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18 Mar, 2010 10:48

Ban Ki-Moon arrives in Moscow for official visit

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is on a two-day official visit to Moscow. The UN chief is meeting with the Russian leadership, and will also take part in the Middle East Quartet talks taking place on Friday.

Following his meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Ban Ki-moon said that the UN “highly appreciates” its strong partnership with Russia.

“I am very grateful for all your support and cooperation in peacekeeping operations and humanitarian assistance and in realizing millennium development goals,” he said. The UN chief added that he is encouraged by the developments in START talks between Russia and the US.

“I sincerely hope there will be a final signing of this treaty as soon as possible,” he said. “This will have a hugely positive impact on the forthcoming Washington summit meeting on nuclear disarmament, as well as the NPT review conference which will be held in May in New York.”

Ban Ki-moon expressed deep concern over the humanitarian situation in the Middle East. “It is not a tolerable situation where so many people are affected,” he said.

The Secretary General pointed out that the Middle East Quartet members are due to have an in-depth discussion on the issue in the course of their upcoming meeting on Friday. He noted that the goal of the global community is to encourage direct negotiations between the conflicting sides.

Also on Thursday, Ban Ki-moon and Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization Nikolay Bordyuzha signed a joint cooperation declaration.

According to Sergey Lavrov, the document “lays down a solid basis for broader cooperation between the agencies of the UN and the CSTO that meets the UN Charter, particularly in Chapter 8.”

“Russia as a member-country of the UN and the CSTO hopes for practically continued cooperation in various spheres, primarily in the solution to the problem of drug trafficking from Afghanistan, which poses a threat to peace and security not only on the regional, but also on the global scale,” Lavrov added.

Later Ban Ki-moon met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. During the talks with the Russian President, the UN chief said that he praises Medvedev’s role in the efforts to free the world from nuclear weapons. He expressed hope that the Russian and American presidents would be able to achieve a new deal soon.

Ban Ki-moon has also invited Russian leader to attend the UN summit in September devoted to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. The goals include reducing extreme poverty, reducing child mortality rates, fighting disease epidemics such as AIDS, and developing a global partnership for development.

Also during his meeting with the Russian head of state, the UN chief touched upon the Middle East Quartet meeting scheduled for Friday. He called it “timely” and expressed hope for proposals which will help in the Middle Eastern peace process. Ban Ki-moon said he is inspired by Russia’s initiative to hold the Quartet meeting in Moscow.

Earlier in the day, Ban Ki-moon shared some of his thoughts with the Russian media. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio station, the UN Secretary General praised Russia for its effort in tackling the Iranian nuclear dilemma.

“The Russian government has proposed a very good idea,”
Ban Ki-moon said. “That it is worth trying to have uranium enriched outside Iran.”

“First and foremost, it is important that this Iranian nuclear issue should be resolved through dialogue in a peaceful way. At the same time, Iranian authorities should comply fully with a relevant Security Council resolution,” he added.

Independent analyst Dmitry Evstafyev believes that the main idea behind the current visit of the UN Secretary General is to understand to what extent Russia is ready to wage its support and what influence it has over the Palestinians and Arab countries in order to calm down the dispute between Palestinians and Israelis on the eve of the conference.

“The conference cannot succeed in the current environment between the two sides,” Dmitry Evstafyev explained.

Alon Ben-Meir, a professor of international relations at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, doesn’t think the talks are going to be efficient.

“Israel does not have much trust in the United Nation,” Ben-Meir told RT. “It has serious concern about Russia’s role in continuing to support Iran’s various nuclear programs. In fact, Israel has some evidence, I understand, that some Russian scientists are even helping Iran in developing nuclear weapons. Israel is also concerned about the EU, which has traditionally been supportive of the Palestinians. So, Israel has reservations about it.”

“I think the Quartet will be wise now to adapt the Arab initiative as a frame of reference, and in so doing also engender a tremendous support from the Arab states,” he added. “I think this is where we should be going.”

The Afghanistan issue

The Secretary General has also released a report to the Security Council which suggests that the world body is to continue informal talks with the Taliban. That's despite UN sanctions being imposed against the terrorist group in 1999.

RT's Marina Portnaya in New York believes it all comes as an attempt to bring peace to Afghan people.

“What he is recommending in this report is that UN official continue to speak or have dialogue with may be members of the Taliban as long as it’s in condunction with the Afghan government,” Portnaya said. “According to the Secretary General’s report the number of civilians killed in 2009 rose 14% from 2008. And the number of security incidents in January 2010 was up 40% from the same time the year before. Obviously the situation is very bad and right now the international community, the chief of the UN is just trying to give alternatives, trying to give recommendations to bring peace and security to the people in Afghanistan.”