Prague, Czech Republic

4 April 2014

Secretary-General's remarks at press encounter with H.E. Mr. Bohuslav Sobotka, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic

Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister Sobotka, distinguished ministers and ladies and gentlemen of the media.

Dobré odpoledne. Good afternoon.

I am delighted to be back to the Czech Republic after three years. This is my second visit. I am very much grateful to Prime Minister and Government and people of the Czech Republic for their warm welcome and hospitality.

The Prime Minister and I just had a very productive meeting. We discussed the situation in Ukraine and Syria and on Central African Republic and Mali, on this very urgent security and peace related issues and I expect to discuss further issues over the course of lunch – a working lunch - on Middle East and Western Balkan states and other areas of mutual concern.

Let me just say a few words on Ukraine. We discussed and agreed that urgent need should be made to find the political solution through direct and constructive dialogue between the parties concerned. We also addressed the conflict in Syria and follow-up to the Geneva II Conference.

I thanked the Prime Minister and government of the Czech Republic for their very generous support for humanitarian aid to the Syrian people and I count on the Prime Minister for continuing his support in humanitarian affairs. Because the prospect of having a Geneva conference and the prospect of resolving this issue through a political dialogue may take time and in the absence of this political solution it is only the people who suffer and who need our support. And I really thank the European Union and in particular the Czech Republic for their generous support.

I raised the issue of the Central African Republic because I am deeply troubled by the appalling atrocities against civilians there. I am doing everything possible to mobilize an effective international response.

As you may be aware I am coming directly from Brussels where the leaders of European Union and African Union discussed extensively on the situation in Central African Republic and I hope that the European Union and African Union and the United Nations will work together to find the peace / to establish peace and stability and also helping socio-economic assistance to the people of the Central African Republic. 

Prime Minister Sobotka and I also discussed how to continue advancing sustainable development. I thanked the Prime Minister for helping to make international development cooperation an important part of the Czech Republic’s foreign policy. I appreciate the Government’s focus on reducing extreme poverty and hunger. And I am grateful for the commitment of the Prime Minister and Government on addressing climate change. I invited the Prime Minister to the Climate Change Summit meeting which I am going to convene on September 23rd this year at the United Nations. I am especially grateful for  the Government’s efforts to enhance its contribution to multilateral cooperation and particularly I am grateful for their contribution on protecting and preserving human dignity and human rights all over the world.

You have gained your human rights and gained your democracy through very difficult and long efforts… struggles, and I hope that these shiny examples will be shared and lessons will be learned from Czech Republic experience to many other places where human dignity and human rights are not well protected.

I welcome the Czech Republic’s engagement in the process of shaping a development framework for the longer-term, post-2015 period.

The Czech Republic plays a constructive role globally in supporting a peaceful settlement of disputes, helping countries in transition and again in advocating for human rights protection and I sincerely hope that in the course of their service and the contribution to the Human Rights Council the Czech Republic will play a more and more important constructive role. 

My visit here aims to solidify the valuable partnership between the Czech Republic and the United Nations. And I am confident that it will grow even stronger in the future.

And I thank you. Dekuji.  Thank you.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General could you please elaborate on the role the United Nations can play in the crisis over Ukraine? And how is the UN efforts received so far by both sides?

SG: As you know, the United Nations Security Council has been dealing with this issue at least nine times until now, and the General Assembly has adopted a resolution and the United Nations future course of action will be guided by this resolution adopted by the General Assembly, reflecting the wills of the Member States of the United Nations.

In my capacity as Secretary-General I have been engaging with both parties - the Russian Federation and the Ukrainian authorities, and also I have been discussing this matter with the world leadership, mostly European Union leaders and the United States and other leaders.

I will continue to do my role as a Secretary-General. When I visited Moscow and Kiev a couple of weeks ago I had a very useful and extensive discussion with President [Vladimir] Putin of Russian Federation.

And I explained my own and the United Nations’ and also the international communities’ strong concern, a very serious concern, about what had happened in the Crimean peninsula.

And there should be protection and respect for United Nations Charter provisions, namely sovereignty and national unity and territorial integrity should be protected, and respected.

And I strongly urged both parties to engage in direct and constructive dialogue, at the same time I urged my strong wish that the tension should be deescalated.

Emotions were running very high and the rhetoric was very sharply charged and I have been urging them.

The United Nations is now deploying human rights monitors all throughout Ukraine and they will make their own assessment report in a few weeks’ time and we will continue to discuss and consult with the country’ s concerned.

Thank you very much. 

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, related to this, a question, to all the challenges you mentioned now in Charles University, do you think that the Security Council should change in concepts, structure or functioning? Thank you.

SG: The Charter provision says that the Security Council is the most authoritative organization of the United Nations’ system, responsible for maintaining international peace and security and sometimes the Security Council has been taking very effective and strong measures to maintain peace and stability. Sometimes, unfortunately, because of the division of the Security Council, the United Nations has not been able to effectively, timely address the situation. So where the most important and effective intervention or support would have been – should have been there.

One good example is the situation in Syria, the tragedy continues. During the last three years and we have just entered the fourth year … How long should this situation continue like this? More than 2.5 million people have fled their countries and become refugees and there about nine million people have been affected. That means about half of the total population have been affected - either displaced or refugees and almost the forty percent of hospitals, sanitation and forty percent of schools have been destroyed - a lot of destruction of infrastructure. Who will be responsible for reconstruction of the society? That society is divided altogether. Therefore it is important that the Security Council and the United Nations’ system as a whole should be united and show some sense of solidarity for all the people who are suffering. I am urging that the Security Council should do their proper work.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you have mentioned Central Africa and given that you are travelling to Rwanda tomorrow, and Central Africa being on the way, are you perhaps pondering a short visit? Thank you.

SG: Central Africa is one my top priorities. I am not going to say anything publicly at this time but it will be my continuing top priority, the situation in the Central African Republic. Thank you very much.

Q: [translated from Czech] Good afternoon Mr. Secretary-General. I would like to ask for your opinion regarding the last actions of NATO, which stopped any communication with Russia. Thank you.

SG: Well, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I am not in a position to say anything, to make any comment on what [action] NATO has taken. They have their own way of operation. Of course, the UN and NATO have been closely coordinating on matters of peace and security and human rights and humanitarian assistance. But at this time that is their decision.