Kiev, Ukraine

5 March 2014

Transcript of Deputy Secretary-General’s Press Conference at Ukrainian Crisis Media Center [scroll down for Q&A]

I am very glad to represent the United Nations on this occasion. I was sent here by the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to try to achieve the de-escalation of this crisis, and of course I as a representative of the United Nations, also stand for peaceful settlement of disputes.

That is the main purpose of my visit.

I had meetings with the Foreign Minister of this interim government, Prime Minister, the interim President. I had further meetings today. But I also wanted very much to come closer to realities which I have seen in this neighbourhood, and, of course, present my condolences to the many victims, all victims, and their families, during this very dramatic, I would say even traumatic, period for Ukraine.

The Ukrainian people are going through a very turbulent period. It must be quite a strain, both physically and mentally, to go through this, and I think the people have shown remarkable restraint and calm and dignity in this difficult situation, and I hope that spirit will prevail. Supreme sacrifices have been made by so many.

My job is to try to send a message of calm and restraint, but also a message of tolerance of inclusive and a message of always looking for peaceful settlements of disputes.

I have served the United Nations many, many years. I have been mediating in many, many conflicts. I have served in different functions, both in my old government; I was Foreign Minister of Sweden once. I was also serving in many capacities in the United Nations. And I always carry in my pocket the UN Charter and I think this charter should be remembered for what it is.

And I would like to just mention some of the aspects of this charter which are relevant for the situation in Ukraine. First of all, the first three words of this Charter are “we the peoples.” We are there to serve the peoples of the world, and the first lines after the horrible Second World War are memorable: “We the peoples of the United Nations determine to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” This is the first line of this Charter for which I stand and my colleagues who are with me.

The second very important chapter of the Charter is the purposes and principles of the United Nations, when it says that the purpose of the United Nations is “to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace.”

And the second paragraph: “it is the purpose of the United Nations to develop friendly relations among nations.”

And then my favourite chapter, if I may use this occasion to present my version of the Charter, Chapter VI, which talks about peaceful settlement of disputes, in fact, pacific settlement of disputes – it’s almost poetry, isn’t it? – where it says that the parties to end a dispute, the parties shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.”

This is the so-called Chapter VI of the UN Charter.

So this is the basis on which my mission here is taking place. Of course, this is turning into something very concrete. When it comes to finding ways to defuse this crisis, to de-escalate it, to start a credible political process.

I would hope that we would see not so much, not military escalation, but I would hope to see diplomatic, political escalation. This is what we need now. And this, in the spirit of calm and restraint and tolerance. I am assured during my many meetings here that there is a sense of the need for having an inclusive approach, bringing in all the parts of Ukraine, bring in all segments of the population, and reach out to create the strong and united Ukraine, of course, based on another principle laid out in this Charter, namely the territorial integrity and independence of nations.

So I would hope that the sacrifices that have been made on all sides and by all will be not in vain, but that indeed we come out of this with a stronger Ukraine and a Ukraine that lives in peace.

So that is my mission and for me it was very good to come here and get a sense of what has happened here in the last three months and with deep respect for the Ukrainian people and what they have gone through. And I would hope that they will have a brighter future thank you very much.

Q: Do you have any first steps that you plan to how to overcome this crisis and make it peaceful?

DSG:  Well, I was representing the Secretary-General in the United Nations Security Council last Saturday and there was a demand from several members of the Security Council that the United Nations in place here, looks into this situation, takes stock and see what we can do.  We are doing our best to start the political process – that political process has not yet started.  What we would like to see, of course, is a dialogue between Kiev and Moscow and we are working for that purpose in different ways that I cannot go into all detail.  We are also, of course, ready to help in different other ways.  Today, or yesterday rather, my colleague, Robert Serry left for Crimea, so he is now serving in Crimea and will take stock of the situation there.  He is there together a representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe [OSCE] to look into whether there is a possibility of having monitoring of the situation – human rights, minorities and other issues.  That is going to be discussed with the authorities, with those in that area, but also with us, by me and the continued discussions that I will have with the Government.  So there is definitely an element of concreteness also in the work, but I wanted to give you the general framework first.  And I was absolutely sure that you would ask penetrating questions.

Q:  Currently for me, there are hundreds, possibly thousands of armed people around.  The Government of the Russian Federation says that these are not their military’s.  How should the Ukrainian Government treat these people, as terrorists or…?

DSG:  Well, I’m not the one to pronounce myself on this yet.  The reason I decided, on behalf of the Secretary-General, to send Robert Serry to Crimea was exactly this.  We want to establish the facts, we want to take stock of the situation and then Robert Serry will report back to me when he returns to Kiev, and then we will take stock of this.  I will not go into this until I have all the facts on the ground.  This is a very serious situation, of course.  I am the first one to recognize that and we will see what we can do once we have the facts established.

Q:  There are actually two follow-up questions. Do you consider introducing [a] peacekeepers’ mission into Crimea and what does the UN think about the perils between Crimea and [inaudible]…?

DSG: Well, as to the first question.  First of all we are trying to establish a relationship, a dialogue between Kiev and Moscow.  That is necessary.  The second thing is to, in different ways, help diffuse the situation.  And one of the ways of doing this is to send messages that the United Nations or international organizations like the OSCE, which I already mentioned, could have monitors on the ground look into the situation for minorities, for the human rights situation.  One of my colleagues, Assistant Secretary-General Ivan Simonovic, will arrive over the weekend to the Ukraine.  He will spend time and his mission will be active, both in the western part of Ukraine, in Kiev and the eastern part of Ukraine and also in Crimea.  So we will have the possibility to follow the human rights situation and the minorities situation if such a mission has been set up.  I am talking to the head of the OSCE in Vienna about this as late as only about an hour ago.  When it comes to peacekeeping, it’s far too early to bring up that issue.  It’s an issue that, in that case would require a decision in the Security Council and that is, under the circumstances, a rather complicated issue.  The same goes for also, at this stage, observers to the area.  It would also require, if it is a UN mission, a decision in the Security Council.

Q: There has recently been many parallels comparing seventy years ago separation in Europe and League of Nations and today’s aggression of Russia and trying to get Crimea.  What is your attitude to these parallels and is the UN now stronger than the League of Nations?

DSG: Well, I forgot the question, I didn’t consciously evade the question of the comparison to [inaudible] and the different powers.  I have a long life in diplomacy and in political affairs and I have learnt that every situation is unique.  I don’t think one should draw too many comparisons and consequences from earlier action.  Every historic situation is unique and I think the situation in the Ukraine is unique.  I would hope that we have come to the end of the cold war.  There is no interest from anybody to reawaken those ghosts of the past.  So that I would hope we see it’s in everybody’s interests to find a peaceful settlement.  This not a win-win game, this is not, sorry, this is not a zero sum game where one wins and the other loses.  The conflict in today’s world is always a lose-lose game. 

I have dealt for three years now with the Syria crisis and I have been trying to say this – there is no military victory in any place.  The only victories that last are those that have the support of the nations and the people and I would hope that we would not go the road of escalation but rather de-escalation.  I would like to see only one type of escalation and that is an escalation of prevention, an escalation of political and diplomatic action – Chapter VI of the UN Charter.

Q: [A Roman philosopher] said that the best encouragement for a criminal is not to punish him in the first place.   After the hard phases of this conflict is over, what would be the United Nations actions to punish those who are responsible for what is happening?

DSG:  Well there are different levels where we can be active.  I can assure you that we will do everything and get the truth out as much as we can when it comes to human rights violations and even, possibly, even more serious crimes.  That is our job.  Mrs. Navi Pillay, the head of the [UN] Human Rights Office in Geneva is talking to me at 3.30pm this afternoon about exactly this.  And Ivan Simonovic, our representative, will be here for exactly this purpose to see what kind of human rights violations have been committed.

That will always be leading to discussion of accountability whether that is the Human Rights Council or other bodies of the United Nations or something else.  It is not in my hands.  It is in the hands also of, of course, the Member States - to what degree they push these issues in New York or Geneva.  But it will also be a matter for the collective bodies who often take up these issues – the General Assembly and the Security Council. So it is a matter of what political will is available and mobilized internationally on this issue.  But I hope that, in the end, there will be reconciliation, and reconciliation built on acceptance of accountability, acceptance of responsibility.  This is my experience from so many conflicts, that if you don’t go through a period of taking out the issues of responsibility, you pay a very heavy price later on.

Q:  Sir, what are the particular challenges for senior UN officials in dealing with the problem when the main protagonist is a permanent member of the Security Council?  Secondly, because of your role in Syria, do you see any impact from what’s happening here to peace efforts, negotiations in Syria?

DSG: Well, I must say that I have reflected on your question already; and it is of course an issue of concern if this deterioration of the international climate, which we are seeing in and around Ukraine, if that is translated also into other areas where we are dependent on the members of the Security Council, not least the permanent five. You are right in pointing to the frustration that many feel, including the Secretary-General and myself, that we do not have a strong Security Council resolution on Syria. That has prevented the efforts of Kofi Annan, it has prevented Lakhdar Brahimi, two of the world’s best negotiators. If we have unity in the Security Council, it becomes so much easier.