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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's remarks at joint press encounter with H.E. Ms. Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark, 22 October 2013

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to see you and it is a great pleasure for me to visit Copenhagen again this year.  
I thank Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt and the people of Denmark for their hospitality and strong support for the United Nations.
I greatly value the strong and longstanding partnership between Denmark and the United Nations.
As a founding member of the Organization, Denmark plays an important and constructive role globally in every aspect of the United Nations agenda. 
It is a leading progressive force in promoting the rule of law, the peaceful settlement of disputes and championing human rights and gender equality.
Denmark is also a leading actor and champion in meeting the targets of the Millennium Development Goals, and also, sustainable development, the post-2015 development agenda and climate change.
I just had a very productive meeting with Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt. I am grateful for her global leadership role in working together with the United Nations in addressing many global challenges. 
We discussed various topics of common interest, including the urgent need for a political solution to the conflict in Syria and international support to Afghanistan beyond 2014. Since the Prime Minister has elaborated what we had discussed about Syria, I will not make much statement, I will be very happy to answer your questions which you may have.
We also discussed the Danish Government’s strong support for continuing political stability [and] economic development for Afghanistan, and particularly for their commitment for post-2014. On sustainable development, we discussed sustainable energy for all and promoting global green growth. It has been a great pleasure again for me to address the Global Green Growth Forum for the third time this year since the inaugural Global Green Growth Forum.
We also discussed the post-2015 development agenda and Denmark’s role to eradicate global poverty and reduce inequality.
Denmark is an important United Nations partner.
I thanked the Prime Minister for Denmark’s efforts to maintain official development assistance above the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income, despite current global economic volatility. This is very important leadership, and I hope many member states will emulate such a leadership role.
Denmark is setting an important example for the international community.
Finally, I thanked the Prime Minister for her personal commitment to my Global Education First Initiative, which aims to promote quality education for all children around the world.
I will now be happy to take some of questions. Thank you, Prime Minister for your leadership and hospitality.  Thank you.

Q: Has the date been set for the Geneva II peace conference for Syria as some said?
SG: We have been working very hard and will continue to work to set a date. So far no date has been set. As you might have read already in newspaper reports I have been working with the Permanent Members of the Security Council, Foreign Ministers and Joint Special Representative Lahktar Brahimi, who is now touring the region. He was in Egypt and Iraq today and he will try to visit many important stakeholders, including Syria. The main question will be how soon and how well these opposition forces will be organized in sending their delegation. I met Mr. al-Jabra, the head of these opposition forces and I urged him to unite among all the divided opposition forces so that they can represent the views of the opposition, representing the Syrian people. Of course, we expect the Syrian Government’s delegation to participate. In any way, all the logistical preparations are ready; it is a matter of setting a day. We will continue to work on this.
Q: Do you think a date might be coming very soon?
SG: We will have to, we will still have to work very hard to finalize all the details. There are many delicate issues, which I am not able to disclose at this time. I hope you would understand.
Q: Is it your perception that the situation in Syria has stabilized after the international community came together on the Syrian chemical weapons?
SG: It is important to destroy all the chemical weapons within the deadline, that is 30 June next year. At the same time we must not lose the sight of the situation of what is happening inside and outside Syria. Fighting is still continuing and many people are being killed daily – at least a hundred or two hundred [people]. This is an unacceptable situation. While we make sure that all chemical weapons should be destroyed, at the same time, we must [make] our efforts, our best efforts to end the fighting as soon as possible. That is why this political dialogue, this Geneva II Conference is important. At the same time we have so many Syrian people who have been affected by this crisis. We have more than 2.1 million refugees being hosted in the neighboring countries. We have around 4.5 million people who are internally displaced, so almost one third of the total population of Syria have been affected. The United Nations is mobilizing all necessary humanitarian assistance as soon as possible. Unfortunately we are experiencing lack of funding, lack of assistance to those people. That is why we have been appealing to member states to provide generous support. That is why I am considering convening a global pledging conference for Syrian humanitarian assistance in the middle of January next year in Kuwait.
Q: Does that mean that the international agreement on chemical weapons has had no impact on the situation on the ground in Syria?
SG: Of course it is a very important aspect. It is very important to get rid of the chemical weapons, which is one of the weapons of mass destruction. While it drew dramatic and horrible situations and it caused horrible consequences, what is more important at this time, is that we must bring [an] end to this fighting. The Syrian people, both the Government and the opposition forces, they must lay down their arms and meet together, and continue their Syrian-led dialogue for peaceful resolution of this [conflict]. That is a fundamentally important issue. We will make sure that chemical weapons will be destroyed.
Q: Do you think the Geneva II can be successful without the Syrian National Coalition? 
SG: I want to convene this meeting upon the mandate of the two initiating countries – the United States and Russia, and also the request of the Permanent members of the Security Council. About who to invite, who will participate is, again, still in the process of consultation. While we are ready to convene this meeting logistically, in terms of agenda, we will, first of all, have to see a unified delegation of Syrian opposition. Also, there are some other stake holders whose participation is important, but has to be consulted among the countries concerned.