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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
9 November 2005
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s press encounter with Prince Saud Al-Faisal,
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Wednesday, 9 November 2005

(unofficial transcript)

SG: Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and thank you, Your Highness, Foreign Minister. I and my wife, and my team, are extremely happy to be here in Saudi Arabia, in Jeddah.

As the Minister said, we had very good discussions with the King and with the Foreign Minister himself. Apart from the subjects he has mentioned to you, I was also able to congratulate the King on his accession to power, and congratulate him on the modernization and reform programme he has initiated. But I agree with the Foreign Minister that we live in a difficult and dangerous world. We are facing new challenges and new threats and we need to adapt our system of collective security to be able to deal with that. It is also obvious that in our interdependent world there are many issues that we have to confront that no one country or party can tackle alone. So this is an era of multilateralism and an era where international cooperation should be emphasized and that is one of the reasons we handle reform efforts at the United Nations -- to try and bring our mechanisms and structures in line with the twenty-first century and the new challenges we are facing. At the last summit, world leaders agreed to changes. We did not get everything we wanted, but they have given us a solid basis to move forward on issues of development. They took important decisions, and human rights transformations towards a human rights council. They agreed on responsibility to protect for Member States. And what is more important, I think everybody walked away from that conference to the basic premise that you cannot have development without security, and you cannot have security without development, and you can enjoy neither without respect for human rights and the rule of law. That is a challenge for all of us and I think we should press on.

Thank you very much.

Q: We all condemn the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, but don’t you agree with me that the life of child in Palestine or Iraq should have the value as that of a politician. Shouldn’t the UN and the Security Council also get involved in dealing with those kinds of deaths? Also is there a role for the Arab League in the situation in Syria?

SG: Let me say that on the question of human life and the right of individuals to live their lives in dignity, the UN stand on that is very clear: Those are basic tenets of the Organization and basic ideals and so we do not value one life over the other. There comes a time when you sometimes have to take a stand and take steps to send a message, to send a message that impunity will not be allowed to stand, political assassination of leaders is not acceptable, and that there are other means for changing leadership and transforming society. You referred to the situation in Iraq and Israel, which are both very special situations that the UN itself is grappling with. Whether in Iraq where the [Security] Council position was very clear before the war, and on the issue of Israel, the UN with its partners in the Quartet are trying to do as much as they can to ensure that we are able to create two states - Israel and Palestine - living side by side. And at no time have I or the United Nations condoned the killings in Palestine, Israel or Iraq. Life is a life, I agree with you, but there comes a time when you have to make an example. We cannot chase all the killers and bring them to court, but sometimes you can take on one case, resolve it firmly, and send a message to all murderers or assassins.

Q. There is a feeling in this part of the world that the Mehlis report was politicized. What is your comment? Also what can Saudi Arabia do to ease tensions between Saudi Arabia and the UN?

SG: The Security Council passed a resolution asking for an investigation into the Hariri assassination with the sole objective of getting to the truth and ensuring that the perpetrators are held to account and punished. And, as I said, send out a message that impunity will not be allowed to stand. The Council stand is clear and I think it’s important that we all realize that the Mehlis exercise is the beginning of the process. After that the magistrate and the judges will have their work to do. And so I have been very careful, and encourage people not to do that will appear as if we are interfering with the process or we are taking steps, or doing any thing, that will compromise the rights of the accused. And so, when it comes to politicization I need to say that Council situation is clear. What other governments say about it is something that I cannot control. But the Security Council resolution is very clear: they want to get to the truth and deal with it.

As to what Saudi Arabia can do, I think Saudi Arabia is an important country in the region. It holds a leadership position in this region and I would want Saudi Arabia to urge the government of Syria to cooperate and cooperate fully with Mr. Mehlis and honour the Security Council resolution. I indicated that earlier -- I think it was yesterday - but recently Syria has worked with us to withdraw its own troops and to withdraw all the security forces and stayed out of Lebanese elections, and it should continue its cooperation by working with Mehlis to get to the truth. It is in the interest of Syria and interest of the region that they implement the Security Council’s resolution, and here I think Saudi Arabia with its influence can be able to help steer Syria right. As far as the tension between Syria and the UN is concerned there will be no tension if Syria were to implement the resolution fully and promptly.

Q: How do you do feel about Saudi Arabia’s efforts to fight terrorism?

SG: This is an issue I discussed with his Majesty the King. I think Saudi Arabia is making keen efforts to fight terrorism. Saudi Arabia has itself been a victim of terrorism and, in the discussions, it is clear that not only Saudi Arabia is doing its part but it is keen to cooperate with other governments to fight terrorism, to cooperate and work with and, in fact, has proposed the establishment of the international center against terrorism, which the Member States are encouraged to discuss and hopefully they will discuss it as apart of the strategy against terrorism that has been discussed in New York. When it comes to terrorism, we are all in it together, we should focus on the terrorist instead of pointing fingers on each other.

Q: Yesterday, you discounted the possibility of American military action against Syria. Do you have any assurances from the Americans in this regard? If the UN investigations confirm the suspicions in the first report and that the people suspected are part of the Syrian regime, will there be regime change?

SG: Let me say that, on the first question, that in the discussions that I have had with governments, including the United States, they would want to see Syria cooperate fully and help get to the truth. They would also want to see a situation in the region where no government interferes in the affairs of another and where no government allows criminal elements to cross its border into the other. In effect, it will require some behavior change on the part of certain governments. I think if that were to happen, I would not see the need for any other initiative or the kind of action your question seems to imply. I would also want to say that once Mehlis has completed his work – he is following the evidence, he’s a very professional prosecutor and will go where the evidence takes him. Who ever is implicated or incriminated in the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri should be held to account, without fear or favour, regardless of the office of that individual. That is the approach and that is the correct one.

Q: On pending US military action against Syria regardless of the outcome of the Melhis report.

SG: I have no indications that the United States is planning a military outcome against Syria regardless of the outcome of the investigation. The United States, like all Member States of the Council and the UN, would want to get to the truth and would want to see a region where governments live in harmony and on a basis of good neighborliness and not interfere with each other’s affairs. And I think this is one of the key issues that concerns all the Member States and I would hope that the governments in the region would bear that in mind, because it is in the interest of their individual countries, as well as the region, and if they are going to have any relationships they should be cooperative and harmonious, and not initiate anything that undermines one country or the other.

Q: Considering that the UN was pushed out of Iraq by the US and that it has lost some of its credibility after the Oil for Food scandal, what can the UN do in Iraq?

SG: I don’t know if you can say if the UN was pushed out. The Security Council acted in the way it should have. It debated the issue thoroughly and, like all deliberative bodies whether a parliament or the Security Council, it took a decision. The Council did not vote to support the war. Yes, the US went ahead anyway. But I think, since the war the Security Council has passed several resolutions in an attempt to help the people of Iraq. We have a lot of people on the ground working with the people of Iraq - on the first elections; worked with them to establish an electoral law; worked with them on the constitution and the referendum; and are helping them with the elections in December. So, we are with them through this essential political process. We also believe that we should work with them on reconciliation and here I must applaud the Arab League initiative, with Saudi Arabia, for coming up with an initiative that is trying to bring all the Iraqi parties together to discuss their differences and seek reconciliation. That, I think, is a long-term solution. Without reconciliation we are going to see continued difficulties. The UN is playing its role.

Q: Why is the UN’s effort in Pakistan so lame as compared with what happened after the Tsunami?

SG: We’ve tried to be as active in the Pakistan earthquake as we were in the Tsunami. The difference is that in the case of the Tsunami the response to the appeal for funds and support were very prompt and we did get the support we needed. Ten days after the [Tsunami] we had the resources we needed. Ten days after the earthquake, we had 12% of what we needed to be able to help. The response for the Pakistani quake has not been as good as the one for the Tsunami. You’ve probably heard us on your radio, in your televisions or read on the front pages of the newspapers, pleading for money to be able to help the Pakistanis. And I appeal again today for governments, for individuals and for the private sector to help. The situation is desperate. We are trying to save as many lives as we can. Of course, there is also the whole issue of recovery and reconstruction. We are going to organize a meeting on the 19th of November in Islamabad, which the government has convened and I will join them there to try to raise additional resources to try to help the victims of the earthquake. I hope that governments, individuals and the private sector will give, and give generously, to help those in need. If the UN is found wanting, as you’ve indicated, it is not for lack of will, it’s lack of cash and lack of resources.

Q: What is your reaction to the Paris riots?

SG: On my way to this region, I stopped in Paris and I did have a chance of discussing many issues with President Chirac, including this one. He recognizes the difficulty of the situation, the need to bring calm to the areas that have been affected, the need to bring social programmes for the young people and people in those parts of the country. He assured me that his government will do all that is required, not only to establish calm, but to take steps to deal with some of the problems, grievances and discriminations some of these people have suffered in the past. There is long historical reason for it.

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