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UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


SG/SM/9772
21 March 2005

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TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN
AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, 21 MARCH 2005


...

Question: In your report, you advocate the strengthening and revitalization of the General Assembly.  Yet you talk of it as the chief deliberative policy-making organ of the United Nations.  But, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, what message are you actually sending to the 191 members of the Assembly when, only last week, you refused to visit the wall being built by Israel on occupied Palestinian land, where there is a clear, unequivocal mandate by the General Assembly to cease immediately the construction of that wall and to actually dismantle the parts already constructed?

The Secretary-General:  Let me say that I hope the Member States and the members of the General Assembly will appreciate my proposals.  I am urging the General Assembly to adapt its procedures and its agenda to focus on important issues of the day.  Quite frankly, as it is now, they spend lots of time discussing issues that are of interest only to those in the room:  it has no impact on most of the people outside the General Assembly and this building.  So, I am encouraging them to really focus their discussions on issues of the day.

As to your question about my visit to Palestine, I think that the General Assembly resolution on the decision of the International Court of Justice is clear, and they did give us a mandate to establish a register of claims, which we are doing.  I do not think the General Assembly, or any member of the Council, believes I am not fulfilling that mandate, or that I have abrogated it by taking, or not taking, a certain action.

...

Question: Two quick questions, Sir.  Do you see right now any real progress between Israelis and Palestinians, since you have been in the area?  Second question:  Would you say, Sir, that the Syrians, at this point, are helpful to the UN, and where do you see Lebanon going from now and from what you know?

Spokesman:  Stick to the report, please.

The Secretary-General:  He is saying we should concentrate on the report, and then I will come back to those questions outside.

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Question: On the report:  There is so much talk now on the human rights issue.  In the Middle East, as you know, human rights and change is the talk of the day.  Can we fairly say now that opposition groups in the Middle East area, in the Arab world, in the Islamic world, where there are so many issues of this kind, what can they expect from the UN with the new proposals?  Do they have any mechanisms to have access to you and get some help?

The Secretary-General:  ...

/...

On the question of Israel and Palestine, let me say that I walked away with the impression that there was a great deal -- there was optimism.  We still have many hurdles to jump.  Optimism on both sides -- I saw President Abbas and Prime Minister AbuAla and several of the ministers on the Palestinian side, and on the Israeli side I was able to speak to Prime Minister Sharon, Deputy Prime Minister Peres and the Foreign Minister and others:  the Speaker of Parliament.  They would all want to see progress move forward, but, of course, they are also concerned that measures be taken to implement the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement, which the two leaders signed.  And I think that Egypt and Jordan are to be congratulated for arranging that summit.

So, while there is a sense of optimism, they also realize that it is fragile, and both sides have to work very hard.  And the international community should play its role in assisting the Palestinians in strengthening their security apparatus and their reform, and in ensuring that their economic and social structures are strengthened.  They are going to need quite a bit of financial help from the international community but, of course, they will also need to transform their economy into a viable and a vibrant one, with access to markets outside.

...



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