ADC Delegation Meets with Kofi Annan
WASHINGTON, DC — United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan met on Tuesday, December 19, with a delegation representing the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) to discuss the situation in the Middle East and the UN role in the region. The delegation, headed by ADC Chief Operating Officer Ziad Asali, included Vice President Khalil E. Jahshan, National Board member Hani Findakly, Professor Clovis Maksoud and New York chapter officers Nick Khoury and Nadia Hijab.
The meeting held at UN headquarters in New York, focussed on two major issues, namely, the situation in Palestine and the sanctions regime imposed on Iraq. ADC delegates expressed the deep concern and outrage of Arab Americans regarding the continuing Israeli occupation and military aggression against the Palestinians and demanded that a UN observer force be sent promptly to Palestine. As for Iraq, the discussion focussed on the need to end the sanctions against Iraq that have immeasurably harmed the Iraqi people and caused so many deaths.
Mr. Annan was frank and understanding in his comprehensive response to questions raised by the ADC delegation. He reiterated his personal concern and that of the United Nations regarding the escalating violence in Palestine and the devastating impact it has had on the human, economic and social aspects of Palestinian life. The Secretary General warned that if the situation is prolonged it will become increasingly difficult to persuade embittered and disenchanted populations in the region of the benefits of peace. He emphasized that the international community must act together to have the maximal impact on the situation in the region. Annan further revealed the formation of a new three-member human rights commission on Palestine to follow up on the recommendation of the recently released report by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson.
The UN Secretary General reiterated his readiness to assist and remain engaged in all diplomatic efforts aimed at achieving a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. He stated that enormous economic assistance is needed to help the Palestinian people stand on their own feet again. Mr. Annan also expressed his support for the Mitchell Commission investigating the causes and remedy for recent events in Palestine and expressed his intention to contribute actively to its report.
Annan briefed the ADC group about various steps undertaken by the United Nations to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people and lessen the damaging impact of the sanctions regime on their lives. The Secretary General admitted, however, that despite these efforts, the living conditions of the average Iraqi have not changed significantly and much is needed to be done in this regard. He further concurred with the ADC representatives that opposition to the sanctions has become widespread causing a serious moral dilemma for the UN. What is missing, he concluded, is the equivalent of a Marshall Plan to rebuild Iraq.
Speaking on behalf of the delegation, Ziad Asali stated that “the historic meeting with Mr. Annan was extremely constructive and useful. We are grateful to the Secretary General for receiving us and pursuing this dialogue with us as Arab Americans. ADC hopes that the United Nations assumes a visible and proactive role in the search for genuine peace in the Middle East that is based on the UN Charter and international legitimacy.”