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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Transcript of press briefing with the Secretary-General and Lakhdar Brahimi, Joint Special Representative for Syria

New York , 13 May 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have an announcement to make and because of its nature I wanted to make it in person.

It is with great regret that, following consultations with the Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El Araby, I have decided to accept the request of Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi to relinquish his duties as Joint Special Representative of the Secretary-General and League of Arab States, effective 31 May 2014.

For nearly two years, Joint Special Representative Brahimi has sought an end to the brutal and still worsening civil war in Syria.

He has faced almost impossible odds, with a Syrian nation, Middle Eastern region and wider international community that have been hopelessly divided in their approaches to ending the conflict.

He has persevered, with great patience and skill, because he knows that without efforts towards a new Syria, the Syrian people will be condemned to further suffering.

I greatly appreciate Mr. Brahimi's diplomacy in organizing the Geneva Conference on Syria and for facilitating the intra-Syria talks earlier this year. I regret that the parties, and especially the Government, have proven so reluctant to take advantage of that opportunity to end the country's profound misery. I renew my appeal to them to show the wisdom and sense of responsibility that could allow a way out of this nightmare. I also reiterate my strong view that there must be accountability for the terrible crimes that have been - and are being - committed.  Such crimes include the deliberate starvation of communities by preventing humanitarian access. 

Mr. Brahimi has long been recognized as one of the world's most brilliant diplomats, as well as an outstanding proponent of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. That the objective to which he applied his extraordinary talents has proven elusive is a tragedy for the Syrian people.   That his efforts have not received effective support from the United Nations body that is charged with upholding peace and security, and from countries with influence on the Syria situation, is a failure of all of us.

Lakhdar Brahimi knows that I will continue to count on his wisdom, advice and unique experience on other issues of concern to the United Nations.

But that is for tomorrow; he now deserves some rest. Today, I urge all involved, including those states with influence over the parties, to reflect deeply on what we should do at this moment to generate hope of a better future for the people of Syria.

Thank you, and I will ask Dr. Brahimi to say a few words.

Lakhdar Brahimi: Mr. Secretary-General, I am truly humbled by your kindness and the extremely generous words that you have had on this occasion, which is not very pleasant for me. It’s very sad that I leave this position and leave Syria behind in such a bad state.

But, as you said, Secretary-General, I have absolutely no doubt that you will continue, as you have, to do everything that is humanly possible to work with the Security Council, with the neighbours of Syria, and indeed with the Syrian parties themselves to end this crisis.

I’m sure that the crisis will end. The question is only this: everybody who has responsibility and an influence in the situation has to remember that the question is how many more dead? How much more destruction is there going to be before Syria becomes again the Syria we have known – the new Syria that will be different from the Syria of the past, but it will be the Syria we have loved and admired for many, many years.

I’m extremely grateful to you, Secretary-General. And especially that I know you are traveling in a few minutes, but you have taken time to come down for this occasion personally. Thank you very much indeed, sir.

Q: Mr. Brahimi and the Secretary-General: How much is the Security Council to blame, and the divisions of the Security Council, the fact that you’ve been unable to bring peace?

LB: I’m going to brief the Council at 3:00, so perhaps you can ask me this question after I speak to them, not before.

Q: Mr. Brahimi, are you leaving the Security Council with a plan for Geneva 3?

LB: I’m going to speak to them at 3:00. After that, you will see…

Q: Are you leaving your post, are you leaving you mission with a plan behind or are you saying that the mission as you perceive it has failed?

LB: I will answer questions after.

SG: He will have the opportunity of addressing the press at the stakeout.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, now do you have a plan? We always talked about Plan B. What would be the Plan B, and who do you have in mind to pursue with the same effort of Mr. Brahimi in that post?

SG: We have been working very hard during the last three-four years, three years, to bring an end to this horrible tragedy; we are still working on Plan A. While we are regrettably letting Ambassador Brahimi leave this position, I am sure that he will stay around us and will always be ready to provide his experience and expertise.  We will have to think of what kind of course of action we will have to take, very seriously, for some time. We may have an opportunity of discussing with you later.

Q: Thank you very much.  Mr. Secretary-General, when do you expect to announce Mr. Brahimi’s successor, and what specifically do you call on the Syrian Government and opposition parties to do right now?

SG: That is quite a natural question. Of course, we will have to find his successor. But since this announcement is being made today, let me take some time to think of who should be the right person.  As you know, we have had former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and after him, we have had Lakhdar Brahimi, one of the most brilliant and experienced persons, not only in the region, but the whole world, so he knows all the people involved. So with his experience, I thought, and we thought, it was a natural expectation that he would have been able to deliver, that we would have been able to deliver all together. But somehow, because of the divisions, because of the divided world, here and there, within the United Nations and in the region, we have not been able to make any progress. In the course of three years, many people have been killed and many people have been displaced internally and have become refugees. Almost three million people are now refugees – 2.8 million people. And half of the population is now affected; they need humanitarian assistance.

We have been addressing this in four tracks, as I explained yesterday. Except for chemical weapons, and also some progress in humanitarian assistance, we have not been able to make progress, particularly in a political solution. There is no military solution, no military option. We have been stating all the time that there must be a political dialogue, and to both parties – the Syrian Government and opposition forces – I am very sorry to say that they have failed. This is their country, their people. We are here to help them. They have such a long, very colourful, brilliant history and civilization. Why do they have to destroy completely in this way? So I am urging them again to think about their future. This is their country and your country. We will continuously be ready to work together with them for their future.

Q: Are you thinking of maybe not naming a successor? Or what kind of attributes, as you said, both Annan and Brahimi have high qualifications. What kind of attributes can add to that after this value?

SG: I have never indicated that I will not appoint any successor. We will have to have somebody who will have to work after Lakhdar Brahimi leaves. But at this time, I will have to think who should be the right person and at what time.

Thank you very much again.