The Secretary-General this morning met with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in Baden Baden. They told the press afterwards that their talks touched on problem areas like Iraq, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Afghanistan, as well as German-United Nations relations and the Secretary-General’s high-level panel on United Nations change.
Asked about press reports that the President of Iran was threatening to resign, the Secretary-General expressed his hope that the Iranians would find a way to resolve their differences so that they could hold “free and fair elections with participation of all the parties”.
In response to a question about his efforts to find a settlement in Cyprus, the Secretary-General said that he and the Foreign Minister had in fact discussed that issue. His settlement proposal was still on the table, he added, and he was waiting to hear from all the parties that they are ready to resume negotiations. “We haven’t reached the stage where I would get involved yet”, he stated, adding that he expected to meet with the Prime Minister of Turkey at Davos in the next few days.
Asked when he might send a United Nations team to Iraq, he said, “...we are in touch with others in Iraq, and once I have completed my reflection, and we have studied the documents, I will decide how best the UN can help and I will make a decision and an announcement as to what I am going to do. But I am still considering it.”
This evening he was given the German Media Prize by Karlheinz Koegel, who created the prize in 1992 to recognize the most outstanding person of the year, as selected by a jury composed of Germany’s leading editors. The award is based on a poll of the editors of the most important media in Germany. The selection jury found that the Secretary-General “stands, like no other politician, for the basic ideals of the United Nations, striving for a better organized and peaceful world”.
The Secretary-General was introduced by former United States President Bill Clinton, who had been awarded the prize in 1999. Mr. Clinton said that Kofi Annan had come out of Ghana “to a lifetime commitment to our common humanity”. He transformed the United Nations, Mr. Clinton said, by widening its circle of friends and becoming beloved by ordinary citizens for his self-evident decency. “I follow him with pride”, he added.
In his acceptance speech, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations will remember 2003 as one of the most difficult and painful years in its history. For the year ahead, he pointed to the need to increase attention to the need to fight AIDS, which he called the “deadliest epidemic in human history”, and to refocus the world’s attention on development. At the same time, he said, we must show that the United Nations is capable of fulfilling its purpose of ensuring collective security, so that States do not feel obliged or entitled to take the law into its own hands. The Secretary-General added another challenge that needs attention this year: the rebuilding of trust among peoples of different faiths and cultures.
Afterwards, the Secretary-General attended a dinner hosted by Mr. Koegel.