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Secretary-General anticipates intense period of multilateral diplomacy ahead

Secretary-General anticipates intense period of multilateral diplomacy ahead

Ban Ki-moon
As leaders from across the world prepare to gather for the United Nations General Assembly’s annual debate next week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today predicted an unprecedented level of diplomatic activity aimed at forging common strategies in response to shared concerns.

“This will be a most intense period of multilateral diplomacy ever in the United Nations’ history, I believe,” Mr. Ban told reporters in New York. “As we move well into the 21st century, the United Nations is, once again, the global forum where issues are discussed and solutions are hammered out.”

In addition to the annual Assembly general debate, he spotlighted a number of key events that will take place at UN Headquarters in the weeks to come, including planned international meetings on climate change, Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and the “Quartet process,” as the international diplomatic grouping trying to resolve the Middle East conflict is known.

On Darfur, Mr. Ban said he will chair a high-level meeting with African Union (AU) Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konaré.

“I hope that we will be able to map our strategy and road map for the forthcoming political negotiations scheduled in Libya on October 27th,” the Secretary-General said, looking ahead to planned Darfur peace talks.

“This will mark just one more step forward and we will need to redouble our efforts so as not to lose the positive momentum which we have been able to create.”

Mr. Ban announced that 154 speakers – including some 80 heads of State or government – will participate in a high-level dialogue on climate change slated for 24 September.

“This will be an informal event where the leaders of the world come together, with a renewed sense of commitment, to tackle a problem that faces each one of us – and above all the most vulnerable populations on our planet, those endangered by rising sea levels and those whose supply of food and water will be greatly affected by the changing climate,” he noted.

Citing the reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which have shown the science and impacts of the phenomenon as well as options for response, Mr. Ban stressed that the world’s people are anticipating that their governments will take action.

Climate change, also the theme of this year’s Assembly debate, is a “challenge to our leadership, skills and vision – and we have to address that challenge boldly,” he said.

The Secretary-General, who will also hold bilateral meetings with over 100 heads of State or government or ministers, underscored his commitment to working in tandem with UN member countries to tackle key international problems.

“I am under no illusion that, whether it’s the Middle East or Kosovo or Afghanistan or climate change, these problems will be solved overnight,” he explained. “The solutions all involve a long road and hard work.”

He also said cooperation with both Member States and the UN Secretariat is crucial to pushing the UN reform agenda forward. “Precisely because our work is so important, we must deliver to the best of our ability,” he noted, calling for “faster, more effective action; a work ethic that puts a premium on pragmatic results, not bureaucratic process; and above all, scrupulous attention to the highest standards of transparency and professional ethics.”

In turn, the Secretary-General also underlined the importance of Member States’ initiative to address issues. “I truly believe that the world leaders that will gather here in a few days bring with them a renewed interest in multilateral resolution to challenges facing the world,” he said.

Responding to reporters’ questions on Iran, Mr. Ban said that any issues pertaining to the country’s nuclear programme should be resolved through peaceful dialogue.

He said that he encourages “Iran to be fully cooperative and transparent in dealing with the IAEA [UN International Atomic Energy Agency],” and also to implement the joint work plan agreed to last month on how to resolve outstanding issues between the Agency and Tehran.

“I sincerely hope that this agreement between Iran and the IAEA will contribute to the final and overall settlement of the nuclear issue of Iran by fully complying with the relevant Security Council resolutions,” he added.

On the conflict-torn Darfur region of Sudan, the Secretary-General observed that the peace process “has been and will be very fragile. The whole international community must nurture this process.”

He stated that during their meeting earlier this month, he emphasized to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir that he must commit to halting the violence, to protecting humanitarian workers and allowing them unimpeded access, and to protecting and respecting human rights.

More than 200,000 Darfurians have been killed and at least 2.2 million others forced to flee their homes since 2003 because of the fighting between rebels, Government forces and allied Janjaweed militia groups.

At the high-level meeting on Sudan scheduled for this Friday, Mr. Ban said that he hopes to “engage in mapping out a strategy and road map for this forthcoming political negotiation, how to expedite deployment of a hybrid operation, how to discuss about the ways to make this political negotiation a successful one and talk about developmental issues.”

In July, the Security Council authorized the establishment of the first hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force (to be known as UNAMID) to take over from AMIS and try to quell the violence in Darfur, an arid and impoverished region on Sudan’s western flank.

The Secretary-General said that the time he has spent in office since taking the post in January has been “very hectic, it has been very meaningful and I have learned a great deal in terms of my consultations with the Member States and in terms of my relationship with many leaders around the world.”

Citing his work on climate change, the Darfur situation and the Middle East peace process, he said that “it may be too early for me to tell you all that I have achieved, but I am still working hard to achieve all the major goals which I have in my agenda.”