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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press encounter after briefing the Security Council on his recent trip to Europe and Africa

New York, 3 February 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to see you again. As you know, I just came back yesterday from my trip to London, Addis Ababa, and Cyprus.

I just briefed the Security Council on my recent travels, and also provided an update on the situation in Haiti.

Let me offer a brief overview before taking your questions.

At the London conference on Afghanistan, the international community reaffirmed its long-term commitment to helping the government take on greater responsibility for security, to improve governance, and to fight corruption.

All involved must ensure that this year's elections will be an improvement on the last.

At the African Union summit, I discussed this year's push on the Millennium Development Goals.

You will be hearing much more from me on this over the coming weeks and months.

With respect to Sudan, let me stress again the importance of respecting the right to self-determination of the people of Southern Sudan.

When the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, the two parties pledged to do their utmost to make unity attractive.

Whatever the Sudanese people decide in the coming referenda, the United Nations will respect the result and work to avoid potentially negative consequences.

I was also in Cyprus and am encouraged by what I saw and heard.

Leaders made good progress, but talks need to go farther, faster.

My Special Advisor Alexander Downer will work to keep up the momentum of this Cypriot-led process.

I do believe a solution is within reach – but it will require even more courage, compromise and commitment.

On Haiti: the aid operation is complex. But we are now seeing significant progress.

The situation is largely calm. Food distribution is growing smoother by the day, and we have now reached about one million people. Banks, markets and schools are beginning to re-open.

This morning I had a meeting with the UN Special Envoy to Haiti, President Bill Clinton, who has agreed to take on an expanded leadership role in coordinating our international aid effort.

In particular, he will provide strategic guidance in our work for Haiti's early recovery and long-term reconstruction, with a special emphasis on mobilizing international support and donor funding.

We agreed that one of the most urgent needs right now is shelter.

The storm season is just months away. Important as they are, tents alone will not suffice.

In meeting this and other needs, we agreed that we must move as urgently as possible to develop a clear strategy that mobilizes all UN agencies and their partners, including national governments, NGOs and the private sector.

This includes rapidly scaling up the UNDP's Cash for Work program. So far, donors have pledged $23 million and we have put 30,000 Haitians to work rebuilding their country.

Imagine what can be achieved if we had ten times that amount of money.

Straight, off, I have asked President Clinton to launch a revised flash appeal on February 17 to carry the humanitarian effort for the entire the year.

He will also be instrumental in preparing for the upcoming donors' conference in New York, at the United Nations. Needless to say, he has hit the ground running. He will be in Haiti on Friday.

Finally, the Korean Peninsula. As I announced earlier this week, Under-Secretary-General Lynn Pascoe will lead a UN delegation to the DPRK as my Special Envoy.

The visit is meant to re-establish the high-level policy dialogue between the United Nations and the DPRK. We intend to raise all matters of mutual concern, including the nuclear issue.

Thank you very much.

Q: Thank you Secretary-General. My question is about Mr. Pascoe's visit North Korea. Why do you think North Korea accepted your Envoy's visit at this time? What is your idea?

SG: This timing has been discussed between the United Nations Secretariat and the authorities in the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea], and both agreed that those dates would be mutually convenient dates. I don't think there is any political reason or significance on the timing of that visit, but any timing or any dialogue will always be beneficial and desirable. There has been a long interval in dialogue between the UN Secretariat and the authorities of DPRK. Therefore, I think it has been quite desirable at this time that a senior level Special Envoy visit DPRK. As I understand, the last visit was in 2004.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, welcome back. In advance of your meeting, or interaction, with the General Assembly on Friday, and in light of Israel's disciplining two of its military, what are your thoughts, what are you planning on saying? Can you give us any idea on how this is going to move forward in terms of these proceedings?

SG: First of all, I am now preparing my report, based on the inputs I received from the Government of Israel, Switzerland and the Palestinian Authority. I am going to submit to General Assembly, as required by the General Assembly resolution 64/10. And I have recently discussed this matter with the authorities of the Israeli Government, and also President [Mahmoud] Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. I am also doing my best to help resume the negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership as soon as possible. That is what I can tell you.

Q: Can I follow-up on this, Mr. Secretary-General? What exactly are you doing to facilitate a return to negotiations? Are you playing a role between the Israelis and the Palestinians? What sort of a role are you playing? And, secondly, on the same answer you just gave, are you going to be, in your report, just satisfied with reporting what the Israelis have said and the Palestinian Authority has said, or will you be doing more? And did you receive any direct feedback from Hamas?

SG: I have been briefing, and my Spokesperson has been briefing on what I have been doing with the parties concerned to help resume the peace process in the Middle East. I will continue to do that. Most recently, I have spoken with Senator [George] Mitchell and President Abbas and Defense Minister [Ehud] Barak. And, as a member of the Quartet, we have been continuously discussing this matter, even in London. Therefore, even though there are not many announcements which I have been making, I am always engaged in this process. As I already said, I am now making this report. I have not received anything from Hamas, but what I have received is from the Palestinian Authority.

Q: Secretary-General, on Afghanistan. Following Kai Eide's meeting with Taliban's Quetta Shura, or members of the Quetta Shura, can you tell us what the Taliban position was? Was the Taliban amenable to further contacts with the UN? And will Staffan de Mistura be pursuing further contacts with the Taliban?

SG: First of all, you must have seen Mr. Kai Eide's own statement of denial about that report. So, that is my answer at this time.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, one year after 1860 has been passed in the Security Council, it seems there is deadlock regarding Gaza, even UNRWA hasn't been reopened or rebuilt. Is there any other thing you can do within the Quartet, or outside the Quartet, that would expedite this process and implement 1860?

SG Again, that has been one of my priorities, to help people in Gaza to have more humanitarian assistance, to have more freedom of movement, and an easing of crossings. And, again, most recently, I have been urging the Israeli authorities to do that. With their payment of $10.5 million for the damages and losses of UN facilities, then again, it would be very important for the Israeli authorities to allow construction material, so that we can go on with the reconstruction and repairs. Again, I have urged I Israeli authorities to allow humanitarian projects of the United Nations as soon as possible, to help to alleviate the suffering of the people living in Gaza. I will continue to do that.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you just went to Cyprus – it was a very historic trip. But, from here, when we watched it, the Greek Cypriots didn't seem very happy, and, in fact, they made it very obvious. What are the outcomes, the positive outcomes of your trip? And what do you think of the Greek Cypriot position on that? Thanks.

SG: You should know that the last visit of a Secretary-General was in 2003, therefore my visit was after a 7-year interval. I was very much encouraged by such a strong commitment by both leaders to continue their negotiations. And I was again, very much encouraged and touched by the strong support of the people from both sides who were chanting, in unison, shouting “resolution now.” These were all the loud and clear voices from the general population, regardless of where they were from, both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot. That was quite moving for me. I felt a strong sense of responsibility [about] what the United Nations can do more to facilitate this Cypriot-led and Cypriot-owned negotiation. My observation was that a solution was possible and a solution was within reach, and, in fact, they made significant progress in power-sharing and governance. I was quite encouraged by this. Of course, there are many more important issues: property; [territorial] and security issues. I hope they will continue. President Dimitris Christofias told me that he will issue some sort of plan for further negotiations, despite this planned [Turkish Cypriot] election, and that is quite encouraging. And I am going to have my special adviser, Alexander Downer, continuously engaged, so that this negotiation will be facilitated.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, back on Haiti. Enlarging the mandate of former President Clinton – can we say that he is the man in charge now, is the new tsar for building the nation?

SG: He will be responsible, as Special Envoy for Haiti, to muster international support and aid, both from public and private [sectors] and he will try to coordinate at the international level. And he will also try to provide strategic guidance for the United Nations involvement at the international level. This will be quite important. And I have asked him to closely coordinate with the UNDP Administrator at Headquarters and other related UN agencies, as well as, more importantly, with Special Representative Edmond Mulet on the ground, so that we can deliver some system-wide coherent assistance, including immediate urgent response and, more importantly, on the reconstruction of Haitian society. He will be coordinating on my behalf.

Q: My question is about Mr. Pascoe's visit to North Korea. Who, or what level of officials will he be meeting with? And also, are you planning on visiting there any time soon?

SG: I am sure that he will be meeting senior government officials while staying in DPRK. And I do not have any plan at this time of my own visit.

Q: Connected to this question, I have a question about the visit to DPRK. Do you [have] a message to Mr. Kim Jong-il?

SG: I do not want to disclose anything at this time, before they even go there. They will be able to discuss all the relevant matters between the United Nations and the DPRK authorities, as I said, including nuclear issues.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, on the Saharawi talks on the 10th and the 11th, do you have any reason to believe they will they bear some fruit? You know, the last few rounds in Manhasset, this one is in Westchester, is it not? And one of the members of the delegation told me they at least they are good shopping trips to New York. Do you have any reason to think they are going to bear some fruit this time, and not only to continue talks further?

SG: My personal envoy Christopher Ross has been engaging and has been discussing with all the parties concerned during last year, and particularly the informal consultation which was held in Vienna in August last year, proved to be very useful. And he made his own assessment and I am very encouraged that the parties have agreed to hold a fifth round of negotiations [on] February 11th and 12th. I sincerely hope that we will move ahead. The situation we have seen during the [last] several months has given us great cause for concern. Without dialogue, without negotiations, there are always tensions rising. Therefore having early resolution of this, again, longstanding problem would be beneficial for regional peace and security. And I hope we will have a good meeting there.

Thank you very much