Secretary-General's remarks at Press Conference [full transcript]
Masdar City, United Arab Emirates, 17 January 2011It is a pleasure to be here. I thank everyone at Masdar City for their hospitality.
Here in the United Arab Emirates, I feel as if I am making two visits at once.
The first, to a UN Member State, the United Arab Emirates, that provides important support for our work around the world.
The second, to the future – a sustainable, clean-energy future, as showcased here in Masdar.
The energy transformation and other ideas and technologies on display here are essential
for minimizing climate risks, meeting the Millennium Development Goals, generating economic growth, and ensuring the health of people and the planet alike.
The fact that Masdar is the brainchild of one of the world's major oil economies is truly inspiring.
We need a global clean energy revolution.
I look forward to continuing to work with all partners - including the private sector - to usher in an era of affordable energy for all.
Today's summit is an important step in that direction, and I thank all involved for their vision and initiative. I have seen here at Masdar City how good leadership can translate a great vision into reality.
Before taking your questions, let me just say a few words about some of the peace and security challenges we are facing in this region.
I am closely monitoring developments in Lebanon.
I strongly support the work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
It is an independent court of law established at the request of the Government of Lebanon, with a clear mandate from the United Nations Security Council.
The independent judicial process should not be linked with any political debate. It is important not to prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
And no one should politicize the work of the Tribunal. In this context, I would like to stress the need for calm, dialogue and respect for the country's laws and Constitution.
I reiterate my full support for the independent work of the Special Tribunal and I have full confidence in its staff.
I am also following the situation in Tunisia closely. While I feel encouraged by the ongoing dialogue between the caretaker government and a large array of political parties and civil society organizations, I remain extremely concerned about the continued violence and the resulting loss of lives and property.
I urge all concerned parties to ensure an immediate end to the violence. This is a moment for the Tunisian people to strengthen the country's longstanding culture of political moderation and its attachment to peace.
I call on the Government and all stakeholders to ensure a prompt restoration of the rule of law, and to respect and accommodate the aspirations of the people.
Tunisia must regain its stability as soon as possible, to pursue the path of development and prosperity.
I urge the international community to support efforts to restore genuine democracy in the country. The events in Tunisia highlight the need to address the underlying social and economic needs of the population.
Dialogue is essential in order to resolve problems peacefully and to prevent any further violence and escalation.
With respect to the impasse between Palestinians and Israelis, the Quartet has an important role to play in finding a way out, and I expect the Quartet to meet soon.
I continue to call on Israel to relieve the unacceptable conditions in Gaza and to freeze settlement activity anywhere in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in East Jerusalem.
Finally, a word about the UN's broader agenda.
Last Friday, I shared with the General Assembly my strategic priorities for 2011. I highlighted eight specific areas where a concerted effort this year will yield an outsized return.
My top priority will be to achieve sustainable development.
Last year's summit on the Millennium Development Goals adopted an action agenda. We must now press for its implementation. Through success in the Rio+20 Conference next year, we must ensure to achieve growth and prosperity while addressing climate change, energy security, food, sanitation, education and health.
Last month's climate change negotiations in Cancun achieved good progress. We must build on it, as we prepare for this year's meeting in South Africa.
Last year we also created a new agency, UN Women, which began work this month and which we hope will spearhead real gains for women's empowerment.
The agenda for the year ahead also encompasses nuclear disarmament, peace and security, human rights, humanitarian relief.
In all these areas, success also depends on strengthening the UN from within. We will continue to do just that.
Our watchwords are transparency, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness.
Thank you. Now I will be happy to take your questions.
Q: What message does the event in Tunisia send to other reluctant autocratic regimes in the region?
SG: First of all it is important that we see a restoration of peace, stability and rule of law in Tunisia. Meanwhile, we also expect that the caretaker government and any future government? will address the needs, respect the aspirations of the people, and ensure that there is an efficient and effective channel of communication between[it] and the people in addressing all of the people's concerns. And there should be [guarantees] of freedom of speech and association. This is what we hope would a realization of democratic principles throughout the world, including in this region.
Q: [in Arabic, on Tunisia]
SG: I sincerely hope that all stakeholders in Tunisia, in neighboring countries and in other countries in the region will help as much as they can so that the people and government of Tunisia regain stability, [restore] the rule of law and promote human rights. This is what I can tell you at this time.
Q: [in Arabic, on Lebanon and Iran]
SG: First of all, about Lebanon: even though there has been a collapse of government, Prime Minister Hariri is now working as caretaker prime minister, and I understand that President Suleiman is also talking with all political party leaders to form a new government. I hope that this new government will be established as soon as possible. It is important, because the people of Lebanon have the right to enjoy genuine freedom and stability. They cannot continue [to live in] this kind of instability. I also hope that the international community will [stand by] the Lebanese people. For its part, the United Nations will continue to do so. Our mission there, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has a mandate by the Security Council to help restore peace and stability, and so UNIFIL will continue its work in accordance with its mandate.
On Iran, I have been stating my position privately and publicly to the Iranian government. First of all, they should abide by, and fully comply with the relevant Security Council resolutions. It is encouraging that they have started negotiations with the five permanent members of the Security Council and German. I hope that through these negotiations they will able to make progress. So,
I again urge the Iranian government to fully comply with the Security Council resolutions and fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Q: [on work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon]
SG: I have made the position of the United Nations very clear. I will continue to emphasize that the work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is part of an international judiciary process which should be fully respected by the international community, including by the people of Lebanon and whoever elseit may concern. It is very important work, to put an end to impunity and to establish a system of international justice.
Q: Are you concerned that the crisis in Tunisia might spread to other countries in the region? [followed by question on Lebanon]?
SG: First of all, I am not in a position to comment on the implications of the situation in Tunisia at this time. What I can emphasize is that it is important for any government leaders to realize that it is their responsibility to establish and ensure the rule of law,protect human rights and provide for the basic needs to the population?In my earlier statement, I said that the situation in Tunisia highlights the need for the government to address the needs of the people, provide socio-economic development and [hold up] democratic principles.
On Lebanon, I do not have much more to add to what I have already stated. This is a matter of principle, that there should be no impunity. We must bring an end to impunity. That is why the United Nations has established a number of tribunals, starting with International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. I hope this sends a strong message down the road.
Q: [in Arabic, on food security and the situation in Tunisia]
SG: The high price for commodities, in particular food prices, has been a serious concern for the United Nations and the international community. That is why the United Nations has been leading the global task force on food security since early 2008, under my leadership. That is also why the United Nations has been pushing hard for the Millennium Development Goals and that is why we are working [to realize] sustainable development, starting with climate change and addressing food security, energy issues, and poverty, sanitation and global health. If not properly addressed by governments and the international community, these may [become] sources of instability. This is what we have seen in the case of Tunisia.