Press Conference by General Assembly President on Recent Travels, Current Issues

17 March 2009

Press Conference by General Assembly President on Recent Travels, Current Issues

17 March 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

press conference by General Assembly president on recent travels, current issues

General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann (Nicaragua) briefed journalists today on his recent travels, during which he had brought various leaders up to date about preparations for the forthcoming high-level meeting to address the fallout of the global economic and financial crisis.

Speaking at a Headquarters press conference this morning, he said that the countries he had visited included Syria, Finland, China, Bahrain, Switzerland and Iran, and that he had stressed to some 20 Heads of State the importance of participating in the upcoming event, to be held in New York from 1 to 4 June, which would focus on the impacts of the crisis on development.

[The General Assembly was mandated to organize the high-level meeting as part of the outcome of the International Follow-up Conference to the Monterrey Consensus, held in Doha, Qatar, in November 2008.]

During his visit to Iran, the President said, he had also attended the Tenth Summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization in Tehran on 11 March.  “All in all, it was a very positive meeting.”  Notably, great respect had been shown to Iran by its neighbours, contrary to the “demonized” image of the country’s President portrayed by the United States.

Indeed, Iran had been recognized for its positive role in alleviating the plight of refugees, he said, adding that he had heard the United States Secretary of State was planning a meeting to discuss Afghanistan, and would consider inviting Iran.  “That sounded reasonable and very good.”

Asked about having called for a boycott of Israel, he said:  “I don’t remember that I ever did that,” adding, however, that the more he contemplated the lifestyle imposed on Palestinians, the more he tended to think about apartheid.  His use of that term had also caused a huge scandal, yet former United States President Jimmy Carter ‑‑ who no one regarded as a radical ‑‑ had published a book with the word “apartheid” in the title.  South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former President Nelson Mandela had also used the word.

“I don’t hate Israel,” Mr. D’Escoto continued, stressing that Jewish people were high on the list of people he loved.  However, the President of the General Assembly had a duty to speak out against actions he felt were not right.  His only agenda was to fulfil his duty as Assembly President by uplifting the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter.

Regarding his thoughts about the decision by the United States not to participate in the Durban Review Conference next month, he said he had explained during his trip that it was an opportunity for real change in that country’s international policy.  Ideas ingrained for years in the conscience of the United States were a political handicap that must be overcome.  If it chose not to attend, it was to be expected that such a decision would be “because of Israel”, but it would be a shame for the United States not to attend.

Asked his position on the International Criminal Court’s decision to grant an arrest warrant for President Omer al-Bashir of the Sudan, he called the ruling “unfortunate”, as it deepened a perception that international justice was “racist”.  For a third time the Court’s ruling had to do with Africa and it was most lamentable that, two weeks before the announcement, a joint delegation of the African Union and the League of Arab States had visited the United Nations to explain that President Bashir had initiated conversations with the leader of the most important rebel group in Darfur.  They had urged the United Nations to “give peace a chance”, but the West was notorious for getting involved in things it did not understand, with its arrogant “shoot-and-find-out-later” attitude towards solving the world’s problems.

Pressed to say who supported his view that it would be better to leave President Bashir in place, he clarified that the joint delegation had requested the Security Council to put the issue “on the back burner” for a year or so to allow local initiatives time to work.  “You can’t just disqualify the African Union’s views.”  A book by a Columbia University professor explained why the Court’s ruling on Darfur was lamentable.  “We have this saviour thing; we want to save.  When you see us wanting to save, you can bet we will only compound situations and make things worse.”  It was the duty of the General Assembly President to speak out on such issues, and he was speaking on behalf of the “immense majority” of the Organization.

Asked whether more information could be disseminated about Security Council reform, he said he would look into that, but the fundamental problem in the United Nations was not being addressed:  the Organization’s prestige was at its lowest point ever, primarily because of Iraq.

In response to a query about the Secretary-General’s recent description of the United States as a “deadbeat” debtor to the United Nations, he said he supported the Secretary-General, and looked forward to much greater cooperation from the United States.  The world needed the United Nations and the United Nations needed a United States that was committed to multilateralism and respect for sovereign equality.

Asked the biggest lesson he had learned from seven months as General Assembly President, he said the precipitous manner in which some wished to use violence to solve problems posed a great danger to the need for an Organization united around the ideal of peace and committed to the spirit and letter of the Charter.

To a question about whether the call by the President of Iran to “erase” a Member State off the map was an ideal bolstered by the Charter, he said it would be lamentable if the President had indeed said that.  There was a difference between rhetoric and practice.  “Words don’t kill.”  On a related matter, the United Nations would hold an interactive dialogue on the atrocities committed in Gaza.

Asked whether a political coalition calling for the transfer of Palestinians from their homeland would allow for peace in the Middle East, he said that what made peace “not possible” was the attitude that dialogue would happen with some but not others.  Peace began with respect and fairness, not excluding some from dialogue.

As for the possibility of progress on Security Council reform this year, he asked for “a couple of months” to better appraise the situation.  Everyone agreed that Africa was underrepresented on the Council.  At the founding of the United Nations there had been just 4 independent African States; today there were 52.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.