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Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General

PRESS CONFERENCE
BY DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL JAN ELIASSON
 

THURSDAY, 19 JULY 2012

 OPENING PRESS REMARKS BY THE DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL

  • Thank you very much.It is very good to be with you.  There are other matters that are of great interest to you, I understand, but I am very glad to meet with you on this occasion.
  • It is for me a coming home.  I have been at the UN in several positions, and I have met some of you in these other roles, starting with the Iran-Iraq war during the ‘80s, when I came here with Prime Minister Olaf Palme.  I was Permanent Representative in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and then I was Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs at DHA, which is now OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs].  And I served in several mediation missions. 
  • My most recent one was the Darfur situation, where I was representing the UN in 2007 and 2008.  I was working at the side of Salim Ahmed Salim of the African Union.  And I was also President of the General Assembly during the 2005-2006 period, where we had a number of projects to be negotiated. Some of these goals were achieved.
  • I am very glad to be back at the UN. I am proud and I am honoured to be asked by the Secretary-General to serve as Deputy Secretary-General. We live in difficult times, turbulent times, great challenges to the United Nations, and to multilateralism, and I will do my very best to achieve results, together with colleagues inside the United Nations.
  • We also need support from the outside – from regional organizations, governments, the private sector, civil society, academia, in order to mobilize the whole international community around the global challenges.
  • My responsibilities will mainly lie in the area of development and the area of political affairs.  Those were the two issues that I discussed, and that is where I will say a few words.
  • I just now visited Addis Ababa at the AU – African Union – Summit.  I represented the Secretary-General and I had a number of conversations on both development and on crisis management.
  • The three areas where I would like to say a few words, which were the main subjects discussed, were South Sudan and Sudan; secondly Mali and the Sahel crisis, and lastly the flare up of violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • On Sudan, I noted some encouraging signs, developments - primarily because of the direct contacts between the leaders of the two nations: President [Omar al-]Bashir and President Salva Kiir.  This is indeed very promising that they are in direct contact.  Of course, they will also be helped by the very important efforts done by the African Union, under the leadership of Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa, supported by the UN representatives for Sudan and South Sudan - Haile Menkerios and Hilde Johnson. 
  • I had meetings with both sides, and brought up the importance of carrying on the dialogue at the highest level between the two Governments. I brought out two particular issues where we need to see progress.  The first one was access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where the humanitarian crisis is of an urgent nature, and where access should be provided on the basis of a proposal which has already been presented by both the UN and the African Union and the League of Arab States. I hope very much that we will have progress on access to this area.
  • The second issue that I brought up with the two Governments was the need for a safe demilitarized border zone between the two, in preparation for a Verification and Monitoring Mechanism to be set up.  The reason why this is so important is that I know from earlier crises that if the military forces are too close to each other, the risks are much higher that you would have military incidents that could easily escalate.  So I hope now that the two sides will continue the discussions, not least on these two issues that I just mentioned.
  • On Mali, I met the President of Burkina Faso, President [Blaise] Compaoré, who is leading the mediation efforts on behalf of ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] and with the support also of the African Union. What is being discussed now is, of course, two particular issues. 
  • One is the full return of constitutional rule in Mali – Bamako, the capital – where I hope the efforts of the Government on increasing the inclusiveness of its work will be enhanced, so that you would have also great possibilities to deal with the other major challenge facing Mali, namely the developments in north Mali, where there are now serious developments of serious concern, not only to the Malians but definitely to the countries in the region, and also I think internationally. This development must be taken very seriously.
  • The territorial integrity of Mali is of crucial importance – to have it confirmed, both in theory and in practice.  ECOWAS is discussing among themselves, together with other African Union countries, what kind of presence is needed, both in Bamako and in north Mali.  As you may know, ECOWAS sent a delegation to New York some weeks ago.  Some questions were asked, and we will see whether ECOWAS will come back to the United Nations with the request of participation in different forms. I don’t know what shape that request will take.
  • We very much respect the responsibilities of the Burkina Faso President for leading the mediation, but of course, we will want to give our contribution, both to the stabilization inside Mali, and the leadership there, and of course, if we can, also to standing up for the respect of territorial integrity of all of Mali.  It is a very serious there. And this has also has a relationship to the Sahel crisis.  Here is one of the greatest humanitarian crises in the world - eighteen million people are at risk. One million children are at risk; at fatal risk.  We need to have a comprehensive view of both the political challenges and the humanitarian challenges.  In fact, the Secretary-General will try to give a comprehensive view of the situation in Mali and the Sahel in connection with reporting to the Security Council, as requested, but also possibly having a special meeting in the margins of the General Assembly on the Sahel and Mali.
  • Lastly, the Democratic Republic of the Congo…you of course all know there was a flare-up of violence and the United Nations peacekeeping force was very active, particularly when there was a threat to the town of Goma. The Secretary-General, as you know, made efforts to calm down the situation.  He was in contact both with President [Paul] Kagame of Rwanda and President [Joseph] Kabila of Congo, and asked for restraint in the situation, to make sure that we don’t have an escalation of violence.
  • I made the same case in meetings with both Kabila and Kagame in Addis, and I received quite a good understanding of this request.  However, of course, it was noted, particularly from President Kagame, that we also need to look at the root causes of this instability in eastern Congo. They came up, after a meeting with the Great Lakes countries, with a proposal for, I would say, a border monitoring, neutral force. This has not reached us yet.  We are not quite sure in the UN what request there is - whether there is a demand on the United Nations force, or whether there is a possibility of an AU force, so we will see whether there is a preparedness to come to the United Nations on this issue.  What is interesting, however, is that both sides agreed to a monitoring border mechanism between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But this has not yet materialized in a concrete proposal to us. 
  • I would leave it at that.  It is a long introduction to some of the subjects that I dealt with in Addis.  But I leave it to you now, under Eduardo’s skilful guidance, to possibly raise questions on these issues or other issues.

SECURITY COUNCIL FAILS TO PASS VOTE ON SYRIA; JOINT SPECIAL ENVOY EXPRESSES DISAPPOINTMENT

  • The Security Council held a vote today on a draft resolution concerning Syria and the mandate of the UN Supervision Mission there.
  • The draft resolution had 11 votes in favour, two vetoes by permanent Council members (China and Russia) and two abstentions (Pakistan and South Africa). It was not adopted.
  • In a statement issued after the vote, the Joint Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, said he was disappointed that at this critical stage the UN Security Council could not unite and take the strong and concerted action he had urged and hoped for.
  • He believes that the voice of the Council is much more powerful when its Members act as one.

SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES COUNCIL TO TAKE COLLECTIVE ACTION

  • The Secretary-General said he was alarmed by the intensifying violence in Syria, in a statement issued on Wednesday. He urged the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility and take collective and effective action on the basis of UN Charter obligations and in view of the seriousness of the situation on the ground.  Time is of the essence. The Syrian people have suffered for too long. The bloodshed must end now.
  • In the statement, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the Wednesday bomb attack at the National Security Headquarters in Damascus which resulted in significant casualties including the death and serious injury of Government officials.
  • The deteriorating situation in Syria underscores the extreme urgency for all sides to stop armed violence in all its forms, implement the six point plan and move swiftly towards a political dialogue and a peaceful democratic Syrian-led transition.

QUARTET CONDEMNS ATTACK ON ISRAELI TOURISTS IN BULGARIA

  • In a statement issued today, the Middle East Quartet, comprising the European Union, the Russian Federation, the United Nations and the United States, condemns in the strongest terms the brutal attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria on July 18, 2012.
  • The Members of the Quartet offer their deepest condolences and sympathies to the families and friends of the Israelis and others killed or injured in this act of blatant terrorism, as well as to the people of Bulgaria.
  • This is an act of cowardice against innocent people, including children. The Members of the Quartet look forward to the apprehension of the perpetrators and their being brought to justice.
  • The Quartet supports all international efforts to assist the Bulgarian authorities and others in this effort.
  • This attack provides a reminder of the need for the members of the international community to stand side-by-side in the effort to prevent terrorism wherever it may be practiced.
  • The Quartet will continue its effort to reach comprehensive, just and lasting settlement in the Middle East, where all the people will live in peace and security.
  • The Secretary-General also condemned the attack in a separate statement on Wednesday.

SECRETARY-GENERAL ENDS VISIT TO CHINA, TRAVELS TO SLOVENIA

  • The Secretary-General is on his way from Beijing to Slovenia, which will be the first stop on his visit to Southeastern Europe.
  • Before leaving Beijing, the Secretary-General spoke at a ministerial meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.
  • The Secretary-General told the conference that as the largest developing country, and as the region with the largest number of developing countries, China and Africa have a lot in common. Both share the same aspirations for peace, development and dignity for all. He said both believe in working together for the common good – including through South-South cooperation, which the United Nations has strongly advocated for years.

WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME, SPAIN TO WORK TOGETHER TO RESPOND TO HUNGER CRISES

  • The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Kingdom of Spain today announced a new initiative to speed up rapid and efficient response to hunger crises.
  • With the support of the Spanish Government, WFP will establish a humanitarian hub in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, which will function as a strategic location to support emergency operations in West Africa and beyond. 
  • WFP will also open a liaison office in Madrid to work closer with Spain’s public and private sectors, as well as civil society.