Santo Domingo

4 August 2006

Joint press conference with the Secretary-General and the president of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez (Secretary-General's remarks only)

Q: (interpretation) Good evening Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General. I would like to know your assessment on the Cuban situation with Fidel's illness and the subsequent transfer of command to his brother, Raul Castro. And your position regarding the opinions of some in the US to provoke a change to a transition period which leads to a change in the regime and system on that island through democratic elections.

SG: Do you mean the US or the UN? Okay. Let me first of all offer my sympathy to President Castro and wish him a speedy recovery. He's a man who's lead his nation for decades, and of course health is something that none of us controls or manages, and I hope that he will recover from his illness. It is normal that when a president of a nation is sick that someone else steps in while the president recuperates. And I wish him recovery. There are indications that he is doing well and that he will be able to resume his duties.

Q: (interpretation) Good evening Mr. Secretary-General, good evening Mr. President. I would like to ask you, despite the progress and the advances that could be made in the Dominican Republic based on the Millennium Development Goals, what are the principle challenges that we face as a nation?

SG: I think the Dominican Republic, like all nations, has many challenges, including some of the most prosperous and most advanced countries. One issue which is important is that you have registered very good economic growth, but that should also be translated into social development and social growth, affecting the whole population, and I think the effort to implement the Millennium Development Goals is indeed an attempt in that direction to ensure that in addition to the growth and the perception of the Dominican Republic as a country with prosperous and lush tourist places that foreigners come to visit, that we do reach out and help the poor in society and I think that is the challenge that the government is handling and the government cannot handle that alone. It needs to work in partnership with the private sector, with civil society and the citizens of this country.

Q: (interpretation) Good evening, Mr. Secretary-General, Mr. President, the question I have makes the most of your getting together. We are all aware of the problems affecting Haiti and also the little responsibility assumed by the member states involved, including the attempt to burden the Dominican Republic with all efforts needed to restore the economic and political situation there. I would like to know what you think of this situation and what President Fernandez thinks of it, now that there is a close collaboration with the United Nations. Thank you.

SG: Do you want me to speak for President Fernandez, or do you want him to speak for himself? I think he is a very eloquent man so I will let him go first, and then I will comment.

And if I may add a word to what the President has said, not only have I recommended to the Security Council that they expand the mandate for 12 months, we have also suggested that we bring in additional experts, 54 experts who can handle criminality, advise them on how to deal with kidnappings, help train and strengthen the Haitian police, help reform the judiciary system and the penal system. We are working with them to strengthen their institutions; they themselves are very keen to move in that direction and we, as a result of the discussions in the UN, the member states do accept that nation-building is a long term proposition and as the President has confirmed, most concerned most member states have accepted this proposition and this includes the major donor countries. And I hope we can all work together in the medium to the longer term to stabilize Haiti and set them on the route to economic and social development. In the meantime, as the closest neighbors of Haiti, I would urge, and the President and I have discussed it, that the two governments and the two people work and support each other and we are not going to leave the problem for the Dominican Republic alone as you imply. The international community is engaged and will remain engaged, and this is one of the reasons why I recommended a twelve-month extension, normally it would have been six months, to send a powerful signal that we are going to stay in Haiti for the longer whole, and I hope the [Security] Council will accept my recommendation.

Q: (interpretation) Good evening, Mr. Secretary-General, Good evening Mr. President.

Precisely today, the press reported on intense combat in Lebanon and meanwhile, at UN Headquarters, USA and France were negotiating the approval of a resolution to a cease- fire in the area, but apparently there are still many issues and it seems that this resolution will take some time and in the meantime, the world is watching the loss of many human lives in Lebanon because of the conflict with Israel and guerillas. My question is, does the Secretary-General feel confident that a cease-fire agreement will be accomplished, in a relatively short amount of time, in this part of the world?

SG: The war in the Middle East is very tragic. It's very tragic and it has caused lots of suffering for the civilians both in Israel and in Lebanon. You have over a million Israelis who are now living in fear, spend their time in shelters and wondering if the next rocket from Hezbollah is going to hit their city. On the other hand, you have [between] about a quarter and one third of the Lebanese population who are either displaced internally or have crossed the border to Syria, Cyprus and elsewhere and are refugees. The bombardment continues and the infrastructure is being degraded and destroyed. This cannot go on much longer. This is why I have time and time again appealed for the fighting to stop, the cessation of hostility. I have been very concerned about further escalation and [a] possible spread of the conflict. I appeal once again to the protagonists to stop. The Security Council is working very hard to find a resolution and from here today, I have spoken to many leaders, Primer Minister Siniora of Lebanon, President Bush, Prime Minister Blair and President Chirac, [we're] working on this problem, as well as the President of the Security Council and some members of the Security Council. I expect that within the next few days there will be a resolution, a resolution demanding or calling on the parties to stop all hostilities and this hopefully will be followed in a very short time with a second resolution that will set the longer term political framework, get the parties to agree on a framework which the international community will deploy its stabilization force to assist the government of Lebanon and the Lebanese army to expand the government's authority throughout the country and to ensure that over time you have one authority and one government, and that the Lebanese would come to an understanding to disarm all militia including Hezbollah. You need a political understanding for this. You cannot disarm through military force. You have to have a political agreement and in fact, before this war started, the Lebanese were discussing the issue of disarmament at the national level and Hezbollah was at the table and part of the government discussing this issue of disarmament. So with the support of the international community, with the deployment of the force, I hope we will be able to settle the issue in a permanent manner so that we don't go back to this situation. In 2000, when Israel withdrew, they had every reason to expect that they would be able to live in peace and not have cross-border problems and it was unacceptable that Hezbollah crossed the border and kidnapped Israeli soldiers. But as I have said, the Israeli response has been disproportionate, has been excessive, but I don't think we need to argue about that. What we need to do is to find a way of stopping the fighting and saving civilians on both sides. More civilians have died, much, much more than soldiers and armed men and this is not acceptable.