Press Releases

    9 March 2004

    Secretary-General Urges Expanded NATO Engagement in Afghanistan, Stronger Support for UN Efforts in Africa, Haiti

    NEW YORK, 8 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s opening remarks at a meeting with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Parliamentarians in New York, today, 8 March:

    It is a great pleasure to welcome you to UN Headquarters.  You are important partners of the United Nations for two reasons:

    First, as parliamentarians, you are vital links between the people and the State.  But more importantly for the United Nations, in an interdependent world you also serve a bridge between the local and the global.  That role is more pivotal than ever, and the United Nations has been taking steps to ensure that your voices can be a bigger part of our work.

    Second, as members or associate members of NATO, you represent an alliance whose unrivalled ability to deploy rapidly and robustly can have a major impact on the UN’s work for peace and security.  So I am pleased to have this opportunity to explore what more we can do together.

    I will say a few words to get our discussion started, and then we can open the floor for questions and comments.

    Let me start with our existing cooperation, which is wide-ranging both in terms of geography and the challenges involved.  We have worked alongside each other in the Balkans for almost a decade.  More recently that collaboration has been extended to Afghanistan.  Here I would want to stress just one point:  it is absolutely essential that we sustain these efforts over the long term.  That is especially true of Afghanistan, where elections are approaching, and where sustained commitment and expanded engagement by NATO would make a real difference.

    Looking to the future, NATO’s increasing willingness to “go global” presents important opportunities, in particular for Africa.  As you know, the Security Council has just authorized a new peace operation for Côte d’Ivoire.  It is also likely that the year ahead will see other new peace operations in Africa, as well as in Haiti and possibly elsewhere.  Should such a surge take place, stronger support from NATO would be tremendously helpful.  Specifically, NATO might be employed in a “peace enforcement” role, much as the European Union deployed “Operation Artemis” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a bridging force before the deployment of a UN operation.  NATO could also provide an “over-the-horizon” capacity, should the need arise for localized enforcement tasks.

    We look forward to continuing our dialogue on such issues.  Moreover, now that your own Secretary-General has indicated a readiness to send troops to Iraq, if so requested by a new sovereign government and if approved by the Security Council, we may well work together in that context as well.

    Of course, the UN-NATO relationship is not focused exclusively on peace operations.  We also share a concern about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and about terrorism.  I would welcome your thoughts on how to move ahead in this area, particularly in strengthening compliance with the multilateral treaties and addressing gaps in international coverage.

    We also share concerns about the effectiveness of our collective security system.  The war in Iraq, the terrorist attacks on the United States and other events of the past few years have revealed serious divergences of opinion on fundamental questions of policy and principle.  To find a new consensus, and to equip us to deal with a newly uncharted security landscape, I have appointed a panel of eminent men and women from around the world to look at the issues involved.  People have described this panel as a panel on UN reform.  It may indeed propose changes in our rules and mechanisms.  But if so, those changes will be a means to an end.  The objective is to have a collective security system that acts effectively to deal with all global threats, and inspires confidence in all States.  I hope to make recommendations to the General Assembly later this year or early in 2005.

    Let me stop there, since I would also like to hear from you.

    I’m afraid I will have to leave midway through this session, since I must catch a plane for Canada.  But I will leave you in the very capable hands of Sir Kieran Prendergast, head of the Department of Political Affairs.

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