Secretary-General's press encounter at the Palais des Nations (full transcript)
Geneva (Switzerland), 1 July 2013
SG: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Bonjour Mesdames et Messieurs, je suis très heureux de vous rencontrer à Genève.
I am pleased to be back in Geneva again.
As you know, I am here for the Opening of the High Level Segment of the Economic and Social Council focusing on the role of science, technology, culture and innovation.
One of the greatest innovations in development work has been the Millennium Development Goals. Today, I launched our MDG Report 2013 which highlights significant progress in meeting many of the targets. The report also identifies areas where action is needed most - for example, sanitation.
More than a decade of experience has proven that focused global development efforts can make a profound difference. Through accelerated action, the world can achieve the MDGs and generate momentum for an ambitious post-2015 development framework. Now is the time to step up our work.
Allow me to address a couple of other issues of concern before taking your questions.
On Syria, there is an urgent need for the violence to end. Far too many lives have been lost already and the conflict has generated a huge and heart-rending humanitarian crisis.
From the outset, I have advocated a political solution. The US-Russian initiative to bring Syrian parties to the negotiating table is the best chance for a lasting solution that will deliver peace and save lives.
It is essential that we do everything possible to ensure that this conference takes place as soon as possible. I urge the international community to fully commit to a political process.
The people of Syria want peace and hope. Yet all they see is death upon death. All they hear is talks after talks.
People are dying. Families are fleeing. Syria’s fires are spreading. They may soon engulf the whole region.
I once again call on all those with influence to hear the cry of the Syrian people and the call of history: Act and act now.
The situation in Mali is also of great concern. I welcome the June 18th agreement between the transitional Government of Mali and northern armed groups, which paves the way to the July 28th president elections. It is vital that these elections be credible and peaceful, with an outcome accepted by all Malians. This will be an enormous undertaking. The UN’s new mission on the ground, MINUSMA, will do all it can to provide security, technical and logistical support.
As you are well aware, today, as of 1st of July, this MINUSMSA is now officially functioning.
I am also concerned about the humanitarian situation in Mali, where nearly 475,000 people are displaced, and nearly 1.4 million need immediate assistance. We have seen human rights violations in northern Mali by all sides to the conflict, including the use of children by armed groups, rape and enforced disappearances. It is imperative that violations be investigated and perpetrators held accountable.
With those brief opening remarks, I'll be happy to answer some of your questions.
Q: My question is about the ECOSOC session today. At the high-level, you were very optimistic, and also the panels, when you spoke about the technology transfer. For the Western countries, technology transfer is the capital. Is there a UN initiative to support this technology transfer between the Western countries and the less developed countries?
SG: That’s a very important one. In principle, there should be no obstacles or anything which may hinder a smooth transfer of technology from developed to developing world. United Nations Member States have been discussing this matter since a long time ago – technical cooperation and transfer among Member States, particularly from developed to developing world. As you know, this morning, I launched this Innovation Index report initiative. Innovation, technology innovations, science that can be used as a tool and means in achieving sustainable development, and also accelerating Millennium Development Goals. In that regard I fully support the smooth transfer of technology from developed to developing world.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General I have a question on the Golan Heights. Now, the mandate has been extended for six more months and I want to know how you are going to find the troops to go there, as no country really wants to send the troops with the security situation, with the Syrian war spilling over. Which countries are you going to try to convince, and is it correct that you are negotiating with Sweden to get troops since mid-June? Thank you.
SG: Thank you very much. That’s a very important question. As you know this mandate of UNDOF in the Golan Heights is very important in maintaining peace and security in the region, not only in that area, and also in accordance with the disengagement agreement. It has been the most effective means and mission in ensuring that there should be peace and no occurrence of fighting between Israel and Syria. With the withdrawal of Austrian forces, it is true that this has been impacting and I am very much seriously concerned, and I have been working very hard, to fill this vacuum caused by the Austrian troops. As you are already aware by this time, the Fijian Government has agreed to provide some 170 or 180 soldiers with the possibility of providing more soldiers in the future and I have been reaching to many countries, European countries, including Sweden. I have been speaking to several European countries. They are in the process of discussing among themselves, within their governments. As you know some of those countries have committed already to provide troops to Mali so practically speaking it may be the case that they have some constraints in providing further troops. But in any way, even two days ago, I spoke to one of the European foreign ministers to consider positively to provide troops to fill the gaps, so we are working very hard. Thank you.
Q: Given recent revelations about bugging and spying, are you confident that the United Nations is not being spied on or bugged by the United States and what measures are you taking to investigate or check on this, and is it funny? Thank you.
SG: The inviolability of diplomatic missions, including the United Nations and other international organizations, whose functions are protected by the relevant international conventions like the Vienna Convention, I think that has been well-established international law. Therefore, Member States are expected to act accordingly to protect inviolability of diplomatic missions. This is one thing. I know that, what you are meaning, I have read recent reports about this case. As to any specific cases which have been reported recently, particularly between the European Union and the Americans, I am not in a position to make any comment and I do not have any specific information on that. I understand that EU officials are now discussing this matter to clarify with the United States. But in principle, diplomatic activities should be protected, including information.
Q: It’s like a follow-up of this question. And what do you think the person who revealed all this generalized scam of spying system, like Snowden, does he have to go to prison? Thank you.
SG: As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, I am not in a position to say anything on this specific case. I hope you understand.
Q: Monsieur le Secrétaire général, le président Mandela est malade. Est-ce que vous avez un souhait aujourd’hui par rapport à ce grand homme qui a beaucoup inspiré les activités des Nations Unies ? Aussi, pouvez-vous nous dire quel est votre message par rapport au Président Habré, qui a été arrêté hier au Sénégal ? Je vous remercie.
SG: First of all, your first question on President Mandela. I have already expressed my sincere wish that President Mandela will recover quickly. In the whole world, people are very much worried about his deteriorating health condition. He is a giant of our times. He has shown such great leadership, he has endured such a long period of oppression. He stayed 27 years in detention. When he was released, he emerged as a national and global leader without rancour and he immediately appealed for reconciliation and dialogue among the people. Many people around the world have been influenced by such great humanity. I sincerely hope that he will be able to recover his health. The United Nations has been very much indebted by such great leadership. I again wish and pray for a speedy recovery.
Q: [Journalist repeats question on President Habré, inaudible].
SG: Let me get back to this question since I have not been following up this. Maybe I will ask the Spokesperson.
Q: It’s about the Syria conference. Could you please tell us what is the biggest single obstacle for convening this conference here, the planned conference in Geneva? Thank you.
SG: As you know, when the trilateral preparatory meeting was held on June 25th, I think they made good progress and there was some agreement, quite a significant agreement. The reason why they are not able to confirm a date when this international conference in Geneva can take place: first of all, there is some issue of who will represent the Syrian people. It is expected that both parties from government side and opposition group will send their delegation. We expect that those delegations, particularly from the opposition groups, will send their delegation united and coherent, who can really represent the voices and positions of opposition groups. We also expect that the government delegation will also be fully empowered so that they can fully engage in negotiations with the Joint Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. There is another issue of scope of participation, particularly Iran and Saudi Arabia. Member States have not been able to agree on whether and if their voices needed to be heard and in what way. So these issues, they should be discussed further. I sincerely hope that the trilateral-level preparations will take place as soon as possible so that we will be able to address the Syrian crisis as soon as possible. Thank you very much.