Transcript of remarks of the Secretary-General at the Joint Press Conference with Prime Minister José Rodríguez Zapatero
Madrid, Spain, 6 June 2007(unofficial transcript)
Buenos Días, Señor Presidente del Gobierno,
Queridos amigos de la prensa,
Queridos amigos españoles,
Muchas gracias por su calida bienvenida,
It is a great pleasure for me to be here in your beautiful capital city of Madrid. The last time I visited Madrid was, I remember, June last year, when I was Foreign Minister and one of the candidates and I am very happy to have been elected as Secretary-General of the United Nations owing to your great support.
The Prime Minister and I just had a very good exchange of views on the many important issues that are before the international community and which are point of mutual concerns. We discussed the situation in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Darfur and Western Sahara. We also spoke about the need to address Climate Change and how to further the Alliance of Civilizations, an initiative which the President of Government has himself provided the crucial impulse, an initiative at the General Assembly of the United Nations. I am looking forward to closely working together with the Government of Spain, to further the concept and programs of this very important initiative and I am looking forward to the first International Forum on this Alliance of Civilizations at January next year. I am convinced that with this initiative the international community will benefit to further appreciate and promote the cultural dialogues among the countries of the international community.
With regard to the Middle East, yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Israeli and Arab war. This is a sombre reminder that four decades later, there is still no peace in the region. I have made the Middle East a priority and in the first few months of my tenure as Secretary-General, I have visited the region already several times and I am going to make another visit later this month. The people of the region are continuing to experience hardship and suffering, and there is an urgent need to find a political solution. In Lebanon, a peacekeeping operation - in which Spain participates in large numbers – has restored a fragile peace in the country. It is incumbent on the international community to help the peoples of the region find a political solution, and the renewed efforts of the Quartet as well as the Arab Peace Initiative afford opportunities that must be seized.
The situations in Afghanistan and Darfur are also of great concern. The international community can provide humanitarian assistance, political facilitation, or troops to stabilize the situation, but ultimately, the solution lies with the leaders and the people of the country. We deeply appreciate the Spanish contribution in this regard, and their contribution of peacekeeping forces to Afghanistan and Lebanon.
Let me also mention the situation in Western Sahara. I informed the President of Government that following the Security Council resolution of late April, I have invited the two parties and the neighbouring countries and the Friends Group, including Spain, to a meeting to take place near New York next week. This is the first step in a process of negotiations which are conducted by my Special Envoy, Mr. Peter Van Walsum. I sincerely hope that it would mark the beginning of the political up-forces on this issue.
In addition to the many political situations that the United Nations is seized with, let us not forget the urgent need to address the issues of an economic and social nature. One of the most pressing points on the international agenda is undoubtedly Climate Change. We have had an extensive exchange of views on this issue. All of us are experiencing it, and all of us are becoming more conscious of the need to address this issue. As the only global forum, the UN is uniquely placed to forge a common approach on the agenda of the G-8 meeting in Heiligendamm, and we will hold further talks at the highest level during the General Assembly session this fall. The time for action is now, and I have appointed three Special Envoys who will help me in galvanizing a joint approach.
Another issue of importance is migration. This is also of great concern and interest of the international community, including Spain. We appreciate Spain's leadership on this issue and expect the up-coming Global Forum on Migration in early July to enhance the global awareness of this issue.
And another issue I would like to take this opportunity to express my views as Secretary-General of the United Nations is about the recent announcement of the break of the ceasefire by ETA. I am very concerned about the announcement of the breaking of the ceasefire. Keeping the ceasefire would have ensured the security as well as the safety of many human lives. I would urge to redouble all the efforts to keep this ceasefire. This is very important. Whatever the differences of opinion may be, this is a matter of principle that we need to resolve all the pending issues, all the conflict issues through peaceful means. Terrorist attacks cannot be justified under any circumstances or pretexts. There cannot be dialogue when there is violence. I denounce in unequivocal terms the violence and I am quite confident that all the international community is behind you.
As a last point, I wish to mention the important role that Spain is playing in the United Nations. I have already mentioned the initiative of His Excellency the President of the Government, Mr. Zapatero, with regard to the Alliance of Civilizations. Spain has been a steadfast supporter of many activities of the Organization and recently contributed $700 million to the UN Fund for the Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Spain has played a constructive role in the Security Council, most recently during the 2003-2004 term, and is actively contributing troops to peacekeeping operations. In addition, as has already been said by the President of Government, Spain will soon host an important telecommunications facility for peacekeeping operations in the historic city of Valencia. I am grateful for Spain's consistent support of our Organization.
Q: It seems that Turkey is preparing a military operation in northern Iraq against the PKK. I would like to know your opinion about what is happening in the north of Iraq and what about a possible Turkish attack against the terrorist group PKK.
SG: The situation in Iraq as a whole is very volatile, worrisome and disturbing to the whole international community. The whole international community has been trying to help the Iraqi Government to stabilize the situation all throughout Iraq. I hope [Iraq will] be able to recover with the help of the international community. On these specific questions, I do not have any correct information which may certify your questions, but as a matter of principle, it is important, as I have already stated, that all the pending issues should be resolved through peaceful means, through dialogue.
Q: On the 18th of June there will be a multilateral meeting on the Western Sahara. Does that mean that the autonomy plan presented by Morocco is going to be ignored? Does that mean that there will be a possibility of a referendum on self-determination?
SG: As you may recall, the Security Council in its resolution adopted on April 30th urged the parties concerned to enter into negotiations without pre-conditions, in good faith. I sincerely hope that the forthcoming meeting in New York under the auspices of the United Nations will be a good beginning point so that the parties concerned will be able to find lasting solutions on this issue. As the Security Council resolution has stated, the negotiations should be entered into without any pre-conditions. I hope that the parties concerned will base their negotiations under that spirit. And as Secretary-General I will instruct my Special Envoy, Mr Van Walsum, to play [the role of] a very honest broker and also facilitate the negotiations among the parties concerned.
Q: Is there any hope for these negotiations?
SG: I cannot predict, I am not in a position to say anything predicting the results of the negotiation, but you should know that the Security Council, unlike the previous resolutions, has stated and urged the parties concerned to enter negotiations without any pre-conditions. This is very significant. Therefore, I would urge and hope sincerely that the parties concerned will seize this momentum and this opportunity to address all their concerns and interests and the Contact Group countries will facilitate together with the United Nations so that they can achieve a lasting and trustful solution to this issue.