UN Secretary-General’s Press Conference at UN Headquarters
From: UNIC India <firstname.lastname@example.org> Wed, 17 Sep ’14 2:09p
FROM THE UN SECRETARY-GENERAL
Secretary-General’s Press ConferenceUN Headquarters, 16 September 2014
Secretary-General: It is a great pleasure to see you on the eve of the General Debate and I thank you for your time.
I am pleased to brief you as we open a new session of the General Assembly this afternoon.
More than 140 Heads of State or Government will attend. Civil society leaders, CEOs [Chief Executive Officers] and other influential global figures will also be here.
Together, we will address the horrendous violence in Syria and Iraq, where conflict and governance failures have provided a breeding ground for extremist groups.
I welcome the growing international consensus to act against this serious threat to global and regional peace and security.
Violence continues in Mali, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. We will not let these crises be forgotten — and we will meet next week at the highest level to determine what more we can do.
The situation in and around Ukraine remains volatile.
In Libya, order is breaking down.
In the aftermath of yet another devastating war in Gaza, Israelis and Palestinians seem more polarized than ever.
In Nigeria, the advances of Boko Haram grow more alarming every day. As in Syria and Iraq, we are seeing terrorist organizations not only carrying out attacks, but seizing large areas of land beyond the Government’s control.
The world is facing multiple crises. Each has its own dynamics, and requires its own approach. But, all have featured atrocious attacks on civilians, including children. All have dangerous sectarian, ethnic or tribal dimensions. And many have seen sharp divisions within the international community itself over the response.
In my main speech to the Member States next Wednesday, I will call on world leaders to unite and uphold human dignity, the rule of law and the principles of the United Nations Charter.
We will also place a special focus on Ebola virus disease, which is a cause of huge concern in West Africa and beyond.
Two days from now, the Security Council will convene an emergency meeting on the outbreak. WHO [World Health Organization] Director General Margaret Chan and I will outline the international action plan to contain this threat.
Next week, the General Assembly will follow up with a high-level meeting on the needs of the people and countries affected by Ebola.
Generous contributions are being announced each day – but we have a lot of catching up to do to provide the health services, food, water, sanitation and supplies that are needed.
Every day we delay, the cost and the suffering will grow exponentially.
We cannot allow bans on travel or transport to slow us down.
We need isolation of people affected by Ebola — not of nations struggling to cope with it.
This is not just a health crisis; it has grave humanitarian, economic and social consequences that could spread far beyond the affected countries. The United Nations is determined to meet this test of international cooperation and solidarity. But, we will need to be as bold and courageous as those who are already fighting on the frontline of the disease.
That is why we are mobilizing — and why the United Nations will be the centre for action in responding to the outbreak.
Ebola is an exponential crisis that demands an exceptional global response.
The new session of the General Assembly will be a pivotal period for our efforts to defeat poverty and adopt a new generation of sustainable development goals.
Action on climate change is urgent. The more we delay, the more we will pay in lives and in money.
The Climate Summit that I am convening one week from today has two goals: to mobilize political will for a universal and meaningful climate agreement next year in Paris; and second to generate ambitious steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen resilience.
We are anticipating an impressive turnout of leaders from Government, business, finance and civil society.
Most important, we are expecting significant commitments and progress.
Today, I am delighted to announce that a new voice will be joining our climate advocacy efforts. Leonardo DiCaprio is not just one of the world’s leading actors; he has also a long-standing commitment to environmental causes, including through his foundation.
Today, I am appointing him as our newest United Nations Messenger of Peace, with a special focus on climate change issues. His global stardom is the perfect match for this global challenge. His first act as a Messenger of Peace will be to address the opening of the Climate Summit on 23 September.
Finally, the week will open and close with two remarkable public gatherings on the streets of our host city, New York — the People’s Climate March on Sunday, [21 September], and the Global Citizen Festival on Saturday, [27 September].
I will link arms with those marching for climate action. We stand with them on the right side of this key issue for our common future.
I will also take part in the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park to thank thousands of young people for helping us to fight hunger, protect the planet and promote the rights of women and girls.
At this time of turmoil, the next two weeks will highlight again the indispensable role of the United Nations in tackling global threats and seizing opportunities for common progress.
Your coverage of these issues and events will, as ever, make an important contribution.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General on behalf of the UN Correspondent Association. And it’s a tough time in the world and you have reflected that in your statements. And I’m Pamela Falk from CBS News. There you go. (Laughter) It was a characterization. My question is about the very difficult question of foreign terrorist fighters and ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and the Shams]. In the global fight, and we will see a lot at the Security Council and at the General Assembly about ISIS; is your opinion that the UN Security Council would have to authorize the use of force if there were air strikes or any other intervention in Syria? Thank you.
Secretary-General: As everybody has watched what [United States] President [Barack] Obama declared the last time, I welcome his decisive and firm commitment as a leader of the United States and world to fight against terrorism which is a common enemy for humanity. This air strike and military operation, which was done at the request of the Government of Iraq, was able to help the United Nations and other actors to, first of all, save a lot of human lives and the United Nations was able to deliver humanitarian assistance to many trapped people in and around Mount Sinjar at that time. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, was able to initiate the massive effort, the largest-ever operations, humanitarian operations a couple of weeks ago. Now, it is clear that ISIS is a threat to international peace and security as has already been declared by the Security Council. I understand that President Obama is going to chair this summit meeting of Security Council on 24 September. And I’m sure that the leaders of the world and the Security Council will very seriously discuss this issue, how to address the foreign fighters and terrorists as a whole. I, therefore, urge the international community endorse with the means to act decisively and after sober reflection it is critical to keep at the forefront the protection of our civilians. Again, I expect the Security Council will lead this leadership role, how the United Nations and international community will address all these issues.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, Sherwin, South Africa Broadcasting. I wonder, sir, if you could attach some value to the annual gathering here in New York. And you mentioned 140 Heads of Government and Heads of State that will be coming and you didn’t mention the large entourages that accompany them and what really becomes a very expensive and hugely difficult logistical exercise. So, is the world better off given what happens here in New York; and, if so, why?
Secretary-General: More than, as I said, I think 140 Heads of State and the Government leaders will participate all throughout this session. And when it comes to the climate change summit meeting, in just one day, more than 120 Heads of State and Government will participate. Of course, it requires a lot of mobilization of resources from the international Governments, from the Host Government, from the United Nations. But, considering all the problems and crises which we are confronting, we have many people who are being killed needlessly and we have many refugees and displaced people have come. They have to flee their homes. It’s very necessary and important that world leaders show their unity of leadership and show their solidarity to work as world leaders, to make this world more prosperous and safer, safer and secure. That is number one priority of the United Nations. Without that we cannot promote, we cannot engage in development. We have to protect the human rights and human dignity of all these people. But first to come we have to have protection of all the people. That’s why the world leaders are gathering in the United Nations annually. That, I think, this is most important occasion for the world.
Question: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary-General. I wonder, at this time of many crises whether you view this as certainly one of the greatest periods of turmoil that the world is facing and are you concerned at this time of turmoil that the leaders of three major countries are not coming to the General Assembly? And I’m talking about Russia, China and India; especially China and India for the climate summit.
Secretary-General: India, I understand, [the] Indian Prime Minister is coming. Even though he will not be able to participate in climate summit meeting, per se, I really wanted to have him participate in climate change summit meeting. He is going to address the General Assembly. I understand it’s [27 September] or so. I do not remember exact date. But, he is coming. China is represented by Deputy Prime Minister Li Keqiang. He is number three in terms of hierarchy. He is a very senior person. I met President Xi Jinping last month. And also, I met Prime Minister Li Keqiang in Beijing in — I think it was in July. So, I had already met China’s leadership, top leadership. The big regret, of course, they were not able to participate this time. But, Chinese is very much accommodated. I have not yet been fully informed of who is going to be represented from Russia. But, in any event, we have other means of communications, ways and means of having their leadership demonstrated in the United Nations. But, as I told you, this is going to be one of the largest, biggest gatherings of world leaders particularly when it comes to climate change. The largest gathering, which I remember was in Copenhagen. At that time we regarded it was the largest, but at that time less than 100 leaders came. I’m now talking about the Prime Minister and above. Prime Minister and above. One hundred, more than 120 leaders are coming in which day. Of course, you know, leaders are coming from first day and until the end of the general debate. But, we are counting altogether 140. And so it’s extremely difficult to have at one day at one time at one place 120 Heads of State in Government. That means there is a very strong commitment on the part of leaders on climate change and other crises, which we are now experiencing.
Question: Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary-General, again, on Syria, do you think the possible air strike, US air strike against ISIS, within Syria, results in any Syrian authorization, might be violation of the international law? Also your Special Representative in Syria, Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura, met Bashar al-Assad recently, so what could be the position vis-୶is of the Syrian president? Is he your partner?
Secretary-General: First of all, I know that this issue is one of the, you know, concerns which have been discussed. But, it has not yet happened, but it would be a little bit premature for me to say something about which on a hypothetical or which has not happened. But, in general, and generally speaking, I told you that this military operation which was conducted at the request of Iraqi Government, that I supported and I welcomed this kind of a decisive action. And overall, I welcome, I welcome such a decisive and coordinated action to fight international terrorism and extremism. That is what we have to do. But, when it comes down to very detailed legal or political implications, I will have an opportunity of addressing this issue later, when really something happens. But, if I, as a Secretary-General, I’m asking the world leaders whenever there is military operations, all these operations should be conducted in strict scrutiny of international humanitarian and human rights laws, protecting civilian population and minimizing the impact on civilian populations.
Question: Mr. Secretary-General, Talal al-Haj from Al Arabiya. Today, the Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, has failed to get the Parliament approval and appointment of the Minister of Interior and the Minister for Defence in Iraq. The last time the Parliament failed to do that, the Iraqi Government stayed without the Minister for Defence, for Interior for four years. Taking consideration that the world is looking to Iraq to take the fight on the ground to ISIS, what is your take on this failure today of the Iraqis elected two important ministers?
Secretary-General: When I spoke to Prime Minister al-Abadi after he was sworn in as a Prime Minister, I strongly encouraged him that he should have an inclusive Government. Of course, you know, I welcomed and I congratulated the formation of an inclusive government. But, at the same time I strongly urged him to fill the vacant post of important two ministers in an inclusive way. Of course, you know, I regret that they have not been able to fill these vacancies, but I continue to encourage all Iraqi political actors to put their differences aside and work together in the interest of Iraq to have these important positions filled as soon as possible and in an inclusive way. This is all the more important when it comes to critical posts related to security in view of the threat the country is now facing, particularly by ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Shams]. So I continue to discuss this matter with the Iraqi Government and Mr. [Nickolay]Mladenov. He is walking very closely with all the actors of Iraqi Government. Thank you.
Question: Thank you. Secretary-General, on Gaza, it’s been three weeks since the ceasefire has been signed. Do you believe now that a Security Council resolution is necessary and do you envision the possibility of any sort of UN protection force for Gaza?
Secretary-General: I understand that the Security Council is very actively concerting among the Member States to have a resolution adopted. I know that this is going on smoothly with all this ceasefire agreed. But, we should also understand that this ceasefire is not perfect and not a sustainable one. It’s fragile still. Therefore, it would be important that international community, particularly led by the Security Council, to urge the parties to make this ceasefire a more sustainable and more durable one so that we can talk about… you know, so that it can be led into a Middle East peace process. At the same time there is a very serious and urgent issue of reconstruction of Gaza, which has been devastated during a 50-day-long war. Therefore, I’m in close consultation with the Security Council members, particularly the Presidency of the Security Council, on the issue of this Council’s resolution. Yesterday, I was briefed by Robert Serryand I understand that he had also briefed the Security Council on the need and importance of the Security Council taking action on this. And I’m in always very close consultation with the leaders in the region.
Question: Sure. Thanks a lot. Matthew Lee, Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access. And thanks for taking questions, and I hope in the next two weeks, we have as much access as possible. I want to ask about the Golan Heights. There is a lot of controversy about what has taken place there, with apparently an order to surrender and Al-Nusra is now running around with UN trucks and vehicles. And it was said at the stakeout this morning that the equipment was given over and basically that the mission is no longer completing what its mission is, which is to monitor both sides of the ceasefire line. So, I wonder what are you going to do in terms of getting to the bottom of if a surrender was ordered, who ordered the surrender and what can you say to the troop-contributing countries who say that this is kind of a disarray and people need to know what the role of peacekeepers is, stand and fight or surrender and run?
Secretary-General: For that issue, I understand that Mr. [Herv鼯span>] Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, has explained to you in detail what had happened. And, as you know, the security situation was very, very urgent and dangerous at that time. Therefore, you should also appreciate the peacekeepers were and still are working on the very difficult and dangerous situation. That is why, as was briefed by the spokesperson yesterday, we had to relocate this UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force] peacekeepers to a safer and more secure place. This is a part of and continuing efforts to make sure that our peacekeepers and UN staff’s security and safety are ensured.
Question: Thank you, St鰨ane. Mr. Secretary [-General], millions of people around the world only hear about the UN during General Assembly week. Can you explain to them what has gone wrong, years of appearances at this roster, many General Assembly appearances by all of these leaders, yet the world seems to be in such chaos on a variety of fronts? Speaking from your heart, why have things cascaded the way they have? There doesn’t seem to be — this is not an opinion. Something is off. What happened?
Secretary-General: I think there may be many aspects of how you view the General Assembly and United Nations as a whole. We operate and respond to the expectations of international community, all respond to the crises of which the people are experiencing and confronting here and there, all around the crisis. I am always asking that Member States should show their unity. We are living in an era of unprecedented level of crises and troubles. On top of all this, regional conflicts, which are mostly, I think, all man-made crises, and we have a lot of natural calamities and then diseases like Ebola, which we are experiencing. Therefore, this is really a time when General Assembly and all intergovernmental bodies and the Security Council and they should be united. Often, Member States bring some national perspectives to the Security Council or General Assembly; but the good points of and points of this organization is that when they bring their national perspectives and experience and visions after deliberations, whether this process has been difficult or smooth, they all should come out with a global vision for international peace and security. So, I took note of what you said. But, basically, we should really always work for unity and the common good of international community. That is what the Charter of the United Nations provides us and demands us. That is what people are demanding us to do.
Question: Question on Ebola, Secretary-General. Today, the President of Doctors Without Borders said the world’s response had fallen dangerously behind. Has the global response been too slow? And given this is an epidemic not respecting national borders, should the UN now take the lead?
Secretary-General: The United Nations is taking the lead now. This has gone beyond health issues. It has gone to the areas of affecting social and economic situations, even it may affect the political instability, if for this, it’s not properly contained and properly treated. So the United Nations is, first of all, contained for the spread of this and treat, you know, infected people. And provide the necessary logistics and support, humanitarian support to this and make sure that it does not go to other countries. In that regard, I have been concerting and very actively discussing with all world leaders, starting from President Obama and the Prime Minister of UK, President of France and President of European Union, President of Cuba and the Prime Minister of Italy, and Germany and whoever may have a means and ways, and also, I really wanted to raise a political will and commitment. And, of course, in the course of this have been very closely working with Dr. Margaret Chan and World Bank President, Dr. [Jim Yong] Kim, and I have been convening UN-system-wide consultations several times already. Now, what we are doing is that, as you know, I have already appointed Dr. [David] Nabarro and Tony Banbury and we are really working closely with key countries who can provide a means. I have spoken even this weekend to the three leaders of the affected countries. First of all, they should take urgent domestic measures not to allow further spread of this virus to family members. So, I have been strongly urging them to establish the community care centres, so that whenever somebody is infected, then he or she should be immediately separated from families to prevent the other family members from being infected; then provide this as a professional and medical support.
Now that the key countries like United States, you know, is going to provide the massive scaled-up support, and even though I have not yet heard that statement, this is what I understand, I really appreciate the countries like who are really taking such great efforts. The United Nations is mobilizing full support and I have been asking all the leaders of the United Nations System, this is not an issue which we require normal time-consuming consultations and forging consensus. It’s a matter of quick action and matter of instruction, so whenever we decide, then this must be implemented. So we are very firm and very much committed to address this issue, just to contain and treat and contain the further spread to other countries. And I’m asking the international airlines and shipping companies not to suspend their services. The patient can be separated, isolated for professional cure. But, the country should not be isolated. It’s kind of some sanction, where and when. This country needs more support and it really hampers and prevents the United Nations and International health workers to visit and to provide humanitarian and medical assistance. So, I’m just appealing that they should resume their services.
Question: Thank you, St鰨ane. Secretary-General, Mr. Secretary-General, a few days ago, you have underlined the strategic importance stressed by the United Nations and the international community for a Cyprus settlement. Since this is the first time a UN official uses these terms, strategic importance, what different are you planning in order to do to accomplish it? Thank you.
Secretary-General: As you know, this issue has been long, more than longer than 37 years. Now, we are asking the leaders to really agree on the mutually agreeable solutions. During, even before two, three years ago, we were having very serious consultations. And I convened myself to at least three summit-level meetings, inviting the leaders from two communities. Already this month, I appointed a new Special Adviser on Cyprus, Mr. Espen Barth Eide. And as soon as I met him, I asked him to immediately visit the region and he met the leaders of both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot [communities]. A fresh momentum has been generated by a joint declaration adopted by the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders in February. I hope that the leaders show renewed dedication and courage to build on the principles outlined in the joint declaration. I also hope that the important principles outlined in the joint declaration should be implemented as soon as possible. They have identified most of the key issues. They are all on the table. As a matter of choice now, there should be some give and take to be able to agree to a final solution. It has been too long of an issue. I sincerely hope the leaders will show their political leadership role. Thank you.
[The Spokesperson later added that the Secretary-General referred to the leaders’ preparations for the next phase in the talks. While there are no preconditions for tonight’s leaders’ dinner in Nicosia with the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, the purpose is to discuss at leaders’ level how to move the process forward, based on their Joint Declaration of 11 February. The “give and take” phase will be the final phase leading to a settlement.]
Question: Thank you, Secretary-General. I’m Sylvian and my question is on Lebanon. Lebanon is facing now facing challenges in different ways. You have the fear of the expansion of ISIS, the beheading of two Lebanese soldiers with 27 soldiers taken hostage now, and the presidential vacancy. Is there a risk of fragmentation of Lebanon as a State with… burdened with 1.5 million Syrian refugees? What needs to be done to… by the international community to keep the neutrality of Lebanon? And what kind of message are you conveying to the Prime Minister,Tammam Salam, when you meet him next week at the United Nations?
Secretary-General: I really appreciate the very delicate, difficult, political and social situation where Lebanese Government is now facing. First of all, I really appreciate and am grateful for their generous support for Syrian refugees, who are more than 1 million people. You said 1.5, but according to UN statistics it’s definitely more than 1 million even though we do not have… I do not have a correct number at this time. That is a huge burden. At the same time, it is regrettably that the leaders of Lebanon have not been able to overcome their party lines or their ethnic lines. They should overcome their differences of their party lines for the benefit and future of Lebanon. It’s very regrettable that the Lebanese leaders have not been able to elect a new president after President Salam has left. This vacancy of a very important Head of State post will really hamper the smooth governance of Lebanese and Government on top of many political, social, economic difficulties. And it’s time for them to really unite and show their solidarity for the future of their people and also for peace and security in the region, yes.
Question: Thank you, St鰨ane. And thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. How vital is the role of Iran to solve all the crises in the Middle East and Lebanon and Syria and Yemen and Iraq? Is Iran a troublemaker or a peacemaker in the region? Thank you.
Secretary-General: As I said many times in the past, Iran is an important actor and important country in the region when it comes to peace and security and harmony in the region. And it’s important that Iranian leaders to address this Iranian nuclear issue with P5+1 as soon as possible, and also engage constructively in addressing many, many regional conflict issues. And I’m looking forward to my own meeting with President [Hassan] Rouhani and the Foreign Minister [Javad] Zarif during their stay in New York. Again, I’m always ready to discuss and consult the Iranian leadership. I have also asked my special envoy on Syria, Mr. de Mistura, to have a closer consultation Iranian leadership and he may soon visit Iran, too.
Question: Thank you. Thank you, Secretary-General. I have a question on Ukraine. Next week President [Petro]Poroshenko is going to be here at the UN and also Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov of Russia is going to be over here and obviously Barack Obama is going to be here also. Do you plan to convene to meet these leaders and maybe to try to talk to them into continuing dialogue for Ukraine? Thank you.
Secretary-General: I’m encouraged that this ceasefire based on the Minsk protocol is largely holding, even though from time to time we see all this violence taking place. I have been speaking to President Poroshenko and other leaders that they should continue to have a consultation and dialogue, a very sincere dialogue between Ukraine and Russia. And I think there is a lot of, now, support for the peace and stability and ceasefire from all the actors. But, important thing is that the political will and support of the people of Ukraine so that this ceasefire can be more sustainable and a doable one. The United Nations, from the beginning of this, first of all, we have been trying to provide the humanitarian assistance. We are still maintaining a human rights monitoring team and I have been doing my own good offices role, speaking to both Russia, European Union and the Ukrainian leaders. Even I think last week I have spoken to PresidentPoroshenko. And we should know that in all the crises, generally, there is no military solution. There should be a political dialogue for political solution. Only then, any solution can be a sustainable one, based on firm political dialogue. I’m really urging the leaders in the region to continue such dialogue.
Question: Yes, Joseph Klein of Canada Free Press. And my question is on climate change, Mr. Secretary-General. As you galvanize global support for the binding climate change treaty that you have in mind, what steps have you and your team taken to address a critical report issued last year by the Joint Inspection Unit concerning the UN’s own governance structure in the environmental area, the critique of duplication, over-spending, lack of coordination? Could you just describe some of the steps and reform that you are contemplating? Thank you.
Secretary-General: It’s so strange that over the whole shadow of a whole of this big and serious crisis, nobody has asked any question about the climate change at the summit meeting. But, you should know that everybody agrees that climate change is an issue and defining issue of our times. Climate change can affect the whole spectrum of our life. To your question now, the United Nations has been working, you know, very closely among, first of all, among United Nations agency funds and programmes. Even yesterday, I have convened the whole United Nations system-wide meeting. There is no such lack of cooperation or consultation including the World Bank and all specialized agencies and funds and programmes. I have convened a meeting yesterday through a video, including Special Envoys Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg and Mary Robinson, and all participated in the meeting. That was my sort of a last check on the preparations and the outcome of our climate change meeting. So, I can assure you that the United Nations will work as one team, as one team. And I’m encouraged that there is a huge support and response from international community now. We do not have much time to prepare and to make everything ready for global… very meaningful global, legal climate change agreement, which should be adopted by at the end of next year in Paris.
Now, what do I expect from this summit? I’d like to just brief you. Then, first of all, in cutting emissions, I expect that Governments and the wide range of actors in key sectors of the global economy from energy, cities, industry and transport and forestry and agriculture, there should be a firm commitment that we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions so that we will be able to contain the global temperature rise within two degrees centigrade. And we will also try to mobilize financial support including for the capitalization of Green Climate Fund, the GCF. I expect that many countries’ leaders will announce that their bold and ambitious target with some financial support. We have already confirmed the financial support, but I’m also in the process of speaking and urging world leaders to come with a strong support on this financial support and technology support. And there is an issue of a pricing carbon and through action by national Governments, local governments and companies and investors. And there is a heightened awareness, even on the private companies, that there should be some pricing on carbon. But, this is up to the Member States, which they will have to discuss.
As you know, this is not going to be a negotiation. But, whatever agreement or understanding will be made here, will be reflected in the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] negotiation process. And we really need everybody’s… this is, again, unprecedented and the biggest one, Governments, initially. And we have a huge number of business communities and civil society. And there are a lot of side events through which they can recommit their commitment to address this climate change. So, I’m very much encouraged and I hope you will cover what the leaders of Government and business communities and civil societies are going to discuss. And, again, I thank you very much for your questions.