Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon,
I have just briefed the Security Council on the crisis in the Central African Republic.
We were joined by the Peace and Security Commissioner of the African Union, a sign of our close cooperation and partnership in addressing the horrendous violence and collapse of law and order.
You will have heard my remarks already, so I will not repeat it, but let me just reiterate three points:
First, we must step up our efforts. The international community is working hard to protect people from atrocities, restore stability and provide emergency relief, but it is simply not enough.
Second, I have put forward a six-point plan for addressing the most urgent priorities and needs: More troops and police to protect the people. More efforts to get a peace process under way. More support for President [Catherine] Samba-Panza to get the Government functioning again. More funding for humanitarian assistance. Accountability for perpetrators of sectarian cleansing and other grave violations of human rights.
Third, time is of the essence. A delay of a week or even a day can mean the difference between life and death for many people.
The United Nations is working with the African Union, the Economic Community of Central African States, the European Union, the World Bank and others to bring all our capacities to bear.
I have called many world leaders to enlist their support. The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, is in the country now. A UN Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations will arrive next week. We are doing our utmost to contain the violence and get the country back on track.
This crisis is a test for the people of the Central African Republic above all. But it also has implications beyond its borders – both in terms of regional security and as a matter of upholding universal values.
When innocent civilians are being murdered in large numbers – deliberately targeted in the most brutal fashion simply because of who they are – the world must act.
Our vow of "never again" is meaningless without the political, military and financial muscle to back it up.
This is a fundamental calling for the United Nations -- and for the world of dignity and solidarity we are trying to build. What is happening in the Central African Republic matters to us all.
I thank you.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, do you believe, given the brutality and the nature of the violence in the C.A.R., do you believe that genocide has occurred?
SG: I will not be specific in characterizing the current state of the situation, but the situation is deteriorating rapidly and we must act. That is why I am emphasizing that time is of the essence, and we must deploy rapid forces - police and soldiers. The country is in a de facto partition and is on the verge of mass atrocities, but for any specific characterisation of the situation, we will have to continue to monitor.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, on the humanitarian situation in Syria – how important is it for the Council to speak with a unified voice and pass a resolution on the humanitarian situation in Syria? Thank you.
SG: The humanitarian situation which has happened during the last three years has been most appalling and it is beyond description. Well over 100,000 people have been killed, and now 9.5 million people have been affected. This is almost half of the total population of Syria. That is why we have been urging the international community to first address these issues through a political solution. In the absence of a political solution it is the people, it is the country, which has been affected. Half the population has been affected. More than 2.5 million people have sought refuge in many different countries – at least five neighbouring countries – including Egypt. We have to support them. But what is most important is that we have to address the fundamental cause, the root cause of the problems, and we have to address the political challenges through the Geneva II conference. While I am disappointed that two sessions of the political negotiations have not brought good progress, we should not by overly pessimistic. We have to continue. There is no other option but to continue this Geneva conference. That is what I am emphasizing and I have been continuously discussing this matter with Lakhdar Brahimi and I will continue to do that. In the meantime, I am urging the international community to provide humanitarian assistance.
Q: On Ukraine, can you tell us what the United Nations is doing and what it can do to stop violence in Kiev, and to find a solution in Ukraine? Thank you.
SG: As you know, since the beginning of this crisis in Ukraine, I have been very closely keeping in touch with the leadership of Ukraine, including President [Viktor] Yanukovych.
I am deeply saddened by the tragic turn of events in Ukraine, particularly yesterday and today, when almost more than 100 people have been killed through this renewed violence.
When I met President Yanukovych on 7 February in Sochi, on the margins of the Sochi Olympic Games, he assured me that the situation was improving. That has obviously not come to pass. On the contrary, the situation has escalated into serious violence with tragic loss of lives on all sides.
My thoughts are with the families of the victims and those people who have been injured by this violence. I sincerely hope that a speedy recovery will come to all those people.
I continue to strongly appeal to all involved to cease the violence, and for the Ukrainian authorities to refrain from excessive use of force. I am appalled by the use of firearms by both the police and protesters.
I urge all parties to immediately resume a genuine dialogue. This is the only way to prevent further bloodshed and arrive at a solution to the deepening political, security and economic crisis.
I am in touch with key international actors and have been encouraging all to find an immediate and coordinated way to assist Ukrainians in resolving the crisis in a peaceful manner through inclusive dialogue.
The United Nations continues to stand with Ukrainians and with all the Ukrainian people and will do its part to support a peaceful resolution to this crisis.