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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's responses to questions at event on the Olympic Truce and Sport for Social Change

London, England, 27 July 2012

Q: [Inaudible question on Syria]

SG: First of all, this Olympic Truce should be applied to all the countries, particularly I am concerned about how this will be implemented in Syria. Olympic sport begins from today, and from today until the end of these Games, everybody, all the warring parties must lay down their weapons to be faithful in implementing this Olympic Truce. Syria participated - 193 includes Syria, so they have to support and implement without failure. That’s one of my messages.

This morning I had a very good meeting with Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan here in London. That was part of our continuing contact and discussions to assess the situation and discuss about the way forward. Both I and Kofi Annan were deeply concerned about what is going on, about the inability of this six-point plan [to be] implemented, because of the lack of cooperation by both sides. But primary responsibility rests on the Syrian authorities – that is the Government who started first this crisis. Therefore, at this time, I again, together with Secretary Hague, urge them to immediately stop without any further conditions this violence. They must begin the political dialogue to have a political resolution of this issue reflecting the genuine aspirations of not only the Syrian people but all peace-loving people around the world. That’s my earnest appeal.

I was very much surprised and alarmed when our UNSMIS armoured vehicles, two vehicles, had been again attacked in Aleppo, while patrolling in Aleppo. Fortunately, nobody was injured. But I am deeply concerned.

Because of that threat and danger we have temporarily suspended our monitoring duties. But it has not been the case that we have always been staying inside. Very often our team has been going to the scene on a targeted mission, even though it has been limited. It again happened while they were patrolling.

I hope that all this kind of violence must stop. I just came here from Sarajevo and I visited Srebrenica and it was most saddening and humbling moment for me. I think you cannot find any other place in the world more difficult, more painful, for a Secretary-General of the United Nations to visit. I met relatives of the victims. I couldn’t express my feelings, my sorrow. It was beyond description. I thought, at that time, that one of my successors in the future should never go to Syria again after 20 years or 10 years to apologise for what the United Nations or international community had failed on what they could do now, to prevent the civilian population [suffering].

How long do you, do we have to endure this kind of situation? How long must the people of Syria bear this kind of intolerable situation? Well, at this time, I am deeply concerned about all these reports about the possible use of chemical weapons. One of the senior officials of the Syrian Government said they will not use chemical weapons unless they are attacked by foreign forces. I demand, again I reiterate my demand that the Syrian authorities categorically state that they will not use chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction under any circumstances. That is my strong demand. Thank you.

Q: What scope is there for narrowing the positions of the West and Russia and China to pressure both the Syrian Government and rebels to enter serious talks on political transition?

SG:  I'm not in a position to say anything about what they are taking [as their] position. Unfortunately the Security Council was not [...] united [...].  I have been urging that we should show a sense of unity, solidarity, in the name of humanity. 

Permanent Members of the Security Council, they have the primary responsibility for international peace and security, therefore they should exercise their leadership and be united. There was a good meeting among P5 and other key stakeholders on this issue in Geneva last month and there was a good agreement, a joint statement was announced in the name of all those participating, including P5s.  I sincerely hope that again for humanity to prevent further bloodshed, the leaders of the P5 should exercise their strong united leadership.