The United Nations and the Cambodian government will have just five days from March
13 to complete what could be make-or-break negotiations on the proposed Khmer Rouge
The UN General Assembly gave the UN's Office of Legal Affairs 90 days from December
18 last year to report back on possible progress towards the tribunal.
That runs out on March 18, the day UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is scheduled to
address the Assembly. However it remains unclear whether a new resolution will be
needed if agreement is not reached.
"This is the question everyone's asking," said one Western diplomat in
Phnom Penh. "The Secretary-General could probably ask for more time on the basis
that the talks are progressing, but only New York can really answer that."
The UN's chief negotiator Hans Corell is due here on March 13 to discuss the issue
with Phnom Penh. That follows the Cambodian team's visit to New York in early January.
Member states were alarmed by some of the negotiating tactics used by the UN during
that session. Corell apparently proposed to take negotiations back to square one
when he argued for the reinstatement of "a majority of international judges,
and an international prosecutor", the Asia Times Online reported.
The current affairs website reported that a number of interested states met with
Corell and Annan on February 13 to insist the secretariat conclude an agreement "based
on the previous negotiations", as stated in the December 18 resolution.
Cambodia's chief negotiator, Sok An, told reporters on February 26 that only a few
points of disagreement remained, and said he was optimistic the issue would be resolved.
The sticking points are believed to include the issue over which negotiations collapsed
a year ago: which document should have precedence, the Cambodian tribunal law or
the agreement between Cambodia and the UN.