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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's remarks at joint press conference with Mariano Rajoy, Prime Minister of Spain

Madrid, Spain, 4 April 2013

Let me begin by thanking again the President of Government, Mariano Rajoy Brey and the Government and people of Spain for their very warm welcome.

Muchas gracias por vuestra hospitalidad.

It is a great honour and pleasure for me to be back to Spain again. I had the pleasure of inaugurating two years ago with the Crown Prince the UN Support Base-Valencia, which symbolizes the strong commitment of Spain to the United Nations.

I am grateful for Spain’s support for the Organization. From reconstruction in Haiti to peacekeeping in Lebanon and mediation in the Mediterranean, Spain plays a key role in the international arena and I deeply appreciate it.

The United Nations also highly appreciates Spain’s support for the Alliance of Civilizations initiative, as well as your contributions to UN development aid and humanitarian activities.

The main reason of my visit this time is the spring meeting of the UN Chief Executives Board, during the coming two days, until Saturday. Twice a year, UN agency heads come together to take stock. This session is being hosted by the Madrid-based UN World Tourism Organization, and we are grateful to the Spanish and Madrileño authorities for all they do to make this a welcoming headquarters location. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Prime Minister Rajoy and I just concluded a very fruitful meeting.  We discussed over a range of many issues - the Sahel, Mali, Syria, Western Sahara and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  I’m not going to repeat what President Rajoy had just explained in detail, but I would be happy to discuss this method through Q and A session.

We also talked about the Millennium Development Goals.  In a happy piece of scheduling, my visit coincides with a milestone in the effort to achieve the MDGs: tomorrow marks 1000 days until the end of 2015, the MDG deadline.

The Goals have generated history’s largest and most successful anti-poverty push.

At the same time, there is still much work to do.

Later this evening I will be launching a special call to action.  We all have a responsibility to make the most of the next 1000 days and fulfil the millennium promise to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

Spain has been an extremely constructive partner in our efforts to eradicate poverty and inequality.  I thank Spain for co-hosting today’s High-level Meeting on Hunger, Food Security and Nutrition, in which I will participate.  I look forward to the country’s continued engagement and I will count on Spain’s commitment as we define a similarly ambitious post-2015 development agenda.

Let me conclude again by thanking you for welcoming me to Madrid. I am also taking the opportunity of my visit to meet with His Royal Highness, the Prince of Asturias.  Before coming to this place to meet with Prime Minister Rajoy, I telephoned His Majesty King Juan Carlos expressing my best wishes for his speedy recovery and continued good health.  He welcomed and he appreciated my call. He fully supported all these United Nations goals and commitments to meet the MDGs and he also commended the United Nations’ role in addressing many global challenges at this time.   Again, I look forward to productive meetings and events here and I highly appreciate and commend the global leadership and efficiency of the President of the government, Mr. Rajoy, and I sincerely hope that under your leadership you will be able to manage all these economic difficulties of your country as one of the leaders of the European Union and global community. You will continue to demonstrate your leadership in working together with the United Nations to address all these global security, peace, development and human rights issues.

And I thank you very much.

Muchas Gracias.

Q: [in Spanish, on Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Syria]

SG: First, on the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – DPRK – in the area of humanitarian crisis as well as the current ongoing crisis on peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.

The reports and announcements coming from Pyongyang on a daily basis are really alarming and troubling. As Secretary-General of the United Nations I have been repeatedly urging and appealing to the DPRK authorities - first of all to reduce the tension on the Korean Peninsula, and engage more proactively and constructively for peace and security in the Korean Peninsula.  Peace and security in the Korean Peninsula has very serious regional implications, and even global implications. I sincerely hope that the parties concerned in the Korean Peninsula will work together to first of all calm down the situation and engage in dialogue to resolve all pending issues, whatever they may be.

A nuclear threat is not a game.

It is very serious. 

I think they have gone too far in their rhetoric.

I am concerned that if by any misjudgement, by any miscalculation of the situation, if any unwanted crisis happens on the Korean Peninsula, this will have very serious implications. As you pointed out, there is a hugely difficult humanitarian situation. This is what the United Nations agencies have evaluated and even the DPRK authorities, they realise that they have a humanitarian situation. There is a serious stunting problem for young children and infants. The United Nations has been mobilizing necessary humanitarian assistance. At this time, under these very serious security concerns, it is very difficult for the United Nations and I appeal to the international community for humanitarian assistance. We are not receiving much positive response on this appeal. 

I was again very much concerned yesterday when the DPRK authorities announced that there would be restrictions in the movement to and from Kaesong Industrial Complex. This is one of the very good examples of how both South and North Koreans can work together for economic cooperation – exchanges and cooperation. It has been quite successful in a mutually beneficial way. I sincerely hope that this should not be affected by any political or security considerations.  This is a purely economic issue.

I sincerely hope again that the DPRK authorities will change their course to spend more time and resources in improving their well-being and economic situation for their own people. This is my urgent appeal to the authorities there, and at the same time countries around the Korean Peninsula who would have an influence [should] work very closely with the DPRK authorities.

On the situation in Syria - the chemical weapons investigation team - as you know I have initiated this investigation upon the request from several Member States of the United Nations, including Syria, the United Kingdom, and France.

I have a mandate to initiate such investigations in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council. That is what we are doing. Necessary preparations and logistical arrangements have been going on well, up to this moment.

The Head of Mission, Mr. Åke Sellström is appointed, he is now well in charge. The members of the investigation team are now composed. We are now ready to do that. We are still discussing some exact [Exchange of Letters] with the Syrian authorities to ensure that this investigation will be proceeded effectively and efficiently with the full protection and assurance of security and safety of the teams. We will have another opportunity of briefing you and the international community as time goes by.  Thank you.

Q: [in Spanish, on Iran]

SG: I sincerely hope that through this P5+1 negotiation there will be very meaningful progress. I took note of Lady Catherine Ashton’s – the European Union’s High Representative and Chief Negotiator’s remarks that she was cautiously optimistic about the prospect of this negotiation. I sincerely hope that they will be really able to engage with a sense of urgency as well as common goals of addressing the Iranian nuclear issue. 

The Iranian nuclear issue is one of the very serious concerns of the international community. I have been discussing this matter with Iranian high authorities including the Supreme Leader and the President and chief negotiators, and I have been telling them that the onus is on the Iranian side to prove that their nuclear development programme is genuinely for peaceful purposes.  I think they should again try to demonstrate their sincerity, with flexibility, that this is for purely peaceful purposes.

I hope that this will be resolved first of all, as soon as possible, in a very peaceful way, trying to recognise the positions of both sides and I will be very much closely following this issue. Thank you very much.


Off-the-Cuff on 4 April 2013