United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Madam Ban Soon-taek arrived in Moscow in the morning of Wednesday, 9 April, for the first official visit of the Secretary-General to the Russian Federation.
The Secretary-General met that day with Russian President-elect Dmitry Medvedev and later with President Vladimir Putin, at the Kremlin. The talks were cordial and covered a wide range of issues with a particular focus on United Nations-Russian relations, climate change, and a review of international hot spots, including Kosovo, the Middle East, Afghanistan and Georgia, among other issues. On climate change, the Secretary-General welcomed Russia's contribution to the UN effort and there was a renewed commitment to the Bali road map. On Kosovo, the Secretary-General stressed the need for a pragmatic approach by all major stakeholders. He reaffirmed the UN’s position of being status-neutral in Kosovo and operating in accordance with Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). The Secretary-General also expressed appreciation for Russia's growing contribution to international humanitarian efforts, and hoped that there would be a continued increase in Russia's commitment in this area.
The next day, the Secretary-General launched a Global Compact network in Russia during a meeting with over 30 top executives of Russian businesses. He welcomed the launch of the network as “a great sign that Russian businesses, representing one of the world’s largest economies, are putting their weight behind the universal values of the United Nations”. Leading Russian corporations are already involved in corporate social responsibility activities, recognizing the role of business in society’s development and the importance of non-financial risks for investors. (See press release SG/SM/11506.)
After that, the Secretary-General travelled to the State Duma, where he met with the Duma’s First Deputy Chairman, Oleg Morozov. They discussed the important role of multilateralism and the part that the world’s parliaments can play. They also discussed the many challenges facing the United Nations, not only in conflict situations, but also on issues like poverty, diseases, climate change, the illegal trade in small arms and gender balance.
Afterwards, the Secretary-General went to Moscow University, where he delivered a speech in which he affirmed his expectation that Russia’s engagement in the United Nations will keep pace with the challenges and opportunities we face. Among these challenges, he citedbuilding a more secure world, but also a more just, prosperous and healthy one. The Secretary-General also underlined the “unprecedented global challenges which spare no one, and which no nation, however powerful, can take on alone”, like climate change. The United Nations, he said, “is no less relevant today than it was on the day it was created more than 60 years ago. The principles of the United Nations Charter are as applicable today as when they were adopted -- to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights and in the equal rights of men and women, to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom. At the same time, the Organization is a living organism. It has evolved and renewed itself time and again to address the ever changing and ever growing demands upon it”. (See press release SG/SM/11507.)
Later that Thursday, the Secretary-General met with religious leaders from the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Churches, as well as Muslim and Jewish representatives, before later meeting with Patriarch Alexiy II in the oldest monastery in Moscow. In those meetings, he discussed the Alliance of Civilizations; the importance of tolerance, human dignity and social justice; as well as the protection of holy sites in Kosovo; and Islamophobia.
On Thursday evening, the Secretary-General had a tête-à-tête meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in which they discussed Kosovo. They followed that with a larger meeting in which their delegations discussed: Kosovo; the Middle East, including the meeting to be held in Moscow in the summer of 2008 on that subject; Darfur and the need for helicopters for the African Union-United Nations hybrid operation there; Afghanistan; and Cyprus. On Cyprus, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe briefed the meeting’s participants on his recent visit to Cyprus and the region.
The Secretary-General and Foreign Minister Lavrov spoke to the press after their meeting. The Secretary-General said he was strongly encouraged during his visit, in particular in his meetings with President Putin and President-elect Medvedev, by Russia’s commitment to the central role of the United Nations and to multilateralism.
The Secretary-General wrapped up his three-day visit to Russia on Friday, speaking with UN staff members working in Moscow, and visiting a museum in the Kremlin before flying back to New York.