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PRESS CONFERENCE BY SLOVAKIA'S FOREIGN MINISTER

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

21 February 2007

Briefing correspondents at Headquarters this afternoon, Slovakia’s Foreign Minister Ján Kubiš announced that he planned to chair the Security Council’s upcoming “open” debate on promoting cooperation between the Council and international organizations in the implementation of its resolution 1540 (2004), on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

That meeting, set for this Friday, would likely be the final such debate during Slovakia’s first-ever presidency of the 15-nation body, he said, adding that the hot button issue of Iran’s nuclear programme was bound to come up, especially since the Council was awaiting the imminent release of a report on the programme compiled by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), following up on resolution 1737 (2006), that text places economic sanctions on Iran and prohibits United Nations Member States from supplying Iran with any materials or technology that might contribute to nuclear weapons development.

In an exchange with reporters, he explained that Slovakia’s position on Iran’s nuclear activities had largely mirrored the “two-track” approach put forward by the European Union. His Government had hoped -- and would continue to hope –- that diplomatic negotiations and dialogue would lead to a breakthrough, even though signals from Iran did not currently leave much room for optimism. That was the first track, and, looking forward to negotiations and the IAEA report, he said: “I don’t want to rush to any conclusions.”

But, he stressed that Slovakia also believed that, if there was no movement on the first track, it would not hesitate to show that it was not pleased with Iran’s non-compliance. “The international community cannot just stand idle and watch what is happening,” he said, adding that Slovakia strongly supported the “second” track, which was the implementation of the measures set out by the Council in resolution 1737. He would not comment on what further measures the Council might take if the IAEA found that Iran had not suspended its nuclear enrichment programme.

Asked what evidence was there that Iran’s nuclear programme was not a peaceful one, Mr. Kubiš said that the steps Iran was taking were not sufficient to instil confidence in Slovakia, and perhaps the wider international community. He stressed that Slovakia strongly supported the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and believed that such use and development was a legitimate right of every country under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). But, as for Iran, he said that the international community must ensure that the country’s programme was not “headed in a certain direction”.

He also explained that Slovakia was very concerned about peace in the wider Middle East and would continue to speak out on the matter. When asked by a reporter what the Council planned to do about Israel’s “huge nuclear arsenal”, it’s near daily overflights in southern Lebanon and countless breaches of other Security Council resolutions, he said that Slovakia would continue to speak to its friends in Israel on matters of concern. At the same time, his Government would not hesitate to speak out when Israel was threatened or targeted, as it had been this summer, sparking the crisis in Lebanon.

Responding to questions on the issue of Security Council reform, including how long such reform would take, he said it was his personal opinion that reform would take quite some time. Slovakia favoured Council reform, which was long overdue, and supported certain proposals, including enlargement. Slovakia had openly supported some of the would-be candidates.

Peter Burian, Slovakia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, added that the issue of Council reform was not only about the Council’s expansion or enlargement, but also about its working methods. He agreed that it would be a long-term process.

Asked what Slovakia and South Africa planned to do in Africa, Mr. Kubiš noted that, when preparing for the Council’s meeting, Slovakia had organized three roundtables, which addressed such issues as security sector reform and cooperation with regional organizations. Slovakia, together with South Africa, wanted to organize another workshop in Africa that would look into lessons learned and see how the element of security sector reform was reflected in peacekeeping mandates. The African continent provided a good number of case studies. The concept for such a workshop was still being elaborated.

Turning to the issue of Kosovo, he said he did not have a recipe for Kosovo. While both sides were, unfortunately, uncompromising on the status question, he was hopeful that progress would be possible on some technical aspects of Martti Ahtisaari’s proposal, allowing the portfolio to move forward by agreeing on certain matters. Mr. Ahtisaari planned to complete several rounds of intensive negotiations, before presenting his proposal to the Secretary-General in March.

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For information media • not an official record



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