Secretary-General's remarks to the press following his meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil El-Araby
Cairo, Egypt, 20 March 2011SG: Mr. Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, shukran jazeelan. It is a great honour and pleasure for me to visit Egypt as Secretary-General of the United Nations. I have been visiting Egypt many times, but this visit is special, and I am very much honoured to visit Egypt at this very historic moment.
I thank you for your kind welcome and hospitality this evening. The Foreign Minister and I just had a very constructive discussion on matters of mutual concern, particularly how the United Nations can help the Egyptian people and Government in their very important, historic transition towards fuller democracy and more participatory democracy – how the United Nations can help strengthen the Egyptian Government's capacity to provide more freedom, democracy, opportunities to young people and how they can do more for gender equality, how they can strengthen more gender empowerment. And this is the moment when the Egyptian people step from the old to the new.
Now, I have come to Cairo to listen, first of all listen from all spectrums of people what the United Nations can do more, and how and what do they expect the United Nations to help them. This is the main reason that I am here. And I am here to offer the help of the United Nations as Egypt walks this very difficult, very important road. Tomorrow, I will meet with the High Council of the Armed Forces and Prime Minister [Ezzad] Sharaf.
My visit takes place just one day after the Egyptian people went to the poll to vote about the referendum for their future. And I will discuss this matter with the highest authorities: how soon and what kind of road map they have, how soon they can indicate clearly the state of emergency, how soon they can lift this one, and I will emphasize the importance of holding free and fair elections on a mutually agreed timetable, and I will stress the need for transparent and inclusive national dialogue that spans the spectrum of Egyptian society. These are the key expectations of the Egyptian people and also by the international community.
Other essential steps include free and vibrant political parties, new programmes for social equity, equal rights for women and minorities, a free press, open space for civil society groups driving change. Egypt's success will be first and foremost for Egyptians to decide and share, but, given the country's standing in the world, a successful transition can inspire the rest of the Arab world.
Let me take this moment to say about Libya. As you know, I am coming from Paris, after having attended an emergency summit meeting convened by President [Nicolas] Sarkozy, and the Security Council has taken a very historic resolution. And based on this, some of the Member States have taken very decisive action to implement, and the main purpose of this action is to protect the civilian population from being killed, from being attacked.
I would like to highly commend the leadership and such a very courageous decision of the League of Arab States to work with the Security Council, recommending the establishment of a no-fly zone. And at this time, I urge again the Libyan authorities to immediately stop military hostilities against their own civilians and fully comply with the relevant Security Council resolution, which was adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.
Egypt is standing with the international community and with the United Nations at this critical time for the region. I am grateful for this support by the Egyptian Government. The United Nations will continue working urgently to bring an end to the fighting, find a political solution and provide humanitarian relief.
Once again, let me say: we are at a historic moment. Democracy is on the march across the Arab world, and the United Nations stands ready always to work together with the Egyptian Government and people for a better world and better region here.
Q: About half an hour ago, the Libyan Government gave a press conference and read out a statement saying that they were declaring a cease-fire at 9 pm tonight, Tripoli time. Can they be trusted to deliver on this? Or is just a time delaying play? Thank you.
SG: They have already stated yesterday, in the name of the Foreign Minister and the day before yesterday, the Prime Minister telephoned me urgently, saying that they will fully comply with the Security Council resolution, and putting all these hostilities to an end. Now they have been continuing to attack the civilian population. This has to be verified and tested. I again urged them to stop fighting and fully comply with the Security Council resolution. That is the beginning, to have discussions.
Q: In a similar vein, sir, the Yemeni President sacked his Cabinet tonight. Will that be enough to satisfy the international community? Or is that again a tactic on his part?
SG: I have issued a strong statement condemning the Yemeni authorities using live ammunition against peaceful demonstrators asking for more freedom and democracy, asking for freedom of speech. I strongly condemned [this] and I have been urging them to stop such violent measures. I have been urging them to take a broad-based reform, bold reform. I am not sure this sacking of the Cabinet would be the one which will meet the expectations of the people. They have to immediately begin broad-based dialogue with the people, comprising political leaders, community leaders, civil community leaders, youth leaders and women's groups. I again urge them to take bold reforms to meet the expectations of their people.
Q: Sir, I want to know if the UN will provide support as needed [inaudible] to the January revolution?
SG: The United Nations stands ready to provide all possible assistance. First of all, we are ready to provide and expand social and economic development, promote further tourism, and we are ready, and we have the expertise and accumulated experience in providing technical support for the electoral process, constitution drafting and we are also ready to help promote further the empowerment of women. We have discussed with the minister and finance minister and other relevant ministers how the United Nations can help the Egyptian Government achieve the Millennium Development Goals, providing more jobs to youth. All these will be some areas where the United Nations can help, in specific areas. I have made my Special Adviser, also Executive Secretary of the Regional Commission of the United Nations, available to discuss all the matters with the Egyptian Government.
Q: The Security Council and the UN, they look forward to your actions to protect international peace and security, in regards to what you did in Libya. But why wouldn't you do the same in regards to the Palestinians, who have under continuous silence and the UN is doing nothing?
SG: Establishing peace in the Middle East through realizing a vision where Palestinians and Israelis can live side by side in peace and security is one of the important of the United Nations and the international community as a whole. And particularly, how to preserve and protect the inalienable rights of Palestinians – that is one of the key priorities of the United Nations, on which I have been working very hard. And providing humanitarian to particularly Gaza, the Palestinians in Gaza, and to lift the restrictions on freedom of movement and free exchanges within Gaza and with the outside world: that has also been the primary priorities of myself as the Secretary-General. I have been working very hard. Unfortunately, this Middle East peace process has been stalled. As one of the principals of the Quartet, I will continue to achieve and promote and facilitate the Middle East process while doing my best to help the Palestinian people to have, first of all, their human rights fully protected, their social participation further strengthened and promoted on the basis of relevant United Nations and Security Council resolutions.