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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press encounter on Syria

New York, 19 April 2012

SG: Good morning ladies and gentlemen.  It is a great pleasure to see you
 
I returned from Europe yesterday and this morning I wanted to take a little time to update you on recent developments in Syria and the Sudan and South Sudan.
 
On Syria: the situation remains highly precarious. Despite the government’s agreement to cease all violence, we still see deeply troubling evidence that it continues. The past few days, in particular, have brought reports of renewed and escalating violence, including the shelling of civilian areas, grave abuses by Government forces and attacks by armed groups.
 
Last night, I provided the Security Council with my assessment of these latest developments, as well as an update on the deployment of the advance team of UN military observers.  I have recommended that the Council authorize the establishment of a United Nations supervision mission in Syria, comprising up to 300 military observers supported by a civilian component.


I look forward to the Council’s early action.

This is not a decision without risk. But I believe it can contribute to achieving a just peace and political settlement, reflecting the people’s will in Syria.
 
A supervision mission with a clear mandate and the required capacities under the right conditions would contribute to improving the situation on the ground. It would help advance a cessation of armed violence in all its forms and set the stage for the implementation of the six-point plan in its entirety.

Today in Damascus, the United Nations and the Syrian Government formally agreed to a preliminary protocol outlining the functions of the observer mission and the tasks and responsibilities of the Syrian Government in this regard.
 
For the mission to succeed, we require the Syrian Government’s full cooperation, particularly in ensuring the full freedom of movement and unfettered access and safety and security of personnel, as well as the use of key enabling assets such as helicopters and other transportation.   

Again, I emphasize the Government of Syria’s responsibility to make this happen.
 
This morning I met the Ambassador Ja’afari, Permanent Representative of Syria and I strongly underscored this message.

I also want to highlight the increasingly difficult humanitarian situation within Syria and along its borders. Approximately 230,000 people, if not more, have been displaced. An estimated one million people are in need. 
 
Despite assurances from the Government, there has been no meaningful progress on the ground. 
 
This is unacceptable. I call on the Syrian authorities to recognize the full urgency of the situation and permit UN agencies and international relief organizations to organize a major humanitarian field operation to help those people in need.
 
This will be the focus of tomorrow’s Syria Humanitarian Forum in Geneva.
 
Finally, the situation in Sudan and South Sudan:
 
The last thing the people of these two countries need is another war — a war that could claim countless lives, destroy hope and ruin the prospects of peace and stability and prosperity of all Sudanese people.
 
I urge both sides to exercise maximum restraint, return to the negotiation table and resolve their differences. 
 
I call on South Sudan to immediately withdraw its forces from Heglig.  This is an infringement on the sovereignty of Sudan and a clearly illegal act. 
 
I also call on the Government of Sudan to immediately stop shelling and bombing South Sudanese territory and withdraw its forces from disputed territories, in particular Abyei.   
 
Both must stop supporting proxy forces against each other
 
Again, this is not the time for war. This is a time for leadership, for engagement, for negotiation — in the name of humanity, and in the interests of the people of both countries and the region.
 
 Along with regional and many international leaders, I have impressed on both governments the necessity of ending the fighting and returning to negotiations. They have yet to heed our call.
 
We shall continue our efforts and stand ready to help both parties. Those countries that have influence on the two governments must step up their efforts at this critical moment.
 
Thank you.
 
Q:  Thank you for the briefing. On Syria, Sir, this morning, as you said, the Protocol has been signed in Damascus between the Syrian Government and the United Nations. Can you explain to us if this Protocol deals with the questions of air support, and also the nationalities? And if now, are these going to be sleeping time bombs for future negotiations?  And on the other matter, of your Report on Article 12, you say this is an initial deployment of up to 300. When you say initial, do you see that 300 is not a ceiling for the future?
 
SG: First of all, on protocol, I said that this is a preliminary protocol.  Basically, we have agreed on most of the areas.  For support of air assets, like helicopters and fixed wings, we have requested that this issue will be discussed more closely with the Syrian authorities. This morning, in my meeting with Ambassador [Bashar] Ja’afari, I emphasized the importance of the mobility of our personnel.  He assured me that there will be full support, including air mobility. I hope that this will be kept.
 
As for the number, there has always been a [discussion regarding the] number of [people in] monitoring teams, whether 250 or 300 would be sufficient.  This is the subject of a continuing assessment of our teams.  Of course, we will have to get the support from the Security Council, but at this time, 300 is the number which I have requested to be authorised.
 
As for the nationalities, it seems that the Syrian authorities have certain concerns, but this will have to be discussed with our advance team there.  In principle, there should be no such preconditions, in nationality or freedom of movement or freedom of access to anywhere.
 
Q:  It seems to me from what you said that for the time being, there is no agreement on the air assets.  But the Security Council, and according to Ambassador [Vitaly] Churkin, they could move ahead and they would adopt a resolution without needing to clarify this.  Is clearing out and clarifying the deals and the details of the air assets a pre-condition for a Security Council resolution, and why do you keep accepting the postponements and delays by the Syrian Government?  It has become in a way that they are dictating the terms, and including, for example, that they still did not pull out the forces and they still have heavy weapons in the areas of conflict.
 
SG:  Basically, the Syrian Government has informed us that in principle they will be responsible and will fully provide air assets.  This is what they told our advance team. This was what I was informed by the Syrian Ambassador this morning. I hope they will keep their promise.  In view of the vastness of the country, and in view of the very limited number of our monitoring team, we will have to have a very efficient and effective means of mobility.  That is why we wanted to make sure that they should be first of all responsible. If not, I propose that we are willing to provide our own means of transportation.  But this may have to be continuously discussed with the Syrian authorities, but this morning, I was assured by the Syrian Ambassador that they would provide full support.
 
Q:  Will UNSMIS be able to monitor the flow of arms across the border, especially with Lebanon, where there are Palestinian groups at the border, and there is a flow of arms, accusations, from both sides?
 
SG: The monitoring team will ensure to do their best in, first of all, assessing and monitoring the situation, whether there is violence or not, and whether there is any illegal flow of arms into the country.  These are their basic responsibilities, but let us see how they will do it.
 
Thank you very much.