Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN
AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, 19 DECEMBER 2006
Question: On behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association, allow me to first welcome you. And then, of course, this is your last press conference and mine, too, so I would wish you good luck and goodbye and hope you have a good time when you go underground; and when you surface, please do come and see us sometimes.
My question today is, given the sharpening of contradictions between the Islamic world in the backdrop of the “Alliance of Civilizations” that is going on over here, and contradictions which are now being manifested — like today, in The New York Times alone, I saw three news items which defined the crisis which is growing in the European countries. And you have also termed, besides Darfur, there is Iraq, which has become the killing fields. There is the situation in Palestine. In your opinion, what is the crisis which will ultimately undermine the world peace the most? Can you please tell us?
The Secretary-General: I think we should be concerned about all crises, but I have indicated that one crisis that has impact well beyond its borders on people far away from the conflict is the Israeli-Palestinian issue. And I am encouraged that, recently, there has been a sense that we need to make a renewed attempt to resolve that issue. But, that would also require that one works with the Palestinians to establish unity amongst themselves, and then proceed from there.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, I would like your comments, Sir, concerning the refusal by both Israel, through their Prime Minister in the Blair conference, and the United States, to open negotiation with Syria, despite the offer by the Syrian President to open negotiation with Israel and to conduct a dialogue with the United States, although you’ve called for this more than once.
Secondly, in Sudan, some officials are saying that they would like immunity from prosecution to facilitate the entrance of the United Nations forces. Do you think that’s a feasible prospect?
The Secretary-General: On your first question, I know that Prime Minister Blair has been very interested in the Middle East issue, and he is in the region at the moment, and he had indicated that it would be constructive to talk to Syria. I share that view, and I hope that will happen. I know that Syria has indicated that it is ready to negotiate, but it takes two to do that. And I hope that, with the renewed interest in what is going on in the region, that we would eventually come up with a process that will work on all three tracks: Israeli-Palestinian, Syrian and the Lebanese one. In my report to the Council, I did put forward some proposals.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, just noting what you said about Iraq, or the breaking out of the Iraq war being one of the points of your disappointment; what could the Security Council do in future cases, particularly now that people are concerned about Iran’s case? My second quick question, Sir: Do you leave your post feeling satisfied you have done your best concerning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?
The Secretary-General: I think the Council will have to continue doing its work. You mentioned Iran, which implies that there is concern that there may be another military operation there. First of all, I don’t think we are there yet, or we should go in that direction. I think it would be rather unwise and disastrous. I believe that the Council, which is discussing the issue, will proceed cautiously and try and do whatever it can to get a negotiated settlement for the sake of the region and for the sake of the world.
I would also say that it’s not just the Security Council that should learn from the Iraq experience. Governments and peoples around the world should also learn from that experience and draw the right conclusions for future actions.
On the Palestinian-Israeli [issue], we did as much as we can. I am rather sad that, as I leave, we haven’t made much progress. I worked with the Quartet, and I think I pushed as much as I can. And I hope that the proposal I made in my last report will help move the process there forward, because I do indicate some specific measures for the Quartet and for the international community.
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For information media • not an official record