Cairo, Egypt

15 February 2017

Transcript of Secretary-General's remarks at press encounter with Sameh Shoukry, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt

SG: Thank you very much, honourable Minister and dear friend.
I have always believed that Egypt, due to its history, its culture, its geopolitical position, is a central player in this region, and an absolutely essential contributor for the solution of the problems of the region. And so it was for me an enormous privilege to be able to come again to Cairo and to discuss with President Sisi the different crises that we are facing together.
First of all, with a complete agreement that there is no Plan B to the situation between Palestinians and Israelis but a two-state solution and that everything must be done to preserve that possibility.
Second, a strong commitment to make sure that the fight against terrorism is pursued with total determination, but to make it effective we need also to find political solutions for the crises of the region, and how important it will be to move ahead with the Geneva talks in relation to the Syria situation, how important it is to pursue with determination the policy of national reconciliation and unity in Iraq, and at the same time a very strong belief that we must give peace a chance, in the short term, – in 2017 -  to both Yemen and Libya.
I will be totally committed, as an added-value, without any intention of any type of [role of an] antagonist to support the countries of the region to come together in order to create conditions for both Yemen and Libya to be able to overcome the present crisis and to re-enter again into a process of effective reconciliation and then, afterwards, reconstruction, ending the suffering of its people and ending also the terrible impact in relations to the stability of the region.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity that was given to me to discuss all these issues, and totally committed to working together with Egypt in trying to find the best solutions for the problems we face.
Q: [in Arabic, on Syria]
SG: I think it is very important to recognise that the United Nations will be what Member States will allow it to be. The key decision-making organization within the United Nations in relation to peace and security is the Security Council. And we know that the Security Council has been divided in relation to many of the dramatic issues that we face.
At the same time, we have in the UN a very strong presence in peacekeeping operations - Egypt - has been particularly generous in its contributions, but peacekeepers find themselves in various situations where there is no peace to keep. That also creates an enormous difficulty for the United Nations, and sometimes the lack of proper understanding about the role of the Organization. But I am totally committed to working together with Member States and, for my part, to reforming the Secretariat and helping to create effective coordination and accountability in the different UN bodies to strengthen the reputation of the United Nations at a global level.
[On the Syrian talks], we consider that the Astana talks were an important contribution because they led to a ceasefire and we hope that the ceasefire will be maintained, but we consider that without a political solution, not only ceasefires cannot hold, but more than that the fight against terrorism will not be effective, and that is why we are so committed to make sure that the political process moves on and I hope that Geneva will be an important step in that direction.
Q: [in Arabic, on refugees]
SG: First of all, I have been consistently saying that the countries of the region that have been receiving so many Syrian refugees, not to mention refugees from Iraq and from many other crises, the countries of the region – Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt - have not had enough support from the international community in general, from Europe in particular, both in relation to the refugees themselves and their living conditions and in relation to the host communities that share with them sometimes resources that are quite meagre. And at the same time it is clear for me that refugee protection is not only the responsibility of neighbours, it is the responsibility of all the international community and I believe that it would be important to substantially increase the number of refugees that are resettled into Europe and other parts of the world in order to show effective solidarity with the countries of first asylum. So, in my opinion, much more needs to be done for this cooperation to match the generosity of the neighbouring countries of Syria.