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Source: Secretary-General
19 January 2005



New York, 19 January 2005 - Secretary-General's remarks at press conference on special session of the General Assembly to commemorate the liberation of Nazi Concentration Camps

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Q: Amb. Gillerman, the opinion in your country of the United Nations is quite low. Does this session do anything to turn that around and do you feel that, for one day at least, using your own words, are the inmates not running the asylum in that place?

And can the Secretary-General also talk about the political dynamics of this session, since it has never occurred and there have been other opportunities, and perhaps when it is all over he can talk about the oil for food indictment yesterday and what it means for the UN with someone in the UN allegedly taking money according to this official, at the end of this session.

Gillerman: Well thank you, Richard, for reminding me of that phrase, and giving me the opportunity yet again to make it very clear that when I said that I did not refer to the United Nations. It was very clear, if anybody would have read the whole text, that I was referring to the Palestinian Authority rather than the United Nations when I did say that the inmates were taking over the asylum. However, Israel regards the United Nations as a partner. It is true that it is an arena where Israel has not always enjoyed understanding, compassion and full cooperation. But we do feel that the United Nations is extremely important. We do support the Secretary-General in his efforts to lead the United Nations towards a new millennium and carry out many of the reforms which are under way, which we believe will make it a better and a stronger organization.

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Q: To follow up on a previous question. It's very often said that the Holocaust which was, as you said at the foundation of the United Nations, there was another thing that was founded in the outcome of the Holocaust, and that's the State of Israel, which is linked in the Arab world many times here at the UN to the plight of the Palestinians. Do you think that this is linked and do you think in this session, it will be linked by some of the speakers?

SG: I think whether I like it or not, it is linked in the minds of many people. And so it is a reality that, at the political and other levels, we need to deal with. And I don't think that this event in the General Assembly is going to necessarily de-link that issue in the minds of people.

Q: Ambassador Gillerman, in the spirit of the moment, one of the reasons for the undermining of the Palestinian-Israeli relations is this wall that you have built. Do you see this wall being dismantled very soon so that we can have a better place over there in the Middle East?

Amb. Gillerman: This security fence, which is largely a chain link fence, and in only very few percentages a wall, is one of the most effective security measures taken by Israel against this horrible phenomena of homicide bombers and terrorists. It has been incredibly effective. The number of suicide bombings has been reduced by 90 per cent. The number of Israelis killed has been reduced by 75 per cent, and those wounded by 85 per cent.

Let there be no mistake: there is a perception of calm and quiet in our region. Unfortunately that is not true. The Palestinians have so far, unfortunately not made any serious effort to stop terrorism and to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism. The only reason there is a certain reduction is because of the effectiveness of the fence and the very sophisticated measures taken by the Israeli Defence Forces. We hope very much that, now that there is a new, hopefully more moderate and responsible Palestinian leadership, they will act against terror, will resume negotiations, and I assure you that if they do, they will find in the Israeli Prime Minister, who has very boldly and courageously initiated unilateral withdrawal from the whole of Gaza and parts of the West Bank, and the Israeli government, a very willing partner that will go with them a very, very long way towards reaching a just and long-lasting and fair settlement in our region. Once we reach that, there will be no need for a fence. Israel has taken fences off before, the last time at the specific request of the Secretary-General along the Blue Line in Lebanon. We will gladly do it again once there is no need any longer for that defensive measure. As long as there is terror we will however continue to do everything we can to protect the lives of our citizens.


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