United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his wife, Ban Soon-taek, arrived in Berlin, the German capital, on an official visit on Tuesday, 15 July, from Paris, where he had attended the Summit of the Union for the Mediterranean.
The Secretary-General was welcomed with military honours by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. They discussed Sudan, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Georgia-Abkhazia, Kosovo and Iran’s nuclear programme. In a joint press encounter with Chancellor Merkel after the meeting, the Secretary-General praised Germany’s contributions to the United Nations, including the more than 600 German military and police officers serving in United Nations peacekeeping missions, and its status as host to 18 United Nations bodies situated in Berlin, Bonn, Frankfurt and Hamburg.
The Secretary-General met afterwards with Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Conference on Financing for Development. They discussed the Millennium Development Goals and financing for development.
Earlier that day, the Secretary-General had a bilateral meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, with whom he discussed Cyprus, two days after he had held a similar meeting with President Dimitris Christofias of Cyprus in Paris.
That night, he spoke at an event in Berlin about the responsibility to protect. That concept, he said, is not a new code for humanitarian intervention. Rather, it is built on a more positive and affirmative concept of sovereignty as responsibility. The Secretary-General said that, later in the year, he would report to the General Assembly on his proposed approach to the responsibility to protect and the challenges posed by the 2005 World Summit Outcome. (See Press Release SG/SM/11701)
The Secretary-General ended the day by attending a working dinner with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, which included discussion of the situations in Georgia-Abkhazia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Cyprus.
On Wednesday, 16 July, the Secretary-General held a working breakfast in Berlin with the German Minister for Defence, Franz Josef Jung, with whom he discussed Kosovo, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Darfur. They also discussed at length the situation in Georgia-Abkhazia.
After that working breakfast, they spoke to the press. In response to a question, the Secretary-General said he was very encouraged by the release of prisoners and hostages taking place that day between Israel and Lebanon, adding: “I hope this will be the beginning of many to come in the future.”
He commended the leadership and initiative of his German Facilitator for his role in enabling the releases, and voiced his hope that Israeli Sergeant Gilad Shalit and the Palestinian prisoners would also be released as soon as possible. He noted that what had happened fulfilled an important humanitarian aspect of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).
The Secretary-General then flew to Bonn, where he received a warm welcome at the Old City Hall. The Secretary-General said at the Hall: “Today, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Bonner’.” We are facing a triple challenge, he said, the global food and fuel crisis, the climate change issues and the need to address the Millennium Development Goals. He noted the role mayors and municipalities can play in meeting these challenges.
He later addressed about 400 United Nations staff at the World Conference Centre, after visiting the United Nations campus where 17 United Nations agencies and programmes work.
After that, the Secretary-General flew back to New York, ending a four-day trip to France and Germany.