Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the Union for the Mediterranean, a new initiative aimed at boosting ties across the region which was launched at a high-level summit in Paris over the weekend.
Addressing the launch, Mr. Ban noted that the Union is “well timed” to help the countries of the region shoulder their collective responsibilities with regard to peace and security issues. But the initiative also has the potential to deliver on a much wider agenda, he added.
“I believe this far-reaching multilateral initiative can work to address the complex trans-border issues the region faces, and provide a framework for the pooling of resources and the development of collective action,” said the Secretary-General.
“And I hope the Union will become a vibrant partner of the entire United Nations family, across the range of the Union’s areas of focus – from energy and environment to security cooperation, education and science,” he stated.
In a separate statement to the summit, Mr. Ban ">noted that today’s global challenges, including the food crisis, climate change and development, are “too big and too complex for any one country or government to address on its own.
“Instead, they require concerted and collective effort of the kind envisioned by the new Union for the Mediterranean,” he said. “Your initiative brings together a diversity of cultures, experiences and world views that is, I believe, fundamental to any effort to understand and address today’s transnational problems.”
While in Paris, Mr. Ban met with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, with whom he discussed Zimbabwe, the UN Mission in Chad and the Central African Republic, the Shab’a Farms issue, Cyprus and Kosovo.
The two men also discussed Darfur, particularly the announcement that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is seeking an indictment against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir for war crimes committed in the strife-torn region.
Speaking to reporters after their meeting, Mr. Ban stressed that the Court is an independent body and that the UN will continue with its peacekeeping operations and its humanitarian and development work. “We are counting on the Government of Sudan to guarantee the safety and security of all UN personnel and property and also of all humanitarian workers,” he stated.
He also met with several world leaders on the margins of the Paris Summit for the Mediterranean, including the Presidents of Cyprus, Egypt, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and Syria, and the Prime Minister of Israel.
Mr. Ban and Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias discussed developments on the divided Mediterranean island, and the Secretary-General noted that he would meet with the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat, in Berlin tomorrow.
In his meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Secretary-General talked about Lebanon and the positive developments in the area, including the possibility of renewed relations between Lebanon and Syria. They also discussed the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 – which ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah – as well as signs that the truce in Gaza is holding and the Israel/Hezbollah prisoner and hostage issue.
Resolution 1701 was also on the agenda during Mr. Ban’s first meeting with the new Lebanese President, Michel Suleiman. They also talked about UNIFIL, the Shab’a Farms and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
The Secretary-General also met yesterday with Ingrid Betancourt, following her recent rescue after being held hostage for years in Colombia. He told reporters that he respected her exemplary courage during her years of captivity, and he invited her to a forum to take place in New York this fall to support the victims of terrorism.
The Secretary-General was the guest of honour at a parade this morning in the French capital that celebrated the 60th anniversary of UN peacekeeping, and members of the blue helmets from different parts of the world took part for the first time in that event.
Two different contingents – one comprising 145 soldiers from 25 different countries, and one of French soldiers returning from service with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon – participated in the commemoration.