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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press encounter following the Security Council's adoption of resolution on crisis in South Sudan

New York, 24 December 2013

Good afternoon. 

I just attended the Security Council meeting and you must have been closely following all this situation. 

I want to commend the Security Council for acting quickly and decisively to respond to the unfolding crisis in South Sudan.

The world is watching – and the world is acting. 

I welcome today’s resolution calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and opening of dialogue and demanding that all parties cooperate fully with our peacekeeping mission, UNMISS.

This measure will help boost security, reinforce peacekeeping bases and provide critical assets.  It authorizes the strengthening of UNMISS with 5,500 more troops, and 440 more police.

I thank many world leaders from across Africa and around the world for their flexibility and collective determination to respond to the crisis – and I count on Member States to provide us with these tools. 

The situation remains very fluid.  I am deeply concerned about growing violence in many parts of the country. 

We have reports of horrific attacks, including extra-judicial killings, rapes and a mass grave in Bentiu. 

Tens of thousands have fled their homes and the numbers keep growing. 

And, of course, innocent civilians are being targeted because of their ethnicity.  This is a grave violation of human rights which could fuel a spiral of civil unrest across the country.

I once again call on South Sudanese leaders to exercise restraint and settle their differences peacefully.  I underscore their responsibility to protect civilians – and remind them that those responsible for crimes will be held accountable.

As my Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect said today, “Targeted attacks against civilians and against United Nations personnel, such as those that have occurred in Juba and Jonglei, could constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.”

I thank again the Security Council for the important step it has taken today. 

But even with ongoing support, the strengthening of our protection capabilities will not happen overnight.

And even with additional capabilities, we will not be able to protect every civilian in need in South Sudan.

The parties are responsible for ending the conflict.

This is a political crisis which requires a peaceful, political solution. 

In this season of peace, I urge the leaders of South Sudan to act for peace. 

Stop the violence.  Start the dialogue. 

Save your proud and newly independent country.

There is no time to lose. 

Thank you. 

Q: What about Bentiu? It was said that the Government has given an ultimatum for the rebel forces to leave Bentiu; otherwise they say they are going go into force. What does that UN think of that? Would you call for restraint? What is the role of UNMISS on this retake in Bor and now Bentiu?

SG: There is no military solution at this time. Therefore, I am urging again that the leaders, whatever their differences may be, should start dialogue immediately. I have been speaking with African and other world leaders yesterday and today, with a lot of leaders, so that they could provide necessary assets and resources, as well as demonstrate their influence, whoever they may have [it on].

Q: When do you expect the new forces to arrive in South Sudan?

SG: Of course, it may take time. That is why we are asking for an inter-mission transfer. For example, there are several [peacekeeping] missions in the region, so I am asking them. For detailed matters, I am not supposed to disclose here. I am asking the leaders of those countries who are providing their troops in the nearby region to transfer, temporarily, some battalions. We need at least five battalions and police officers and attack helicopters and utility helicopters, transport airplanes. All these number of 5,500 [troops and] 440 police and many enablers. I am in the process of discussing more in detail with those countries concerned.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, do you have any sense as to whether this is a serious coordinated rebellion with identifiable leadership, or does it look, as it seems to me, like a sporadic outbreak by various ethnic groups in different parts of the country? 

SG: I am not in the position to characterise why this has happened [in] this way. You should know that there has been some discontent among the parties concerned. That is why I have been urging President Salva Kiir consistently that he should address the root causes of the problems. It is always important for leaders to address all the issues [and] the fundamental causes of the problems. I sincerely hope that the two leaders will be able to meet together and discuss this matter in a peaceful way.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, Japan has provided ammunitions to South Korean peacekeepers in South Sudan, which goes against Japan’s ban on exporting weapons. This is becoming a political issue. Do you any reaction on this, and do you welcome Japan’s contribution?

SG: I am aware of that. I understand that the Korean engineering team whose numbers are not big enough and they are basically an engineering team. They are not combat troops. That is why they asked for certain support to the Force Commander of UNMISS. I understand that the Force Commander of UNMISS has arranged this supply of ammunition to the Korean engineering team. I think this is an appropriate thing, to have them defend themselves and to reinforce their capacity there.

Q: What concerns do you have about the spillover of this conflict over the borders into Sudan itself and the Central African Republic, which are neighbouring countries, and your assessment that you're undertaking, for example, of the Central African Republic of a possible deployment of  peacekeeping force there? How do these interrelate in terms of a spillover possibility?

SG: I do not want to see any spillover effect of this current crisis in South Sudan. My urgent hope and appeal to the countries concerned and parties concerned is that, first of all, [they] address this issue as soon as possible through political means without letting it further spread, without causing any regional implications. And as far as the situation in the Central African Republic is concerned, the situation is still very, very fluid and dangerous.  That is why I am very carefully assessing the situation there. I really appreciate the forces of MISCA [African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic], as well as the French forces, who are working there, very hard, to stabilize the situation. And I am required to provide own assessment and recommendation to the Security Council around the end of February, as required by Security Council resolution 2127.  At that time, I will try to recommend my own assessment and recommendation [of] what would be the best way to address the situation in the Central African Republic.

Thank you.  I hope you enjoy at least some happy holidays and merry Christmas to you all.