United Nations Headquarters, New York
Good morning everybody. It’s a pleasure to see you all again. Today, I would like to talk to you about the upcoming work of the General Assembly and go over the work that we have been doing since I last spoke to you in January.
First of all, I would like to start by saying that I am immensely proud of what the General Assembly has accomplished so far. From the start of the session last September until now, we have met 119 times in plenary. And we have adopted 276 resolutions and more than 80 decisions.
The General Assembly has continued to fully function and have the lead on the world stage. We have worked together to build consensus, and we have exercised prudence and flexibility at this critical time in history. The General Assembly is the only platform among the 68 UN official platforms that is meeting in person. Recently, the Security Council had two meetings in person during the Vietnamese presidency. I am very happy to see this. I hope it will be continuing during the Chinese and following presidencies as well.
It’s been a busy start to the year so far, and I expect this pace to continue for the remainder of the session. We have a lot to do. Today the world is more in need of multilateral diplomacy than at any time since World War II. From regional conflicts to climate change and health crises, it is clear that countries are more effective when they act together.
Tomorrow, the General Assembly will meet to reflect on the many achievements of the multilateral system at the commemoration of the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace. For the first time in recent history, the heads of all the working UN organs will meet with Member States to discuss how we can support an effective and inclusive multilateral system in the post-COVID-19 era. And that includes myself, the Secretary-General, the President of the Security Council, and the Presidents of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the International Court of Justice. For the first time, the five of us will sit at the rostrum to talk and answer questions from the Member States and also questions coming from civil society.
On Thursday, the two candidates who are running to succeed me as President of the General Assembly are expected to present their vision statements and take part in dialogues with the membership. Some questions have also been collected from civil society online. The actual election is scheduled for 7 June. In line with regional rotation, the next President will come from the Asia Pacific Group, and the current candidates have been nominated by Afghanistan and Maldives.
And this Friday, Member States will gather to hear from the current candidate for Secretary-General, the incumbent, António Guterres of Portugal. He will present his vision statement and take questions from Member States in the General Assembly Hall, as well as questions from civil society, which have been collected also in advance.
On Friday, I will brief the Security Council and will emphasize the importance of coherence in areas of joint Security Council-General Assembly work and responsibility. These are only for this week, but we also have many high-level meetings to look forward to this session:
- a High-level Meeting on Middle-Income Countries on 17-18 June
- a High-level Dialogue on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought on 20 May
- a High-level Event on Culture and Sustainable Development on 21 May
- a High-level Thematic Debate on Oceans in the first days of June
- a High-level Meeting on HIV/AIDS on 8 to 10 June
- a Joint Thematic Event on Least Developed Countries on 18 June
- a High-level Meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day against Nuclear Tests in August; and a
- High-level event on a Culture of Peace in September
Yesterday, I convened an informal GA plenary on COVID-related business continuity issues. It was demanded by member countries, and as President of the General Assembly, I found it absolutely necessary to discuss this with Member States at this stage. It was a lively exchange between Member States, the Host Country and the Secretariat on the expectations for getting back to normal here at UN Headquarters.
The message from Member States was clear:
The UN should not be left behind during the gradual reopening of New York City. Member States want us to plan to return to greater normalcy to carry out our crucial work.
It was agreed that an “options paper” would be prepared, together with the Secretariat and the President of the General Assembly’s Office, looking at questions such as whether our meetings could be expanded beyond one person per delegation to “1+1”, which could allow, for example, “Minister +1” in the future.
Another important issue was considering the reopening of the Delegates’ Lounge, including the terrace, and a gradual return of staff to UN Headquarters.
Vaccine equity was identified as crucial to unlock the ability of all Member States to benefit from further liberalization of COVID mitigation measures in a safe manner.
I am determined to follow up on this process in my efforts to ensure we can deliver successfully on our mandates and the ambitious schedule for the remainder of this session and beyond.
In this context, I will convene our next meeting to discuss the options for the remainder of the session on May 19. We divided things into two – one for what we will do for the remainder of the session – that is for the 19th of May. Beyond that, I am planning a business continuity meeting on the 16th of June to discuss how High-level Week can be handled. The decision on the format of High-level Week is of course everybody’s question.
We have to slowly but surely start discussing what are the possibilities, what are the mitigation measures, what we can do and what we cannot do. So, in consultation with the Host Country, and in consultation with the Secretariat, as well as the PGA-elect of the 76th session, I think we will find a suitable way of also applying the mitigation measures to make the High-level Week lively and also connecting to the world from New York.
Let me now mention my travels. With COVID-19 restrictions lifting in many parts of the world, I am considering travel for the remainder of the 75th session. This has of course been the idea I have shared with you many times; I think we cannot sit in New York and look at the world from here only. There are 200,000 UN personnel all over the world, risking their lives, doing a lot of important things, and they want to see us together with them. That is why I opened the door to start the travels.
The first one was from 1 to 10 April. I went to Turkey, Qatar and Azerbaijan.
In Turkey, I was received by the President and had meetings with the Speaker of the Parliament and the Foreign Minister – but also addressed the Turkish Parliament and gave the UN’s messages to the Turkish Parliament and also to the region and to the world. Also, I went to Hatay, at the Syrian-Turkish border, and met with Syrian refugees, and visited the United Nations cross-border operations. I think you all know that, since I had presided over a series of General Assembly meetings this session on Syria, I wanted to continue to shine a spotlight on this important issue. At the UN’s transshipment hub in Reyhanlı, I was able to see the aid delivery process firsthand, including its monitoring mechanism. I think this is one of the most scrutinized operations in the world. I am thankful to OCHA’s very efficient and dedicated work there. I was really glad that I was able to go there, meet our people there, and also give messages to the world and the UN family that there is a difficulty – a big difficulty – there.
The message was very clear. The humanitarian need is already more than the humanitarian response. As the world continues to tackle COVID-19, this disparity is only expected to grow. The demand for humanitarian assistance in Syria grew by 20 per cent in 2020. It is clear that this cross-border operation is at a critical juncture, particularly as the UN rolls out its COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Therefore, I am convinced that a sustained, large-scale and expanded cross-border aid response is essential to address the enormous humanitarian need in northwest Syria. That is why I have called on the Security Council to ensure that the vital cross-border operations continue uninterrupted and to expand humanitarian operations to meet the humanitarian need.
In Qatar, I was received by His Royal Highness the Emir and the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. We discussed the importance of multilateralism, the fight against COVID-19, regional developments, vulnerable countries and climate change.
In Azerbaijan, which chairs the Non-Aligned Movement, I was received by the President and met with the Speaker of the Parliament and the Foreign Minister. We also discussed COVID-19, including vaccines and efforts to counter the pandemic’s impacts; regional developments; and the work of the General Assembly.
In all the three countries I visited, I met with the UN resident coordinators and UN representatives. We had fruitful talks on their activities and needs. They were all happy to see the PGA traveling around the world and having a chance to meet with them. During all my visits, on my car, I had the UN flag, and people were applauding when they saw the UN flag. I think this is a wonderful message that we gave during these visits. It shows that people of the world have a lot of expectations from the United Nations. And I hope that we will be able to go back to where we were, so that we can deliver to the countries and the people we serve.
In this vein, I can tell you that I will be travelling to Bangladesh and Pakistan later this month. This will again allow me to have in-depth discussions with the Pakistani leadership, and also, I will visit in Bangladesh Cox’s Bazar, where I will meet with the refugees there. I will try to give messages on my observations there and also messaging on the Rohingyas, which is related to Myanmar as well. So, I think that will be an important visit from the perspective of the UN.
I will stop here. And I am happy to take your questions.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Question: My question is on the next High-level Week. Several diplomats said that they think it is unlikely to see a regular UNGA this September given the fact that it is difficult to have thousands and thousands of diplomats and delegations here in Midtown, Manhattan. So realistically, what do you think we will see? (inaudible)
President of the General Assembly (PGA): It is too early to tell what the situation in September will look like. I think it would be wrong if we make a decision now for September on how the participation will be. Will it be a hybrid format? Or will we have again 10,000 people at UN Headquarters? What happens to civil society? What happens to the bilaterals? These are all questions we have in our minds. That’s why I separated the two business continuity meetings, to first discuss what can we do in the General Assembly and in UN Headquarters among ourselves. Can we extend the participation level? Can we open some other places, etc.? Well, on the 16th of June, I think it is a proper time to discuss with the Host Country and the local authorities, and also compare what the UN is doing with what the Host Country and New York are doing. So, it will all depend on how much the UN will be ready to follow what the city is doing. Because, you know that as of the 1st of July, New York City has decided to go back to the similar situation before COVID. So, that is a new development. So, personally, I think all these developments, from now and after the 1st of July, will give us a signal on whether we can have a different type of a High-Level Week than we had last September. But I think the important thing is, of course, not to risk any people’s health. So, we must absolutely go along with the mitigation measures, we must listen to what science is saying to us, and we must not really open everything without any precaution. So, I can’t say what I’m expecting now. I will be depending on the situation developing. Perhaps in June or July, we might be able to talk more in detail. Now, it’s too early to say something on September.
Question: On the vision statement meeting with the Secretary-General on Friday, we know that there are seven self-nominated candidates. Has anything been done to inform them that they apparently needed to be nominated by a Member State in order to be considered?
PGA: Well, the Secretary-General selection is an important issue for the United Nations. In 2015, the General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution that set out a new transparent and open and inclusive process to select and appoint the Secretary-General. Namely, we wanted the Secretary-General candidate also to present a vision statement to the General Assembly, so that we can ask questions, get replies, and then he or she goes to the Security Council for selection. And then the selection takes place in the Security Council. And then it comes back to the General Assembly. So, the difference is that we are also involving the General Assembly in the Secretary-General selection, and I think this is going to happen. And it is happening. That’s why we’re having on Friday the Secretary-General candidate, the incumbent, His Excellency António Guterres, come to the General Assembly, answer questions, present his vision statement. I think that’s a very healthy process.
Concerning the difference between a candidate and an applicant, that is the question we’re facing now. I think it is only when the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council sign a joint letter that an applicant can become a candidate. So, this is the rule. And that’s why, on my part, I’m responsible for making this process as foreseen in the General Assembly resolution. That is: open; vision statement is presented; the Secretary-General comes to the General Assembly. And also, to be transparent, if somebody sends me a letter applying to be considered in the selection, I have passed all these letters to the President of the Security Council. So, that is all I can do – because it is a “two to tango” thing, if I may say so. And if one dancer doesn’t agree, we don’t have a candidate; that’s obvious. So, at this moment we have seven applicants as I call them – and one candidate. There are some gray areas, if I may say so, in the resolution. So, these have been presented to the two co-facilitators [of the General Assembly revitalization process] who are doing the reform process, and perhaps in the next resolution concerning this selection, we might have a clearer understanding on what to do, what not to do. But for the time being, the President of the General Assembly is responsible for two things, and I think I have achieved that.
Question: We understand that the General Assembly is working on a Myanmar resolution. Can you tell us what the status of that is, and how important this issue is to the membership?
PGA: Well, personally, I express my views very openly. I am completely against military intervention, which is harming democracy anywhere in the world and especially in Myanmar. I send out strong messages that I’m completely against military rule. So, under that line, we convened a General Assembly meeting on Myanmar and on Rohingya Muslims. It was I think one of the liveliest meetings we had here. And the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General was connected online to the General Assembly Hall. We listened to her experiences, i.e. what she’s doing, what she’s not able to do, etc. It was a good meeting. Now, there is a group of countries who have presented to me a draft for another resolution of the General Assembly concerning Myanmar. I’m waiting for broader country involvement in this. We have waited for the ASEAN meeting, and the ASEAN meeting is now over. Some important messages came out from the ASEAN meeting. And now the core group is considering how the ASEAN meeting results can be or cannot be inserted into their preliminary text. So, I’m following it, but it is the member countries who ask something from the PGA. The rule is not that the PGA comes out with a resolution; it comes from the member countries. And if I see that there is broad demand to have such a meeting, I will do that. It’s not a problem. But I think we have to be careful to get behind the resolution – with a good number of supporting countries – in order not to make it look the other way around.
Question: (inaudible) about the Secretary-General position. To clarify, if a country puts forward a candidate, you’re saying it’s… the President of the General Assembly and the Security Council who decide who’s a candidate, correct? So, does the country’s nomination of a candidate matter? (inaudible) And given that we have heard that there is a former President of Ecuador who has been nominated by a civil society group, do you think that someone like her as a former Head of State should get a chance to be heard by the General Assembly?
PGA: If the two Presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council don’t write a joint letter, even if a country presents somebody as a candidate, [that person] does not necessarily become a candidate. So, the important thing is the joint letter. And the Security Council will decide on their own behalf. And I, as the President of the General Assembly, can only talk for the General Assembly through some consultations with member countries. Their position is easier. They get a decision with 15 countries, while I have to discuss it with 193 countries. But the important thing is the joint letter. So, the seven applicants’ situation will depend on if the joint letter is signed or not. For the time being, we have only one candidate and seven applicants.
Question: Is that enough? Are you satisfied? Should there be more?
PGA: Well, my personal feelings are not important until the 15th of September of this year. So, I’m obeyed by the rules.
Question: (inaudible) You said you presented the names to the President of Security Council. Which reactions did you get? And you’re saying that the joint letter should be signed by both you and the President of the Security Council. Are you willing from your side to sign such a letter? That’s my follow-up. And then my question is on Israel and Palestine. Human Rights Watch issued a report last week about Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Among their findings was that the Israeli authorities are committing crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution. They also made several recommendations to the UN and some could maybe also be GA recommendations. One of the recommendations was countries should establish a UN commission of inquiry to investigate systematic discrimination and repression in Israel and Palestine. Do you believe that the GA could play a role there? And what would you do as PGA to facilitate hearing and engaging with such a report or other similar reports?
PGA: Concerning the first part of your question, as I mentioned, we need a joint letter signed. It looks like the Security Council has a view that only candidates or applicants supported by a country will be considered by the Security Council. And again, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a person who is supported by a country will get the guarantee of becoming a candidate. That is my feeling from several discussions I have had in the monthly coordination meetings, but it looks like the Security Council has the opinion that, traditionally, only applicants supported by a country can become a candidate.
Concerning the second part of your question, the recent Human Rights Watch report, first of all, Human Rights Watch is an independent organization and not affiliated with the United Nations. The UN position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the longest standing issue on the peace and security agenda, is well documented. And this includes longstanding concerns regarding the international human rights and humanitarian law aspects of the of the conflict as well. The Palestinian people have been living under occupation for over 50 years now and such a sustained occupation has multifaceted consequences. The international community must ensure that the human rights of the Palestinian people are respected pending the achievements of a viable two-State solution. Various aspects of this conflict are on the agenda of the General Assembly. The 10th emergency special session was opened in 1997 and has never been formally closed, so it can always be revived. And of course, if there are any requests from the Member States, as the President of the General Assembly, I will convene a meeting.
Question: (inaudible) on the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) on Security Council reform. Has there been any progress in these rounds of negotiations? And on your trip to Pakistan, can you give us any details, like a date or what do you expect to discuss there?
PGA: The process of Security Council reform is one of the most important and sensitive issues currently taking place in the United Nations. Last year, we didn’t have any IGN talks. So, in a way, this year, what we have done is 100 per cent more than what has been done last year. But I think since the beginning of my presidency, I committed to strengthening the IGN by appointing two Co-chairs and at an early stage. And they really worked hard to overcome the difficulties that we were experiencing last session due to COVID-19. And I was very glad to see so many delegations actively participating in all of the meetings of the IGN. It was in person, and we also organized a second room so that the people who were in the first room could have their collaborators sit in the second room, so they could take notes and help. And so, it was very fruitful and lively discussions that we had.
And of course, I have always said that there’s no doubt that the membership of the Security Council, as well as the working methods, must reflect the realities of the 21st century. But of course, success of the process depends exclusively on the Member States and their negotiations, discussions and agreements. So, neither the PGA nor a group of countries can make progress on this if there is no agreement among the membership as a whole. Last week, the Co-chairs presented their paper, the elements paper on convergences and divergences. There will be another meeting today where this paper will be discussed and then the IGN meetings will be over. Then we have the next step. That will be the oral statement I will make in June concerning the conclusion of IGN consultations, and that oral statement will also be shared with the member countries. So, in a meeting, I will present this, and this paper will be with us. And this process will continue in the 76th session as well.
As I mentioned, I was invited by the Pakistani Government together with the Government of Bangladesh, and I’m looking forward to this visit because Pakistan is one of the great contributors to the UN system – in peace and security and also providing a lot of personnel to our operations. And from that perspective, I would be happy to visit Pakistan once again. I wanted to also go to India. It was India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, but unfortunately, an unexpected situation came out and I had to postpone the India part to a later stage. But I will absolutely make sure that I’ll go to India as well. So, in June, I’m planning to go to Kenya and perhaps Geneva and to another country in Africa. And perhaps in July, I’ll be visiting the Latin American geographical part – also some small island countries in that region. So, I think this is all we are planning, and there is not much time left. If we can manage these geographically distributed visits, then at least I can say that, under these circumstances, we were able to do this. It’s not easy.
Question: (inaudible) What’s your position on Kashmir? (inaudible)
PGA: I visited Pakistan as the PGA-elect in August, and I made a statement then at a press conference, which I will repeat during my visit as well. So, the position of the United Nations on Jammu and Kashmir is governed by the UN Charter and applicable Security Council resolutions. And I also recall India and Pakistan’s Simla Agreement of 1972, which states that the final status of Jammu and Kashmir is to be settled by peaceful means in accordance with the UN Charter. So there again, I mentioned that I call on all parties to refrain from taking steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir. In general, I support dialogue and diplomacy, and I encourage both Pakistan and India, neighbors, to resolve this dispute through peaceful means. This was the message I gave; it will be the same message if a question is asked when I’m in Pakistan.
Question: You talked about reopening earlier. Would you be in favor of requiring that every delegate that comes here in the fall be vaccinated and show proof of that?
PGA: Well, these are issues which have to be discussed in our June business continuity meeting.
Correspondent: You got the shot, so I’m just wondering.
PGA: Yes, I got my shot, but I mean there are different views on what vaccines are accepted, what vaccines are on the list, etc. And for many countries in the world unfortunately, if you had read the World Health Organization announcement, it is horrifying. Until now, something like 1 billion vaccines have been made, and 80 per cent are relating to three countries in the world while 0.5% or something are for the least developed and vulnerable countries. You know that I have from the beginning said I would support countries in need: Least Developed Countries, LLDCs, SIDS, even Middle-Income Countries. But on the vaccine issue, I started a campaign, #Vaccines4All. The reason I opened it was because I was foreseeing that, even though vaccines were being produced, we were going to face this situation. So, the question is whether the people coming here are vaccinated or not. But there are many countries in the world that have not seen any vaccines. So, we have to discuss this thoroughly, and of course, it’s not the PGA who will decide. It will be the science and the Host Country and the local authorities. That will be the decision. Let us see.
Question: I had a follow-up to the series of questions about the Secretary-General selection process. I understand from what you just said that (inaudible) the Security Council has said or suggested that only candidates who are supported… by a country can be a candidate. That’s the Security Council position. What is your position as President of the General Assembly on that question?
PGA: My position is, as I mentioned, first to guarantee that the candidate comes to the General Assembly and to share the applicants’ letters and CVs with the Security Council. As I mentioned, the resolution, which has opened the door for the candidates to come to the General Assembly, has gray areas. That’s why we have passed it to the co-facilitators [of the General Assembly revitalization process], who are discussing how to handle this issue better in the coming years. And I think these gray areas must be solved so that we are not faced with these types of questions in the future.
Question: (inaudible) So, you’re saying basically that the Security Council Presidents are blocking the applicants’ names from being released or even considered? Is that the case from month to month, given the Security Council Presidents change every month?
PGA: I didn’t say “blocking”. I said they’re not ready to sign a joint letter together with the President of the General Assembly.
Question: So, is this a written rule that this joint letter has to be sent out by both of you?
PGA: Yes, it’s a written rule.
Question: In resolution 69/321?
Question: Okay. So, what is stopping the Security Council Presidents each month from agreeing to this process?
PGA: I wasn’t thinking of saying this, but you must not ask these questions continuously to [my spokesperson] Brenden Varma. You should ask them also to the Security Council President’s office. We cannot talk on behalf of them. So, to learn the real feelings of the Security Council and its President, you must ask this question to them. We are ready to answer any question, but I mean, we are one dancer in the “two to tango”.
Question: (inaudible) You suggested there were some vaccines that were not acceptable? That there’s a sort of a top tier of vaccines, and then, in the discussions for returning to the GA, that some of the vaccines are not considered legitimate?
PGA: Perhaps I was misunderstood. In the United States, there are three vaccines officially adopted by the health authorities. So, whether the Host Country will make a decision saying that only these three are allowed while there are many other vaccines… Or will the World Health Organization come out with a…? I think the World Health Organization is the more appropriate body. They should have done it even before. We must have a reliable credible institution, who can give us these types of recommendations, and then we listen to what they are doing. Now, the World Health Organization is starting to do that. But for the time being this is an issue which is not solved, neither in the European Union nor in other parts of the world nor in the United States – which vaccines are acceptable to attend these meetings or to come to a country.
I think now that’s why I opened this issue in a business continuity meeting, so that instead of losing time, let’s start talking about it. Let’s force these types of institutions to come out with a decision and tell us what is acceptable, what can be accepted, with what rules they can also be accepted. So, these are already considered issues. But for the High-level Week, we haven’t started any discussion. So, we will start it on the 16th of June, and I think, the Host Country’s position will be clearer than today. Because if I were the Host Country, I wouldn’t have made any plans for September as of now – because with this pandemic, unfortunately, we are living day by day or week by week. We suddenly see something happening, like what happens in India. Nobody was expecting this suddenly to happen. It changes all the plans. So, I think it’s better to start talking about it, to start discussing it, and then leave it to the science and to the local authorities.
And there, I think what I will absolutely make sure about, which I did even when I was President-elect, is that the UN should not say no to countries’ participation. It must be the decision of the countries. In UN documents, the UN absolutely must not say that you are not welcome here. That’s what I very much advocated for when I was President-elect. And in the final document, which led us to the last High-level Week, the UN didn’t say anything negative. It was the Host Country which put 14 days of quarantine – and then they couldn’t come. Again, in the UN documents, we just mentioned the meeting, but we cannot say that the countries are not welcome here.
Question: I have a question on Myanmar. So far, the Security Council has issued a full statement but failed to take any coordinated action. Are you satisfied with the Security Council’s work on Myanmar so far?
PGA: Well, as I mentioned, I can’t speak on behalf of the Security Council. They have their own difficulties. They have their own system to agree on a statement they are announcing. So, as I mentioned, we are waiting now for the core group to present or not a new draft resolution to the General Assembly, taking into consideration the ASEAN meeting that happened. And depending on that, I will convene a meeting or not. I must see whether a resolution has wind behind it. If it will not do something good for Myanmar, then we can spoil everything for Myanmar. So that’s what I’m going to look for. If there’s broad support for a resolution, then we can go for it. If not, we cannot take any risks. But the Secretary General and myself, we made some very strong statements on behalf of the General Assembly and on behalf of the Secretary-General’s Office, and also these are important.
Question: Mr. President, when you were meeting with President Erdogan, were you able to ask him about the status of women in his country?
PGA: First of all, I’m a Turkish citizen, but as the President of the General Assembly, I took an oath to be impartial and look at things from a different perspective. So, I made a statement on this issue, and I said that, as the President of the General Assembly, I don’t have the right to intervene in country decisions which are for that country. If you start doing that, then you will have to every day make a statement on another country. If a country has a change in its penal code, which is against a certain community, then I have to make a statement. You go nowhere. I think absolutely we must refrain from that, and I think also in my statement it was mentioned that the country applications and implementations are more important than papers. I’m sure there are many institutions in the world looking at country performances as well. So, from that perspective, I hope nothing will be changed and as a Turkish citizen of course. That’s all I can say as the President of the General Assembly.
Question: Thank you Mr. President. Two days ago, on World Press Freedom Day, you published a message where you said, “We honor all the brave men and women who have taken unimaginable risks to keep us informed”. Yet in your home country, Turkey, there are more than 120 journalists in jail. Amnesty International said in one of their statements, “Journalism is dying in Turkey.” Any comment on that? Thank you.
PGA: Again, I think you should ask this question to the Permanent Representative of Turkey instead of the PGA because he’s a Turkish citizen. I’m absolutely here to differentiate between my job and coming from a country where I belong to. But I’m sure if you asked the Turkish Permanent Representative, he will tell you good answers about the question you are asking.
Question: This question is related to Turkey, but I’m hoping you answer me as the President of the General Assembly – not as a Turkish diplomat. It’s about this bilateral issue that has been going on for decades between Iraq and Turkey. Turkey recently started another military operation against the PKK in the north of Iraq. Iraq is formally not happy about this. (inaudible) Do you think the United Nations should have a role in dealing with this decades-long (inaudible) security dispute between these two countries?
PGA: Well, fighting terrorism is one of the important jobs of the United Nations. We have worked for counterterrorism, and I appointed two co-facilitators to come back with a report on that. As the President of the General Assembly, I think disputes must be solved in peace and through negotiations – and also putting every element into the platform. Having said this, as a Turkish diplomat for 39 years and 11 years as a politician, I know the region very well.
Turkey lost more than 30,000 lives in its fights against PKK terrorism, and this PKK terrorism is unfortunately based in the northern part of Iraq. So, the thing is, it should have been the Iraqi Government who stopped this, so these terrorist groups didn’t infiltrate into the Turkish territories to kill so many lives there. As a UN rule, which gives the right for hot pursuit of terrorists, Turkey has been doing this operation many times. It is not yesterday or last year, but it has been for decades that this has been the case. Turkey and Iraq have very good relations – and with the new leadership. Also, with the northern part of Iraq, we have good relations. We’re talking, and this is not something which has been unilaterally performed. So, I think the best way is to combine forces to fight against terrorism. If the country can do it, it’s okay. But if there are infiltrations, then we have to do it together, and that’s what the situation is nowadays.
Question: Recently the GA held two meetings on human rights in Syria, and you invited civil society… Why don’t you follow with this initiative to discuss human rights in other areas, including Palestinians, including for example, Yemen, maybe Myanmar, and other places where human rights are being violated day in and day out?
PGA: As I mentioned previously, the General Assembly works according to mandated issues and also according to the request of the member countries. So, if there is any request – I mentioned for Palestine, I can do it for Yemen like I’m doing it for Syria, and we’ll do it for Myanmar – I can’t initiate things. It must come from the member countries. So, if there is any request, and I feel that there is strong support behind it, I will convene. There’s nothing against that.
Spokesperson: That concludes the questions. Thank you very much, everybody, for attending this press conference.
PGA: Thank you very much. Thank you. Have a good day.