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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's remarks at press conference with H.E. Mrs. Dalia Grybauskaite, President of the Republic of Lithuania

Vilnius, Lithuania, 18 November 2013

I am delighted to be in Lithuania on the first-ever trip by a Secretary-General of the United Nations to this country. And I thank you for your very kind hospitality and courtesies and friendship shown to me and to my delegation which I am bringing back to the United Nations.

With President Grybauskaite, I have been working very closely during the last several years as Secretary-General and herself as President. She has been one of the most committed and most visible and active leaders for whom I have had deep admiration, respect. And while I have been meeting her in New York and some other countries outside Lithuania, this is a real pleasure for me to meet her in Vilnius as Secretary-General. Again, thank you very much.

My visit wraps up here a visit to all the Baltic States.

I have been inspired by this region’s commitment to democracy, human rights and sustainable development.

The Baltic countries are small – but they are having a big impact in the international politics and development and human rights.

At every stop, I spoke with top leaders about global crises. On Syria, I stressed the urgency of humanitarian aid for the millions of people who are suffering in the country. And I have spoken to the President [of Lithuania] this morning. I also restated my strong call for a political solution that will end the fighting and begin the transition to a new chapter written by the Syrian people.

I was encouraged by the engagement of the Baltic States, including Lithuania, in peace and security issues. They are sharing valuable experience with countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. As President of the European Union, I count deeply and heavily on the leadership of President Grybauskaite on the success of the Eastern Partnership meeting which will be held later this month.

In all of my meetings, I had in-depth talks on the future of Afghanistan after 2014.

Regarding sustainable development, I emphasized to the President the importance of accelerating and meeting the Millennium Development Goals by the end of 2015. Secondly, I am urging the Member States of the United Nations to agree on a very ambitious, concise and coherent [framework on] sustainable development. I am also going to invite the leaders of the world to a climate change summit meeting which I am going to convene next year.

Baltic countries are showing how to use technology for development. And I applaud this region and leaders of this region for sharing their expertise on information technology with other countries.

My visit also focused on empowering women. I always raise this issue with leaders. In the Baltic countries, I was encouraged by the progress you have made in working for greater equality, especially in political life.

Your President, President Grybauskaite, is an excellent example of women’s leadership in Government.

We had a very productive meeting. I thanked her for being a strong partner of the United Nations across our agenda, from peace and security to arms control to the Millennium Development Goals.

I congratulated the President on Lithuania's Presidency of the European Union.

Since becoming a Member State of the United Nations in 1991, Lithuania has inspired others through its peaceful rise on the world stage.  It has sought to be a good regional neighbour and to share with others near and far its experiences in making the transition to democracy.

I congratulate most sincerely Lithuania on its election to the United Nations Security Council starting in January. This is a great honour and great achievement as well as a formidable responsibility for international peace and security.  I encourage Lithuania to use its seat on the Council to further contribute to international peace and security.

My talks here with officials, including the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, have been very fruitful. I also saw an impressive solar energy project. I was especially inspired to speak yesterday to young people at Vytautas Magnus University.

I leave here confident of Lithuania’s commitment to global citizenship.

Next, I will be traveling to Poland today where I will visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. I am going there to pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and to emphasize the importance of the UN’s global work for genocide prevention, tolerance and peace.

I thank Lithuania for its commitment to these efforts as well.  At a time of such important challenges for the human family, we need to join hands against hatred and divisiveness and pull together as one for all peace and security.

Thank you very much.

Q: Do you think the typhoon in the Philippines is a sign that governments and people have to do more about climate change, and what do you expect from the Warsaw conference?

SG: Yes, I fully agree with your assessment that recent heavy rainfall together with typhoon was clearly a wake-up call again for all international community that we must accelerate our efforts to fight climate change. Recently [in the past] several years, we have experienced extreme weather patterns not only in the Philippines; here and there, even in centre of European countries. Even in the centre of the United Nations in New York, in Manhattan. The United Nations was also flooded by Sandy Storm. It is unusual which we have not seen. That is the impact of climate change.

You might have heard there were some certain science skeptics, but with the release of the fifth assessment report there is no science skeptics. Everybody now knows that climate change is happening and approaching much faster than we might have thought. Therefore it is imperative that Member States redouble their efforts to raise the level of ambition and there should be a strong political leadership role. That is why I am going to Poland, Warsaw, where I will be meeting many world leaders and ministers to ask them to raise their political awareness and political leadership role and mobilize all necessary means, particularly financial support for developing countries so that they will be able to mitigate and adapt to this changing situation. We must be committed to contain this global temperature below two degrees centigrade. This is imperative. I count on the President, the Lithuanian Government and also the European Union to lead this campaign. Thank you.

Q: About Syria, are you confident today that the Geneva peace conference will be held in December, could you tell some date for that, and also is there more clarity about where the chemical weapons taken out of Syria will be destroyed?

SG: When I have a date to announce I will certainly announce myself. I am the convener of the international conference in Geneva. At this time, I have been working very closely, together with Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, to set a date. I have been working very closely with Secretary Kerry of the US and Foreign Minister Lavrov of the Russian Federation and other permanent members and regional actors, including two delegations from the Syrian Government and opposition forces. I am not able to announce at this time any date. Our target is mid-December. On the 25th of this month, Lakhdar Brahimi will convene a trilateral meeting with Russian Federation and the United States participating. They will review and, if possible, I hope that they will be able to set a date so that I can issue a statement.

On the second part of your question, chemical weapons, the destruction process of chemical weapons have been smoothly progressing until this phase two. All the equipment and facilities which may be used in making chemical weapons have been dis-enabled and destroyed so so far I think everything is moving well. The phase three where we will have to destroy actual weapons, chemical weapons, we are now working very closely, particularly the joint mission of OPCW and UN. They are working very closely to identify a place where these chemical weapons will be very safely and successfully destroyed. I am very much grateful to many countries who have offered voluntarily their logistical support, like transport support and security support. The remaining question is actually where we will be able to find a location. As the Albanian Government has expressed their unwillingness to do that, I understand this joint mission is very actively searching for that. Thank you very much.