Secretary-General's Press Conference
Geneva, 3 March 2014
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, bonjour Mesdames et Messieurs,
It is good to be back in Geneva and it is great pleasure to see you all again. Since this is the first time I see you this year, I wish you all the best. Let’s work together for world peace and development. I am committed to it and I really need your strong support in delivering the message to all throughout the world, messages of peace, development and message of human rights.
I trust you have seen my remarks to the Human Rights Council this morning.
Let me just reiterate one point: that’s accountability.
Horrendous crimes continue to take place before the eyes of the world -- from sectarian cleansing in the Central African Republic to the Syrian Government’s use of barrel bombs in densely populated civilian areas. These are not the random happenings of wartime. They are acts that are decided on, whether by individual combatants on the ground or leaders safely removed from the actual fighting. They are acts for which there must be justice.
Yesterday, I attended a retreat in Mont Pélerin with the leaders of all the United Nations’ increasingly complex and diverse peacekeeping and political missions. The Security Council is giving us more robust mandates, including for the protection of civilians. Our productive discussions focused on how to improve what we do at a time of severe financial constraint.
I also spoke with Robert Serry, who has been working as my envoy for the situation in Ukraine, and he briefed me about his visit. I have repeatedly emphasized that it is critical to ensure full respect for – and the preservation of – Ukraine's independence, unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is now of utmost importance to restore calm, to de-escalate tensions immediately through a dialogue.
I will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva today. I will urge that the Russian Federation refrain from any acts and rhetoric that could further escalate the situation – and instead to engage constructively and through peaceful means with Ukraine.
In this regard, as you are already aware, I have asked United Nations Deputy-Secretary-General, Mr. Jan Eliasson, to visit Kyiv today - I was told that he has just arrived in Kyiv at this time – and convey, on the behalf of the United Nations, the same message to the Ukrainian authorities.
In my phone conversations with President Hollande of France, High Representative Ashton of European Union and the President of Switzerland and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Burkhalter, and I have also spoken to the OSCE Secretary General Zannier, I have been discussing this matter since yesterday… In all my talks with these leaders, I have underscored that all of us share the responsibility to assist in finding a peaceful resolution in a collaborative effort. I have also asked the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General to discuss this matter on the basis of the United Nations basic objectives, and, of course, on the basis of the United Nations Charter.
On Syria, I had a long conversation with Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi yesterday. The only way to end the crisis is through a negotiated solution. We are determined to bring the parties back to the table here in Geneva. But for the moment it is our sense that there is an urgent need for the parties, and those with influence over them, to reflect on how the talks can achieve the progress the Syrian people and the region so urgently need.
Yesterday, I also met with my Special Representative to the Central African Republic, General Babacar Gaye, about the alarming crisis in that country. I have presented, as you are already aware, a six-point plan to address urgent priorities and needs. At the Security Council’s request, I will soon report on the outlines of a UN peacekeeping mission with a robust mandate to protect civilians and promote stability. The horrific cycle of violence and retaliation must end immediately. The United Nations is fully committed to help the Central African Republic emerge from the terrible crisis and build peace.
Tomorrow I will visit Sierra Leone – which was once the scene of uncommon cruelty. Who can forget the suffering of the children who had had their limbs chopped off by rebel fighters?
Over the years, we used the full UN toolkit – peacekeeping, peacebuilding, justice and development – to help the country, Sierra Leone, recover. With international support, seemingly intractable civil strife has been supplanted by peace, stability, improved governance and vibrant development.
The United Nations helped Timor Leste to complete a similar transformation in 2012. These successes give hope that we can surmount the challenges we face elsewhere, notably in the Central African Republic.
Thank you for your attention. I will now take some questions.
Q: Thank you very much , Mr Ban Ki-moon, to be here and for having taken questions. We appreciate very much your presence. I know that you are dealing with a lot of crises: Ukraine, Syria, DPRK, CAR and my colleagues will ask you about that. But I would appreciate if you could comment on the situation in Venezuela where there have been excessive use of force and attacks against media and also the tension of opposition leaders. I would appreciate that.
Secretary-General: For your information, I am going to have a meeting, a bilateral meeting, with the Foreign Minister of Venezuela, Elias Jaua Milano, this evening, and of course you must have read and seen my statement. I have been urging the authorities of Venezuela to address all these issues through dialogue. Leaders should listen carefully to the aspirations of the people. I met President Maduro on the margins of the CELAC meeting in Havana, Cuba last month. But at that time there was no such crisis. After that I have been conveying this message to Venezuela's authorities. At the same time, while freedom of speech and assembly is protected, the protesters, they should also resort to peaceful means in delivering and convening their messages. I know that regional organizations in the region are actively trying to help to address this issue. First and foremost the authorities of the Venezuelan Government should engage in dialogue to address these issues.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, thanks for taking questions today. Did you hear the explanation by Mr. Lavrov this morning right after your speech on the moves of the Russian Government on the Crimean? What did that tell you and as you just mentioned it, what role could the OSCE play? Thank you very much.
SG: As I said, after this press conference, I am going to have a bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and we will discuss how the United Nations can work together with the Russian Federation and Ukraine authorities and the OSCE, European Union and other partners to first of all, de-escalate the situation and how we can promote direct dialogue between authorities in Ukraine and also Russia. When I spoke to President Putin over the telephone just last Saturday I urged him to address this issue by engaging constructively, directly with Ukraine’s authorities. The United Nations is ready to provide, in any way - I understand many talks are going on between and among the leaders and I read in the media that there is an idea of establishing a Contact Group lead by the OSCE and that is what I have discussed with Secretary General Lamberto [Zannier] of OSCE as well as with President Burkhalter of Switzerland, now Chairman of the OSCE. I am going to continue to discuss what will be the better or best way to first of all to defuse this tension. It is important that both sides should lower the temperature, refrain from making rhetorics and engage in a dialogue. That is what the UN has always been trying to help countries concerned. I will have to continue to discuss this matter.
Q: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary-General. You started with messages of good will, but just two days ago something terrible happened in China, I am sure you are aware of it, and you have actually given a written statement. But in that response we appreciated very much how you condemned it in the strongest possible terms, but you stopped short of using the word “a terrorist attack”. You said terrible attack. Now there is enough evidence that this was a premeditated violent attack carried out by Xinjiang separatists. I wonder whether you have any further comments on that. Thank you.
SG: Terrorist attacks cannot be justified under any circumstances, under any reasons. That is why I have, in the strongest terms, condemned this terrorist attack. It is unacceptable and perpetrators must be brought to justice. As I have already said, I convey once again my most sincere condolences and sympathies to those families of victims, and I wish those injured a speedy recovery. The international community has suffered too much, too long by terrorist attacks, here and there. We must be united in fighting against this terrorism. The United Nations takes it as a priority objective to address these terrorist attacks. The United Nations General Assembly has adopted by consensus the global strategy to fight against terrorism. And we have established this task force and we are working very hard and closely with Member States to work together to address these common challenges which really affect many human rights. This is not acceptable in any circumstances. Thank you.
Q: Monsieur le Secrétaire général, les crises se succèdent. Hier on avait la Syrie, aujourd’hui l’Ukraine. Même si on essaye de leur donner des noms soft et des qualificatifs softs, comme le printemps arabe et autres, les causes sont les mêmes. C’est cette lutte entre les grandes puissances pour gérer le monde. Si cette communauté internationale est sérieuse dans la façon d’essayer d’éviter les crises pourquoi au lieu de gaspiller le temps dans Geneva 1 et Geneva 2, et peut-être aussi Ukraine 3 demain, pourquoi ne pas organiser une YALTA 2 pour fixer les règles du jeu entre ses puissances et éviter à cette humanité toute cette destruction et tous ces tueries ?
SG: I think it’s not because of the lack of a framework in the international community. In the peaceful resolution of the conflicts, the United Nations Charter makes it quite clear that all the conflicts and differences of opinions and positions should be resolved peacefully through dialogue. But unfortunately, in reality, for many decades we have suffered and we have seen so many conflicts which have not been resolved harmoniously and peacefully. There were wars, and there were conflicts, and armed conflicts, and many people have been killed. This is quite a sad tragedy. This is exactly what we are seeing in Syria. We are going to soon observe a third, a full third year on March 11. That will be the beginning of a fourth year. How long should this situation continue this way? There must be a political will, a much stronger political will, by the world leaders, particularly leaders who are directly concerned and also those leaders who may have influence over the parties in conflict to resolve all these issues through dialogue, in a peaceful manner. That’s the fundamental principle of the United Nations. We have seen some success stories, or unsuccessful, or unfulfilled promises. The United Nations is ready to work with all the Member States, particularly those countries who are in conflict here and there. That is why I am appealing to the world leaders to raise their political will so that all these tragedies can be resolved soon.
Q: Mr. Ban Ki-moon, you mentioned that you were speaking with Mr. Brahimi yesterday. Do you see more clearly now when can we expect the third round of inter-Syrian talks here in Geneva and which are the main obstacles in the way for the third round?
SG: We have had two rounds of negotiations here in Geneva. In the first round, we were just encouraged when two parties who have been fighting for almost three years, they just sat down face to face together. With that we were encouraged, we were satisfied, we thought it was a good beginning. And the international community was rather understanding all this situation. The second round didn’t bring much. We hoped that there should be much more progress than the first one. Of course they continued to talk; that was understandable, that was encouraging. But at least we needed to have more progress. That is why Lakhdar Brahimi, in this place, he apologized to the people of Syria for the lack of progress. It is important that this Geneva conference should continue. And it is important that the third round of the Geneva conference should be held again as soon as possible. That is what I discussed with Lakhdar Brahimi yesterday. He is coming to the United Nations next week and we will continue to discuss. I know that he is going also to meet with key leaders while he is there.
Now, then why there has not been much progress? Because the two parties, particularly the Syrian delegation, government delegation, they have not been constructively engaging in the dialogue. As you may know, Lakhdar Brahimi has set out four agendas. Two of the agendas are: the first, the initiative of the Syrian Government of addressing international terrorism; then the second agenda is, most importantly, what was agreed in the first Geneva Conference of June 30th 2012, of establishing a transitional governing body with full executive powers upon mutual consent. That is the way we have to agree, and through this agreement we can bring peace and stability and dignity to many Syrian people. Lakhdar Brahimi has shown his flexibility, let us discuss these two issues alternatively. It is important that the two parties, particularly I urge the Syrian authorities to come with a constructive position. And I am urging again those countries, particularly the Russian Federation and the United States and other members, the permanent members of the Security Council and regional powers who have influence on the government as well as opposition forces to exert their influences, so that all parties will come to Geneva as soon as possible with a sincere and constructive position.
Q: I have a question on Ukraine. What do you concretely expect to come out of Eliasson’s visit in Kyiv? And there has been a call for UN observers in Ukraine. Is this in any way realistic, considering you have Russia in the Security Council?
SG: There were several ideas proposed or discussed during Sunday’s [Saturday’s] Security Council informal consultations. One idea was establishing an observer mission, another idea was establishing a contact group, but there needs to be agreement among the parties concerned. This is very important. The main purpose of Mr. Eliasson’s visit to Kyiv is to meet with the leadership of Ukraine authorities and convey the message that it is important, first of all, for the two parties to de-escalate the current situation, and refrain from making rhetoric statements and engage constructively in dialogue. That is the only and best way. To assist and facilitate such a dialogue, including the United Nations , international organizations, regional organizations like OSCE are ready to provide our own support. This is the main purpose of his visit.
Thank you very much.