Secretary-General's press conference [unofficial transcript]
Beirut, Lebanon, 13 January 2012SG: Ladies and gentlemen, Salam alaykoum, sana saeeda
I am very pleased to be back in Lebanon.
This is my first trip abroad in my second term as the Secretary-General.
But this is in total my third visit to Lebanon as the Secretary-General as you may know.
I am in Lebanon to underline my personal commitment to stability, security and peace in this country.
The United Nations has a major presence here.
UNIFIL is our third-largest peacekeeping operation in the world.
Beirut is home to our Regional Economic Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
Thousands of UN agency staff are here, working for progress throughout Lebanon and beyond.
I am grateful to all the United Nations staff in Lebanon. Their safety and security is critically important. That is why I have asked the Lebanese Government to strengthen its protection. The President and Prime Minister they all agreed to take necessary measures.
I held important meetings this afternoon with President [Michel] Sleiman, Prime Minister [Najib] Mikati and Speaker [Nabih] Berri on a range of subjects.
We discussed the implementation of Security Council resolutions and Lebanon's important contributions to the United Nations. We also discussed the current situation in Syria and its potential impact on Lebanon.
Lebanon has just finished its two-year term on the Security Council. I thanked the President, Prime Minister and Speaker for Lebanon's contribution.
The past year was shaped by dramatic developments in the Arab world. This has not been an easy responsibility for Lebanon. But Lebanon played its part, in the Security Council and more broadly.
The United Nations expects Lebanon to keep contributing to progress, and we expect the country to fully meet all of its international obligations.
This includes full implementation of Security Council's resolutions – above all resolution 1701, which ended the devastating 2006 war.
1701 has brought an unprecedented degree of relative calm and stability to southern Lebanon. The situation along the Blue Line – despite a number of serious incidents – has been largely stable since 2006.
The reinforcement of UNIFIL and the development of the Lebanese Armed Forces in southern Lebanon have provided the backbone for this calm and stability. The liaison and coordination arrangements between UNIFIL and the parties continue to work well. Both sides enjoy relative calm and stability, even if much remains to be done – as we all know.
This is true for the other relevant Security Council resolutions. Work remains to be done to ensure that Lebanon's sovereignty is fully extended across all of its territory and that there remain no arms outside the authority of the State.
I encouraged President Sleiman in his effort to re-convene the National Dialogue and to address the question of arms outside the control of the State. I also encouraged the Government of Lebanon to implement the National Dialogue's previous decisions.
As I have stated before, the United Nations also continues to expect Lebanon to support and cooperate fully with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. A judicial process is now under way, and we look forward to its outcome.
I would also like to underline the importance of Lebanon working to meet its international human rights obligations. A Lebanese national, Charles Malek, was co-drafter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Lebanon can be proud of his legacy.
Today, that means continuing to ratify key international human rights treaties, including conventions on the rights of people with disabilities, and continuing to ensure that refugees here get the support they deserve, irrespective of their eventual return to their homes. In my meetings with the leadership of Lebanon, I was pleased to learn from Speaker Berri that there is a discussion to increase women participation through an innovative system. I also strongly encouraged the President and Prime Minister to promote women empowerment and increase women in political institutions.
The United Nations will maintain its strong and unwavering commitment to Lebanon.
Our goal is the same as yours: stability, safety and a better future for the Lebanon people.
At the same time, I will keep pressing for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The establishment of a Palestinian State living side by side in peace with a secure Israel is long overdue.
Finally, let me stress how much I am looking forward to Sunday's High-Level Meeting on Reform and Transitions to Democracy hosted by ESCWA. I am encouraged that we are convening so many eminent Arab thinkers, activists and others to discuss the pressing issue of reform and democracy.
This is a critical moment in the region. It is a time for meaningful change; time to stop the violence and end injustice; time to give people the opportunities they deserve to build a better life.
Thank you very much. Shukran Jazilan.
Q: You reiterated during your interview to An-Nahar today your calls for the groups such as Hezbollah to disarm according to 1559 and 1701 resolutions. My question is that after issuing more than tons of reports at this level, what makes you confident that your call would be heard now, are you relying on the geostrategic changes in the region, especially in Syria and Iran?
SG: We are deeply concerned about the military capacity of Hezbollah and we are also concerned about the lack of progress in disarmament. That is why we discussed this matter very seriously and I strongly encouraged President Sleiman to initiate by convening this national dialogue to address all these issues. The United Nations is deeply committed to see the disarmament and all these arms outside of the authorized state authority is not acceptable.
Q: In case the Lebanese government asks the UN to amend the STL's protocol, will the UN agree?
SG: As you know this Special Tribunal for Lebanon's mandate is going to expire on February 29th of this year. In accordance with the UN and Lebanon agreement, this Special Tribunal should be extended. The how to, how long the mandate should be extended, that is something which I have to decide in consultation with the Lebanese Government and Security Council. I am now in the process of consulting on this issue.
Q: Have you discussed this issue today?
SG: I am telling you that I'm in the process of discussing this matter, consulting with the parties concerned, including Lebanon's government.
Q: What do you think about nuclear power in Israel, doesn't it pose a threat to international security? What do you think about human rights in Bahrain? What do you think about democracy in Saudi Arabia?
SG: In democratic societies, it is only natural that there is diverse opinions, whether for or against anybody, including the Secretary-General of the United Nations. I accepted this sign of democracy, a very vibrant democratic society in Lebanon. I'm very much encouraged that I'm accorded full and whole-hearted, a very warm welcome by the Lebanese government. As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, whatever I'm saying and doing has been based on universal values and my own personal convictions, without reflecting any member state's or any party's position. This is what I can tell you very clearly, that I work as the Secretary-General based on my belief and based on universal values that I'm making this very clearly, I hope there should be no misunderstanding whatsoever. That is why I have been unanimously re-elected to continue my job as the Secretary-General in promoting peace and stability and development and also promoting human rights all throughout the world. I will continue to discharge my duty as Secretary-General.
Q: Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Hezbollah made it clear recently that they do not welcome your visit to Lebanon. First of all, any comments about this statement, and second of all will there be any direct or indirect talks or exchange of messages between you and between Hezbollah?
SG: I think I have answered to your question just now. I am very happy to visit Lebanon and it is only natural that the Secretary-General working for all 193 Member States should be welcomed and should be able to visit all countries regardless where – which country - and it is only natural that there are some sort of diverse opinions among so many people, so many millions of people.
Q: Will you meet anybody from Hezbollah?
SG: We will see. That should be considered in the context of agenda, atmosphere and how the situation develops.
Q: Does the UN have any plans to set up a camp for Syrian refugees on the Lebanese-Syrian border, and have you heard from the Minister of Defense or any other official about the presence of Al-Qaeda elements that are infiltrating into Syria and causing troubles there?
SG: The case of this conflict or what we have seen here and there across Arab [countries] and North Africa, there are refugees and displaced persons and I have complimented and commended and I expressed my gratitude to the Lebanese Government for accommodating all these refugees coming from Syria, and also the Lebanese government has been accommodating many Palestinian refugees here despite social economic difficulties. This must have been a burden. For specific case of Syrian refugees who may be coming across the border, I encouraged the leadership of Lebanon to accommodate on the basis of humanitarian grounds and they should not be returned to Syria.
Q: In your opinion, does the Lebanese government have the right to modify the protocol of the international Tribunal, and what are the procedures to do these modifications?
SG: As I said earlier, first of all we will have to see what would be the status of this judiciary process which is going on. Practically, realistically speaking, we cannot expect that all the things would be complete by February 29, then this will be extended. How long this mandate should be extended, that should be decided by me, in close consultations with Lebanon and the Security Council but I'm not in a position to say anything further in detail, but there will be an opportunity of pressing my position in due time.
Q: For the people of Kurdistan, I want to ask two questions. First of all, are you basing any decisions or resolutions based on international ethics. You said so yourself. So when we are talking about Syrian resolutions or Syrian-related resolutions, why do you use double-standards? When you talk about Syrian affairs, you express your opinions on protests that are really unknown in terms of location, in terms of numbers, especially when it comes to protests that are pro-Bashar al-Assad. My second question is pertaining to Turkey. Since ten years [inaudible] in Kurdistan Turkey has been witnessing massive protests against the Turkish regime, and Turkey human rights agencies has become the largest prison for journalists, or even killed, and deputies who are elected. Doesn't this necessitate an indictment, or at least a denunciation from the Security Council against these violations of human rights? Thank you.
SG: If you read carefully all the statements and discussions which have been issued by me and by the United Nations and relevant organizations, there have been many such occasions where I expressed my concerns and positions on that particular issue. Of course, you cannot expect all the same measures for all the cases. Each case is different and unique, and which requires sometimes different approaches. But when it comes to human rights, this is a universally accepted principle which must be protected. Protecting human lives, and in particular the civilian population, this is a most important priority which the United Nations is committed to. Thank you very much.
Q: I am from the Saudi Press Agency. You have met with Lebanese officials and insisted on the integrity of Lebanon sovereignty over all its territories. What does the UN think about the violation by Israel, especially after we saw [inaudible] missiles launched into Sheba'a Farms in Lebanon?
SG: This is a very important part of full implementation of Security Council resolution 1701. I discussed this issue at length with the President and Prime Minister and Speaker. There are some achievements which have been realized, but still there are many more things which have to be done. One, what you mentioned, is one of the very important areas. I have been raising this issue with the Israeli authorities all the time. This is a violation of 1701, and I will continue to raise this issue in the future.
Thank you very much. Shukran.