Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Opening remarks at press encounter at Islahiye refugee camp

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Islahiye (Turkey), 07 December 2012

I am pleased to be here at Islahiye camp. I have come to this camp to convey my strong support, sympathy and solidarity to the Syrian refugees here.

Let me begin by thanking the Government and people of Turkey for their generosity, hospitality and compassion in hosting more than 135,000 refugees in 14 different camps. I understand that there are another 70,000 refugees outside the camps.

I am aware of the tremendous burden this places on the Government and society, as ever more Syrians seek refuge outside their borders in towns, cities and refugee camps.

I also want to pay deepest tribute to the many humanitarian workers from the Government institutions, UN, the Red Crescent, Red Cross, and many other humanitarian organizations and humanitarian workers who are performing such noble work in tremendously difficult circumstances.

I was in the Za’atari camp in Jordan this morning and I have come to Islahiye this afternoon to see the conditions for myself, to learn more about the challenges and to listen directly to people’s concerns and hopes.

I have been shocked, humbled and deeply moved by the stories that families shared with me.

I met children whose simple request was to return home and live in safety and security. And he told me that he wanted to go to school. One child was five years old, the other one was six years old. I told them not to lose hope and have courage. The United Nations and the whole international community stand by them.

So many have gone through so much suffering. It is simply not right that people are being uprooted from their homes because leaders have not addressed legitimate demands for democracy, justice and equality. Innocent Syrians are paying the price for this failure.

I have come to listen. But I am also here to say to the world: The slaughter in Syria must stop.

The military path is a dead end. It only fills streets with more blood. It only fills camps like this with more tears.

I appeal to all sides – particularly the Syrian Government – to stop the killing. Stop the violence in the name of humanity.

And I urge the international community – and in particular the Security Council – to stand united and act decisively to end this crisis.

Joint Special Representative [Lakhdar] Brahimi is working to achieve a Syrian-led political solution.

That is what Syria and all the families here need. And it is what the region needs. I am committed to doing all I can to make it happen.

I am also committed to ensuring that humanitarian needs are met.

We have seen a tripling of refugee numbers since July, and the numbers keep growing. I am afraid that any serious escalation of violence in Syria will lead to a dramatic increase in refugee numbers.

Unfortunately, international assistance is simply not keeping up with needs. The Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan is only 50 per cent funded -- the Regional Response Plan even less so.

I call on all Member States, especially countries in the region, near the region, to ramp up assistance – both to the affected countries around Syria who are bearing the brunt of the refugee burden, and to the humanitarian agencies working on the ground.

This evening, I am going to meet with President [Abdullah] Gul, Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and Foreign Minister [Ahmet] Davutoglu.

On my return to New York, I will discuss with UN agencies and other key humanitarian partners how we can provide humanitarian assistance in a more coordinated and effective manner.

I appeal to the international community: do not close your eyes while people are suffering.

We have to help them. The people I have met today are mothers, brothers, fathers and sisters.

They are our family. Let us stand by them.

Thank you. Teshikurudurum. Shukran Jazeelan.