United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in the Netherlands from Spain on Tuesday afternoon, 11 April.
In The Hague, on Wednesday morning, the Secretary-General spoke at a ceremony, called a solemn sitting, to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the International Court of Justice. (See Press Release SG/SM/10414.)
He said that the World Court is thriving, with United Nations Member States turning to it, more than ever, to decide cases from land and maritime border disputes to matters of genocide and the use of force.
The Secretary-General said that the Court “has never been more in demand” and “has also never been more productive and efficient”. As he spoke, the Court’s 15 judges sat in observance of the first sitting of the Court six decades ago, while Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands also attended.
He encouraged all States that have not yet done so to consider recognising the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction.
Afterwards, he met tête-à-tête with the Court’s President, Justice Rosalyn Higgins.
The Secretary-General later had an informal working luncheon with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. During that luncheon, the Prime Minister presented him with the highest honour given to civilians in the Netherlands, the Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands.
Upon receiving the decoration, the Secretary-General expressed his appreciation and asserted that the Netherlands has always been in the first rank of “those seeking to strengthen the United Nations, and to promote its purposes and principles”. (See Press Release SG/SM/10414.)
After that luncheon, the Secretary-General was asked by a reporter to comment on the current situation regarding Iran’s nuclear programme.
He said he hoped the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohammed ElBaradei will be able to convince the Iranian partners to come back to the table during his visit to Teheran, which started on the same day. The Secretary-General added he very much hoped that the Iranians would work with the international community to find a negotiated solution.
He noted that, if the Iranians intend to pursue their nuclear programme for peaceful purposes, as they have said, they should be able to give the international community that assurance, and work with everybody to find a solution out of this current problem. He also appealed to all to cool down on the rhetoric and not to escalate it.
The Secretary-General later met with the President of the Dutch Senate, Frans Weisglas, and the President of the House of Representatives, Yvonne Timmerman-Buck, as well as various members of the Foreign Relations Committee. The Secretary-General briefed them on the progress of United Nations reform efforts, and took questions from the assorted officials.
While in The Hague, he also met with the senior officials and staff of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court, and received updates on both courts’ work. Among the officials he met with, were Tribunal President Fausto Pocar and Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, and then President Phillipe Kirsch and Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of the International Criminal Court.
As he departed the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the Secretary-General told the gathered staff that their work had sent out a strong message to warlords and those accused of war crimes that “you won’t get away with it”.
On Wednesday night, the Secretary-General and Nane Annan attended a dinner in their honour hosted by Queen Beatrix.
The Secretary-General returned to New York on Thursday, 13 April.