Secretary-General's press encounter with Michael Spindelegger, Federal Minister for European and International Affairs
Vienna, Austria, 8 April 2010Danke schoen, Herr Minister, fuer Ihre Gastfreundlichkeit. Es freut mich sehr, hier in Wien zu sein. [Thank you Mr. Minister for your hospitality. I am very pleased to be here in Vienna.]
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great pleasure to be back in Vienna, a city that is very special to me, personally and to the work of the United Nations. As you might know, Vienna is my second home. I have been frequently visiting either in transit or on an official visit like this one.
Vienna is a vital centre of our global work to fight drugs and crime, and end nuclear weapons, tackle nuclear challenges, promote energy security and much more.
The Foreign Minister and I had a very useful, productive meeting. I was pleased to thank him personally for Austria's leadership in the Security Council. As a valued Security Council member for the period 2009-2010, Austria is working alongside other Council members to address a range of pressing issues of peace and security.
In that regard, the Foreign Minister and I had spoken of the future of United Nations peacekeeping operations and I highly commended the role of Austrian men and women in peacekeeping operations and as the Foreign Minister said, I highly commended the role of the contribution of Major General [Wolfgang] Jilke as the Force Commander of UNDOF (United Nations Disengagement Observer Force).
I asked the Austrian Government that Austria continues to contribute to United Nations peacekeeping operations and it would be most welcome if Austria provides some good women police officers in peacekeeping operations. Of course, we will welcome men police officers, but if you can dispatch some good women police officers, that will be most welcome for our peacekeeping operations.
In fact, Austria has taken a strong lead in highlighting the crucial role of women in building peace and preventing conflict around the world. I salute Austria's role in developing indicators to measure progress in this area.
As you know this year marks the 10th anniversary of this landmark Security Council Resolution 1325; that is about women's role in conflict and peace.
The need to continue to support Middle East peace talks, and arrive at the ultimate goal of a comprehensive peace agreement, was also highlighted in our discussions.
With Foreign Minister Spindelegger, we also reviewed current challenge of nuclear non proliferation and the specific cases of Iran and the DPRK. We need to harness the growing momentum for nuclear disarmament and develop a plan for tangible measures that will deliver it.
As you know I visited the Semipalatinsk [Test Site] in Kazakhstan standing on the ground zero of the nuclear test site. It was a very sobering experience for me and I really wanted to send out a strong message for the need and importance and urgency of ending this and eliminating all nuclear weapons in the world.
We must realize a world free of nuclear weapons. The signing of the START Treaty, between the Presidents of the United States and Russian Federation is a very great initiative of the leaders of the two countries and I hope that this will have an added impact to the forthcoming Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C. as well as to the NPT Review Conference which will be held in New York in May.
We also discussed the need for continued support for Afghanistan, while producing a substantial shift in the relationship between the Afghans and the international community through emphasizing national ownership.
In all of these issues and more, Austria is helping to make a real difference, as a UN Member State and also as part of the European Union. Beyond peace and security matters, we also spoke of supporting development through the Millennium Development Goals and I invited the Austrian Government to be represented at the highest level, the President and the Federal Chancellor, and we also discussed the need to combat climate change by working towards a legally binding treaty as soon as possible.
Our cooperation is very strong – and I appreciate this opportunity to strengthen it further.
Danke schoen (Thank you).
Q: Good morning, Mr. Secretary-General. I would like to ask you, since you just came back from Kyrgyzstan. I wanted to know, since you just returned from Kyrgyzstan, when you talked to the President there, did he implicate in any way that your meeting might be the last meeting with him for a long time? Was there any indication that there is a storm brewing in front of his palace?
SG: I think I seem to be the last leader to have met and spoken with President [Kurmanbek] Bakiyev. I don't know what will happen, the ultimate situation in Kyrgyzstan. As you know, I was in Kyrgyzstan on Friday and Saturday and I had a meeting with President Bakiyev and other leadership people there and I also addressed the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan. I could feel the tension in the air, and I could see some scattered demonstrations and shouting during my stay in the city. The pressure has been building for months, I believe, and I said what I deeply believe. I have spoken out quite loud and clear to President Bakiyev in person directly about the need to protect human rights, about the need to guarantee the freedom of speech, the freedom of media and freedom of assembly. Particularly I spoke out that it was quite troubling for me to see that the TV media was closed just two or three days before my arrival, and I raised this issue, that freedom of media must be protected. Human rights, I told them, are a bedrock principle of the United Nations and an engine of a country's prosperity. I am deeply concerned and alarmed by all this violence where many people, tens of people have been killed and several hundred people were wounded. Again it needs to be calm and any expressions of their position should be handled by both sides in a peaceful manner. That's [what I] urge as Secretary-General again.
This morning, before I met the Foreign Minister, I had an urgent telephone talk with Foreign Minister Saudabayev of Kazakhstan, who is the President of the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe]. I informed him that I am going to dispatch on an urgent basis my special envoy, Mr. Jan Kubi?. He will be visiting Kyrgyzstan tomorrow, and he was told by OSCE Foreign Minister in his capacity as Chairman of the OSCE Permanent Council that he is also, his Government is also sending a high-level envoy. We agreed that these envoys should closely coordinate in Kyrgyzstan.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you mentioned Afghanistan. In that regard how would you view Hamid Karzai's ability to unite an increasingly fragmented Afghanistan in light of his recent remarks that have certainly irked the United States and others related to fraudulent elections and even joining the Taliban? Thank you very much.
SG: As you know there was an important international conference in London last January, 28 January, where I participated. The international community expressed their strong support for Afghanistan, so that they can overcome all these challenges, political, socio-economic challenges. At the same time international community expressed their expectation that President Karzai and his Government should have good governance and try to promote the reconciliation of their own society and improve their relationship with neighbouring countries. To that he committed himself. He outlined his visions and priorities of reaching out to his own different ethnic groups and those groups who may have some different positions. That is what he said he would be committed to and I hope he will continue to do that.
The United Nations is also formally requested by President Karzai in his letter addressed to me that the United Nations should provide the technical and administrative support for the parliamentary elections, and I am going to do that. At this time I am troubled by all this rhetoric, which is not helpful and desirable at this time. The international community is now committed and ready to support Afghanistan and we expect that there should be harmonious and full cooperation between the Afghanistan Government and the international community and they should also take full measures to enhance good governance, addressing corruption and addressing all these socio-economic issues.
Q: Secretary-General, can you give me some details on the wish that Austria participates more in peacekeeping operations; for instance how many policemen and policewomen you would like Austria to deploy? And where? [laughter]
SG: As far as women police is concerned, if the Austrian Government can send a formed unit of police, that would be most welcome, one fully formed unit. But that depends on how much human resources you may have. We would welcome any contribution, I am not in a position to suggest any particular number. The Austrian Government and Austrian men and women have been actively contributing to the maintenance of peace and stability around the world.
Off-the-Cuff on 8 April 2010