United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Madam Ban Soon-taek travelled to Washington, D.C., on Monday afternoon, 16 July.
That evening, he had dinner with business leaders, religious leaders and senior administration officials, as well as members of Congress. They held vibrant discussions on the challenges, options and importance of United States leadership on climate change issues. Discussions were moderated by former Senator Tim Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation.
On Tuesday, the Secretary-General had his first meeting with World Bank President Robert Zoellick, with whom he discussed the importance of pursuing the Millennium Development Goals and of paying special attention to Africa. They also talked about Darfur and climate change.
He also met tête-à-tête with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They discussed, among other issues, the work of the Middle East Quartet; both of them would meet again in two days time in Lisbon for the next meeting of the Quartet’s principal members.
The Secretary-General had a working breakfast that day with members of the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee, under the chairmanship of Congressman Tom Lantos (D-California), and later met with the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, hosted by Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida). In both meetings, the Secretary-General discussed United Nations reform, stressing his efforts towards greater transparency and accountability. He also raised the United Nations reform agenda on peacekeeping, disarmament and political affairs. He expressed his determination to increase the United Nations role in Iraq, but also noted the need that United Nations staff in Iraq receive proper protection. On the Hill, the Secretary-General also discussed issues of border monitoring between Syria and Lebanon, unity of command for the joint United Nations-African Union force to be deployed in Darfur, the Human Rights Council, perspectives on Kosovo, the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the situation of Iraqi refugees.
At 1 p.m., Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met for an hour with United States President George W. Bush at the White House. They discussed the progress made in Darfur with the acceptance by the Government of Sudan of a joint United Nations-African Union force. The Secretary-General appealed for United States assistance to help build safe and secure facilities in Darfur for the initial 3,000 personnel being deployed there. On Iraq, the Secretary-General stressed that military efforts need to be complemented by an active political engagement. The Secretary-General and President Bush also exchanged views on the Middle East and a new United States initiative, including other regional actors. The Secretary-General stressed the need to strengthen the Government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and expressed his concerns about the humanitarian needs of the population in Gaza. He had argued, he said, for the opening of the crossings into Gaza to alleviate the situation. On climate change, the Secretary-General welcomed the United States initiative in Heiligendamm on addressing the threat of climate change. The United States, he said, could play a leadership role with innovative technologies. The Secretary-General and President Bush also discussed disarmament issues, Kosovo, the establishment of the international tribunal for Lebanon, Afghanistan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
During a press encounter in the Oval Office at the end of the meeting with President Bush, the Secretary-General once more spoke of Iraq. “We are going to help them with political facilitation, as well as economic and social reconstruction.” On Darfur, he said, “we are going to step up the political process. We have made a positive development yesterday in Tripoli through the meeting chaired by the United Nations and African Union. We are going to have pre-negotiation in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, in early August. We are also going to facilitate humanitarian assistance. I'm going to step up efforts to deploy hybrid operations as soon as possible.” On climate change, he confirmed that he had extended an official invitation to President Bush to participate in a high-level United Nations debate on climate change, which will be held on 24 September in New York.
During the day, Madam Ban Soon-taek met with First Lady Laura Bush in the White House, where they discussed human rights issues, particularly the case of Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar. They also spoke about issues of poverty, literacy and women’s health.
The Secretary-General and Madam Ban Soon-taek returned to New York in the afternoon of 17 July.