Friday, May 27, 2005

Annan Meets Meles, Members of the Opposition

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Addis Ababa late on Wednesday, 25 May, after an overnight stopover in London.

On Thursday morning, he began the day by meeting with Alpha Oumar Konaré, Chairperson of the African Union, with whom he was to co-chair the Pledging Conference in support of the AU mission in Sudan, known as AMIS. He then met with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoof Scheffer.

He also spoke with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, just prior to the opening of the conference at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Addressing the conference, Mr. Annan described Darfur as one of the most pressing and destructive crises on the African continent today. He added that although the violence in Darfur has stabilized over the last few months, the situation remains unacceptable, as civilians are still at risk and subject to attacks. Moreover, the continued violence is increasingly targeted at aid workers, hampering their difficult work.

But, he said, where the AU mission is deployed, these things don’t happen.

An expanded AU force at full operational capacity will go a long way to ensuring that the great majority of civilians in Darfur can be protected from violence, he said.

Declaring that it is “a race against time”, the Secretary-General appealed to those gathered to provide the resources required without delay. The expanded Mission would include a total of more than 6,000 military personnel and 1,500 police and would cost over $465 million for one year. (See Press Release SG/SM/9890.)

Taking the floor a second time at the end of the conference, the Secretary-General took note of the generous pledges, which included strategic airlift, training and planning support -- all essential elements of the expansion. But he added that these contributions must be complementary if they are to be fully effective.

In addition to the support for the AU military force, the Secretary-General also emphasized the importance for the international community to support the crucial mediation effort of the African Union in the Abuja peace process. He added that the real solution is a political one and welcomed Mr. Konaré’s announcement that Salim Ahmed Salim, the former Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity, will lead this process. (See Press Release SG/SM/9891.)

“A man of his experience and calibre and maturity, I hope, will lead the process to a successful conclusion in a relatively short time”, he said at a joint press conference with Chairman Konaré. “I plead with the parties, the Government and the rebels, not only to honour the ceasefire on the ground, but when they go to Abuja, to stay there, sustain the effort and reach an agreement.”

While acknowledging that the world could have moved much faster and acted earlier in Darfur, in response to a reporter’s question, the Secretary-General noted that access to the victims had improved over the past year and noted that compared to 1,000 relief workers who had been in the region a year ago, today there were 11,000 humanitarian workers bringing aid to some 2 million people in need as part of the UN-led aid effort in Darfur.

Following the conference, the Secretary-General went to meet with the staff of the Economic Commission of Africa (ECA) at the organization’s headquarters.

On Thursday evening, he met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at the latter’s office. The Secretary-General told reporters after the meeting that they had discussed issues of mutual interest, including the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and the question of the border dispute with Eritrea. He said they also discussed the elections and developments in Ethiopia and also the next General Assembly where the discussion would be on United Nations reform.

The last meeting on Thursday evening was with Eng. Hailu Shawel, Chairman of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), Dr. Berhanu Nega, Vice-Chairman of the CUD, and Dr. Beyene Petros, Vice-Chairman of the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF).

The Secretary-General departed early on Friday, 27 May, for the Sudan.


Photo Courtesy: (AP Photo/UN, Evan Schneider)
In this photo released by the United Nations, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan departs from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Friday, May 27, 2005, on his way to Khartoum, Sudan where he will meet with Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismaill to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region. (AP Photo/UN, Evan Schneider)

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