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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's remarks at press encounter with the Foreign Minister of Serbia, Vuk Jeremic

Belgrade, Serbia, 23 July 2012

It is a great pleasure and honour for me to visit Serbia for the first time as a Secretary-General of the United Nations. And I thank President [Tomislav] Nikolic and his Government for their warm hospitality and support for my visit.

I had a very good meeting with President Nikolic and also Foreign Minister [Vuk] Jeremic today, and I am looking forward to meeting with the Prime Minister-designate shortly after this press conference.

Mr. Jeremic and I have been working very closely during the last 5.5 years. On peace and security issues and other issues in this region, and I am very happy that he was elected as President of the General Assembly for the next session. I am really looking forward to working with him even more closely for global issues. Again, thank you very much, Mr. Minister and Mr. President of the General Assembly-elect. You have two capacities at this time.

You said something about symbolism to me. I think that for me, I have some symbolism to share with you. This is my first visit to Serbia and he told me that this is going to be the last meeting in his capacity as Foreign Minister of this country. So for me, I have two symbolisms: I am the last guest visiting his office as Foreign Minister.

Of course, [this will be] the first for him and my first [time] to work together with the next president of the General Assembly. You can count on me.

Now that Mr. Jeremic has been elected as President of the General Assembly, like the previous Presidents of the General Assembly, 66th President of the General Assembly, he has a huge responsibility to elevate global issues.

I am sure that [we] will we work together to address all challenges while rising above national issues. And he has such a huge responsibility to deal with global issues. How to rise above the national interests and to find common ground and visionary answers to today’s most pressing global issues will be his and he can count on my strong support

Serbia and the United Nations are reliable partners. Our bond has endured through turbulent times.

During the past decade, this country and the wider region have undergone a dramatic transformation.

Countries that were mired in war are today active contributors to international peace and security.

Now, when serious problems arise, they are resolved through dialogue and legal channels.  The region’s leaders are actively promoting cooperation and reconciliation. This is one of my most important purposes of initiating my visit through the Balkan states.

This is essential for not only domestic stability, but it is also a prerequisite for enabling the entire region to move towards joining the European Union.

The United Nations is strongly committed to supporting the region in consolidating these remarkable shifts.

Our ties with Serbia and its neighbours reflect these new realities and priorities.  Where once we were engaged in conflict resolution and post-conflict humanitarian assistance, today our partnership is focused on the future.

The President, Foreign Minister and I had a our discussions focused on that point. We discussed human rights, sustainable development and the need to create jobs for Serbia's young people.

We talked about the question of Kosovo.  I will be going there tomorrow.

It is essential that both sides keep making progress through dialogue.

This region desperately needs reconciliation. Reconciliation involves recognition of other people's grievances and a willingness to make compromises. That is my message to both sides. It is essential to pave the way for better communication among ordinary people, normalize their relations and improve conditions.

Through genuine dialogue and compromise, both sides will achieve the common European future which you all aspire to.

Serbia has come so far in overcoming past difficulties with its neighbours. Now it is important to keep moving forward in this positive direction.

Throughout this visit, I have seen a widespread determination to move towards an era of joint progress and shared prosperity.

The United Nations is committed to supporting the region in shaping its future.

Thank you very much.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, Syria has been acknowledged to have chemical weapons and threatens to use them in case of a foreign attack. Can you comment on this?

SG: I have read that [they] have a possibility of Syria may be tempted to… use chemical weapons, but I am not able to verify that it is true that Syria has a considerable amount of chemical weapons. And what is of concern is that they are not a party to the OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons]. All the countries, they have an obligation not to use any weapons of mass destruction, whether they are a party or not to the convention, agreement.

It would be reprehensible if anybody in Syria is contemplating use of such weapons of mass destruction, like chemical weapons. I sincerely hope that the international community keeps an eye on this so that there will no such things happen.

On the situation as a whole, generally, the United Nations is very closely coordinating and consulting with all of the parties concerned, starting from the League of Arab States. I am going to discuss again this matter with [Nabil] Elaraby, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States. And our senor staff are very closely coordinating.

As I have announced a couple of days ago, the head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Herve Ladsous, and [UN Military Adviser] General [Babacar] Gaye are leaving for Syria today and they will assess the situation on the ground. And General [Robert] Mood is leaving his post. General Gaye will take part in this mission [United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria] for the coming 30 days, as mandated by the Security Council.

I will emphasize again, I’m urging again, all the parties – all the Syrian Government forces and opposition forces – they must stop fighting. They must stop using violent means in addressing the situation. The Syrian people have suffered for too long, you have seen such… sacrifices of the civilian population, so we have to exert all of our possible efforts to help the Syrian people overcome this tragic situation.