28 September 2009
Press Conference

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

Press Conference by Secretary-General of Organization of Islamic Conference


Among the highlights of several very busy days that had begun with the opening of the general debate last week, the head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) mentioned the address by United States President Barack Obama and the adoption of a resolution on non-proliferation by the high-level meeting of the Security Council.


Speaking to correspondents at a Headquarters press conference this morning, Ekmelledin Ihsanoglu, OIC Secretary-General, welcomed President Obama’s commitment to the resolution of the Middle East and Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and appreciated the keen interest of the United States Administration in fostering relations with the Muslim world and OIC.  He was looking forward to the appointment of a new United States special envoy to OIC, hoping that a high-stature Muslim American personality would be selected, who had a close association with President Obama.  During the short term of Ambassador Sada Cumber, who had been appointed special envoy during the last year of United States President George W. Bush’s term, significant progress had been achieved, particularly related to the fight against pandemic diseases and socio-economic development.


Having attended the Security Council summit on nuclear non-proliferation, which he characterized as a historic event, he welcomed the 15-member body’s adoption of a resolution, which endorsed a broad framework of actions to reduce global nuclear dangers.  OIC wholeheartedly supported the text, particularly the call upon States to conclude safeguards and additional agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to enable the Agency to carry out all the necessary inspections to ensure that materials and technologies for peaceful nuclear uses were not utilized to support weapons programmes.  OIC also endorsed the provision encouraging the work of IAEA on multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle, including assurances of fuel supply, to make it easier for countries to choose not to develop enrichment and reprocessing capabilities.


The situation in East Jerusalem remained of major concern, having the potential to lead “either to permanent peace or permanent animosity”, he continued.  For that reason, Israel’s illegal practices in Al-Quds had been the main theme of the debate at an OIC foreign ministers coordination meeting in New York last Friday.


Among the week’s other events, he drew attention to a reception he had hosted last Friday at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, his meetings with several Heads of Government and ministers and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and his address to the Balkan Leaders Forum at Rutgers University, as well as the annual OIC-European Union Ministerial Troika meetings.  Tomorrow, he would travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other United States officials.


He also stressed OIC’s increased responsibilities emanating from a recent transformation of its role.  During the past five years, the organization had adopted a new charter to respond to the new challenges facing the Muslim world.  It had developed, among other things, increased capacities in conflict resolution, peacekeeping, socio-economic development, humanitarian aid and relief efforts, including their human rights aspect.  He also pointed to OIC’s readiness to assume new responsibilities in such countries as Somalia and Afghanistan, adding that the organization was developing its peacebuilding mandate.


Responding to questions, he said that he wanted to see the whole world free of nuclear arms, particularly the Muslim world, “from Central Asia to the shores of the Atlantic”.  In promoting that dream, however, the international community needed to be fair, not “exempting some” or using “two yardsticks”.  Last week’s Security Council resolution represented a strong commitment by all Security Council members to non-proliferation, and he insisted that everybody should abide by its terms.  Rules should be accepted by all.


He added that several Central Asian States had agreed to declare their region nuclear-weapon-free, despite the fact that one of those countries –- Kazakhstan -– had inherited a big nuclear-weapon arsenal from the Soviet Union.


To several questions about Islamophobia, he said that OIC opposed that phenomenon, which was as dangerous as other manifestations of xenophobia, including anti-Semitism.  Muslims followed the principles of accepting others, and in their countries, synagogues, churches and mosques coexisted.


In connection with Islamophobia, he mentioned the misuse of the freedom of expression, whereby some “make it a freedom of insulting others” and disseminated hatred.  OIC based its expectations on full implementation of existing international legislation, including articles 19 and 20 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, under which nobody was to use freedom of expression to incite hatred on a religious, racial or gender basis.  He also welcomed the joint United States-Egypt draft resolution on freedom of speech, which had been presented in Geneva and on which consensus was warranted.


OIC, in dealing with Islamophobia, had always sought reconciliation and compromise with Western countries and had succeeded in some cases.  During the Durban review, for instance, the organization had shown great understanding and accommodated many European, American and other concerns.  As a result, a joint draft had been issued.  He expected to see the same understanding and accommodation from others.


With 57 members and five observer States, OIC represented some 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide and was the second biggest international organization in the world, after the United Nations, he explained.  Working in cooperation with each other, the two organizations had declared 2001 to be the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations.  Following several other initiatives, a special meeting on inter-faith dialogue had been held at the United Nations last year, under the auspices of Saudi Arabia’s King.  To be successful, however, such a dialogue required specific objectives, an agreed agenda and timetable, and political commitment.


He added that OIC had been instrumental in bridging sectarian conflicts in Iraq, bringing Shiites and Sunni together in October 2006.  The principle of Islam was that people had to live in peace and be allowed to practise their religion without interference.  The organization had opposed harassment of Christians in Iraq by certain groups, and had made a principled statement in connection with recent clashes between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.


Asked about the Iranian nuclear programme, he said that he was looking forward to the talks between six world leaders and Iran in Geneva next Thursday.  OIC’s position in this regard –- as underlined in last week’s Security Council resolution -- was that every country had a right to produce safe and peaceful nuclear power.  He also believed that IAEA should be in charge, and that its rules should be observed by all parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).  There should be no double standards, either for Iran or any other country.  Negotiation was the way forward; confrontation and sanctions would not be helpful.


On a second site in Iran, he recalled the statement by the head of that country’s nuclear agency, who had held the position of the Assistant Secretary-General of OIC for several years, namely, that Iran had already informed IAEA about that facility.  If that was the case, the international community should hear from IAEA on the matter.  He did not want Iraq’s scenario of several years ago repeated.


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For information media • not an official record