Riyadh

17 April 2018

Secretary-General's remarks at joint press conference with Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia Adel al-Jubeir [with Q&A]

Ladies and gentlemen from the press, thank you very much for your presence.

This visit obviously was centered as the Foreign Minister has said in the opening session of the Advisory Board of the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre. It is important to say that the UNCCT would not be what it is without the extremely generous contribution provided by Saudi Arabia three years ago. That was what allowed the Centre to become an important institution worldwide and justifying that representatives from many countries in the world and namely from the five permanent members of the Security Council to be present today in Riyadh as Advisory Board of this Centre.

The Centre has an objective to support Member States in developing their own capacities to fight terrorism and to address the root causes of terrorism and fight violent extremism. As I said the Centre would not be what it is, it would not have the global reach that it has today, without the extremely generous contribution that Saudi Arabia gave. That, I would say, is the main pillar of the functioning of the Centre.

But this visit is also a visit of gratitude. I am, and the United Nations are, extremely grateful to two very important humanitarian contributions given by the Government of Saudi Arabia in the recent past.

First, a contribution of one billion dollars to the Humanitarian Response Plan in Yemen, to be matched by a similar contribution from the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait. This allows us to have a much more effective capacity to address the plight of the Yemeni people in these very difficult circumstances that you all know, and the second, the contribution of $50 million dollars that was announced for UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, that as you all know suffered a very substantial reduction in the contribution of the United States recently, and was facing a dramatic shortfall in funds that would not allow it to address the most dramatic need of the Palestine refugees: schools to be maintained opened, hospitals to work, support to families in distress, emergency response to Palestinians in countries like Syria or in Gaza where so many events have created dramatic needs for the population. Thanks to this generous donation we can now look with more optimism for the possibility to address the funding gaps of UNRWA and my appeal to the international community is for other countries to match the contribution by Saudi Arabia in order to make sure that UNRWA has the amount that is necessary to provide for the needs of the Palestine refugees giving at the same time an important contribution to the stability and security of the area. Let’s not forget that Palestine refugees are in big numbers not only in the West Bank and in Gaza but also in Jordan and even in Syria and so the work done by UNRWA is absolutely vital for their well-being but also for the stability in the region.

I also want to express my gratitude for the excellent discussions that I had the occasion to have about political solutions. We are seeing so many conflicts; we are seeing so many dramas. We need political solutions. There is never a military solution for these conflicts. The solution is always political, and we had very, very important discussions on how to create the conditions for political solutions to be possible in Yemen, in Syria where it’s absolutely vital after everything that has happened in recent days to revitalize the Geneva discussions, intra-Syria negotiations, linked to decision of the Security Council resolution 2254 and the Geneva communiqué and aiming at providing a future in which Syrians can determine their own future, and simultaneously other areas in which we have been intensively cooperating to try to create conditions for conflicts to end. One of the priorities being Libya, where we’re working very actively to see if we can reach a settlement that allows for the Libyan people also to find a way for the future.

We discussed, obviously, all other problems in the region, a very strong mutual commitment to the need of a two-State solution. There is no Plan B. We absolutely need a two-State solution for the Palestinian-Israeli crisis. We need to make sure that conditions are created for the Palestinians to have the right to their own State, as we recognize the right of the Israelis to have their own State in the region, and for the two to be able to live together in peace and security with mutual recognition.
I’m very grateful for the discussions that were possible, and I have to say that the cooperation between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Nations in many of the regional problems and many of the global questions that we face together, that cooperation is today a very important pillar of our action and this visit was extremely useful for the development of our very own UN activities.

     **Questions and Answers

Question: The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United Nations has seen quite a bit of tension in the last few months, how do you describe the relationship between the UN and Saudi now and how closely are you working particularly on delivering aid in Yemen?

Secretary-General: Well, I never noticed the tension. I think that we have always had a very frank, open and constructive dialogue. The distribution of humanitarian aid in Yemen has gone through a considerable improvement with the comprehensive Humanitarian Action Plan that was put in place, improving the access into Yemen.  We still have a long way to go in relation to the access within Yemen especially in certain areas, but there has been a very positive cooperation in the establishment of the Action Plan and now a very substantial contribution to the Humanitarian Response Plan. I think we are registering an important improvement. Of course, the humanitarian consequences of war are always terrible. And that is why the solution is never humanitarian, the solution is political and we are ready to work closely with the Government of Saudi Arabia to explore all possibilities to bring this conflict to an end.

Question: How can the UN learn from what Saudi Arabia is doing regarding reforming children in the armed conflict in Yemen?

Secretary-General: Yesterday I had the occasion to be briefed about a Centre that was created. The objective of the Centre is to re-educate children that were used by militias in armed conflict as soldiers, which of course is a clear violation of international law and to create the conditions for them to get adequate education, adequate skills and to integrate normally in society.

I think this is a very important experience, it goes perfectly in line with what we’re discussing today in relation to the prevention of violent extremism. We need to create conditions for the youth to see their problems addressed, for the youth to see their economic, social, psychological problems addressed, and for those that suffered this kind of violence and were forced to transform themselves into children warriors to be able to be fully rehabilitated and reintegrated.

That experience seemed to be a very interesting one and I hope that can be replicated in different scenarios in different conditions, but with this basic principle: that we need children to live like children not children to live like soldiers.

Question: Have you spoken to the Syrian opposition here?

Secretary-General: We had no meetings here with the Syrian opposition. What I believe is that it is absolutely essential to renew the dialogue in Geneva, an intra-Syrian dialogue between representatives of the Government and representatives of the opposition.

Saudi Arabia played a very important role in order to bring together different streams of the opposition in the Riyadh meetings before the last Geneva round of negotiations, and we count on Saudi Arabia to go on with that action. It is absolutely essential to restore this dialogue and as I said there is no military solution for Syria. The solution is political and the solution is all Syrians. The solution needs all Syrians to be able to find a future for Syria free of foreign intervention, free of foreign domination in which the Syrians themselves will be able to choose their future and their leaders.

Question: I wanted to ask you about the experts that have gone into Douma today, are these experts, are these the inspectors, do you expect them to find any evidence of the chemical weapons attack and who actually launched it ten days after the attack?

Secretary-General: Well, we did everything possible to make sure that the OPCW experts would be able to get to Douma sooner rather than later. We consider that it’s very important that whatever has happened is followed by an impartial, independent and effective investigation and we hope that the circumstances in the place will be such that will allow for that investigation to be effective. I’m not an expert in those areas but we believe that the work of the OPCW is an extremely important work and I believe that it’s the obligation of the Syrian Government to provide all the conditions for them to work without any restrictions of any kind.