Middle East situation tops Assembly President’s talks with Egyptian leader


22 February - The situation in the Middle East – including the report by a United Nations fact-finding mission into the deadly conflict in the Gaza Strip at the start of last year – was among the topics discussed today in Cairo between the President of the General Assembly and the leader of Egypt.

Ali Treki told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that he plans to hold a plenary meeting as soon as possible to pass a resolution regarding the implementation of the recommendations made by the mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone, a former UN war crimes prosecutor, into the conflict.

The Goldstone Report, as it has become known, found that both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants were guilty of serious human rights violations and breaches of humanitarian law during the Gaza conflict, which began in late December 2008. The Assembly has endorsed the mission's findings.

The four-member fact-finding team, set up at the request of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, called on the two sides to carry out independent credible investigations into their actions during the conflict.

In his follow-up report submitted at the request of the Assembly, Mr. Ban stressed that he hoped Israel and the Palestinians would conduct those inquiries appropriately. “International humanitarian law needs to be fully respected and civilians must be protected in all situations and circumstances,” he wrote.

Today's talks between Mr. Mubarak and the Assembly President also touched on the situation in the war-ravaged Sudanese region of Darfur, where, according to media reports, the Government and the rebel group known as the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) struck a deal over the weekend paving the way for peace.

Among other issues raised during the meeting, according to the Assembly President's spokesperson, Jean Victor Nkolo, were disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – eight economic and social targets with a 2015 deadline.

While in Egypt, Mr. Treki also held talks with the nation's Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and other senior officials.

In an address to the Council of the League of Arab States yesterday, he highlighted the main priorities of the Assembly's 64th session, including dialogue among civilizations.

The Council “welcomed these initiatives by President Treki, underlining the need to revitalize the work of the General Assembly in tackling important issues on the international agenda,” Mr. Nkolo told reporters in New York.

Before departing for the Egyptian capital, Mr. Treki met with Senior Vice-President for External Affairs at the World Bank Marwan al-Muasher in New York, and the two men conferred on a range of issues, such as post-conflict peacebuilding and preparations for September's formal review of progress made on achieving the MDGs.