United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Istanbul, Turkey, in the morning of Friday, 21 May, to hold bilateral talks with Turkish leaders and attend a major international conference on Somalia.
His first official function was to address students at Boğaziçi University, where he said Turkey was leading by example with its dynamic diplomacy and involvement in the United Nations. Turkey was also well placed to do even more through the Group of Twenty (G-20), its non-permanent Security Council membership and the Alliance of Civilizations, he added. (See Press Release SG/SM/12905)
The Secretary-General hosted a round table meeting with a group of senior editors and journalists from the Turkish media.
He held talks later that day with President Abdullah Gül at the Tarabya Presidential Palace, and they discussed a wide range of topics, including Iran’s nuclear programme, Somalia, Cyprus, the Middle East, the Alliance of Civilizations, the Millennium Development Goals and climate change. The Secretary-General commended President Gül for expanding the scope of Turkey’s foreign policy, including on Iran’s nuclear programme.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also attended the talks, later holding separate talks with the Secretary-General. They discussed the Iranian nuclear question, Somalia, the Alliance of Civilizations and Cyprus.
Foreign Minister Davutoğlu invited President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed of Somalia and the Secretary-General to discuss the situation in Somalia over dinner. They covered the political, military and social situation in Somalia as well as the country’s relations with its neighbours. The Secretary-General emphasized the United Nations strong support for President Sheikh Sharif and the efforts of the Transitional Federal Government, as well as the importance of political stability and effective use of international aid.
Opening the Istanbul Conference on Somalia on Saturday morning, the Secretary-General thankedattendees for their participation, “a clear sign of your commitment and solidarity with the people and Government of Somalia, at a time when they badly need our support”. He highlighted challenges facing the country, from extremism to human trafficking, to absence of law and order and piracy, to the dire humanitarian crisis. (See press release SG/SM/12907)
“But despite these serious problems, it is not too late,” he said, citing the leadership of President Sheikh Sharif and the unified composition of the Somali delegation to the Conference. On reconstruction, he mentioned the importance of the Somali business community, both inside and outside the country. “They should play a key role in the reconstruction phase of the peace process,” he advised.
At the closing session, the Secretary-General noted the sense of hope that, with adequate support, Somalia will overcome the challenges it faces now. He called on the Somali authorities to demonstrate the will and commitment to work together to resolve disputes, to unite against extremism and to improve the situation in Somalia. (See press release SG/SM/12908)
He then held a press conference where he highlighted the Istanbul Declaration, which sets out clear commitments to improve the lives of millions of Somalis. He reiterated the collective aim to defeat the cycle of lawlessness, violence and despair in Somalia, and “to build in its place a peaceful and prosperous future for the country and the region”.
Also on Saturday, on the sidelines of the International Conference on Somalia, the Secretary-General had a range of bilateral meetings with the following:
Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission (on Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, Guinea and Madagascar); Bernard Kouchner, Foreign Minister of France (on Somalia, Sudan and Iran); Miguel Angel Moratinos, Foreign Minister of Spain (on Somalia, the Middle East and the Millennium Development Goals); Moses Wetang’ula, Foreign Minister of Kenya (on Somalia, Sudan and the International Criminal Court); and Andris Piebalgs, European Union Commissioner for Development (on Somalia, Sudan, the Millennium Development Goals and the Democratic Republic of the Congo).
Others were Johnnie Carson, United States Assistant Secretary of State (on Somalia, Sudan, Kenya and Madagascar); Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey (on Somalia, Iran, Cyprus and the G-20); Crispus Kiyonga, Defence Minister of Uganda (on Somalia, the Lord's Resistance Army and the United Nations presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo); Augustin Nsanze, Foreign Minister of Burundi (on Somalia and elections in Burundi); and Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (on Somalia, cooperation between the United Nations and the Conference and the Alliance of Civilizations).
The Secretary-General attended a media stakeout with Prime Minister Erdoğan, where he spoke about the Somalia Conference.
On Saturday evening, the Secretary-General attended a dinner hosted by Foreign Minister Davutoğlu, who also hosted a working breakfast on Sunday morning.
Mr. Ban later departed for New York, arriving the same afternoon.