In Croatia, Annan hails country's emergence from Balkans conflict
Upon arriving at Zagreb International Airport, the Secretary-General dedicated a memorial to remember the UN personnel who had lost their lives while serving in the former Yugoslavia, a UN spokesperson said in New York.
In his remarks to the dedication ceremony, Mr. Annan said that a new era was emerging in the region since their sacrifice. "Even at the darkest hour of the conflict, it was the hope of a new era, based on tolerance, diversity and human rights, that sustained our peacekeepers," he said.
The Secretary-General then met with President Stjepan Mesic before holding talks with Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan, during which he welcomed Croatia's efforts to improve its relations with its neighbours, spokesperson Hua Jiang said. Mr. Raca told the Secretary-General that he expected a final agreement on the Prevlaka peninsula in a matter of days, and the two also discussed refugees, internally displaced persons and the missing.
After a brief meeting with Parliament Speaker Zlatko Tomcic, the Secretary-General then addressed the Croatian Parliament, saying that it was encouraging for him to return to Croatia to see how much has changed in the seven years since he last saw the country. Mr. Annan noted that Croatia was now at peace with all its neighbours, and voiced his confidence that it will live up to its other international obligations and be "a factor of stability in the region."
Afterwards, the Secretary-General met with Foreign Minister Tonino Picula, who thanked the UN for its peacekeeping and humanitarian work in Croatia over the past decade.
Before departing Yugoslavia earlier Wednesday, the Secretary-General met privately in Belgrade with the Prosecutor of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Carla Del Ponte, and also with Tribunal staff, pointing out that its work does not target a nation or a people, but individual criminals, Ms. Jiang said. He also met with the heads of UN agencies and UN staff in the Yugoslav capital before leaving for Croatia.
Today, the Secretary-General's wife, Nane, visited the main children's hospital in Zagreb, where she spoke with staff about their trauma work to help young victims of child abuse and violence, Ms. Jiang said. She also met volunteers who take and refer child abuse calls from the public, as well as young people working as peer educators to warn their friends and peers of the dangers of HIV/AIDS.