See also: UN DPI Multimedia (Ref: 98-1526/98; 99-0879/99)
Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

20 March 1998


17-18 MARCH

(Received from the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General.)

The Secretary-General began the first leg of his Middle East tour in Amman, where he arrived from Geneva in the evening of Tuesday, 17 March.

The programme which had originally been scheduled for Wednesday was disrupted due to a snowstorm. Originally, a helicopter trip had been planned to visit Umm Quais, opposite the Golan Heights, where the borders of Jordan, Syria and Israel meet. When the flight was cancelled, the Secretary-General instead started his day with a breakfast hosted by Crown Prince Hassan and Princess Sarvath.

Following the breakfast, the Crown Prince and Princess took the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan on an impromptu visit through the snow in a four-wheel drive vehicle to two Palestinian refugee camps. They were accompanied by Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The Secretary-General visited clinics, schools and clothing workshops, where he was briefed on the various services UNRWA offers to refugees. At the Marka camp, just outside Amman, the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan, together with the Crown Prince and Princess, were offered a cup of coffee by a lady named Palestine, a young mother of three. The Secretary-General chatted with her children, Ahmad, Mohammad and Islam, who spoke to him
about living conditions in the refugee camp.

In the early afternoon, the Secretary-General and his party were briefed at the Royal Palace by the Crown Prince and government officials on a series of subjects: the Middle East peace process, regional economic cooperation, Jordan's economic performance, regional perspectives on Jordan's water scarcity problems, security and refugees.

In the afternoon, the Secretary-General held a one-on-one meeting with Crown Prince Hassan, who bestowed the "Al Nahda" decoration upon him.

In a brief statement to the press, the Crown prince expressed appreciation for Mr. Annan's efforts in defusing the recent crisis in Iraq. He pointed out that peacemaking was not only necessary for the Iraqi crisis, but also for the Palestinian refugee crisis.

Mr. Annan told reporters that he was thankful that the snow had diverted the original programme in Jordan, as it had provided him instead with the opportunity to tour the refugee camps. Indicating that this year marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Secretary-General pledged to undertake fund-raising for UNRWA, which has been plagued by financial difficulties. He stressed that the international community must also do its part to alleviate UNRWA's budget crisis.

In response to a question about the Middle East peace process, Mr. Annan indicated that he fully supported the United States' role as a mediator, adding that a multiplicity of mediators would not help the situation.

The Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan flew to Cairo in the afternoon, to continue their tour of the region.

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For information media - not an official record