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United Nations Daily Highlights, 10-01-11

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

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REMARKS AT THE PRESS

ENCOUNTER BY SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

UN

HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Monday, January 11, 2010

Good afternoon. Before I start I would like to express my sincere apologies to have kept you waiting such a long time.

From the beginning of this year, when I outlined my seven priorities for Agenda 2010, there was an extremely high level of interest from the Member States that kept me from coming to your press stakeout today. Next time, maybe, if this kind of thing happens, Ill try to provide some sandwiches for you. [laughter]

First of all, I had, this morning, a very good, busy day, a very good start, starting from the ribbon-cutting ceremony for this new building. Then I had a very useful, constructive, global Town Hall Meeting with my staff, and also, as you know, with the Member States. I had a very good meeting with them.

Im leaving later today, right after this, to Greentree, to meet with more than a dozen heads of international and regional organizations, to have a meeting with them on how we can strengthen the cooperative relationship with the regional and international organizations. We will have an opportunity to brief you after the end of this meeting.

We will have a full-fledged press conference, as I understand, on 25 January, so this time, Ill try to have a very brief I may have to run to Greentree at this time.

As I said this morning, this is a new beginning and I sense renewed energy as we start the new year and take on the heavy agenda ahead.

We live in an age of insecurity. Economic growth is on the upswing in many countries. But times are hard for far too many people. Too many conflicts continue around the world. Too many people are being left behind.

The world looks to the United Nations, and I feel as Secretary-General, a great sense of responsibility, and I am very humbled to see so many challenges are still unresolved and there are so many things awaiting for us - the United Nations contributions.

As I told the General Assembly, I declared 2010 to be the year of development. We need to focus attention and accelerate the process to achieve, to realize, the goals of the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] by the target year, 2015. We have only six years left before 2015. Therefore, I have urged the Member States, that through this MDG Summit Meeting, which is going to be convened in September of this year, we will have to take stock of what has been achieved during the last nine years, by that time ten years which we will have to do, and we will have to reaffirm our commitment to achieve these Millennium Development Goals: to alleviate abject poverty, to help people from [contracting] preventable diseases, and to provide the necessary opportunities for many people, providing equal and good, decent opportunities for primary education.

Investing in development is crucial to global health, national security, and the lives and livelihoods of families everywhere.

My message is simple: The MDGs are too big to fail.

We can make 2010 a year for action on a number of fronts: By negotiating a binding agreement on climate change. By widening the circle of opportunity for women and girls. By working for a nuclear-free world and defusing deadly conflicts around the world. By promoting human rights and the rule of law. And by strengthening the United Nations, [making it] more modern, more efficient, and more effective to address all of the challenges in the 21st century.

We are ready to act, ready to deliver, and ready to make 2010 a year of results for people.

Thank you very much.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association, welcome to this first, and late, stakeout in this new building. My question is this the UN in New York needs space. Do you think that this building should stay after the end of the renovation, or does it have to be torn apart?

SG: I made it clear this morning that this is a temporary building. This is a decision of the Member States, what to do with this. We expect that we will have to be here at least two and a half years, and after that we will move back to the 38th floor. Then the General Assembly Hall will be used until the end of this year; then, from next year, the General Assembly [Hall] needs to be renovated. This whole process will take about five years. But for the Secretariat, we will move back, at the latest, after three years. Then what to do with this building that is a decision of the Member States. The initial decision is to dismantle it, and restore the North Lawn. I cannot tell you any further beyond that.

Q: My question is about North Korean nuclear issues. North Korea announced that they will come back to the six-party talks if the sanctions are lifted, and plus, North Korea also proposed negotiation about changing armistice into a peace treaty. Do you think such proposals are worthy thinking, and do you think this is a good system? Thank you.

SG: I have also taken note of DPRKs [Democratic Peoples Republic of Koreas] announcement on that. Establishing a stable peace and security mechanism in the Korean peninsula and northeast Asia has been an important agenda for the concerned parties. It was included in the 2005 Joint Statement agreed among the six parties. I would like to reiterate my call for renewed efforts to solve all outstanding issues through dialogue in a peaceful manner. On the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and peace and stability and security on the Korean peninsula through negotiations - as Secretary-General I will exert all possible efforts to help such a process move on.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the situation in the Middle East hasnt improved. The Israelis are threatening Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu - that if any more rockets are shot from Gaza, they will retaliate in a very tough way. And they also have an approved plan to build a wall with Egypt, at a cost of $270 million. Your thoughts on the wall, and are you worried about the situation escalating in the area?

SG: The lack of progress in the Middle East peace process is a source of great concern to me, and to the United Nations and to all international organizations. Recently, I have been speaking with world leaders on how the international community can help promote this Middle East peace process, [to get it] back on track. Recently, I have spoken with President [Hosni] Mubarak of Egypt, and many other leaders. I am going to have a bilateral meeting with Mr. Amre Moussa of the League of Arab States and some other concerned regional organizations heads.

There are very serious consultations taking place among the parties concerned. First and foremost, we need to see some progress in the United States initiative to talk to the parties concerned, and I have been urging all the leaders, particularly the leaders of Israel and Palestine, to come back to the negotiating table. I know that there are some conditions and there are some political difficulties for parties to come to the dialogue table at this time. But it would be desirable that the parties remain inside the negotiation process rather than staying outside the negotiation process. This is very important. As a member of the Quartet, I have also been consulting with the Quartet principals, and I expect the Quartet envoys will have their own meetings this week in Brussels, together with Senator [George] Mitchell while he is travelling in the region. We will continue to discuss this matter as a top priority.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, there are intense negotiations today; where does solving the Cyrus problem stand in your 2010 agenda? Thank you.

SG: I am reasonably encouraged by the recent process of negotiations on Cyprus. As you may know, recently I have spoken with leaders of both communities the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriots and I have spoken with leaders of other countries, including Turkey. I sincerely hope that they will make significant progress. In fact they have been meeting sixty times with the help of my Special [Adviser], Alexander Downer. I have been urging both leaders that this is a time for them to make decisions on the basis of flexibility and compromise. They have discussed all remaining issues, and now they are zeroing in, focussing on their negotiations on critically important issues. I sincerely hope that during the two rounds of negotiations this month, they will be able to agree on these longstanding issues. As Secretary-General I have expressed my firm commitment and willingness and readiness to engage myself whenever the time is appropriate.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, I want to bring it back to the Capital Master Plan. A few points one the staff put out a letter this morning expressing concerns about the asbestos abatement in the building. I wonder how you respond to the fact that they feel like they are at some risk from health problems from that. Two, there is also some grumbling around the building that, while the first two floors in this building are kind of austere, your floor is kind of nice, with hardwood flooring and carpeting. Im wondering if thats true, and why that is. And third, are you concerned about any cost overruns in the Master Plan?

SG: On asbestos abatement programmes, I think you may agree, and everybody agrees that promoting complete health from this Capital Master Plan is a top priority. It is a very serious concern to us all. I am sure that -- I am convinced -- that the Capital Master Plan team is making the fullest possible assurances and measures not to cause any health hazard because of asbestos removal. Now, asbestos [removal] has not been in full swing. They have taken just four-feet-long pipe removal, and this full operation, full construction will begin only after all the members of the staff are relocated into other swing spaces.

As I said this morning, this is no frills everywhere we are in the same conditions, without all the carpets. But for the third floor, where I am working, there are minimum decorations for the courtesy of visiting dignitaries and VIPs. We may have to meet the Heads of State and Government during the month of the General Assembly [debate] and all throughout the year; that is what I can tell you.

And I have made assurances to the Member States that the originally-approved budget of $1.8 billion will be kept, and that this construction will be done within that budget.

Q: On Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke is being quoted as saying that you have offered the top UN post in Kabul to Staffan de Mistura. I wonder, is he right in saying that? And I also wanted to know if you had any response to Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on executions, calling on you to name a Commission of Inquiry for war crimes in Sri Lanka. He said that you did it in Guinea, you could do it in Sri Lanka, and I am wondering what you think of his report and his call?

SG: First of all, this appointment of a new Special Representative of the Secretary-General is still under consideration. Of course, I dont think it is proper to discuss detailed matters on appointment procedures publicly, but as soon as the decision is made I will let you know. I have been discussing this matter with President [Hamid] Karzai and other concerned major parties who could be the best candidate who can really work together with all major parties to have a very harmonious and coordinated role as SRSG of the United Nations.

Q: On Philip Alstons call that you name a Commission of Inquiry on Sri Lanka

SG: I have seen the report, and he is the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council. He is acting independently. You might have heard statements made by the Sri Lankan Government and his own personal one. We will review all these situations and we will what the United Nations can do to follow up on these issues. There are still many issues pending: the relocation of displaced persons in Sri Lanka by the end of this month, and the political reconciliation process and also the accountability process, which I have talked to President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa during my visit, to which he had agreed to take the necessary actions. I will continue to follow up on this issue.

Thank you very much.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE U.N. SYSTEM

SECRETARY-GENERAL CUTS RIBBON ON TEMPORARY BUILDING FOR SENIOR U.N. STAFF

The Secretary-General this morning cut a ceremonial ribbon to mark the official opening of the UNs Temporary North Lawn Building, where he and other senior staff will work while the main UN building is being refurbished over the coming years.

In his

remarks, the Secretary-General said that the new structure is more than a short-term home. It is a key building block for the renovation of the Conference and Secretariat Buildings.

He said that the building was designed to serve for a limited period, to be functional and cost-effective. The Secretary-General described it as a no-frills building, with no escalators, a limited number of windows, simple concrete floors and no carpets.

When the structure is no longer needed, he said, it will be dismantled and its components recycled or reused. This is our down payment to ensuring a modern, energy efficient, and possible the greenest 21st century Secretariat building for generations to come, the Secretary-General said.

U.N. LAUNCHES INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF BIODIVERSITY IN BERLIN

The International Year of

Biodiversity was launched today in Berlin with a call for an unprecedented scientific, economic, political and public awareness effort was to reverse and stop the loss of the planets natural assets.

In a video

message to mark the celebrations around the launch of this Year, the Secretary-General said that species and ecosystems are disappearing at an unsustainable rate. He added that we need a new vision and new efforts. He called on every country and each citizen of our planet to join together in a global alliance to protect life on Earth.

The words biodiversity and ecosystems might seem abstract and remote to many people. But there is nothing abstract about their role in economies and in the lives of billions of people, said Achim Steiner, the head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) at the launch today.

SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS IMPLEMENTATION OF SUDANS COMPREHENSIVE PEACE AGREEMENT IS A TOP PRIORITY

In a statement marking the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended more than 20 years of civil war in Sudan, the Secretary-General noted the considerable progress that has been made in the implementation of the CPA and the strengthening of the relationship between the two parties to the agreement. However, the final year of the CPA will be an extremely challenging one, especially as the parties prepare for elections and the exercise of the right of self-determination for Southern Sudan.

These challenges require the parties urgently to establish the necessary legal, political and institutional framework for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections, referenda and popular consultations. It is also important that they engage now in substantive discussions on post-referendum arrangements, regardless of the outcome of the referendum. There must be renewed efforts to strengthen basic services throughout Sudan and to improve protection for all Sudanese through continued improvements in the areas of human rights, humanitarian recovery, rule of law and development.

More fundamentally, the parties must work towards reconciliation. The people of Sudan have witnessed the horrible consequences of war and have waited more than twenty years for the benefits of peace. If the CPA is to deliver this peace, it will require a substantially increased commitment by the parties, with the support of the international community.

In this context, support for the successful implementation of the CPA is one of the United Nations top priorities for this year. The United Nations will work closely with all national, regional and international stakeholders to help the parties meet the final benchmarks of the peace agreement.

The Secretary-General's Special Representative for

Sudan, Ashraf Qazi, also congratulated the Government and people of Sudan on the fifth anniversary of the CPA. Qazi urged the leadership of the signatory parties not to allow any difficulties or impediments to stand in the way of achieving durable peace. He said vital work remained to be done with regard to border demarcation; demobilization, disarmament and reintegration; capacity building and the security sector and legal reform.

U.N. FORCE IN LEBANON PROTESTED AIR VIOLATIONS BY ISRAEL

Over the last few days, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has observed a significant number of Israeli overflights over Lebanese airspace.

UNIFIL has strongly protested the air violations to the Israeli Defence Force and has also reported these violations to the United Nations Security Council through the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

Such overflights are in violation of Lebanese sovereignty and of resolution 1701. They tend to exacerbate local apprehensions, and are in contravention of UNIFILs objectives and efforts to reduce tensions and establish a stable security environment in south Lebanon.

UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces are continuing their operations across the area of operations in order to ensure implementation of resolution 1701 in a stable and secure environment. There is no cause for concern in this regard.

DEPUTY EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR HEADS TO EGYPT AND SYRIA

Catherine Bragg, the Assistant Secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, will start a four-day mission to Egypt and Syria today.

In Egypt, she is scheduled to meet with senior officials from the Government and the League of Arab States. She will also visit the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which has recently relocated to Cairo.

In Damascus, Ms. Bragg will meet senior Government officials and the United Nations country team.

HEAD OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS TO BRIEF PRESS ON WEDNESDAY

The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, will brief journalists at 8:30 on Wednesday morning about the Secretary-General's Retreat with the Heads of Regional Organizations, which concludes the night before on Long Island. Coffee and light breakfast will be provided in light of the early hour, chosen to provide enough time ahead of the 9:30 start of the

Security Council meeting on UN-regional cooperation.

The briefing will take place in Mr. Pascoe's conference room in the North Lawn building (NL-2062), located at the end of the hallway visible to the left of the (new) Vienna Cafe. Media planning to attend should RSVP to Jared Kotler (kotler@un.org) in Mr. Pascoe's office.

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

United Nations, S-378

New York, NY 10017

Tel. 212-963-7162

Fax. 212-963-7055


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