Secretary-General's remarks at press conference at the Munich Security Conference
Munich, Germany, 1 February 2014
Grüss Gott, meine Damen und Herren. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
It is good to be back in Germany. I would like to thank Chancellor [Angela] Merkel and the people of Germany for their hospitality and for the support for the United Nations.
In Bonn, I saw for myself the impressive United Nations campus provided by the German Government and met hundreds of UN staff based there.
In Berlin, I had very productive meetings with President [Joachim] Gauck, Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Foreign Minister [Frank-Walter] Steinmeier, and several other members of the German Government.
Our discussions covered development, human rights and urgent security challenges around the world, including Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan and the Central African Republic and many other places.
We also discussed the broader issues of sustainable development and climate change.
We need to work together for a world of dignity for all, where no one is left behind.
I have invited Chancellor Merkel to join other world leaders and also world leaders of politics, business and civil society at the Climate Summit I am going to convene on 23 September at the United Nations this year.
My goal is to mobilize immediate action on the ground [and] catalyse actions on the ground as well as political will towards the new climate change agreement the world so urgently needs for security and sustainable development.
Yesterday, here in Munich, last night, I had further productive meetings, including with United States Secretary of State Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Joint Special [Representative] Lakhdar Brahimi regarding the Syria peace talks.
I am heartened that the warring parties in Syria have finally exchanged views on how to resolve a crisis that has dragged on for three years, [which] cost considerably more than 100,000 people, displaced millions and put the whole world in jeopardy.
The fact that both parties observed a minute of silence for the victims provides a glimmer of hope that they can find common ground.
The process began in Montreux and Geneva will be slow, but it is an important step forward.
I sincerely hope that the second round of negotiations will begin as planned on 10 February.
I have asked Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov to exercise their countries’ influence on the parties to resume negotiations with greater seriousness and urgency.
In the meantime, I count on the international community to show solidarity with the people of Syria, and the neighbouring countries that are hosting refugees, so we may alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
Let me especially stress the need for aid to get through to people in need in Syria, particularly those in hard-to-reach and besieged areas.
I also count on all those with influence over the parties to the conflict in Syria to emphasize the importance of achieving a political resolution and moving towards a transitional governing body with full executive powers.
Later [today] I will attend a meeting of the Middle East Quartet.
This is a crucial year for the peace process. The international community must do everything it can to support the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and move away from the dangerous status quo.
I am closely following events on the ground, and am disturbed by the recent incidents of violence that have resulted in injuries to several Palestinians and one death.
I also remain seriously concerned about developments in Ukraine, including allegations of human rights violations, which is why I sent Mr. Robert Serry on a fact-finding mission to Kyiv this week.
As you know, Mr. Serry is my Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, but at the same time he was a former Dutch Ambassador to Ukraine.
He briefed me here in Munich on his meetings in Ukraine. He met the President, the Foreign Minister and opposition leaders.
Yesterday evening here in Munich I met with Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara of Ukraine, and this morning, I met with Ukrainian opposition leaders, including Mr. Vitaly Klitschko.
I listened carefully to what the Minister and the opposition leaders had to say, and I impressed on them my growing concern about the standoff in the country.
I urged the Government to take bold and decisive steps to de-escalate the situation.
I also urged both parties to show maximum restraint and greater flexibility in the search for a solution to this crisis and design a peaceful future for their country.
Finally, my speech to the Conference this morning stressed the links between peace, development and human rights. We see this every day, in all our work across the world.
I hope all the participants in this conference will do their part to act on this wider definition of security.
Thank you. Herzlichen Dank.
Q: Secretary-General, after today’s morning meeting with the Ukrainian opposition, one of the opposition members said that it is a little bit early for the EU to offer help. From your point of view, is it really too early for the EU to help or already too late?
SG: Since the beginning of this crisis I have spoken several times to President Yanukovych, and it was the first time for me to meet Government leaders, ministers and also opposition leaders.
What is important is that if they can find the solution in a peaceful way through dialogue, then that would be the most ideal way. I have been consistently sending messages that freedom of expression and freedom of assembly should be protected by the Government.
At the same time, the demonstrators, while they can enjoy the freedom of assembly, they should also express their views in a peaceful way. That is a fundamental principle of democracy. I know that some countries, some organisations, the European Union and the United States, and even myself as Secretary-General of the United Nations wanted to see first of all finding the facts -- exactly what is happening there -- and also listen to their views, concerns and ways and means how the international community could help.
That is why I have sent Robert Serry. He met leaders there. I will see how this situation will continue, but I don’t think there is much time. As time goes by, there will be more human rights violations and many unwanted casualties, so I urge again that both parties sit down together and resolve this in a peaceful manner.
Q: In your view, have different parties to the Syrian conflict achieved any small result [inaudible] confidence-building measures? Will these small steps of confidence-building measures be the beginning of a political solution? Very often, yourself and Mr. Brahimi are asking countries those who have influence on the regime to work together. Can the United Nations make efforts to bring these countries together, I mean, Saudi Arabia and Iran to have a common approach to help together, and then maybe make things move ahead?
SG: I have been consistently saying that there is no military solution and that the only available, viable option is a political solution, but despite these principles, and ways and means available, they have not used it; they have been fighting during last three years. In the course of this, they have destroyed most of their infrastructure, and most sadly, well more than 100,000 people have been killed, and almost half of their population has been affected. They need humanitarian assistance.
Since the opposition is quite wide[ly] different, as a way of facilitating this political negotiation, we thought, and Lakhdar Brahimi thought, that confidence-building measures, by providing humanitarian assistance and supporting all these people who are suffering, could be a good way to start. So Lakhdar Brahimi started first to create some conducive atmosphere through confidence-building measures. Unfortunately, quite disappointingly, we were not able to have any agreement.
When they meet again in February, I think we may have to begin with the confidence-building measures, but at the same time, political issues should be addressed. Since they have been meeting morning and afternoon, I think they can do both at the same time.
About the role of the regional countries, again, I have been urging all the countries that have influence on both sides -- the government and opposition – that they should exercise their influence so that they would come to the dialogue table.
That attempt was made in Montreux, where I convened the meeting. Forty countries participated at the very high level, at the foreign minister level. That includes those countries that support the regime and those countries that support the opposition, so that it was a good gathering, a united, wholehearted solidarity, shown by the international community, to both parties, [while] urging them to resolve all pending issues through a political process. That is establishing a transitional governing body with full executive powers upon mutual consent.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you have talked to both sides [of Ukraine]. How do you personally feel? Are they capable and are they ready to find that peaceful solution? Are they ready to talk to each other?
SG: It is a very important question. It may be too early for me to assess what they are up to, really. My message was that I really appeal to both sides: please take a decisive action without losing time. Because there are so many people who really want to see some reforms to be taken.
I have taken note of what President Yanukovych signed yesterday. He is repealing this anti-demonstration [law] and [signed] the amnesty bill. I have asked them, whatever discussions there have been through national dialogue, the President and government should take an urgent action decisively, meeting and reflecting the aspirations, grievances and concerns of the people.
For those people who are demonstrating against the government, I also appealed that the best way is to sit down together. Even though both sides of the positions may still be far apart, just try to bridge the gap through dialogue.
There will always be a way to resolve your concerns and grievances. This has been my message. Let us see. I will continuously, very closely follow the situation. I heard that President Yanukovych may take certain actions soon. I hope he can do it as soon as possible. That would be helpful in resolving these issues.
Q: My question will be about Cyprus. With regards to Cyprus, are we hopeful that talks can resume on this issue, and within this year, both parties will seize the window of opportunity to resume talks and to come to a comprehensive settlement. There were some attempts for the last two weeks, but not yet at that [inaudible]. What is your point of view? What is the direction?
SG: I continue to work on and hope for a prompt resumption of the negotiations in Cyprus. My special advisor, Alexander Downer, has been meeting the leaders of the two communities to help agree on a joint communiqué which can provide a good basis and parameters for the negotiations.
As you must have been following this situation, unfortunately, these negotiations [were] suspended because of a change of government in the Greek Cypriot community of Cyprus. After that, there was an economic crisis. All this kind of a political and economic situation has not been helpful in resuming the negotiations. Now, both leaders, when I have spoken to them several times, they are very much committed to continue their negotiations, and they agreed to have a joint communiqué before they resume their negotiations.
The United Nations, through Alexander Downer, has really been coordinating and helping them. I believe that it is very close. They have agreed on most of the areas. [It is] very close. But this bridge should be filled. We will try to do our best to resume these negotiations as soon as possible. And I am also talking to guarantor countries like Greece and Turkey. I met the Turkish leadership, and I am in constant consultations with leaders.
Q: Question on Iran’s nuclear programme. The Foreign Minister repeatedly mentioned that Geneva was a very big success for Iran and that the West surrendered to them. For Iran, it looks like a clear victory and it still remains an oppressive and aggressive regime. What do you expect from Iran from the talks [inaudible] from Geneva?
SG: When parties are engaging in this type of very difficult and sensitive negotiation, it is very important not to claim any one-sided victory, as you say. It is very important to have mutual confidence, trust, and respect. I would caution [against] using all this kind of [language] just [in] the interest of continuing the negotiations as well as the interest of respect for the other parties. It is a very important way of leading the negotiations. I sincerely hope that they will continue the negotiations.
I met Director General of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], Mr. [Yukiya] Amano, here in Munich, and I have been briefed by him about what IAEA is now engaging with the Iranian government, and I think that this is encouraging. And I would strongly, again, encourage the P5+1 and the Iranian delegation who will meet in Vienna on 18 February [to] expedite and accelerate the negotiations, so that this interim agreement will be agreed in a more thorough and comprehensive [way]. It is important that Iran should continuously implement what has already been agreed.