UN Negotiators Start KR Trial Talks Today

Arriving Thursday morning for talks with the Cambodian government toward a tribunal of former Khmer Rouge leaders, UN head negotiator Hans Corell said many problems must be resolved if the two sides are to reach an agreement.

“We should not underestimate the differences here,” Corell told reporters upon his arrival at Phnom Penh International Air­port. “There are many issues to discuss.”

Corell would not specify what those issues were, saying he and Cambodia’s lead negotiator, Minister of Cabinet Sok An, had agreed “that we should discuss these issues amongst ourselves, we should not negotiate through the media.”

But both Corell and Sok An hinted that their efforts would focus on hammering out the long-awaited memorandum of understanding, or “Articles of Co­opera­tion,” that would set out how the government would work with the world body to conduct the trial.

That is, they implied, they would concentrate on drafting that document rather than quibbling about whether it, once finished, would have the power to supersede Cambodian law.

Asked whether the main issue was whether the Articles or the law would be sovereign, Corell said, “As you know, this was one of the reasons that the secretary-general ended his good offices in February” 2002, when Secretary-General Kofi Annan abruptly pulled the UN out of the tribunal talks.

“I think this question is a problem solved through the resolution by the General Assembly. The General Assembly has talked clearly about an agreement between Cambodia and the United Nations” in its December 2002 resolution mandating Annan to return to the negotiations.

After Corell and Sok An met one-on-one for an hour-long “preliminary” talk on Thursday afternoon, Sok An alluded to the same priority.

“It is indispensable to establish…the legal basis, the modality and the regulation for the cooperation” between Cambodia and the UN, Sok An said. “So it is the meaning of our negotiation.”

Whether a UN-Cambodia pact or the existing Cambodian law would take precedence could be decided later. “As refers to the question [of] when we establish this jurisdiction, we will try to establish it as soon as possible after the result of our negotiation,” he said.

Corell said Thursday that he expected to meet Sok An every day until he departs for New York late Monday. He also said he would meet with diplomats and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

On Thursday, Corell made it clear that the UN being mandated to negotiate, rather than negotiating on its own initiative, cast the talks in a different light.

“This is distinct from what the situation was before, because there the secretary-general used his good offices, and he came to the conclusion that he was not able to continue under those offices,” Corell said.

Today, on the other hand, “I am the legal counsel for the United Nations and I am following the instructions that I am given by the secretary-general, who is now following a resolution by the General Assembly…. It’s not just that the delegation can do as they please,” Corell said.

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