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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's joint press stakeout with H.E. Andris Berzinš, President of the Republic of Latvia

Riga, Latvia, 14 November 2013

            I thank His Excellency President Andris Berzinš for warmly welcoming me and my delegation to this beautiful country. I am honoured and privileged to be the first-ever Secretary-General of the United Nations to visit the Baltic States. And I am also very pleased to start my visit to the Baltic States from Latvia. I am here to show the United Nations’ solidarity with the countries of this region, including Latvia

            We have all been following the tragedy in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan. I have been getting constant reports on the situation from my Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, who is now in Manila. All United Nations humanitarian agencies and teams are on the ground to provide necessary humanitarian assistance.

            There is utter devastation. People are desperate for food, water, shelter, supplies and information about their loved ones. I am especially concerned about the tens of thousands of people exposed to the elements. We are doing everything possible to rush assistance to those who need it. Now is the time for the international community to stand with the people of the Philippines. They are showing great courage and resilience, but they need our help – and they need it now and they need it fast.

            President Berzinš and I had a very good meeting. We agreed to strengthen the valuable partnership between the United Nations and Latvia.

Latvia has always supported multilateralism. This country contributes actively to our global agenda for peace, development and human rights.

            I especially commend Latvia for championing human rights, empowering women and gender equality.  I appreciate Latvia’s valuable contributions to helping us achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and formulating a vision for development beyond that year. I asked the President to further deepen Latvia’s engagement with the United Nations. And I also invited the President to participate in a summit meeting dedicated to climate change in September next year.

            We discussed the crisis in Syria and the ongoing efforts to find a political solution to the conflict while addressing the dire humanitarian situation.

            We also discussed the future of Afghanistan. On the global economic crisis, I emphasized my hope that the situation will improve.  Latvia has shown strong economic growth despite the difficulties.

            I commended the President on Latvia’s role as a trailblazer, transitioning to a vibrant, prosperous and democratic society in a few short decades. I encouraged him to continue to share Latvia’s successful experiences with other countries that are also at a defining moment in their history.

I look forward to tomorrow’s Latvia 95 Conference. And I count on Latvia to show ever-greater leadership in our world as we look ahead to the country’s 100th anniversary.

            Thank you.