Copenhagen, Denmark

04 July 2013

Secretary-General's remarks at joint press conference with Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt (unofficial transcript)

SG: Thank you very much.

I am very happy to be back in Denmark.  I am very happy to see this wonderful UN-City building. I thank Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II, Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt and the Danish Government and people for their warm welcome and generous contribution.

And I particularly appreciate the strong leadership of Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt in working together with the United Nations to ensure peace and security around the world and to provide development assistance, humanitarian assistance and also protecting and promoting human rights and gender equality and I really appreciate such leadership to continue to working with the United Nations.

I am here to join Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II in inaugurating this new UN City-Copenhagen. It is a great honour to witness this remarkable symbol of Denmark’s long-term commitment to the United Nations.

This UN City is enduring proof of our outstanding partnership. It will be the source of strategic advice, concrete support and dynamic synergy for our operations around the world.

The close partnership between Denmark and the United Nations is invaluable. I applaud Denmark for its leadership across the range of United Nations activities.

I had productive meetings with Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt, Foreign Minister Søvndal and Minister for Development Cooperation Friis Bach.

We discussed important issues of common concern, including the situation in Egypt, the conflict in Syria, the crisis in Mali, the Golan Heights and international support to Afghanistan beyond 2014, and we discussed about the development agenda, including the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development, the post-2015 development agenda.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As the Prime Minister just said, I would like to say a few words about the current situation in Egypt.

I issued a strong statement yesterday on the situation in Egypt.

We are following closely, and with continuing concern, the fast-moving developments in Egypt. We continue to stand with the aspirations of the Egyptian people.

At this moment of continued high tension and uncertainty in the country, I reiterate my appeals for calm, non-violence, dialogue and restraint. An inclusive approach is essential to addressing the needs and concerns of all Egyptians.
Preservation of fundamental rights, including freedom of speech and assembly remain of vital importance.

In their protests, many Egyptians have voiced deep frustrations and legitimate concerns.  At the same time, military interference in the affairs of any state is of serious concern and is not consistent with fundamental democratic principles.

Therefore, it will be crucial to quickly reinforce civilian rule in accordance with principles of democracy.

The world is watching closely the next steps with the hope that Egyptians will remain on a peaceful course, overcome the deep difficulties they are facing today, and find the needed common ground to move forward in a transition for which so many fought so courageously.

I think one key to a successful resolution of this crisis is inclusivity and any discussions, dialogue or governing bodies should include representatives from the wide spectrum of Egyptian politics.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are also deeply concerned about the raging war in Syria. There can be no military solution to this tragic conflict. The United Nations continues to press for a political solution while providing life-saving humanitarian relief to millions of Syrians.

At the same time, we must maintain a strong focus on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The UN will do all it can to support peace and the realization of the two state solution. Only a comprehensive peace will provide lasting security to all people in the region.

We also exchanged views on Afghanistan. The Afghan people are in the midst of a political, economic and security transition. This is a huge challenge for any country. These transitions must be approached holistically and based on predictable support. I am grateful for Denmark’s ongoing contribution to Afghanistan on both security and civilian development.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Regarding development matters, we focused on how to continue working closely together to promote sustainable development, including sustainable energy and a green growth economy and global education. And I very much appreciate the leadership and participation of Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt, as one of the very few world champions for education and I count on her leadership on this.

Denmark has been a valuable partner and generous supporter in our efforts to eradicate poverty and inequality. Indeed, Denmark’s 35 year history of meeting or exceeding the 0.7 percent ODA target, stands as a powerful testament to the wisdom and generosity of the Danish people.  This is an important example of leadership displayed by successive Danish governments, and I hope it inspires other governments to increase their efforts.

I look forward to Denmark’s continued engagement as we define an ambitious post-2015 development agenda. In addition, I want to commend Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt for her strong support and leadership in all matters, including Global Education First Initiative and energy initiative and climate change financing and all these matters.

Finally, I congratulate Denmark for its formidable leadership in gender equality and women’s empowerment. As you know, I have made gender equality and women’s rights one of the top priorities.

All of my activities here have reconfirmed my conviction that the United Nations has a trusted partner and a great champion in Denmark.

Thank you very much. Tak!

Question: Mr. Ban. Could you tell us about your assessment about Egypt? (Inaudible) the Egyptian army has actually toppled President Morsi just to act on behalf of the people.

SG: The situation is still uncertain. There is no clear break. What is important at this time,  as I have emphasized, it is important that civilian rule  will be restored as soon as possible, reflecting the aspirations of  the Egyptian people. This is a process where Egyptians talk to Egyptians and Egyptians should lead this process for their future. The United Nations will continue to closely work with the Egyptian people so that they will be able to find a truly democratic and prosperous way forward to the future.

Q: Right now we have a situation with a democratically elected president, who is taken out of power by what many describe as a military coup. There must be a large minority now of Islamists,  who feel there is no space left for them in democracy. What is your view upon that?

SG: I told you again in length in my earlier statement that all this situation is currently very volatile and it is not clear where they are heading. But I have also seen a strong expression of concerns and legitimate aspirations of millions of people coming to the streets. All these aspirations and voices should have been heard. In the course of this transition in the Arab (world) and elsewhere I have been speaking to world leaders (inaudible) listen carefully to the voices and concerns of the people, what their aspirations…what their challenges are. This is the basic responsibility of the leaders.  Now since the military has taken over and suspended this constitutional process… It is important that this time  civilian rule will have to be restored in a peaceful and inclusive manner, without any violence. I will continue to discuss with Egyptian leadership at this time. I am going to speak with some of the leadership from the Egyptian government.

Q:  Does the UN condemn the  military interference in Egypt?

SG: In my statement…if you read my statement carefully I have said that the military interference in the political affairs, and state affairs of any state is not consistent with democratic principles. Therefore, it is important and crucial, that civilian rule should be restored as soon as possible. For that I continue to discuss with Egyptian leadership.

Q: There have been reports of many arrests of the heads of the Muslim brotherhood… what do you think about that?

SG: I have been again stating in my official statement and now today that all this dialogue should be carried out inclusively, without any threat, harassment and protecting freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. These are basic principles of democracy, of any democracy. Therefore, all these rules and principles should be protected. That message I am going to deliver in person today. Thank you very much.