Berlin, Germany

30 January 2014

Secretary-General's remarks at press conference with H.E. Mr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany

Dankeschön, Herr Bundesminister! Meine Damen und Herren, guten Tag! Ich freue mich, wieder in Deutschland zu sein. Herr Minister, Dankeschön für Ihre Gastfreundschaft!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very pleased to be back to Germany again, which is a strong partner of the United Nations. Yesterday and today, this morning, I met with Interior Minister [Thomas] de Maizière, Economic and Cooperation Development Minister [Gerd] Müller and Foreign Minister [Frank-Walter] Steinmeier.

In our discussions, I have expressed my sincere and strongest gratitude for Germany's strong support for the United Nations in the area of peace and security and development and protecting human rights around the world, and more importantly, the strong commitment to multilateralism. We discussed the security situations in Syria, the Middle East, South Sudan, Central Africa, and many other areas of our mutual concern where we are working together.

I would like to highlight in particular Germany's role in the peaceful settlement of disputes, peacebuilding and disarmament and enhancing respect for human rights. Germany is also a strong supporter of international development efforts.

Later this week, I will address the Munich Security Conference. I will stress that global security ultimately depends on sustainable development. I have been sending a consistent message that peace cannot be sustainable without development, and likewise, development cannot be sustainable without peace and security.

Germany is an active contributor to defining the post-2015 development agenda to end extreme poverty, reduce inequalities and put the world on a sustainable path. I have formed the Scientific Advisory Board representing some of the world's top scientific thinkers in a wide variety of fields. The inaugural session will be held immediately after this press conference, and I thank Foreign Minister Steinmeier for hosting this and I thank the German Government for [supporting] this event.

Its members will advise on science and technology, and innovation for sustainable development. This is our greatest challenge and my highest priority, and the United Nations’ highest priority. I will be pleased to take some questions now on that subject.

Later this afternoon, I will have the honour of paying calls on His Excellency, the President of Germany, Mr. [Joachim] Gauck, and also I will have a substantive meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel. After which, I will also have an opportunity of addressing the press conference on more specific issues and again [inaudible] I am very much pleased to be in Germany.

Q: [Unofficial transltaion] Mr. Secretary-General, in Germany we are currently debating again whether the German army should play a more active role in peacekeeping. Do you think Germany should take on more international responsibility?

SG: I welcome Germany's continuing commitment and contribution in the area of peacebuilding and peacemaking and we really appreciate the German Government's strong support in the past for peace and security elsewhere. We have been benefiting from very distinguished German officials who have been dispatched to Mali. We have been benefiting from the European Union training missions, and I understand that the European Union has decided to dispatch some five-hundred soldiers to the Central African Republic and I would welcome that. In that regard it depends upon [inaudible]. I would respect whatever decisions the German Government may take. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, it is only natural that I would welcome any such cooperation and contribution by the German Government. Thank you.

Q: [Unofficial translation] The Foreign Minister just expressed a small amount of hope that there could soon be a chance for ceasefire at least in some parts of Syria. What do you think should be the next steps after the Geneva talks? What needs to happen? Who are the key players now?

SG: First of all, I would like to thank Germany for its contribution to the international peace conference, which was held in Montreux last week. The German Government's very generous support for humanitarian assistance has also been very much appreciated. I count on the German Government and people’s continuing support and engagement in this peace process as well as delivering humanitarian assistance.

As for your specific questions, since we met in Montreux, Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative, has been mediating between the two parties of Syria. The meeting, as was expected, has not produced much progress. It has been expected. Nobody thought it would be an easy process. It would be still an extremely difficult and delicate process, so in that regard, we need to be a little bit more patient and endure all this kind of very hard negotiations.

As of yesterday, Lakhdar Brahimi has been able to, first of all, have the two parties sit together in one room. Even having the two parties sit together in one room after three years of bloodshed was extremely difficult. I myself was very much moved when I saw two parties sitting together in one room in Montreux. Even though their discussions and arguments were highly emotional, they began to talk to each other as the first part of establishing some confidence-building [measures] between the two parties.

We, Lakhdar Brahimi [and I], have been trying to promote these reconciliatory, confidence-building measures in the area of humanitarian assistance, particularly to provide protection to the people besieged in certain cities, like for example, the Old [City of] Homs. The meeting seemed to make certain progress in that area, but finally we were not able to do that. They are still discussing how we can deliver the urgently and desperately needed humanitarian assistance to those people in Homs and other areas [for] hard-to-reach people.

There was some idea of releasing children and women out of this besieged Homs city but that has not yielded any fruit as of now. I sincerely hope that both parties, regardless of their political differences, should agree unconditionally to alleviate the human sufferings and save human lives and protect human lives and provide human dignity, and humanitarian assistance to them. That is one very important area. They will continue to have their discussions until tomorrow, Friday, and what Lakhdar Brahimi is now thinking [is] that by tomorrow they may suspend for their respective consultations, with their respective government or with their parties, and come back to Geneva to resume their negotiations.

And I can tell you that not much substantive progress has been made, but the important thing is that the parties are meeting regularly in the same room after three years of fighting. Initial discussions of Syrians have not borne fruit, but we should not be overly disappointed or pessimistic. We always have to have a sense of optimism that we can deliver these negotiations. I need support from all the countries, particularly Germany, who has much influence on other parties to continue to engage, and cooperate fully with Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi so that he can bear successful fruit. Thank you.