Secretary-General's press conference at the African Union Summit (unofficial transcript)
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 30 January 2007Ladies and Gentlemen,
I and my delegation had a very good and productive first visit to Addis Ababa as Secretary-General of the United Nations. I was able to meet many heads of state and the Chairman of the African Union Commission to exchange views on a range of issues of common interest to the United Nations and the African Union.
My presence here in the first month of my tenure as the Secretary General of the United Nations is a strong sign of the growing partnership between the United Nations and the African Union and of the high priority I attach to Africa.
I had the honour to address the opening session of the AU summit. I have stressed the commitment of the United Nations to peace and security in Africa – where two thirds of our blue helmets are deployed and where we are working actively to strengthen African peacekeeping capacities.
I have also stressed the importance of working together to promote development to achieve the targets of the Millennium Development Goals and consolidate human rights, as well as the rule of law. I also highlighted the urgency of moving ahead with the climate change and environmental agenda in collaboration with other stakeholders.
In my discussions with African leaders, I also raised these issues in connection with conflict situations and humanitarian emergencies on the continent.
On Sudan, I had useful and constructive talks with President [Omar al-]Bashir of Sudan and Chairperson of the African Union, Mr. [Alpha Oumar] Konare. While the focus of our discussion was on Darfur, I stressed the centrality of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the importance of its timely and effective implementation.
On Darfur, I am pleased that President Bashir welcomed a joint AU-UN mission to Khartoum and Darfur in early February. On the peacekeeping front, I look forward to a prompt and positive response from the Government of Sudan to my letter for the heavy support package. I urged President Bashir, as I all urge all parties, to cease hostilities, as an essential foundation for a successful peace process, and humanitarian access. No more time can be lost. The people of Darfur have waited much too long. This is just unacceptable. I made this point very clearly to President Bashir and I raised these concerns with several other African leaders.
During my visit, I also discussed Chad and the Central African Republic, Somalia, Cote d'Ivoire and the DRC, which I just visited. DRC has made remarkable progress and the challenge now is to stay the course there. The achievements made in the DRC are the result of a credible political process supported by a credible peacekeeping force. The same formula can be emulated in other crises.
My discussions here with African leaders have renewed my determination to contribute to tackling the problems confronting the continent. In the months ahead, I will engage international partners and other stakeholders with a unity of purpose in addressing these challenges.
Thank you and now I will take your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary General, I would like to ask you one question. Over the last few years, it was said about the Ivorian crisis that President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa didn't understand West African politics enough to actually mediate the situation. That was a quote from President Jacques Chirac of France. What do you think you can bring to resolve the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire?
SG: Côte d'Ivoire is a place where we have deep concern. I met President [Laurent] Gbagbo yesterday and we exchanged on these issues. I stressed the importance of breaking the impasse of the political situation there, and I also think that while I commend the peace proposal put forward by President Gbagbo, I also told him that it would be desirable that his peace proposal should be in line with Security Council resolution 1721. And we agreed to continue these issues in close coordination with the countries concerned, including France. I discussed this matter with President Chirac in Paris. Thank you.
Q: What will be the role of Ethiopia in Somalia when the Government of Somalia is stabilized and at the same time the Ethiopian military is dragged from Somalia?
SG: I met President [Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed] of Somalia. I had also very brief discussions with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia [Meles Zenawi]. Unfortunately because of scheduling problems and the prolonged opening session of the AU meeting yesterday, my meeting which was scheduled with the Prime Minister was not able to be held, but I had a brief talk with him during dinner time. What is important at this time for the international community regarding the Somalia situation is that we need to support the efforts of the Transitional Federal Government to be able to sustain the momentum there. It took 16 years without efficient and credible government there, which created a lot of political crisis there. While the international community should help their efforts, so that they would be able to sustain this momentum of political stability, it is also important -- and I urged to African leaders – that for Somalian Government and leaders to engage in an inclusive political process, including moderate Islamic Courts members, clan elders, religious leaders, and civic community leaders. I hope that the President of Somalia will engage in a continuous dialogue for national reconciliation, which will be very important in creating a political atmosphere for stability and peace there. And as neighbouring countries, Ethiopia should also help such international efforts.
Q: Thanks again for your exclusive interview in at the EU summit in Gambia. How do you think of China-Africa cooperation since the summit considers the outcome of the China-Africa Beijing Summit? Do you have special feelings on the candidate? Thank you.
SG: It is encouraging that the Chinese government has been trying to have a very cooperative partnership relationship with all African countries. China has hosted the very important China-African Forum last year. It was a very good initiative and I understand that the Chinese President, Hu Jintao, is also going to make official visits to several African countries. While engaging in such a cooperative dialogue, I would hope that African leaders and African countries will also try to emulate the Chinese experience and economic development and policies, bringing about good governance and the importance of partnership with the outside world. I hope that this kind of cooperative partnership relationship will also be done also by other countries. I also remember that the Republic of Korea last year hosted the Korea-China Forum, which was very much appreciated by many African States. The European Union has been also doing a great deal of efforts to help African States to overcome this abject poverty, fighting against pandemic diseases, promoting human rights as well as good governance. All the international community's help will be desirable in smoothly carrying out the MDGs, so that we will also be able to hit the target by the year 2015.
Q: The African Union has asked the United Nations to take the full funding of the AU mission in Darfur. When will you go to the General Assembly for the proposal?
SG: This is a very important question. This is still in the process of consultation. In Addis Ababa and Abuja, there was an important agreement among the United Nations, the AU and Sudanese Government on a three phase plan. The first phase of the plan has almost been completed. The second phase plan, for the heavy support package, was presented jointly by the United Nations and African Union. I sent an official letter to President Bashir of Sudan outlining all details and conditions for heavy support package on second phase plans. I hope and look forward to a positive response from President Bashir. In fact, when I had a meeting with President Bashir yesterday, he expressed positive response to that, but I am sure that they will be looking at it more in detail and look for the more positive response. Now this should be continued with the culmination of deployment of hybrid AU/UN forces. I hope that we will be able to continue these peacekeeping methods as soon as possible, in parallel with the political process, which will be followed by my special envoy Ambassador Jan Eliasson and AU special envoy Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim's forthcoming visit to Sudan and Darfur.
Q: Did you discuss with President Al Bashir the option of bringing in UN peacekeepers at a certain point?
SG: That is the hybrid deployment idea. We have to discuss on that matter the exact composition and force generations. Those are all to be consulted with President Al Bashir. I have had initial discussions on that with President Bashir.
Q: The UN has extended recently I believe the mandate of UNMEE while the situation between Ethiopia and Eritrea is very tense. So what do you think the mission can achieve by staying?
SG: The Mission has always been contributing to stabilizing the situation. By extending this Mission, I am quite confident that this Mission will again play a very crucial role in maintaining and managing the current situations in that area.
Q: There is one conflict that has been forgotten and nobody wants to talk about Western Sahara issue. What is the agenda?
SG: Again, we hope, I sincerely hope that this issue will be resolved between the parties concerned through dialogue. There was a proposal few years ago known as the Baker Plan. Because of the difference of the position between the parties concerned, there has not been much significant [progress] on this matter, but I do urge the parties concerned to engage in further discussion on this matter for a peaceful resolution. I would ask you if you have any specific questions for the Under-Secretary-General of [Department of Peacekeeping Operations DPKO], and Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, you may raise your questions directly.
Q: As a Secretary-General, what special things will you do for Africa? Because earlier you to said that your attention will be Africa.
SG: This is more general nature of question which I can tell you will take maybe half an hour. As I said my priority as Secretary-General when it comes to policy matters will be on Africa. When it comes to internal matters, it will be management reform of the United Nations. On African issues, the most import things is to have a smooth implementation of the Millennium Development Goals so that we will be able to hit the target by 2015. The level of progress in MDGs is different according to countries and I am concerned that when it comes to African States the level of progress has been rather low compared to other parts of the world. Of course, there are, as I said, some African countries - particularly 15 African states - have realized a considerably good record in implementing some of these, particularly in primary education or health services. With this I will try my best efforts to generate the political will among the leaders of Africa and among the leaders in other parts of the world to sustain this political will. In helping African countries in fighting against pandemic diseases like HIV/AIDS, in promoting good governance and good education for the people and promotion of democratic institutions. Many countries, particularly like DRC, have achieved good progress in the democratic process. We hope that many African countries will emulate these kinds of lessons.
Q: The Bulgarian nurses in Libya are in jail for 8 years now and the Palestinian Doctor also condemned to death. What can the UN do for solving this issue and do you plan yourself personally to speak with Col. Muammar Al-Qadhafi?
SG: This is again a problem, a source of concern of the international community. While I respect fully all this judicial process of the Libyan Government, I would also at the same time appeal to the Libyan Government to consider all humanitarian aspects and wishes of the international community on this matter.
Q: You said your discussions with President Al Bashir have been useful and constructive. For the people of Darfur what they need is security on the ground; that means, by common consent, get you better security, which is phase three. You've made no progress on phase three. Would you say - rather a disastrous start to your top priority?
SG: Of course top priority was and will be on the Darfur crisis. I have discussed in-depth in this matter, as I said, I have proposed the second phase plan already a few days ago to President Al Bashir. The process is moving, and the political process is also moving and the peacekeeping process is moving. Therefore, I can tell you that while the progress may be slow, then we are moving on two tracks: one political process track, as well as a peacekeeping track.
Q: Is the UN going to take over the mission in Somalia after six months?
SG: In Somalia, as I said earlier, we are very much concerned, and our priority will be in helping the Somalian Government and people to stabilize their political and social security there. I encourage the African Union's decision to have IGASOM [Intergovernmental Authority for Development Mission in Somalia], as well as AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] on their own. Once the African Union mission is well in place, we hope that the African Union will be able to deal with this matter. Then next comes, I have heard certain wishes from African countries of the possible take over of this IGASOM or AMISOM, but this is a matter of further discussions among the Security Council members and I will discuss this matter when I return [to New York].
Q: I understand that the new President of ECOWAS, President Mr. Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, met with President Mbeki to look at ways forward regarding the Ivorian question. Have they briefed you on that issue and do you think elections are possible in the course of this year?
SG: I appreciate and commend the initiative of President Compaoré of Burkina Faso to address and help facilitate the situation in Côte d'Ivoire, together with the President of the African Union. I hope that such kind of initiative and leadership role will continue to help resolve the situation in Côte d'Ivoire. I met with the President of Côte d'Ivoire yesterday and I also urged him to resolve this issue in close coordination, and also engage in dialogue domestically with the political and other leaders of the country.
Q: You have been talking UN/AU force in some areas in Africa. Could you please tell me why it is so important for the UN and AU to work together, and besides a joint peace keeping operation, what kind of cooperation between UN and AU could be expected?
SG: This is a very important question. Yesterday when I had a meeting with chairman of the Commission, Mr. Alpha Oumar Konaré and we agreed that we will continue to have a very strong and firm AU/UN partnership. At this time when you see two-thirds of blue helmets deployed in Africa and you are suffering from abject poverty, diseases and education, all the international community should pay much more attention and provide necessary assistance and cooperation to the African peoples' very noble as well as challenging efforts to overcome these issues. Therefore, my visit at this time is crucially important as far as timing-wise, as far as some political symbolism-wise. My presence and my choice to participate as my first participation in African Union in my capacity as Secretary-General, is to send out firm resolve and commitment on the part of the United Nations to have very close cooperation with the African Union.
Q: What is the level of the commitment of the UN in meeting the progress level of African countries of MDGs implementation?
SG: As far as the commitment of the United Nations on this MDG implementation is firm and strong, and that is my highest priority. At the same time, as I told you earlier, the progress level is rather low in African countries, compared with other parts of the world. I would really hope that African leaders and people would do more on this, while the international community also will do their part.
Q: When you say you take the climate issue very seriously what do you have in mind, especially for Africa?
SG: This climate change and global warming is a very serious and urgent issue to have the international community pay attention on an urgent basis. It was very timely and appropriate that the African Union summit meeting has taken that as their topic of discussion at this time. The United Nations, together with the members of the international community, has taken an important leading role in climate change issues. The international community must look and be prepared for the measures to be taken beyond 2012. It may look far away; it may not look much like an imminent problem. It is a very imminent problem. It is no longer a speculation. It is a scientifically proved fact that the whole international community will be facing a very serious problem if we do not take the necessary measures on an urgent basis. As Secretary-General, I will give the highest priority and I will speak about this and discuss this matter with the leaders of the international community to have more concrete measures moving on. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.
Off-the-Cuff on 30 January 2007