|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, 18 SEPTEMBER 2007
The Secretary-General: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great pleasure to meet all of you today. I know this room is quite packed. I see some of the travel companions who travelled with me to Africa. I hope you are all well recovered from your very hectic trip.
Today, as you know, is the beginning of the sixty-second session of the General Assembly. I thought that it would be appropriate and desirable for me to exchange some views on matters of mutual interest and concern pertaining to the sixty-second session of the General Assembly.
This will be my first General Assembly as Secretary-General. As you know, I assumed my duties as Secretary-General on January 1st, in the middle of the sixty-first session of the General Assembly. This will be a most intense period of multilateral diplomacy ever in the United Nations history, I believe. As we move well into the twenty-first century, the United Nations is, once again, the global forum where issues are discussed and solutions are hammered out.
In addition to the general debate, there will be a number of very important side events or international conferences; for example, a high-level meeting on climate change, Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East peace process, known as the Quartet process, and also Kosovo.
Regarding Darfur, I am going to chair, together with African Union [Commission] Chairperson [Alpha Oumar] Konaré, this high-level meeting. I hope that we will be able to map our strategy and road map for the forthcoming political negotiations scheduled in Libya on October 27th. This will mark just one more step forward, and we will need to redouble our efforts, so as not to lose the positive momentum, which we have been able to create.
This weekend, a number of foreign ministers will come, as I said, to attend all these ministerial high-level meetings.
Before I take your questions, let me briefly mention just one question which will be high on your agenda. This is on climate change. On 24 September, next Monday, I will convene a high-level dialogue on climate change. I am very much pleased and encouraged by the overwhelming response of leaders from all around the world. Around 80 Heads of State or Government have expressed their intention to participate as speakers, and we have a total of 154 speakers who have registered, including 80 Heads of State or Government. This will be an informal event where the leaders of the world come together, with a renewed sense of commitment, to tackle a problem that faces each one of us -- and above all the most vulnerable populations on our planet, those endangered by rising sea levels and those whose supply of food and water will be greatly affected by the changing climate.
We have a very good basis to work. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has given us clear proof of the science, the impacts and options for responding. The world’s peoples are now looking for their Governments to act.
What I want to achieve at the end of this particular event is a strong political message at the leaders’ level for the climate change negotiations in Bali in December. We need to move fast and reach a bold agreement by 2009, so that it can enter into force by the end of 2012. We must not leave any vacuum after the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol. I have confidence that leaders will commit themselves to personally follow these negotiations, within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, through to a fruitful conclusion.
Climate change is a challenge to our leadership, skills and vision -- and we have to address that challenge boldly.
And I am also very pleased that the incoming President of the General Assembly has made “Responding to Climate Change” the theme of this year’s general debate.
I will make sure that the meetings on this issue, and many others, are real working sessions dealing with hard facts and hard decisions.
I am under no illusion that, whether it’s the Middle East or Kosovo or Afghanistan or climate change, these problems will be solved overnight. The solutions all involve a long road and hard work. Be assured that, as Secretary-General, I am committed to working intensely with the Member States on all these issues to achieve results.
I also plan to have bilateral meetings with more than 100 Heads of State or Government or ministerial level delegations. I will use these discussions to advance our common agenda -- human rights, security and development and, of course, making the UN more efficient and effective and accountable to the people of these United Nations.
I also hope that the delegations gathered here will use this opportunity to rejoin their efforts in advancing the reform process at the United Nations, both in terms of management reform and institutional reform.
Reform of the United Nations remains a top priority for me, as well, but it is not something the Secretary-General can do alone. We need the support and cooperation from Member States and the Secretariat.
Recently, I have brought all UN senior advisers to Torino in Italy, and we had a very good retreat and discussions on the future of the United Nations, as well as how we can work as a team, and have come up with a working short-hand for this effort: “A Stronger UN for a Better World”.
Precisely because our work is so important, we must deliver to the best of our ability. This means faster, more effective action; a work ethic that puts a premium on pragmatic results, not bureaucratic process; and, above all, scrupulous attention to the highest standards of transparency and professional ethics. I shall be working closely with the Member States over the coming years to push this agenda, hard.
I truly believe that the world leaders that will gather here in a few days bring with them a renewed interest in multilateral resolution to challenges facing the world.
The Member States that make up this Organization and those of us in the Secretariat have a collective responsibility to meet the expectations that are placed upon us.
Thank you very much, and I will be pleased to answer your questions.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, welcome again, on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association.
In the last few days, the war of words has really increased on the issue of nuclear capability in Iran. You have heard what the French Foreign Minister has said about going to war against Iran. I wonder, in your role as Secretary-General, what you can do to bring back the issue to the level of negotiations. Unless you do something, the tensions will increase between western nations and Iran to the point where the United Nations, at some point, cannot stop the issue from going out of control.
The Secretary-General: I have stated publicly many times my position -- the United Nations position on Iranian nuclear issues. As a matter of principle, all the pending issues, whatever it may be, should be resolved through dialogue in a peaceful manner. That is a very important principle, which the United Nations is seeking.
Concerning these specific questions, I encourage Iran to be fully cooperative and transparent in dealing with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and to implement the work plan they have agreed with the IAEA. I sincerely hope that this agreement between Iran and the IAEA will contribute to the final and overall settlement of the nuclear issue of Iran by fully complying with the relevant Security Council resolutions. That is the core in addressing this issue.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, we are expecting two very important meetings on climate change next week -- one is your high-level meeting and the other is the major economies conference in D.C. So how would you define the different roles of these two meetings, and how would you hope the United States meeting would complement your initiative here?
The Secretary-General: I think the main objectives, principles and goals we are working on are all the same, regardless of the nationalities. In that regard, I am very encouraged by the wholehearted support of the international community and the consensus. While we welcome individual measures and initiatives by any countries, all these measures and initiatives should fit into the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] process. This is what I was assured of during the G-8 summit meeting in Heiligendamm, Germany, in June by President Bush. I am encouraged that President Bush is also committed to this United Nations negotiating process.
Question: On North Korea, it suspended today or yesterday its participation in the six-party talks scheduled for tomorrow. There are lots of reports that this had to do with the reported Israeli attack on Syria. (A) Do you have any independent information to confirm that? (B) Would you urge North Korea to join the talks? And also, would you urge North Korea to accept the independent investigator into the UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] issue, which North Korea has thus far refused to do?
The Secretary-General: First of all, on the North Korean nuclear issue. As you are, I am also very much encouraged by the recent developments in the denuclearization process of the North Korean nuclear issue.
On this report about North Korean involvement in Syria, I do not have any independent information on this issue. I read a report issued by the North Korean Government denying such kinds of reports.
On these overall issues between Israel and Syria, as I have clearly mentioned, on this intrusion by the Israeli air force into Syrian airspace, I do not have yet any clear information on this. In fact, the area of operations of the UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force] is away from this, and I am still waiting for clarification on this matter.
As I said, it is very important for the countries in the region to fully abide by the relevant Security Council resolutions for the peace and security in that region.
Question: On UNDP, would you urge North Korea to accept the independent investigator that was just nominated?
The Secretary-General: An internationally recognized and independent auditor was named a few days ago, it was announced. I sincerely hope that North Korea will fully cooperate with the investigation into that issue. By the end of December, when the independent auditor’s finding is complete, I sincerely hope that, again, we will be able to see the end of this issue clearly.
Question: Mr. Secretary, back to Iran. I know the Secretary-General’s Office would not get involved with the internal politics of a country, but Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said yesterday:
“I was very disappointed to have learned that the Secretary-General of the United Nations has invited Iranian President Ahmadinejad to address the General Assembly. I think this is a grave error. The invitation should be withdrawn. He shouldn’t be allowed to speak to the General Assembly.”
Please comment or correct, as you see fit, this statement.
The Secretary-General: As you know, all the meetings of the plenary of the General Assembly are open to all Member States of the United Nations, pursuant to the relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. In accordance with the rules of procedure adopted by the Member States of the United Nations, it is up to Member States to decide who will represent their own countries, unless a Member State’s right is suspended or revoked by the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. This is not what the Secretary-General should act upon.
Question: Concerning the high-level conference on climate change, can you tell me what type of signals you hope to hear from both the developing countries -- mainly the developing countries who are not covered by the obligations of the Kyoto Protocol -- and the industrialized world, in terms of their willingness to move forward, compromise and reach a new agreement? What do you want to see from both sides coming out of this conference?
The Secretary-General: It is a well-known fact that the positions between industrialized countries and developing countries differ on the level of reduction, targets or who should be more responsible, who should do more on this technology or financing. The main goal and objective at this time is, rather than debating more on this difference of opinions, the whole international community must act together. That is the main purpose, and that is what the international community -- particularly leaders of the whole international community -- should keep in mind.
Science has made it quite clear, and we have been feeling the impact of global warming -- already clearly felt. We have resources and we have technologies; the only thing lacking is political will. Before it is too late, we must take action. That is why the whole international community is now acting on an urgent basis.
I am encouraged that, recently, the level of awareness on the significance and importance and urgency of this issue has grown very highly. We hope that, during this high-level meeting, first of all, even though this may not be a negotiating forum, leaders will express their own views. And they have a historical responsibility, either industrialized or developing countries, as leaders of the whole international community, to protect and to make this Earth planet a more hospitable, as well as environmentally sustainable, place.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, you have several meetings coming up. You talked a little bit about your expectations about the meeting on Friday on Sudan. Could you…?
The Secretary-General: Friday, yes.
Question: Friday, on Darfur. You expressed concern yesterday about recent fighting. How concerned are you that that could sabotage the outcome of the conference next month? And could you also just briefly give us your expectations for the meetings on Iraq and Afghanistan, which you didn’t mention?
The Secretary-General: When I met with President [Omer al-]Bashir in Sudan, I urged him that, as we have come to this agreement or understandings -- a very difficult way, a long way -- Sudan’s Government should make utmost efforts to manage this path with utmost care. This process has been and will be very fragile. The whole international community must nurture this process. For that, he must commit to this cessation of hostilities and protect all humanitarian workers -- and humanitarian assistance should be flowing without any hindrance -- and protect and respect human rights. These are what I have emphasized. I was very much concerned about all this recurrence of violence.
Now, through the high-level meetings on Friday, we would like to, first of all, engage in mapping out a strategy and road map for this forthcoming political negotiation, how to expedite deployment of a hybrid operation, how to discuss about the ways to make this political negotiation a successful one and talk about developmental issues. Those are what we aim to achieve at the end of this meeting. Of course, an important part of the political negotiation will have to be dealt with during the Libya meeting.
On Iraq, again, I would like to discuss with all Member States, together with Prime Minister [Nouri al-]Maliki, how to strengthen the United Nations role, how to implement Security Council resolution 1770 (2007) and also review the process of the International Compact, where we are standing, and urge the member States of the international community to expedite their commitment.
On Afghanistan, again, we are still concerned about this continuing political instability, corruption and opium production -- all these are sources of concern of the international community. And we would like to discuss, together with President [Hamid] Karzai and members of the JCMB -- Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board members -- how to increase, first of all, the United Nations role and how to coordinate better the management and coordination among different political entities there, how to help their national dialogue for national reconciliation and how to encourage the regional dialogue with parties around the world.
Question: Regarding the climate change high-level meeting panel, Japan is the country where the Kyoto Protocol was born, and yet that country’s Prime Minister seems to be absent from this high-level meeting. How disappointed are you?
The Secretary-General: I was assured by Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe, when we met in Heiligendamm, that he would come himself. I’m, of course, disappointed that the Prime Minister had to leave, and they are now in the process of electing a new Prime Minister.
I was told by Japanese PR [permanent representative] that one of the former Prime Ministers may represent as a special envoy of the new Prime Minister. I would welcome that. And I hope Japan will make a good contribution as one of the important countries regarding climate change and also the country that hosted the Kyoto Protocol. I’m looking forward to working with the new leadership, whoever it may be, in Japan.
Question: Since your meeting in April with the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, what has the Syrian leader done since then to help improve the political situation in Lebanon?
The Secretary-General: Syria is one of the important regional players. And I have expected, and I have told him, that Syria should play a constructive role for peace and security in the region. I was pleased to see that Syria participated in the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting, and I also invited this time the Syrian Foreign Minister to participate in the Quartet-plus-Arab-partners meeting, which will be held in the evening of Sunday, 23 September. Through all this active participation and engaging Syria in these important gatherings, I hope that Syria will continue to play a constructive role in this.
Question: Taiwan has made fresh applications in the last couple of months to join the United Nations. A series of United Nations bodies, including your own Secretariat, has rejected its letters of application without being willing to consider them. They say that your interpretation of the General Assembly resolution that expelled Chang Kai-shek’s representatives from the United Nations is incorrect and doesn’t apply to present-day Taiwan. Why do you refuse even to allow their application to be considered?
The Secretary-General: First of all, by resolution 2758 (XXVI) of 1971, the General Assembly decided to recognize the representatives of the People’s Republic of China as the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations. This has been the official position of the United Nations and has not changed since 1971.
The matter which you asked me was very carefully considered by the Secretariat and, in light of the resolution which I mentioned, 2758, it was not legally possible to receive the purported application for membership. At the same time, I would just note that some Member States have submitted applications for consideration by the General Assembly of the membership of Taiwan. Accordingly, the question of membership of the United Nations, they want it to be included in a supplementary item of the sixty-second session of the General Assembly. I hope that, accordingly, this question will have to be discussed by the Member States.
Question: About that resolution 1559 (2004), of which you, as Secretary-General, are very much the custodian of that resolution 1559, and given the fact that presidential elections in Lebanon will commence next week, what is it that you would like to say to players within the country and players outside the country, given that 1559 calls for free and fair presidential elections without outside interference? What worries you about what’s going in Lebanon? I know it’s not here, but it’s very much here through resolutions and through your responsibility for 1559.
The Secretary-General: I am concerned, very deeply concerned, about the lack of progress in the political situation, particularly concerning the election of a new President. I sincerely hope that the Lebanese people will be able to elect a new President in accordance with their constitutional procedures. I have spoken to both Speaker [Nabih] Berri and Prime Minister [Fouad] Siniora recently, and I have urged them to reconcile and try to select a new President in accordance with their own constitutional procedures.
What I am concerned about is that, because of the inability of electing a new President, if there would be a political scenario that there would be two Governments, two Presidents, that will be very much unacceptable, a very worrisome situation for the peace and security of not only Lebanon, but also peace and security in the region.
Question: You spoke of your conversation with Mr. Berri and Mr. Siniora. Is it correct that you said to Mr. Berri that you endorse his initiative and you urged him to just stick to it and do nothing else? Is that a correct characterization of what you said to him?
The Secretary-General: I did not use any word “endorse” or “support”. I only encouraged him to continue his role as Speaker of the Parliament to work out mutually acceptable procedures in accordance with their Constitution to select a new President.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, we heard from Mr. [Terje Roed-]Larsen some comments recently trying to interpret the Lebanese Constitution. Do you approve of this interference by your envoy, especially that the backlash from Lebanon has been very severe against him?
The Secretary-General: I am aware of that, and I received some, you know, expression of concern from the leadership of Lebanon on his remarks. I have yet to meet him -- what exactly he said. But, whatever he might have said, that should not be viewed as an official position of the United Nations. It might have been his personal views on that, even though he is a Special Representative.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, I have a question about the Sudan and the ICC [International Criminal Court]. How did President Bashir respond when you asked him to hand over the suspects to the ICC, and what do you think the consequences should be if he continues not to comply?
The Secretary-General: I raised this issue with President Bashir more than once in a private conversation. As my meeting was done in private conversation, I should prefer not to disclose all the details of my discussions. But you should know that I am fully committed to justice and peace. I will continue to raise and discuss this matter.
The Secretary-General: But, as this issue was discussed in overall discussions on peace and security and justice, I believe that justice is a part of the peace process and justice and peace should go hand in hand. But, for a certain period, certain occasions, there are certain issues which need to be kept confidential for the purpose of promoting and making progress on those issues. But, as far as I am concerned as the Secretary-General, you have my full commitment on these issues.
Question: A question on DRC. The Great Lakes nations met in Kampala and have called on MONUC [United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] to play a greater role in fighting the armed groups in eastern DRC. Would you favour such a role, a more prominent role, for MONUC in the region, and would you be prepared to recommend this to the Security Council?
The Secretary-General: In fact, MONUC has been playing a very important role in stabilizing the situation between DRC forces and forces loyal to [Laurent] Nkunda. This role, I hope, will continue. At the same time, I have been urging President [Joseph] Kabila to exercise maximum restraint in dealing with these issues. The DRC has been very successful in going through very difficult issues. Now, I am concerned about all this recurrence and continuing skirmishes between the two, Government forces and forces loyal to Nkunda. I am going to have a meeting with President Kabila during the General Assembly session. We will discuss this matter more in depth.
Question: Did you receive a letter from the foreign ministers of the Great Lakes region? I mean, where they ask you specifically…
The Secretary-General: Yes, I know that the foreign ministers in the Great Lakes had discussed this matter, and I am in close contact with them.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, if I could return once more to the Iranian issue, have you followed the recent reports that the existing sanctions are not really having much success and there are problems in imposing them? And, in view of that, do you foresee further sanctions being strengthened in the future if Iran does not comply with the existing ones?
The Secretary-General: I know that some Security Council members are considering to discuss to impose another sanction on Iran. This is a matter which needs to be decided upon by the members of the Security Council. As the Secretary-General, again, I would sincerely hope and urge the Iranian authorities to fully comply with the Security Council’s resolutions, so that other remaining issues will be dealt with in peaceful negotiations.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, since, as you just reminded us, you have established direct communication with President Bashir of Sudan: the alarm you expressed yesterday about episodes of violence in Darfur, have you communicated that directly to him? Have you received any assurances from the Sudanese Government that it will not happen again? And finally, also on Darfur: the meeting on Friday, will there be anybody there representing the rebel groups or any rebel group?
The Secretary-General: First of all, this meeting is not with the rebel groups. They will be invited to a political negotiation, which will be held on 27 October. This meeting is an enlarged contact group high-level meeting on Darfur. On the first part of your question, I have not directly spoken with President Bashir at this time on this issue, but I hope that he has heard my statement and my concern clearly.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, you mentioned that institutional reform is one of your top priorities. For this session, how urgent is the expansion or change of the Security Council reforms to you?
The Secretary-General: Security Council reform is the most important part of the institutional reform of the United Nations. We have, in fact, made good progress in institutional reforms, like the Peacebuilding Commission or Human Rights Council. All these are very important progress. Now, I understand that Member States have been actively discussing this matter recently. I sincerely hope again that Member States will dwell on this issue more in depth. And, as the Secretary-General, I will spare no effort to facilitate such consultations among Member States to enable the Security Council reform. If I may speak as a matter of principle, considering the tremendous, dramatic changes in the international political scene during the last 60 years, it is necessary that the Security Council should be reformed and expanded in a manner which will be acceptable to the Member States.
Question (interpretation from French): The sixty-second session is going to be one of your first as Secretary-General. You will be called upon to take stock of your achievements before heads of State. What is the biggest achievement or achievements that you are proud of today and that you could present to the entire world and say “I have done this in nine months”?
The Secretary-General (interpretation from French): Thank you for asking a question in French. Your gesture encourages me to continue practicing French. I hope that, in the near future, my French will improve. That question is very lengthy and difficult for me to answer it in one or two minutes. But, with you permission, I would like to answer in English and I will do my best to answer it.
Question (interpretation from French): Yes, you are entitled to answer in English, but I still wanted to ask my question in French.
The Secretary-General: Nine months may be long or may be short. It has been very hectic, it has been very meaningful and I have learned a great deal in terms of my consultations with the Member States and in terms of my relationship with many leaders around the world. I know that many countries -- each and every country -- have their own challenges, difficulties and problems. The United Nations has also many challenges and problems in terms of reform and Secretariat management. I think I have been encouraged by the strong support of the Member States during the last nine months. I was able to raise the awareness of the international community on this climate change, and I was able to make small progress, modest progress in the Darfur situation. And I have been actively participating in the Middle East peace process as a member of the Quartet. And I have been discussing all major geopolitical issues. This is what I am going to continue.
It may be too early for me to tell you all that I have achieved, but I am still working hard to achieve all the major goals which I have in my agenda.
Question: On Sudan, your peace negotiations, what is the strategy for them? Do you want a ceasefire first, or are you going to do the entire bundle? Because the entire bundle could take years, or be done quickly and fall apart like the DPA [Darfur Peace Agreement]. Meanwhile, you will need more and more peacekeepers to just try to save lives.
The Secretary-General: This is, again, a very broad question which may require me a long time. But I have just three action plans, as you might have already known.
This is peace and security through deployment of a hybrid operation. It is going on well, even though there are still many pending issues that will have to be ironed out.
And most importantly, political negotiations -- this has to be done.
Then, as we see the progress in political dialogue, we will have to discuss all these development packages. I was so struck, after having visited Darfur and Juba -- the plight and the suffering that they are undergoing. So the international community should give some signs of hope and promise to those people as we make progress in the political process. And in that, the cessation of hostilities will provide a very important groundwork.
Question: About three weeks ago, one of the major leading human rights groups, Human Rights Watch, had asked you to appoint an international inquiry commission to inquire into the killing of at least 900 Lebanese by the Israeli forces and also the killings by the Hizbullah. Will you appoint this inquiry commission, so that this matter should -- and they also said the use of bombs was illegal under the international law.
The Secretary-General: I have already appointed a Special Adviser on genocide and mass atrocities, Professor [Francis] Deng, and I have also proposed to the Security Council the appointment of a special adviser on the responsibility to protect. All the issues which were raised by human rights groups can be addressed under Mr. Deng and other special advisers.
Question: This commission was sought especially to inquire into Lebanon; that is what they asked for.
The Secretary-General: Whatever the case may be, I have appointed this Special Adviser on this, who is an expert and who has wide and extensive knowledge and experience on this matter. That can be dealt with by him.
Question: Mr. Ban, your Humanitarian Coordinator, John Holmes, in an interview with the BBC that was on the air yesterday, said that the United States has a moral obligation to do more to take Iraqi refugees and that the United States is “not doing enough” in this regard. So I am wondering if you agree with this statement of your Humanitarian Coordinator, if you’ve raised it or will raise it with President Bush, and if you can give an update on your desire to expand the United Nations presence in Iraq and your assessment of security.
The Secretary-General: It is true that there [are] huge, enormous humanitarian concerns and issues involving all these refugees coming out of Iraq. Syria and Jordan, they are experiencing very serious difficulties in accommodating all those refugees, at the rate of 15,000 persons per week. This is an enormous number of refugees. And in that regard, the parties concerned, I think, have some moral obligations to do more for those refugees. I will try to see when will be opportune timing for me to discuss these matters with leaders of the countries concerned.
Ms. Montas: For those who didn’t have a chance to ask a question, the Secretary-General will have stakeouts all throughout this week, on Iraq, on Afghanistan, on the Quartet. So you’ll have the opportunity to ask him other questions at another time.
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