Joint Press Conference by the Secretary-General and the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Secretary-General's comments only)
Ankara, Turkey, 6 September 2006SG: Mr. Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Mr. Prime Minister, let me start by thanking you for your warm words and by saying how happy I am to be back in Ankara to have the opportunity of exchanging ideas with you. I was also particularly happy to come in last night, the night on which your Parliament voted to join the international forces in Lebanon. That force is truly international. The Turkish troops will be joining troops from Europe, from India, from China, from Ghana, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Qatar who are all going to join the effort. So it is a sign of international solidarity not only with Lebanon but a determination to pacify the situation in Lebanon and build on it for a longer term peace in the region on all tracks – Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese.
I think that the role of Turkey in the region – and in the implementation of resolution 1701 -- is going to be crucial. You are a regional player and I can tell you that both sides, both parties, were extremely happy to see that you were going to be deploying troops to assist in the effort. I think that apart from the humanitarian role we do have a recovery and reconstruction effort. And I urge governments to work collectively on reconstruction and manage the reconstruction in a manner that will strengthen the central government of Lebanon. After all, that is the purpose and the objective of the international deployment -- to strengthen the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon and work with the government and the Lebanese army to allow it to extend its authority throughout its territory.
The mandate is clear. The troops are not there to disarm Hezbollah. They are there to play the role that I described – to work with the government of Lebanon and the Lebanese army to extend its authority throughout its territory. With this in mind, the Security Council has asked us to deploy 15,000 international troops to the South of Lebanon. The Lebanese government itself has designated 16,000 Lebanese troops that will join the international effort. And this is why in my discussions with the Israeli authorities I agreed with them that when 5,000 international troops are on the ground, who are going to combine with Lebanese troops to cover south Lebanon, we will have a credible force and it will be time for Israel to withdraw completely. And that withdrawal is going on. It is important that we consolidate the ceasefire as the Prime Minister said. And in that consolidation the deployment of international forces is essential and withdrawal of Israeli forces is equally essential. I think we will pause here and answer your questions. And once again Mr. Prime Minister I thank you for your leadership, your very constructive and supportive approach towards the United Nations and the support you have given me personally as Secretary-General and I am sure our friendship will endure my role as Secretary-General. Thank you.
Q: The UN's role is not to disarm Hezbollah. What happens if the government fails to disarm Hezbollah?
SG: Let me say that the question of disarmament and the disarmament of all militia had been agreed to by the Lebanese under the Taif Agreement. Security Council resolution 1559 also requested the disarmament of all militia and resolution 1701 which has been endorsed by the Lebanese government and accepted by the Lebanese government also requires disarmament of militia. How do we proceed to disarm? In my view there has to be a national consensus amongst the Lebanese to disarm. This will not be the first time a militia has been disarmed in Lebanon. There were many militias during the civil war and after the civil war many of them disarmed. The remaining ones should disarm and devote their energy to political activity and subsume themselves into politics. So the disarmament has to come from national consensus and political agreement among the Lebanese. Foreigners cannot come and do it. Nor do I believe that the Lebanese army can do it forcefully. Please, let's be clear, force is not the only means to disarm. We have had disarmament in my parts of the world which have come from through political negotiations and discussion over a period. I think an example we all know about is the IRA. It was not done by force. We are having discussions and debate going on in Spain with ETA and I hope that will lead to constructive – will be successful and that ETA will be disarmed. They are not going in using force or sending the army. And I don't think we need to insist in Lebanon that is the only way to do it. If we insist and do move in that direction then we are going to compound the problem in my opinion.
Q: have you heard anything new from Israel on lifting the blockade? And when will you send your special envoy?
SG: As I said yesterday, I am still hopeful that the air, sea and land blockade will be lifted in the nest 36 to 48 hours. And I am still working on that with the parties concerned.
As to the facilitator regarding the release of the abducted soldiers and the Lebanese prisoners, all that I can tell you is that he will be in the region before the end of the week.
Q: (in Turkish)
SG: Yes, we did. On Cyprus we are encouraging the parties to really work together in these small committees and tackle some certain practical issues to be able to build on that and resume full-fledged peace process or negotiations again.
I would hope whoever succeeds me, he or she would pursue this file aggressively. I hope she will be determined to build on what we have achieved and work hard to obtain unification in Cyprus. And I hope she will be more successful than I have been. And on the question of Iran; ?? I think I have made it clear, that the most viable solution in my judgment is a negotiated settlement. We are not out of that yet -- diplomacy is not over. I expect that there will be a meeting very shortly between Mr. Solana and Mr. Larijani, the Iranian negotiator. And I will wait to see the outcome of that encounter. And then we will take it from there. But I think we should make every effort to get the parties to come to the negotiating table and discuss the issue. And I have urged Iran to do whatever it can to reassure the international community that indeed its intentions are peaceful and find ways and means through complete openness to the inspectors of the Atomic Agency (IAEA) to remove the cloud and the doubt that surrounds its intentions.
Q: First of all since you mentioned your successor, is it going to be a she? Is there something we don't know? Second, as you know Turkey is working on its membership in the European Union. Europe recently promised 7,000 troops for Lebanon. Do you consider the rough number of 1,000 Turkish troops who will participate to be part of this 7,000..(inaudible)? what do you expect from the Greek Presidency of the Security Council?
SG: On the first question, obviously the decision is up to the Security Council, but I hope that they will be open to a she or a he. A she has never happened!
On the second question, the 7,000 troops offered in Brussels does not include the battalion that is going to come from Turkey. Now that Turkey has contributed, we will probably go to 8,000 or so from this region.
On the Greek presidency, I think you are going to have a very tough month. It is a month of the General Assembly. You are going to have to deal with issues like Lebanon, the issue of Darfur, the Iranian nuclear file. We will probably have to have discussions on the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We may get a report on Kosovo. Do you want me to continue? (laughter) You are going to have a very busy month and I think the Greek presidency should steel itself. Thank you.