Press Releases

                                                                                                                     22 June 2004

    Secretary-General Calls on All Engaged in Conflict to Lay Down Arms During Olympic Games, in Remarks to Headquarters Ceremony

    NEW YORK, 21 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on accepting the Olympic Torch at the United Nations in New York on 19 June:

    I am deeply moved and honoured to accept this Olympic Torch on its first ever visit to the United Nations.

    It is wonderfully fitting that this flame, symbolizing friendship among nations, should shed its light and grace on the United Nations.

    The Torch has already travelled a remarkable distance since it left Ancient Olympia 12 weeks ago -- through Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. I am sure that people in all those regions will have been inspired by its message.

    It is highly appropriate that the young have delivered the Torch to us here -- in particular, as our two young friends have known the suffering caused by armed conflict.

    Friends, the past few years have been difficult and troubling ones for the family of nations.

    That makes it all the more important that we join forces to give life to our most fundamental and universal ideals; ideals shared by the Olympic Movement and the United Nations: ideals such as tolerance and understanding; equality and justice; and, above all, peace.

    One way we can do that is to observe the Olympic Truce -- the call for a worldwide laying down of arms during the Games.

    The Olympic Truce is a unique concept. This ancient Greek tradition has been revived by the United Nations General Assembly as a call to all Member States to stop fighting while athletes from the entire community of nations meet under the noble flame of this Torch.

    The Truce should be understood as more than a symbol. While limited in duration and scope, it can offer a point of consensus, a pause to open a dialogue, a chance to provide relief to a suffering population. In short, it can offer a window of hope.

    Tonight, I call on all those engaged in armed conflict of any kind to observe the Olympic Truce, and to use that opportunity to promote peace, dialogue and reconciliation.

    During the 2004 Olympics, may the serenity of the Olympic flame silence the sound of warfare. May all heed the message of hope which this Olympic Torch is taking around the world -- a message that carries within it all our aspirations for a better, more peaceful world.

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