Secretary-General's press encounter upon entering U.N. Headquarters following visit to Washington, DC
New York, 17 January 2007Unofficial transcript
SG: Glad to see you again. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
Q: Did you want to tell us something about your meeting, or did you just want to answer some questions?
SG: Briefly, I will tell you an overview of my visit to Washington, D.C. During the last two days, yesterday and today, I have had very useful meetings with the US leadership, including President [George W.] Bush and Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi of the Congress. We have discussed a wide range of issues, including reform of the United Nations and other regional issues, including Darfur, the Middle East, the issues of non-proliferation, MDGs [the Millennium Development Goals] and climate change. I think I have had very good meetings.
I have emphasized the importance of a strong partnership between the United Nations and the United States in carrying out all the reform measures, as well as in addressing the challenges which we are now facing. I was very much encouraged that President Bush pledged his support and his administration¡¯s continued participation and support on all areas of UN activities, and I was also assured by the very strong support and warm reception of the Congressional leaders. I have had a very useful exchange of views with almost all the members of the Foreign Relations and Foreign Affairs Committee members and the Appropriations Subcommittee members, and other ranking members of both the House and the Senate, and bipartisan [officials]. I am satisfied with my visit. I will continue to closely work with the US Government.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, one of the things that had been reported that you asked for down there was an increase in US financial contributions for peacekeeping, more money for it. What specifically did you have in mind in terms of a target, and what response did you get to that request?
SG: The US Government is the largest financial contributor to the regular budget, as well as the peacekeeping operations budget. The US Congress has imposed a cap of 25 percent in peacekeeping operations, there is a shortage of two percentage points, which will result in annually a $150 million or $200 million shortage of American contributions, which will, if it is accumulated, create very difficult constraints in smoothly carrying out peacekeeping operations. I have raised this issue in my meetings with President Bush and all the Congressional leaders. I strongly appealed and requested that the US Congress lift this spending cap, this peacekeeping operations cap of 25 percent. They said they will discuss this matter.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, one of the other issues you discussed with the President was Iraq. He apparently asked the UN for additional help in Iraq. I wonder if you could be specific and tell us what he asked for and what your response was.
SG: President Bush wanted to see an increased presence and role of the United Nations in Iraq. I told President Bush that, since the UN presence and operation in Iraq is actually constrained by the situation on the ground ¨C I mean the security concerns ¨C but we will try to continue to participate and increase our role in Iraq, including the International Compact with Iraq. The United Nations has been, and will continue, wherever and whenecer we can, to increase our presence there, but that will largely be constrained by security concerns.
Q: Did you raise the issue of Lebanon with President Bush? And also, what are your expectations for Paris-3, which is the donors¡¯ conference which will take place on 25 January?
SG: With President Bush, I have discussed wide-ranging issues, including of course the situation in Lebanon, and I am going to participate in the international conference on Lebanon. I hope that, first of all, I will personally be able to meet with the Lebanese Government leaders, including Prime Minister [Fuad] Siniora, and I hope there will be many countries participating for the reconstruction and political and social stabilization of Lebanon.
Q: On 15 January, the resignation of 60 USGs and ASGs [Under-Secretaries-General and Assistant Secretaries-General] took effect. Is it time to move on a little faster, and were you asked by the President to move a little faster on your reorganization efforts?
SG: As you said, the deadline was over. And I am going to review all the senior management appointments. But I have to see, the contracts of most of the senior officials are due to expire at the end of February, so I will have to consider all this, taking this into mind.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, forgive me if this sounds a bit parochial, but diplomats here in New York still owe $18 million in unpaid parking fines. What do you urge diplomats to do to try and get rid of that backlog and improve relations with the city?
SG: It is important for diplomatic officials who enjoy diplomatic immunities and privileges to abide by and comply with all necessary regulations in force in the countries where one is working.
Q: If more of them walked like you, Mr. Secretary-General, would that help?
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you called the President a ¡°great leader¡±. Can you elaborate on that? Is it because he is under pressure right now? And also, are you having any second thoughts about appointing an American to lead DPA [the Department for Political Affairs]?
SG: One question per reporter, please. I am wondering why you are asking that question. In diplomacy, it is appropriate to address any Heads of State or Government with due respect and courtesy. I hope you will understand what this diplomatic practice is.
Q: What about DPA, the question of DPA?
SG: DPA is part of all these senior appointments, so please wait a little bit until I finish. My intention is to finish, if possible, all the appointments at one time.
Q: Were you concerned, or were you comforted, in terms of your conversation with President Bush as far as Iran was concerned, how the United States will deal with Iran now? And just in terms of the Lebanon question, when you do meet Prime Minister Siniora in [Paris], there is concern that there may be little support, or not as much necessary support, coming out at this time on the international tribunal. Are you going to convey to him your commitment, as far as the Secretary-General, to the establishment of the international tribunal for those in the assassination of Prime Minister [Rafik] Hariri and others?
SG: Everybody is asking me two questions. [laughter] Which one do you want me to answer, the second one or the first?
Q: The second.
SG: It is important that the Security Council has decided to establish a special tribunal. The United Nations has concluded agreement with the Lebanese Government. It is a source of concern for me, as Secretary-General, that we are not being able to establish a special tribunal, as was mandated by the Security Council. At the same time, I was encouraged by the willingness of the Lebanese Government to work together for the establishment of a special tribunal, including President [Emile] Lahoud and Speaker of the Parliament [Nabih] Berri. I will discuss again this matter with the Lebanese leaders when I meet them in Paris.
Q: Sir, have you discussed the Quartet meeting with President Bush ¨C any update on a new date for this meeting, sir?
SG: I discussed this matter with President Bush. I emphasized the importance of re-energizing the Quartet meeting to facilitate the peace process in the Middle East. I have been discussing this matter with Secretary [of State Condoleezza] Rice, and it is my hope that we will be able to have a Quartet meeting as soon as possible, preferably early February. I think you must have read the press reports. We are working for a date. During my stay in Washington, I was contacted by the American administration about the possibility of a mutually convenient date. We are working on that. Thank you very much. I have to attend the ECOSOC meeting.
Q: How does your approach to American relations differ from Kofi Annan¡¯s approach?
SG: I do not want to characterize anybody¡¯s relationship between the United Nations and the United States. As I said, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I am representing the United Nations, and former Secretary-General Kofi Annan also represented the United Nations. What I stressed, during my meetings with President Bush and all Congressional leaders, is that, while there was a time when the relationship between the United Nations and the United States was not easy, it is time now to look for better days between the United Nations and the United States. And I am quite confident that we will see better days and a mutually cooperative relationship. After all, the United Nations and the United States have shared objectives, as [do] other Member States of the United Nations: peace and prosperity, mutual development, co-prosperity, human rights. And all these are shared goals, as prescribed in the Charter. I was very much encouraged by the assurances of the American leadership that they will work very closely with the United Nations, and I am very satisfied with my visit. Thank you very much.