UNION FOR MEDITERRANEAN SHOULD BECOME UNITED NATIONS VIBRANT PARTNER IN MANY AREAS, SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS AT CLOSING OF LAUNCH OF NEW INITIATIVE

14 July 2008
SG/SM/11696/Rev. 1

UNION FOR MEDITERRANEAN SHOULD BECOME UNITED NATIONS VIBRANT PARTNER IN MANY AREAS, SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS AT CLOSING OF LAUNCH OF NEW INITIATIVE

14 July 2008
Secretary-General
SG/SM/11696/Rev. 1*
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

UNION FOR MEDITERRANEAN SHOULD BECOME UNITED NATIONS VIBRANT PARTNER IN MANY AREAS,

SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS AT CLOSING OF LAUNCH OF NEW INITIATIVE

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s closing remarks at the launch of the Union for the Mediterranean, in Paris on 13 July:

We had a very constructive and stimulating debate today, which brought out the special role played by the Mediterranean at the strategic, historical, cultural, commercial and political levels.

I firmly believe that this special role can afford us the necessary impetus to achieve progress in the fundamental political objectives of the advent of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East; an end to the occupation which began in 1967; the establishment of a sovereign, viable, contiguous and democratic Palestinian State; the settlement of the problems associated with the Israeli-Syrian component; and the continuation of efforts for the consolidation of the stability and sovereignty of Lebanon.

The coming months will prove crucial on all these fronts.  In fact, I believe several strands now exist, which, if pursued with determination, can prove mutually reinforcing and carry the peace process forward.  In this context, the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations launched in Annapolis remain especially critical.  I commend the commitment of the parties to these talks, which are now entering their crucial phase.

There has also been welcome improvement in the conditions in the West Bank.  More progress is urgently required on an Israeli settlement freeze, on easing of closures, on donor support for the budget of the Palestinian Authority and on continued security efforts by the Palestinian Authority.

Similarly, Gaza and southern Israel are enjoying a welcome and desperately needed calm due to Egypt’s efforts.  But this truce is tenuous and the humanitarian conditions in Gaza remain unacceptable.  It is, therefore, crucial that the parties also increase the flow of supplies from Israel into Gaza.

We must simultaneously work towards an orderly and sustainable reopening of all border crossings under the legitimate Palestinian Authority.  President [Mahmoud] Abbas has called for Palestinian dialogue, supported by the Arab League, to negotiate the implementation of the Yemeni initiative.  His careful efforts to prepare a process for the reunification of Gaza and the West Bank within the framework of the legitimate Palestinian Authority need our support.

The opening of indirect negotiations between Israel and Syria with Turkish facilitation represents another important yet fragile development.  These talks must now be actively encouraged and supported by the entire international community.

I also welcome President [Bashar al-] Assad’s intention to initiate diplomatic relations with Lebanon.  I encourage him to do so as soon as possible.  The formation of a national unity Government was just announced on 11 July.  This announcement builds on the agreement reached earlier in Doha with the support of Qatar and the League of Arab States.

I am also hopeful that these positive developments can help in the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006), and lead to a longer-term political solution between Lebanon and Israel.  But for now, I welcome the commitment of Lebanon and Israel to the cessation of hostilities that has brought an important and much needed stability to the south of Lebanon.

Finally, there is also welcome news to report from Cyprus, where President [Dimitris] Christofias, the Greek Cypriot leader, and Mr. [Mehmet Ali] Talat, the Turkish Cypriot leader, have made significant and courageous overtures in recent months.  The United Nations strongly supports their efforts, and there is great expectation across the international community that a settlement will be reached.  I am fully committed to helping the two sides move forward smoothly and expeditiously to the formal talks.

These developments -- between Israel and Palestine, Syria and Israel, or within Lebanon and Cyprus -- are all extremely welcome.  But they remain extremely fragile.  As countries of the region, as well as friends and neighbours of all the parties, you all need to play and an active role in these quests for peace.

Fortunately, the new Union for the Mediterranean is well timed to help you all shoulder this collective responsibility.  But this initiative also has the potential to deliver on a much wider agenda.  I believe this far-reaching multilateral initiative can work to address the complex transborder issues the region faces and provide a framework for the pooling of resources and the development of collective action.

And I hope the Union will become a vibrant partner of the entire United Nations family, across the range of the Union’s areas of focus -- from energy and environment to security cooperation, education and science.

United Nations funds, programmes and agencies have expertise in all these areas and stand ready to support your efforts.

I should like to conclude with a word of thanks.  As you know, the Mediterranean region has long been a focus of United Nations peacekeeping efforts.  I am grateful to all the Governments represented here which are supporting these efforts and contributing to them.

I am particularly proud that several of our peacekeepers will take part in the 14 July parade tomorrow, on the Champs Elysées.

I thank you all for having made possible this interesting and inspiring exchange of views and I join you in welcoming the launching of the Union for the Mediterranean.

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*     Reissued to include text translated from French.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.