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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's remarks at press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

Moscow, Russia, 18 March 2010

SG: I am very grateful for all your support and cooperation in peace-keeping operations and humanitarian assistance and realizing the Millennium Development Goals.

You have laid out all these agenda items which we have discussed.

Basically I can proudly tell you that we are on the same page. We have common positions and common views, and it's a matter of how we can work together, expediting our process of realizing all the goals.

At this time I'd like to highly commend the initiative of the Russian Government in convening this very important Quartet meeting at this critically important time. This is a time when Quartet leaders can discuss more in depth how the Quartet can best help facilitate the Middle East peace process. Now, these indirect negotiations which will begin should be further encouraged, and I believe that these indirect proximity talks should eventually lead to direct negotiations. We have seen and experienced much frustration by what has happened on the ground. This is not a tolerable situation, where so many people are affected by this situation, particularly in terms of the humanitarian situation. We will have, I'm sure, very in-depth discussions tomorrow among Quartet partners, and I appreciate again the Russian Government's position.

I am also encouraged by what Foreign Minister Lavrov stated about the current status of negotiations with the United States on follow-on measures of the START Treaty. I sincerely hope that there will be a final signing of this treaty as soon as possible. This will have a hugely positive impact on the forthcoming Washington summit meeting on nuclear disarmament, as well as the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] Review Conference in May in New York. We should not repeat the failure which we saw in 2005. We must have a very successful outcome from this NPT conference, so that the whole world can live without fear of nuclear weapons.

I'm very much grateful for the Russian Government's very strong participation in and contribution to peace-keeping operations around the world. As a Permanent Member of the Security Council and as a very respected member of the United Nations, your contribution and provision of critical assets in peacekeeping operations has been very much appreciated. And your very generous humanitarian assistance after the Haitian earthquake and elsewhere is also very commendable. And we are grateful for your contribution to the Central Emergency Response Fund. This is quite important. I can only count on your continuing support. I highly appreciate and commend the greatly increased official development assistance by the Russian Federation Government.

We need to work more closely for the realization of the Millennium Development Goals. And I can again count on the great support of President [Dmitry] Medvedev and Foreign Minister Lavrov for the successful convening of the summit meeting on Millennium Development Goals for all the most vulnerable people. We need to address abject poverty. We must address food security and we must provide sanitation and health services. These are very important goals which have been by world leaders, and I am very committed to realizing these Millennium Development Goals by 2015. I really appreciate your support.

Taking this opportunity, I'd like to tell you how pleased I am to sign with the Secretary-General of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) a joint declaration between the United Nations and the CSTO. This is a very important part of the continuing efforts of the United Nations to promote cooperation with regional organizations. Through this declaration, I expect that we will have better cooperation in addressing common agenda items, particularly promoting peace and security in this region and more practically addressing cross-border crimes, drug trafficking and organized crime. These are areas where we can promote issue-specific, very pragmatic and practical cooperation between the United Nations and the CSTO. I count on the leadership and the commitment of the Secretary-General of the CSTO. Thank you very much. Spasibo.

Q: How effective will the result of tomorrow's Quartet meeting be for tackling the situation in the Middle East region? And in your opinion, are the countries involved prepared to listen to the decisions of the Quartet?

SG: I believe that the Quartet could play a bigger role and have more of a role in encouraging and facilitating the peace process. This is our political responsibility. The Quartet is composed of the United Nations, the United States, the Russian Federation and the European Union. These are four countries or entities, organizations, which can have the best support and maximum political impact. Therefore I believe that this Quartet meeting in Moscow will have a very positive influent and impact.

As I said, proximity talks are not an end in themselves; they should lead eventually to direct negotiations. There is no other alternative to direct negotiations through dialogue. This is what we are going to work hard for. Our special envoys are working hard, working on this Quartet agreement. As a way of doing more as a Quartet member, I am going to visit, right after this Quartet meeting, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. And I will also visit Gaza. First of all, just to discuss with the leaders of the directly concerned parties to encourage them as much as I can to engage in dialogue and negotiation. And I will also try to see for myself the current situation of the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinians in Gaza.


Off-the-Cuff on 18 March 2010