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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Notes to correspondents

The following are key quotes from a meeting between the Secretary-General and a number of journalists

New York, 7 February 2013

On Syria: 

• Lakhdar Brahimi will continue to actively engage with the Security Council, opposition and key parties in the region.  But the problem is the divisions in the region, inside Syria and also within the Security Council.  Unless these divisions are breached, we may not be able to have some good prospects of [a] resolution.  Soon we will be entering into a third year of this crisis.  The middle of March – I think that will be the beginning of the third year.  And, personally, as I have been saying all the time, I am personally pained, whenever I think how many people will have to be killed, how many refugees and how many people will have to be displaced because of destruction. 

• Now I am encouraged that Mr. Moaz al-Khatib, President of the Syrian National Coalition, has proposed a political dialogue.  It is for the first time that opposition forces proposed a dialogue to sit together with the Syrian regime.  They just ignored the Syrian regime in the past, but now it is proposing that let us sit down together and discuss this matter politically.  That I strongly welcomed, as the Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi did.  I sincerely hope that Syrian authorities accept this proposal.  That’s the beginning of a political dialogue.  At the beginning of or middle of this crisis, there was a saying/belief/perception/argument that first this military operation and fighting must stop, then move on to political dialogue. 

• This Syrian crisis has not begun because of all these terrorist groups who later penetrated and joined in this fighting. Therefore, it does not give any justification for President Assad to continue this way—killing civilian people, shelling the communities and villages. This is not acceptable. Of course, we know that there is some terrorist involvement, and as he said, he has right to defend his own people. That’s fine, but he should know that this crisis has not begun because of this terrorist infiltration at the beginning. Because he has continued to kill his own people, this terrorist element, they’re now taking advantage of this turmoil in Syria. That he should know.

• Therefore, whether a certain country has designated a certain element as a terrorist group does not give any justification that they are fighting for a common enemy with the United States or some other countries. This is some extension of interpretation of all this. It’s not justified. Anyway, depending upon his political will, he could have stopped this violence a long time ago and this political dialogue could have commenced a long time ago. But he has been continuously killing, and he has not been listening to his own people. That’s why people, out of frustration, out of anger, they have been fighting against their own government.

On Mali:

• I think that this military operation, so far, has been effective and successful.  All these jihadists and armed groups and terrorist elements – seemingly – they have fled somewhere.  Our concern is that they may come back.  As you have seen yesterday, they are hitting back in some areas.  It is good that Timbuktu and Gao and all these major cities have been cleared. 

On DPRK nuclear issues:

• I am in the process of discussing this matter with the key Security Council Member States.  I believe that the DPRK authorities, if they really conduct this nuclear test, I think that they are going in the wrong direction. 

• I only hope, and again appeal strongly to the DPRK authorities that they heed the appeals and urgings of the international community and abide by all Security Council resolutions, and do more for the well-being of their own people. 

• The humanitarian situation is dire in the DPRK.  While the United Nations has been trying to provide humanitarian assistance, I am sorry to tell you that the response level - because of this crisis and very tense situation on the Korean peninsular - the international community is not responding favourably to this.  The response level is very low.  I have to mobilize some CERF funds to provide humanitarian assistance to the DPRK.  I again urged all the members of the Six Party Talks [to be] united in calling upon the DPRK to refrain from making any provocative measures, like conducting nuclear tests. 

On DPRK announcement that the six-party talks are over:

• That is not acceptable, the North Korean announcement that they are not going to abide by this. This was an agreement which was made among six parties, including the DRPK that should be implemented towards denuclearization.  I believe that the DPRK has committed many, many times in the past that they are committed to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, then they should abide by all Security council resolutions.  This is a basic obligation of a member state.  With the new leader in the DPRK, and with the transition in North East Asia, there will be many other different ways where DPRK can contribute to [stability] in the region.

• If they conduct this nuclear test it may be the case that they are effectively tying the hands of the new President of [the Republic of] Korea, then it may take again a long time before any initiative between South and North Korea could take place to normalise this relationship.

Notes to correspondents on 7 February 2013