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Activités du Secrétaire général au Qatar, 25-26 février 2005 - Communiqué de presse
Department of Public Information (DPI)
28 February 2006
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN QATAR , 25-26 FEBRUARY
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Doha, Qatar, in the early morning of Saturday, 25 February, to attend a ministerial meeting he had convened on the controversy regarding the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.
Prior to the start of the meeting, the Secretary-General held a number of bilateral meetings, including with the Secretary-General of the Organization for the Islamic Conference (OIC), Ekmeleddin Ishanoglu, the Secretary-General of the Ibero-American Summit, Enrique Iglesias, and Ali Alatas, the former Foreign Minister of Indonesia.
He also met with Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül. The Secretary-General and Mr. Gül reviewed the situation in the greater Middle East, including Iraq and Israel/Palestine.
They reviewed the results of the recent Palestinian elections and the Secretary-General noted that Turkey had an important role to play in encouraging Hamas to disarm. On Iraq, they noted the recent spate of violent attacks on religious sites and stressed the need for the international community to apply collective pressure, before the next elections, to encourage Iraqi leaders to adopt a path of unity. The two also discussed Cyprus. The Secretary-General told Mr. Gül that he would be meeting with President Tassos Papadopoulos in Paris on Tuesday.
Afterwards, the Secretary-General met with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. They discussed the on-going issue regarding the cartoons, as well as the meeting of the High-Level Panel of the Alliance of Civilizations. The Secretary-General stressed the need to reclaim the space that had been taken up by the extremists on both sides. They also exchanged views on the situation in the greater Middle East. The Secretary-General also thanked the Emir for his support of the UN Democracy Fund, as well as the global effort to eradicate polio.
Returning to the hotel, the Secretary-General met with OIC Secretary-General Ihsanoglu, Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa, as well as with Foreign Ministers Gül of Turkey, Miguel Angel Moratinos Cuyaubé of Spain and Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr Al-Thani of Qatar to discuss their joint statement on the issue of the cartoons.
They then participated in a press conference during which the Secretary-General read out the joint communiqué, on behalf of the group, before taking some questions.
The members of the group called for restraint “and for an immediate end to the present atmosphere, which threatens to sow deep discord between communities, societies and countries.”
While reaffirming the universal right to freedom of expression, they appealed to everyone to exercise that right responsibly, and not to use it as a pretext for incitement to hatred or insult to the deeply held belief of any community.
They also appealed to all leaders, religious and secular, to use their influence to promote the universal values and beliefs shared by all, and they underscored that neither media, publications, nor places of worship, should be used for incitement, or to spread hatred. (See Press Release SG/2106.)
Asked if the communiqué just adopted would become “law” at the United Nations, the Secretary-General said he would bring the text to the “attention” of the General Assembly and the Security Council. It would then be up to Member States to decide what to do next with it. He also stressed that the text, along with the work of the Alliance of Civilizations, was not a “one-shot attempt” and should be seen as a much wider effort to try to create dialogue, improve respect among different cultures, beliefs and civilizations. The Secretary-General also urged individuals to get involved and not to leave these efforts to leaders alone, as everyone has a responsibility to play. “We need to hear the other voice and the mainstream voice of Islam and the Christians will have to speak out”, he said.
In answer to a question regarding the absence of European High Representative Javier Solana and Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik [Representing the Presidency of the European Union], he said that he had spoken to both by phone earlier in the day and that while they regretted not being able to attend, they supported the effort. The Secretary-General said he was confident that once both had seen the final communiqué they would associate themselves fully with the spirit and the intent. “So I hope their [absence] will not be taken as lack of interest as there were genuine reasons why they were not able to be here”, he concluded.
On Sunday morning, prior to leaving Qatar for Geneva, the Secretary-General delivered opening remarks at the second meeting of the High-Level Panel of the Alliance of Civilizations.
He told the members of the High-Level Panel, and other invited guests, that the passions aroused by the recent publication of insulting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, and the reaction to it, illustrate only too clearly the need to address the widening gap of understanding between Islamic and Western societies.
While the Alliance, which was created last year, was not meant to deal with immediate crises, he said, “this present crisis can be considered an expression of a much deeper and longer-standing crisis, which is precisely the one that the Alliance was intended to address”.
He underscored the need for moderate voices to be heard, as “those who shout the loudest” are not necessarily representative of the community they claim to speak for. “We must appeal to the majority”, he added, “to speak up and denounce those who disrespect values and principles of solidarity that are present in all great religions”.
The Secretary-General explained that this dialogue must reach further than diplomats, scholars and politicians. We need to reach out to “artists, entertainers, sports champions –- people who command respect and attention right across society, and especially among young people, because it is very important to reach young people before their ideas and attitudes have fully crystallized”.
If they failed, he warned, the essential dialogue between cultures and societies “will be reduced to an angry exchange between the fringes”.
Looking ahead, he told the members of the panel that he very much hoped that they would be able to come up with specific, concrete suggestions for ways of carrying this dialogue forward so that it can really catch the popular imagination -- “so that we are not just a nice group of people agreeing with each other, but people with a message that can echo round the world”.
The message, he said, “must tell people of all faiths that it is too late in our common history to go back to wars of religion, and urge them to ask themselves whether they want their children to grow up in a world of hate”. (See Press Release SG/SM/10359.)
On the sidelines of the meeting, the Secretary-General met with former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami. They discussed the latest developments in Iraq and the recent elections in the Palestinian territories. They also exchanged views on the current discussions regarding Iran’s nuclear programme. The Secretary-General expressed the hope that the diplomatic discussions would continue between now and March 6th when the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammed ElBaradei is scheduled to report to the Agency’s Board of Governors.
The Secretary-General left Qatar in that early afternoon for Geneva, Switzerland.
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