Vienna, 7 April 2003 - From 6 to 8 April 2003 the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the former Czech Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, is in Vienna to pay the President of the UN General Assembly's now traditional visit to the city.
As part of the bilateral round of visits Kavan met Minister for Foreign Affairs Ferrero-Waldner today for talks which focussed on the current developments in Iraq, the Near East and Cyprus. Ferrero-Waldner and Kavan also discussed issues on the agenda at the UN General Assembly.
Ferrero-Waldner pointed to the Austrian initiative "Help for the Children of Iraq", stressing that "we have to provide help where the need is greatest". "We are working closely together with the Austrian relief organisations. The Red Cross, Caritas UNICEF and Hilfswerk have been especially helpful so far and - as I have already done in the past - I am appealing to the Austrian people not to close their eyes to other people's suffering and to give generously to provide aid where it is so urgently needed", said Ferrero-Waldner.
The Foreign Minister emphasised the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Iraq. "We mustn't forget that the situation was already precarious before the war broke out owing to the long war with Iran, the Gulf War and ten years of economic sanctions. The distribution of food rations to approx. 16 million people under the Oil-for-Food Programme was interrupted by the outbreak of the war. Meanwhile there is an imminent threat of epidemics due to problems with the water supply (e.g. in Basra). In circumstances such as these, one can imagine the situation of the people - and, above all, the children", Ferrero-Waldner continued.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs said she was proceeding on the assumption that the lack of supplies of food and drinking water for the civil population in Iraq will soon be the major problem. "We Austrians didn't want this conflict, and we did everything we could to prevent it. But the children in Iraq are among the poorest and most innocent victims of war. We'll hardly be able to take away the horror they have suffered, but we can help them and thus do our part towards ensuring that they can lead a more normal life again. That's why I will also be meeting the UN Secretary-General in New York this coming Thursday (10 April) to see where we in Austria can assist most effectively. I intend to leave no stone unturned", stated Ferrero-Waldner.
At the invitation of the President of the National Council, Andreas Khol, and the Director-General of the United Nations Office in Vienna, Antonio Maria Costa, Kavan rounded off his visit by delivering an address to the Austrian Parliament on the subject of "The Role of the U.N. in Maintaining Peace and Security".