Rome, Italy

18 March 2015

UN Secretary-General’s Remarks to the Press in Rome

Ladies and Gentlemen,


I am pleased to be back in Italy and in Rome. I just had a very good meeting over breakfast with Foreign Minister Gentiloni, This was the first time we’ve had the pleasure to meet. I would like to congratulate you once again and you can count on the United Nations. Let’s us have close support in addressing global and regional issues. Later today I will continue my discussions with President Sergio Mattarella and then Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

I thank the Government and people of Italy for their strong support for the United Nations. Italy and the United Nations have such a strong partnership. The UN-Italian partnership is a cornerstone of regional and international peace and security.

Italy has a long tradition of participation in United Nations peace operations. It is the largest western troop- and police-contributing country. I deeply appreciate its contributions. Its personnel are playing a crucial stabilizing role in Lebanon under the able leadership of Force Commander Major General Portolano.

Rome is also the headquarters of the UN’s fight against global hunger. Brindisi is the hub for our peacekeeping operations logistics and Torino is the hub of learning for the United Nations. I thank Italy for its engagement in our current discussions towards a new development agenda and an agreement on climate change -- the two main goals of this key year of 2015. We need the strong support and engagement of Italy on these two twin priorities of the United Nations.

This year’s Milan Expo, which opens in May and is dedicated to “feeding the planet”, will be another important contribution to be made by the Italian Government and people.

I have had good discussions with the Italian leadership on a number of issues.

We discussed the situation in Libya, where further armed conflict will only worsen the situation and provide space for extremist groups. I am very concerned about the increasing presence of the so-called Islamic State, or Daesh, in Libya. As my Special Representative Bernadino Leon works to promote dialogue between the Libyan parties, the support of the international community, particularly Italy, is essential. During my discussions with the Foreign Minister, I commended Italian officials for Italy's strong support of the UN efforts in Libya and their efforts to counter violent extremism.

We also focused on the crisis in Syria, where the conflict has now entered its fifth year. I deeply appreciate the work of the work of my Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura to bring peace and stability in Syria. We also discussed the situation in Iraq.

Global, regional and national divisions and rivalries have gotten in the way of helping the Syrian people. I urge the international community, and in particular the Security Council, to unite to end this barbarity.

We also talked about migration. I am horrified by the unscrupulous actions of smugglers who subject vulnerable migrants, asylum seekers and refugees to abuse, and often abandon them to die at sea.

I commend the rescue efforts, in particular by the Italian Navy and Coast Guard. I urge the European Union and other countries to do far more to address this challenge. There is also an urgent need to address the root causes of this phenomenon.

I again, Mr. Minister, I thank the Government and people of Italy for their strong support.

Grazie Mille

Thank you.
Q - RAI News : A question for both the Secretary General and Minister Paolo Gentiloni. What is your evaluation of the current status of talks among the different parties involved in the Libyan crisis and of the UN effort in the area? Thank you

Secretary-General: First of all I had a very good discussion with the Foreign Minister.

I welcome this progress made at a recent meeting in Morocco after the meeting which was held in Geneva. My Special Envoy is making a great effort now. I am encouraged by the participants’ commitment to form a united and democratic Libya governed by the rule of law and respect for human rights. I also welcome their commitment to take a number of measures to improve the security situation and people’s access to humanitarian aid. Moving forward I hope they will follow through and work together to form a consensual unity of government and stop this senseless violence, fighting that has affected far too many casualties of civilians. Time is of the essence and the UN remains committed to supporting the Libyan owned and Libyan political process to bring peace and stability to the country. Thank you.

Q – SKY News: A question for both. There has been the recent request from UNICEF to begin negotiating with Daesh to allow for humanitarian corridors for the safeguard of children. What we are asking is if it is possible to negotiate with Daesh and in case in which ways, including on the part of the United Nations?

Secretary-General: Daesh or ISIL, have committed unspeakable brutalities by beheading and putting minority groups women and girls to horrifying human rights violations.

At the same time it is important for the United Nations and the international community to continue to provide humanitarian assistance.

There are many areas where the UN and the humanitarian agencies cannot have access because these areas are controlled by armed groups or some terrorist groups. I am asking all the groups or countries or whoever may have influence on those, really help so that humanitarian groups can delivery life-saving daily assistance and that is very important. On the specific question of negotiating with Daesh I do not think it is the United Nations position. It is not the UN position. What we are saying is that we strongly condemn all this brutality they are committing and they should be accountable to humanity for what they have committed. This is why we have to address this issue in a very comprehensive way. The United Nations is going to discuss this matter with the Member States of the United Nations as we have already discussed very seriously last month in Washington, DC, at the White House at the Summit Meeting on countering violent extremism. We are now working very hard to submit to the General Assembly a comprehensive plan of action. Next month in the United Nations the President of the General Assembly and I are co-convening a high-level General Assembly meeting to discuss addressing violent extremism and terrorism by addressing all the root causes, by enhancing the level of tolerance. I am going to invite government leaders as well as world’s religious and faith leaders.

Thank you.