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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Press Encounter after briefing the Security Council in closed consultations

New York, 28 March 2014

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure to see you.  I came back yesterday from my trip to Moscow, Kyiv and The Hague and Greenland.  I’m pleased to share some of my thoughts about my trip, including my meetings with President [Vladimir] Putin and also leaders of Ukraine.

As you know, I have just briefed the Security Council; and again, you have also taken note of what the General Assembly did yesterday by adopting a resolution.  What started as a crisis in Ukraine is now also a crisis over Ukraine.

From the beginning, my objective has been to seek a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the crisis in keeping with the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter.

I strongly urged the Russian and Ukrainian leaders to de-escalate the situation, avoid hasty actions and immediately engage in direct and constructive dialogue to resolve all the problems.

At this time of heightened tensions, even small sparks can ignite larger flames of unintended consequences. 

I am also deeply concerned that the divisions in the international community over the situation could harm our ability to address other pressing concerns, conflicts and humanitarian emergencies.  I have also urged Members of the Security Council to address these issues as soon as possible, because there are so many, much more longer-term issues like the Millennium Development Goals, sustainable development and climate change.  I am concerned that all these important issues have not been given much attention by world leaders over many regional crises issues, including Ukraine and Syria and the Central African Republic. 

The United Nations will continue its efforts to calm the situation, including through diplomacy and the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission.

Now is the time for dialogue and peace.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me also say a few words about my activities earlier last week.

At the Nuclear Security Summit, which was held in The Hague, I joined other world leaders in highlighting the need for vigilance regarding the risk of nuclear terrorism.  International cooperation will be crucial not only in avoiding the proliferation of nuclear materials, but also in advancing nuclear disarmament – the best guarantee against this threat.

Finally, over the last two days I visited Greenland, as you know, as a part of my ongoing efforts to raise the awareness of the world leaders, as well as world’s people as a whole.   I decided to visit Greenland.  I appreciate the strong support of the Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, as well as the Premier of Greenland, Madame Aleqa Hammond, and their people. 

I was able to see for myself again the impact of the climate change phenomenon.  The icebergs and glaciers are melting rapidly.  This is the fastest moving glaciers in the world.  I have been to Antarctica and the North Pole and Iceland, but this is the place where glaciers are moving and melting the fastest way. While I really admire the wisdom of people of Greenland, who are living harmoniously with nature, but their livelihood is seriously threatened because of the melting glaciers and extreme weather patterns and sea level rise are now starting from that area. 

So I really wanted to send a strong warning to world leaders, standing on the Arctic ice. I hope that the world leaders will come with strong, determined political will in September for my Climate Change Summit Meeting on 23 September. 

Again, this will be one of the top priorities which world leaders will have to address.  I really hope that we will be able to see an early resolution of the crisis in Ukraine and Syria and the Central African Republic and elsewhere, so that we can concentrate our efforts on    sustainable development, including climate change.

I would be happy to answer two or three questions.

Q: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary-General.  Did you get any assurances from President Putin that Russia was not planning to go into, send troops into southern and eastern Ukraine? Did you get any concrete assurances? Is this still a concern?

SG: This is what President Putin also told me, that he had no intention to make any military move. I should also tell you that, at the same time, President Putin also expressed his concern about some extreme radical elements and any such movement along the borderlines.

I have been really trying to urge both parties to de-escalate the situation. Emotions were running high, as you will agree, and tensions have been very highly charged. Therefore, my immediate priority was to urge them, urge the leaders of both [countries] to engage in direct dialogue. I also urged the leaders of the Ukraine authorities to address all domestic concerns which they may have, which may also create concerns to the Russian side; therefore, a mutual effort would be very important at this time. But he assured me that he would have no such intention.

Q: Secretary-General, at the Nuclear Summit, you said that the assurances that Russia gave to Ukraine have been undermined by recent action, such as in the Budapest Memorandum. Do you see nuclear security as undermined by the recent actions and by tension in Russia with the West?

SG: I expressed my concern as Secretary-General of the United Nations, while the whole international community should really strive to work together - hard - to first of all realise this world without nuclear threat and nuclear terrorism. This Budapest Memorandum, which was signed in 1994 [by] the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia, as a way to ensure and guarantee the territorial integrity and sovereignty and safety of Ukraine in return for their abandoning nuclear weapons which were located in Ukraine at the time, was undermined. I hope that world leaders would seriously consider the implications which it may have to other countries, potential nuclear weapon countries, or who may have some  nuclear weapons ambitions. I raised this issue to the world leaders who were attending the Nuclear Security Summit meeting, but my message will continue to be the same: that international leaders should keep their promises, what has been made.

Q: Secretary-General, did the referendum in Crimea and the subsequent annexation of Crimea by Russia - did that violate the UN Charter, and what is the current legal status, in your view, of Crimea?

SG: The United Nations is guided by the General Assembly Resolution which was adopted yesterday. Thank you very much.

Q: Just changing the subject here a little bit, and talking about peace in the world and getting the attention on climate change. Venezuela right now has a big crisis going on, and 100 students are outside the UN building, and they have a makeshift camp that they have set up. They are asking you, Secretary-General, to send a commission to investigate the allegations of brutality, torture and abuse by security forces and pro-government militias during the crackdown on dissenters. What is your take on that? Are we looking to see any responses to these kids, 100 of them that came from 15 states to the UN building, and are camped outside?

SG: The United Nations will continue to address any human rights issues which may affect human dignity, wherever it may happen. This is our fundamental principle under the United Nations Charter. As you know, recently I have launched the Rights Up Front Action Plan, and this will be applied wherever and whenever there are such concerns, and particularly when human rights of vulnerable groups of people are abused.

Thank you very much. Thank you.