Transcript of Press Conference by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at United Nations Headquarters, 29 July 2009

29 July 2009
SG/SM/12389

Transcript of Press Conference by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at United Nations Headquarters, 29 July 2009

29 July 2009
Secretary-General
SG/SM/12389
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, 29 JULY 2009

 

Secretary-General:  Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  It is a great pleasure to see you again.  I came back from my six day long trip to China and Mongolia.  I came back yesterday evening.

Summer is here.  I hope you are finding some time to enjoy your summer holidays.  I am going to take a few days off next month.

Come September, we will be entering a crucial stage on climate change.  I would like to briefly address that before taking your questions.

Let me start at home.  Here at Headquarters, the Capital Master Plan begins a new phase.  The first teams of UN personnel are moving out of this building into so-called “swing space” around the city.

In many ways, the renovation is an outward symbol of our inward renewal.  The redesigned UN building will incorporate some of the most innovative design features to achieve greater efficiency and energy savings:  a new high-efficiency double glazed façade; improved heating, ventilation and lighting.  We will no longer be living in what some have described as a large terrarium.  Total energy consumption of the UN Headquarters will be reduced by more than 50 per cent.  Greenhouse gas emissions will fall by more than 45 per cent when we move back to a renovated building.

This is one example of the practical steps organizations, businesses and individuals can take to build a greener and more prosperous world.  And that is one of my main themes coming out of my visit to China and Mongolia.

Climate change was the major focus of my trip to Asia.  First, I wanted to highlight the special responsibility of countries like China to lead the global fight against climate change, as well as highlight all that China is doing.

In particular, I helped to launch an ambitious programme to promote energy saving lighting, which could reduce China’s energy consumption by 8 per cent.  This is a major step into the twenty-first century economy.

I was pleased that President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao assured me that China wants to seal a deal in Copenhagen in December and that China will play an active and constructive role in the negotiations to achieve this end.  We also agreed on the importance of global leaders showing the way and discussed in detail the climate summit in New York on 22 September.

Second, I stressed the need to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries adapt to climate change.

In Mongolia, climate change is a clear and present danger.  Three quarters of its grasslands are threatened by desertification.  Its culture and economy are in danger of being swallowed by sand.  Extreme weather events are becoming all too common.

A herder community that I met with on Mongolia’s open steppe reminded me that climate change is not an abstract concept.  It is a harsh reality that is changing the way we live. The community I met is actively engaged in seeking solutions.  They are changing their land management practices.  They are even using solar power.  They are adapting, but they need help.

A robust agreement on adaptation in Copenhagen is vital to Mongolia and so many vulnerable nations and peoples affected by climate change.

Third and finally, I continued to press for achieving a fair, effective and scientifically ambitious deal in Copenhagen that can benefit all nations.  That’s why I am convening the September climate change summit.  We expect more than 100 Heads of State and Government -- the largest gathering of leaders on climate change ever.

Two years ago, only a few leaders could speak to these issues.  Today, leaders are walking the road to Copenhagen together.

But, we have less than five months to seal a deal.

To keep up the momentum, I will travel to the Arctic polar ice rim later next month to get a first-hand look at conditions there -- in particular the melting sea ice.

I will then go on to the World Climate Conference in Geneva organized by the World Meteorological Organization.

In the largest sense, climate change testifies to the interconnected nature of today’s global challenges.

They require us to come together in a spirit of renewed multilateralism; a multilateralism that delivers results, not more promises and declarations of good intention.

Let me add a few more observations on my visit to Mongolia that show how a renewed multilateralism can work.

Mongolia’s democracy is thriving and its management of the economy based on the Millennium Development Goals is exemplary, making Mongolia truly a model for other countries.

The Mongolian Government decided on the occasion of my visit to contribute a battalion of peacekeepers to MINURCAT, [United Nations Mission] in the Central African Republic and Chad.  I had an opportunity to visit the Tavan Tolgoi Peacekeeping Operations Training Centre.  I am grateful to the Mongolian Government, and other troop contributors, for their strong commitment to the United Nations and to peace and security.

I also attended the opening ceremony of an international think-tank for land-locked developing countries (LLDCs).  As one of the LLDCs, Mongolia has taken an important initiative to address the challenge of all the LLDCs.  The United Nations stands ready to help LLDCs in their common efforts to overcome special socio-economic barriers.

If all Governments demonstrate a commitment to the UN that Mongolia is showing, and make concrete contributions in a range of areas as well, then a renewed multilateralism will become a reality.

Now is the time to act.

I thank you very much.

With that, I will take your questions.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, recognizing all the difficulties that you have had in the first half of your tenure, of your mandate, do you think that now is the time to redefine or to redesign your priorities, and what can you tell us about that?  Would you state that still Sudan is on the top of your priority list or you would go with something else perhaps, as you mentioned just today?  And bearing in mind that the last role indeed belongs to the Member States, how do you see your leadership role on the top of Organization for the next half of your tenure?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  It will continue to be based on the mandates tasked by the Member States as the Secretary-General.  And I have placed several [items] on top of my priorities.  On global issues, I have placed my highest priority in addressing climate change.  I will continue to do that beyond the many years coming.  And the utmost priority at this time is to make the Copenhagen meeting a success where we can agree on a global deal which will be a comprehensive, ambitious and equitable one to address climate change, with developed and developing countries all getting on board.

Second, I will continue to make this Organization a trustful one, a more efficient and effective one.  The reform of the Secretariat and this Organization will be my continuing priority as a Secretary-General.  And again, I will need the strong support and cooperation of Member States and Secretariat staff.

And third, there are many regional conflict issues where they need our help through the intervention of peacekeeping operations, through political mediation and through humanitarian assistance.  We have seen so many conflicts around the world.  And that’s quite troubling that we have not been able to resolve all these issues.  First and foremost, we need to strengthen the political will of the Member States, to participate and contribute the resources and political will.  And that will be very important.

Sudan is one of the top priorities.  We have not seen the resolution of this issue.  There are three aspects on Sudan, as you know.  Insofar as the deployment of UNAMID [United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur] peacekeepers is concerned, we may be able to achieve the [level of] mandated soldiers of 26,000 by the end of this year.  But still we’ll be lacking some critical assets like helicopters and heavy transport.  This will be again crucially important for the Member States to contribute.  There are political processes; the recent judgment by the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the status of Abyei was quite an encouraging one.  With all these encouraging developments of the situation, I hope we will be able to see a smooth implementation and progress in the political issues between South and North Sudan.  And my Special Envoy, working together with the African Union, Mr. [Djibril] Bassolé, will continue to work on that, and we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the Sudanese people.

But as far as displaced persons, we have seen so many humanitarian crises now.  In Pakistan we have more than 2.4 million displaced persons; in Somalia we have 1.2 million people; in Sudan, in Darfur, we have more than 1 million people; we have so many displaced persons again in Sudan and Chad area.  We’ve been trying to mobilize all resources [inaudible].  That is what Mr. John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General of OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] has appealed last week in Geneva, that we’re still lacking significant funding -- more than $5 billion -- that we need political and resources support from Member States.  On the basis of this political and financial support from Member States, I am sure that I will be able to carry out my duty successfully as Secretary-General, and I count on your support too, from the media too.  Thank you.

Question:  Sir, with the rise of insurgency in Afghanistan, and rising Western casualties, there is now again talk about a dialogue with the Taliban.  And there are also reports in the British press that there are contacts, secret contacts, going on with a man like Beitullah Mehsud.  Sir, in this process, as the British are pushing for a dialogue, and Pakistan seems willing and the United States has also expressed interest in dialogue, what role, if any, is the United Nations playing in this context?

Secretary-General: On all these matters, United Nations concerns and role have been focused on, first of all, assisting the Pakistani Government in addressing the very serious humanitarian crisis.  I have, as you know, recently appointed a humanitarian coordinator.  I am going to strengthen the role of the humanitarian coordinator.  I am closely coordinating with all Member States, particularly donor countries.  And I have recently constituted the commission to look into the assassination of former Prime Minister [Benazir] Bhutto.  That is also an important part where the United Nations can help in this political process.  The Pakistan Government under the leadership of President [Asif Ali] Zardari, they have been very closely coordinating with the US Government and other European Governments on how to address, first of all, this fight against terrorism.  I think they have been making some [progress].  I hope they will be able to continue to gain some successes.  But first and foremost, they should have some good political reconciliation with all the parties concerned.  That is what the United Nations will continue to facilitate.

Question: Mr. Secretary-General, why has it taken now five years and going, still, to resolve the Darfur crisis?  Why is the United Nations incapable of stopping what many people call the genocide of our time?

Secretary-General: If you ask why it has taken five years to resolve this issue, again, I would like to repeat what I have just said: We need the political will on the part of the Member States, on the part of the parties directly concerned [by the] situation in Darfur, as well as on the part of the general Member States who need to provide the necessary support so that the United Nations -- whether it be peacekeeping operations, whether it be political facilitation -- can smoothly conduct this process.

As you may remember, since day one as Secretary-General, I made this Darfur crisis number one.  We’ve made certain progress in terms of deploying this UNAMID forces, but it has been quite long delayed, over-delayed.  But still, it is going on.  It is moving, I think, smoothly at this time with the help of the Sudanese Government.  Now, on humanitarian assistance, even though we have averted a humanitarian crisis as such, but still there is a huge gap in addressing the humanitarian situation; that we all need.  Look at the case of critical assets like helicopters.  Twenty-four helicopters were needed, and we have secured only six helicopters.  Now, we need 18 helicopters more.  I have been discussing this issue with almost all the leaders of the countries who, I thought, would be able to provide, or would have some capacity to provide, helicopters, but I have not been able to get this support.  We really need some political will.  My experience as a Secretary-General leads me to believe that the most important thing would be political will.  Even though we’re experiencing an economic crisis, we have, I think, some capacity to address financially, and in terms of resources, many cases.

On climate change, we have the capacity, we have the technology, we have the financing, but simply because of a lack of political will, where leaders are not simply able to look beyond their national borders -- that’s why we have not been able to agree on climate change.  That’s why we have not been able to resolve these tough cases.

Question: Mr. Secretary-General, you have always been a very strong supporter of the six-party talks to try and rein in North Korea’s nuclear programme.  But the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] is saying right now that they will not go back to six-party talks and have strongly indicated that they want one-on-one talks with the United States.  What is your assessment of the situation, and do you believe that the six-party format remains the most viable?  And as a small corollary to the North Korea issue, is the United Nations playing any role at all in trying to win the release of the two American reporters imprisoned in the North?

Secretary-General: I am still deeply concerned about the recent developments in the Korean peninsula, where we have not been able to see any progress on dialogue, and the DPRK’s defiant positions against the Security Council resolution.  I think the strong and unified response by the Security Council through resolution 1874 (2009) sent a very strong and clear message to Pyongyang that the international community will not accept nuclear weapons in the DPRK.  That message has been clearly sent.  And I am also concerned that all the doors for dialogue have been shut by the DPRK authorities.  At this time, however, while I believe that six-party talks still can provide a good way for the solution through dialogue, if necessary, then there should be some other forms of dialogue.  And I am encouraged by the willingness of DPRK authorities to engage in direct dialogue with the United States; that I would like to support and welcome.  Whatever the format of dialogue may be, you cannot find any alternative in addressing the DPRK, North Korean, issues than dialogue, than resolving this in a peaceful manner.

On these two American journalists detained in DPRK, I have taken my own initiative, even though I am not able to disclose it.  On two occasions I have conveyed my strong wish and appeal, even, to the DPRK authorities, that they should look at this issue and release them, even on humanitarian grounds.  That’s what I have been doing now.  Sorry that I am not able to disclose any more details.

Question: I am very interested in understanding your position clearly, sir, towards Israel’s demand to get an Arab recognition first and before resuming the peace talks, which is on hold for a long, long time right now, to get Arab recognition of its State as a land for the Jewish people only.  And it implies the Palestinians to get deprived of their right to return, millions of Palestinians, and also to drive out millions of Palestinians out of Israel right now.  So what is your position towards this, and how far do you think this will affect the rights of the Arabs and the Palestinians in the occupied territory? 

And also, sir, if you don’t mind, yesterday, in the Security Council, it was so weird, because your envoy to Chad and Central African Republic, he admitted clearly the failure to handle the security situation in the region there.  So my question, what are you going to do in order to increase the capability of the UN to stabilize the region?

Secretary-General: On the situation in the Middle East, particularly when it comes to the Israeli and Palestinian relationship, the whole international community holds the view that there should be two States -- Israel and a Palestinian [State] -- who can live side by side in peace and security.  This is a two-State vision.  And for that [to be] possible, Israel’s right to exist should be recognized by Palestinians and all Arab countries, while I would also support an independent State for Palestinians.  All the countries in the region should be able to live without any fear.  They should be able to live in peace and security.  That’s the basic vision and goal for which the United Nations and the key players have been working very hard.  Currently, the United States Special Envoy, Senator George Mitchell, and other leaders have been actively engaging with Israelis and other Arab countries.  And the United Nations, I myself, have been actively engaging through my participation in the Quartet, through my bilateral [meetings] with Israeli leaders and Arab leaders, including the Palestinian President and the Prime Minister.  This will continue.  It has been six decades long, and we must put an end to this conflict.  This relationship between Palestinians and Israelis, if they can resolve this issue, this will provide a very good impetus to the overall peace and security in the Middle East.  The Arab Peace Initiative has also been recognized as a cornerstone of this Middle East peace.

Question: How about Chad…?

Secretary-General: I will not [go into] detail, because it will take a long time.  On this, my Special Envoy’s report to the Security Council yesterday, I think he reflected the current situation there.  We have not been able to see again tension reductions there.  I sincerely hope again that, as they have agreed so many times in the past, through official declarations, that Sudan and Chad would improve their relationship.  They have agreed to normalize their diplomatic relationship and quite often these promises, political promises, have been broken by the parties concerned.  That’s what, and why, Mr. [Victor] Angelo has reported to the Security Council.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, on Myanmar, a verdict on the charges against Madame Aung San Suu Kyi is expected on Friday.  In a meeting with the Senior General Than Shwe, you had requested that all charges against her be dropped.  How disappointed are you that the military junta has ignored your request, and also has not responded to any of your other proposals in a concrete manner?

Secretary-General: Again, I have been closely following the developments in the situation in Myanmar since my return.  I hope they will keep their pledges, which were conveyed to the Security Council a few days ago, officially -- that at the request of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, they would be taking necessary procedures to grant amnesty to political prisoners.  Detailed information has not been given, and I am concerned that they are continuing this judicial process on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  When I was there, I made it quite clear repeatedly that all the charges should be dropped and she should be freed.  We will continue to press on this issue.  That’s what I can tell you at this time.

Question:  Can you comment on your employee, Ms. Lubna [al-]Hussein, in Sudan who faces 40 lashes for wearing pants?  Have you made a plea on her behalf?  She’s also said that she will resign from the UN and take the punishment to try to change the law.

Secretary-General:  The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has informed me about this case.  I am, of course, deeply concerned.  The United Nations will make every effort to ensure that the rights of its staff members are protected.  The flogging is against the international human rights standards.  I call on all parties to live up to their obligations under all relevant international instruments.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, regarding the recent situation in South Lebanon -- we heard from the tripartite meeting in Naqoura recently that the Israelis made a threat to attack civilian areas once any aggression happens in the south of Lebanon.  What’s your reaction to that?

Secretary-General: I’m not aware of any imminent Israeli plans.  But whatever the situation may be, again, it was a source of great concern that there were serious violations of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).  My Special Coordinator, Mr. Michael Williams, and General [Claudio] Graziano [Force Commander] of UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] -- they are all in the process of consulting on this matter with the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Lebanese Government, as well as Israeli Government officials, to, first of all, prevent any further violation of 1701 -- that effort will continue.  I would, again, strongly urge that, while we have seen encouraging developments of the situation politically and in terms of security and stabilization in Lebanon, all the parties concerned should fully cooperate, so that this fragile peace and political stability should be able to maintain its own course.  That’s the best way now to see the resolution of this issue, as well as the implementation of [Security] Council resolution 1701.  I also hope that the Israeli Government would look at all the pending issues to be resolved.

Question:  Nice to see you dressing down.  I wanted you to comment on the recent amnesty that the Nigerian Federal Government has granted to the militants in the Niger delta.  What is your reaction to the fact that they’re asking all the militants who have caused so much harm to go free within a limited period of time?

Secretary-General:  When I was attending the G-8 Summit meeting in Italy, I had in-depth discussions, a bilateral meeting with the President of Nigeria.  And, yes, I am concerned about the reports coming from Nigeria about the deteriorating security situation, the sectarian violence in parts of northern Nigeria, particularly last weekend.  I condemned the unnecessary loss of human lives and destruction of property, as a result of militant attacks.  I hope that those behind the attacks will be identified and brought to justice in accordance with the law.  I call upon the leadership of the Government of Nigeria, law enforcement and security agencies, as well as religious and community leaders, to work together to address the underlying causes of the frequent religious clashes in Nigeria, so that a resolution could be found through dialogue, tolerance and also understanding.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, are you willing to go to Pyongyang to pave the way for a direct dialogue between the US and North Korea?  You’re used to going to different places, to difficult places.

Secretary-General:  Yes, I know.  The situation in the Korean peninsula is very serious, and whatever I can do as the Secretary-General, I am willing to do, including my own visit to Pyongyang.  However, I need to find out when it would be an appropriate time for me to visit.  I am not able to give you any answer at this time.

Question:   Mr. Secretary-General.  Ms. Rebiya Kadeer -- she is the exiled leader of the Uighur Muslim community in western China -- she said today in Tokyo, just today, that more than 10,000 Muslim Uighurs have disappeared from Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Province, and she’s asking for the establishment of an international fact-finding commission or committee to go and look into the disappearance of these 10,000 people or more, which nobody has been able to find.  In your talks with the Chinese, have you raised this matter?  Are you willing to look into this issue of setting up a commission? 

And, just for the record, I don’t think personally that you have answered Tarek’s question on the call of Israel for the Arabs to recognize Israel as a Jewish State, which runs contrary to [resolution] 194, the right of return, and which will threaten the deportation or repatriation of 8 million Arab Israelis who live in Israel.  I don’t think you really answered it.  President [Bill] Clinton sitting beside you here -- he thought that was unrealistic and unacceptable last time.

Secretary-General:  On this situation in China, in Xinjiang.  First of all, I’m not aware of any detailed information on the exact situation about this number of people -- you said 10,000, but, first of all, I will have to look at the case for exact information.  I do not have any such information on what she said.  Basically, I was deeply saddened by the loss of life and violence that took place recently in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China.  I stand by the universal principle that, wherever the causes of differences of opinion may be, this should be resolved peacefully, without resorting to violence.  In that regard, I condemn all this violence -- those people who resorted to violence.  And for any specific matters, I have to look at this issue.

On the return of refugees, that is one of the very important, fundamental questions in addressing this issue.  I told you that I would not go into anything further.

Question: But resolution 194 calls for the return of refugees.  That’s a United Nations resolution.

Secretary-General:  There have been many important resolutions that have been adopted by the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly, and these resolutions should pave the basis for consultations [with the parties].

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General.  You have so many problems in front of you, and it’s very difficult to solve all of them.  On Cyprus, do you have any idea -- this has been going on for 30 years, as you know -- do you have any suggestions, any ideas for the future?

Secretary-General:  During the last 30-year-long conflict period, I think we have seen in the last several months the most encouraging developments of the situation through very frequent bilateral talks between the two leaders of the two communities.  The United Nations, through our Special Envoy, Mr. [Alexander] Downer, and at my level also, have been strongly supporting these negotiations between the two leaders of the two communities.  And they have made significant progress, which we have not been able to see during the last three decades.  That’s quite commendable.  They have been meeting around 30 times now.  They have completed the first round of their meetings on many important subjects, including security and property issues.  I hope that they will be able to finish their consultations, negotiations, as soon as possible.  But they have taken many important, encouraging issues which have been very much appreciated by the international community.  We will continue to support their efforts.   And I have met on many occasions with Mr. [Mehmet Ali] Talat and Mr. [Dimitris] Christofias.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, a number of Nobel Prize winners have called on you to appoint a special envoy to Iran to investigate the human rights abuses.  What was your response?  And could you tell us, in general, your engagement with Iran in recent weeks?

Secretary-General:  I have received such a request directly from an Iranian Nobel Peace Laureate, as well as some Iranian communities and humanitarian communities, on that.  I am aware of their concern and their wish.  At this time, I have been very closely monitoring the situations which have been taking place in Iran.  I’m still in the process of reviewing all the situations there.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, during your previous press conference, you said that you were trying to be the voice of the voiceless.  My question is a follow-up about China’s operation of Uighurs in east Turkestan.  What exactly has the UN done to tell the Chinese to stop the human rights violations, instead of going after the Uighurs, saying, “Stop them coming up”?

[Spokesperson: I think the question was just answered by the Secretary-General.]

Secretary-General:  You may remember that I have also issued a statement previously on this issue.

Question:  On Myanmar, if Aung San Suu Kyi is going to be found guilty, with a sentence of up to five years, what would be you reaction to that?

Secretary-General:  My reaction will come when we really see what will happen there.  Let me answer your questions later, but whatever the case may be, they will have missed a very important opportunity, first of all, to engage with the international community, and they will be betraying the expectations and wishes of all the international community who really want to see Myanmar fully integrated as a member of the international community, who really want to see Daw Aung San Suu Kyi freed, and enjoying freedom and liberty, as anybody else in the world.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, there’s a report out this morning that your Human Rights chief, Navi Pillay, had refused to receive and meet with the Dalai Lama in Geneva when he goes there this week.  Does this, in your mind, send the right message with regards to human rights?

Secretary-General:  I will have to check on this issue. I have not read that.

Question:  What follow-up have you made on the commitments of the joint statement that you received from [Sri Lankan President Mahinda] Rajapaksa?

Secretary-General: In the margins of the Non-Aligned [Movement] meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, I had a bilateral meeting with President Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka.  There again, we reviewed what we had discussed during my visit [to Sri Lanka], and I strongly urged him to take the necessary measures, first of all, to improve the conditions of IDP [internally displaced persons] camps, so that they can have freer movement.  And, as far as the freedom of movement of the humanitarian workers, I think we have ensured that freedom.  And there needs to be more freedom for those people living in camps -- their living conditions should be improved.  And I also strongly urged him to reach out to minority groups, like the Tamils, and to take the necessary measures to look for this accountability process.  Those are three points on which I have strongly urged him, and he committed to me that he will abide by all pledges that he made during my visit.  And I had an opportunity of discussing this matter with some key players, like China and India, during my visit to China.  And during the time of the G-8 Summit meeting, I had a talk with the Indian Prime Minister, so that they could do all that they can.  I have also discussed with the Japanese Prime Minister and many other world leaders on these issues.  I am going to continue.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.