Question of Palestine home
Department of Public Information (DPI)
14 March 2005
President’s Residence, Jerusalem 14 March 2005 - Secretary-General’s press encounter with Israeli President Katsav
It is a great honour to receive Secretary-General Kofi Annan here at the President’s House. I appreciate very much the involvement of Mr. Kofi Annan in the international campaign against anti-Semitism. I appreciate very much his solidarity with the Holocaust issue.
He is coming to Israel to attend the event tomorrow at Yad Vashem, which is very significant for us. Because of you, Mr. Secretary-General, it has become indeed an international, a universal event. I believe that the Holocaust should be an Israeli issue, a Jewish issue but also an international issue.
I believe that if we want to bring human values to the young generation, the next generation, it is an effective way to learn the lesson from the Second World War and to provide the lessons of the Holocaust to the young generation.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to exchange views with you on several issues: the Israeli-Palestinian issue, global issues, and thank you very much for sharing with us your views about the issues we discussed together.
Thank you very much.
SG: Thank you very much, Mr. President. Let me thank you for receiving us so warmly and to say that we at the UN also believe that the Holocaust is of everyone’s concern. And as you remember we did the commemoration in the UN General Assembly where the Member States agreed, and I think it was the first commemoration of the year before the others continued. […] And of course, as an organization, the Holocaust and World War II is very much part of our history. We were born out of the ashes of World War II after the Holocaust and therefore it is not only part of our history, it is part of our mission to teach and encourage tolerance and to fight anti-Semitism and other discrimination.
And I think the members of the organization take this very seriously and my presence here also underscores the importance we attach to this issue. And to have the new Yad Vashem as an educational center for the young and for the future generations is an important contribution to their education.
I am also very pleased that we had the chance to talk about the new optimistic atmosphere in the region, a sense of possibilities that we can move the peace process forward, and we as the Quartet will want to work with all the parties to do whatever we can to ensure that the Roadmap is fully implemented and parties honour their commitments and obligations under the Roadmap.
Today, as you know, I was in Ramallah with President Abu Mazen, Prime Minister Abu Ala and also several other ministers, where we discussed the developments in the region and their determination to move ahead and do whatever possible to ensure that we do achieve peace and stability and move the process forward.
And so Mr. President, I want to thank you very much for the time we spent together and for the very useful discussions that we had.
Thank you Mr. President.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, I would like to ask you about your opinion on what is going on today in Lebanon. What do you think will be the next step? Do you think they will go for democracy?
SG: Well, first of all we are working with the Syrian government to withdraw its troops and security forces. They have already begun. And [Terje Roed] Larsen was there and had constructive discussions with them. They are going to have another round of elections in the next two months or so, and I hope this will go also as smoothly as the last one did. I think there is a new mood in the country and I hope that whatever they do will be handled in accordance with the rule of law and democratic practices. So, in that sense you might say that they are moving in that direction.
Q: Even with the Hezbollah being so strong there?
SG: It is also a party in the Parliament and of course one of the issues is how the society deals with these sorts of situations. And I think the government and the people of Lebanon will have to come up with a solution.
President: Just in the Middle East, a party in Parliament has its own army and military equipment.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the UN General Assembly voted against the separation fence. But now that you are here, have you developed a greater understanding to why it is necessary?
SG: I think the General Assembly resolution binds me, and of course I am a servant of the Organization and so you wouldn’t expect me to go against that.
Q: Mr. Secretary, more than 60 years after the Holocaust, there is one state that declares openly that it wants to destroy Israel – Iran. What is your opinion about this?
SG: I think I believe that every Member State of the United Nations has a right, not only to exist but also to manage its own affairs. And both Israel and Iran are members of the Organization and I hope that they will respect each other’s rights.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, two questions: one is whether there is a change in the position of Israel as a member of the UN, in acceptance or normalization of its position in the UN, or is there any sort of making progress? And my second question is regarding Lebanon; Mr. Roed-Larsen just visited Damascus and Beirut and he was given a timetable for the withdrawal of the Syrians. Will the withdrawal be before the elections in Lebanon?
SG: On your first question, I think there has been an improvement in the relationship and I would also say that, from my experience, and I don’t know if the President would agree with me, whenever there is a thaw and the peace process seems to be making progress you see a certain reduction of tensions and improvement of relations. Not just within the UN, but even as you travel within the region.
So I think I can only imagine how the atmosphere will be the day peace arrives, peace between Israel and Palestine is achieved and the whole region is living in peace and harmony and the international community opens up to all the countries in the region. So the perceived progress on peace does have an impact and I think you are probably sensing a bit of that, there is a certain openness and willingness towards Israel and the developments in the region.
On the question of Lebanon, Mr. Larsen has not given me his report yet so I cannot go into details of the arrangements he worked out with the Syrians, but I would hope that it would take place before the elections.