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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
21 November 2006



TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE WITH UNITED NATIONS

SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN AT PALAIS DES NATIONS, GENEVA

21 NOVEMBER 2006


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Q: Secretary-General, there were calls for the UN to distance itself from the EU and the US in order to become an honest broker in the Middle East. What do you think about the Human Rights Council? Does three sessions on the Middle East discredit it, or does it give it more credibility as the only organ that really cares about and defends human rights, gross violations?

SG: Cares about which human rights? Sorry, I didn’t get the last part.

Q: I am saying that the Human Rights Council devoted three special sessions to the Middle East. Some quarters say this discredits the Human Rights Council. However, other quarters think the opposite. What do you think?

SG: The Human Rights Council, which replaces the Human Rights Commission, was expected to look at the human rights record of all countries. In fact, the peer review mechanism was one of the innovations. I recall during the discussions, I myself suggested that one should look at the records, human rights records of the Council members; before they move on to look at records of others, they should start with themselves. So the idea or the expectation had been that they would take a broad view and look at as many situations as possible. Whether it’s because of whether their meetings coincided with the Lebanese war, or not, they have tended to focus on the Palestinian issue, and of course when you focus on the Palestinian-Israeli issue, without even discussing Darfur and other issues, some wonder what is this Council doing, don’t they have a sense of fair play, why should they ignore other situations and focus on one area? I hope as we move forward, they will broaden their work and look at human rights situations of other countries and deal with it, because if they concentrate only on the Palestinian-Israeli issue, we will hear the comments that you have indicated.

On the question of whether the UN should distance itself from the European Union and the United States, first of all, the US and the European Union and the countries in the region are major players and have great influence in any attempt to resolve the situation in the Middle East, so we need to work with them. But I have to be clear here. On the question of the embargo, or non-support of Hamas, it is the donors who have indicated they will not give any money, any support to Hamas until they agree to the three principles: acceptance of the existence of Israel, the end of violence, and commitment to obligations that had already been entered into. So even when you look at the January communiqué, it states clearly that the donor members have agreed not to give money. We are not donors, we were not in a position to do that, but we did push very hard to set up the temporary mechanism which will allow money to go into Palestine to help the needy and the poor. Thank you.

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Q: Monsieur le Secrétaire général, on a l'impression, pendant cette fin de mandat, que l'un des principes fondamentaux de la Charte des Nations Unies, en l'occurrence le principe d'autodétermination, du droit des peuples à la liberté et du devoir de la communauté internationale de leur venir en aide pour réaliser cela, se transforme, comme disait un défenseur des droits de l'homme palestinien, en devoir des victimes d'être des victimes sages, sinon ils seraient taxés de terroristes ou boycottées, y compris par quelques instances des Nations Unies. Pour le Secrétaire général des Nations Unies, pour l'ex-étudiant de HEI qui a tant disserté sur ces principes, pour le citoyen du monde: est-ce qu'un tel dérapage serait acceptable d'un point de vue légal ou moral? Merci beaucoup.

SG: Je vais vous répondre en anglais parce que je ne veux pas perdre les nuances.

Let me say that the right of auto-determination is something that we at the UN should and must respect. It was that right that led to the independence of Timor-Leste. It is that right that is driving us in our discussions with Polisario and the Moroccans. It is that right that is also guiding our work in Israel and Palestine when we talk of land for peace and the right of people to choose their own leaders. Around the world, we’ve been pushing good governance, and I think we can all say that in today’s world there are many more countries that claim to be governed democratically, or many more people who have been able to elect their own leaders and determine their future. I don’t think the UN can turn its back on that. And I think the situation you are referring to in Palestine and Israel is a particularly difficult one. It is something that we are all struggling with today. Lots of initiatives are being discussed now. You noticed that not long ago, the Prime Minister of Spain, the President of France and the Prime Minister of Italy, I think, came up with an initiative suggesting an international conference. There are other suggestions being made to try and find a way out of this. I myself, when I came back from the region last summer after the Lebanese war, indicated that what happened in Lebanon was a wake-up call and that we need to move very quickly as an international community to try and stabilize the situation in Lebanon and move on to resolve their relations with Israel, [and] look at the comprehensive peace in Lebanon, in Syria, and with Palestine. I think in the coming months or years, you’re going to see a very active action on this. No one is satisfied with the status quo, nor should be.

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