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

24 May 2007

Srgjan Kerim of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, President Elect of the upcoming General Assembly session, underscored today his belief in the United Nations as more than just an intergovernmental body; it was also a network that cooperated closely with “business interests”, universities, the media and non-governmental organizations.

Speaking at a Headquarters press conference following his election as President of the sixty-second General Assembly, he said that, in the age of the Internet, it was necessary to realize that globalization was a reality of modern life and not a mere phrase, because that realization was important in coping with the extremely difficult problems confronting the world. It was also important to bear shared responsibilities and to be tolerant of one another, despite differences, which should be a source of strength rather than of weakness and desperation.

A former Minister for Foreign Economic Relations and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kerim previously held several diplomatic postings, including to Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany. During a posting as Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, he was a facilitator on United Nations reform. Twenty years ago, he was Vice Minister and Spokesman of the Foreign Ministry in the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and was now a media executive.

Asked how he would continue the efforts of Jan Eliasson, President of the sixtieth session, to strengthen the General Assembly’s decision-making role, Mr. Kerim said the United Nations was an organization of processes where no decisions could be taken by any single person, group or session. Every Presidency must work within those processes, and progress was made when there was forward movement on all the issues at hand.

The question of Security Council reform was particularly delicate, he added, pointing out that it had taken years to expand that organ’s membership from 11 to the current 15. The incoming Presidency had to carry the discussion forward from the point at which the current one had advanced it. Neither the President nor the Secretary-General had a magic wand to move things along. However, that was not a problem inherent to the Organization, but rather it reflected a lack of political will on the part of Member States. They must be persuaded to make the necessary efforts to reach a solution. Whether that would happen in the sixty-second or any other session, the important thing was to move the process forward.

Asked whether the media would have greater access under his Presidency, he emphasized his intention to interact more frequently with the media. There must be more transparency in the Organization, which should have no hidden agendas or mystification. “This Organization has to serve the people… and not the other way around,” he added.

Responding to a question about the General Assembly’s role on climate change, he said that was one of the global issues with implications for almost all human activities. It was not about boundaries, nations or continents, but about the entire planet.

“We have to deal with it, of course, bearing in mind that we cannot do things spontaneously,” he added, noting that the Assembly had to follow what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change were doing and streamline all those actions in close cooperation with the Secretary-General, the Economic and Social Council and other bodies. The sixty-second session would fail if it did not deal with the question of climate change, which demanded the Organization’s attention.

Asked whether he would seek the help of his predecessors in trying to ease tensions between nations, the President-elect said he would do so within the Assembly’s competence and tasks, and within the Organization’s existing division of labour.

A correspondent asked about the “naming issue” that had poisoned relations between Greece and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over the past 14 years. What would the President-elect do to help the two countries find common ground, and why had they failed thus far to do so?

Mr. Kerim pointed out that the Secretary-General’s envoy was in charge of that issue and that the two Governments were in the process of negotiating -- a process that should be left to them. It was not within the competence of the General Assembly President to interfere, nor was it in accordance with the United Nations Charter or the rules of the Organization.

In response to another question, he stressed his strong belief in inter-faith dialogue, cultural diversity and dialogue among civilizations. During his term as Permanent Representative five years ago, he had successfully asked the President of his country to organize a regional forum on that subject in order to avoid misunderstandings. “The tolerance and understanding of ‘the other’ is, for me, the way we should deal with each other, otherwise there will be always an area of conflict,” he stated.

“I am also ready to visit religious leaders and talk to them [about] how to promote the issue because it is not only [about] terrorism. There are many other areas in the world where we have tensions and frictions because there is a lack of understanding of each other,” he added.

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For information media • not an official record

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