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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's remarks at joint press conference with Croatian President [scroll down for Q&A]

Brijuni, Croatia, 21 July 2012

Thank you, Your Excellency President Ivo Josipovic of Croatia,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning.
Dober dan.

I am delighted to be in Croatia and to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Croatia's admission to the United Nations. Thank you very much for your hospitality. My sincere congratulations on this very auspicious occasion, and also my congratulations on imminent accession of Croatia into the European accession starting from [July] first next year.

It is a special honour to be here on the beautiful Brijuni islands. Thank you very much for this warm hospitality.

The President and I just had very constructive discussions on matters of our mutual concern, including Syria.

Let me say a just a few words about Syria.

The situation in Syria is rapidly deteriorating. As fighting intensifies across the country, including in the capital, the suffering gets worse.

I am deeply distressed by the rising death toll, and the growing number of people who have been forced to flee their homes within the country and across the borders.

Our main concern and priority is the welfare of the Syrian people.  We must stand with them. The Syrian Government has manifestly failed to protect civilians. The international community has a collective responsibility to live up to the United Nations Charter and act on its principles.

The United Nations remains actively engaged and fully mobilized. I am sending my Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Herve Ladsous, to Syria to assess the situation, as well as the top UN military adviser, General Gaye, to lead UNSMIS in this critical phase.

The United Nations' humanitarian agencies are working with our partners to address the worsening conditions within Syria and among refugees in neighbouring countries, and we are constantly reviewing the situation, and  I am getting continuous updates.

At the United Nations Headquarters, the Deputy Secretary-General is steering intensive internal consultations.

We continue to push for a peaceful solution. And I am in contact with regional and international leaders, and I am working closely with the Joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan. The Deputy Joint Special Envoy, Mr.  [Nasser] al-Kidwa, has travelled to Doha, Qatar, where he will attend the ministerial meeting of the Arab League Committee on Syria.

I have called repeatedly on the members of the Security Council to come together and act as one with resolve to ensure compliance with the Council's own decisions.  

The unanimous vote yesterday on Resolution 2059 is a constructive sign. Now the Council must redouble its efforts to forge a united way forward and exercise its collective responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations.

First and foremost, I urge all the parties in Syria - Government and opposition forces - to stop armed violence without any condition.

The extension of UNSMIS mandate for only 30 days is a strong signal that the onus is -- above all -- on the parties, and with the Syrian Government in the first place, who must stop the killing and the use of heavy weapons against population centres. All armed operations must end.

This is their basic responsibility.  A meaningful and inclusive political process cannot take root as long as violence, fear and intimidation continue to rage across the country.

I share the concern of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that as fighting in urban areas escalates, it presents extreme risks for civilians.

All parties have clear responsibilities towards civilians and obligations they must respect.

The situation is fluid and unpredictable, but the path to peace is clear. There must be an end to killing and human rights violations, and a rapid move towards a peaceful, Syrian-led political transition and political dialogue.  

Urgent and visible steps towards a credible transition would constitute an alternative to the violence.

Members of the Security Council and members of the Action Group have the responsibility to help the Syrians take these steps and open a viable alternative to the fighting which is destroying the country.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I said, I had a very good discussions with the President.

Croatia’s engagement internationally strengthens this country, the region and our world.

Croatia and the United Nations have forged a close partnership since it joined the United Nations twenty years ago. Then, Croatia was mired in a horrific conflict. It hosted five peacekeeping operations.

The UN Transitional Authority – UNTAES – peacefully reintegrated Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium into Croatia.

Now, Croatian soldiers are deployed in United Nations missions in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.

Croatia has also showed its commitment to international peace and security by serving as a member of the United Nations Security Council in 2008 and 2009.

Croatia has made an equally impressive transition from donor-recipient country to the ranks of States that provide aid to others.

In the field of human rights, Croatia is also making its mark. My Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Mr. Ivan Simonovic, brings his national experience to his very important tasks.  

Croatia can count on the United Nations and we continue to count on Croatia as a valuable partner in addressing today’s global challenges.

Hvala. Thank you.

Q: The UN has done peaceful reintegration of part of Slavonia. Yesterday you said that it was one of the most successful missions in UN history so I was wondering why didn't you go there during your visit to Croatia?

SG: I would like to visit Vukovar. I know that the United Nations has many projects there. As you may know, I am visiting all places in the region and I have a very tight schedule. Vukovar was the site of the worst war crimes committed on Croatian soil and I hope that all the perpetrators will be brought to justice. I commend the efforts that have been made in places such as Vukovar to promote reconstruction and cross border cooperation and I encourage these efforts to continue and deepen. Croatia suffered great destruction during the war and I hope United Nations can continue to help affected communities rebuild and find path to prosperity.

Q: [in Croatian]

SG: My visit to Kosovo is taking place in a broader mission of my visit to these Balkan States, Balkan area. As you know, the status of Kosovo is governed by relevant Security Council resolution:  resolution 1244.

My visit to Kosovo will be within the framework of this resolution 1244. And as for your specific questions regrading the remarks of Foreign Minister Jeremic, who is also President-elect of the General Assembly of the United Nations, I am not aware of any detailed remarks so i will have an opportunity of discussing this matter when I visit Serbia and I will have an opportunity of making my position known.

My visit to Kosovo will be in the framework of this resolution 1244. As for your specific questions regarding the remarks of Foreign Minister Jeremic who is also President-elect of the General Assembly of the United Nations, I am not aware of any detailed remarks so I will have an opportunity of discussing this matter when I visit Serbia. I will have an opportunity of [making] my position known on that.