Joint press encounter with the Secretary-General and Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen following their working lunch
Copenhagen, Denmark, 18 June 2006Prime Minister: Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to this press conference. It is really a great pleasure for me to welcome the Secretary-General of the UN to Copenhagen and to Denmark. Today we have had a very positive and constructive meeting. I took the opportunity to commend the Secretary-General for his tremendous efforts as Secretary-General of the United Nations. These have been difficult years, but the Secretary-General has succeeded in maintaining the high ideals of United Nations and for this he deserves our utmost gratitude. Today we have exchanged views on a number of international issues. Firstly we discussed Africa and not least the situation in Sudan and Darfur. I welcome the peace agreement; now it's our challenge to ensure a rapid implementation of the peace agreement. I have informed the Secretary-General that Denmark supports a UN take-over of the peacekeeping mission in Sudan. Denmark is ready to assist in the reconstruction of Darfur and Sudan. We will provide funds for a post conflict reconstruction. I have also informed the Secretary-General that Denmark would positively consider a military contribution if the UN requests so. Today we have also discussed Iran. We agree that we should find diplomatic solutions to the problem as far as Iran is concerned. I strongly encourage the Iranian government to respond positively and constructively to the proposal presented by the international community. We also discussed the situation in Iraq. Denmark is present in Iraq on the basis on the UN mandate. We would very much like to see a strong role for the UN in Iraq, and I have informed the SG that Denmark is going to provide the UN mission with assistance. We are going to offer a transport plane to support the UN mission in Iraq. We have also touched upon reforms of the UN and I have assured the SG that he can count on Denmark's support in his efforts to reform and streamline the UN.
SG: Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you very much Mr. Prime Minister. I was able this afternoon to thank the Prime Minister and the government and the people of Denmark for the strong support they have given to the United Nations and to me, as Secretary-General, over the past ten years. We have done a lot together and as the Prime Minister indicated we covered quite a lot of issues. We also discussed Denmark's assistance to economic development in the developing world; particularly this emphasis on Africa and the support given to African nations, and the fact that it is one of the few countries that has honored its commitment to spend 0.7 percent of its GNI on development assistance. On Iran let me also say that I share the Prime Minister's view that we do have an opportunity to really move ahead and resolve this issue diplomatically. In my own contacts with the Iranians, I can say that they are taking this offer seriously, they are studying it, and I hope they will respond in the not too distant future. I believe that we also all noticed that their comments so far have been constructive, and I hope that they will come and sit around the table with all concerned to find the solution and, in my judgment, the only solution is a negotiated one. I am also very grateful to the Prime Minister for the offer to help the UN in Iraq with the transport plane, which would facilitate our movement and our essential work to support the Iraqi people. As some of you may have read in the press, on Friday I indicated that following an appeal from the Prime Minister of Iraq I have decided to provide strong support to the Iraqi government in creating an international compact of nations that will come together to work with the new government of Iraq to ensure that it stabilizes its economy and strengthens its institutions and moves in the right direction, and we will begin to work very closely with the World Bank, with UNDP, with the government of Iraq itself and others involved in preparing for the compact. Mr. Prime Minister once again let me really thank you for the strong support and the leadership Denmark is showing in the UN. People sometimes think you have to be a big country to play a role, but small countries like Denmark sometimes punch above their weight and you have a wonderful ambassador in New York and you are playing a very effective role on the Security Council. Thank you very much.
Prime Minister: Thank you, we are ready to take some questions:
Q: First of all welcome to Denmark. We hear that you are assessing the situation in Darfur. Is it possible to be a bit more accurate? Are there any news from the assessment mission that indicates that Denmark or other countries should send troops to Darfur? And after that I would like the Danish Prime Minister to comment on that please.
SG: Let me say that the assessment mission has not finished its work yet. They are still in Sudan. They have had initial discussions with the government and, at the end of the assessment, they will meet again with the government, and you know that the assessment mission is jointly organized with the African Union and the UN. So there will be a three way discussion between the two organizations and the government, and of course, the government will take a decision as to cooperation with the UN transition force. I hope the government will agree to cooperate and support the force, because we are really going there to help the government and to help the people of Sudan. Once that decision is taken the Security Council will have to adopt a resolution and we would approach governments definitely for contributions. In the meantime, we are approaching governments informally but we will firm up that request once we have the agreement from the Sudanese government and the Security Council has adopted the resolution authorizing a peacekeeping force in Darfur. And I do hope it will happen.
Prime Minister: Denmark is ready to consider positively a possible request for a military contribution to a peacekeeping mission in Darfur. However I think it is crucial that a UN peacekeeping mission is based on an agreement between the UN and the African Union and other partners. And we do know that the Africans attach a strong importance to a strong African participation and a strong African character of such a peacekeeping mission. So, at this state, it is premature to discuss in details the composition of a UN peacekeeping mission.
Q: At your latest press briefing, you said you would get over the budget crisis and there would be more reform. Can you move forward? There have been lots of questions about the issue of human rights in the fight against terrorism. Can you comment?
SG: I think on the budget first, let me say that I see a change in attitude and improvement in the atmosphere. There has been a considerable mistrust within the membership and between groups and I think that is dissipating and all of them seem to be working very seriously now towards reform. We have a very ambitious reform agenda and obviously we are not going to complete all of it by the end of June. But we will be able to show considerable results by the end of June with indications of what we are going to do for the rest of this General Assembly and, perhaps, for the next General Assembly. And I think with that momentum and with that sense of purpose and focus on reform, which I have always said, reform is a process and not an event. [inaudible] Once a process is going ahead purposely, we should be able to come to an understanding and remove the budget caps, so that we can go ahead with our activities and not create unnecessary upheaval by pulling the plug. And I think most Member States have the same sense and that is why I feel there is a coincidence of interest and a sense that we have a job to do, we must carry on and, at the same time, reform and not use reform, which was intended to make us work better, as a reason for bringing us to a halt. So I am quite confident that the Member States will find a way of cooperating with each other and that is a wise way to proceed. On the question of human rights and the fight against terrorism, I feel very strongly about it, because as you look around the world the rather disturbing development where governments in the fight against terrorism sometimes take steps or measures, which undermine human rights and civil liberties. Sometimes all governments have to do is paint the “t-word” on somebody to lock him away without due process. These kinds of approaches really undermine human rights and civil liberty and give the terrorists a victory they cannot win on their own. When you look at situations where you have these sorts of conflicts or terrorist activities and others, often it is because human rights have been undermined, there is no rule of law and you have the sort of disruptions that we all believe should not happen. So I think governments have to be sensitive that in the fight against terrorism, we should make sure, we do not undermine the basis tenets of rule of law, which underpin societies.
Q: What can Denmark do in Sudan and in Africa?
SG: First of all, in Sudan generally there is quite a lot of work. Progressive governments like Denmark can help us honor [inaudible]. First there is humanitarian, there is an attempt to bring security to the needed to the internally displaced. We then also have to work with the people of Sudan or Darfur to implement the peace agreement that has been signed. And has you have indicated there is strong support from Denmark for the peacekeeping operation from transition from African Union to UN and as the Prime Minister said, we will build on what the African Union has put on the ground and we will keep some of the African forces on the ground and expand on that. When you look beyond Darfur and you look at southern Sudan where the SPLM/A is now a part of the government and is also trying to create a state in the south with the headquarters in Juba, you need to help them strengthen the institutions, develop their schools and health systems. So there is quite a bit of assistance one can give, but I was also happy to notice in my discussion with the Prime Minister that the Danish assistance to Africa is not limited only to Darfur; they are working in other countries as well and this is extremely welcome.
Q: Did you discuss the situation in the Middle East, between Israelis and Palestinians?
SG: We did discuss the situation of the larger Middle East. By that, I mean Iraq, Iran, Syria and Lebanon, and the Middle East. I think your Middle East question focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and there let me say that, as it was only yesterday that the Quartet approved a mechanism to send assistance to help Palestinian people which was worked out by the European Union and was approved and, in fact, a Quartet statement was issued yesterday approving the mechanism which will now allow resources to go into the Palestinian territory to assist the Palestinian people, it is also important that the Palestinians handle their differences in such a way that they do not have to have violence between them. And in my own discussions with the Prime Minister of Israel and also with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, I have urged for restraint, and President Abbas has indicated he has advised the Palestinian side to stop sending Katushyas. The Prime Minister has also told me that they would also prefer not to use their missiles, so I would hope the two leaders will find their way of bringing the violence in the region down. The Palestinians should also find a way of agreeing on a common agenda for the future towards the relation with Israel, towards the peace process and towards the recognition of Israel. There is a dialogue going on between Hamas, the elected government, and President Abbas and I hope that it will be successful.
Prime Minister: I am in line with the SG and I have nothing to add.
Q: Can you describe what skills are required for your successor for Secretary-General?
SG: Actually your question is innocent and yet it is loaded. It is innocent, because that is something I would want to know and any of us would want to know. But it is loaded in the sense that since so many candidates are vying for this job, any description I gave you today, I may be accused of having produced a tailor-made job description for one of the candidates so, if you don't mind, I will prefer not to be drawn, but may the best man or woman win and when he or she is selected I will be prepared to sit with them and share my experience and offer whatever advice or help I can.
Prime Minister: A real diplomat spoke!
Q: The last six months Denmark has been known for other things than humanitarian aid. Would you consider that the Mohammed crisis a closed chapter?
SG: Absolutely. I think it is a closed chapter and it is behind us. There were lessons in it for all of us. And it is closed and I think we should move on, make adjustments and move forward. I am glad you put it that way and that you didn't drag it out. You are also a good journalist. Thanks.