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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's joint press encounter with President Shimon Peres of Israel (SG's remarks only)

Jerusalem, Israel, 1 February 2012

SG: It's a great honour and pleasure for me to visit Israel for the fourth time as Secretary-General of the United Nations. .

I am very pleased to visit at the early start of my second term as Secretary-General. President Peres and I just concluded a very constructive breakfast meeting on the situation in the Middle East and also the current situation happening in and around this area. I very much appreciate our good relationship and your leadership and I also always highly value our open dialogue and the President's wisdom.

This is a critical moment for Israel and the region. I am encouraged that Israelis and Palestinians have begun and re-engaged in direct dialogue in the framework of the Middle East Quartet and under Jordanian hospices. I hope these talks can be sustained. I talked with President Peres about ways in which the United Nations and the international community might support their progress.

Israel's cooperation in creating a positive dynamic is vital. President Peres has always been a strong advocate of the Middle East Process and a supporter of peace efforts. I am heartened to have him as a partner in this endeavour. The President and I also touched upon the regional situation. I am well aware of the many security challenges that Israel sees around it. But I also know that President Peres has always been a visionary when it comes to the opportunities for a free, democratic and peaceful and prosperous Middle East.

I remain convinced that Israel can positively contribute to these changes and improve its strategic relations with its neighbours, including by constructively engaging in the peace process with the Palestinians. And I am here to continue to talk with the Prime Minister and other senior leadership, as well as the Palestinian leadership this evening. I thank you very much.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General what is your opinion about military action in Iran in the time that sanctions act very slowly and how can it be that Iran is still a member of the UN while it calls to wipe Israel off the map?

SG: I'm deeply concerned by the latest report of the International Atomic Energy Agency which indicates some possibility of a military dimension in the Iranian nuclear development programmes. I have been urging the Iranian authorities to prove that their nuclear programme is genuinely for peaceful purposes. I think they have not yet convinced the international community. It is very important that the international community engages in dialogue with the Iranian authorities to resolve this issue peacefully through dialogue. I urge E3+3 and the Iranians to engage in dialogue. There is no alternative to a peaceful resolution of this issue. At the same time, I again urge the Iranian authorities to fully comply with all the relevant Security Council resolutions.

Q: Mr. President, the peace process has been suspended for a long time. The world is looking with frustration for it to continue and to achieve the dream of the two states side by side, living in peace and security. However, the Secretary-General is here to urge both parties to resume with all honesty and goodwill these talks, but I am sure the United Nations is looking for some kind of goodwill and gestures towards building the confidence between the two parties. Is your Government willing to consider these goodwill measures that might be asked by the United Nations, including the settlement policy of Israel that is considered illegal even by the Secretary-General on many occasions. Are they willing to look into this as a freeze maybe while the negotiating is undergoing as a goodwill gesture? Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Mr. Secretary-General, yesterday I am sure you watched the events at the Security Council and you saw the positions of all countries and it actually doesn't auger well for the resolution for the Syrian problem. In case the Security Council does not reach a unified position, does not reach a resolution, through the use of veto of some countries, what are the dangers to the Middle East by the failure of the Security Council to deal with this exacerbating problem, thank you very much?

SG: I was encouraged [inaudible] for the Security Council engaged and discussed very seriously about the situation in Syria, with the participation of many ministerial, high level delegations. I know that still Security Council members are engaging to narrow the differences of their opinions. They fully understood the seriousness and urgency of this issue and I understand that they are working on a draft resolution. I sincerely hope that they will be to take the necessary action. What is important at this time is that, not only [does] it have serious implications on the regional peace and security, it has much more important consequences of many human lives killed. We cannot wait any longer until the political process is finished, while many people are being killed. While I fully support the political solution of this issue -that is advisable-, but first and foremost, we have to take necessary action so that we will not lose any more human lives. Therefore, first all violence must stop and I sincerely hope that this will be led into a political solution. That's what I am urging the international community [to do]. And at this time, I'd like to highly appreciate the efforts and initiative of the League of Arab States. And the Security Council's meeting, which was convened at the request of the League of Arab States, was quite an encouraging one. I hope they will continue to discuss with a sense of urgency and seriousness on this. Thank you very much.


Off-the-Cuff on 1 February 2012