Annan calls for joint UN-EU action to heal rifts caused by Iraq war
Addressing the assembled leaders of the 25 states of the enlarged European Union (EU), United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today it was vital to heal the rifts in the international community caused by the war in Iraq, declaring that the EU and UN must work together for the good of the world.
“No issue has so divided the world since the end of the cold war,” Mr. Annan told the EU Conference in Athens. “It is vital that we heal that division now. The world cannot afford a long period of recrimination.”
Any UN role in post-war Iraq, beyond the merely humanitarian, would have to be mandated by the Security Council, he added, and he called on the occupying powers to give top priority to fulfilling their obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Hague Regulations in providing public order, safety, and humanitarian relief to the Iraqi people who “have suffered terribly, and they deserve a better future.”
Mr. Annan stressed that people around the world were looking for institutions and systems that could uphold fundamental principles and produce collective solutions to shared problems.
“Among those institutions, the European Union is a beacon of hope for peace and reconciliation, not only for Europe but for the whole world,” he said. “And at the global level, it is of course to the United Nations that people look to provide a stable security framework. For the good of the world, our two institutions must work together.”
He added that the international community “must be guided in its future policy and actions towards Iraq by a set of basic principles, which I believe we all share.”
Among these he included the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Iraq, the right of the Iraqi people to freely determine their own system of government as well as to control their own natural resources, and the “need for any role entrusted to the United Nations, beyond the purely humanitarian, to be mandated by the Security Council, consistent with the Charter, and one matched by the necessary resources.”
Above all, he said, was “the need to give pride of place, in all our thinking, to the rights and interests of the Iraqi people. Only so can we hope to ensure a viable future for Iraq.”
Mr. Annan referred to the failure of his efforts to ensure that a united Cyprus joined the EU. “I believe the plan that I put forward is fair and balanced, and should still serve as the basis for an eventual settlement of that conflict,” he said. “A unique opportunity was missed. But I do not doubt that there will eventually be a settlement. All that is lacking is the necessary political will.”
He also referred to the efforts of the EU and UN, together with the United States and the Russian Federation – the so-called diplomatic Quartet – to produce a “road map” plan for settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a threat to peace and stability on the EU’s very doorstep.
“That is why the United Nations is working so hard together with you, in the Quartet, to realize the vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security – a solution which must be the keystone of a comprehensive settlement, based on United Nations resolutions,” he declared.
“I am convinced, as you are, that we now have a Road Map that can take us to that destination. We must urgently persuade both parties to summon the political will to follow it – not setting pre-conditions for each other, but marching forward together towards peace.”
Prime Minister Costas Simitis of Greece, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, then read out a Presidential Statement approved by EU members declaring that "the UN must play a central role, including in the process leading towards self-government for the Iraqi people, utilizing its capacity and experiences in post-conflict nation building."
Before the opening of the conference the Secretary-General met with French President Jacques Chirac to discuss approaches to post-conflict Iraq and the prospects for the broader region. At a press encounter afterwards, Mr. Chirac affirmed France's support for a central UN role in restoring stability to Iraq and to the region.
Mr. Annan said he hoped that in a short while, details of the UN role in Iraq could be defined and that the Security Council would work together to help the Iraqi people rebuild their country and a peaceful future.
He also discussed Iraq with Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha of Bulgaria and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy before attending an official luncheon hosted by Mr. Simitis.