Dr. Aaron Lerner – IMRA: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was asked how he can visit with the President of Iran given that he has called openly and repeatedly for the destruction of Israel. Instead of taking the opportunity to condemn the statements, Annan limits himself to:

#1 “Israel… has the right to exist, and one cannot wipe away Israel with statements. (AL: his version of the children’s rhyme “sticks and stones can break…. “?)

#2 “And those kinds of statements should not be made.” (AL: apparently because of the “technicality” that “Israel… is a recognized Member State”.

Put another way: judging from UN Sec’y Gen. Kofi Annan’s remarks, he wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with Iran’s president calling for destroying the Jewish State – or perhaps even going about and actually delivering on his threat – if not for the technicality that Israel is a member of the UN. Throw Israel out of the UN and all bets may be off.

It should be noted that while Annan is extremely careful in his remarks about Iran, he has had no problem attacking Israel during his visit to the region.]

Jerusalem, 30 August 2006 – Secretary-General’s press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (unofficial transcript)

(Secretary-General’s comments only)

Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me first say how happy I am to be in Israel, and let me also express my deep sympathy and condolences to the families who have lost loved ones in the most recent conflict. One of the first things I did yesterday when I arrived was to meet with the families of the three soldiers, the two who were picked up in southern Lebanon-northern Israel and Gilad Shalit. And of course, I listened to their story and it was a painful one. I am a father; I am also a brother, a husband. And listening to their stories, I could feel their pain and the desire for them to have their loved ones back. And I have indicated to them that we will do all that we can to work to get them back. And this is an issue I also discussed when I was in Lebanon.

Israel is also a country where innocent civilians have suffered. Hundreds of thousands have also had to spend a month or so in bomb shelters just as in Lebanon where innocent civilians have suffered. I think that it is high time that civilians in this part of the world were allowed to live in peace and in dignity. This is not a luxury and this is also what [Security Council] resolution 1701 seeks to achieve.

And I am here to discuss with my Israeli counterparts and friends how we can work together to ensure the full implementation of resolution 1701. And as I have said in Lebanon and I repeat here, resolution 1701 is a fixed menu; it is not a buffet where you choose and pick. We have to implement it in its entirety.

When I was in Lebanon, not only did I stress this; I stressed the unambiguous release and unconditional release of the abducted soldiers. And, of course, here I have also raised the question of the issue of the prisoners. I have just come from Lebanon, as most of you know, where I had very serious discussions with the Lebanese leadership, and I am really convinced that they are serious about implementing 1701 in its entirety. I felt a strong support and determination for the resolution on the part of the Lebanese Government and the people, and they see this as an opportunity to put the tragedy and the conflicts of the past behind them.

And I hope that all of us will do whatever we can to ensure swift and effective implementation of the resolution. We, on our side, the United Nations will do our best, and I was very pleased last week Friday when the Europeans offered 9,000 troops to join the force in southern Lebanon. In my discussion with the Lebanese, and here with my Israeli friends, I have indicated that I will work with the Government to increase the level of the forces as rapidly as possible.

We have about 2,500 troops on the ground now and we are going to try to double that number and get to 5,000 in the coming days and weeks. And I hope that, as we do that, the Israeli withdrawal will continue and by the time we are at that level Israel will have fully withdrawn and we will have an effective, credible force on the ground that we can continue to build on. I will also want to use this opportunity to call on all neighbours — all the neighbours — to really cooperate fully with the implementation of the resolution. This is a resolution that Israel has accepted. The Lebanese Government, including Hezbollah, has accepted it.

And we all have a responsibility to work to make sure that it is fully implemented. And I also believe that it is time to look to the future and build on what we have here and try to ensure that we do have a peaceful neighborhood. We do work for comprehensive peace in the region. And my sense as I travel around the world [is] that leaders around the world are coming to the same conclusion. So let’s all work for peace. My mission here is one peace and I know that is what most Israelis want and most Lebanese and all the people in this region would want to see.

Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minster, for your very warm welcome and for the constructive discussions that we had not only here this morning, but over the phone. And we have a lot to do and I think we are going to do it.

Question: Mr. Secretary-General, can you confirm that the abducted soldiers are alive?

SG: I am not in a position to confirm that information. What I can say is that I did discuss this issue in Lebanon at the highest levels and also did have an opportunity of discussing it with a Hezbollah member of the cabinet.

I am going to do all that I can to work to get the release. I did not get the impression that they were not alive – I believe they are alive.

Question: (addressed to the Prime Minister about lifting the embargo against Lebanon)

SG: If I may add a word there. The Prime Minister and I discussed this issue and, as most of you know, I have been urging for the immediate lifting of the blockade on Lebanon. It is important not only because of the economic effect it is having on the country but it is also important to strengthen the democratic Government of Lebanon with which Israel has repeatedly said it has no problems. And I think that we need to be able to take care of the concerns of Israel, and I understand the issue of rearmament, that we need to make sure that arms do not come in either through the airports and the borders or through the seaports. And I can assure you that in my discussions with the Lebanese authorities they are taking this issue seriously and they are taking measures to deal with it and the international community should work with them to deal with it. But in the meantime, I do believe that the blockade should be lifted.

Question: (for the SG about his visit to Iran)

SG: Let me say that I am aware of what the President of Iran has said. And as I have indicated in the past, Israel is a member of the United Nations. It is a recognized Member State and has the right to exist, and one cannot wipe away Israel with statements. And those kinds of statements should not be made. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I head an international organization of sovereign states. We are not homogeneous.

The Member States of the UN have different systems, they come from different backgrounds, and they have different policies. But they are all members. And as SG, I reserve the right to talk to any Member State and to anyone who will help us make this world better — who I need to talk to [in order] to improve things. So I have no hesitation maintaining contacts with any president, with President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad. I have been talking to him on the phone and I look forward to speaking to him and speaking with Ayatollah Khamanei. I think we have a lot to discuss. There are a lot of issues in the region and around the world that I would want to discuss with him. And besides, as SG of the UN, I have no other means of influencing people except through dialogue, through persuasion and through honest discussion. And if I am not allowed to see them or talk to them, how do I do this? How do I explain that Israel is a state that is a Member State of the UN, and that there should not be any incitement against Israel? If you know a better way that I can do that without talking to them, I would like to know. I have no weapons. I have no other means of pressuring them but through a dialogue.

Question: (for Olmert)

SG: If I might reply on the monitoring on the border. I agreed with the Prime Minister that we need an effective mechanism, but we need to be flexible because I don’t think that there is ever only one way of solving a problem. We shouldn’t insist that the only way is deploying international forces. That may be one way. There may be other effective ways of doing it.

What we need is an effective mechanism and I think this is what we will be seeking and working with the Lebanese Government on.

Thank you.