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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's remarks at joint press encounter with Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson [unofficial transcript]

Reykjavik, Iceland, 2 July 2013

SG: Good morning everyone, and thank you for meeting us. I want to thank Minister Sveinsson and the Government and people of Iceland for the warm welcome and hospitality.

I am personally excited to have an opportunity to visit this beautiful country.  Iceland is a symbol of clean air and beauty and peace loving and gender equality.  So you have all good models and examples that you have been demonstrating since you joined the United Nations in 1946.

With Minister Sveinsson, we discussed how we can work together to promote the Millennium Development Goals and also define the Post-2015 development agenda; what we call sustainable development. We also discussed how we can [inaudible] have gender equality and gender empowerment and I have asked the Icelandic Government to contribute more than they have been doing; if they can do more for UN Women, to provide the necessary funding, and how we can work together to have a climate change agreement by 2015, a legally binding global treaty by 2015.

We also discussed other matters of our common concern, around the world - the most tragic situation in Syria, and also the situation in Mali, where the UN Peacekeeping Operation – MINUSMA – became operational as of yesterday. Also, the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: how we can ensure that peace and stability will be maintained, as was agreed by the Framework Agreement for Peace, Cooperation and Security of May this year.

All in all, I am grateful to the people and Government of Iceland for fully cooperating and playing an exemplary role in promoting peace, development and human rights. I am going to discuss these matters with parliament members, the Prime Minister and the President, and tomorrow I will have an opportunity for visiting and seeing for myself the impact of climate change to glaciers that will be used as a way [inaudible] of my continuing efforts to raise the political will and sense of urgency in addressing climate change.

Thank you, takk!

Q: How concerned is the UN about the recent developments in Egypt?

SG: I have been very closely following this situation. I know that people are expressing their concerns and President [Mohammed] Morsy is also trying to address their concerns. What is important at this time is that both the Government and the people should resolve all these differences of opinions and conditions through peaceful means and through dialogue.

Until now, I think that the situation has been managed rather peacefully; but unfortunately there have been some casualties, particularly many female demonstrators have been wounded or killed. I would really hope that while addressing this crisis in a peaceful manner, they should pay more attention to female demonstrators, since we have seen many such sexual assault cases in the course of demonstrations.

This transition to democracy in Egypt and the Arab [world] has great implications and meaning for many other countries in transition. Therefore, a peaceful transition to full participatory democracy in Egypt has great implications, and I would therefore really urge both the Government leaders and the people, the citizens of Egypt, to resolve this issue, peacefully, through dialogue.

Q: What is your reaction to the US’s spying of the United Nations, as reported in the Edward Snowden case?

SG: I have been reading and following this situation.  I know that the parties concerned; the United States and other countries, are discussing this matter to, first of all, clarify the cases and also try to address these concerns. As far as the United Nations is concerned, the inviolability principle of diplomatic missions is a very important principle, which is respected under international law, in particular the Vienna Convention on diplomatic privileges and immunities and on other matters. I hope this will be resolved through dialogue so that the case will not affect existing friendly, cooperative relationships among the parties concerned.

Q: What do you consider is the most important task or obligation of the United Nations in the world today?

SG: In addition to addressing the current crises in Syria and Mali and elsewhere, I believe, and the Member States believe, that defining the Post-2015 development agenda should be our priority for humanity, for peace, stability and development and human rights for our world. That is what Member States have agreed last June in Rio de Janeiro when they adopted an outcome document, “The Future We Want”. What kind of future do we want? What kind of future we should give to our succeeding generations, that is sustainable development in the economic, social and environmental dimensions; addressing all the challenges across the spectrum of our lives, starting from climate change, addressing food security, gender equality, energy shortages and water, transportation, urbanization, education and disaster risk reduction. There are many, many issues that affect our daily lives; which will affect our succeeding generations. We have to care for our Planet Earth so the succeeding generations can live in a more hospitable and environmentally sustainable way.

This is our priority, but unfortunately we are seeing another tragic crisis, which is happening in Syria. We have to address this issue through peaceful means and stop this fighting and I am urging again, all the parties, both the Government and the opposition forces, to stop the fighting and come to the dialogue table so that we can discuss a better future for the Syrian people.

Q: Regarding Syria: the Government in Damascus seems to be able to bypass Western sanctions through its ties with Iran, Russia and China. How worried are you about that?

SG: What is important at this time is that, providing arms to either side will not help. It will only prolong the tragic situation. This will not bring peace. What is important, I have been advocating since the beginning of this crisis that there is no other alternative to a political solution; that is what I and Joint Special Representative Lahkdar Brahimi are working very hard for. The initiative taken by US and Russia to convene a Geneva II Conference has been discussed and I am going to work very hard to have this meeting convened as soon as possible. And I would again like to urge that opposition forces, groups, that they come out with some coherent leadership. At the same time I am urging the Syrian Government to fully respect human rights and human dignity and stop fighting, and I am particularly concerned about this air bombing against the civilian population in Homs. I issued a statement [today, about] attacking the civilian population, mobilizing air planes and heavy weaponry. This is unacceptable, and I am urging them to stop these attacks on the civilian population.

Q: One question of a sentimental character. The world has been following, for the last days, one of the greatest personalities of the 20th century, Nelson Mandela. What reflections do you have, looking back at his life and his achievements?

SG: I am very concerned about the health condition of President Nelson Mandela. He is a great person and leader of this century. Many people around the world have been influenced by his down-to-earth humanity and his struggle for justice. He has effectively dismantled this system of apartheid, which was the beginning of a better world for many people, who were discriminated and oppressed. We have learned from his leadership and vision and legacy. That’s why all the people around the world are praying for a speedy recovery of his health. We hope to be inspired continuously, so that the whole world will be able to live in peace and harmony and human dignity. Thank you very much.