It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. You meet at a difficult time for the international community. We face a crisis of collective security, and need to find our way to a system of rules that fully address today's challenges – and that all countries respect. We face a crisis of global solidarity, and need to find ways to intensify our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. And we face a crisis of prejudice and intolerance, particular among Muslims, Christians, and Jews. We must not allow ourselves, out of fear or anger, to treat people whose faith or culture differs from ours as enemies. These are common concerns of the United Nations and the OIC, and we will need each other's help – both in making the case for an equitable, rule-based global order, and our work in specific areas where these problems come to a head.
One such area, of course, is Iraq. You meet just days after the adoption of a Security Council resolution on the transition in Iraq. The Interim Government marks a new phase in the political transition, and deserves to be given a fair chance. There is inevitably an element of uncertainty about it. But Iraq is by no means a failed State. On the contrary, the Iraqi people have a wealth of talent, and the country enjoys an abundance of natural resources. Moreover, the Interim Government is clearly capable and reasonably balanced, and is well positioned to bring the country together and lead it effectively during the next seven months. Ultimately, it is for the Iraqi people to judge the Interim Government on its actions, and on the results it produces. All of you have an interest in helping the country to surmount the many challenges it faces, including the creation of adequate conditions for elections, and convening the national conference, which offers an opportunity to increase popular participation in the political transition. I appeal to you to respond favourably to the Interim Government's request for support. The United Nations, for its part, will continue to provide reconstruction, development and humanitarian assistance, from both within and outside Iraq, as circumstances permit.
The increasingly urgent need to achieve a just and comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also high on your agenda. Israel has continued extrajudicial killings, the use of disproportionate force in densely populated areas, construction of a West Bank barrier, wide-scale house demolitions such as those in Rafah in recent weeks, and other activities. We condemn those acts, and call on Israel to refrain from further violations of international law and to meet its obligations under the Road Map, especially halting settlement activities and ending the use of violence.
For their part, some Palestinian groups continue to carry out suicide bombings and other attacks that fuel hatred and fear, and set back their national aspirations. We should all strongly condemn terrorism, wherever and whenever it occurs; no cause can justify it. We call on the Palestinian Authority to meet its obligations under the Road Map, and take effective measures on the ground to curb violence and combat terror.
In this dark landscape, Israel's proclaimed intention to withdraw from the Gaza Strip could offer a possibility of putting an end to violence. Withdrawal from Gaza might even be used as a bridge back towards resuming a meaningful peace process – if it is complete, if it is done in consultation with the Palestinian Authority, and if it is carried out as part of the Quartet's Roadmap. It must also lead clearly to an end of the occupation.
I appeal to all Governments to remain focused on the need for a comprehensive negotiated settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, including on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks. There is also a need to respond to the increasingly dire humanitarian plight of the Palestinians. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East is a vital lifeline for millions of Palestinians. But funding has failed to keep pace with needs, and the Agency has faced an uphill struggle to maintain the quality of its services. I urge you to help UNRWA meet current emergency needs, and I call on Israel to facilitate UNRWA's humanitarian mission, including by ensuring access to people in need.
A few months separate us from the holding of the national elections that will mark the end of Afghanistan's Transitional Government. In this short period, considerable challenges must be confronted. Afghanistan remains an insecure environment. Terrorism, factionalism and criminal networks are as much at work today as they were two years ago, and their ability to subvert state-building and a genuine political process is hardly diminished. Factional commanders continue to thwart the process of demobilization, disarmament and rehabilitation. The cultivation of narcotics is another obstacle. Afghans cannot shoulder their responsibility for security without international assistance. At this critical juncture for the peace process, a stronger international security presence could make the difference between failure and success.
Let me turn now to the situation in Sudan. We are all pleased to see the important progress that has been made in bringing peace to the southern part of the country after so many years of conflict. But in the Darfur region, many villages have been burnt, and more than a million Muslims have been forced from their homes. I urge you all to persuade your Sudanese brothers to neutralize and disarm the brutal “Janjaweed” militia; allow humanitarian supplies and equipment to reach the population without further delays; and ensure that displaced people can return home in safety. Further delay could cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Please do whatever you can to help end this appalling suffering and to bring a greater sense of urgency to the political negotiations.
We are all encouraged by the improvement in relations between India and Pakistan. But I regret, as you all must, that we have not succeeded in overcoming the division of Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriots have clearly pronounced themselves in favour of the reunification of the island. As we move ahead, everything should be done to encourage them to continue down this path, and nothing should be done which runs contrary to their expressed will.
In closing, I would like to raise a major challenge in the area of public health: the eradication of polio. Ninety-five percent of the world's remaining cases of this deadly and debilitating disease are in OIC countries. Your Summit last October in Kuala Lumpur adopted a strong resolution expressing support for the eradication of polio. Last week, leaders at the G-8 Summit also pledged a strong commitment to support polio eradication. But there still remains a funding gap of $100 million. In the next few months, a massive immunization campaign will be mounted in 21 African countries. I hope that those member states of the OIC in a position to do so will provide the financial support needed for this campaign to succeed. UNICEF, the World Health Organization and others are ready to lend their full support to OIC member states in this noble effort.
I have touched on only some of the important challenges on your agenda. Rest assured that on these and other issues, the United Nations system and I personally will continue to be your close partner. In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful meeting.