New York

14 June 2013

Secretary-General's press encounter

SG: Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to see you. Welcome to this traditional press stakeout place.

Let me say a few words and then I will be happy to take two questions.

I would like to once again congratulate Ambassador John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda on his election as the next President of the General Assembly.  In the Assembly just now I pledged to him my full support as he fulfills his important role.

His time as Assembly President will be a period of hugely important undertakings for the United Nations.  We are seeking to accelerate our work for the Millennium Development Goals.  Wide-ranging consultations are under way on the post-2015 development agenda.  The September general debate period will be very busy as usual.

I look forward to working closely with Ambassador Ashe on these and other critical challenges.

I will also continue my good cooperation with the current President of the General Assembly in the remaining months of his service.

On Monday, I depart for China for talks on many matters of common concern, from Africa and the Korean Peninsula to climate change and the Millennium Development Goals. China plays a key role across the UN agenda and I am eager to touch base in person with the new leadership.

Let me now turn to the crisis in Syria.

Each day brings new depths of despair and sectarian polarization.

Every week, the pace of killing grows more ferocious. Our latest estimate is that 93,000 people have died in just over two years, and there are indications that the number could be well above that.

I have of course read the statement issued by the United States on the question of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Let me also confirm that a letter from the U.S. authorities has just been received by my office. I am not going to comment further on that at this stage. It is of course up to the Member State concerned to decide on what information it releases.

Dr.[Åke] Sellström and his team continue to collect and analyze information and material that have been made available by various Member States, for which I again express my deep appreciation.

At the same time, the validity of any information on the alleged use of chemical weapons cannot be ensured without convincing evidence of the chain-of-custody.  That is why I continue to emphasize the need for an investigation on the ground in Syria that can collect its own samples and establish the facts.  Our goal remains a fully independent and impartial inquiry. I have complete faith in the integrity and professionalism of Dr. Sellström and his team.

The use of chemical weapons by any party would be a crime against humanity. Given the seriousness of the allegations and the potentially grave consequences, I again urge the Syrian Government to grant Dr. Sellström's team the access we have long sought.

Let me stress two final points.

First, there is no military solution to this conflict, even if both the Government and the opposition, and their supporters, think there can be.  The military path points directly towards the further disintegration of the country, destabilization of the region and inflammation of religious and communal tensions.

The worsening of the conflict is also making the delivery of urgent humanitarian assistance much more difficult.  I appeal to the international community to respond to our latest appeal and to support the neighbouring countries bearing the greatest burdens of refugees and upheaval.

Second, the suffering of the Syrian people makes a political solution all the more important. Joint Special Representative [Lakhdar] Brahimi and I continue to push for a negotiated transition and to get the parties to the table in Geneva as soon as possible.  All countries involved must uphold their responsibilities to seek a resolution of this tragedy.

Finally, let me say a word about Sudan.  According to reports from the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei, two shells hit the Headquarters of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism.  I condemn this shelling, which killed one peacekeeper and injured two others.  I offer condolences to the family and Government concerned.  I urge the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/North to immediately cease hostilities and resume ceasefire negotiations.

Thank you.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, what do you believe is the impact on the peace process of the US decision to send military aid to Syria, and have you made any progress on getting the rebels to the Geneva proposed negotiations?

SG: The United Nations, and in particular I, have been making it consistently clear that providing arms to either side would not address this current situation. There is no such military solution. Only a political solution can address this issue sustainably; therefore, [increasing] the flow of arms to either side would not be helpful. We are still working very hard with the concerned parties to facilitate this U.S.-Russia initiative to have a peace conference - the Geneva II conference - in Geneva as soon as possible . Another tri-lateral meeting will be held, as you know, on 25 June, and we will see; in between, we are continuing to discuss and consult with the parties concerned.

Q: What is your comment on Hezbollah’s direct involvement in the war in Syria, and do you think that this involvement dragged Lebanon, in fact, in reality, to this war?

SG:  The open engagement of Hezbollah into this Syrian crisis is very, very worrisome. I have been urging all the parties concerned that there is no such military solution, and it has been impacting the neighbouring countries, particularly Lebanon. I am deeply concerned about this.  Let us really make our best efforts. The international community must be united to help the Syrian people to resolve their crisis. At the same time, I sincerely hope that the opposition groups will also be working in a coherent and united way, so that we will be able to convene this meeting as soon as possible.