ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN SWITZERLAND, 9-14 SEPTEMBER
Secretary-General Kofi Annan departed New York in the evening of Tuesday, 9 September, and arrived in Geneva the following morning.
He met staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in his first opportunity to speak with Geneva-based staff since the 19 August bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.
He told them, “This is a time of sorrow about what has just happened, and uncertainty about what may be ahead. We are all wrestling with a mix of grief, anger and apprehension.”
He added that he hoped the staff would take some comfort from the outpouring of support for the United Nations that has been heard around the world since the bombing. “We must continue building up where others would seek to tear down”, the Secretary-General asserted. “We must persevere.”
One staff member thanked the Secretary-General for providing strength and comfort at this time, and he responded that the staff had given him strength, by taking a hard knock and carrying on.
The Secretary-General met Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, later that afternoon.
On Thursday, the Secretary-General met Adnan Pachachi, a member of the Governing Council of Iraq. They discussed the situation in Iraq and the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council which would take place the following Saturday.
When speaking to reporters later, the Secretary-General spoke about Anna Lindh, the Swedish Foreign Minister who had died that day of stab wounds. He called her a strong ally of the United Nations, “somebody who really believed in the Charter, believed in what the United Nations stood for, and generally believed that countries have to work across borders and cooperate to get things done”.
He said that she was dynamic and without pretensions, and added that he had seen her as a mother, as a defender of Swedish positions in international circles and as a prominent politician in Europe. Combining her efforts in those three areas, he said, “shows you what a woman she was. I don’t think many of us men could do that.”
He was also asked that day about his thoughts on the anniversary of the 11 September attacks, and he said that “it should remind us that we need to cooperate across international borders, we need international cooperation and [to] work together to be able to contain terrorism”. The fight against terrorism, he warned, is not over.
In Geneva on Friday, the Secretary-General met with the principal United Nations and other humanitarian officials who comprise the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, telling reporters afterwards that they had discussed the situation in Iraq, especially focusing on the continuing but reduced humanitarian operations by United Nations agencies, the Red Cross and non-governmental organizations.
He said that the Committee had discussed what security measures are needed in Iraq, and added that they had agreed not to abandon the Iraqi people in their time of need. He said, “We need to find a way to maximize the contribution we are making to the people of Iraq while minimizing the risk to our staff.” He also stressed the importance that humanitarian assistance be seen as independent from political or military processes.
The Secretary-General said he would convey his humanitarian colleagues’ concerns to the Foreign Ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council when they met the following day to discuss Iraq.
Asked whether he expected an agreement among the five permanent members on a resolution for Iraq, the Secretary-General said he didn’t think the text of a resolution would be discussed at the meeting. Instead, he said, “We are going to discuss the situation and the way forward, and I hope there can be some convergence that will facilitate discussion in New York with the full Council.”
Concerning the 19 August attack in Baghdad, he confirmed that the United Nations has done some preliminary investigation, but that it was setting up an independent investigation, led by a prominent person and including experienced investigators, to come up with a definitive report.
On Saturday, 13 September, the Secretary-General had two bilateral meetings at his hotel, the first with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, and the second with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin.
He then hosted a lunch with the Foreign Ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council, before moving on to the Palais des Nations where they met to conduct a thorough review of the main issues regarding Iraq. Discussions on the Middle East were also on the agenda of the meeting.
In a press conference following the meeting, the Secretary-General told journalists that, regarding Iraq, the ministers had a good discussion in a constructive atmosphere with a view to identifying points of convergence. While consensus is essential, and achievable, it is not enough, the Secretary-General said, “The Council’s approach must be coherent and well defined.”
In answering a question later about the timing for a vote, the Secretary-General said that should be addressed by the members themselves, but he added that the vital thing is not just voting but having a solid and workable resolution, a resolution that the United Nations can put into effect and will help “win the minds and hearts” of the Iraqi people.
Regarding the Middle East, the Secretary-General said that the permanent members of the Security Council had reaffirmed their commitment to the Quartet’s “Road Map” and recognized that both sides have obligations under the Road Map which they must fulfil. He also announced that the Quartet would be meeting at the Principal’s level later in September in New York to consider all relevant aspects of the issue and to determine how best to help the parties move forward with the process.
At the start of the meeting with the Ministers, the Secretary-General spoke of Anna Lindh, the recently assassinated Swedish Foreign Minister, saying that she had been a great Foreign Minister and a determined friend of the United Nations. “But most of all we miss her”, the Secretary-General said, “her personality, her dynamism, her intellect and the passion with which she defended causes she so strongly believed in.” The participants then stood for a moment of silence in Anna Lindh’s honour.
The Secretary-General returned to New York on Sunday, 14 September.
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