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Food crisis, Myanmar feature in Assembly President’s talks with Turkish officials

Food crisis, Myanmar feature in Assembly President’s talks with Turkish officials

General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim is wrapping up his official visit to Turkey, where he discussed issues such as the global food crisis, the recent tragedy in Myanmar and United Nations reform with the country’s officials.

As Mr. Kerim and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the global food crisis, the President noted that “this is an issue where articulate and well coordinated action on the part of all Member States of the United Nations is necessary.”

He said he expected the international Task Force set up by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week to tackle the global rise in food prices “to make an immediate assessment of the scope and nature of the problem of the crisis and as soon as we have that assessment, the General Assembly can make an evaluation about what should be done and how it can be engaged.”

The Task Force, which brings together the heads of key UN agencies, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and experts from the around the globe, will hold its first meeting in New York next Monday.

In addition, the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council has announced it will hold a special session on the food crisis on 23 May.

Mr. Kerim told Prime Minister Erdogan that he would support convening a special session of the Assembly, as the solution to the crisis had to be on a political level. He also called for world leaders to give their full support to the UN high-level meeting on the issue to be convened from 3 to 5 June in Rome.

Prime Minister Erdogan agreed that any response to the food crisis should be within the framework of the UN.

The situation in Myanmar, where an estimated 1.5 million people are in need of humanitarian aid following last weekend’s deadly cyclone, was also discussed. The President reiterated the urgency with which the authorities in Myanmar should fully cooperate with the international community, particularly the UN.

The President and the Prime Minister also discussed current Assembly priorities including UN reform, a topic that also featured in Mr. Kerim’s talks with President Abdullah Gul. The Turkish leader supported the idea of the intermediary approach as the one best to achieve results at this stage. At the same time, he also agreed with Mr. Kerim that a more profound reform, which went beyond numbers, was ultimately necessary.

Foreign Minister Ali Babacan also expressed similar views on Council reform during his meeting with Mr. Kerim. In addition, the two men focused on the activities of Turkey in support of UN peacekeeping activities and in the Alliance of Civilization initiative. The Foreign Minister noted that Turkey will be hosting the Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations in April 2009. He also stressed Islam and modernity are not conflicting concepts.

President Kerim also drew attention to the potential for Turkey to play a unique role in development issues as a middle-income donor country with a clear interest in the affairs of least developed countries. At the request of the UN Country Team, Mr. Kerim also raised the issue with the Foreign Minister of having the Turkish Government facilitate the building of a new UN House in Ankara.

While in Turkey, Mr. Kerim also delivered a lecture at Bilkent University on the role of the UN in the era of globalization. Among other topics, he focused on the need to change the way international organizations operate in a new global environment characterized by the rise of non-State actors.

He pointed out that in an evolving international system prone to rapid changes and crisis situations, traditional attributes of power lost their significance, speed was more important than size and the traditional balance of power based on deterrence had to give way to a new understanding based on an equilibrium of shared interests.

The UN provided the most suitable framework for this new culture of international relations as it has the broadest global agenda, a near universal membership and a unique convening power, the President said.

Mr. Kerim now heads to Egypt, where he will be meeting with Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and address the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, before travelling on to Israel.