United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Cairo early in the afternoon of Friday, 23 March.
After meeting with the United Nations country team, he met with the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit. That evening, he also attended a dinner hosted by the Foreign Minister.
In a meeting with a group of reporters in Cairo, the Secretary-General made it clear that his position on any possible increase of the United Nations role in Iraq had not changed because of an incident the previous day in Baghdad, in which a mortar exploded nearby while he was giving a press conference.
He said that he would consider upon his return to New York how the United Nations could do more for the Iraqi people and for political and development work in the country. At the same time, he noted that United Nations activity has been largely constrained by the security environment, and that the situation in Iraq is still very volatile.
The Secretary-General added that he was very moved during his meeting with United Nations staff in Baghdad, saying: “From my meeting with them, I was very much assured and grateful to them that, even in such an exceptional situation, they were working with a sense of dedication and duty.”The Secretary-General also issued a statement, offering condolences to those people killed or injured in an attack in Baghdad on Friday, including the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, Salam Z. al-Zubai, whom he had met the previous day. (See Press Release SG/SM/10919.)
On Saturday, the Secretary-General met with President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. In a press conference after that meeting, he said that they had discussed Iraq, Lebanon, Darfur, Palestine and Israel, and Somalia. He noted that those discussions included a consideration of the recent situation after the formation of the Palestinian National Unity Government, and the need for the international community to encourage the ongoing peace process there.The Secretary-General also said that he had explained to the Egyptian President all that has been discussed between the United Nations and the Government of the Sudan on Darfur, including the deployment of hybrid peacekeeping operations and the humanitarian situation. He added that he expects that President Mubarak and other leaders in the region will take the time and look at this issue more seriously to help the efforts of the United Nations and the African Union to address this issue as soon as possible.
He also met that day with Amre Moussa, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, and said to journalists afterwards that they had held comprehensive discussions on many issues, including Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel, Somalia and Darfur. He said of Mr. Moussa: “I am counting upon his continued support and cooperation as we work together towards building a more prosperous and secure peace in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world.”While in Cairo, the Secretary-General also visited the Girl’s Education Initiative Field, a United Nations-supported project, and said: “I am very much moved by all that I have seen and particularly pleased to be part of this programme.”
The Secretary-General and his party departed Cairo to Tel Aviv in the early evening.