Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Opening remarks at press conference, Beirut, Lebanon [unofficial transcript]

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Beirut (Lebanon), 13 January 2012

Ladies and gentlemen, Salam alaykoum, sana saeeda

I am very pleased to be back in Lebanon.

This is my first trip abroad in my second term as the Secretary-General.

But this is in total my third visit to Lebanon as the Secretary-General as you may know.

I am in Lebanon to underline my personal commitment to stability, security and peace in this country.

The United Nations has a major presence here.

UNIFIL is our third-largest peacekeeping operation in the world.

Beirut is home to our Regional Economic Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

Thousands of UN agency staff are here, working for progress throughout Lebanon and beyond.

I am grateful to all the United Nations staff in Lebanon. Their safety and security is critically important. That is why I have asked the Lebanese Government to strengthen its protection. The President and Prime Minister they all agreed to take necessary measures.

I held important meetings this afternoon with President [Michel] Sleiman, Prime Minister [Najib] Mikati and Speaker [Nabih] Berri on a range of subjects.

We discussed the implementation of Security Council resolutions and Lebanon's important contributions to the United Nations. We also discussed the current situation in Syria and its potential impact on Lebanon.

Lebanon has just finished its two-year term on the Security Council. I thanked the President, Prime Minister and Speaker for Lebanon's contribution.

The past year was shaped by dramatic developments in the Arab world. This has not been an easy responsibility for Lebanon. But Lebanon played its part, in the Security Council and more broadly.

The United Nations expects Lebanon to keep contributing to progress, and we expect the country to fully meet all of its international obligations.

This includes full implementation of Security Council's resolutions – above all resolution 1701, which ended the devastating 2006 war.

1701 has brought an unprecedented degree of relative calm and stability to southern Lebanon. The situation along the Blue Line – despite a number of serious incidents – has been largely stable since 2006.

The reinforcement of UNIFIL and the development of the Lebanese Armed Forces in southern Lebanon have provided the backbone for this calm and stability. The liaison and coordination arrangements between UNIFIL and the parties continue to work well. Both sides enjoy relative calm and stability, even if much remains to be done – as we all know.

This is true for the other relevant Security Council resolutions. Work remains to be done to ensure that Lebanon's sovereignty is fully extended across all of its territory and that there remain no arms outside the authority of the State.

I encouraged President Sleiman in his effort to re-convene the National Dialogue and to address the question of arms outside the control of the State. I also encouraged the Government of Lebanon to implement the National Dialogue's previous decisions.

As I have stated before, the United Nations also continues to expect Lebanon to support and cooperate fully with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. A judicial process is now under way, and we look forward to its outcome.

I would also like to underline the importance of Lebanon working to meet its international human rights obligations. A Lebanese national, Charles Malek, was co-drafter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Lebanon can be proud of his legacy.

Today, that means continuing to ratify key international human rights treaties, including conventions on the rights of people with disabilities, and continuing to ensure that refugees here get the support they deserve, irrespective of their eventual return to their homes. In my meetings with the leadership of Lebanon, I was pleased to learn from Speaker Berri that there is a discussion to increase women participation through an innovative system. I also strongly encouraged the President and Prime Minister to promote women empowerment and increase women in political institutions.

The United Nations will maintain its strong and unwavering commitment to Lebanon.

Our goal is the same as yours: stability, safety and a better future for the Lebanon people.

At the same time, I will keep pressing for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The establishment of a Palestinian State living side by side in peace with a secure Israel is long overdue.

Finally, let me stress how much I am looking forward to Sunday's High-Level Meeting on Reform and Transitions to Democracy hosted by ESCWA. I am encouraged that we are convening so many eminent Arab thinkers, activists and others to discuss the pressing issue of reform and democracy.

This is a critical moment in the region. It is a time for meaningful change; time to stop the violence and end injustice; time to give people the opportunities they deserve to build a better life.

Thank you very much. Shukran Jazilan.