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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press conference [full transcript]

New York, 16 March 2010

SG: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is a great pleasure to see you again.

Let me quickly go over four points of business before turning to your questions.

First: our coming push on the Millennium Development Goals.

I have just presented to the General Assembly my report on the Millennium Development Goals, titled “Keeping the Promise.”

Our purpose is to move toward the MDG Summit in September with a clear and simple message: we can do this.

Despite hard economic times, despite lagging progress on many fronts, we can still achieve the Millennium Development Goals by our target date of 2015.

This is not the place to go into all the reasons why I say we can be cautiously optimistic. But I do urge you to pay attention to this story.

With a decade of lessons learned, we know what works, and what doesn't.

We know how to make the most of new technologies.

We are beginning to reap the benefits of new national development policies and better governance.

We have learned how to better integrate our work and policies.

As I told the General Assembly this morning, for example: when you empower women, focus on an integrated strategy for health care, education, agriculture and small business, you can change the world.

We do not need new pledges. If nations deliver on the financial commitments they have already made, we can achieve the goals.

That is why, this morning, I told Member States that it is time to push the pace.

Coming out of the September summit, we need a concrete, comprehensive, results-based plan for the way ahead.

And that is what I am determined to get.

Second, Haiti.

I am just back from a one-day visit where I discussed the way ahead with President [René] Préval, Prime Minister [Jean-Max] Bellerive and other Government ministers and civil society leaders.

For Haiti, too, we need a concrete, well-thought-out plan for the future.

I therefore asked President Préval and his government to come to the donor's conference in New York, later this month, March 31st, with an agenda of Haiti's national priorities and a strategic action plan for the country's recovery and reconstruction.

We are at a critical moment.

During a visit to a camp for displaced persons in Port au Prince, I saw nearly 50,000 people crowded into a tent city on a former golf course.

When the rains come -- as they will in a very few weeks -- the entire site will be flooded.

We have plans for moving these people to safer ground, and for erecting better shelter, but we need the world's help.

So far, we have distributed tents and tarpaulins to nearly 700,000 people among 1.3 million displaced persons. We will reach the rest by the end of next month.

We have also identified five alternative sites around the capital, where we can move IDPs and where they will be safer and better cared for.

But let me be clear: we are in a race against time.

And now is the time for the international community to stand by Haiti.

The last thing the Haitian people need is a second humanitarian crisis on top of all they have suffered already.

Third, the Middle East.

As the Quartet said in its statement last week, we are deeply concerned over developments on the ground, and we condemned the Government of Israel's plan for 1,600 new housing units in Jerusalem.

As I have said before, I say again, directly and without equivocation: settlements are illegal under international law.

With regard to today's clashes in Jerusalem, a city holy to three religions: let me remind everyone that the status of Jerusalem is a subject of final negotiation. I call for restraint and calm by all.

As you know, I leave for the meeting of the Quartet in Moscow this evening, and I will work with our partners and the two sides to find a way to resume talks for a just resolution of this conflict. I will also have separate bilateral talks with the Russian leadership.

I am also gravely concerned about the situation in Gaza.

The Israeli policy of closure destroys hope -- hope of a better life for all people, hope for recovery from the destruction and pain of the recent war.

As policy it is counterproductive. It undercuts moderates and empowers extremists. It destroys legitimate commerce and encourages smuggling. It blocks the road to a peaceful future for both sides in this conflict.

When I visit Israel and the Occupied Territories immediately after the Quartet meeting, I will go to Gaza so that I can assess the situation for myself, first-hand.

It is time for a change of direction.

Fourth, climate change.

I am encouraged by the response of governments, scientific institutions and environmental activists to the launch of the independent review of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change].

As we look to the forthcoming release of the final report on Copenhagen, I am pleased to note that 110 countries representing more than 80 percent of global emissions have expressed support for the Copenhagen Accord.

This is an important advance toward Cancun.

A final note: I am pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Anthony Lake as the new Executive Director of UNICEF, succeeding Ann Veneman.

He brings with him a wealth of experience after a long and distinguished career with the United States Government. He will assume his responsibilities in the first week of May.

I thank Ms. Ann Veneman for her immense dedication, energy and determination to improve the lives of children around the world. She leaves behind an organization well-equipped for the enormous challenges ahead.

Thank you very much. I am ready for your questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, on behalf of the United Nations Correspondent's Association, welcome to this new auditorium, 226. This is the first time -- the lighting, the setting is all changed. And the question is this: How deep is the crisis now in the Middle East and what will you try to achieve one year later during your next trip to Israel and Gaza?

SG: We have been frustrated enough. We have seen all these ups and downs in political negotiation and security and safety and the humanitarian situations in Gaza and the West Bank and elsewhere. There have been encouraging developments of the situations in the Middle East in general, as we have witnessed last year and recently. However, overall the situation has not made much progress. That is exactly why the Quartet has decided to meet in Moscow this week, and we will discuss, on all the matters, how the Quartet and the international community as a whole can contribute, first of all, to the resumption of negotiations. The proximity talks, which have been facilitated by the United States, should eventually be led to a direct negotiation between Israelis and Palestinian authorities. The recent announcement by the Israeli Government, the 1,600 settlements, has cast very negative atmosphere. This is not desirable. I condemned, in my capacity as Secretary-General of the United Nations, and the Quartet, as a group, also condemned this. And you have seen all these condemnations from the international community. These issues will be the top priority issues which I will discuss with Israeli leadership when I visit. And I'd like to see for myself what kind of impact we can bring, I can bring, to improve the humanitarian conditions in Gaza.

Q: I'm going to talk again about the tribunal, Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Mr. [Daniel] Bellemare's spokesperson, in an interview said that Mr. Bellemare is coming to New York very soon. How soon this will be? And are you ready to talk about why Mr. Bellemare didn't meet with the Syrian yet and the Israeli? And, when do you think progress will be made? By the end of 2010, as Mr. [Antonio] Cassese indicated lately?

SG: For obvious security reasons, his schedule is not known. Therefore, I'm not in a position to tell you when exactly he will be here. That is his decision and his schedule. If he comes, when he comes, he'll have an opportunity of meeting the people concerned, but please remember that he is an independent investigator of the Special Tribunal, and he has his own programmes, own authority and mandate, independent from anybody, including myself. And I sincerely hope that there should be progress in the investigation. It has been almost two years [since] we initiated this establishing of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and he has been making great efforts to make progress in his investigation. I'm sure that when he has something to take a legal process, then I'm sure that he will make it known to the world.

Q: Are you [inaudible] that this will be during 2010?

SG: I'm not in a position to speak on behalf of him.

Q: Mr. Ban, can you talk a little more about the Haiti Donors' Conference? You said you want President Préval to bring his agenda, but what's your agenda? What are your expectations and what kind of long-term financing are we looking at at this conference? What kind of commitments are you trying to get from Member States?

SG: The extent of destruction and the humanitarian situation is so enormous that the international community should pay on both aspects. It has been over two months, a little over two months, since the earthquake happened. But still, we are not yet over with this urgent humanitarian assistance. Therefore, we need to have a fully funded programme for our flash appeals, which have been funded only 49 per cent at this time. And I expect the Member States will give their generous contributions. While we are preparing to move from this early stage, urgent humanitarian assistance stage, to be there for longer-term construction and early recovery, then I hope that this international Donors' Conference on 31 March will be a crucially important moment where international community express their strong solidarity and support for the Haitian Government and people through their generous financial support.

This post-disaster needs assessment, which is abbreviated PDNA, is now being discussed right at this time in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, at the technical level. The United Nations is now participating there. On the basis of this PDNA, the Member States will make their contributions. We hope that this will progress in two phases in parallel: early recovery as well as urgent humanitarian assistance and also recovery. As I told you already, I have asked President Préval and his Government to come out with some framework of their own vision and that their national priority should be respected and fully reflected in making any reconstructions programmes, projects by the international community. There are many issues which need to be discussed among the international community at this meeting: who will be responsible and what kind of agency, reconstruction agencies should be established in addition to how much money we have to generate. These are very crucially important agendas which we will continue to discuss leading to 31 March. The United Nations and United States will be hosting and co-chairing this one and I, together with Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton, will open this with the support from countries like Brazil, Canada, the European Union, United States, and representatives of CARICOM [Caribbean Community] and several countries who will work as co-chair.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you've received a letter from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which argues that you and your office as Secretary-General really don't have any jurisdiction over human rights or alleged war crimes. The letter is about Sri Lanka, but the logic would apply to Myanmar, Guinea, North Korea. I wonder what's your response to their argument of limiting the scope of your jurisdiction, and how do you explain what some see as the delay in naming a panel compared to, say, what you did in Guinea, where you named one and it's already reported out? Some say that the NAM letter has caused you to delay naming a panel to advise you on Sri Lanka. Can you respond to that?

SG: First of all, about the letter addressed to me by the Non-Aligned Movement. It is clear from the NAM letter that there is a misunderstanding on the nature and purpose of the panel of experts that I intend to establish. I will take this up directly with the Non-Aligned Movement. On this report which you have seen quoting the Sri Lankan Government, that my establishment of this commission of experts would be tantamount to interfering in the internal matters of Sri Lanka, again this is in accordance with the joint statement issued as a result of my visit and as a result of my meeting with President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa, in May last year. It contained, this joint statement contained, a commitment related to ensuring an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws. The panel I am establishing will advise me on the standards, benchmarks, and parameters, based on international experience, that must guide any accountability process such as the one mentioned in the joint statement. Now this panel will report to me directly and not to any other body. It is well within my power, I believe. I am convinced that it is well within my power as Secretary-General of the United Nations to ask such a body to furnish me with their advice of this nature. This does not in any way infringe on the sovereignty of Sri Lanka. I'd like to make it clear that there will be no delay in the establishment of the panel.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, today in Amsterdam, your Special Envoy on Climate Change, Gro Harlem Brundtland, said that the talks on a new climate change agreement will increasingly move outside the UN framework and focus on a streamlined group of countries. She said there is going to be more of what she called a double-track system, and that the Copenhagen experience would serve as a base for discussions going on this year, but it's not only going to be focused on the UN framework, but more on what the emerging economies and big economies are committing to. I wonder if you support this double-track approach and how you feel about the UN being at least pushed somewhat to the sidelines on this.

SG: First of all, I have not read the remarks made by Dr. Brundtland. That I regard as her personal views. And I think that double track, the so-called double track, is not desirable at this time. That should be negotiated in United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). That is the firm agreement of the Member States, and that is why we are going to lead this negotiation. Of course, sometimes it is necessary in view of the large number of Member States, sometimes it may be desirable, it may be necessary, to engage in small groups on different agendas to facilitate the consensus-building process. But the official negotiation process should be this UNFCCC process. That is the firm and clear position of the Member States and the United Nations. And the United Nations will continue to lead while closely coordinating with the Member States. We have already initiated a very close consultation process with the Mexican Government, including President [Felipe] Calderón, who is the next host, in Cancun in November and December this year. They have already engaged in small group meetings. I think it is necessary at this time to have some confidence-building process. We will try to have more UNFCCC working group meetings. As you know, originally there have been two meetings scheduled. We are now very actively and positively discussing to add more such negotiation processes officially; at minimum, two or three before we meet in Cancun.

Q: I have two questions regarding the Millennium Development Goals. So, my first question is that, given the up-and-down situation of the financial society -- especially that will lead to the currency fluctuation -- all the funding which has been allocated to the projects might turn out to be a big shortage. So, in order to complete all the projects on time, on schedule, on scope, especially for those which will be completed in the coming three years, do you think there is a point for the UN or organizations like this to call for the stability of the international financial situation? And secondly, for MASSIVEGOOD, things provided to this project, such as the medicines treating tuberculosis, malaria, if they are for MASSIVEGOOD, especially in relation to the completion of the Millennium Development Goals in the least developed areas, do you think, can it be recommended with the multinational corporations if there is volatility of the money, of the currency, which leads to shortage of ability of buying the volume of the medicine -- is there any other arrangement, like lowering the royalty fee or anything in relation to that? Thank you.

SG: So, how many questions have you asked? (Laughter)

Now, this may require some more expert-level discussions on this matter. As a matter of principle, you know, everybody, most of you will be concerned about this current economic situation, including currency, financial fluctuations and, including lack of funding available. There is clearly some lack of political will. I think the most important thing would be a political will. If you have a strong political will in addressing the Millennium Development Goals, global health issues or medicines and all this, support can be made possible. But when you are going through this very difficult economic difficulties, as some countries on the European continent experienced, this clearly creates not favourable political conditions for the Millennium Development Goals and for the United Nations, which has to lead this initiative and campaign, because the United Nations ability depends upon how much and how generously and how committed Member States will be. That's a serious question for me as Secretary-General. But I am cautiously optimistic, depending upon political will, and depending upon how Member States will commit themselves. That is why I have raised this issue, convening a summit meeting on the MDGs. And that is why I am now trying to generate the political will from the beginning of this year.

This morning I reported to the General Assembly and Member States, during the coming five, six months, will negotiate on very concrete action plans. This will be a negotiated document which will have to be approved by the General Assembly as the will of the Member States. This will cover all the areas. Good initiatives already have been done: the Monterey Consensus; we have again at least two G-20 summit meetings and G-8 summit meetings this year. And there will be many such political milestones where leaders of the major countries will commit and make this happen. That's what I am going to work very closely with Member States.

As I said this morning to the Member States, and I think during my statement earlier, we're not asking any additional commitments because of this situation to realize the Millennium Development Goals. I am asking [them] to live up to their commitments already made. The Gleneagles commitment has not been fully realized yet. The target of Gleneagles commitment is this year, 2010. Particularly when it comes to Africa, they have received the least from this Gleneagles commitment. And the L'Aquila food security initiative, which was agreed in the G-8 summit meeting in Italy -- that has not come yet. Therefore, I am asking to deliver what they had already committed.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, we have all heard recently that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) will be continuing from the previously set date that was supposed, this year, 2010, to be its last year in business. My question is: do you think this is the time now to evaluate, at least in short, about the success so far, whether you think that the delivering of justice in former Yugoslavia was too slow, too expensive, and would you be hopeful that we are going to have the last two fugitives' trial in the Hague Tribunal, and what if not?

SG: When these Special Tribunals were established, they were established for a temporary purpose with a certain date fixed. Except the ICC [International Criminal Court] – the ICC is a permanent Court. Of course, the ICTY has a mandate. There has been some discussion between the ICTY and the Security Council, and again I have been also involved partly in how to have a smooth exit strategy.

There is some broad agreement now that ICTY may need at least a few more years, to 2013 or so. Our hope is that all these pending cases should be expedited. If and when these two fugitives are arrested, then we will have to discuss again how we can adjust, or we can leave it to other mechanisms - this was discussed already between the ICTY and the Security Council. At this time, since we do not have any clear idea when these two fugitives would be arrested, with the help of those countries concerned, then they should live up to their schedules according to exit strategies.

Q: This would end in 2014, or this year?

SG: Originally, they were supposed to finish their mandate by this year, but practically speaking you may have to extend beyond this year. They are now discussing these exit strategies.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, on the subject of the Middle East and your upcoming trip, the most recent Quartet statement on Friday spoke of the possibility of consideration of “additional steps that might be required to address the situation”. However, other than repeating over and over again the condemnation and the message, which I am certain you are going to do, realistically, what tools do you as Secretary-General have, or the international community have, to really get some movement here?

SG: The tools the Member States have, or the United Nations as a collective entity of all Member States – we will have to discuss in the Quartet what additional steps the Quartet or the international community can take to facilitate the resumption of peace talks, as well as the implementation of the Road Map, in accordance with international law. That we will have to discuss again.

Q: What are your recommendations or ideas of what can realistically be accomplished?

SG: Any recommendation should be made there.

Q: Do you mean that the United Nations doesn't have any concrete suggestions to present to the Quartet at the meeting in Moscow?

SG: I am discussing with my senior advisors, including Mr. [Robert] Serry, our strategy towards this Quartet meeting in Moscow, what the United Nations, as Secretary-General, can propose [as] good recommendations or ideas for the Middle East peace process.

Q: I am following up on the Middle East, Mr. Secretary-General. Despite all the international condemnation, Israel continues to push ahead with its expansion of settlements, and declare contentious heritage sites as its own. As you go into the meeting with the Quartet, what gives you reason to think that Israel may be serious about resuming peace negotiations? Do you have any reason to think that they will stop their recent actions? And secondly, there have been reports that there was a conversation between yourself and an Israeli official who asked you to take a more balanced stance. Can you confirm that conversation took place, and your response?

SG: On the holy site issues, I have made it quite clear, and the international community has made it quite clear, that this is very sensitive and important to all religious groups, [including] Christians and Muslims, including these holy sites in Bethlehem and Hebron, at this time by Israelis is not possible. It is not acceptable. That is what I have made quite clear. I have taken note that the Prime Minister of Israel has made it clear that they will be sensitive to these holy site issues.

Q: She asked about whether you could confirm and your conversation with the Israeli, I believe it was Foreign Minister, and what your response was? He said to the press that he had had a conversation with you in which he asked the UN to be more balanced.

SG: That announcement by the Israeli Government was a unilateral announcement. Often, I am troubled by just unilateral announcements. I have been engaging with world leaders on many, many occasions, by telephone or through bilateral meetings. Normally, I have not released unilaterally the contents of the dialogue, particularly when it comes to telephone conversations. Therefore, often in [this] case, you have heard from the other side of my interlocutors with whom I had dialogue -- sometimes balanced, sometimes unilateral. This is one of those cases. I have made it quite clear my position: that we have – as Secretary-General and as the Quartet - we have made the condemnation of these 1,600 settlements, and I explained why I am going to Gaza, and what I expect. But there was no mention of what I have told to the Israeli Foreign Minister. That is regrettable that that should have been discussed and agreed. Normally, diplomatic practice is that you agree in advance up to where we will be releasing to the press. You should not expect that I should release all that I have discussed or I will discuss. That is normal and agreed and established diplomatic practice to preserve confidentiality and diplomatic and political sensitivities. That is what I have been doing very faithfully, reflecting and respecting the sovereignty of Member States. But often, I have received that kind of statement through the media. One came again from Sri Lanka, most recently.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, two questions. One is about Haiti. You said that you saw a camp with 50,000 people that can be in a safer place before the rainy season is coming. I am asking you if you think that all the people displaced – 1.3 million – are going to be in safe camps before the rainy season arrives? Because it is about the flooding and also about the sexual violence is happening there. This is the first question.

And the second question is about, you said before about the Millennium Development Goals that you don't ask for additional funds, but here today you asked for additional flows of $35 billion by 2010, $20 billion for Africa. Can you specify more, if you want more funds from the international community for the Millennium Development Goals?

SG: On Haiti, those 50,000 displaced persons are the ones whom I saw and met in that Petionville Golf Club. They are just some of the still many displaced persons. Our plan is that while we have given to 700,000 people some tents and tarpaulins for shelter, we will provide the remaining 600,000 people some tents and shelter by the end of next month. We have been discussing and have been able to identify five more new sites around or outside Port au Prince, so we will try to relocate as many of those people as possible. We are very concerned that if the rainy season starts they will be fully flooded. When I saw them, there were many tents established at the bottom of this valley. So, they will be easily swept away or flooded. So it was very much a concern. So they will have to be moved out as a priority.

I was told that, even from this week, this resettlement can begin.

On MDG issues – on food security issues, global health issues, we have appealed for some additional funds during the last three years. They have been mostly reflected in the commitment made by G-8 and G-20 and also some major donors like the European Union. Therefore, of course, the more the better. What I am telling you is that even with these commitments already made, we can make progress. For example, in L'Aquila last year, the G-8 leaders have committed $22 billion, but not much has been delivered yet. There were many such cases.

Q: My question is about Cyprus, Sir. The leaders have met for the 70th time today, and they are going to have another meeting before the elections in the north. Do you see any breakthrough during these negotiations, and would you like to comment on the situation right now on the island?

SG: I had some telephone consultation with my Special Adviser, Mr. [Alexander] Downer, the day before yesterday, and as you know, the two leaders have been negotiating again, even despite this very busy electoral campaign season for Mr. [Mehmet Ali] Talat. This is very important. I am not sure how much progress they will be making, but during my visit I stressed with them the importance of making progress. And it is again very encouraging that the Turkish Prime Minister has made quite a good statement which will be also a good demonstration of the commitment of the Turkish Government. My Special Adviser, Alex Downer, visited both Greece and Turkey and he has had very good consultation and support from those two countries. We hope that if the two leaders can issue some joint statement on the agreement they will have made, that is my sincere hope. I have asked Mr. Downer to do his best to facilitate to make progress.

Thank you.