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Talks on draft declaration on AIDS wrap up as Islamic Group considers outcome

Talks on draft declaration on AIDS wrap up as Islamic Group considers outcome

Talks on the draft declaration of commitment expected to be adopted by the General Assembly's special session on HIV/AIDS have wrapped up, with Islamic States considering their response to the outcome, according to one of the chief negotiators.

"Essentially, the negotiations have concluded," said Ambassador Penny Wensley of Australia, following intensive talks which ran throughout the weekend and into the early morning hours of Monday. She said it was up to Member States to decide whether or not they were prepared to accept the draft.

Ambassador Wensley emphasized that all groups had accepted the draft reluctantly, noting that "when everybody is unhappy, then maybe you have a sense that you have found the middle ground."

"The group that is still considering their position is the Organization of Islamic States, because from the very beginning, it has been clear that they have profound concerns about language that may be, from their perspective, in conflict with their religious and cultural values," she said.

"We have tried throughout the process to be sensitive to this," she stressed. "I am hopeful that this group, like the other group, may decide that, even though they find some aspects of the language still very difficult to accept, that they may be able to do so."

"Frankly, it has been a very difficult negotiation," she said, adding that this had been anticipated. "We knew from the outset that we were having to deal with issues that raise profound sensitivities."

Contentious issues, she said, "revolved around HIV/AIDS and human rights, women's rights, and how to refer to and describe vulnerable groups."

"Whatever the final decision of the group that is still meeting on the text, I believe that we have made enormous progress," she said. The declaration represented a "quantum leap" in terms of the international community dealing with the complex range of issues associated with the pandemic and would constitute a "valuable blueprint for future action."

She said that while compromise had been necessary, the scale of the problem required forceful action. "All groups feel that they have stretched well outside their comfort zones but there is the sense that we're all in this together and this is a global crisis that requires a global response."