Press Releases

    SG/T/2294
    30 August 2001

    ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN AUSTRIA,
    25-28 AUGUST

    NEW YORK, 29 August (UN Headquarters) -- The Secretary-General and Mrs. Nane Annan arrived in Salzburg early in the evening on Saturday, 25 August.

    At midday on Sunday, 26 August, the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan went on a hiking tour with the Federal Chancellor and Mrs. Wolfgang Schuessel. During the one-hour hike the Chancellor and the Secretary-General had a tête-à-tête as they walked together and talked. They were only interrupted by other hikers who stopped to say hello and shake hands.

    The Chancellor was accompanied by a number of Austrian senior officials, including Ambassador Ursula Plassnik, Chief of Cabinet, the Adviser for Foreign Policies, Hans Dieter Manz, and Austrian Permanent Representative in New York Ambassador Gerhard Pfanzelter.

    In the evening, the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan were the guests of the Governor of Salzburg and the President of the Salzburg Festival, Dr. Helga Rabl-Stadler, for the performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera "Don Carlos".

    On Monday morning, 27 August, the Secretary-General met first with the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna and Executive Director of the Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention, Pino Arlacchi.

    At mid-morning, the Secretary-General met with the Foreign Minister of Austria, Benita Ferrero-Waldner. During the meeting, which lasted for about an hour, they discussed many issues including the crisis in the Middle East, the situation in the Balkans and the fight against HIV/AIDS.

    Following the meeting, the two principals had a brief encounter with journalists. The Secretary-General thanked the Minister and through her the Austrian people for the contributions they have made to the United Nations, including police and military deployment in peacekeeping operations. In answer to a question on the Middle East, he said that the situation "is very worrying, is tragic, we have innocent people suffering and I think the international community has an obligation to do whatever it can to bring an end to this misery". He added: "I am worried that if we do not contain the crisis it could spread."

    On the talks between the parties he said that "I have made it clear for many months that in my judgement when the killing is going on, when you are living that tragedy, you must talk. The killings should underscore the urgency of getting together to talk."

    On the subject of participation by the United States in the forthcoming Racism Conference, which would open in Durban later in the week, he said that "it is a decision for Washington. There are indications from Washington that if they do not get the language they want they may not participate. Efforts are being made and people are working on the language even as we speak."

    While the Secretary-General met with the Foreign Minister, Mrs. Annan visited the Ropac Art Gallery, where she was guided by Mr. Ropac himself. The gallery is known for its modern art exhibits.

    At midday, the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan were the guests of the Foreign Minister on a boat trip on Lake Wolfgangsee. At St. Wolfgang village they were welcomed by the Mayor, Johannes Peinsteiner, and by a children’s dance troupe performing in traditional costume.

    After a luncheon hosted by the Foreign Minister, the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan visited the Roman Catholic Church of St. Wolfgang, where they saw the "Pacher Altar", one of the two remaining altars carved in wood by the famous Austrian artist Michael Pacher. The altar is from the late Baroque period.

    They returned by boat to St. Gilgen am Wolfgangsee, a village some 36 km away from Salzburg, where they stayed during their official visit in Austria.

    On Monday evening, the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan, accompanied by the Foreign Minister, were guests at a candlelight dinner in honour of the participants of the "Salzburg Dialogue Among Civilizations". The dinner took place at Fuschl Castle, where the dialogue among civilizations encounter was held on Tuesday, 28 August.

    "We can love what we are without hating what we are not," the Secretary-General said in his opening address. "Dialogue can help us distinguish life from facts, and propaganda from sound analysis," he went on. "It can be especially helpful in uncovering the real grievances that lie at the heart of conflict."

    The Secretary-General described one objective of the World Conference against Racism, scheduled to begin in South Africa later in the week, as reinvigorating the fight against intolerance. "Just as people can be taught to hate," he said, "so they can learn to treat others with dignity and respect."

    The United Nations, he said, at its best, can be a forum where the dialogue among civilizations can flourish. One of the main lessons of the UN’s first half-century, he observed, is that without such dialogue, no peace can be lasting and no prosperity can be secure (see SG/SM/7923).

    The opening session of the Salzburg Dialogue was also addressed by Wolfgang Schüssel, the Austrian Federal Chancellor, and by Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner. The other participants included about a dozen eminent representatives of the world’s different regions and cultures, who then had a free-flowing dialogue for about an hour.

    The Secretary-General and the Federal Chancellor then met privately for discussions that focused primarily on the current Middle East crisis and efforts to restore peace to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as well as how to bolster Balkan security in the longer term. They also touched on the ethical problems related to genetic research, the Dialogue among Civilizations and the European Union’s role in strengthening respect for human rights.

    Afterwards, the Secretary-General and the Chancellor gave a brief press conference.

    Returning to Salzburg, the Secretary-General conferred with his Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, before meeting with H. E. Rauf Denktash for more than an hour. The following statement was later issued by the Secretary-General's Spokesman:

    "The Secretary-General today met with His Excellency Mr. Rauf Denktash in Salzburg, Austria, as part of efforts for the resumption of talks. They had a very good and very useful meeting."

    "The Secretary-General has asked his Special Adviser on Cyprus, Mr. Alvaro de Soto, to travel tomorrow to the island for consultations with both His Excellency Mr. Glafcos Clerides and Mr. Rauf Denktash."

    "There is nothing further to announce at this time. At the conclusion of his visit on 5 September Mr. Alvaro de Soto will hold a press conference."

    The Secretary-General then left Salzburg, and Austria, to fly overnight to Durban, South Africa, where he will open the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance on Friday, 31 August.

    * *** *