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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press interview with wire services

New York, 22 June 2011

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, I wonder, on the question of Syria, whether you believe that action by the Security Council would help, would be effective and could actually make any kind of a difference?

SG: I think if and when the Security Council takes a decision for their future course of action on how Syria should do, in a unified way, that would be very helpful. I have been discussing this matter with the members of the Security Council, even on last Monday. But it is part of ongoing consultation, individually and collectively, with the Security Council. At the same time, I have been doing my own role as Secretary-General, trying to help the Syrian Government, and President Assad, to resolve this issue in a harmonious way, reflecting the genuine will of the Syrian people. There is very serious concern expressed by the whole international community. This kind of message should be heard and respected. Of course, the first: he has to respect the will and aspirations of his own people. But the international community has shown strong expectations.

Q: You read about Assad's speech yesterday and the Foreign Minister made one today and they're saying "we're going to make reforms" . They just need to stop the violence - this is about foreign intervention, this is about thugs and so forth - that's their line. Does this line really have credibility or has he lost credibility?

SG: When I spoke with him, he of course explained about what was going on and he also expressed his concern that his own security forces were targeted by the demonstrators and I told him that both are unacceptable - should be investigated. But, most importantly, the will of the free demonstration and the rights of free demonstration expressions and lives of civilian population should be protected. But I do not see much credibility of what he has been saying, because the situation has been continuing like this way and how long this situation should go on like this way. And he really has to take firm measures. Two days ago, he issued a general amnesty that I welcomed and I took note of it in a positive way. But all these kinds of measures he has taken, or he is going to take, should lead to genuinely inclusive dialogue.

Q: Thank you Secretary-General. I have a question on Kashmir. During your first term, there were months of severe unrest in Kashmir and it remains as source of militants from Pakistan attacking India and causing a great deal of instability in the region. What do you make of the peace process, which has been going on for a very long time now, and both India and Pakistan can't come to an agreement. So what do you make of the peace process? And second, will you give more attention to Kashmir during your second term?

SG: I am aware of the positions of both India and Pakistan. And the Indian and Pakistan Government leaders - they have been discussing this matter among themselves and foreign ministerial level meetings have taken place. I understand that there's going to be one soon. I hope that all these issues should be resolved peacefully through dialogue between the two Governments.

Q: A question, Mr. Secretary-General, will you be taking a more active role in bringing about a dialogue between India and Pakistan for the settlement of this issue?

SG: I will have opportunities in the future. As in the past, I will discuss this matter with both leaders of both India and Pakistan how we can help or how this issue could be resolved peacefully, through dialogue.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, I understand that you have been persuading the Palestinians to come to the UN seeking statehood and you have been pushing for a dialogue, for the peace process talks to resume. Do you have an alternative to that, since the talks are not getting anywhere for years now, maybe you should try something new? And second, back in March, you supported the Arab Spring and you said, I quote that “this requires the UN to change as well.” Now, in your second term, will you be more outspoken, name and shame when necessary?

SG: The first question: It is up to the Member States what kind of decision they will have on the recognition of the Palestinians' status in the General Assembly or in the Security Council. I do not want to pre-judge or take this issue at this time because there are still possibilities of the resumption of dialogue. This two-State vision can be realized through resuming the peace process. I have been urging both parties, all the time, before they can bring this matter to the General Assembly. There is still time, even though we have not seen much progress during the last many, many years – this is quite a frustrating process. The leaders should exercise their political leadership role for the future of their own people.

Then, on the second question: You are always asking the question 'naming and shaming'. As Secretary-General, I always try to analyze the situation and try to take the best possible and most effective way of addressing the issue. When it is necessary, I have been very vocal, very strong. And when it is necessary that I really could resolve the issue through another way of engaging the leaders, then I took that approach. I will try to continue to mix all available tools - all available approaches - in the future. But you will find me always committed to the principles and the objective and reasonable way of addressing the issue. There are so many issues, so many different issues, with different backgrounds – historical, political, geographical or even ethnic elements. So it is not as simple that you say 'this or that' in dichotomy.

So it's a very complex situation. I hope you will understand all this. So this is what I have been doing and I may have to continue that way. But I am committed to the principles of the United Nations Charter.

Q: Thank you very much. I have a question on Sudan. On the independence of Southern Sudan, I understand that DPKO forces are being reformulated. Do you have enough offers for the battalions from Member States and would you hope that Japanese SDF would send engineering units to Southern Sudan? Thank you very much.

SG: I have already sent my recommendation to the Security Council and I hope the Security Council will take action, as early as possible, to establish a United Nations Mission in South Sudan, and I have already identified a Special Representative for South Sudan. Once the Security Council has decided to establish such a mission, this mission will have to have some different mandate than the one given to UNMIS. UNMIS was given a mandate of monitoring and verification. Now you are dealing with a very big, vast country where peace and stability and security are still volatile – very difficult, though we need to have enough mobility [and] adequate assets. So I asked the members of the Security Council to consider all these aspects. I would welcome any Member States, including Japan, to provide such engineering and any other logistical support to this mission.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, perhaps as a personal tribute to you, I'm told there is still speculation in Korea that you are a potential candidate for President. I'm sure you are honoured by the very thought. My question is, if there is a call, a resounding call, from Koreans that you run for President, would you stand down and run for President of the country?

SG: I have made my position quite clear, on several occasions, to the Korean public. This is simply report and speculation based on opinion polls. And I told them that I am Secretary-General of the United Nations. I am committed to my job, my work, mandated by the members of the United Nations and I hope, with this decision to give me a second mandate as Secretary-General, all this kind of speculation and expectation will fade away completely.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, a world free of nuclear weapons is one of your continued priorities for the second term, as I understand it. Yesterday, you said that you would do your best to realize denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. In this regard, do you expect a high-level delegation from North Korea to be present at the upcoming nuclear safety and nuclear security meeting in New York this coming September and at a summit in Seoul next March? And, are you involving yourself to take the initiative and to try to get involved the North Koreans internationally, to return them to the negotiation table at the Six-Party Talks?

SG: First of all, I will continue to contribute myself, as Secretary-General, to help promote favourable conditions for the Six-Party Talks to resume, so that they can discuss the denuclearization process of the Korean Peninsula.

As for the high-level meeting on nuclear safety and security which will be held on 22nd September, I expect that there will be many high-level delegations at the level of heads of states and government and ministerial. But I am not sure who will be represented from the DPRK. If you look at the past practice of DPRK's level of representation at the General Assembly, they have not been represented at that high level during the last almost twenty years, but it's up to them. I read in the newspaper that the Republic of Korea Government had an idea of inviting a delegation of DPRK to the Seoul nuclear security summit meeting, but, again, I also read some report coming from Pyongyang negative to that. But I'm not in a position to confirm or to say anything about this. I believe that the inclusive participation and dialogue on this very important nuclear security [issue] will be desirable.

Q: On the issue of nuclear security, as the UN tries to push in the wake of Fukushima a new approach, some countries are resisting the idea that the UN should take a greater role in an area that they feel is full of classified information and they are resistant to allowing the UN come into their territory and telling them what to do. How do you think you can overcome the resistance to this issue - the UN playing a more active role - both the UN and IAEA?

SG: I understand that kind of controversy or resistance - you said, resistance has been resolved. At the initial period, there were some concerns about that kind of aspect. I convened a meeting of United Nations heads of agencies, including the IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, and I made it clear the central role in addressing this issue should be the IAEA. And I appreciated the IAEA's initiative to convene a ministerial meeting, that I think is going on now in Vienna. That's the venue and forum where the Member States will discuss in a more specific and technical and detailed manner. What I'm going to do and achieve in the high-level meeting in September is that, since there are going to be the most number of heads of governments and states, it's the right time and a very appropriate time, to raise political awareness on the necessity and importance of nuclear safety and security. And it will be a very good opportunity for them to reaffirm and show me windows on what IAEA ministerial meeting will have recommended. And I made it quite clear, again, it is the national government's prerogative, their sovereign right, to determine the future course of their energy policy. This is their national decision. However, in view of such tragic consequences which we have seen after the Fukushima accident, it's important that the whole international community should be united in strengthening the nuclear safety standard and also make sure that nuclear safety is ensured. I believe that nuclear security issues will be more officially, more formally as well as more deeply, discussed in Seoul in March next year during the nuclear security summit. I believe, again, at the same time that this high-level meeting in New York will pave a good foundation for the Seoul nuclear summit meeting.

Q: Two things, Mr. Secretary-General. One, going back to what you said about Syria in your conversation with President Assad - I assume you were referring to one that happened a couple of weeks back, maybe the one where he said 'why do you keep calling me,' then you tried to call him again and he rebuffed you, wouldn't take the call in any event. What do you make of that idea that you can't get in touch with him now he's perhaps avoiding you? Secondly, are you becoming concerned at all on the subject of Libya, are you becoming concerned at all by evidence that NATO's aggressiveness in pursuing this campaign may be in inadvertently causing deaths of civilians they're supposed to prevent, and also inadvertent attacks on rebels?

SG: For your first question, I don't think he has rebuffed. I do not understand or pre-judge what his position will be. But there's always a possibility that I can talk to him. I will try. Let us see. For your second question, again protecting the civilian population - human lives - is very important. The Security Council Resolution 1973 was adopted just because of that important aspect of protecting civilian population. And I'm sure that the NATO Secretary-General and his military commanders, in conducting military operations, will pay utmost care and caution to protect human lives.

Q: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary-General. Good luck on your second term. My question is: A fundamental principle of the UN Convention against Corruption is asset recovery. This is particularly important for developing countries like Africa where high-level corruption has plundered national wealth and most of this national wealth ends up in western countries. And since 2005, when that Convention came into force, little or no action has come from the western countries. Now in your second term, will you encourage the UN agency that is responsible for implementing this Convention against Corruption to take more action? In this sense, I mean, maybe there is a publication that will let the world know where these assets are and what is really holding back these nations from repatriating stolen funds to Africa.

SG: Enhancing good governance has always been on my top agenda, whenever and wherever I've been meeting with leaders where we have reasonable concerns for corrupt practices, prevalent in those countries. I raise these issues in a very serious and very vocal way. I would not name those countries but I have been very straightforward that [they] must eradicate this corruption and I raised some evidence. Sometimes nobody wants to hear that kind of charge from the Secretary-General, but I have spoken publicly in the big meetings and the private meetings or meeting with their senior advisors. I will continue. Good governance is the basic foundation of becoming an economically, socially, politically viable State. I've been saying that the United Nations - the international community - is ready to provide you water here. If the bottom of this glass is broken, what's the use of continuously pouring this water? I've been using all these examples and experiences in my own country - how South Korea has been able to achieve socio-economic development and political maturity through making this a transparent and accountable society.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the reform of the Security Council has been in the works for a long time, with very little success so far. Do you see a chance that the Member States will come to a solution in your second term? Are you going to help them get to a result and which concept do you favour?

SG: There are several items which I want to see resolved during my second term. First, I'd like to see this negotiation on climate change resolved, and the international community agree on a globally comprehensive agreement - a binding agreement. This is going to be a top priority always. Security Council reform has been dealt [with] for at least twenty years, without much progress. You have seen an accelerated pace among Member States on the Security Council reform agenda during the last three years. And now Member States are discussing and negotiating based on a text - a third text was distributed - and this will continue. The President of the General Assembly has been, during the last two to three years, very actively engaging Member States and I hope that there will be some good progress, so that the Member States will agree on this Security Council resolution. It has been too long overdue. Just consider how much the world has changed, and there should be necessary, I think, expansion or whatever, changes in the Security Council adapting to changing situations in a more representative a way.

Q: Thank you. Do you think sanctions on Iran are helping the Iranian people?

SG: When the Security Council adopted five resolutions, and among the five at least three were sanctions measures in those Security Council resolutions, because of the concerns which will threaten the peace and security of the international community. That's their decision. This decision was respected by all Member States and it is important and the responsibility of a Member State - Iran in this case - to fully comply with all relevant Security Council resolutions. I sincerely hope that the Iranian Government will do their best to implement these Security Council resolutions, so that they can be fully integrated into the discussion of many other constructive, important issues.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General. You know the situation in Afghanistan is changing - the focus is now moving from war to negotiation – there is going to be an announcement of US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and the United States has also had some preliminary contacts with the Taliban. In all this, is the United Nations involved in bringing about reconciliation in Afghanistan?

SG: There is a growing consensus in the international community that the military operations cannot be the only means to bring peace and security and stability in Afghanistan, that there should be a dialogue and negotiations, even with the Taliban and other insurgent armed groups. I believe, and I support, the Afghan-led process of these negotiations with the Taliban for the peace and stability, while the international community led by ISAF have clear exit plans by 2014. The United Nations is ready to provide knowledge and the technical support to this. The United Nations is not linked directly with the Taliban in these negotiations, but we are ready to provide the necessary information or technical support. As you know, the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has established a Salam support group providing all the necessary assistance to the Afghan high political council. This will be a continuing commitment of the United Nations.

Thank you very much.