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

22 November 2000




Following is the transcript of a press conference given at Headquarters today by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to introduce Mervat Tallawy, the new Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA):

The Secretary-General: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I would want this morning to introduce Ms. Mervat Tallawy, who is going to take over in January as the Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. Ms. Tallawy comes to us with incredible experience, as she had been a diplomat. Her last posts were Ambassador to Japan and Minister of Insurance and Social Affairs in Egypt, and, in her current ministerial position, she is responsible for the National Council for Women in Egypt. I am really very pleased that I have been able to attract someone with her capabilities, leadership, experience and competence to take on this responsibility.

You will note that this is the second time a woman has been appointed to head one of the five economic commissions. The first one was the Economic Commission for Europe, where Danuta [Hübner] was appointed less than a year ago. I am really happy that we have someone with her capabilities and experience taking on the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. I hope you will all support her in her efforts and cover her activities.

Ms. Tallawy: I would like to thank the Secretary-General for his confidence in me in giving me this responsibility, which I accept gladly. I would like also to thank him for always thinking of appointing women to high posts. The Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia is, indeed, an important regional commission in an important region that needs all the help it can get, particularly in the area of socio-economic development. Of course, it is linked to the political situation, but the Secretary-General himself is doing his utmost for the region. We will serve as his regional arm to help him in his endeavours and to rejuvenate this organ in order to help the people of the region and meet their expectations.

Question: Can you tell us how your Middle East mediation or negotiations or good offices are coming along with the two parties?

The Secretary-General: We are still talking. I am in touch with the parties, here and on the ground, and my man on the ground, Mr. [Terje] Roëd-Larsen, is also carrying messages from me to the parties. I am also in direct touch with them. I have no breakthrough to report, but we are pursuing our efforts. Obviously, the situation continues to be difficult, and the violence continues. We need to do whatever we can to bring that to an end. I think that you were there on Sunday when I met [former United States] Senator [George] Mitchell. The whole team will meet here in New York on Sunday, 26 November. And then I will meet with the team on Monday at 9. They will meet me here to be briefed by me before they take on their assignment, and I think I will have a better sense of what their programme will be, how quickly they intend to get down to work, and I probably will be able to say a bit more then.

Question: The level of violence, though, has increased dramatically in the last few days. Are the Palestinian factions and the Palestinian movement and Israel in an unofficial state of war? And is the possible United States presidential vacuum causing some ramifications elsewhere in the world, now that it has gone on for weeks?

The Secretary-General: I think that when you consider the level of violence and the weapons being used, it is almost a warlike situation, if not a situation of war. What we need to do is not just to bring the violence down, get the parties to pull back from the brink and get them to the table. Obviously, the United States is a crucial player in any peace effort. We are trying to work together with the United States and the parties to find a solution to bring down the violence. President Clinton has indicated that he is prepared to continue working on the peace process until his last day. I am sure that if he were to find an opening, he would be prepared to join the protagonists at the table. But of course, the next president of the United States will have to continue the effort, because it is not likely that one would have a fully fledged agreement between now and 20 January. Obviously, the uncertainty, the end of this administration and all that, are factors in the calculations of the protagonists and of the people who are monitoring the peace process.

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For information media - not an official record