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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's remarks at press encounter

New York, 10 July 2014

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I think you will agree that I am keeping my promise that I will be coming to you very soon to make some important announcement.

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Staffan de Mistura as the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria.

I take this opportunity to reiterate my deepest gratitude to Amb. Lakhdar Brahimi for his concerted efforts and contributions to the search for peace in Syria.

In taking this decision, I have consulted broadly, including with the Syrian Authorities.

The Special Envoy will provide good offices aimed at bringing an end to all violence and human rights violations, and promoting a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis.

The Special Envoy will be guided in this endeavour by relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council, and the United Nations protection agenda. He will consult broadly and engage with all relevant interlocutors within and outside Syria, in order to end the violence and facilitate a peaceful Syrian-led and inclusive political solution that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people.

In addition, after consultation with Secretary-General Dr. Nabil Elaraby of the League of Arab States, I am also pleased to announce the appointment of Amb. Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy as the Deputy Special Envoy for Syria.

I call on the international community, including in particular the Security Council and the Syrian parties, to give Mr. de Mistura unified support in order to allow him to succeed in his mission.

Before taking your questions, I would like to reiterate two key points from my briefing to the Security Council this morning on the alarming escalation between Israelis and Palestinians.

First, the human cost is already very high and is rising fast.  Once again, civilians are paying the price for the inability of the two sides to resolve the conflict.  The United Nations remains determined to deliver essential humanitarian assistance and we continue to press for unhindered humanitarian access.

Second, it is imperative not only to restore calm today, but to establish a political horizon for tomorrow.  Without the prospect of an end to the conflict, the sides will grow ever more polarized.

Deepening violence and distrust will only complicate diplomatic efforts, and will surely resound around the region, with potentially dangerous consequences for all.

Through my own phone calls and other consultations, I am continuing to work with the parties and all relevant actors to find a way to de-escalate and resume meaningful negotiations towards a two-state solution.  Time is of the essence. 

Thank you.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, why did you choose to have Mr. De Mistura be the representative of the United Nations, not the Joint UN-Arab League Representative? Was this under pressure from Russia and the Damascus Government, or is there going to be one team of both Mr. De Mistura and Mr. Ramzy?

SG: Close cooperation between the League of Arab States and the United Nations has been the hallmark of our effort thus far and continues to be essential for moving ahead. I have been consulting extensively with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States on this matter and its designation. Mr. De Mistura will be supported by a Deputy Special Envoy, who is being appointed by me.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, do I understand that the Deputy will be a representative of the Arab League? And secondly, and most importantly, what is Mr. De Mistura bringing new to the table? We reached a cul de sac in Geneva talks I and II.  What is he going to bring to create an opening in this crisis in Syria?

SG: I make it clear that Ambassador Ramzy was recommended by the League of Arab States, but he is going to be appointed by me, by the Secretary-General, and he is going to be the Deputy Special Envoy and he will work together with Mr. De Mistura. But it is also important that we need to have closer coordination, consultation with the League of Arab States. That is a basic hallmark of our work until now, and it will continue to be so.

Q: What does he bring to table to give us hope that there will be some sort of relief in this crisis?

SG: This responsibility of the Special Envoy for anybody, starting from Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi and Staffan De Mistura, will require very skilful, skilled diplomatic efforts. As you know, Staffan De Mistura has been working a long time with the United Nations and he has been SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] in very delicate, difficult places like Iraq and Afghanistan. He will bring all his expertise and experience to these very difficult negotiations for peace in Syria, so I am confident that he will be able to carry out his duty as Special Envoy. And of course, you know I will closely work with him and with the other main actors.

Q:  Mr. Secretary-General, do you see any progress on getting a ceasefire in the Middle East, and do you plan on going to the region as you did the last time?

SG: I will first continue to closely watch the development of the situation. I am going to continue my engagement with regional leaders or other world leaders who can have influence on the parties. I will make a decision if it is really necessary for me to visit the region when there is good chance of making the situation calm down. As you know, I have had extensive involvement in the first Gaza crisis and the second Gaza crisis - in 2009 and 2012, respectively. But at this time, I am still in consultation with regional actors and world leaders, and I am also urging, particularly, leaders of Israel and the Palestinians to first of all stop this violence and engage in dialogue, and I will do whatever I need to do as Secretary-General. Thank you very much.