31 March 2009
Secretary-General
SG/T/2663

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN QATAR, 28-30 MARCH


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Doha, Qatar, from Moscow, Russian Federation, on the evening of Saturday, 28 March.  He was greeted by Madam Ban Soon-taek, who had arrived before him, directly from New York.


The following day, Sunday, 29 March, the Secretary-General met with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.  They spoke about the effect of oil prices on aid to developing countries; the Secretary-General’s recent letter to the Group of 20 (G-20); Palestinian reconciliation; Darfur; Somalia; and Lebanon, including Qatar’s role in reaching the Doha Agreement.  The Secretary-General also had a lunch meeting with Qatar’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mohammed al‑Rumaihi.


Later that afternoon, the Secretary-General met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for one hour, and the two discussed such topics as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including Gaza; Palestinian reconciliation; Iraq; the Arab Peace Initiative; Sudan; and Lebanon.  In a brief press encounter following the meeting, the Secretary-General commended Syria’s decision to send an Ambassador to Lebanon and said he appreciated Syria’s contributions to the Gaza ceasefire, adding that he hoped that, through the Syrian President’s efforts and Egypt’s role, a durable and lasting ceasefire would be able to be achieved in Gaza.  The Secretary-General also said he looked forward to the 7 June parliamentary elections in Lebanon, and he expressed hope that Israel would open all crossings into Gaza and contribute to a permanent peace in the Middle East.


Later on Sunday, the Secretary-General met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.  The Secretary-General expressed his concern that the Israel-Gaza ceasefire was not permanent.  They also discussed the effect of Israel’s new Government on Israeli-Palestinian relations, an energized role for the Middle East Quartet and the Arab Peace Initiative.  The Secretary-General assured President Abbas that he would continue to speak out against settlements and about the desperate need to open the Gaza crossings.  Since the Secretary-General had arrived in Doha from Moscow, he also briefed President Abbas on his discussions with Russian leaders and Moscow’s intention to convene a Middle East peace conference.  The Secretary-General also expressed appreciation to President Abbas for his role in facilitating the revision of the draft outcome document for the forthcoming Durban Anti-Racism Review Conference.


The Secretary-General also met with President Michel Sleiman of Lebanon.  In informal remarks to the press after that meeting, the Secretary-General said that he hoped that the 7 June parliamentary elections in Lebanon would be transparent, peaceful, free and fair, and that Lebanon would demonstrate to the world that it is stable and democratic.  He also said that he was encouraged by the exchange of Ambassadors between Lebanon and Syria.  The Secretary-General added that the launch of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was a positive development and served as a strong message to the world to end impunity.  During the meeting itself, the Secretary-General and the Lebanese President discussed the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the resources needed to rebuild the Nahr el-Bared camp for Palestinian refugees, the Secretary-General’s forthcoming report on resolution 1559 (2004) and Shaba’a Farms.  In the context of the Nahr el-Bared camp, the Secretary-General introduced his Special Humanitarian Envoy, Abdul Aziz Arrukban, to the Lebanese President.


Also on Sunday, the Secretary-General had a bilateral meeting with the President of Somalia, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.  They spoke about various issues pertaining to Somalia, including peace and stability, human rights, the rule of law, the rebuilding of institutions, the strengthening of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and piracy in Somalia’s waters.


The following day, Monday, 30 March, the Secretary-General addressed the League of Arab States Summit. In his remarks, he said:  “We gather at a time of palpable uncertainty.  From the widening fallout of the global economic crisis to the suffering of victims of armed conflict, the Arab world faces insecurity today and the potential for more tomorrow.”  (See Press Release SG/SM/12158)


On Gaza, the Secretary-General said the way forward is a durable ceasefire, open crossings and Palestinian reconciliation.  Efforts to achieve this need united Arab support, he added, stressing that it is vital that all those in the region act responsibly to exert what influence they have.


His speech, which included passages on Iraq, Lebanon and Somalia, also touched on Sudan, with the Secretary-General expressing his extreme concern over the Government’s decision to expel key international non-governmental organizations, and suspend the work of three national non-governmental organizations that provide life-sustaining services for more than 1 million people.  In that context, he urged the Sudanese authorities once again to reverse this decision.  He also said that those present must work together to transcend the tensions related to the International Criminal Court.  Relief efforts should not become politicized, he stressed.  People in need must be helped, irrespective of political differences.


Prior to the Summit, on Monday morning, the Secretary-General met bilaterally with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Amre Moussa. They discussed Israeli-Palestinian issues, including the reconstruction of Gaza, Somalia, and Sudan, including the decision of the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for the Sudanese President and its effect on the dire humanitarian situation in Darfur.


Also on Monday, the Secretary-General held bilateral meetings with the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Ekmelledin Ihsanoglu; Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store; and the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nayhan.


With the head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Secretary-General spoke about working relations between the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the United Nations, Israeli-Palestinian relations, the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Somalia, and Sudan and the International Criminal Court decision.  With the Norwegian Foreign Minister, he discussed Norway’s role in the Middle East, especially regarding aid to the Palestinians, Somalia, Sudan and the International Criminal Court, and the forthcoming Durban Anti-Racism Review Conference.  The Secretary-General and the President of the United Arab Emirates


spoke about the United Arab Emirates’ contributions to food security, the Nahr el-Bared camp for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Somalia reconstruction, Gaza and mine-clearance activities in southern Lebanon.


Shortly after his address to the League of Arab States Summit on Monday, the Secretary-General left Qatar that same day for The Hague, in the Netherlands, to attend an event entitled “The International Conference on Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Strategy in a Regional Context”.


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For information media • not an official record