Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Opening remarks at press conference in Geneva

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Geneva (Switzerland), 03 March 2014

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, bonjour Mesdames et Messieurs,

It is good to be back in Geneva and it is great pleasure to see you all again. Since this is the first time I see you this year, I wish you all the best. Let’s work together for world peace and development. I am committed to it and I really need your strong support in delivering the message to all throughout the world, messages of peace, development and message of human rights.

I trust you have seen my remarks to the Human Rights Council this morning.

Let me just reiterate one point: that’s accountability.

Horrendous crimes continue to take place before the eyes of the world -- from sectarian cleansing in the Central African Republic to the Syrian Government’s use of barrel bombs in densely populated civilian areas. These are not the random happenings of wartime. They are acts that are decided on, whether by individual combatants on the ground or leaders safely removed from the actual fighting. They are acts for which there must be justice.

Yesterday, I attended a retreat in Mont Pélerin with the leaders of all the United Nations’ increasingly complex and diverse peacekeeping and political missions. The Security Council is giving us more robust mandates, including for the protection of civilians. Our productive discussions focused on how to improve what we do at a time of severe financial constraint.

I also spoke with Robert Serry, who has been working as my envoy for the situation in Ukraine, and he briefed me about his visit. I have repeatedly emphasized that it is critical to ensure full respect for – and the preservation of – Ukraine's independence, unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is now of utmost importance to restore calm, to de-escalate tensions immediately through a dialogue.

I will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva today. I will urge that the Russian Federation refrain from any acts and rhetoric that could further escalate the situation – and instead to engage constructively and through peaceful means with Ukraine.

In this regard, as you are already aware, I have asked United Nations Deputy-Secretary-General, Mr. Jan Eliasson, to visit Kyiv today - I was told that he has just arrived in Kyiv at this time – and convey, on the behalf of the United Nations, the same message to the Ukrainian authorities.

In my phone conversations with President Hollande of France, High Representative Ashton of European Union and the President of Switzerland and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Burkhalter, and I have also spoken to the OSCE Secretary General Zannier, I have been discussing this matter since yesterday… In all my talks with these leaders, I have underscored that all of us share the responsibility to assist in finding a peaceful resolution in a collaborative effort. I have also asked the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General to discuss this matter on the basis of the United Nations basic objectives, and, of course, on the basis of the United Nations Charter.

On Syria, I had a long conversation with Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi yesterday. The only way to end the crisis is through a negotiated solution. We are determined to bring the parties back to the table here in Geneva. But for the moment it is our sense that there is an urgent need for the parties, and those with influence over them, to reflect on how the talks can achieve the progress the Syrian people and the region so urgently need.

Yesterday, I also met with my Special Representative to the Central African Republic, General Babacar Gaye, about the alarming crisis in that country. I have presented, as you are already aware, a six-point plan to address urgent priorities and needs. At the Security Council’s request, I will soon report on the outlines of a UN peacekeeping mission with a robust mandate to protect civilians and promote stability. The horrific cycle of violence and retaliation must end immediately. The United Nations is fully committed to help the Central African Republic emerge from the terrible crisis and build peace.

Tomorrow I will visit Sierra Leone – which was once the scene of uncommon cruelty. Who can forget the suffering of the children who had had their limbs chopped off by rebel fighters?

Over the years, we used the full UN toolkit – peacekeeping, peacebuilding, justice and development – to help the country, Sierra Leone, recover. With international support, seemingly intractable civil strife has been supplanted by peace, stability, improved governance and vibrant development.

The United Nations helped Timor Leste to complete a similar transformation in 2012. These successes give hope that we can surmount the challenges we face elsewhere, notably in the Central African Republic.

Thank you for your attention. I will now take some questions.