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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's remarks at press encounter with H.E. Mr. Sebastian Kurz, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Austria

Munich, Germany , 31 January 2014

Secretary-General (In German)

Grüß Gott, meine Damen und Herren. Ich freue mich, Herr Außenminister, Sie heute zu treffen. Ich wünsche Ihnen das Allerbeste.
I have just met His Excellency, Mr. Sebastian Kurz, the new [Federal] Minister of Austria for European and International Affairs. And I’m very glad that he is bringing in dynamic leadership as a young Foreign Minister, not only to [the] Austrian Government but also to the world of diplomacy.  I hope we will continue to work very closely.
I congratulated him on his appointment last year, and commended him on his emphasis on social integration as part of his portfolio.
I thanked Minister Kurz for Austria’s long-standing support for the United Nations. We are proud to have the United Nations Headquarters in Vienna, and I really appreciate your strong support for the United Nations Headquarters, our staff and, more importantly, for the objectives and goals of the United Nations Charter, maintaining peace and stability, development as well as promoting human rights. I also [sincerely] congratulated the Austrian Government on the election of Austrian Ambassador Martin Sajdik as President of the ECOSOC, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, and I also thanked Minister Kurz for Austria’s generous offer to host the Almaty Follow-up Conference on Land-locked Developing Countries in November.
The Minister and I also discussed the situation in Syria and I thanked him for Austria’s support for humanitarian efforts.
We count on the generosity of the international community to save lives and alleviate sufferings of many millions of people. More than 9.3 million people are in need, including 6.5 million internally displaced persons. A further 2.3 million people have become refugees who need our support.
Looking at other parts [of the world], if I may ask, Mr. Minister, the situation in the Central African Republic is very dire. Particularly the humanitarian needs in the Central African Republic [are] deteriorating day by day. $152 million dollars are urgently needed for the coming three months and $550 million dollars will be needed for the overall humanitarian support in this year 2014.
Finally, we discussed the Western Balkans, including the progress in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. We also discussed the development agenda. We discussed the three priorities of the United Nations at this time: meeting the targets of the Millennium Development Goals; establishing the post-2015 development agenda; and also agreeing on a legal, global climate change agreement.  In that regard, I have invited Austrian leaders to participate in the climate change summit meeting which will be convened on September 23rd this year.  I hope that the Austrian Government will be represented at the highest level and also bring their commitment for a strong, ambitious target to fight the climate change phenomenon. The international community needs to remain engaged.  I encourage the support from the whole international community and the Austrian Government is one of the strongest supporters and partners. 
And, we also appreciate the Austrian Government’s and people’s contribution to peace and stability in the Middle East through dispatching peacekeeping operations. Again, Mr. Minister, I sincerely hope that we will work very closely together and you can count on me. Dankeschön, alles Gute!

Q: On Ukraine, is there any way here in Munich to deescalate the situation?
SG: As you are already aware, I have spoken to President Yanukovych several times recently and I have dispatched my Representative to Ukraine just a couple of days ago. I was briefed by Ambassador Robert Serry who met President Yanukovych and he also met other senior Ukrainian government officials, [and] representatives of the opposition. I sincerely hope that government and opposition leaders will continue to resolve the current political crisis through dialogue in a peaceful way. I sincerely hope that President Yanukovych will also take some actions reflecting the concerns and aspirations of the people, protecting the freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. At the same time I appeal to the people of Ukraine to resolve this issue in a peaceful manner, not through a violent manner. It’s a fundamental principle of democracy that one can express differences of views but in a peaceful way.
Again, the United Nations stands ready to do whatever is necessary if there would be such a necessity. I will continue to discuss this matter with the leadership of Ukraine. Thank you very much.
Q: Do you think Austria can play a good role in meetings and talks with Iran, for example?
SG: Austria is a very respected, peace-loving and democratic country, and therefore Austria has been used as a venue for negotiations and peace talks and I am sure that Austria can provide support and contributions whenever it is necessary, but I am not able to say in any specific way. But I really appreciate the contribution of the Austrian Government and people for the maintenance of peace and security and resolving crises in a peaceful manner through negotiations and mediations. Thank you very much.
Q: You mentioned the Central African Republic. Do you think it would be good that Austria would dispatch soldiers there and take part in the mission?
SG: The situation in the Central African Republic is very serious and alarming. While the new government, with the election of the new president, Ms. [Catherine] Samba-Panza, [who] was inaugurated, but still they are not functioning properly and effectively. There are serious humanitarian issues and there are alarming human rights violations happening. I am taking all necessary measures to first of all monitor the human rights situation there, and I have established an international commission of inquiry to monitor and to look into the human rights violations. I have already appointed three members of the commission.
I appreciate the African Union and also the French Government for dispatching their soldiers and I also welcome the European Union’s decision to deploy 500 more soldiers there. I would encourage all countries, including Austria, to consider positively to contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability in the Central African Republic. 
While we are seeing a tragic situation still going on in Syria, we are also very much concerned about what is happening in the Central African Republic. We need the support from the international community and Austria can [also] play an important role. Thank you.