Press encounter following Security Council closed meeting on the situation in the Middle East, 20 June 2002
The Secretary-General responds to questions on the Middle East, Iraq and the World Cup.
SG: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I suspect you all have my statement, so let's go straight to questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, in your statement you call for all the issues to be tackled in parallel without preconditions and for a permanent solution without further delay. Is this the plan that you would like to see President Bush adopt?
SG: Well, I think I have put forth my own idea as to how we should proceed. I know that there is lots of discussion in Washington and other parties have put forward their own views and ideas as to how the issue should be tackled. I hope at the end of the day whatever plan is adopted or put on the table, will tackle the issues that I have raised, because those are the core issues, and unless we deal with the fundamental issues we will not be able to deal with the problem.
Q: How would you respond to Israeli sentiments that they cannot begin to negotiate and withdraw and take back their settlements without some cessation of violence, in other words they have to have some sort of basic precondition of an end of violence?
SG: I don't know if it's a precondition. Obviously I am also in favour of seeing the violence cease. There has been quite a lot of talk about ceasefire but we have also seen many of these conflicts where a ceasefire, a cessation [of hostilities] is embedded in a political process. You have to tackle these issues. Over the past twenty months we have talked about ceasefire first, seven days of cessation of hostilities – it's not led us anywhere. You have to give both parties a sense that you are determined and moving ahead to tackle the issues, and of course security is extremely important for the Israelis, but for the Palestinians, the end of the occupation is essential. That is also important. All these issues are on the table, as well as the deplorable economic conditions which I referred to.
Q: Is it true that there may be a possibility of not holding the Vienna talks, and as you are in touch with the leaders in the region and with President Bush – do you think the events, the suicide bombings, and the occupation of Palestinian lands, are going to delay for a very long time that awaited vision by the President, in particular since you said that you thought that there is a necessity for a timeline [inaudible] and a timeframe as far as pronouncing final settlement. Can you address these three points, please?
SG: On the question of the meeting with the Iraqi government, the meeting will go ahead in Vienna. I am not in a position to comment on when President Bush will make his statement, but I think, like all of you, I am looking forward to the statement. I believe that the sooner we can put the conference together, the better. I hope the conference will be about substance, not about process, and that we can yield genuine results, with timelines, to give a real message to those concerned that the international community is determined to work with them to resolve the problem. I am using the word resolve – crisis resolution – and not management. It will be difficult, it will be tough, it is not going to be easy, but I think we need to move in that direction.