8th Islamic Conference Summit (Tehran) – SecGen address – Press release (excerpts)




Following is the address of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the eighth summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Tehran, Iran on 9 December:

I am honoured and very pleased to join you in the capital of this ancient land for the eighth Summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. I would like to pay special tribute to His Excellency President Khatami and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for hosting this important conference. President Khatami, I would also like to congratulate you on your recent election as President and on your assumption of the Chairmanship of the OIC Summit. Your visionary leadership holds great promise for your nation, and for the Islamic world at large. The United Nations looks forward to an even closer and deeper cooperation with you and with the OIC under your leadership.

We meet in Tehran at a time of great ferment and change in the relations between States and peoples throughout the world. As the contours of a new international order emerge, we can be certain of one thing: that cooperation and communication between countries, continents and cultures will become ever more vital to our survival and success.

A new equilibrium is emerging from new centres of power and influence that must be harmonized with the old, if the new international order is to forge peace and worldwide progress. The OIC has a critical role to play in the management of this monumental change. Since its inception, the OIC has been an influential fount of principle and advocacy on behalf of the Islamic world and its peoples. It promotes the goal of universal peace and advances the kind of understanding between cultures that is a condition for international cooperation and stability.

The OIC enjoys an almost unique breadth and depth of membership, drawing on the wisdom of the oldest of civilizations and gaining from the experience of some of the wealthiest, most rapidly developing countries in the world.

Through you, the world understands the desires and demands of over one-fifth of the world's population, from all continents. That is why the partnership between the OIC and the United Nations is so important. That is why it holds such promise for all the peoples of the United Nations.
The OIC and the United Nations have already joined forces in a number of areas:  advancing social and economic development; increasing peace and security; and promoting fundamental human rights, all called for by General Assembly resolutions. We have forged new bonds in our peace-making efforts, including in Afghanistan, Somalia and Tajikistan.  In these efforts, I am pleased to say that we have achieved some progress in bringing the parties together to try and emerge from their cycles of violence.

As we meet today, the tensions between the Government of Iraq and the United Nations appear to have been defused.  As you know, I intervened early in the crisis and sent a high-level mission to Baghdad to listen to Iraq's views and to convey to the Government the will of the United Nations. I am pleased to say that diplomacy has made it possible for the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) to return and continue with its work. I would like to express my appreciation for the efforts of all those governments and individuals who contributed to the peaceful resolution of the crisis. And I trust we can continue to count on their wisdom and support as we move forward.

In Somalia, since the early stages of the crisis, the United Nations has enjoyed the support of the OIC, together with the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Arab League. Our common aim is a broad-based political solution that would allow the people of Somalia to look to a more stable and prosperous future. It is heartening that reports from the recent talks in Cairo indicate that a consensus between the various factions may be emerging. Let us hope that this can lead to the establishment of a transitional or provisional government. Then, the daunting task of rebuilding the Somali State and society can begin and, I hope, allow Somalia to join us at the next conference of the OIC.

As regards Tajikistan, we recently witnessed the signing of the Final Peace Accords in Moscow, an agreement to which we jointly made a significant contribution. It is now the responsibility of the various parties within Tajikistan to establish and consolidate stability to move toward a durable peace.

In Afghanistan, however, success has been elusive. Despite painstaking and persistent efforts by the OIC, the United Nations Special Mission and my Special Envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, a lasting peace seems a distant prospect. Why? Because the Afghan leaders refuse to rise above their narrow factional interests and start working together for  national reconciliation. Because too many groups in Afghanistan — war lords, terrorists, drug dealers and others — appear to have too much to gain from war and too much to lose from peace and the rule of law. Because foreign military, material and financial support continues unabated, fuelling this conflict and depriving the warring factions of a genuine interest in making peace. The continued support by these outside forces, combined with the apathy of others not directly involved, is, I regret to say, rendering diplomatic initiatives almost irrelevant.

The result is a prolongation of years of human suffering by: indiscriminate shelling and bombardment of civilian areas; the large-scale material destruction of infrastructure; measures that are depriving women and girls of their most basic rights; and a climate of instability that already has spread beyond Afghanistan's borders, causing large refugee flows, the spread of guns and drugs, as well ethnic and sectarian strife. Any genuine peace process must begin with a complete ceasefire and an effective arms embargo. Then an international framework, including all the interested and involved parties, can form the basis of lasting settlement. This settlement, in turn, would open the path toward the establishment of a genuinely broad-based government, reflecting the interests of all political and religious groups. It would finally deliver the Afghan people from their agony and bring closer the prospects for a lasting peace.

Another issue of common concern to the United Nations and the OIC is the situation in the Middle East. The international community cannot but view with deep dismay the continuing stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.  In order for the peace process to move forward, it is essential that the terms of the Oslo accords are respected. Effective measures also need to be adopted in order to curb the violence that has arisen over the past several months. We must urge both sides to fulfil their commitments.

In the Balkans, we cannot forget the horrifying atrocities inflicted upon the population, particularly the Muslims of Bosnia. It is the duty of the international community to ensure that those responsible for such genocidal policies are brought to justice at The Hague Tribunal. In such situations, peace and justice are indivisible. And justice will enhance the prospects for the successful implementation of the Dayton Agreement.  Some progress has been made since the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, but the extension of the international military presence in Bosnia is still crucial.  It will ensure that the fragile process of reconstruction and reconciliation is sustained.

This brief review underlines the fact that we all face challenges whose solutions so evidently are international in nature and scope. The OIC and the United Nations are natural partners in meeting the challenges of the new era and promoting peace and prosperity throughout the world.

The United Nations cannot do it alone. We must do it with partners such as the OIC and other international, regional organizations and arrangements whose experience and knowledge complement the resources and legitimacy of the United Nations.  The United Nations, in spirit and in reality, is committed to that vision. A vision of a world of concert.  A world where tolerance and mutual respect among and within all nations is the basis for global progress.

In closing, allow me to pay tribute to the great faith and civilization of Islam. It has ennobled and enriched humanity throughout its history. Today, it inspires the belief of almost one billion men and women, and is a universal spiritual force for mankind. This fact makes it all the more distressing to witness the increasing resort to violence and terror by extremist groups in the name of Islam. They are sullying the image of a religion whose very name signifies peace and whose Almighty is the compassionate, the merciful.

I am privileged and grateful to join you today for a milestone in our common journey of peace and progress. I wish you all success in your deliberations.

* Reissued as delivered.

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