Deploring terror attacks on staff, Ban tells Al Jazeera UN stands for entire world

4 January 2008

Expressing sadness that the United Nations and its staff have become targets of terrorist attacks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has underscored that the world body stands for all the nations, people and faiths of the world.

The UN “is not working for any group of nations over another,” Mr. Ban said in an interview with Al Jazeera which aired today, stressing that “there should be no misunderstanding” as to what the Organization does.

When asked whether he believes the role of the Organization is misunderstood by the Arab world, he responded, “they should understand that what we are doing is to uphold the principles, universally accepted principles, of peace and human rights, as well as development of the countries where [we] work.”

The terrorist attacks in which 17 UN staff lost their lives in Algiers last month are “unacceptable,” the Secretary-General declared, noting that “terrorism can never be justified under any circumstances.”

Acknowledging that differences of opinion exist between Muslim and non-Muslim countries, he said that “our best efforts” must be exerted to bolster understanding and appreciation of other faiths and cultures.

Mr. Ban pointed to the steps taken by the UN Alliance of Civilizations – which brings together leaders, institutions and civil society to try to reduce fear and suspicion and overcome prejudices and polarizations that have emerged between Islam and the West – to promote interfaith dialogue.

Shrugging off suggestions that he is particularly close to the United States, he emphasized that the Security Council unanimously recommended his nomination to the General Assembly, which in turn endorsed his election.

“I have maintained a very close relationship with all the non-aligned countries and other Member States from other regions,” Mr. Ban declared.

Responding to criticism that he has not taken clear positions on some issues, the Secretary-General highlighted that he is “very practical” as well as “very realistic” in addressing problems.

Given the diverging dynamics, backgrounds and issues involved in specific conflicts, it is essential to address each issue in a “very comprehensive way, without necessarily listening to one [side’s] positions,” but instead taking all parties’ concerns into account, he said.

Mr. Ban pointed to the importance of maintaining his objectivity and being perceived as fair by all sides to a conflict.

“I have taken very clear, definite positions when it comes to real situations,” he said, citing the recent agreement on the Bali road map to tackle climate change, the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur, Lebanon and the humanitarian situation in Gaza as examples.

On Iraq, the Secretary-General said that it is crucial to focus on the war-wracked nation’s future rather than dwelling on the past and whether or not the use of force against the country defied international law and the UN Charter.

“The whole international community should help the Iraqi Government and people so they’ll be able to enjoy genuine freedom so they can live in peace and security,” he said.

Mr. Ban underlined that the expansion of the UN’s role in the country was agreed upon unanimously last August by the 15-member Security Council – not just by the US.

“I am very happy to implement this Security Council resolution to strengthen and increase the presence of the United Nations for the purpose of bringing peace and security to the region,” he said.

Regarding the Middle East peace process, the Secretary-General said that the so-called diplomatic Quartet – comprising the UN, European Union, Russia and the US – has an important role to play.

But he also stressed that he has expressed his concerns about the humanitarian situation that Palestinians face due to settlements, roadblocks and the closure of crossing points.

Mr. Ban expressed his sympathy for the plight of the Palestinian people, and said that he is doing his utmost to ease their “social and economic burdens.”

 

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News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

Staff at UN Headquarters march in memory of fallen colleagues in Algiers

United Nations staff in New York, led by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, today honoured the memory of their colleagues who died in the 11 December terrorist attack in Algiers with a silent march in front of the world body’s Headquarters.