20 July 2004





UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Press Encounter

UN Headquarters, 
19 July 2004


Secretary-General:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  It has been a while.  It's good to see you again. I think you have lots of questions for me and so we should go straight to it.  

Question:  Sir, if I could just start off - the assessment by OCHA that the situation, in some respects, in Darfur has not appreciably gotten better, in fact is perhaps even worse.  What is your assessment as we stand today on the Government of Sudan 's compliance with the communiqué that you guys agreed to?  

Secretary-General:  You know, my Special Representative, Jan Pronk, was in Sudan for the first monitoring meeting, and I will be seeing him this afternoon to go over the issues and to discuss with him and OCHA.  And I will have a better sense of what he actually found on the ground and how things are going.  So I would much rather wait till I've had my discussions with him before we speak.  

Question:  But beyond that, you have press reports.  You obviously have been in contact with people on the ground?  

Secretary-General:  Things are moving and I need to talk to him first, if you don't mind. I would want to sit with Pronk first before.  

Question:  Are you satisfied with the movement there?  Are you satisfied with the compliance of the Sudanese Government?  

Secretary-General:  I didn't hear you.  

Question:  Are you satisfied with the actions of the Sudanese Government?  Are they complying with the request to restrain the militias?  

Secretary-General:  I think the indications are that they have opened up for humanitarian workers to get in.  And I will need to talk to my Envoy and also see the reports coming in from the African monitoring group.  And of course, the High Commissioner for Human Rights is also sending in people.  And I will need to assess.  I've just come back.  Give me a bit of time.

Question:  How important do you think it is to have a Security Council resolution on Sudan ?  

Secretary-General:  I think the important thing is that the international community should make clear that they do expect the Sudanese Government to honour the commitments it made and that the expectation is there and the international community will insist that it performs.  

Question:  Mr. Secretary, how important do you think it is for the Security Council to again take up the issue of the barrier wall in Israel ?  

Secretary-General:  I think the issue is before the General Assembly and I am not aware that the Council is going to take it up at this stage.  I think the General Assembly should conclude its work.  

Question:  But because the General Assembly will have no exact binding effect on Israel , do you feel that it should go before the Council where there could be a vote on something that might have the force of law?  

Secretary-General:  I have no indication that the Member States are going to take it up in the Council.  As I said, for the moment, it's a General Assembly issue and I'm waiting to see what the General Assembly decides.  

Question:  With regard to the situation in Gaza, what's happening within the Palestinian Authority has been described as probably one of the most serious crises that Yasser Arafat has faced since 1983.  What is your understanding of what the situation there is at the moment, and do you feel vindicated after the criticism that Mr. Terje Roed Larsen leveled at the Palestinian Authority last week?  

Secretary-General:  I made clear in my own statement that I supported Larsen's statement, and he was stating the facts and I think events have borne him out.  But that is not anything to take satisfaction from.  What is important is the actions that need to be taken on the ground to bring it under control and for the Palestinian Authority to take the steps necessary and to begin to reform, particularly bringing the security forces under one command.  And I think this has also been one of the difficulties of the Prime Minister, Abu Ala.  

Question:  Sir, would you be concerned that Arafat may actually survive this particular crisis?  Do you think it would be a good thing for the Palestinians that he does or does not survive?

Secretary-General:  I think that is an issue for the Palestinians to decide.  But what is important is that they are facing a serious situation, a serious crisis, and they have to take steps and measures to bring it under control because without that, it is going to be very difficult to see any progress in the way forward.  So I think it is important that they tackle this issue seriously.  It is a serious crisis with the Prime Minister at the centre of it, and I think that Chairman Arafat should really take the time to listen to the Prime Minister and other members of his leadership, and take the necessary steps to bring the situation under control, and to work with the Egyptians and the Jordanians and the international community to reform his security apparatus.  

Question:  Sir, if I may, one more on Iraq, if you don't mind.  Another threat yet has been issued against the life of Iyad Allawi.  What happens at the end of the year if elections do not take place on schedule?  How much of a hypothetical question that question is in your opinion?  

Secretary-General:  I think you've used "hypothetical" twice, and I agree with you that, at this stage, it is hypothetical.  But of course, it's a decision that the Iraqi Government will have to make as we move forward, as to whether the climate exists for credible elections to take place as planned for early next year.  So we will monitor along with them developments on the ground. And the judgment will have to be made if conditions exist at some time in the future for a credible election.  And you know, we've gone through a similar exercise in Afghanistan recently, where the Government had to decide that both elections may not be possible because of the conditions on the ground and we may have to do the Presidential separately from the Parliamentary elections.  So the Iraqi leadership will have to make some judgments as we move forward.  

Question:  Given the climate you just described, how serious do you think it is, or how possible do you think it is that your Special Representative could get back into Iraq by the end of this month or early August?  

Secretary-General:  I think that is our target date, and we are monitoring developments on the ground.  It's changing daily, and I don't know what the situation will be like by the end of the month.  

Question:  Are you still optimistic that the withdrawal from Gaza would happen, would materialize soon, and has the role of the United Nations been formulated yet, during the last meeting of the Quartet?  

Secretary-General:  I think that Prime Minister Sharon has indicated that he is going to go ahead with the withdrawal, and the partners he is trying to bring into the Government, the Labour Party, is on record as supporting the withdrawal. And so I think the withdrawal will take place.  What we have suggested is that it should take place along the lines of the Roadmap and that the international community, in the form of the Quartet, and the UN as a member of the Quartet, can play a role in the withdrawal.  And we believe that if it is handled properly, it may provide an opportunity for us to move the process forward.  If it is handled wrongly, then it is something else.

Question:  Sir, are you satisfied that the international community and the Security Council are acting with sufficient urgency on the issue of Darfur, or is there more they could do?  

Secretary-General:  I think the Council is seized.  And as you know, there is a resolution which has been tabled.  And I think that is an indication of the seriousness that the Council takes.  I myself will be discussing this issue with the Council and we will see where we go from there.  But the fact that a resolution is tabled, even though it has not been voted, is an indication of the seriousness that the Council takes.  I know there are those who believe that a military force should go in.  The Council hasn't gotten to that stage yet. Thank you.