Annan discusses Middle East, Iran, Darfur in talks with national ministers
In a continuing series of bilateral talks with leaders attending the United Nations General Assembly’s 60th anniversary
session, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today held wide-ranging talks on such crisis flashpoints as the Middle East,
Iran’s nuclear programme and the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region.
In a meeting lasting more than 40 minutes with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Mr. Annan underscored the need for
Israel and the international community to support and strengthen the Palestinian Authority as it takes full control of
the Gaza strip following Israel’s withdrawal.
“This includes providing the Palestinian people with a political horizon as the peace process moves forward,” a UN press
statement on the meeting said.
It noted that Mr. Sharon told Mr. Annan Israel’s withdrawal would provide momentum for a furtherance of the peace
process and stressed that the Palestinian Authority now had a responsibility to stabilize the situation in Gaza and
prevent acts of terror against Israel.
The Israeli leader said he was committed to the Road Map plan drawn up by the diplomatic Quartet – UN, European Union,
Russia and United States – which calls for a series of parallel steps leading to two states living side-by-side in
peace, originally by the end of this year.
Mr. Annan noted the professionalism shown by the Israeli army and police during the disengagement process, and the two
men also discussed ways in which Israeli expertise on agricultural and development issues, notably in combating
desertification, could be used through the UN system to help developing countries.
In a later meeting Mr. Annan told Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa that the Gaza disengagement was
an important opportunity and he hoped that it would be a step forward towards the full resumption of peace talks. He
stressed the importance of moving back to the Road Map.
Mr. Al-Kidwa replied that the Palestinians realized the disengagement was an important opportunity for them but stressed
that it would be impossible to solve all of Gaza’s economic, political and security problems without further movement
forward in the West Bank as well.
He expressed strong support for the work of Quartet Special Envoy James Wolfensohn, entrusted with coordinating the
withdrawal from Gaza and the economic and social transition there, and noted the importance of moving forward with all
points on Mr. Wolfensohn agenda.
Mr. Annan also met with Indian Foreign Minister K. Natwar Singh and the two men discussed Iran and the nuclear issue as
well as the possibility of achieving UN reforms in the current General Assembly session with particular focus on
Security Council expansion.
Iran's nuclear programme has been a matter of concern since 2003, when the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
determined that the country had for almost two decades concealed its nuclear activities in breach of its obligations
under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy production
but some countries, including the United States, say is part of an effort to produce nuclear weapons.
On Security Council expansion India, along with Germany, Japan and Brazil, was a member of the so-called G-4 that
expressed their desire during the lead-up to last week UN World Summit to become permanent members.
Mr. Annan also held talks today with Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail. The two agreed on the urgent need
for a political settlement in Darfur, where tens of thousands of people are estimated to have died and more than 2
million others have been displaced since a conflict erupted in 2003 between the Government, allied militias and rebels
seeking a greater share of economic development.
They discussed the implementation of a comprehensive peace agreement and Mr. Annan assured the minister that the UN
intended to assist in the implementation of the agreement “over the long haul,” the statement said.