United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Madame Ban Soon-taek arrived in the Netherlands during the evening of Monday, 30 March, from Doha, Qatar, where the Secretary-General had addressed the League of Arab States Summit.
The Secretary-General was greeted at Rotterdam Airport by Maxime Jacques Marcel Verhagen, the Dutch Foreign Minister. He then proceeded to the Paleis Noordeinde, the working palace of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in the centre of The Hague. The Queen had invited the Secretary-General and his wife to stay at the palace during their time in her country.
That evening, the Secretary-General attended a working dinner hosted by the Dutch Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, at Catshuis, the Prime Minister’s official residence. They discussed Afghanistan, the Group of 20 (G-20) and Somalia.
The following day, Tuesday, 31 March, the Secretary-General delivered an opening statement to an event entitled “International Conference on Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Strategy in a Regional Context”. (See Press Release SG/SM/12159) Also delivering opening statements were the Dutch Prime Minister and the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.
In his remarks, the Secretary-General said: “This is a critical year for Afghanistan. We have said this before. But this year is different.” He noted that there is real potential to make concrete progress in important areas, from fighting illicit opium production to increasing productivity in traditional agricultural commodities, from combating organized criminal groups to advancing regional economic cooperation. We should bring the same sense of urgency to addressing these challenges as we are bringing to efforts to improve the security situation, he said.
While at the conference on Tuesday, the Secretary-General had a number of bilaterals, including with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, and the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
During their bilateral meeting, the Secretary-General and the President of Afghanistan discussed various issues pertaining to Afghanistan, including the forthcoming elections, democracy, the mandate of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, and the role of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
With the Canadian Foreign Minister, the Secretary-General discussed Afghanistan, Somalia, Haiti and the Middle East, including Gaza.
The Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister of Belgium spoke about Somalia, including a forthcoming donor conference to be held in April in Brussels, the Durban Review Conference and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
With the Australian Foreign Minister, the topics of discussion were Afghanistan, Somalia, the Secretary-General’s recent letter to the G-20, climate change, Australia’s disaster risk reduction programme and Sri Lanka.
The Secretary-General’s meeting with the Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister focused on Afghanistan, the Korean peninsula and Myanmar.
With the head of NATO, the Secretary-General talked about United Nations-NATO cooperation, NATO’s participation in various United Nations operations, NATO’s role in supporting the forthcoming Afghan elections, Kosovo and Somalia.
The Secretary-General also received a courtesy call from the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, Yu Myung-hwan.
Following the Conference, back at Paleis Noordeinde, the Secretary-General met with Princess Maxima of The Netherlands. Later that evening, he attended a dinner hosted by Queen Beatrix at her residential palace in The Hague, Paleis Huis ten Bosch.
Before leaving the Netherlands, on the morning of Wednesday, 1 April, the Secretary-General visited the headquarters of the International Court of Justice, where he met with the principals of the international courts established in The Hague.
The participants were Judge Shi Jiuyong (China), former International Court of Justice President and Dean of the Judges of the International Court of Justice; Philippe Couvreur (Belgium), Registrar of the International Court of Justice; Judge Patrick Lipton Robinson (Jamaica), President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia; Judge Song Sang-hyun (Republic of Korea), President of the International Criminal Court; and Judge Richard Lussick (Samoa), Presiding Judge, Trial Chamber II of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
The Secretary-General and Madame Ban then flew to London in the United Kingdom, where the Secretary-General was to attend a G-20 summit.