Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Remarks upon entering UNHQ (unofficial transcript)

New York, 2 February 2001

Q: Sir, the Presidents of Rwanda and [Democratic Republic of the] Congo met yesterday. Can you tell us your thoughts on the significance of that meeting and what you hope to come out of the new Congolese President's visit here to the UN today?

SG: Well, I will know once I have spoken to him, but I think it is encouraging that the two leaders met yesterday and that they also met Secretary of State Colin Powell. I have spoken to him and will be speaking to him later after I have met them.

I believe that we have an opportunity to move the peace process forward. There is a new climate and a new situation which we should seize to move the process forward. I think it is encouraging that the two leaders met yesterday and I will pursue the matter further with the new President when I meet him this morning.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the UN mission to Haiti is coming to an end next week. Any new developments? Are you intending to go to Haiti for the inauguration? What is the position of the UN in all of this?

SG: We did have a long mission there, and worked with the Haitian Government and the Haitian people. Our activities are coming to an end, but our involvement with Haiti will not come to an end. We will continue that effort through our development assistance and other UN projects on the ground. I wish the new Government and the people of Haiti every success and I hope that all the efforts that have been made to install democracy would not be for nought, and that the Government will respect the rights and the will of the people.

Q: Can I ask you a question about Lockerbie? Do you think it's now time for the Security Council to move rapidly to lifting the sanctions on Libya, and what do you make of Colonel Qadhafi's statement that there is vital evidence which he is going to reveal next week but which he chose not to reveal during the court case?

SG: Well, the Security Council obviously will be reviewing the situation and I suspect the British Government would give them a report on how the proceedings went in The Hague, and to what extent the Libyan authorities cooperated with the Court.

I think, as to the lifting of the sanctions, the Council will have to determine if Libya has met all the requirements. You have noticed that there are many calls for the lifting of the sanctions, including one this morning from the OAU. The Council will have to decide what to do next.

On the question of the evidence that the Libyan leader referred to, I cannot comment because I do not know the nature of the evidence and I don't know why it was not presented to the Court.

Q: Just a quick follow up before I ask my question ... you are still involved in the Libya file, I take it, so what is your position on the way things should go? And my question actually is about the [Middle East] peace process. You have with the EU made a lot of efforts in order to bring the two leaders, Mr. Arafat and Mr. Barak, together. Have you given up right now totally about a meeting?

SG: Yes.

Q: And what's next, and who failed the possibility?

SG: I think on the Libya file, you remember I gave a report to the [Security] Council last year - that was the final report I had to give to the Council on the Libyan issue. The only responsibility as Secretary-General I have under that Resolution is to ensure that observers are appointed to monitor the prison once the Libyan prisoner is sent to Scotland, to ensure that his conditions are good and that he is well looked after, and in accordance with international law. The rest is up to the Council.

But let me turn to the Middle East. On the Middle East, the parties maintain that they got very close in Taba, following their work in Camp David with President Clinton and others. We had hoped that they could have bridged their differences, but of course time was short and the talks were suspended. We would urge them to go back to the talks soon after the elections. I think the only solution for the situation is peace. The only way to solve the differences is through dialogue, not through violence, and I would hope that, whoever wins the elections, they would resume the talks, and give hope to the people that there is a solution, and the leaders are determined to find it.

Q: Taba was successful, you are saying?

SG: The two leaders tell me, both parties have told me, that they got a lot done in Taba. They came much closer than they were, and that the differences that exist could be bridged. In that sense I think they made real progress and they should pursue their efforts.

Q: On Libya again, I know you addressed the issue of sanctions, but in general, in terms of returning Libya to the diplomatic circle, do you feel that now is the time to re-enter them into the diplomatic circle, as many people have called?

SG: I think we have to accept the fact that Libya in the end did cooperate by delivering the two people and that was a big step. Without that there wouldn't have been a trial, we wouldn't be where we are today. Some governments maintain that Libya has a lot more to do, and to account for. Of course, the issue of compensation has been raised and whether that has to be settled before the Council lifts the sanctions or the Council can act before that, is an issue for the Council. I can't really judge what the Council will do.

Q: Back to the Congo, Sir. Do you see that the situation on the ground under the new President might change, for the UN possibly, allowing in new peacekeepers?

SG: I think there are other players. It's not just the new President. There is also the other governments with their forces on the ground, and the militias who are fighting in Congo. The idea would be to engage all of them on the military front and in a dialogue that will see the situation in Congo revolve for the better. What we would want to see is progress, not only on the military front, but on the political front, because some of those fighting today are fighting because they want to have a stake or a say in the political process in the Congo. So the two are intertwined. We need to find ways and means of making progress on both fronts. This is one of the issues I will discuss with President Kabila and I know that the leaders in the region are also actively searching for ways and means of energising the peace process. I am determined to work very very closely with them. *****