20 March 2018

Activities of Secretary-General in Italy, 15 March

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in Rome from New York on Thursday, 15 March.

Shortly after arriving in Italy, the Secretary-General attended the extraordinary ministerial conference entitled “Preserving Dignity and Sharing Responsibility — Mobilizing Collective Action for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)”, co-chaired by Jordan, Sweden and Egypt.

We are here to help UNRWA overcome the worst financial crisis in its history, Mr. Guterres declared.  UNRWA’s mission is just as crucial as it was when created 68 years ago, but until a just and lasting solution to the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict is achieved, the work of UNRWA remains vital, the Secretary-General said.  (See Press Release SG/SM/18935.)

That vital work is providing life-saving humanitarian relief; building the future of Palestinian society through education; ensuring human security; rights and dignity for over five million Palestine refugees.  He warned that, for 2018, with pledges reduced, UNRWA faces a shortfall of $446 million.  If it cannot be met, critical services could be reduced or eliminated entirely.

He appealed to the participants of the meeting to give generously to bridge UNRWA’s shortfall for 2018 with predictable, sustained and additional funding.

Before leaving the conference site, hosted at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Secretary-General held separate bilateral meetings with Nikos Christodoulides, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cyprus; Alistair Burt, Minister for State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom; and Foreign Minister Margot Wallström of Sweden.  The Secretary-General also spoke to the press.

The Secretary-General and the senior members of his delegation were invited to a lunch at the Quirinale Palace, the official residence of Sergio Mattarella, the President of Italy.

On Thursday afternoon, the Secretary-General delivered the opening remarks at the ministerial meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon.  The gathering was co-chaired by the United Nations, Lebanon and Italy.

The Secretary-General told the delegates that it is now absolutely essential for the international community to show strong solidarity with Lebanon, a country he called a fundamental pillar of stability in the region.  As such, he underscored that countries in the region should work to avoid any steps that could lead to misunderstanding, confrontation or escalation.  (See Press Release SG/SM/18936.)

The strengthening of Lebanon’s institutions and the extension of State authority throughout its territory are of crucial importance, Mr. Guterres added, while also welcoming the strengthened deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces south of the Litani River.

The Secretary-General reminded the participants at the conference of the admirable solidarity displayed by Lebanon as it opened its doors to an influx of Syrian refugees — in contrast to others whose doors have remained largely closed to those in need.  That is why, he said, it is now absolutely essential for the international community to show strong solidarity with Lebanon.

Also attending the meeting with the Secretary-General were his Acting Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Pernille Kardel, and United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Force Commander Major General Michael Beary.  He also spoke to the press after the meeting.

On the sidelines of the Lebanon meeting, which took place at the Italian Foreign Ministry, the Secretary-General held separate bilateral meetings with the Italian Prime Minister, Paolo Gentiloni Silveri; Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; and Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon.

The Secretary-General left later in the day for Portugal, where on Friday he would participate at an event marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Foundation of Lisbon’s Islamic Community.

For information media. Not an official record.