Kofi Annan meets Israeli PM Olmert today

The Israeli Government Press Office has just sent out an UPDATE to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s schedule today — announcing a meeting early this evening with former UN SG Kofi Annan as head of a delegation of the “UN Foundation” [I think they mean “Annan’s” Global Humanitarian Forum, which was just officially launched on 17 October in Geneva to tackle “humanitarian challenges”. The UN Foundation was set up to spend Ted Turner’s multi-million-dollar donation to the UN to help make up for a shortfall caused by the U.S. Government’s withholding of funds.]

UPDATE: Col. Miri Eisin, the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser for the Foreign Press, has responded to my query by confirming, on the one hand, that Kofi Annan is in Jerusalem for the Global Humanitarian Forum, and on the other hand that Ted Turner will also be in the meeting with Prime Minister Olmert this evening.

UPDATE TWO: the Jerusalem Post reported on Monday that the cut-off of fuel supplies to Gaza was not discussed with the former UNSG or his delegation: “The issue – according to officials in the Prime Minister’s Office – was not raised during a meeting Olmert held Sunday evening with a delegation from the Board of Directors of the United Nations Foundation that included former UN secretary general Kofi Annan. The delegation also included Ted Turner, the founder of CNN and chairman of Turner Enterprises, and former Atlanta Mayor and US ambassador to the UN Andrew Young“. [n.b., Andrew Young, who was U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s Ambassador to the UN, was forced to resign when it was revealed, probably by an over-eager Zuhdi Terzi, may his soul rest in peace, that he had received Terzi, the PLO Ambassador to the UN at the time. Andrew Young was serving as the rotating President of the UN Security Council when the meeting took place, and apparently thought that this would provide enough cover for the meeting, even during a time when it was strict U.S. policy not to have any contacts with the P.L.O., which was not yet recognized by Israel, and was deemed as a “terrorist” organization due to what were regarded as ambiguities in the P.L.O. Charter about Israel’s “right to exist”.]

The JPost added that “The prime minister told the delegation that Israel would be more than willing to converse with Hamas if it accepted the principles that Annan himself had laid down: recognizing Israel, rejecting terrorism and accepting previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements.” The JPost UPDATE on Olmert’s meeting with Kofi Annan and his friends is here.

UPDATE THREE: The JPost reported in another story on Monday that Kofi Annan has just become a member of the board of Ted Turner’s UN Foundation. The Annan – Turner delegation apparently also met with Israel’s President Shimon Peres: “Asked by The Jerusalem Post whether he had come to invite Peres to join the board of the UN Foundation, which was established in 1998 with his billion-dollar gift, Turner said the foundation was not a membership organization, ‘but we’d love to have him if he’d like to join us’. The board’s members include Queen Rania of Jordan. Among the Israelis at the luncheon [which Peres hosted for the delegation] were former chief of General Staff and ex-government minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak and Ron Pundak, director-general of the Peres Center for Peace and one of the architects of the Oslo Accords”. The JPost story about Annan and Turner meeting with Shimon Peres is here.

The Global Humanitarian Forum has been set up in Geneva by the Swiss Government, in order to make good use of the presence of the retired UNSG. Apparently, it’s not as if Kofi Annan was burning with his own ideas and projects. A Swiss news report earlier this year indicated that Annan was basically going to let the Swiss Foreign Ministry and one other Swiss agency [the Swiss Development Corporation, an official government body run by Swiss Ambassador Walter Fust] to determine what this UN Foundation should do — and then Annan would just do it.

In his inaugural speech, Annan told assembled dignitaries that “The Global Humanitarian Forum will put the prevention of individual suffering at the centre of our concern”. He indicated it would wish to better “serve the individual who is most vulnerable and in need”. This Global Humanitarian Forum will hold an annual high-level meeting in Geneva (which just loves to host high-level international conferences) — and the first one will be next June.

Annan also said in the speech: “Let us cut down the barriers that separate one of us from another, that stand between us and more effective prevention of human suffering”.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry, of course, is still interested in promoting the Geneva Initiative that has been strongly backed by Swiss Foreign Ministere Michelene Calmy-Rey, who is also the Swiss Federal President this year. And the Swiss Foreign Ministry has also been interested in being helpful in promoting peace talks between Israel and Syria. [The Swiss authorities are also almost certainly strongly against any military action against Iran].

The humanitarian situation in Gaza must also be on the agenda …

In any case, after the Sunday evening meeting, the Israeli Prime Minister’s office issued the following statement: “The Prime Minister briefed the delegation on the talks being held with the Palestinians in order to reach a two-state solution in which the State of Israel and a Palestinian state live side by side in peace and security, and on his talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The delegates expressed their appreciation for the Government’s efforts to advance relations with the Palestinians…”

On Monday morning, Kofi Annan and the delegation with whom he is travelling are to receive a briefing on the situation on the ground by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (probably when he was SG, Kofi Annan would not have had time for such things). The former SG and the other members of the delegation are expected to stay in Israel (and the Palestinian territory) for about a week.

I wonder what other meetings and activities will be on the former UNSG’s schedule during his visit here? I wonder, for example, if he will visit The Wall …?

On a visit to the Golan Heights last week arranged by the privatized Israeli Media Central organization that aims to inform journalists of Israeli reality and points of view, we were shown the cleverly-named “Coffee Anan” coffee shop on a prominent Israeli outlook point high up on the Golan.

It’s a play on words, our Israeli accompaniers explained – “Anan” means clouds in Hebrew, so this is a coffee shop in the clouds…