|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, 28 August 2007
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the press. It’s a great pleasure to meet you again.
As you all know, the UN Security Council last month approved a resolution dispatching 26,000 multinational peacekeepers to Sudan, jointly commanded by the United Nations and the African Union. It came after many months of difficult diplomacy. Now we have an historic opportunity. We must seize it.
That is why I will travel next week to Sudan, Chad and Libya. I want to go and see for myself the very difficult conditions under which our forces will operate. I want to know, first-hand, the plight of those they seek to help.
But more, I want to create the foundations of a lasting peace and security. My goal is to lock in the progress we have made so far. To build on it so that this terrible trauma may one day cease.
Meanwhile, I am deeply concerned about the recent escalation in violence in Darfur that has caused the death of hundreds of people in the last few weeks alone. Attacks such as the one on the Adilla police on 1 August, the repeated bombardments of villages in southern Darfur that followed, including just three days ago, and the attack on Kilkil Abu Salam in northern Darfur on 18 August are simply unacceptable. I appeal to the Government of Sudan and to all parties to refrain from military action and choose, at this critical juncture marked by the adoption of Security Council resolution 1769, the path of peace and political dialogue.
So, we must lose no more time.
I have a three-point action plan moving forward.
Let us begin with peacekeeping. Getting peacekeepers on the ground, speedily and effectively, requires a massive logistics effort -- communications, water, food, supplies and infrastructure. This is one of the largest and most complex field operations the United Nations has ever undertaken, together with the African Union, and the work is well under way. But it cannot succeed without the cooperation of the Government of Sudan, and I will seek its full support when I meet with President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum.
Peacekeeping, alone, is not enough. It must be accompanied by a political solution. That is part two of my plan: to push the peace process.
Here, too, we are well on track. The Sudanese Government is ready to come to the table. Earlier this month, opposition leaders from Darfur met in Tanzania to coordinate their negotiating positions for these talks. My aim is to keep up the momentum, to push the pace among the parties with a view towards issuing invitations to a full-fledged peace conference by the end of summer.
I will also visit Juba. While the international community must help find a solution to the crisis in Darfur, we must also continue to do our utmost to push the broader peace process, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement previously negotiated between south and north Sudan. Ultimately, this will require a more equitable sharing of power and resources among the central Government and the country’s regions, so that fully representative national elections can go forward as planned in 2009. Beyond Darfur, this remains an essential -- and fragile -- cornerstone of peace in Sudan.
The third element in my action plan for Darfur involves humanitarian aid and development. Any peace in Darfur must be built on solutions that go to the root causes of the conflict. We can hope for the return of more than 2 million refugees. We can safeguard villages and help rebuild homes. Ultimately, however, any real solution to Darfur’s troubles involves something more -- sustained economic development.
Precisely what shape that might take is unclear. But we must begin thinking about it now. There must be money for new roads and communications, as well as health, education, sanitation and social reconstruction programmes. The international community needs to help organize these efforts, working with the Government of Sudan, as well as the host of international aid agencies and NGOs working so heroically on the ground.
Water is the first requirement. Earlier this summer, scientists presented evidence of a vast underground lake beneath south-western Sudan’s arid plains, not unlike similar geologic features discovered elsewhere in the region. That can only be determined by exploratory drilling. A team of UN engineers is on the ground; more will follow in what we hope will be a global effort. If there is indeed water there, we will leave no stone unturned to help find it.
We live, as you all know, in a world of global problems, requiring collective responses. Darfur is no exception. Regional players have already contributed enormously to our diplomatic efforts, among them Libya’s Muammar al-Qadhafi, who helped bring parties that have not yet signed the Darfur Peace Agreement into this coming round of negotiations. That is the reason why I will end my trip with a visit to Tripoli next week.
Meanwhile, the UN is working with the European Union to deploy a multidimensional presence in eastern Chad and the Central African Republic. As you know, the Security Council yesterday indicated its willingness to authorize such a mission.
The purpose: to protect refugees, internally displaced persons and other civilians affected by the spillover of the conflict in Darfur and to ensure the continued flow of humanitarian aid.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have a few other announcements, as well.
Not long after my return from Africa, on 21 September, we will hold an Enlarged Contact Group meeting on Darfur. This meeting -- a follow-up to the Paris meeting in June -- will be co-chaired by me and AU chairperson Mr. Alpha Oumar Konaré.
On 14 September, we will host the first meeting of our MDG Africa Steering group -- a key initiative to focus on what is needed to achieve our Millennium Development Goals in Africa.
And we will also hold high-level meetings on Iraq and Afghanistan around the time of the General Assembly, as well as a Quartet meeting on the Middle East.
Thank you very much. I will be pleased to answer your questions.
Question: Secretary-General, welcome on behalf of the UN Correspondents Association. I just want to begin by asking you, in the past few days we have seen a string of international aid workers expelled from Sudan, and we have seen Canadian, EU, AU envoys also expelled from Sudan. This time what really makes you think that the Sudanese will be serious when you go to Khartoum? What guarantees can you get that the Sudanese won’t be as obstructive as they have been before? And also what sort of guarantees do you think you can give, security guarantees that you can give to some of Sudan’s neighbours?
The Secretary-General: I’m also concerned about the Sudanese Government asking those envoys and NGO workers -- humanitarian workers to leave their country and so, in other words, expelling those people from Sudan. We have appreciated all such noble efforts by NGOs and other relevant international community efforts. We have raised this issue through OCHA [Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] and through relevant diplomatic channels, conveyed our strong concerns to the Sudanese Government to implement genuinely the humanitarian Joint Communiqué, which was signed between the UN and the Sudanese Government to help those humanitarian workers, so that they can engage themselves without any hindrance. This is what I’m going to raise with President Bashir. I’m going to reiterate the strong commitment of the United Nations to help those people, to help those who need our support. In that regard, the Sudanese Government should fully implement and fully cooperate with those international communities.
Question: Secretary-General, on your point about the political settlement -- there was a meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, this month with Jan Eliasson and Salim [Ahmed] Salim at which eight rebels groups said they agreed to the framework. Subsequently, Jan Eliasson has said that some of that seems to be falling apart. I wonder, I know that you’ll be seeing him on this trip, can you bring us up to date on whether that meeting in Arusha did really produce an agreement that you can build upon to bring the rebel side around? And is it unravelling since it was agreed to earlier in the month?
The Secretary-General: Basically, you should understand that it is an extremely difficult process. It requires very patient and consistent efforts by not only the special envoys, but all of the international community and particularly the Government of Sudan and movement leaders. We really hope sincerely that the rebel movement leaders will fully cooperate and take political decisions and demonstrate political will this time to participate in this political process. The meeting which was held in Arusha was an encouraging one. They have issued a joint statement in which they promise to hold, in two to three months time, a negotiation forum. As I said, I’m going to issue together with AU [Commission] chairman [Alpha Oumar] Konaré formal invitations before this summer goes, so that we’ll be able to hold the formal negotiation political meeting as soon as possible, preferably during the month of October. And I think we can build upon what we have agreed during the last several months of political process.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, my question is not concerned with the Darfur issue. I think you’ve already heard about the news that North Korean negotiators and the Taliban militants have agreed to release 19 Korean hostages. As the Secretary-General, how do you feel about the news? And could you let me know what kind of efforts you have made to help the release of the Korean hostages?
The Secretary-General: First of all, I’m pleased to hear that news and I welcome that news that both the Korean Government and the Taliban representatives have agreed to release the remaining 19 hostages. It must have been a very difficult ordeal for those hostages, as well as [for the] people of the Republic of Korea. At this time, I do hope that they will be released as soon as possible and I have to take this opportunity to commend the efforts of the Republic of Korea, the Government of Afghanistan, our United Nations Office in Afghanistan, UNAMA [United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan], and all other related parties who have contributed to the release of these hostages. I would like to again take this opportunity to express my sincere condolences to the families of those victims and at the same time my sincere sympathies to those families and friends and people of the Republic of Korea for their ordeals. I do sincerely hope again and I urge all the people around the world to respect human rights and respect the people’s freedom of travel and, as Secretary-General, I’ve exerted all the possible efforts, even though I’ve not been able to explain publicly for the purpose of security and for facilitating smooth dialogue to release these hostages. I’ve spoken with the President of Afghanistan and many other leaders around the region who could have influenced and mobilized the necessary influence. I do thank all of those leaders who have contributed to the release of these hostages.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, as a follow-up to Warren’s question, there is at least one major rebel group that has not taken part in any of the peace talks which would have a major impact on the political process. During your visit, what do you intend to do to try and send some kind of a message to the rebel groups? Are you planning to meet any of them yourself? And going over to the Chadian side, what specifically are you hoping to do about try to get the Chadian Government to support this operation and a possible handover to the United Nations?
The Secretary-General: I hope sincerely again that the leaders who have chosen not to participate in this political process, particularly Mr. Abdul Wahid, should participate in forthcoming political negotiations for the better future of the whole Sudanese and Darfurian people. This is what I can tell you at this time. I do not have any guarantees, but as far as I’m concerned, I’ll spare no efforts, as much as I can politically, to talk to all the relevant people who can convince all these movement leaders to participate there. In Chad, as I’ve explained already the necessary negotiation and consultation have been progressing well for the deployment of the multidimensional UN forces in close coordination with the European Union. I’m going to discuss with President [Idriss] Deby of Chad to expedite this process, as well as to discuss all these humanitarian issues. There are many refugees and IDPs along the borderlines between Sudan and Chad, and there is a political issue between Sudan and Chad to reconcile their relationship. This is what I’m going to appeal to and urge the leaders of the countries concerned.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, you mentioned that you’re going to be visiting Libya to enlist the help of Colonel [Mouammar] al-Qadhafi with the groups that have not signed yet to the peace agreements, but with the green light given from the Security Council for the deployment of forces in Chad and your visit to Chad and your talks with President Deby and you just told us that negotiations are going well. What are you going to tell Colonel Al-Qadhafi, whose sole opposition to the deployment of EU forces in Chad is well known and Libya is a very important neighbour of Chad? What are you going to tell him to convince him that this is a good thing and have him on board with the project?
The Secretary-General: Libya is one of the important regional players as far as the Darfur situation is concerned and has hosted several political process meetings in Tripoli, which have been very useful in bringing those people who have not signed the peace agreement -- in that regard, I appreciate the leadership and initiate of leader, Mr. Al-Qadhafi. I would like to discuss all matters with Mr. Al-Qadhafi on this issue and on whatever influence he can exert in expediting this implementation of the political process. Also we can discuss other regional issues concerning Eritrea and Ethiopia, and all other relevant issues.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, it has been nearly a year since there has been no replacement for Mr. Pronk as the head of the mission in UNMIS. Can you update us on why there has been this delay and what is happening on that front?
The Secretary-General: I hope I’ll be able to announce the appointment of Mr. Pronk’s successor within a couple of days before my visit takes place to Sudan. This will take some more time but I’ve proposed a nomination of Special Representative of Secretary-General to Sudan and the announcement will come out very soon.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, so you mentioned the logistical problems concerning sending the largest force in the UN history. Can you update us on how far the United Nations has gone in gathering the troops and concerning this constant troubling issue for the Sudan Government on the composition of the force, what’s the percentage or proportion of non-African countries that will participate? Thank you, sir.
The Secretary-General: I’m encouraged by the progress we have been able to make in terms of force generation. We have convened already twice the meeting of potential troop- and police-contributing countries and we’ve received firm commitments, and potential and possible commitments from many countries. I was told that the number of troops can even exceed the number that we may need but in some areas, critical, important areas, we still need commitment and contribution from Member States, particularly airlifts, air transportation and some other special areas. We’ll soon finalize force generation and at the same time, I would like to remind you that the basic agreement between the United Nations and the African Union together with the Sudanese Government is that the priority -- the main component of the hybrid, will be manned by African soldiers but for the special areas or administrative and financial areas where one needs special expertise, non-African Union soldiers will be staffed.
Question: You expect the force to be 26,000 by the beginning of the year?
The Secretary-General: The mandate of UNMIS has been extended until the end of 31 December of this year and it is our intention and plan to deploy the hybrid as soon as possible next year. And this AMIS and all this commitment for heavy support package, they will play naturally transitional platforms to succeed, to transfer to the hybrid forces next year.
Question: You mentioned that, even though you didn’t make the announcement you said that you nominated the special rep for Sudan, is it Jean Arnault? And also if you can give us an indication you’ve had private exchange of letters with President Bashir about the incident in Nyala, Sudan, in January about the abuse of UN officials and other internationals. Can you give us any indication whether you’ve had success in persuading President Bashir to ensure some accountability in that case?
The Secretary-General: I’m not in a position to publicly announce the name of my nomination of SRSG, you’ll soon be able to know, before my arrival in Sudan. This is what I can tell you at this time. And I’ve made it quite clear officially and privately to the President of Sudan and senior government officials all what had happened and our strong concern has been conveyed and we have a strong commitment to protect and promote human rights. And as you said in our case, there is no general tolerance for all these sexual abuse cases and other misconduct.
Question: Today the President of Iran has spoken at a press conference and he had said that the issue of international concerns of a nuclear programme of Iran is closed. He said, and I’m quoting from our point of view, “… Iran’s nuclear case is closed and Iran is a nuclear nation and has the nuclear fuel cycle…” What are your thoughts on this issue particularly that he linked the closure of this dossier to the memorandum that Iran has with the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA]? We would like to know your views and I would like a follow-up for me, please.
The Secretary-General: The most important thing and basic principle is that the Iranian Government should fully comply with the Security Council resolutions which the international community, the United Nations, has made. I do not think it is in the hands of the Iranians to determine on whatever status and whatever decisions they have made. They should have a closer cooperation with IAEA, the Security Council and the United Nations as a whole.
Question: So, as a follow-up sir, if I may follow up on this. The IAEA memorandum with Iran has been criticized by the United States and my question to your, Sir, was about this understanding and the fact that it was used by the President of Iran to say that the subject is closed, would you comment on that memorandum given that the United States has criticized it?
The Secretary-General: I would like to repeat what I’ve already said on this matter.
Question: Thank you, Sir, it is very interesting to hear from you that the number of soldiers requested for the UN hybrid force in Darfur exceeded your expectations, while in Somalia, they lack the financial resources, and even the soldiers, to implement stability in the country. How do you explain this contradiction or these different situations?
The Secretary-General: I don’t know whether this is a contradiction but there might be a difference in the nature or character of the situations involving the situation in Somalia or in Darfur. As far as the Somali situation is concerned, I’m also deeply concerned. Simply, the Somali Government and people have not been able to create the necessary conditions for the international community to provide such peacekeeping operations there. I know that the international community should continue to help AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] and help the Somali people to help them restore peace and security. At the same time, it is crucially important for the Somali Government and people to engage among themselves in an inclusive political dialogue for the national reconciliation. With all these circumstances created I think the United Nations should, in the near future, as soon as possible, consider seriously what we should do to help this Somali situation be resolved as soon as possible.
Question: Secretary-General, I would like you to say whether you have implicit confidence in the commanders of this hybrid force regarding the fact that there was an issue during the negotiations between the UN, AU and the Sudanese Government about who was going to command this force or whether it’s going to be under African command. Do you have implicit confidence in the people who are going to head and command this force? And then secondly, what do you think is the continued role of regional players like Nigeria in the issue of Sudan concerning the peacekeeping and political process?
The Secretary-General: The basic position and agreement was that the Joint Special Representative and the military structure of the hybrid would be composed of African leadership. This is what we have done. We have appointed General Martin Agwai as Force Commander and Mr. [Rodolphe] Adada was appointed as Joint Special Representative. Now an important thing is this unity of command and control. This agreement will be that the joint command and control will be done in accordance with the normal United Nations peacekeeping operations standard rules and principles. There is an agreement between the African Union and the United Nations. We have full confidence and trust in the leadership and ability of African generals and military leaders and they should also fully cooperate with United Nations and African Union.
Question: Secretary-General, I just wanted to follow up on the original question. When you meet with Sudanese Government, are you going to specifically ask about the expulsions that have occurred over the last three days of EU, the Canadian representatives and the Director of CARE? Is that something that you’re going to insist that they act on when you meet with them?
The Secretary-General: I’m going to raise and discuss this matter with the Sudanese Government and leaders including President Bashir. I’m deeply concerned about all that has happened in the last several days.
Question: Should these people be back doing their job? The Director of US CARE back doing work with the people there? Is that something you would insist on happening? Because they didn’t really give a reason for expelling the Director of CARE whereas, with the two envoys, they said that they were having contact with opposition leaders and militia.
The Secretary-General: As you know, CARE is a significant provider of vitally needed humanitarian assistance to some 4 million Sudanese people across Sudan. And is one of the vital NGO partners for the United Nations humanitarian community. All NGOs and humanitarian workers have been contributing a great deal of efforts to help those people. Therefore, it is natural that the United Nations should provide the necessary conditions so that they will be able to carry out their humanitarian work without any hindrance. This is exactly what I’m going to raise and discuss. There is a very important humanitarian Joint Communiqué which has been signed between the UN and the Sudanese Government -- they must implement in sincerity and a genuinely sincere manner.
Question: A quick follow-up question on Darfur; what big lessons have you learned, witnessing what has happened in Darfur since it has been several years now and now that you’re a practitioner actually implementing policy there? And then a quick question also, if you could address, there has been a lot of discussion about whistle-blowers in this Organization, their protection throughout the system. How would you envision a proper justice system within the United Nations for your thousands of staff and what steps are you to take to ensure that whistle-blowers are protected within your Organization?
The Secretary-General: This is something relating to how I reflect on what has happened during the last eight months, particularly on this Darfur situation. I would like to reserve my answers to you after my visit to Sudan is over. It may take a long time for me to talk all about what I feel, what lessons I’ve learned from this experience. Now let me briefly mention about this ethics issue. It is crucially important for the United Nations system to uphold the highest level of ethical standard and this ethical standard should be implemented across the board, system-wide, in a coherent manner. We have experienced these days some unfortunate situations involving this whistle-blower case. Soon there will be an announcement by the UNDP Board of governors and chairman about this issue including all the UNDP activities in North Korea, DPRK, and the case of the whistle-blowers issue. They will be examined and reviewed by a recognized, independent auditor. I remember that there was a very important recommendation by world leaders in 2005. There is an outcome document that an ethical code of conduct should be applied system-wide in a coherent manner. At this time, the [UN] Ethics office does not fully enjoy the jurisdiction of all funds and programmes of the United Nations. I would hope that the General Assembly looks at this issue again and gives clear guidelines so that the Ethics Office can have a broader jurisdiction covering funds and programmes, and other agencies. This is what we need. I’m going to consult with Member States of the General Assembly.
Question: Now that the force has been agreed to, are you ready now to make a personal pledge to the people, the millions displaced in Darfur? Now the UN is going to be on the ground, they’ll protect the civilians, use force if necessary if they are threatened by either government or rebel forces and also stay with the that population until they’re back in their villages?
The Secretary-General: I’ve expressed my full commitment and assurances that I will devote all of my efforts. The United Nations will [do all it can to alleviate the suffering of the people in Darfur]. We will mobilize all necessary United Nations agencies and work closely with the humanitarian communities in these issues.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, we see the lack of commitment of the Sudanese Government to its promises and my question is at what point you would recommend to the Security Council to put sanctions on Sudanese Government?
The Secretary-General: It is time for Sudanese Government to fully implement the Security Council resolution adopted last month. Of course, their commitment will be tested in every aspect by the international community, by the United Nations and this is exactly what I’m going to discuss with President Bashir and other leaders including implementation of the peace agreement. Therefore, I don’t think it is time at this time that we should talk about sanctions against Sudan. Let us watch how the Sudanese Government will implement this resolution.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, I’m wondering if you can use your trip to Sudan to insist that the Sudanese Government arrest and handover alleged war criminals to be indicted by the International Criminal Court [ICC] or so you think this is time for international justice to take a back seat to international diplomacy?
The Secretary-General: This is a very important issue. The ICC has issued the warrant of arrest for two people in Sudan and I’m going to discuss this matter with the President of the ICC. I’m going to meet with the President of the ICC this afternoon and this is a rather very serious and sensitive issue as we are now going through the implementation of a very important political process, as well as [setting up the] hybrid operations.
Question: [translation from French] Mr. Secretary-General, do you have a reaction to President [Nicolas] Sarkozy’s announcement yesterday that he would preside over a meeting of the Security Council on Africa?
The Secretary-General: I think that will be a very important initiative by the French President to convene a Security Council meeting during the month of September. I plan to attend and participate myself to discuss with the leaders who will be participating in the Security Council and I commend that initiative. Merci beaucoup!
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