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

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's remarks at joint press encounter with H.E. Nasser Judeh, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan

Amman, Jordan, 31 January 2012

SG: Thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister, for your very kind words of welcome and hospitality. Ladies and gentlemen of the media,

Salam Aleikum.

It is a great honour and pleasure for me to visit Jordan at this crucially important juncture of the Middle East peace process. As I have just begun my second term as Secretary-General, I thought that the most important way for me to contribute to the peace process of the Middle East and as the way to implement one of my five priorities which I have laid out this year, would be to contribute whatever I can to the Middle East peace process.

It is also very important and meaningful for me to begin my visit to this region, starting from Jordan. I would like to highly commend and appreciate the initiative and role of His Majesty King Abdullah and also Foreign Minister Judeh for facilitating these negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians which started only this month.

I hope this will create a momentum to sustain this dialogue process.

Foreign Minister Judeh and I had extensive discussions on the matters of our common concern, most importantly on how we can work together to help promote the Middle East peace process, as was requested by the Quartet statement of September last year.

I am also very happy to visit this region when there are a lot of changes are taking place in the Middle East and, of course, North Africa. I believe that first, reform and transition to democracy should continue to take place. The Arab region has a generational opportunity to create a future it deserves. At this critical juncture, I am committed to supporting Arab countries in transition and the people that struggle for democracy, justice, dignity, human rights and economic opportunity

This also demands that we empower our women and young people.

Dignity and justice in this region are threatened, not only by authoritarian rule, but also by occupation and conflict.

Tomorrow, I will meet the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. A two State solution where Israel and Palestinians can live side by side in peace and security is long overdue. We must all do our part to break this impasse. In that regard, I really, again, highly appreciate the initiative of the leadership of the Jordanian Government.

I hope that the preparatory meetings which have taken place for five rounds of meetings here will continue and will ultimately lead to serious negotiations to reach an agreement for a two State solution by the end of this year, as envisaged by the Quartet.

In the short term, it is essential that provocations stop, as called for by the Quartet and that the parties build confidence and sustain these nascent talks.

The Foreign Minister and I also discussed the crisis in Syria which is having a growing impact on neighbouring countries, including Jordan. I thank Jordan for hosting some 2,500 Syrians who fled the violence in their country.

The UN refugee agency continues to work closely with the Government to help those in need. The United Nations is committed to ensuring that Jordan is not left to carry the burden alone.

I am encouraged by the League of Arab States' initiative to seek a political solution to this crisis. It is more urgent than ever to put an end to this bloodshed and violence, to start a credible political solution that addresses the legitimate aspiration of the Syrian people and to protect their fundamental freedoms. In that regard, I hope that the Security Council meeting where the Secretary General of the League of Arab States El-Araby and the Prime Minister of Qatar, in his capacity as the Chair of the League of Arab States, will bear fruit, bear good results, so that they can meet the expectations of the international community.

I commend Jordan for its strong commitment to the values and goals of the United Nations.

Jordan is one of the top contributing countries to the United Nations peacekeeping operations. Jordanians are serving as senior UN officials. We have Dr. Rima Khalaf who is working as Deputy Director of ESCWA [Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia] and the current Prime Minister - he was a judge of the International Court of Justice. We need more and more such contributions from the Jordanian people and we are ready to work together with Jordanian Government and people. We work together for democracy, stability, peace, justice, development and prosperity across the Middle East and all throughout the world. And I thank you very much. Shukran Jezeelan.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, forgive me for asking in English since there is no translation. Mr. Foreign Minister, we understand there are reports of refugee camps in the North of the country, are you expecting worsening of the Syrian crisis and more refugees to come over here, and what are you asking from the international community to help in that regard? And what do you expect today from the Security Council? W hat do you want to see Security Council do in regards to Syria? Mr. Secretary-General, you are here today but I am sure your mind is in the Security Council and what is going on there today. What do you want the Security Council to do today - this week definitely there will be a vote. It's not going to be today, but what are your hopes for the unity in the Security Council to speak in one voice to help the Syrian people? Thank you very much.

SG: It is been more than ten months since the beginning of the Syrian crisis. There have been many approaches and initiatives - private, public, collective or individual, including myself and the League of Arab States' efforts - [which] have been widely appreciated and I sincerely hope that the League of Arab States' initiative will bear good results as soon as possible.

The Syrian crisis has been affecting all the three pillars of the United Nations Charter: Peace and security, development and human rights

The threat to regional, even international, peace and security has affected the smooth social economic development of the Syrian people and significantly affects neighbouring countries, because many people have been fleeing and there have been many refugees and there have been serious violations of human rights.

More than 5,000 people have been killed, either by national security forces, or by opposition forces. This is a totally unacceptable situation. We can not go on like this way. In that regard, the current meeting [of] the Security Council is very important - crucially important. I sincerely hope that the Security Council members will be really united this time - speak and act in coherent manner, reflecting the wishes of international community and reflecting the urgent wishes and aspirations of the Syrian people who have been yearning [for] freedom and dignity and stopping of bloodshed - so that the Syrian people will be really able to enjoy a life of dignity. This is crucially important and I am, again, appealing to members of the Security Council to discuss this matter very seriously. Thank you very much.

Q: Your Excellency, in light of the pessimistic statements by the Israelis and the Palestinians about the peace talks here in Amman – both are already talking about the failure of the peace talks - what kind of support the United Nations can do to change both parties' attitudes towards the peace talks?

And with regards to Syria, in one of your interviews with ABS, you were asked if you believe that Bashar al Assad should leave, you said that Bashar al Assad can still have, possibly can take bold decisions, reform decisions. Do you still think that Bashar still can be able to take reform decisions?

SG: On your first question, I think everybody knows how the Middle East process has been going - almost deadlocked and there has been no meeting in last two years, expect these five rounds of meetings initiated by the Jordanian Government. That is why I am urging that we need to seize this momentum. This momentum, created after two years, should be sustained [as much as] possible, then both sides should return to the dialogue table with a sense of strong political will and courage and vision and determined will.

They should speak and they should think about their better future. And it is particularly more so for the Israeli government to [give] some goodwill gestures, so that this meeting can continue. Of course, it will also be required that the Palestinian Authorities come to dialogue table.

That is what I am going to discuss with Israel's leaders and the Palestinian Authority leaders. Of course, I am not going to detail what I am going to discuss from tomorrow. I have an opportunity of expressing my own views, as a result of my discussions, but I am very much committed to do all that I can, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, to help push the process. In that regard, I hope that the Jordanian Government leadership will also continue to play the role they have initiated.

For second question, I have been speaking [out] many times publicly, so this time I don't have anything new, except that President Assad can still take decisive and bold reform measures. He is still the leader of Syria, so leaders of any country have a broad mandate and responsibility to listen to the aspirations of their people. They have to carefully listen, and sincerely listen, to what the challenges and aspirations of their people are. Then they have the responsibility to meet such expectations. I sincerely hope, again, that he will take decisive action.

Q: Both for Mr. Foreign Minister and the Secretary-General. You mentioned the Arab League, you mentioned that there's an interest in the Arab League, for the UN to take action, and yet Russia has been blocking that action. Are there any talks at the sidelines to compromise or convince Russia to go along with the Security Council in endorsing the Arab League proposal?

SG: It is true that the Arab League initiative was supported by all the members of the Security Council. When it comes down to detailed matters, there are still divisions among Member States. I sincerely hope that this meeting, attended by many high-level representatives, including Foreign Ministers of some countries, will give momentum and opportunity to bridge their gaps of understanding on how to approach, to address and solve this crisis. I don't think we can go on like this. So many people have already been killed, even with the League of Arab States' monitoring mission there. More than a few hundred people have been killed already. Every day tens of people are killed. This should stop immediately. Therefore it is crucially important for the Security Council to act on this matter. Thank you.