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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's remarks at press encounter with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey

Ankara, Turkey, 7 December 2012

SG: Thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister, and thank you for your very kind words and strong commitment to work with the United Nations. It is a great pleasure for me to visit Turkey again. I have been visiting quite often on matters of mutual concern. This time I am here focussing on the situation in Syria.

As you may know, this afternoon I visited Islahiye Refugee camp, and there I was able to see for myself what a difficult life they have been living in Syria. They have fled their country for freedom and prosperity and human dignity and I expressed my deepest admiration and gratitude to President Gül and Prime Minister Erdogan, the Government and people of Turkey for their compassion, for their hospitality, for their generosity in helping those helpless Syrian refugees.

I know that as the number of refugees increased to more than 135,000 in the camps, in 14 different camps, and again around 70,000 more refugees outside the camp, it seems the number has reached more than 200,000.  Certainly it will cause a great burden and difficulties in terms of security, let alone financial support [that would be required for] those refugees. I was able to meet several of the refugees. I was able to meet the families inside the tents, and I tried to give them a sense of hope, with the strong support of the Turkish people and the United Nations and I am deeply grateful for such a very generous helping hand by the Turkish Government.

I have asked for, and appreciate, the open border policy of the Turkish Government.  Without any preconditions you have been very kindly receiving and providing humanitarian assistance. The United Nations will continue to scale up the assistance, and at the same time we would expect and urge the humanitarian community to provide urgent humanitarian support.

Turkey is a very strong partner of the United Nations, in the area of peace and security, sustainable development, climate change and human rights and humanitarian assistance. We are very proud to have such a strong partnership with Turkey, and particularly Foreign Minister Davutoglu has been very active in the global field.  We discussed, as the Foreign Minister said, more on the strategic approaches - how to bring an end to violence in Syria and how to help the parties to come to a dialogue process so that they can resolve this issue through a political process reflecting the genuine aspiration of the Syrian people. That is what the international community wants, and that is what the Syrian people want. I really appreciate again the Prime Minister’s and the Foreign Minster’s extraordinary diplomatic efforts.  

We agreed to work very closely on detailed matters. In the meantime, Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi has been working very hard to put the parties together on the same track, with members of the Security Council and other key partners.  We have witnessed the welcome development of the forming of the Syrian National Coalition and at the same time we are now experiencing alarming and an intolerable situation where violence is still continuing. Again, I am urging that first and foremost this violence must stop and the political process needs to be started.

As the Foreign Minister has said, we discussed other issues on matters of common concern.  I will not repeat what he has said on the issues of the situation in Somalia and Cyprus and Palestine.  I again appreciate such great help and support for the cause of the Palestinian people. He made a very good passionate speech before the [General Assembly] vote was taken [on 29 November], and a lot of Member States have appreciated the position of the Turkish Government.

Again, Mr. Minister, thank you very much for your hospitality, and if you have any questions I will be happy to answer.

Q: Are you still hopeful about a solution to the situation in Syria?

SG:  I think I can tell, on behalf of all the freedom loving, peace loving people in the world, that we have been enough frustrated by this ongoing violence and the inability of the international community to bring peace to the Syrian people.  21 months and more than 40,000 people have been killed. It is the right time that the international community must focus more efforts with the unity of the United Nations with the members of the Security Council.  Very active consultations are taking place here and there. Turkey is one of those very active partners. The United Nations Joint Special Representative and myself have been actively discussing this matter. I am working always with a sense of optimism. I will always guard against continuing frustrations with optimism, with proactive, with positive thinking, we will try to resolve this issue as soon as possible. We need the unity of the international community.

Q: You talk about the unity of the international community, and we observe a shift in the Russian policy to Syria, especially after the visit of President Putin to Turkey. Are you hopeful about the United Nations [inaudible]

SG: I have taken note and am closely following the summit meeting which was held in Istanbul a few days ago between President Putin of Russia and Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey.  As a result of their meetings it was announced that they had discussed new ideas or strategies and I understand that the respective Foreign Ministers are being tasked to [inaudible] this issue. Of course, I sincerely hope that this will be very closely coordinated with Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi and other key concerned parties so that there will be consensus views among the international community. At this time, unity of the international community is important and with this unity I am sure that the Syrian Government, President Assad, will have to agree to resolve this issue as soon as possible. I have been saying always that no more violence. So many people have suffered, so many people have been killed, so how long do you want to see the situation continue like this. Please go to the refugee camps! I visited a refugee camp in Jordan, and here in Turkey, two refugee camps in just one day, meeting tens of thousands of people; they all came out of tents. That means that they were expecting that the United Nations and the international community should bring a resolution of this issue so that they would be able to return to their homes.


Off-the-Cuff on 7 December 2012