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UN: Albright Meets World Leaders Before General Assembly Resumes

  • Lisa McAdams

New York, 27 September 1999 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright continues her grueling schedule of multi-lateral and bilateral meetings with world leaders Monday in New York - ahead of Wednesday's scheduled resumption of a second week of debate at the 54th annual UN General Assembly (UNGA).

RFE/RL's correspondent reports the secretary is scheduled to meet Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy, as well as Indian and Pakistani leaders later in the day. She will also attend a luncheon of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Last week, on the sidelines of the UNGA, Albright held talks aimed at advancing permanent status talks in the Middle East, reviving Syrian-Israeli peace talks and producing consensus on a new resolution for monitoring Iraq's clandestine weapons program.

State Department Spokesman James Rubin, briefing reporters late last week, also expressed confidence there was a new "window of opportunity" for talks on the long-standing division of Cyprus. Rubin said the Cyprus issue had been raised in almost all of Albright's meetings with European ministers in New York and he said the secretary had reiterated the United States' support for fall negotiations without pre-conditions, under UN auspices.

Rubin added that the immediate goal was not to impose a solution, but rather to get the two sides into negotiations.

A series of events, including Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's scheduled talks at the White House Tuesday, will keep the pressure on key players to launch negotiations and move them along.

Rights issues are also likely to figure in the talks this week. Influential figures in Washington, including members of Congress with whom Ecevit is expected to meet, have said Turkey must improve its human rights record, if it wants to be considered a full member of the club of western democracies.

European countries have also been vocal in pressing Turkey to end rivalry with Greece, halt rights abuses and resolve the Kurdish conflict.

On Wednesday, Ecevit is to travel to New York for meetings with Turkish-American groups and with foreign leaders attending the UN General Assembly.

UNGA's debate continues Wednesday, with speeches from leaders of Israel, Poland and Armenia, among others.

RFE/RL's correspondent reports UN Secretary General Kofi Annan broke with a tradition of merely summing up a year's worth of work, when he opened assembly debate one week ago. Addressing the Assembly last Monday, Annan called in unambiguous terms for the right of the organization to intervene anywhere when civilians are put in mortal danger by their own governments or by civil wars. In so doing, he sought to send a bold message that leaders can no longer hide behind borders, using national sovereignty as a shield against the world.

That message drew criticism notably from Security Council members Russia and China, and separately from India and Iraq, among others.

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine spoke for many leaders gathered at the UN last week, when he said Annan had opened a profound debate that would go on for years.

U.S. President Bill Clinton, meanwhile, urged UN members to prepare for more interventions like the one currently underway in East Timor.

RFE/RL's correspondent reports another highlight - this one on the sidelines of debate -- was the Security Council's statement on combatting international terrorism. In it, the foreign ministers of the five permanent council members called for a strengthening of international cooperation to fight terrorism in all its forms.

The ministers from Britian, China, France, Russia and the United States, said such cooperation must be firmly based on the principles of the UN Charters and norms of international law, including respect for human rights.

Russia has been rocked by bombings in recent days. As such, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov urged the 54th UNGA session to undertake immediate and concrete steps aimed at actively combatting global terrorism.

Ivanov said Russia also was proposing to develop and adopt a declaration of principles of interaction between states, with the view to stepping up regional cooperation.

On the issue of separatism, which Ivanov said was increasingly merging with the "monster of terrorism," he urged a strict and consistent defense of the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of national borders.

Other issues that arose during last week's debate were nuclear non-proliferation, European stability, Balkan reconstruction, UN reform, the ongoing state of U.S. arrears to the world body, and sanctions regimes.

Early in the week, it had been widely reported that the permanent five members of the UN Security Council could reach agreement on a plan that would ease sanctions on Iraq, in exchange for Baghdad's agreeing to a new system of weapons inspections to replace one that collapsed late last year.

That agreement never materialized, but U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told reporters in a special briefing attended by RFE/RL late in the week that she was "not giving up." The sanctions issue, along with scores of others, are sure to revisit the stage this week, when UNGA debate resumes again on Wednesday.