Joint Press Conference by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Foreign Minister of Iran, Mr. Manouchehr Motaki
Tehran, 3 September 2006FM Motaki: In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. I would like to apologize to you my friends. Mr. Kofi Annan's meeting with the President, well, it went beyond the time that we originally expected. That is why we are late. His Excellency, Mr. Kofi Annan, upon the invitation of the Islamic Republic (I.R.) of Iran is conducting a two-day visit to Tehran. During the gentleman's visit, he met with the President of the Republic and high ranking officials of this country. The gentlemen talked about the relations between the I.R. of Iran and the UN. They talked about important regional and international issues, including the recent crisis in Lebanon, the situation inside Iraq and also Palestine, all Middle Eastern issues. Also, the nuclear matter was discussed as well. According to our custom, I would like to invite my dear guest to present his introductory comments. Later I will resume.
The gentleman has a flight to catch and I hope that we will be able, well I am hoping that most of the questions will be posed to the gentleman and some of them to me. Sir, the floor is yours.
SG: Thank you, Mr. Minister. Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, and thank you for coming in your numbers and I am sorry that we did keep you waiting, but the Minister has explained the reasons why.
Let me start by thanking the Government of Iran for the generous hospitality it has extended to me and my team.
I came to the region mainly to discuss implementation of Security Council resolution 1701, and to try to work with the regional players for us to firm up the ceasefire and build on it to establish a lasting peace, not only in Lebanon, but in the region. Hopefully, on all the other tracks: Palestine and Syria as well.
I have had very good discussions and as you know, I've had the chance to meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Motaki, Mr. Ali Larijani; I met with former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mr. Kamal Kharazzi, who is the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Strategic Committee, head of the geo-strategic committee.
In our discussions this morning with the President, he also reaffirmed his country's support for the implementation of resolution 1701 and agrees with me that we should do everything to strengthen the territorial integrity of Lebanon, the independence of Lebanon, and work together for the reconstruction of Lebanon.
He has indicated that Tehran will work with us in a collective effort to reconstruct Lebanon. And I think these are important achievements, I mean important decisions, because as we move forward we are going to need the help we can from the all the players -- international and regional. And Iran is an important regional player and has a key role to play, and the President did assure me that it would play that role.
We also discussed the nuclear issue. And on the nuclear issue, the President reaffirmed to me Iran's preparedness and determination to negotiate and find a solution to the crises. He indicated that they do not accept suspension before negotiations. But he assured me that they are prepared to negotiate. And of course, I know there is going to be a meeting between Mr. Larijani and Mr. [Javier] Solana [High Representative of the European Union for Common Foreign and Security Policy] in the next few days. And I hope at that point they will find a way to move forward and begin serious work on this dossier.
I would also want to say that the other issue I raised which had concerned me a bit was the question of the holocaust cartoon [exhibit]. I think all of us in this room remember the uproar the Danish cartoons created, particularly in this region. And at that time, I did state that, while there may be freedom of expression and the right to freedom of expression, that right is not a license and that it has to be exercised with responsibility, with sensitivity, and judgment. And I think that the tragedy of the holocaust is a sad and undeniable historical fact so we should really handle that and accept that fact, and teach children what happened in World War II, and ensure that it is never repeated. And we have to be careful: Words can soothe and words can harm. And we should be careful not to say anything that can be misused as an excuse for incitement to hatred or violence. I would want to pause here and take your questions.
FM Motaki: (translated from Persian) I am obviously in the company of Mr. Kofi Annan and vis-à-vis the issues we talked about, as far as Lebanon is concerned we critiqued and criticized the support given to the Zionists attack on Lebanon and also efforts, which were put in motion to prevent the passing of a resolution for more than 30 days by the UNSC (UN Security Council). The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to continue working with the UN for the return of peace and tranquility to Lebanon and its borders. We have announced as much. And also UNIFIL troops and Lebanese army troops taking up positions. These forces with their previous mandate and also Lebanese forces they must face them. They must accelerate this deployment and also the falling back of the Israeli troops from some parts of Lebanon. They still occupy some parts of Lebanon. And also the embargo, the land, sea and air embargo against that country must be lifted immediately and peace must return to Lebanon in an appropriate fashion. Also with regard to Lebanese prisoners and the two soldiers--the Israeli soldiers--certain efforts have been conducted by the UN to free them and for prisoners to be exchanged. Obviously this is a humanitarian effort and we support that.
With regard to the nuclear matter, His Excellency, the Secretary General, was provided with the clear positions and points of the view of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The gentleman is, of course, familiar with our positions and points of view. We have submitted our positions in a written form to the Secretary[-General] on a previous occasion. So the rational response provided by the Islamic Republic of Iran must pave the way for the next appropriate steps to be taken. The two important factors we have to keep in mind, vis-à-vis the nuclear issue, is to respect the inalienable right of the I.R. of Iran to enjoy peaceful nuclear energy and technology and also the transparent activities of the I.R. of Iran have to be appreciated as well. They are quite peaceful.
With regard to Holocaust, we talked about that and historical facts and developments, as far as scholars and researchers are concerned, must be researched and studied. As Mr. Kofi Annan said historical facts are clear. What we agree on with regard to those insulting cartoons, insulting the great stature of the Prophet of Islam, is the fact that no one must insult others. Insults are unacceptable. So any efforts, artistic efforts and research and scholarly debates, if they do not insult and just seek to pose questions and study them, there is nothing wrong with them.
Q: (translated from Persian) I have a question for Mr. Annan. Despite what the [International Atomic Energy] Agency has said that Iran has abided by international laws and regulations, the UN and you personally, Sir, refuse to defend it. Thank you.
SG: I think that was a statement not a question. So let's move on to the nest question.
Q: (translated from Persian) Mr. Minister and Mr. Kofi Annan, greetings. First question for Mr. Annan. A few weeks have gone by since 1701 was passed. Israel still refuses to implement a large number of articles. Well, practical measures, by that I am referring to measures by you, Sir, and others to put pressure on Israel to implement, are you going to do that or not?
Second question for Mr. Motaki. It relates to the nuclear matter. A new time table, well some time has been given by the Europeans to Iran to suspend. After negotiations between Mr. Annan and Iranian high ranking, has Iran changed its position, vis-à-vis suspension, or not.
SG: Let me say that on the question of the implementation of 1701, both Israel and Lebanon accepted the resolution. Their governments voted and endorsed it. And I myself negotiated the effective date and time of the entry into force of the cessation of hostilities with the two Prime Ministers. And I think the cessation of hostilities has held reasonably well. I have been to both countries and in Israel I have discussed with the government the need for them to lift the land, sea and air embargo. And those efforts continue. We are also deploying very quickly the international force into Southern Lebanon. I expect around the middle of the month that we would have -- if all goes well -- about 5,000 international troops there in addition to the 16,000 Lebanese troops ready to deploy to the south. That will constitute a credible force that will take over the territory in the south of Lebanon in support of the Lebanese government so that the Israel troops can withdraw completely. Thanks.
FM Motaki: Well those who have devised the proposed package, in the middle of the studies of the IR of Iran, committed a considerable mistake, i.e. they passed an illegal, a political resolution because of the pressure put on them by the British and the Americans in the UN SC. This is a bad grade given to them in the context of the road we had started on jointly. We have completed our studies. Now it is their turn to closely study Iran's response. If they need some time we are going to give them the time they need. I recommend to them to, as soon as possible, to respond, vis-à-vis the Iranian response. Inform us. We never asked for time to be given to us. Well, we shouldn't do everything and everything that needs to be there, is there in the written text that we have submitted to those who have put together the original package. We are waiting for their response.
Q: (translated from Persian) My question comes in two parts, addressed to Mr. Annan. The UN has said that Israel has used cluster bombs in Lebenon. With that in mind, why doesn't the UN take action, vis-à-vis these illegal actions?
Second part of my question. You have been quoted as saying that 1701 is unilateral and serves Israel and was put together because of American pressure and influence. In your plans and programmes to change the UN, do you have any plan to reduce the influence of the Americans in the Organization?
SG: On the cluster bombs. We have a UN de-mining team, the Mine Action Unit, working with others to map the area and de-mine them as soon as possible to be able to protect the civilians. The Human Rights Council based in New York has also decided to send in a team of investigators into Lebanon and I think I would want to wait for their report before I comment further.
Quite frankly, I am amazed by your second question and the statement you ascribed to me. I don't know where you read it or where you got it from, but it is the first time I am hearing [the] sentence. So I am baffled, and I don't think I have anything to say; only to tell you that your quote and information that you ascribed to me is completely wrong.
Q: (translated from Persian) Greetings Mr. Kofi Annan. My question comes in two parts. I am a reporter who has just returned from Lebanon. I saw Qana and what happened there, the massacre of many women and children, and the UN has put together a committee to study the atrocity. How do you feel about what happened in Qana and what will the UN do, what actions will you take?
My second question is about Iran has asked for its dossier to be studied in a legal fashion or context. In your capacity as the SG of the UN, will you be working on that and what will the UNSC do to deal with this dossier in an unbiased fashion?
SG: On the issue of Qana, as I said, first of all, I issued a statement at the time of the tragedy condemning what happened, and we have a team that is going to Lebanon and will look at all these issues. And I think we should be a little patient.
On the question of the nuclear dossier and what will the UN do? First of all, the UN Security Council is fully seized of the matter, the Atomic Agency is also engaged and there have been contacts and negotiations between the 5 [Permanent Members of the Security Council] and Iran. And of course now we have 5 + 1 [Germany] on one side and Iran on the other side. I have had very good discussions here and I think it has helped me further understand the position of Iran, which I will be able to discuss with key governments and the Security Council members when I get back. But the decision [is] in the hands of the Atomic Agency and others. But I will play my role as Secretary-General.
Q: (translated from Farsi) I have a question for the Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister, please. Iran's position that there is not going to be uranium suspension as pre-condition was made pretty clear. But newspapers here are reporting different officials saying, as talks go along, this might be an issue that could be discussed. I wanted to ask you, first, in your talks here, and for the Iranian position, you got any closer on this. Is there any news on this issue?
SG: I think the position is as you have stated. Iran has indicated that it is open for negotiations with everything on the table and that all issues can be discussed at the negotiations.
Thank you very much.