Press Releases

    SG/SM/8723
    29 May 2003

    SECRETARY-GENERAL HIGHLIGHTS KEY CONTRIBUTIONS ISLAMIC CONFERENCE CAN MAKE IN IRAQ, MIDDLE EAST, AFGHANISTAN IN MESSAGE TO TEHRAN SESSION

    NEW YORK, 28 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the thirtieth session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers in Tehran, 28 May:

    I am pleased to convey my greetings to the Foreign Ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) at a very important time for the Organization’s members and for the wider international community.

    I believe we all share the hope that the situation in Iraq will see significant improvement now that the Security Council has come together, in its resolution 1483 (2003), to chart the way forward. The most important task will be to ensure that the Iraqi people are able, as soon as possible, through a transparent and impartially managed political process, to form a free and representative Government of their own choice, so that they can regain their national sovereignty and build a stable and prosperous Iraq, at peace with its neighbours. The United Nations will play its full part in this international effort, in fulfillment of the mandate it has been given to assist the people of Iraq through humanitarian relief, reconstruction, legal and judicial reform, the promotion of human rights, and efforts to restore and establish national and local institutions for representative governance. All international and foreign entities in Iraq must realize that it is essential that at all times we keep the interests of the Iraqi people at the forefront of our efforts. I would like to assure you that we at the United Nations will do our utmost to promote this fundamental principle.

    Iraq is a vital issue, much in the headlines and in our mind for the past few dramatic months. But we are also at a historic juncture in the quest for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Fundamental principles are at issue here too, in the search for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. Here too, the United Nations has an essential role to play, as the embodiment of international legitimacy.

    Our hopes of progress depend on implementation of the "Road Map", a series of steps that each side is to take leading to the resumption of the political talks and a permanent settlement in which two States –- Israel and a sovereign, independent and viable Palestine –- live side by side in peace and security.

    Implementation of the Road Map, in turn, is contingent on parallel and reciprocal steps by the two sides in the security, humanitarian, institution-building and political areas, monitored and facilitated by the Quartet. Great wrongs have been done by each to the other. But there is no alternative. If we are to achieve our goal of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, both sides are going to have to turn from the path of violence, bitterness and hatred to the path of reconciliation and peace. If we are going to move towards peace, the parties must fully abide by their obligations under international law and the Road Map. Terrorist attacks launched by Palestinian groups must stop, and the Palestinian Authority has an obligation in this regard. Israel must end such measures as extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, house demolitions, blockades and settlement activities. Moreover, the parties should not allow extremists to hijack the process and dictate agendas. The responsibility to bring this process to a successful conclusion rests primarily with the parties themselves. But, the international community remains there to help, not least to alleviate the hardship of the Palestinian people until the occupation of the Palestinian territory is ended on the basis of United Nations resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1397 (2002).

    Sadly, the suffering of the Afghan people also remains profound. Afghans from every part of the country, and from all of its ethnic groups, are working hard to rebuild a State at peace with itself and its neighbours. Important progress has been achieved towards reconciliation, reconstruction and the building of national security structures. But those gains are fragile and are being threatened by a deterioration in the security environment, which stems from daily harassment and intimidation, inter-ethnic and inter-factional strife, and the persistence of the drug economy. At this critical stage for the Bonn process, I hope the Security Council, Afghanistan’s neighbours, and the entire international community will maintain their commitment and support.

    The OIC has key contributions to make in these and other areas. Allow me to conclude by suggesting another area where your efforts can have particular impact. The OIC has been articulate in rejecting any linkage between international terrorism and Islam, and active in repudiating those misguided and malevolent individuals who have invoked Islam while inflicting appalling suffering on innocent people. I urge you to continue your efforts to inform the world about what Islam really means and the values it represents, and thus help to fill, with accurate information and mutual understanding, the terrible breach that has opened between faiths, cultures and countries. That would be a most welcome contribution to our shared mission of development, tolerance and peace. In that spirit, I wish you a productive session that will help in advancing the goals we share.

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