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

28 March 2001


  Secretary-General Kofi Annan departed New York on Saturday, 24 March, arriving in Amman, Jordan, on Sunday night, to attend the Summit Meeting of the League of Arab States, which was due to begin on Tuesday, 27 March.

      Upon landing at Queen Alia International Airport, the Secretary-General told journalists that he was “extremely happy to have been invited by His Majesty [King Abdullah II] to attend this summit meeting at a critical stage in the affairs of this region and the Arab world”.

      The Secretary-General devoted the day on Monday to bilateral meetings in advance of the Summit.  The first appointment of the day was with Javier Solana, Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union and High Representative for its Common Foreign and Security Policy.  The High Representative and the Secretary-General first discussed the ongoing crisis along the border between Kosovo and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as Mr. Solana was due to travel to Skopje that evening.  The two then moved to the situation in the Palestinian territories and Israel.  Mr. Solana, who is a member of the Fact-Finding Committee, established at Sharm el-Sheikh and headed by George Mitchell, had just arrived in Amman after spending a number of days in Israel and the Palestinian territories with the other members of the Committee.  He briefed the Secretary-General on the meetings he conducted with Palestinian and Israeli officials, as well as members of civil society.  They exchanged views on the dire economic situation of the Palestinian Authority, as well as the general security situation.

      Later on Monday afternoon, the Secretary-General met His Majesty King Abdullah II for a general review of the situation in the Palestinian territories and Iraq.  During the meeting, the Secretary-General thanked His Majesty for Jordan's constructive support of the work in his country of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

      The Secretary-General also met his senior staff in the region, including Terje-Roed Larsen, Special Coordinator for the Middle East; Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative for southern Lebanon; Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of UNRWA; Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs; Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, Under-Secretary-General for Special Assignments in support of the Secretary-General's preventive and peacemaking efforts; Major General Bo Wranker, Force Commander, United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF); Major General Franco Ganguzza, Chief of Staff, United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO); and Brigadier General Ganesan Athmanathan, acting Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). 

During this meeting, the Secretary-General received an in-depth briefing of the situation on the ground in the region.

      In the early evening, he met Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi at the Royal Palace in Amman, at the request of Libya.  During the 30-minute meeting, the two discussed a number of issues, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and developments relating to the Lockerbie case. 

Following that meeting, the Secretary-General returned to his hotel to receive the Moroccan Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Benaissa.

Before the end of the day, the Secretary-General met for an hour with President Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority.  Following their meeting, during which they were accompanied by senior advisers, the Secretary-General told journalists that he "had a very good discussion with President Arafat on the need for all to work to end the violence and for us to find a way of moving forward".  The Secretary-General added, "any actions that increases the violence is something that we should stop.  There is no need for any escalation and I think we are all going to work to find a way to bring calm for this region".

      On Tuesday, 27 March, the situation in the Palestinian territory and Israel, as well as Iraq, were the dominant issues in the Secretary-General's address to the Summit Meeting of the League of Arab States.

"The current cycle of violence between Palestinians and Israelis has seen hundreds killed and thousands wounded, the great majority of them Palestinians", the Secretary-General said.  He underscored the devastating effect of the closures on every aspect of Palestinian life.  "Collective punishment", he said, "has cast a pall of anger and despair over the already tense occupied territories", adding "Israelis, too, have seen high hopes turn to fear.

He underscored his concern that, amid the tensions and the rhetoric, a key point was lost.  He told the assembled Arab leaders that they, along with the international community, had every right to criticize Israel for its continuing occupation of Palestinian and Syrian land and its excessively harsh response to the intifada, but he added that "these points could be made more effectively if many Israelis did not believe that their existence was under threat".  He went on to say:  "Israel has a right, enshrined in numerous United Nations resolutions, to exist in safety within internationally recognized borders."

The Secretary-General concluded his discussion of this situation by urging both sides to return to the negotiating table.  "Now more than ever", he said, "what we need is movement towards an agreement that responds both to the legitimate desire of the Palestinians for national independence, and to the legitimate claims of the Israelis to recognition and security."

He then went to the subject of Iraq, noting his deep regret at the continuing suffering of the Iraqi people and adding that he shared the hopes of everyone present at the Summit that sanctions can be lifted sooner rather than later.  The Secretary-General said that he believed that "the Iraqi leadership will achieve more through cooperation with the international community, including its neighbours, than through confrontation".

In conclusion, he reminded the assembled leaders of the pledges they made during last year's Millennium Summit to "make this world peaceful, democratic and just".  He particularly focused on the fact that nearly half of the population of the Arab world is under the age of 18.  "They need education and jobs", the Secretary-General said, "they want to engage with the world and with each other, secure in their freedoms and human rights.  Everything should be done to liberate their creative energies” (see Press Release SG/SM/7755).

Before delivering this address, the Secretary-General held a number of high-level bilateral meetings.

He first met with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud.  Immediately afterwards, the Secretary-General told journalists that he and the President had discussed, among other topics, the demining activities going on in the south of the country, as well as the effort the United Nations will make to "bring the donor community together to raise money for reconstruction of the south".  He added that he was "extremely pleased with the cooperation we are getting from the Lebanese authorities".

The Secretary-General then met with the Iraqi delegation, including Vice Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council Izzat Ibrahim, Vice Premier Tariq Aziz, and Foreign Minister Mohammed Said Al-Sahaf.  The Secretary-General told the press afterwards that they had reviewed the issue of sanctions against Iraq.  He also said he would continue his efforts to break the impasse between Iraq and the Security Council, and that his next round of talks with the Iraqis would likely take place in New York in May.

Just before his speech, the Secretary-General met for about 20 minutes with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, with whom he shared concern about the violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  

On Tuesday afternoon, the Secretary-General met for 45 minutes with the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, with whom he discussed the Arab League Summit, the Middle East peace process, including the Syrian track, the situation in southern Lebanon and Iraq.

 On Tuesday evening, he attended a banquet dinner hosted by His Majesty King Abdullah II. 

After dinner, the Secretary-General had a tête-à-tête meeting with His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz al Saud, Second Deputy Premier, Minister of Defence and Aviation and Inspector General.

He departed Amman early on Wednesday morning for Switzerland.


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