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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press encounter

Salamanca, Spain, 14 October 2005

Q: Secretary-General, I would like to ask you, first of all, there've been recently two disasters in the world -- the hurricane in Central America and the earthquake in Kashmir. Is the world doing enough to help, do you think?

SG: This year has been tragic in terms of natural disasters, starting with the Tsunami and the two you have mentioned: Central America, in Pakistan and Kashmir area -- but I think that it's important that the world has comes together to support those in need. Obviously, we are dealing with several crises at the same time and, as difficult as it is, I will appeal to Governments to be generous -- but not just Governments, the individuals, private groups and their foundations. We saw the spontaneous support people gave to the tsunami victims and I hope the same spirit of solidarity – spirit of giving -- will surface in these two crises as well. Obviously, initially, it was a very difficult situation, you need to get coordination going, you need to get logistical equipment in place to be able to deal with a very difficult situation. Roads destroyed, it's very difficult to reach every one in need and there is a very, very tough going in Kashmir. We have a team there. I know the international experts are there with many donor countries working with the Pakistani army that has deployed large numbers of troops to assist. And I had the opportunity of speaking with President Musharraf myself, not only to offer my deepest condolences and sympathy to those who have lost loved ones and those in need, but also to offer international solidarity and support.

Q: Mr. Annan I'm a Spanish journalist. What can the UN do to help Spain and Morocco fight illegal immigration because we are very concerned here in Spain about this issue?

SG: The UN has been working quite effectively with the Spanish authorities. The UN, I mean the High Commissioner for Refugees, has been in touch with the Spanish authorities just from the beginning, and our position is quite clear. Obviously, the Government has a responsibility to manage the flow of people coming into its territory. But the migrants have to be treated humanely, and their human dignity must be respected and there are some among the group who may be or are genuinely asylum seekers or refugees, so one would have to screen the group not to sort of push everyone back. And the Spanish Government, we work with them, we sent a team to Ceuta and Melilla and the Canaries. And we still have a team in Melilla and they are working quite effectively with us. We have also had very good cooperation from Mauritania, which has worked very well with the High Commissioner for Refugees. We have a team in Morocco, and I hope they will get the same cooperation as they have received here and in Mauritania. But let me say that migration is going to continue. We can't stop it. What's just important is we take steps to manage it, manage it effectively in the mutual interest of the country of origin, the transit country, the recipient country and of course, the migrant himself or herself, including allowing them and helping them integrate into the society in which they've moved. This is an issue of great concern to me, so two years ago, I encouraged the establishment of a Global Commission on International Migration and they delivered their report only on the 5th of October. And now I've urged Governments to look at that report and see how some of the recommendations can help them. Next year, the General Assembly will have a special High Level Session on Migration, where the whole international community will come together to discuss this. It is a question that requires international cooperation and, in dealing with it, we also have to respect the norms and the rights of the individuals involved.

Q: Mr. Annan, fair trade is the challenge for the next year.

SG: Yes, it is a challenge and of course there's going to be a major conference in Hong Kong, the WTO Conference in Hong Kong. And it is just important that this round makes progress. The expectation is that the round to be completed in 2006. But for that to happen, Governments have to show leadership and make concessions and compromises.

Q: Are you optimistic?

SG: Well, since I've beginning to move but I see that the United States has indicated it is prepared to cut subsidies, Europe is beginning to look at this. Whether these cuts and these initiatives would be deep enough to move the process forward, I will have to wait to see. But there is some movement now and it's extremely important that it does succeed. We are all concerned about poverty, we want to help the poor. We're giving them increased development assistance, debt relief. All those are necessary and fine. But trade would even be better. The income from trade could dwarf the other contributions that the donor community is making. So honestly I think the poor would much rather trade themselves out of poverty if they were given the chance, rather than live in constant handouts.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the United States and France today again put pressure on Iran to return to the negotiating table over suspected nuclear weapons or threatened to take the issue to the Security Council. Do you think this issue can be solved without going to the Security Council?

SG: My own sense is that everyone should go back to the negotiating table. It's the best way to resolve this issue and also they must cooperate with the atomic agency. I had the chance to speak to the European Three and [European Union High Representative Javier] Solana and also with the Iranians, including the President, last month, when they were in New York, and my message was to please stay at the table and negotiate, and try and resolve the issue and I think it can be done if both sides work in a sustained manner at it. Thank you very much.

Q: One question: do you think Mexico should play a more active role in international system?

SG: I think Mexico has been active with us at the UN. You probably know, and I know that there has been quite a bit of discussion in Mexico as to whether Mexico should send out Blue Helmets and troops to peace-keeping operations and we have quite a few Latin American countries who are active in Haiti. I don't know what the outcome of that debate in Mexico would be. But I hope in time, Mexico will be able to contribute to peace-keeping. But that decision is for Mexico.

Q: In less than a month you have to give a report on Western Sahara. Do you see any open window now with your Special Envoy?

SG: My Special Envoy's right now in the territory and I'm waiting for his report. I don't see, we don't have a magic formula to resolve it in the immediate future or soon, but we are working with the parties to try and make progress and find a way of resolving the conflict. But, we have no magic bullet. Thank you.