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Source: Secretary-General
9 March 2005



Secretary-General’s press encounter with the President of the Government of Spain [Prime Minister] José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
(unofficial partial transcript; full transcript to follow tomorrow)

Madrid, Spain
9 March 2005


SG: Thank you very much, Mr. President, for those warm words and for the wonderful welcome you have extended to me and my team. I am extremely happy to be here in Spain to participate in the Conference on Terrorism and Democracy. We live in one world and the issue of terrorism affects us all. When people in Madrid are hit, or people in New York are hit, or in Baghdad, it does have an impact on all of us.

I’m here to express the UN’s determination to work with governments and countries and peoples around the world to fight terrorism and to express our solidarity to the victims of terrorism here on the 11th of March, terrorism everywhere and all the victims of terrorism in Spain.

I hope that the meeting, which is going to bring together lots of the leaders and people from other parts, will allow us to reaffirm the need for international collaboration and for all of us to work together in attempting to deny terrorists the opportunities and pooling our efforts to ensure that they are not given the national support, logistical support or safe haven in any of our countries.

Tomorrow I’ll be making a statement on this, so I do not want to dwell on this too much. I would also like to thank the President [of the Spanish Government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero] for his suggestion that he has already indicated his Alliance of Civilizations where we hope to get governments and peoples to focus on what unites them and how we can work together as peoples sharing one planet and working in harmony and solidarity, to strengthen peace, development and harmony amongst peoples. It is an issue we are working on very closely and hope in time will be able to say more about it.

I also had the opportunity to discuss with the President all the issues of great concern: we discussed Iraq, we discussed the developments in the Middle East, the developments in Syria and Lebanon, developments in Africa, including the Western Sahara issue and other issues and of course, UN reform and the Summit that is going to be organized in New York in September. A Summit that I hope will bring Heads of State together to take important decisions that will reform the United Nations, policy issues, questions of use of force, the responsibility to protect citizens who are caught in a situation where gross violations of their human rights are taking place, including potentially genocide, where the governments fail what is the responsibility of the Security Council. It will also touch on the reform of the Security Council as well as economic development and the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. On all these issues, I look forward to strong support from Spain which I am sure I will get. And I am sure we will be able to work with other governments to adapt the UN for the 21st century. So once again, Mr. President, let me thank you for your hospitality and tell you how glad I am to be here, and I look forward to joining all the others who have come for this important occasion not only to discuss terrorism but also to offer our solidarity to victims of terrorism wherever they may be.

Q: What is your opinion of the Alliance of Nations and, a second question, how do you feel about John Bolton having been named the new U.S. ambassador to the UN?

SG. Thanks for dropping your third question. [laughter] Let me on the first one, say that that we are working very well on the Alliance for Civilizations and our teams are working together. In fact I have a team here in Madrid, as we speak, discussing with government officials as to where to go from here and I think we are making very good progress. We are going to be able to identify other governments who will join us in this process and, in fact, I have set up also a panel of eminent persons who will work with us on this issue and all the details will be released as we go forward. But I can assure that we are making very good progress, and I think it’s an exciting project. We often talk of a clash of civilizations and once we are talking of alliance of civilizations, focusing on what we have in common, what unites us, and in fact stressing the fact that you don’t have to detest the other person to like what’s yours or that part you believe in. We will be able to give you more details, but I am prepared to work with the Government of Spain and the Prime Minister on this project.

On your second question about the new [designate for] American representative to the United Nations, first of all, the appointment of a new ambassador is the prerogative of the president concerned. President Bush has made a decision as to who should serve the U.S. in the United Nations. I have worked well with previous American Ambassadors and work well with all the permanent representatives in New York, including your own representative, Juan Yáñez-Barnuevo, and I look forward to working with him.

We have many challenges ahead, we have a major conference summit later this year, we have a heavy agenda, agenda of reform, agenda of fighting poverty, agenda of looking for innovative sources of finance, agenda of stressing the importance of international collaboration and the importance of multilateralism, and we welcome working with Mr. Bolton on all those fronts.

Q: Could you give us more specific measures on the Alliance of Nations and your opinion on Spain and other nations’ support for multilateralism and collaboration?

SG: On your second question, let me say that cooperation among governments on fighting terrorism already exists. The UN has been very active in this fight. The Security Council has passed very important resolutions and we have a Counterterrorism Directorate chaired by Mr. Ambassador [Javier] Rupérez of Spain who is here with us. And the General Assembly itself has passed twelve conventions against terrorism and it’s working on a 13th comprehensive one. The Security Council’s resolution is law and all governments are supposed to apply it. Of course, some governments have better resources and capacities than others and now we are trying to seek the necessary means to assist governments who do not have the capacity to do it on their own, particularly some of the developing and smaller countries. We are also concerned about weak states and failed states, and the fact that, if we do not help them, they will become breeding grounds for terrorists or a haven for them, and this is also one of the reasons why we have linked terrorism and development so closely.

The panel I set up to look at Threats, Challenges and Change cannot define threats in the narrow sense: weapons of mass destruction, diseases and environmental degradation -- we need to find ways to deal with all these threats. And quite frankly, if you look to other powers of the world and you were to ask them what is their greatest worry, some would say terrorism, other regions would tell you poverty, others would [say] environmental degradation, so we need to really tackle these issues as an international community to be able to help each other out. So the question of international cooperation, international solidarity and a multilateral approach to terrorism is something that is firmly imbedded in the UN approach and UN culture and we need to work together; the police, the legal officers, politicians, diplomats and the intelligence system will all have to work together to deprive the terrorists of the opportunities to do the kind of harm they do. Of course, sometimes force has to be used, but that is only part of a comprehensive approach in the fight.

Q: Could you tell us more about the withdrawal of Syrian troops and the UN resolution?

SG: We have been in touch with the governments of Lebanon and Syria, and I have a special envoy [Terje Roed-Larsen] working on this problem; in fact he is here in Madrid and he is leaving for the region tomorrow to discuss with President [Bashir Al-]Assad of Syria and President [Emile] Lahoud of Lebanon. The Security Council resolution demands that Syria withdraw all its troops and security personnel from Lebanon. Syria has indicated that it is prepared to pull back the troops. The Security Council Resolution requires withdrawal into Syria. There has also been a suggestion from the Syrian side that they implement it in compliance with the Taif agreement. I think that, from the Security Council’s point of view, what is essential is that full and complete withdrawal takes place, regardless of whether is done on the UN resolution, on the Taif agreement, or a decision by the government of Syria. The essential point is that they do withdraw. And the government of Syria has not rejected the Security Council resolution and we will be working with them, and I will have a better sense after my envoy comes back to report to me following his discussions as to how quickly the withdrawal can take place, and I hope he will be able to come back with a timetable.

Q: Could you tell us your opinion on the Spanish stance on the Western Sahara, the parties’ willingness to reach an agreement and possible solutions?

SG: I had a very good discussion with the President and the Spanish team on this. On the final objective to resolve this Polisario conflict, the desire to see the issue resolved so that the Maghreb Union will be able to resuscitate its activities and work as a union, and of course, it also has an impact on our relations with the European Union. We are at one that we must resolve this conflict as soon as possible, working with Algeria and Morocco, and the Polisario and I know that Spain has very good relations with all the parties and we will, as we move forward, rely on countries like yours, and others, who have these wonderful relations to help us resolve it.

As to what the final solution would be, it will have to be an outcome of the discussions that will have to take place with the parties. We cannot impose the solution on them, it has to come out of negotiations, discussions and we intend to intensify those efforts.

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