as the border issue, it's a concern. We are in close touch with Kazakh authorities and also with the Kazakh [inaudible] chairmanship envoy in Kyrgyzstan on this issue. We have proposed to the Kazakh side support if there are security concerns related to borders. Together with other regional organizations, the United Nations and other regional organizations can help with solving these issues and concerns in order to ensure there is free passage of people and of goods through the border.
Question: I wanted to know, you talked about Kazakhstan, is the UN system asking Islam Karimov to open the border with Uzbekistan? Is that issue being raised to Uzbekistan? Is that the position of the UN?
Mr. Jenča: I think this issue was raised also during the discussion between the Secretary-General and President Karimov and actually the Secretary-General, if I am well informed, commended President Karimov for allowing the refugees in big numbers to go to the Uzbek territory. The cooperation with Uzbekistan during this crisis has been very constructive.
Question: I wanted to ask one follow-up question to your response to a possible international presence. At this moment how would you assess the prospects for getting some kind of an international presence on the ground in Kyrgyzstan?
Mr. Jenča: I already mentioned that this is a process that requires proper consultations because it is not a simple question, so this is where we stand and I do not like to go into speculation here.
Question: There are reports regarding the possible involvement of militia groups or groups that are linked with the military in perpetrating some of the attacks. What kind of information do you have on that? Is there any solid basis to these reports that we are getting?
Mr. Jenča: We have received different bits and pieces of such information from different sources, including media. Here I can only underline once more that proper investigation is needed; investigation that would go hand in hand with reconciliation and confidence-building processes in the country, because the country is quite divided along different dividing lines.
Question: A follow-up to something you mentioned at the beginning. You said at the beginning that the UN Office in Osh is not secure enough for UN personnel to work from there? Can you describe a little bit the situation? We're hearing the city is divided with barricades along ethnic lines. Can you explain where exactly is this office and why it can't be staffed?
Mr. Jenča: You can get to the Osh airport in the region but if you want to get to the city you need armed protection because you are passing through different parts of the city, and you mentioned that in some enclaves there are barricades. There is enormous distrust of local people, notably Uzbeks. They don't trust authorities, and they are very suspicious of anybody getting closer to them. As I mentioned, our team was there yesterday and they needed armed protection to go there, and our office is in the city and, therefore, we have to pass along the dangerous areas. The office in the city is in good shape. It was not damaged but at this time it is not possible to go back there and start working there. We are still considering whether local staff members — some of them are still in Osh — can operate there in our offices in Osh city. This is the situation and why we decided, together with the Interim Government, to establish our presence at the airport in order to ensure efficient humanitarian assistance to those in need.
Question: I just want to ask this question I asked earlier but since you are there on the ground, maybe you'll be able to answer this. There are reports read again and again that this crisis was deliberately set off by somebody in the Kyrgyz Government, some of the opponents of the Government or within. Have you verified these reports, have you looked into them, as to who's responsible, if at all it is?
Mr. Jenča: I can only repeat what I said. A proper investigation is needed. We don't have here now proper resources to do so. [But] first of all, it is [the Government's] responsibility to ensure such a process takes place. Let me say now, we are focused on the immediate priority. And the immediate priority is to ensure that the people in need who are there in refugee camps or displaced people, that they get what they need to survive. This is our immediate priority and this is going to be our focus now.
Spokesperson: Thank you very much, Miroslav, for your update on what is going on and for speaking to us late in the evening from Bishkek. Wish you well and maybe we can catch up with you again in the coming days to have another update.
Mr. Jenča: Thank you very much and good afternoon to all of you.
Spokesperson: Thank you very much and bye for now.
Follow the link to see the full version of the briefing.