19 February 2007 – Just ahead of his next diplomatic push on the Middle East, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed hope that agreement on the new Palestinian Unity Government will pave the way for peace in the region.
In an interview (MP3) with UN Radio, Mr. Ban, who travels to Berlin this week for a meeting of the diplomatic Quartet – the UN, United States, Russian Federation and European Union – said officials would analyze the recent agreement reached in Mecca on a new Palestinian Government.
The Quartet, seeking a two-State solution, has frozen contacts, and donors have withheld contributions, pending a commitment by the Hamas Government to renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept agreements already signed between Israel and the Palestinians.
“I sincerely hope that with the establishment of National Unity Government among the Palestinian Authority we will be able to see soon the vision realized where Israeli and Palestinian people will be able to live in peace and prosperity side by side,” Mr. Ban said. “This is ultimate objective of the Quartet process.”
Asked whether it was realistic that the economic measures might be lifted, he said, “With the National Unity Government we hope that the Palestinian Authority and Israel will further engage in a peace process between the two parties. In such case I cannot see any reason we would not be able to lift the sanctions.”
During his wide-ranging interview at the weekend, the Secretary-General also voiced concern about the situation in Darfur, Sudan, decrying the “massive human sufferings” in the region, where at least 200,000 people have been killed and 2 million others displaced from their homes since 2003.
“The continuing deteriorating situation in Darfur, particularly in human rights violations and abuses and killings of civilians, is just unacceptable,” he declared. “The international community must take immediate measures on this matter.”
Mr. Ban said in talks with his Special Envoy, Jan Eliasson, Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir “promised he would send his reply as soon as possible” on the planned deployment of a hybrid UN-African Union force for Darfur.
In the meantime, Mr. Ban stressed the importance of helping the people of the region, where some 4 million civilians rely on assistance to survive. “I sincerely hope the Sudanese Government will adhere to (the) cessation agreement and will allow humanitarian assistance to be delivered to many people who are suffering,” he said.
To a question about the situation in Somalia, the Secretary-General recalled that during a meeting with the country's president at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, he called for a broad approach. “I told him he should engage in (an) inclusive political process embracing the moderate members of the Islamic Courts, clan elders, political leaders and community leaders,” Mr. Ban said.
“This is very important because any economic military cooperation may not work eventually if not accompanied by a political process.”
The Secretary-General, who took office on 1 January, said he had chosen Africa for his first overseas trip because of the continent's challenges and potential. “In this era of globalization the international community needs to balance economic and social development? to have a common prosperity,” he said. “Without adequately addressing the African issue and African challenges we may not be able to achieve that goal of common prosperity.”
Mr. Ban said during his trip he saw both progress and the need for further support. “I was very much impressed by the accomplishments African people and governments have achieved so far, but still this is a very fragile process,” he cautioned. “I was very much humbled by the challenges still unresolved; the international community, led by the UN, should address these issues.”
The Secretary-General, who served previously as the foreign minister of the Republic of Korea, also reiterated his satisfaction that recent six-party talks on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) had yielded an agreement on the denuclearization of the peninsula.
“It was a very encouraging situation. North Korea has committed to abandon and dismantle all nuclear weapons and facilities in return for other participants' economic and security assurances,” Mr. Ban said of the talks, which involved the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan.
He also voiced hope that the agreement would be carried out. “This was a commitment based on action for action. This is clearly a step forward towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
Mr. Ban also spoke about climate change, which he has called a priority for his administration. With the Kyoto Protocol covering commitments up to 2012, he called for an action plan for the period after that date. “Major developing countries should participate in this process, while industrialized countries should take the lead because they have long-standing experience and know-how,” he said.
“At the same time, the international community led by industrialized countries should lead this technological innovation to find alternate energy sources.”