Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS
Following is a transcript of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s press conference held in New York today, 9 August:
On the Middle East, I will meet tomorrow with the members of the Panel of Inquiry on the flotilla incident of 31 May. I am grateful for the spirit of constructive engagement that has made this unprecedented Panel possible. I am confident that this initiative will contribute to regional stability.
Thank you for your attention. I will be glad to take your questions.
Now, I would like to ask you, sir, to put these to rest these doubts, by stating if there is such a previous agreement that this Panel will not be allowed to interview the Israeli military. [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu said yesterday that he is very happy with the Panel and that they took part themselves, the Prime Minister of Israel, in putting the mandate of this Panel. So, for the sake of transparency, which is required by the presidential statement, I’m asking you here, sir, to shed light on the mandate, which shouldn’t be a secret, of this inquiry, and whether they are allowed to ask any, or interview any, Israeli military members.
Secretary-General: The Panel has a robust mandate. It needs to examine and identify the facts, circumstances and the context of the incident, as well as to recommend ways to avoid future incidents. Those are very important mandates. The Panel will decide what steps it may need to take, in cooperation with the national authorities, as their work evolves. I have full confidence in the Panel members, led by the Chair and Vice-Chair. As you know, I have again issued [an announcement on] the two additional members of the Panel yesterday, each from Israel and Turkey.
The Panel will begin its work from tomorrow, 10 August. I will have an opportunity, for the first time, to meet all of them in group. We will discuss their future work. I expect that they will submit their first progress report by mid-September, before the General Assembly begins. That’s our target. And then they will continue their work. I hope the Panel will fulfil their responsibilities, under the leadership of the Chair and Vice-Chair, and in respecting the Security Council presidential statement.
Question: If I may follow up, sir. The question of the mandate, and whether they can act freely and to interview Israeli military, goes to the heart of the transparency and the credibility of this Panel. And you didn’t really, with all due respect, sir, answer my question, whether you had a previous understanding or agreement with the Israeli Government that these members will not be able to interview Israeli military. The point you mentioned about this Panel’s main job is to review the two inquiries’ results, in Israel and Turkey, to prevent future incident of happening like this. You always told us, sir, that justice and peace go hand in hand. And without accountability, how do you expect, for the killing of nine people, how do you expect peace to endure and the Panel to carry [out] its work. But really, I need to ask, sir, whether there is such an agreement that they will not be able to interview military members of the Israeli, or there isn’t.
Secretary-General: No, there was no such agreement behind the scenes. First of all, you should know that this is an unprecedented Panel of Inquiry established under my initiative, for the purpose of ensuring accountability, which is very important. This will be important, not only in finding out the facts and circumstances, but for the future, not to see such kind of incident, tragic incident, happen. As has already been announced, their main work will be to review and examine the report of the domestic investigations, and liaise with the domestic authorities. And whatever is needed beyond that, they will have to discuss among themselves, in close coordination with the national Government authorities, that they can take their own future steps. That’s what I can tell you. Now, my role is to establish this Panel. This will be carried out by them. And they will report to me — their independent facts and circumstances and context of the incident.
Question: Are you sharing this with the Security Council? Because the mandate came from the Security Council…
Secretary-General: Yes, yes, I have written to the President of the Security Council.
Question: No, the report, the final report…
Secretary-General: After receiving the report, then I will have to discuss this matter. In fact, I have spoken with the President of the Security Council and I have communicated, through my official letter to the President of the Security Council, on the development of this Panel.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, going back to the flotilla inquiry. There was some surprise and criticism in Colombia when you selected President [Alvaro] Uribe as Vice-Chairman of the Panel, because of, obviously, the controversies during his tenure: the attack on the guerrilla camp in Ecuador, the relationship with President [Hugo] Chávez, their disputes, and also some internal issues, like the killing of civilians by the military. Have you considered the possibility that his appointment would harm the credibility of the Panel and cause other problems with this issue that is delicate by its own matter?
Secretary-General: First of all, in having President Alvaro Uribe, I should remind you that Colombia’s bilateral relationships with Venezuela or Ecuador or some other countries has not much to do with the specific case of the flotilla Panel. Now, we have also taken note of some such concerns. While he had been addressing all the drug cartels issues, there had been some such issues. But, I believe, having known him as leader of Colombia, in my capacity as Secretary-General, for such a long time, I have full confidence that he will be a good addition and he will make a good contribution to this Panel. That is what I made my own decision on.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, please, I’d like for the last question to go back to the issue of the Panel on Gaza, to clarify one matter, and I have another question on Lebanon. If you can clarify to us how this new Panel that will meet tomorrow — they will wait until the Israelis and the Turks finish their investigation, and then they start their own review, and issue their own report, or are they going to work in parallel?
Question: But what about the Panel, sir? Can the Panel wait until the Israelis finish their investigation to issue a report?
Secretary-General: That has nothing to do with that. That has their own mandate; they have their own work schedules. So this has nothing to do with it. This is a totally separate issue.
Thank you very much. Please don’t take this as a personal issue. I really ask you. I’m the Secretary-General of the United Nations dealing with so many global issues. Let us look at the broader picture — the bigger picture. You may raise small issues, but for me that is just one part. Please remember, I’m not dealing with all these personal issues. I do not take any personal feelings from this.
* *** *
For information media • not an official record
Document Type: Press Conference, Transcript
Document Sources: Department of Public Information (DPI), Secretary-General
Subject: Access and movement, Assistance, Casualties, Gaza Strip, Human rights and international humanitarian law, Humanitarian relief, Incidents, Legal issues, NGOs/Civil Society
Publication Date: 09/08/2010