Geneva, Switzerland

1 March 2013

Secretary-General's press conference in Geneva - full transcript

SG: Bonjour Mesdames et Messieurs de la presse,

Je suis très heureux d'être de retour à Genève.

Je viens de parler au Conseil des droits de l'homme sur le sujet très important de l'intégration des droits de l'homme dans tout le travail de l'ONU, et dans le programme de développement pour l’après-2015 en particulier. Notre objectif : tous les droits de l'homme pour tous.

Ma visite à Genève a été bien remplie.

J'ai rencontré les chefs des organismes des Nations Unies basés ici, ainsi que des membres du personnel. Nous avons parlé de la façon d'obtenir de meilleurs résultats alors que l’Organisation a de moins en moins de ressources et de plus en plus à faire.

J'ai visité l'UNOSAT, le Programme de l’UNITAR pour les applications satellitaires opérationnelles, qui fournit des images cruciales pour notre action dans le domaine de la gestion des catastrophes et des secours humanitaires. Sur le site du CERN, j’ai aussi visité les incroyables installations de recherche.

Tout à l’heure, je donnerai la conférence annuelle Sergio Vieira de Mello, qui, cette année, marque le 10e anniversaire de l'attentat tragique de Bagdad. Ce sera un grand honneur pour moi que de rendre hommage à ce grand humanitaire, qui continue de nous inspirer.

Demain, je réunirai au Mont Pèlerin les représentants et envoyés spéciaux qui dirigent 30 missions de maintien de la paix et missions politiques pour discuter des moyens de renforcer l'impact de nos activités.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I met with High Commissioner Pillay of Human Rights earlier today to discuss Syria, Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, among other issues.
On Syria, the situation continues to deteriorate.  The number of refugees is rapidly nearing 1 million people.  I am very concerned about sectarian violence and spillover effects to neighbouring countries. It is crucial to stop the violence, support Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi and start a political dialogue.  I will see Mr. Brahimi tomorrow in Mont Pelerin.

On Mali, I welcome the timely and efficient action by France and others in responding to Mali’s request for help in reversing the gains made by extremists.  The Security Council is now discussing the options I presented for peacekeeping.  We must also focus on the political steps that are needed, and on the humanitarian situation, which remains dire in Mali and across the Sahel.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, last weekend I was in Addis Ababa with African leaders to sign a new framework agreement that we hope represents a break from past cycles of conflict.  But the troubling violence in the eastern DRC in the past couple of days reminds us that this will require strong collective efforts, leadership and political will.

I have travelled to Geneva from Vienna, where I attended the Alliance of Civilizations forum.  I welcome the growing support for the efforts of the Alliance to promote tolerance and counter extremism.

While in Vienna I met with the Foreign Minister of Iran, Mr. Ali Akbar Selahi, to discuss Iran’s nuclear programme and other matters.  I am encouraged that, at their recent talks in Almaty, the P5+1 and Iran agreed on dates and venues for further meetings soon. The onus remains on Iran to gain the confidence and trust of the international community.

Also in Vienna, I telephoned President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya to express my hope that Monday’s elections will be peaceful and credible.  I hope all Kenyans will reject inflammatory rhetoric and violence and respect the independence of the judiciary and electoral bodies.  I thank the Kenyan football and rugby players who have worked with UN agencies to speak up in favour of a process that reflects the will of the Kenyan people.

Finally, I continue to press for action on climate change, the Millennium Development Goals, the post-2015 development agenda and empowering the world’s women and young people.  Beyond today’s immediate challenges, the United Nations continues to lay the foundations for a sustainable, equitable and peaceful tomorrow.

Thank you.  I will be happy to answer your questions. Thank you.

Q: Thank you very much. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, I am a Mexican journalist and Vice-President of ACANU.  It’s very nice to see you here in Geneva.  Thank you very much for the opportunity of this press conference, on behalf of ACANU, I would like to say.
My question is regarding Sri Lanka.  We just saw an appalling film that documents atrocities perpetrated at the end of the war.  Members of the civil society made a strong statement demanding the Human Rights Council to ask for an international and independent investigation.  Do you support this request?

SG: I have consistently underlined the critical importance of addressing accountability in Sri Lanka through a genuine and comprehensive national process achieving national reconciliation. Last week in New York I have received the Japanese ambassador who led the accountability assessment mission to Sri Lanka where representatives of Bangladesh, Nigeria, Rumania, Sri Lanka and a Colombia University professor participated in an observation project to Sri Lanka last December.  I recognized through our meeting with them the important steps taken by the Government of Sri Lanka since the end of the conflict and strongly underlined the need to address the remaining challenges particularly on issues relating to reconciliation and accountability. I highlighted the importance for the Government of Sri Lanka to work constructively with the international community towards that end. Thank you.

Q: You just mentioned the situation in Syria, you said that the situation is continuing to deteriorate and now we enter the third year of the conflict and the Security Council is still blocked; you have appointed two special envoys but they haven’t managed to resolve the crisis.   So isn’t it time for you personally to take the initiative, isn’t it time for you personally to go to Damascus and talk to the Assad regime and try to bring them to the negotiation table with the opposition forces? Thank you.

SG:  I share your concern.  It is not only you and me, also all the people around the world.  I am personally pained and distraught by the way this situation is continuing and deteriorating, and when I think how many more people will be killed in the coming days and months, when we do not have any political solution.  In that regard, I have been urging the world leaders, particularly the members of the Security Council to be united, the leaders in the region to be united. And I have strongly welcomed and encouraged the representative of opposition group, represented by Mr. Moaz al-Khatib, and I welcomed his proposal to meet with the representatives of the Syrian Government. I know that the Syrian Government, particularly the Foreign Minister Muallam has expressed his willingness to meet with opposition representatives.  This is a very small window of opportunity which we strongly support and encourage them to use that.  The opportunity may soon close.  I will have very in-depth discussion with Joint Special Representative, Dr. Lakhdar Brahimi, tomorrow in Mont Pelerin and we will have a long time to discuss among the senior advisors and senior special representatives and special envoys who may be dealing with other issues to discuss basically and focussing on how to deal with this Syrian situation.  As you may remember, at the beginning of this crisis I have been involving myself, speaking to President Assad, and meeting people, the Foreign Minister and Prime Minister and representatives of Syrian Government. At this time, it is my hope that we still support strongly the role of Lakhdar Brahimi.  All the members of the Security Council and Member States support his role at this time.  He is receiving full support from the region.  And of course I will consider what you said depending upon how the situation evolves. Thank you.

Q: Mr. Ban Ki-moon, what do you think, isn’t it time for another Action Group for Syria meeting and if so, what in your point of view would be the optimal composition of this meeting? Thank you.

SG: The situation, as you said, is deteriorating day by day.  There is not much political space which we can do.  I cannot give you any guarantee or deadline of any future meetings.  But we will have to continue to address this issue.  In the absence of political dialogue or political resolution in sight, what we have to do at this time is increase our humanitarian assistance.  The number of refugees who are fleeing Syria increases rapidly, around 5,000 people a day.  We have seen 40,000 refugees in just one week.  In just one month, the last month of February, we have seen 150,000 refugees.  It is almost impossible to provide all the necessary humanitarian assistance. The resources which we have are outpaced by the rapidly increasing numbers of people who are fleeing.  That is why I convened the international donors’ conference on January 30th in Kuwait. We were able to mobilize 1.54 billion dollars at that time with the very generous support from the donor communities.  I am urging the Member States to provide generous assistance to those people who are eagerly, desperately in need of humanitarian assistance, basic humanitarian assistance.  And I can assure you that the United Nations are mobilizing all humanitarian agencies and programmes, and will do so in close coordination with the civil society and NGOs and other international organizations.  I am urging again the Security Council, the regional leaders and the people of Syria to unite themselves to address this issue. We are soon going to enter into a third year, in just about two weeks time, we are entering the third year of this crisis – how long do we have to see the people killed and displaced in this way?

Q: Sir, did you have much direct contact with Pope Benedict and would you be kind enough to give us your reaction to his retirement which took place yesterday? Thank you.

SG: As you know, I had the honour of having an audience of His Holiness the Pope in Rome and we had the honour again of having him in the United Nations during the month of April 2008.  He came at my invitation and we are very much grateful for his spiritual guidance and leadership which he has been demonstrating as Pope. Now that he has resigned - I know that this is only the first time in 600 years that a Pope has resigned voluntarily - I have expressed in my letter to His Holiness my deepest appreciation and respect for the profound commitment of Pope Benedict to interfaith dialogue and to addressing such global challenges as the alleviation of poverty and hunger, as well as promotion of human rights, human dignity and peace and harmony of the world.  I sincerely hope that his wisdom demonstrated during his pontificate may stand as a legacy on which to build a further dialogue and tolerance so that we all will be able to live in a world of peace and harmony.  Thank you very much.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, if you permit me to go further with one more question on Syria.  With this failure of the Security Council to deal with this crisis or other crises, Mr. Secretary-General, don’t you think that this is a time to have a real reform for the Security Council?  Because what we see now with this crisis or other crises, is that five countries in the world are hijacking the other countries in the world. Thank you.

SG: I hope we do not directly link these issues, the situation and crisis in Syria to the reform of the Security Council. The reform of the Security Council has been on the agenda of the United Nations since a long time.  Unfortunately, the Member States have not been able to find a formula or modality by which we can see the reform of the Security Council in a more representative and democratic and transparent and accountable way.  But at this time, rather than focusing on this Security Council reform, then we must focus on how to address this dire humanitarian and security situation in Syria. That is, I think that should be given more priority at this time. I know the importance of the Security Council reform. Thank you very much.

Q: I have a question on the DPRK. You mentioned you talked with Madame Pillay on it. I would like to have your view on the inquiry mechanism that is tabled for this current Human Rights Council session, and how do you think it may change and improve the situation of human rights in North Korea. Thank you.

SG: The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Navi Pillay, has raised this issue, creating an independent Commission of Inquiry and it’s in the hands of the members of the Human Rights Council. Since they are now meeting I hope they will take due measures, after having some consideration on this matter. It is very important that human rights, wherever it may be, should be fully respected and promoted with human dignity. Thank you very much.

Q: S’il vous plait, Monsieur le Secrétaire général, merci. Ce n’est pas une question difficile mais importante pour nous, Africains : c’est le Mali. Vous l’avez d’ailleurs évoqué dans votre déclaration de début de conférence. Vous avez parlé de cette possibilité d’envoyer des casques bleus. J’aimerais savoir : est-ce que ce projet actuellement est bien muri, est-ce que ça va se faire après la fin, effectivement, de la guerre ou bien ça va se faire pendant qu’on continue à faire la guerre? Et une autre question : vous qui aviez parlé concernant le Sud Soudan avant le référendum, qu’il fallait régler le problème [inaudible], malheureusement on ne vous a pas écouté, on a vu le résultat. Sur le Mali quel est aujourd’hui le scenario que vous pensez, comme ça peut être pire pour ce pays et pour l’Afrique? Je vous remercie.

SG: Je vous remercie d’avoir posé une question en français sur la situation au Mali et au Sud Soudan. Permettez-moi de répondre en anglais. The situation in Mali has been effectively addressed at the beginning of this crisis with the quite decisive intervention by French forces and African forces. I really appreciate the French and Chadian forces and many other countries’ support, logistics support that has helped to restore calm and stability in the region, particularly in the North. But they have not yet been fully defeated; there is still a concern of security. As we have seen recently there were huge casualties on the part of Chadian forces and also there were a lot of people who were killed on the part of armed groups. Therefore, we need to assess the situation at this time and I really appreciate the international community’s support. The idea of deploying the United Nations peacekeeping operations, transforming this AFISMA, African-led support mission in Mali, is now being seriously discussed. I have been discussing this matter with the Security Council members and upon my return I will have an opportunity of discussing on this issue. And also I made my own report and recommendations. The question is how soon we can be sure that we can have an assessment on the situation and, how, what kind of a mandate should be given to this UN peacekeeping operation, and this is a continuing subject of discussion. But since I have received a letter from Interim President Traoré requesting me and the Security Council to deploy a UN peacekeeping operation, I think this should be discussed as soon as possible.

I thank you very much. Thank you.