|New York, 11 June 2007 - Secretary-General's press encounter [unofficial transcript]
In Panama and Spain, I had very good bilateral talks with President Martín Torrijos, as well as Prime Minister [José Luis Rodríguez] Zapatero. I had the unique opportunity of having dinner with His Majesty King Juan Carlos. We covered all the issues, starting from Darfur, Lebanon and the Middle East and UN reform, and these bilateral meetings were very useful.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the Prime Minister of Lebanon is saying that there is intelligence information they have that the Syrian intelligence is helping the smuggling of arms through the borders to the Nahr el-Bared camp where there are engagements with the army, and you, Sir, are saying, 'I would hope that all leaders will cooperate' – that is all you are saying. Why is it difficult for you to call on the Syrians to respect [Resolution] 1701 or do you not think such a thing is a violation of 1701?
SG: Our technical assistance team to monitor the border situation is now in Lebanon. In fact, this is exactly the subject which I discussed with President Assad [Bashar al] and Prime Minister Siniora when I visited both places. There are such allegations that arms smuggling is being carried out through frontiers bordering Syria and Lebanon, and both countries should strengthen first of all their capacity to monitor the security along the border lines, and the United Nations is ready to assist in such a project if they ask. Our technical assistance team is there, as part of that.
Q: Do you think it would be a violation of 1701? We would like to know your position on that?
SG: 1701 is a very important resolution, and it is the obligation and duty of all the countries in the region to fully comply with that.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the United States and Israel are holding joint exercises in Israel – air exercises – and many in the Middle East are saying that this is in preparation for an attack on Iran. Iranian officials are threatening to retaliate, not only against American interests in the Middle East, but also against Israel and against oil facilities in the Middle East. How worried are you about this situation getting out of hand and escalating to a war?
SG: I am gravely troubled by all these situations going on – happening in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinians, and also in Lebanon - all these are happening in the Middle East. I am looking forward to my participation in another Quartet meeting around the end of this month. I sincerely hope that the international community should really be able to find some wisdom and willingness and flexibility to address this issue. There will be an expanded Quartet meeting between the Quartet principals and Israelis and Palestinians and [on the] following day, Arab partners. Through these peace movements we hope, really, to be able to find some solutions to these issues. This needs some maximum restraint from the parties concerned, and also flexibility to contribute their own efforts to this.
Thank you very much.