Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

7 December 1998




'Let Us Work Together for Peace',
Kofi Annan Tells Summit Meeting of Gulf Cooperation Council

Following is the text of the statement by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the nineteenth Summit Meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, in Abu Dhabi on 7 November:

Let me at the outset thank His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, the host and incoming president of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the Government and people of the United Arab Emirates, for the hospitality I have been shown on this visit. On every trip to the GCC region, I have invariably been touched by the kind treatment I have received. This time, I am additionally honoured in being the first Secretary-General to address the Council. And I am delighted that we are joined at this summit by a great African, Nelson Mandela.


As the whole world knows, your region has shown itself capable of truly remarkable achievements. In just 30 years, a whole new world of lofty towers has sprung up along the Corniche where there were once only a few one-storey buildings. The juxta- position of this metropolis with the blue waters of the Gulf is living proof of the literally life-giving importance of this waterway.

But, alas, this summit takes place at a time of renewed tension in the Gulf -- tension with which you are all too familiar. All the nations of the area lived through an exceptionally traumatic experience eight years ago -- the consequences of which are unfortunately still with us today.

When I went to Baghdad in February, it was in response to calls across the world -- including from your governments -- for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Iraq. The Memorandum of Understanding worked out then provided, I believe, a sound basis for averting confrontation and moving forward.

But as I made clear at the time: the onus was on Iraq to proceed on that way forward -- the way of cooperation and compliance. I was saddened and burdened, therefore, by the Iraqi decision in October not to cooperate with the United Nations Special Commission.

Iraq has maintained for a long time that it wants to see light at the end of the tunnel. We all know that sanctions are a very blunt instrument and, inevitably, cause suffering to innocent civilians, particularly women, children, older people and other vulnerable groups. In order to alleviate such unintended suffering, to the extent possible, while the sanctions are still in place, the Security Council adopted its resolution 986 more than two years ago in which it authorized the sale of Iraqi oil to pay for food, medicine and other essential goods for the Iraqi population. On my recommendation, the Security Council authorized a significant expansion of this oil-for- food programme in January of this year in order to satisfy a number of unanswered needs of an essential nature.

But the ultimate goal, of course, is to move towards the lifting of sanctions before long, so that Iraq can regain its place among the community of nations. The Security Council agreement to a comprehensive review offers Iraq a genuine opportunity to reach this goal. But, let me repeat what I have said all along: the way to achieve this is for Iraq to comply fully with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council. I am grateful to you, the States of the GCC, for having added your voice to these calls on Iraq.

The Government of Bahrain's support for the work of the Special Commission as host to its field office is a valuable help to the United Nations. For that, the United Nations owes the Government of Bahrain a debt of gratitude.

Let us also not forget that resolution 687 looks forward to the realization of "the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction" and "a balanced and comprehensive control of armaments in the region" using "all available means, including a dialogue among the States of the region" to achieve these objectives. The achievement of this goal would be a blessing, not only for the peoples of the Middle East, but for humanity as a whole. It is reassuring to know that the members of the GCC are strongly committed to this objective.

A week ago we marked yet another anniversary for the whole of the Middle East. On 29 November, 51 years ago, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed a resolution which, if implemented, would have partitioned Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state, living side by side in peaceful coexistence.

Year after year, this anniversary provides the international community with a reminder that, after more than half a century, the issue of Palestine remains unresolved.

Since taking office, I have made every effort to support the peace process in the Middle East -- and to mobilize the resources of the United Nations family to help create an economic and social environment favourable to peace. You, like me, have witnessed the hardship and deprivation caused by decades of conflict, as well as the yearning on all sides for a peaceful future.

When I visited the area last spring, I took the opportunity to appeal to the leaders of all concerned to continue building on the achievements of the peace process, to make every effort to resume the negotiations in earnest, and to take the difficult decisions needed to move toward reconciliation and cooperation.

The recent signing of the Wye River Memorandum by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, coming as it did after many months of uncertainty and concern over the future of the peace process, is an encouraging development.

I know that you are concerned about the delay in the full implementation of the Wye accord, and that you have urged Israel to implement agreements with the Palestinians, as well as resume negotiations with Syria and Lebanon.

We earnestly hope that this agreement will be implemented in all its aspects and will pave the way for the resumption of negotiations on all tracks.

Regrettably, incidents of violence by elements opposed to the peace process have continued to cost lives and to mar progress. They must be condemned as must all acts of terrorism wherever and by whoever they are committed.

I appeal again to the parties not to be swayed by such incidents but instead, to redouble their efforts in pursuit of a lasting solution to the conflict. It is also essential to create the political and economic conditions that will enable this hope to be realized in practice. A rapid improvement in living conditions in the Palestinian territories is an essential accompaniment to the peace negotiations.

Real progress in the fields of employment, health, education, human rights and industrial and commercial development is urgently needed to strengthen support for the peace process. Despite the ongoing efforts of many donors and of United Nations entities present on the ground, much still needs to be done to alleviate existing conditions and to lay a solid foundation for future development. I hope all of you will support generously the work of the United Nations in that regard.

Ultimately, in these conflicts as in all others, in this region as anywhere else, the key to peace lies with the parties themselves -- for they know and understand better than anyone else what price they will pay in terms of continued conflict. But the fruits of peace -- freedom from fear and freedom from want -- can be understood by everyone.

The history of this Council is an object lesson in that understanding. We can all draw inspiration from the commitment of the GCC to peaceful resolution of territorial disputes. The issue of Abu Mussa, the Greater Tunb and the Lesser Tunb, is a case in point. I encourage all of you to persist in your determination to resolve territorial issues by peaceful means.

Let me therefore commend the wisdom of the United Arab Emirates -- home to so many Iranian expatriates and with so many commercial links with the Islamic Republic -- in opting for dialogue with Tehran with a view to achieving a mutually satisfactory resolution of the dispute.

I am also encouraged to see that, following the Islamic Summit Conference in Tehran, a year ago, Saudi Arabia and Iran have engaged in a fruitful dialogue which will be beneficial to the whole region.

I have since had the chance to meet again with President Khatami, when he became the first Iranian leader for many years to attend the General Assembly last September. I have been encouraged by the course adopted by the President and his Government, which I am confident will be helpful in achieving greater stability in the region.

Regional organizations such as the GCC are the United Nations most important partners and allies; they serve to both complement and support the United Nations work. The indispensable role of regional organizations is foreseen in the United Nations Charter.

Many such groupings have assumed observer status with the United Nations General Assembly.

Should the Gulf Cooperation Council decide to join them, I am sure you would be more than welcome.

Your main objective, under the GCC Charter, is to coordinate, cooperate and integrate your endeavours in all fields. Your successes in doing so -- from security strategy to industry, from education to environment -- are the very building blocks the region needs to achieve stability.

At this time of continuing uncertainty in the region, the partnership between the United Nations and the GCC is of great significance -- especially in the field of peacemaking and preventive diplomacy. The challenge of conflict prevention and conflict resolution goes to the very heart of the mission we share.

The global challenges we face in today's world require the international community to build bridges across regions and subregions. These bridges are two-way avenues for cooperation in which every country can and must play its part, within its means and its areas of strength.

In three days' time the international community will be marking a milestone: the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One year ago, on Human Rights Day, I opened a year of worldwide celebrations of Human Rights Day with a speech I made to students at the University of Tehran.

Human rights, I said in Tehran, are the expression of those traditions of tolerance in all cultures that are the basis of peace and progress.

Human rights, properly understood and justly interpreted, are foreign to no culture and native to all nations. It is the universality of human rights that gives them their strength and endows them with the power to cross any border, climb any wall, defy any force.

The Universal Declaration itself was the product of debates between a uniquely representative group of scholars, many of whom came from the non-Western world. They brought to this historic assignment, the recent memories of world war and the ancient teachings of universal peace.

The principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration are deeply rooted in the history of humankind.

They can be found in the teachings of all the world's great cultural and religious traditions -- not least in the Arab and Islamic world. Let us never forget that it was the Prophet Mohammed, Peace Be Upon Him, who said, "All men are equal, like the teeth of a comb". Let us listen when the Holy Quran tells us that "All believers, male and female, are responsible for each other".

This past year has been a year of hope. I wish every year would offer such hope, and prove to all that human rights cannot be denied where human beings live and breathe.

But that is our challenge. To make this hope come true.

So let us make every day matter in the fight to broaden the horizons of human rights until that day when no man is tortured, no woman is abused and no child is denied his dignity -- when all human beings enjoy their human rights.

Let us continue to build and reinforce the bridges between us. Let us act on the understanding that in this world, we are all responsible for each other. Let us work together for peace. Choukran, Wassalamu Alaikum.

* *** *
For information media - not an official record