President Bush and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan discussed Sudan, the Middle East, and reform efforts at the United Nations in a White House meeting February 13.
Speaking at the White House after the meeting, Bush said he told Annan about his February 10 meeting with Rebecca Garang, the minister of transportation, roads and bridges in the government of Southern Sudan, and the wife of the late John Garang.
"[S]he and I had a long discussion not only about the Darfur region, but about implementing the North-South Accords," Bush said, adding that he appreciates Annan's leadership on the issue. (For more information, see Darfur Humanitarian Emergency.)
The president said he also was interested in the secretary-general's thoughts about structural and management reform at the United Nations, as well as the reform of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Annan said he agrees with Bush that the council needs reform "and it should be done as soon as possible," adding that the president of the General Assembly is working to have the reforms done "by this month." (For more information, see U.S. and United Nations Reform.)
As for broader reform, Annan said that "there are quite a lot of things that we're going to do."
Regarding Sudan, the secretary-general called for an "effective security presence on the ground" in Darfur in order to protect internally displaced persons (IDPs) and allow humanitarian workers access to those in need. "[T]his is an issue where all governments have to play their role," he said.
Annan also called for the Palestinian group Hamas to transform itself "into a political party and work with the international community and the Israeli government."
Hamas won a majority in the recent Palestinian elections.
The secretary-general also said he hopes that Iran will indicate its willingness to continue negotiations over its nuclear program.
Following is the transcript of remarks by President Bush and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
February 13, 2006
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BUSH AND U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL ANNAN
IN PRESS AVAILABILITY
The Oval Office
2:06 P.M. EST
PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. Secretary General, thank you. As usual, we had a very constructive dialogue. I always enjoy visiting with the Secretary General. It gives us a chance to talk about our common interests and our desire for peace and liberty around the world.
We had a good discussion on Sudan, with a particular emphasis on Darfur. I told the Secretary General that Mrs. Garang was in to see me the other day, and that we had a long discussion -- she and I had a long discussion not only about the Darfur region, but about implementing the North-South Accords. And I appreciate the Secretary's leadership on that issue.
We talked about the broader Middle East. And there's a lot to talk about. I am very optimistic, however, that democracy and liberty will prevail. And so I want to thank you for your interest and leadership on those particular issues.
We talked about U.N. reform, structural reform, management reform, as well as the reform of the Human Rights Commission. I was most interested in the Secretary General's thoughts. I appreciate very much his leading on these issues, and we'll continue to work closely through Secretary Bolton -- Ambassador Bolton, with the Security Council and the United Nations.
So Mr. Secretary General, thanks for coming. It's always a pleasure to welcome you here to the Oval Office. The floor is yours.
SECRETARY GENERAL ANNAN: Thank you very much, Mr. President. I also enjoy our periodic exchanges, and I'm very happy that we have agreed to work together on the Darfur issue, working with other governments from Europe, from Asia, and other regions, to ensure that we do have an effective security presence on the ground to protect the IDPs and ensure that humanitarian workers have access to those in need. And of course this is an issue where all governments have to play their role.
On security -- on the U.N. reform and Human Rights Council, I think the President and I agree that we need to reform the Human Rights Council and it should be done as soon as possible. The President of the General Assembly, Jan Eliasson, is working very hard to ensure that we will have that done by this month, and that when the Human Rights Commission meets in Geneva, it will be in the process of transformation, it will not be business as usual. And I also thanked the President for all the support he's given us on U.N. reform, on the broader U.N. reform. And there are quite a lot of things that we're going to do.
We also discussed the Middle East and the Hamas elections, and the need of transformation of Hamas into a political party along the lines the Quartet had discussed. And I think there is an opportunity here for Hamas to transform itself into a political party and work with the international community and the Israeli government.
We also touched on the issue of the nuclear issue in -- of Iran. And here again, I hope between now and the time the Atomic Agency issues its next report, there will be indications and steps from the Iranian side to indicate that negotiations are not dead, and that both sides can come back to the table and find a way out of this crisis. We need to be able to resolve it, and I hope there will be no steps taken to escalate the situation.
Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I appreciate it. Thank you.