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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press encounter prior to his departure for Europe and Africa

New York, 27 January 2010

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for your willingness to come to this temporary building.

As you know, I leave this afternoon for London and then Addis Ababa. We shall have a proper press conference when I return from my trip.

Tomorrow's conference on Afghanistan comes at a critical moment.

The Afghan people want a larger say in their future, especially in terms of development. National ownership is essential.

At the same time, Afghans need to know that the international community will support them, over the long term, in building their institutions of government.

Moving ahead, we need a more balanced approach. Our civilian strategy cannot be an add-on to the military strategy.

Once again, I would like to take this opportunity to express on behalf of the Organization my sincere thanks and appreciation to Mr. Kai Eide for his leadership, courage and dedication in a job that involves considerable personal risk.

To continue to lead the UN mission, I intend to appoint Mr. Staffan de Mistura to succeed Mr. Eide as my Special Representative. I am grateful for the support from all important stakeholders to this appointment that will help UNAMA [the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan] extend its role in coordinating the international civilian effort in Afghanistan. Mr. De Mistura brings an enormous wealth of experience and skill to the role. He takes up his duties on March 1, and I am grateful to him for accepting this responsibility at some personal cost to himself.

The African Union summit also comes at a crucial time, involving vital issues of regional cooperation.

Elections in Sudan are just three months away. The international community must work together in Sudan to ensure the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). We must work to maintain peace and stability in Darfur as well as the broader region.

Other elections will take place elsewhere. I will discuss with African leaders how to ensure that these ballots are free and fair and bring real benefits to the countries' people.

I will also discuss climate change and its potentially devastating impact on Africa, as well as the important role that African leaders can play in supporting the Copenhagen Accord.

Finally, I plan to highlight the need to mobilize behind the Millennium Development Goals. The MDG deadline of 2015 is fast approaching. That is why I have called a summit in September in New York.

My hope is that the summit should generate a concrete plan for advancing action. It is important that African leaders attend -- and participate actively between now and then.

Let me close with an update on Haiti.

The UN mission and the UN agencies are working flat out, 24 hours, seven days. We are making progress. Relief is flowing more smoothly and we are reaching more people every day. We now have 150 health centers and hospitals up and running in Port au Prince. Banks began opening over the weekend.

This said, we have a long way to go. We need tents and shelter, desperately. The aim, agreed with the Government, is to help people where they are, with relatively few new camps.

The provision of food and escort security is also critical. I am confident, however, that the situation will begin to improve significantly by the end of the week.

The full death toll is still unknown. As for the United Nations: we have confirmed the deaths of 83 [people], as of this morning, with 32 still unaccounted for.

As we continue to meet the humanitarian challenge, we must move fast on early recovery. It is time for jobs, jobs for the Haitian people.

Our Flash Appeal for Haiti is now [77] percent funded. In this regard, I want to thank the Governments of Japan and Saudi Arabia for their recent and generous contributions.

I have made a special appeal to support a “Cash for Work” program organized by UNDP. For the modest cost of $5 per person per day, we can put more than 200,000 Haitians back to work -- working to rebuild Haiti.

We are moving quickly to deploy the extra 3,500 police and soldiers authorized last week by the Security Council. I am deeply grateful to those who have answered the call.

I welcome the international solidarity shown at Monday's conference in Montreal.

The establishment of a Joint Operations Tasking Center is an important step in effectively coordinating the combined efforts of the United Nations, international community and Haitian Government.

Meanwhile, a detailed inter-agency assessment of humanitarian needs is already underway at more than 100 sites, led by my Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

What we also need now is a rigorous post-disaster needs assessment, so that the friends of Haiti can work effectively with the Government to lay plans for the country's longer-term reconstruction when we meet again at UN Headquarters in March.

These efforts should dovetail with the long-term development plans set out, before the earthquake, by President [Bill] Clinton, the UN Special Envoy, and others.

Our ultimate aim must be to build up Haiti, better than before, working with its Government and its brave and resilient people.

Thank you very much.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, do you intend to go to Cyprus? If yes, what is the purpose of your visit? If not, what progress has been made?

SG: As I have repeatedly said, I am willing to visit Cyprus to give my help, to assist the negotiations at any appropriate time. I am still waiting to be briefed by Special Envoy Alexander Downer. I know that negotiations have been continuing until today and we will need some more time assess and evaluate the situation. I understand that there has been positive movement and, as soon as I receive some update from my Special Envoy, I will be able to decide when to visit Cyprus.

Q: A follow-up, if I may. The talks will be continued until Friday, as Mr. Downer said. So the decision is going to be made Friday, if this is the case?

SG: I have to be advised and briefed by Mr. Downer. I had a talk this morning with him, but still it is not yet clear.

Q: With regards to the Afghan Conference in London, what do you expect in terms of the outcomes for the UN role there? Do you think it will be enhanced in any way, in particular in regards to President [Hamid] Karzai's plan for reconciliation and rehabilitation of the Taliban?

SG: There are very important areas [where] we expect the international community can help Afghanistan. And also the Afghanistan Government, led by President Karzai, can come out with his strong compact in development areas and security, and the peace area, as well as good governance areas. This is going to be quite an important occasion, to be followed up within two months' or three months' time in Kabul. In London, we expect, first of all, that the international community should give a clear picture to the Afghan Government - how and in what way, and how much we can support President Karzai in his efforts to bring peace and stability and economic development. At the same time, we expect that the new Afghan Government will come out with a strong compact in the area of good governance and how to address corruption, how to enhance human rights. And there will be a very important compact for him with his people. On the basis of this development and implementation of these compacts, as well as agreements, we will build on in Kabul, in some two or three months' time.

Q: You said that it is not enough to add on to the military strategy, that a better civilian strategy is needed in Afghanistan. Could you elaborate on that a little bit? And does that include, in that regard, do you support taking Taliban members off of the terror list, as has happened recently?

SG: I am encouraged by the harmonious and cooperative relationship between the United Nations and the international community and the Afghan Government in addressing all the issues, particularly balancing the civilian and military cooperation. The United Nations will continue to play a very important primary coordinating role in managing the civilian cooperation with the Afghan Government and the international community. And one other important area is how President Karzai can promote political reconciliation with his people and with those people who do not have the same positions as him. In that regard, I understand that President Karzai wanted to have some members of the Taliban whose names could be removed from the sanctions list when they cut their ties with Al Qaeda. That will be an important subject that the international community can support.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, what do you make of the announcement by Myanmar that they may free Aung San Suu Kyi by November? Should that be done before they hold the election? And do you have any comment on the Sri Lankan election of yesterday in which the main opponent, Mr. [Sarath] Fonseka, has been essentially detained by the armed forces and is challenging the result?

SG: First, on the question of Myanmar, I would like to make it quite clear that there is no hiatus in my efforts to [have] this Myanmar issue resolved as soon as possible. We will continue to do that.

On the Sri Lanka issue, I realize that the election has been quite a hard fought one, as stated by my Spokesperson a week ago. I had been concerned at the level of violence during the campaign. I am relieved that the vote yesterday appears to have [been] relatively peaceful, despite some violence incidents. The Election Commission of Sri Lanka has declared the results, and I once again appeal for parties to abide by the decision and rules and regulations, including addressing any electoral grievances. I truly hope that all sides will see the wisdom of acting with restraint and responsibility in the interest of the nation. This would bode well for future elections and national harmony.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, just to confirm, have you received any communications with the Myanmar leadership, or attempted to instigate them to determine just exactly what their intentions are and to confirm that they do indeed plan to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as stated, at least in some media reports, in November?

SG: I have not received any official communication from the Myanmar Government on that specific question. But I can assure you that my Chef de Cabinet, Mr [Vijay] Nambiar has been continuously engaging himself with the Myanmar authorities, and as soon as we have a clearer picture about what is going on and what their intentions are, then we will have more consultations with them.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, about Afghanistan, there was a meeting in Turkey. Some of the issues came up – the countries in the region getting more involved, like Pakistan, and the US is sending more troops to Afghanistan. In this context, how strong is the UN's role going to be in Afghanistan after all these events?

SG: As I said, balancing the cooperation between the military and civilian areas is very important at this time. This is what I have been repeatedly [saying] to leaders of troop contributing countries. While military cooperation can make a significant improvement, and make things different, there needs to be civilian cooperation. The United Nations will continue to coordinate with all troop contributing countries and other major countries. It is encouraging that NATO has also appointed a civilian leadership who will closely coordinate with the UNAMA SRSG and this will be, I think, supported by the leaders who will be participating in London's meeting.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, on the AU, that you are going to be participating at their meeting soon. I want you to share a little bit more details with us what you intend to discuss with the African leaders regarding elections, and if the United Nations is going to provide any kind of electoral assistance in Nigeria. There is going to be an election this year and general elections next year. Have they asked for some form of electoral assistance and is the UN willing to offer some electoral assistance, considering the fact that, like you said, free and fair elections are becoming endangered in that continent?

SG: I have three priority agendas to discuss with African leaders. First, the development agenda. This is going to be the year of development with the Millennium Development [Goal] Summit meeting, and Africa is the continent where most of the countries are falling behind the schedules on MDGs. Not a single country in Sub-Saharan Africa is on board now. Therefore we need to accelerate their progress in MDGs.

Second, climate change. Africa consists of 53 countries and they are the most seriously affected countries and they are the ones who really need support, financially and technologically. And I am going to discuss how we can cooperate with African leaders, particularly after the Copenhagen Accord was adopted. Then I will have an opportunity to discuss with the Prime Minister [Zerawi] Meles of Ethiopia, who has been coordinating the African Union's position on climate change.

And thirdly, many regional conflict issues, including elections. I believe that this year is very critically important for resolution of all pending issues in Sudan. The elections are going to be held in April in Sudan, and the referendum is going to take place in January next year. Depending upon how the international community, and particularly African leaders, address the Sudan situation, it will have tremendous implications in regional peace and stability. In addition to Sudan, there will be elections in Côte d'Ivoire, and, as you said, in Nigeria. In Côte d'Ivoire we have been making some progress in voter registration and we hope that we will be able to have elections in Côte d'Ivoire, which has been postponed several times, take place without failure. And in Nigeria, you know the situation there. When and if there is an official request from the Government, the United Nations stands ready to provide technical assistance.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, Lady Catherine Ashton was here over the weekend and she mentioned, after a while, that she did touch the topic of the western Balkans with you. It was also announced by the Spanish presidency that this year is going to be a year of the western Balkans. Does that mean that this topic is really returning on the big, I would say, entrance to the United Nations? And what did you talk to Lady Catherine Ashton about?

SG: The situation in the Balkans, and particularly the issue of Kosovo, and in the region, has always been an important subject which I have been discussing with the leaders in the region and particularly with European leaders. Recently I had a good discussion with President [Boris] Tadić of Serbia, how we can implement this Six Point Agreement. I have been meeting many leaders on how to stabilize the situation and how to bring peace and stability to the region, and this will be a continuing subject for me.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the Israeli medical delegation is leaving Port au Prince tomorrow, after spending two weeks there, and they are going to be leaving all their hospital equipment, and I'm told, taking six young children for major surgery, or open heart surgery, directly to Israel, I guess at the Israeli Government's expense. Do you have any comments on their operation of the last two weeks, and, by any chance, did you see any of that, during the admittedly very short time that you visited a week ago in Port au Prince?

SG: It is quite unique that the Israeli Government had dispatched this medical team to the disaster area - that we very much appreciate. This is a demonstration of their commitment to humanity. I'm not aware of that particular case, but when they are bringing all these young people for surgery in Israel, that is very generous and welcome.

Q: On Israel, Mr. Secretary-General, can you give some insight into your thinking on the Goldstone report? You are going to have to make a decision very soon. What will you do?

SG: According to the General Assembly resolution, at the request of General Assembly, I am going to make my report on the implementation of the General Assembly resolution. I now in the process of receiving information from both sides; then, as soon as I receive information from the Israelis and the Palestinian side, I will try to make my own report to the General Assembly. I have not seen anything yet, so I am not in a position to tell you what my report will be. I will have to report within three months, but the three months is now coming to an end

Q: What are your expectations about next climate change conference, which is scheduled to be held in Mexico? Secondly, do you intend to run for the office of Secretary-General for the next term?

SG: About climate change, it is important that we have to follow-up and implement what has been agreed in Copenhagen. Because of all these procedural controversies which had happened, unfortunately in Copenhagen this taken note of, rather than adopted by the conference parties. Now the process is that, as was announced by the President of COP-15, was that the Member States are encouraged to associate themselves with the Secretariat of UNFCCC [UN Framework Convention on Climate Change], so that the Copenhagen Accord can become operational.

There are two very important elements which we have to implement. First of all, we have to have this financial support flow to the developing countries, in the amount of $10 billion this year, and coming for three years. I am intending to establish soon a high level advisory group on financing to discuss these matters. Then the Member States are required to state their ambitious targets as an attachment to this Copenhagen Accord. We will continue to have some negotiations, so that we will be able to have a legally binding treaty at the Conference in Mexico. That is an absolutely important, crucially important, task which we have to fulfill. There is going to be an UNFCCC negotiation meeting in early June in Bonn and there will be many important big and small negotiations. I have been speaking with many world leaders to expedite implementation of this Copenhagen Accord.

On the second question, I have answered many times in the past. I hope you will read my previous answers, what I said. It is too early to talk about my second term. I am in the full swing of addressing so many difficult issues, let me get back to work. When the time comes, I will be able to have an opportunity to state my position on that.

Q: Sur la Guinée s'il vous plait. Vous avez envoyé une commission d'enquête internationale pour faire des enquêtes par rapport aux évènements du 28 septembre. Le rapport a été publié et dit clairement que Dadis Camara et un certains nombre de leaders de la junte sont pénalement responsables de ce qui s'est passé. Et depuis, il y a eu un développement par rapport au dialogue politique dans le pays. Selon vous, quelle doit être la suite? Est-ce que ces responsables doivent vraiment comparaître devant la Cour pénale internationale? Qelle va être votre action par rapport au Conseil de sécurité et les autres?

SG: Permettez moi de répondre en anglais. As you know, I have submitted the report of the Inquiry Commission to the Security Council for necessary action. As for your specific question, whether Camara should be brought to the attention of the ICC [International Criminal Court], I think the ICC can take their own decision, because Guinea is a State Party to the Rome Statute. They have their legal authority. That's what I can tell you at this time.

Thank you.