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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press encounter following the meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar

New York, 23 April 2012

Good evening.

I have just concluded a very productive meeting of my Group of Friends on Myanmar.

As you know, this Group has been a source of consistent support for my efforts in our engagement with Myanmar.

We have come to what I believe is a critical moment in Myanmar’s transition. And now is the time for the international community to stand together at Myanmar’s side.

We have seen encouraging political and economic reforms over the past year-and-a-half. The recent elections were a landmark. We have seen important steps toward reform and reconciliation. We see Myanmar re-opening to the world.

Yet we also recognize: this fresh start is still fragile.

Myanmar is only at the beginning of its transition. Many challenges lie ahead. Many concerns have yet to be addressed.

Yet I am convinced that we have an unprecedented opportunity to help the country advance toward a better future.

That is why, today, I am announcing that I have accepted an invitation from President Thein Sein to visit Myanmar. I will depart at the end of this week.

When I began my second term as UN Secretary-General, I identified several [generational] imperatives for our times. One of them was assisting nations in transition. In Myanmar, we have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to do that.

We must make the most of this moment.

I welcome the positive international response so far. That includes, in particular, the suspension of sanctions announced today by the European Union and similar steps announced earlier by the United States and others. We need to see more such progress, more international support for Mynamar’s efforts to reform and bring about democratic change.

My trip to Myanmar will build on my two earlier visits — the first in 2008, after Cyclone Nargis, and the second in 2009.

On this visit, I look forward to personally congratulating President Thein Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Working together, they have come far. Working together, I am confident that they will go further still.

And together, we will explore the many tangible and practical ways in which the UN can help. The government of Myanmar and its people have embarked on a path of reconciliation, democratization and development to build a better future for all. They deserve our full support.

Thank you very much.

Q: On Syria, are you concerned that the security of the monitors may be in the hands of the Syrian government rather than with any kind of UN aircraft or other forms of security?

SG: It is important, absolutely important, that the Syrian government should provide the full protection of safety and security of our monitors, and ensure the freedom of access, freedom of movement, no such obstacles. On Friday morning, I met Ambassador [Bashar] Ja'afari of Syria who told me that he was going to Damascus for consultations to convey my message to President [Bashar al-]Assad, to make sure [that there is] all the cooperation from Syrian government, including the air asset mobility. So I hope that the Syrian government will provide all such cooperation, fully cooperate with the Joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan. And I have been speaking very closely, coordinating with Kofi Annan. On Saturday and yesterday, Sunday, we have been discussing this matter.

And I am also very grateful to the Security Council. The Members have been speaking recently in a united voice, taking necessary measures in a united way, on two resolutions, particularly, most recently authorizing the deployment of a 300-member supervision mission in Syria.

I will continue to work together with the Joint Special Envoy.

Q: North Korea announced that it will so-called special action and it seems that they will conduct another nuclear test. What is your opinion about the latest situation in North Korea?

SG: It is important that the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] fully observes the relevant Security Council resolution and also respecting and reflecting the wills of the international community. The international community has been sending a clear and consistent message that they should fully cooperate with the international community by abiding by the relevant Security Council resolution.

Any further provocative measures will not be desirable for the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula. I sincerely urge them to fully cooperate with the international community.

Q: Aung San Suu Kyi says that there is a standoff between National League for Democracy (NLD) members and the military-created constitution. What is your view of that? Also, of the Kachin area where people were not allowed to vote in this most recent election - are you going to look at that while you are there?

First of all, about the first part of your question. I sincerely hope that they will be able to find a mutually agreeable, harmonious way to have smooth proceedings of this Parliament. They have gone through very historic by-elections recently that was reflected by the will of the Myanmar people. I have taken note of what President Thein Sein said about this matter and I hope that they will be able to find a resolution on this issue harmoniously for the further democratization of their country.

On the second part of your question, I am encouraged by all of the recent movement in trying to reconcile with the ethnic groups, particularly with the Karen National Union. I hope that the same will be emulated by the Kachin group. All in all, it is important that Myanmar authorities reach out and reconcile with all the groups for their smooth transition towards a further and fuller democratization process. I will have many opportunities of discussing this matter, starting with President Thein Sein, to Aung San Suu Kyi, to speakers of Parliament. I will have another opportunity of engaging the ministers and economic and social-related leaders there.

Thank you very much. Thank you.