New York

16 October 2013

Secretary-General's remarks at Noon Briefing on the appointment of the Special Coordinator of the Joint Mission of the UN and OPCW on eliminating Syria's chemical weapons programme

Good afternoon.  It is a great pleasure to see you. 

This is a surprise, but I am not a surprise to you.  We have a surprise guest here – Ms. Sigrid Kaag.

As my spokesperson Martin Nesirky  just said, I have appointed Ms. Sigrid Kaag as the Special Coordinator [of] the Joint Mission of the United Nations and OPCW on eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons programme.

I thought it was important that I introduce Ms. Kaag to you in person as soon as possible, so I decided to drop by briefly.

I am pleased that the Security Council quickly confirmed her appointment, once again demonstrating its unity on this important matter.

Ms. Kaag brings to the job a wealth of UN and other experience – including service with the UNDP, UNICEF, UNRWA and other offices around the world, with a particular focus on the Middle East and North Africa.  She speaks fluent Arabic language.

As Special Coordinator, she will be responsible for overseeing all activities on the ground undertaken by the OPCW and United Nations personnel.  She will work directly for me and the Director General of the OPCW, and will be located in [Damascus].

Her role includes ensuring access and security for the OPCW inspectors, as well as logistical, communications, medical, administrative and policy support – areas where the United Nations is uniquely capable of contributing.

Ms. Kaag will also have to coordinate the provision of international assistance to complete the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme in accordance with the decisions of the Security Council and OPCW Executive Council.

We have no illusions over the challenges ahead.  The situation in Syria remains dangerous and unpredictable. The cooperation of all parties in Syria is required.

The humanitarian situation is worsening.  The statement issued by the President of the Security Council two weeks ago called on all parties to end the violence and stop targeting civilians. It is vital to turn those strong words into action.

UN and non-UN humanitarian organizations are continuing to do their best to deliver life-saving medicines, food for children, and chlorination tablets for clean water. Humanitarian workers need full and sustained access to reach every person in need.

While mobilizing to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons, the United Nations has not lost sight for one moment of the wider tragedy that is still destroying Syria.  We are equally focused on reaching a political solution that will stop the appalling violence and suffering being inflicted on the Syrian people.

The Security Council has called for the convening, as soon as possible, of an international conference on Syria to implement the Geneva Communiqué.  We are intensifying efforts to hold the Geneva II conference in mid-November.

As you may know, I had a brief trilateral encounter meeting with Secretary [John] Kerry of the United States and Minister [Sergey] Lavrov of Russia, while staying in Brunei for the occasions of ASEAN summit meeting.  And as you are already aware, Lakhdar Brahimi had a meeting with Secretary Kerry in London, together with Jeff Feltman there.

In the coming days, Lakhdar Brahimi will depart to the region for consultations with the key parties related to the conference.  The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, is in Moscow today for talks. Deputy Joint Special Representative Al Kidwa will travel to Turkey for discussions with the opposition. We are working this at all levels.

We are calling on all who truly wish to work for peace and a new, democratic Syria to focus not on military actions but rather on ensuring the success of this conference.

I thank you for your attention.  Maybe Ms. Kaag, do you wish to say a few words?

I thank you.