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

26 November 2004



Secretary-General Kofi Annan travelled from the United Republic of Tanzania to Egypt on Monday, 22 November 2004.

During a brief refuelling stop in Asmara, Eritrea, the Secretary-General was greeted by the Minister of Labour and Human Welfare, Askale Menkerios.  He also had the opportunity to meet with his Special Representative for Ethiopia/Eritrea, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, and the United Nations Mission’s Force Commander, Major-General Rajender Singh.

Upon arrival in Sharm el-Sheikh to attend the International Conference on Iraq which would open the following day, he was briefed by his senior advisors, Lakhdar Brahimi, Terje Roed-Larsen and Ashraf Qazi.

That evening, the Secretary-General met with the Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, Seyoum Mesfin, as well as Japan’s Foreign Minister, Nobutaka Machimura.

The Secretary-General and Foreign Minister Machimura discussed the Middle East peace process and the current situation in Iraq.  The Japanese reaffirmed their financial commitment to the January elections in Iraq and the Secretary-General thanked the Foreign Minister for that commitment.  The Secretary-General also briefed the Foreign Minister on the timetable of the release of the report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.

He then attended an official dinner hosted by Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Foreign Minister of Egypt.

Prior to attending the opening session of the International Conference on Iraq, the Secretary-General had a working breakfast with members of the Middle East Quartet.  Also attending the meeting were Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov; United States Secretary of State Colin Powell; the European Union High Representative for a Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana; and the European Commission’s External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Mr. Annan said the Quartet reaffirmed its support for the Palestinian elections.  He added that the members had also pledged to work with the Palestinian leadership on their reform process as well as getting the international community to give them support for their social and economic programmes.

Asked about the issue of freedom of movement for Palestinians during the electoral period, the Secretary-General said that if elections were to be held, then people were going to have to move around, so some of the restrictions would have to be lifted.  "We are hopeful that it will be done", he added. 

Immediately after the Quartet meeting, the Secretary-General had a meeting with Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner.

The Secretary-General was informed early on Tuesday morning of the news of the release of the three United Nations hostages in Afghanistan.  Shortly afterwards he called President Hamid Karzai to commend him for his, and his Government’s help.  He also called to congratulate his Special Representative, Jean Arnault.  A while later, he was able to reach all three of the former hostages by phone.

The Secretary-General then addressed the International Conference on Iraq.  Speaking after the host, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit of Egypt, the Secretary-General said that this meeting comes at an historic moment in the history of Iraq.

He told the twenty-eight participants that every peace-loving nation shares a stake in building a stable and united Iraq.  “An Iraq”, he went on to say, “whose wounds are healed through an inclusive, participatory and transparent political process, that encompasses national security, political inclusiveness, and economic justice”.

The Secretary-General called on the international community to rally around Iraq and support its political transition.  That unified support, he said, is the “best way to ensure that a sovereign, secure and self-confident Iraq takes its place in the region, and indeed becomes a beacon to other nations”.

He said that it is critical that the January elections take place in a conducive environment.  Insecurity, the Secretary-General stated, is the greatest impediment to the transitional process.  While the Iraqi Government had a right and duty to take action to protect its citizens in the indiscriminate use of the terror, the Secretary-General observed, they might wish to weigh the broader impact on the transition process of the actions they took. 

The Secretary-General promised that the United Nations’ commitment to Iraq, which did not begin with this current crisis, will not end any time soon.  He pledged that we, the United Nations, will be at the side of the Iraqi people in the future.  (See press release SG/SM/9612.)

Following the Secretary-General’s address, the conference moved into a closed session at the end of which they adopted a final communiqué which reaffirms the international community's support for the political transition in Iraq.

On the margins of the closed meeting the Secretary-General had a series of bilateral meetings, including with High Representative Javier Solana and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.  He also met with the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amre Moussa, with whom he discussed the situation in Iraq, as well as the Middle East peace process.

He later met with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.  They discussed the situations in Iraq and Darfur.  The Secretary-General also briefed the Foreign Minister on the timetable of the release of the report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.

Later on Tuesday evening, the Secretary-General had a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

The Secretary-General left Egypt for Burkina Faso for an official visit in the morning of Wednesday, 24 November.

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For information media - not an official record