United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived on Wednesday, 2 April, in Bucharest, Romania, where he met shortly upon arrival with the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. They discussed Afghanistan, Kosovo and cooperation between the United Nations and NATO. On Afghanistan, they discussed whether additional troops would be offered at the high-level meeting taking place the following day, on the margins of the NATO summit taking place in Bucharest.
After that, the Secretary-General met with Romanian Prime Minister Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, and they discussed, among other things, the Thursday meeting on Afghanistan, recent developments in Kosovo, an expanded United Nations role in Iraq and the Millennium Development Goals.
The Secretary-General told reporters afterwards that he appreciated Romania’s contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations -- from Kosovo to the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- as well as its voluntary funding to 15 United Nations agencies, funds and programmes.
On Thursday, 3 April, the Secretary-General had a working breakfast meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and they discussed the importance of the Bucharest conference as a means of reaffirming the international community’s long-term support for Afghanistan. The President said that his Government would fully support the new Special Representative, Kai Eide. The Secretary-General and the President also discussed the latest audio message from Al-Qaida, and both noted, contrary to that message, the contributions that the United Nations has made to the Muslim world.
The Secretary-General then visited United Nations staff in Romania and voiced his appreciation for their work and for Romania’s support of the United Nations work. He again referred to the message from Al-Qaida deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, saying that he was alarmed by the “totally false and unacceptable accusation” that the United Nations did not help the Muslim world.
The Secretary-General went on to hold several bilateral meetings with the leaders attending the NATO summit, focusing in particular on Afghanistan, but also bringing up other items of mutual concern.
First, he met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and they discussed international support for Afghanistan and the need to win over public opinion there; they also brought up Kosovo, Darfur, Chad and Lebanon. They also had a brief tête-à-tête meeting.
After that, he met with United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who brought up the possibility of run-off elections in Zimbabwe. Beyond discussing the security situation in Afghanistan, they touched on Darfur, Myanmar, Kosovo, the cooperation between NATO and the United Nations, and Cyprus.
The Secretary-General and Javier Solana, the European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, held a meeting that focused on Kosovo, including forthcoming municipal elections and European Union efforts to deal with the situation there.
The Secretary-General afterwards met with New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who welcomed the strengthening of the United Nations presence in Afghanistan and also discussed Myanmar, Fiji and Timor-Leste.
He then held a tête-à-tête meeting with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, after which their full delegations joined them for a discussion of Afghanistan, Kosovo, the presidential vacuum in Lebanon and the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
The Secretary-General then met with Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime Barnier, with whom he discussed developments in Afghanistan and Darfur.
Prior to attending a luncheon hosted by Romania, the Secretary-General met with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whom he thanked for offering to host the 29 May meeting of the International Compact with Iraq. They also both agreed on the importance of high-level attendance at the meeting the Secretary-General will chair in New York this September on the Millennium Development Goals.
The September meeting on the Millennium Development Goals was also discussed afterwards in a meeting between the Secretary-General and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. They also discussed Kosovo.
The Secretary-General later met with Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, prior to the high-level meeting on Afghanistan.
After that, the Secretary-General met with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Jan-Peter Balkenende, and they discussed the anti-Islamic film Fitna, as well as Kosovo, Cyprus, Afghanistan, the situation in Gaza and the name dispute between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
He followed that with a meeting with the President of Romania, Traian Basescu, and they talked about the cooperation the United Nations has enjoyed with the Government of Romania.
Following those meetings, the Secretary-General addressed the high-level meeting on Afghanistan in Bucharest, and he pledged the United Nations commitment to that country, vowing: “We shall not leave Afghanistan as long as we are needed by the Afghan people.” (See Press Release SG/SM/11492)
He noted the signs of progress in the country, as well as the obstacles that are still present, foremost among them the threat posed by the continuing violence and militancy in various parts of the country. Another obstacle, he added, is the constantly growing drug economy.
The Secretary-General acknowledged that the United Nations has not been as effective as it needs to be in coordinating the international community, adding that the new Security Council mandate will allow the United Nations to take a more assertive role in coordination.
He told reporters, in a press conference that took place afterwards, that the Bucharest gathering shows how seriously we all take our commitments to Afghanistan.
He added: “It is absolutely necessary that the international community continue to engage until the Afghan Government will be able to stand on their own. It was very encouraging, Mr. President, that you stated that the security of Kabul will be the responsibility under the leadership of yourself and the Afghan National Army.”
The Secretary-General left Bucharest for New York on Friday, 4 April.