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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's remarks at joint press conference with Janez Jansa, Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia

Villa Podroznik, Slovenia, 20 July 2012

SG: Dober dan. [“Hello.”]

It is a great pleasure and honour for me to visit Slovenia at the early stage of my second term as Secretary-General. It is my second visit to this great country and I am very grateful for your warm welcome and hospitality. We had very useful and constructive discussions on the matters of our common concern.

Ladies and gentlemen, before I begin to discuss the bilateral partnership of Slovenia and the United Nations, let me just say a few words about the situation in Syria.

Yesterday, the Security Council failed to act to address the dire situation confronting the Syrian people.

Although this was deeply disappointing, the Joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan, and I will press ahead to try and end the violence and abuses in Syria. We cannot abandon our collective responsibility to enable a peaceful, democratic, Syrian-led transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.

I call on all the parties, starting with the Syrian Government and opposition forces, to stop the killing, and especially the use of heavy weapons against the civilian population. 

Let me say again to the members of the Security Council and the international community, I have been absolutely clear, while the primary responsibility rests with the parties, all of us have a collective obligation to use the tools available to us to address this situation. The Security Council failed to reach agreement yesterday. But today we must keep trying for the sake of the Syrian people and the wider region.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am very pleased to be back in Slovenia again. I always feel at home. I have fond memories of coming here in the late 1990s when I was serving as Korea’s ambassador to Slovenia.

Slovenia had just taken a very important leadership role. In 2008 they [held] the leadership role of the European Union. Since then, Slovenia has played a growing role regionally and internationally.

This morning, I had productive meetings with His Excellency Prime Minister Janša and also His Excellency President Türk. I thank them for their leadership and support for the United Nations. We discussed a number of important issues, including sustainable development, peacekeeping and human rights.

This is a significant year for Slovenia. I would like to sincerely congratulate the Slovenian Government and people on their 20th anniversary of their admission into the United Nations.

I am deeply grateful for Slovenia’s unwavering commitment to the United Nations.

I thank the Slovenian Government and people for supporting the UN in our efforts to address today’s most pressing global challenges.

In just two decades, Slovenia has made its mark at the United Nations, serving on the Human Rights Council and the Security Council. I worked very closely with President Türk when he was Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs in the early 2000s. Since he became President, he has shown great leadership on multilateral issues. With Prime Minister Janša, I have also been working very closely together while he has been serving as Prime Minister, and I am looking forward to discussing many important matters of our common concern when he comes to the General Assembly in September. 

Slovenia is a bridge-builder. This country connects past and future, north and south. Slovenia is helping other countries of the region to realize their hopes of joining the European Union.

Beyond Europe, Slovenia is sharing its own experiences of democratic transition with countries in North Africa, the Middle East and beyond to help the people there live the lives of freedom and dignity they deserve. I would like to particularly thank the Government of Slovenia for the contribution to peacekeeping operations, and particularly those very brave soldiers who are working under very difficult conditions and in dangerous situations in Syria.

Slovenia is also raising a new generation to understand and support the United Nations. I welcome the launch of the first manual for primary schools on the United Nations as a stellar example of teaching future leaders about our Organization and the world.

I fully count on Slovenia to continue building bridges at the United Nations and around the world.

I thank you very much.

Hvala. [“Thank you.”]

I am now happy to take your questions.

Q: [in Slovene]

SG: With the Prime Minister and the President and the Speaker of the National Assembly we have discussed this matter extensively: how Slovenia can contribute to regional integration and reconciliation among the countries in this region.

Peace and security and reconciliation in the Balkan area are very important, for not only regional but also international peace and security. That is why, for the first time as Secretary-General, I am now embarking on a broader mission of visiting [the entire] region, including Kosovo: six Member States of the United Nations and Kosovo. I know that the states in the Balkans have gone a long way through a very difficult conflict period. Now, overcoming these conflicts and past legacy to realize regional integration, Euro-Atlantic integration, and reconciliation will be crucially important.

I am very grateful for the role Slovenia has been playing. Slovenia is the first country to join the European Union and also NATO. And Slovenia has been sharing their experiences and know-how with other countries in this region to facilitate joining and working together with the European Union and also realizing Euro-Atlantic integration.

I am going to visit all the places and discuss this matter with the leaders of those countries, how the United Nations can work together to help them to overcome this past legacy and to reconcile among themselves so that all Balkan states can live in peace and harmony and dignity, protecting human rights. In that regard, my visit to Srebrenica will teach us valuable lessons [on] how the international community can work together not to repeat that kind of atrocities. I thank you very much and I count on the continuing role of Slovenia.

Q: Mr. Ban Ki-moon, my question is if the Security Council fails to extend the UN mission to Syria, does that mean that Mr. Annan’s peace plan is dead, and if the mission is not extended, what further steps can the United Nations take?  Thank you.

SG: Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan was appointed by the United Nations and the League of Arab States for a mission to facilitate and to implement the six-point peace plan. Legally speaking, this is different from the UN mission. While the Security Council failed yesterday to act on this draft resolution which could have sent out a very strong unified message of the international community, I expect that the Security Council will be able to act on the future of UNSMIS, the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria. The mandate expires as of today. If the Security Council would not act on that we may have to close down. I hope this is not the wish of the Security Council. We have about 300 monitors, unarmed, but they have been working under various and difficult circumstances, verifying the facts and monitoring the situations, even though the violence has not stopped. Our basic mission is to verify on the ground and monitor the situation, what is going on and also to help facilitate the political dialogue to go on. Therefore, I hope the Security Council will consider this very important mission, very positively and take action on this.        

Q: [in Slovene]

SG: Never in the past has the importance and role of the United Nations [tends to be under-]appreciated. We have been able to prevent many potentially great tragedies as we have been able to see in the case of Cote d’Ivoire, in the case of Libya, and we have been helping many Arab countries in transition, as we have seen in Libya and Egypt and Tunisia and Yemen and elsewhere.

Our main priority at this time should be to help stop the violence in Syria and also to help the Syrian people to realize their genuine aspirations, to be able to live in a society where there is no fear of violence and where all the people can live with dignity, enjoying their basic human rights. This is our basic and fundamental principle as well as mission. The United Nations will continue to carry out such a noble mission but to make that possible, the international community must be united and the Security Council should be able to demonstrate their leadership - unified leadership with a sense of urgency and acting for humanity, this has been my consistent message as Secretary-General of the United Nations.

I again urge all the parties in Syria - Government and opposition forces - to stop violence without any condition and engage in dialogue. This is their basic responsibility. At the same time, the Security Council and the United Nations as a whole must do all we can do, using all the available tools under the Charter of the United Nations. And I will continue my efforts together with the members of the United Nations.