Full transcript of Secretary-General's press encounter at UN Headquarters

New York, 16 October 2014

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great pleasure to see you.

As you know, I just returned from my week-long trip to the Middle East. I carried a two-fold message: spare no effort to rebuild Gaza – and spare no time to jump-start peace talks.
I travelled to Gaza two days ago to survey the needs for myself.  I saw whole communities destroyed, and an economy in ruins. I met with the parents of some of the more than 500 children killed in the fighting.  I heard heartbreaking accounts of epic loss.  So many people are homeless with winter approaching.

At the reconstruction conference in Cairo, the international community showed its solidarity by pledging $5.4 billion.  We must turn those commitments into tangible assistance.

I also visited a kibbutz in southern Israel and met with the family of a four-year-old boy named Daniel, who was killed by a Hamas rocket.  I visited a tunnel discovered months before the fighting and years in the making.

I fully understand the security threat from rockets above and tunnels below.  At the same time, the scale of the destruction in Gaza has left deep questions about proportionality.

I left the region with a heavy heart but a measure of hope.  As I entered Gaza on Tuesday, so did the first shipment of critical building materials under a UN-brokered mechanism.  I urge both sides to continue to implement this temporary mechanism in good faith.

The Gaza situation is a symptom of a larger problem: the stalemate in the Middle East Peace Process.  People are understandably disillusioned with a decades-long effort that has failed to deliver a final deal.  I know that trust has been eroded and unilateral actions look tempting.

But the two-state solution is the only way to end the senseless cycle of war.  The international community has an obligation to press for peace and I want to once again commend the efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.  I reiterate my strong concern about provocations at Jerusalem’s holy sites, which only inflame tensions at a time when the parties need to find their way back to the negotiating table.


Q: Secretary-General when you were with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu he made some very strong allegations. He claimed that when there were rockets found at UN schools the UN handed those rockets back to Hamas. How do you respond?

SG: I saw for myself all destruction and also concern on the part of Israelis. No people, no country, should live under constant threat, coming from the air, by rockets and also coming from under the tunnels under the ground. This is a real serious danger. At the same time the level of destruction is serious, so serious, that I couldn’t believe. I said that the level of destruction was much, much more serious than those in 2009. That is why I have been urging him to return to the dialogue table. There is no other option at this time. We don’t have any time to lose.

I strongly pushed the leaders of both, Palestinians and Israelis, to sit down together and resolve all underlying issues.

I had a bilateral meeting with Secretary [of State] John Kerry. I also urged him, as I did during my meeting with President Obama here on the margins of the General Assembly, that they should, Secretary Kerry should also try to do all his diplomatic efforts to facilitate this dialogue.

Q: On the specific allegation though, Secretary-General, the allegation that the UN gave the rockets back to Hamas.

SG: I had a long talk, a long, very serious talk, here in New York and in Jerusalem. Of course you know, I am not disclosing very sensitive and diplomatic discussions. We have been providing all the information to the Israeli military authority, not once or twice, I think a dozen, more than a dozen times, and I have been emphasizing the inviolability of diplomatic missions of the United Nations and this place, the schools, they knew that people were being accommodated. They were all – children, women and old people – displaced people. I really strongly condemn how come Israeli soldiers who were firing against these schools.

I saw for myself during my visit to Jabaliya school and other IDP [internally displaced person] collective centres. It was quite a heartbreaking experience for me.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General – on Ebola, there seems to be quite a shortfall between pledges and money actually going into the coffers. Some of us heard yesterday that they were down to about a hundred thousand dollars in the UN Trust Fund.

What should be done to really try and increase the funding to fight Ebola? Should there be a public campaign? Should you get people like Bono and some of the other people to do some big concerts to raise money?


Q: Secretary-General, you say that you wanted to jump start the peace talks and that’s one of your chief goals and in the region you also said that you condemn one sided acts such as settlement activity. There is a growing concern in Israel that the Palestinian moves at the UN and other international organizations is going to scuttle the talks as well. Do you share that concern? Also, when you condemn provocation in the Temple Mount? Which side is provoking? Can you tell us?

SG: I had discussed this matter with President [Mahmoud] Abbas and Prime Minister [Rami] Hamdallah of the State of Palestine. I know that the Security Council is still considering a draft resolution proposed by Jordan and also the State of Palestine. At the same time, as Secretary-General, this is what the Member States should decide. My concern is that at this time both parties first agree to sit down together and discuss all pending issues. They have identified already what are the real root causes, underlying issues. They know the problems so I’m really urging them to do that without further loss of time. But I’m not in a position to disclose all the very sensitive discussions which I had.

Q: And my question on whose provocation?

SG: In the holy site? I have already said that in Jerusalem, while in Jerusalem, I have strongly condemned all these provocations and I’m repeating again today.