Berlin, Germany

30 January 2014

Secretary-General's Remarks at Press Conference with H.E Ms. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany

Dankeschön, Bundeskanzlerin Merkel! Meine Damen und Herren, guten Tag. Ich freue mich, wieder in Deutschland zu sein. Ich danke Ihnen für Ihre Gastfreundlichkeit! Ich wünsche Ihnen alles Gute, das Allerbeste!

Thank you again, Chancellor Merkel, and the people of Germany for their strong support for the United Nations and warm welcome despite your difficulties at this time. I wish you a speedy recovery. I know that you have no time to rest to help expedite your recovery. I wish you all the best again.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have had very good talks covering many different issues of our mutual concerns – security situations and development. I really appreciate the German Government’s, particularly Chancellor Merkel's, leadership in the international community.

Our discussions covered development, human rights, disarmament and peace building.  I invited Chancellor Merkel to attend the Climate Summit which I am going to convene at the United Nations [Headquarters] on 23 September. This summit is to mobilize action and political will towards the new climate change agreement the world so urgently needs.

Chancellor Merkel and I also focused on a number of immediate security challenges as just briefed by Chancellor Merkel.

On Syria, I briefed the Chancellor on the intra-Syrian talks being held in Geneva with the mediation of Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi. It is still going on. It may go on until tomorrow. After that, it is Lakhdar Brahimi's intention to have a little bit of a pause so that they can have respective consultations. I am going to have some consultation with him tomorrow on the occasion of my participation in the Munich Security Conference. There, I expect to have other consultations with the key partners. The negotiations have now been going on in Geneva and are proving to be very difficult, as we expected. But we continue to explore every avenue for progress. It is, as everybody expected, a very difficult process. We are especially concerned about the situation of Syrian detainees and the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Syria. Unfortunately, during these intra-Syrian talks, when we tried to have - as part of confidence-building measures - to address this humanitarian situation, we have not been able to have a concrete result on that.

I thanked Chancellor Merkel and the German Government for their strong support and generous support for ending the Syrian conflict and easing the suffering of the Syrian people, including through Germany’s generous pledge at the recent donor conference in Kuwait. I am particularly grateful for the German Government’s very generous accommodation of more than 10,000 Syrian refugees. I hope many countries will also render such generous support.

Chancellor Merkel and I also talked about developments in the wider Middle East, the Middle East Peace Process, between Israel and Palestine, and also your contribution to the Middle East Peace Process, and your contribution to Lebanon, through the Maritime Task Force.

We discussed the tragic situation in the Central African Republic, where safeguarding human rights are of paramount importance and concern for all of us.

On the situation in Afghanistan: 2014, this year will be a crucial year of transition, as the country holds elections and international forces – including from Germany – withdraw.  The international community must do its utmost to help the Afghanistan authorities maintain security and hold fair and credible elections.

Earlier today, I had the honour to open the inaugural meeting of the United Nations Scientific Advisory Board. This new body will provide expert advice to help the United Nations accelerate efforts to eradicate poverty and usher in an era of sustainable development.  I thank Germany for hosting the meeting and for helping the Board get off to a good start.

I will leave Berlin tomorrow morning, and continue on to the UN office in Bonn, which is home to our climate change secretariat, the UN Volunteer Programme and many other very important United Nations agencies and bodies. I am very much grateful for German Government and their strong support for the United Nations operations in Germany, particularly in Bonn.

From there, I move on to Munich.  At the Munich Security Conference, I will help mark the 50th anniversary of the Conference and hold talks with the leaders and officials in attendance.  In addition, given the presence of U.S. Secretary of State [John] Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov and senior European Union officials, the Middle East Quartet will meet to explore what more we can do to support the latest negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Chancellor Merkel, thank you very much again for your support and your leadership.  At a time of turmoil, but also of opportunity, the United Nations will continue to rely on your dynamic engagement and leadership across the United Nations agenda.

Thank you. Herzlichen Dank.

Q: [Unofficial translation] Madame Chancellor, a number of statements from Foreign Minister Steinmeier and Defence Minister von der Leyen were interpreted in such a way as if the German foreign policy were about to change away from a policy of military restraint and shouldering more responsibility in the world. Will the grand coalition be more militarily active than the previous government and what do you, Secretary-General, expect from, and would wish from this government? Would you hope that German soldiers participating in UN missions be welcomed and desired?

SG: I am aware of this national debate in Germany about the possible future and further engagement of Germany in the peace and security area. The United Nations is very much grateful for the German Government’s and people’s engagement and contribution and leadership role in maintaining peace and security. Just to mention, Germany has been sending officials to Mali, [while] participating in the European training missions. You have been providing naval support in the name of Maritime Task Force in Lebanon and Afghanistan and elsewhere. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, we expect that all the Member States, including Germany, render all possible means in the form of peacekeepers, in the form of financial and logistical support, and German and Germany's support will be very much appreciated. Of course, it is a sovereign decision. What kind of policies Germany will take – that is what Chancellor Merkel will have to decide.

Q: [Unofficial translation] Referring back to what the Secretary-General said earlier this morning, he would wish to see German engagement in the Central African Republic but you said that was something that was being discussed. What is feasible in your eyes? What is your personal view on things?

SG: I would like to, then, in such a case, briefly mention how the situation [is] in the Central African Republic, and why the international community should really take certain action.

As you know, the decision was that the African-led peacekeeping missions should be there, and not the United Nations. African Union peacekeepers should be there with the ceiling of six thousand, but the necessary forces have not yet been generated fully. They are under-equipped and less trained. They have not been effectively controlling the situation. With the deployment of a French contingent, they have been able to control the situation at the initial stage. As this situation has now developed into, unfortunately, a very dangerous line of religious violence - which was not [the case] at the beginning [of the conflict] - between the Muslims and Christian communities,

It is a hugely dangerous situation. There are mass atrocities, extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detentions, arrests and sexual violence and using and drafting children for military purposes. This is a very dangerous situation.

As United Nations Secretary-General, I would really hope that the international community would take decisive and prompt action. I appreciate the European Union has decided to deploy 500 more soldiers. This is welcomed and necessary.

Therefore, I really hope that before it is too late the international community should take certain action decisively. That is my message at this time. I welcome such a debate in Germany. Germany is one of the largest donor countries to the United Nations system in terms of financial and political support, and you are the champion of human rights. Therefore, we naturally count on the German contribution, but it is up to the Chancellor and the Government as well as the Parliament, and broadly, the German people to decide. 

Q: [Unofficial translation] Do you think that the times are well past where the world was divided between three groups of development stages? Do you believe that the United Nations have found confirmation that these three stages of development have never quite applied? How do you assess the situation in the world as it presents itself today? 

SG: This is quite a broad situation. It may take a long time for me [to answer]. But just briefly, if I may tell you, the international community is facing very serious problems and challenges here and there, as we are seeing in Africa. We have situations in the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali that we also need to take good care of.

And this aftermath of the Arab Spring has not been stabilized yet. We still see political instability, and the yearning for greater participatory democracy is still rising among the people. So their concerns and aspirations have not yet been properly met and addressed and supported by the international community. At the same time, we have to address very dire economic and environmental challenges. Science has made it quite clear that unless we take immediate and decisive and united action, to fight climate change, we will have very serious consequences, not only for human kind, but also for this planet Earth. 

That is what I have discussed very seriously - that we have to have some concerted actions by the international community. We have to pool all the resources and wisdom together to address these global challenges. Those have all developed into global challenges which require global action, global response.

Countries like Germany, which is one of the most thriving, most robust, healthy economic powers, should also show political leadership. That is why I am here, that is why I really count on your continuing support. That is why I have asked the Chancellor to come to the United Nations for the Climate Change summit meeting which I am going to convene on 23 September; and that is why I have asked her to demonstrate her leadership in Syria and the Central African Republic, and many other areas of conflict. We need to address all these issues to make this world better for all.