Press Conference by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at United Nations Headquarters

29 September 2009
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, 29 September:

Secretary-General:  Good morning.  It is a great pleasure to see you.

I wanted to share some perspectives on the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly and the many events of the past week. 

It is still early days, of course, but this has been one of the most engaged GA [General Assembly] sessions in years. 

There is a broad recognition of the United Nations pivotal role in rising to the exceptional challenges of the coming year.

Let me be specific. 

First, climate change. 

We convened the largest-ever summit on the climate crisis -- 101 Heads of State and Government, from 163 countries. 

We laid a solid foundation towards Copenhagen.

All leaders said they wanted a deal and are prepared to work for it. This gives the negotiations vital political impetus.

Leaders confirmed the need to limit global average temperature rise to a maximum of 2° C.  Most vulnerable countries like the small island developing States pushed for an even more stringent 1.5° limit.

On the mitigation front, the Japanese Prime Minister announced a bold and ambitious goal of 25 per cent reduction by 2020, against the level of 1990, and the intent to create a Japanese carbon market that would be linked into a global carbon market.

Also on the mitigation front, as you know very well, the Chinese President announced China would be prepared to take additional actions to reduce energy intensity in the context of an international agreement.

On adaptation, the European Union announced their support for a fast track funding facility for adaptation and their readiness to provide 5-7 billion euros to get it started.

At long last, leaders focused on climate change financing and got more concrete, with many expressing support for the proposal for $100 billion annually over the next decade for concrete adaptation and mitigation actions.  And I raised this issue again during my participation in the G-20 summit.  There was very intensive discussion of financing issues.

Given the important progress achieved by leaders’ involvement at the summit, I am committed to continuing to engage them, individually and collectively, in coordination with the Prime Minister of Denmark. 

We need to maintain the new momentum and solidify progress in the run up to Copenhagen. 

That’s the focus of my upcoming mission to Denmark, Sweden and Geneva, as it will be for every one of my missions from now through December.

Second, disarmament. 

Issues of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation are now front and center. 

Not long ago, few challenged the idea that nuclear weapons were here to stay.  That is why, nearly a year ago, I proposed a five-point action plan for putting disarmament back on the global agenda, including a special summit of the Security Council.

Resolution 1887 (2009), unanimously adopted by the Security Council during its Thursday summit meeting last week, is an important step.  We continue the march for a world without nuclear weapons. 

Going forward, we are focused on the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] Review Conference next May, as well as achieving early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). 

Third, recovery and the financial crisis. 

As I said in my General Assembly speech, markets may be bouncing back, but incomes, jobs and people are not.

That is why we have put forward a Global Jobs Pact.

We are also creating a new Global Impact Vulnerability Alert System, giving us real-time data and analysis on the socio-economic picture around the world, so that Governments can reach those who most need it.

In Pittsburgh, the G-20 leaders again promised to help the poorest countries. They pledged more balanced and sustainable growth in the future.  Now we must hold them to their word.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me cite a few other notable events at this General Assembly. 

On Saturday of last week, Secretary of State of the United States [Hillary] Clinton and I hosted an important meeting on food security, designed to build on the July G-8 summit in L’Aquila [Italy] where leaders announced a $20 billion food security fund.

For much of the past year, we have focused on immediate needs -— saving people from starving.  Today we are moving more firmly towards a longer term phase 2 -— working a revolution in the way we do agricultural development.

We are focusing particularly on small farmers, most of them women.  Our approach is about more than feeding the hungry.  It’s about empowering the poor.

The food crisis may have fallen off the front pages.  But it has not gone away, and I urge you to pay attention.

Regarding the flu pandemic:  The UN System has completed an assessment to help countries prioritize their needs. 

In recent days, nine countries agreed to make 10 per cent of their pandemic vaccine supply available to countries in special need.  This represents approximately 50 million vaccines.

Two vaccine manufacturers have agreed to donate 150 million vaccines.  Others have agreed to provide reduced pricing.

A number of donor-countries have pledged financial and technical support, while others are exploring how they can help.

With respect to peace and security:  The Group of Friends of Myanmar unanimously reaffirmed its support for the UN’s ongoing efforts, in particular an active and direct engagement with the Government.

I met yesterday with Prime Minister Thein Sein.  I expect Myanmar to fully respond to the proposals I left with the senior leadership during my last visit to the country. 

The onus is on the Government to create the necessary conditions for credible and inclusive elections.  There should be dialogue with all of the stakeholders in Myanmar.  And, of course, all political prisoners must be released, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. 

I intend to continue to work through my Good Offices for simultaneous progress on political, humanitarian and development challenges.

I also met with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka yesterday.  The Government has reaffirmed its commitment to allow displaced persons to return to their homes by January next year.

We need no further evidence for the need to move forward.  Just this past weekend, a confrontation took place between IDPs [internally displaced persons] and Sri Lankan security forces in the Menik Farms camps.  Two children were shot and wounded.

There is clearly a great deal of pressure on people on the ground.

In coordination with Member States, I will continue to closely follow up on the implementation of the Government’s commitments —- both personally and through my senior officials.  

This includes outstanding issues related to the freedom of movement and the return of IDPs, human rights accountability and political reconciliation.

I also had a chance to meet with the leaders on Cyprus, and encourage them to seize the opportunity before them and to make full use of my good offices.  There is a reasonable expectation within the international community that the leaders can soon arrive at a mutually acceptable settlement.

I am deeply concerned about developments in Honduras.  A state of emergency has increased tensions. I note that the Congress of Honduras has rejected the suspension of civil liberties and urge that constitutional guarantees, including freedom of association, expression and movement, be fully respected. 

Threats on the embassy of Brazil in Honduras are unacceptable.  International law is clear:  sovereign immunity cannot be violated.  Threats to the embassy staff and premises are intolerable.  The Security Council has condemned such acts of intimidation.  I do as well, in the strongest terms.

I once again appeal for the safety of President [Manuel] Zelaya.  I urge all political actors to seriously commit to dialogue and regional mediation efforts.  I reaffirm the readiness of the United Nations to assist in every way. 

I also met with the Vice Minister of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] and underscored my concern about the humanitarian and human rights situation. 

In addition, of course, I addressed nuclear and other outstanding issues. 

Important discussions also took place on the Middle East, Somalia and Pakistan. 

Finally, on Iran:  In my meeting with President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, I said clearly and directly that the burden of proof is on Iran to demonstrate that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.

I urged him to open the country’s new structure to prompt and full inspection, and to engage constructively in negotiations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The sixty-fourth General Assembly shows a UN rising to the challenges of today’s world. 

We are confronting the big issues of the day –- climate change, disarmament, the financial crisis and Millennium Development Goals, key issues of peace and security.

No nation can solve these alone. 

It takes nations united, which of course was the main theme of my General Assembly address this year:  Now is Our Time.

Thank you very much.  I will be happy to answer your questions.

Question:  Secretary-General, welcome again this month.  This is the second time, and we like to have you here as much as we can.  The question is this:  You met with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, this is not the first time that you meet him.  This time, talking directly to him or looking at his face, did you realize that he has to understand that he has to come clean on Thursday?

Secretary-General:  We discussed all the pending issues pertaining to Iran, including recently-disclosed nuclear structures, nuclear facilities.  We discussed all other pending issues, including humanitarian issues, human rights issues.  I urged him that Iran, as a historically rich and proud country, should take a constructive role in the international community by making very transparent, direct involvement and engagement in negotiation to prove all the pending issues.  I made it quite clear that, when they argue that their nuclear facilities are genuinely for peaceful purposes, the burden of proof is on their side.  They should fully cooperate with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], provide access in a transparent way.  That is their responsibility.  Of course, I realize that there is still a gap of positions and understandings.  I told him that, even with several rounds of meetings in person like this, we still have a gap of understandings, but I urged him to bridge this gap by sincerely engaging themselves in negotiation for nuclear issues and promoting, protecting human rights.  I will continue to do that.  In fact, after this meeting, I am going to meet the Foreign Minister of Iran [Manouchehr Mottaki] again to follow up our discussions with President Ahmadinejad, at 11:00 today.

Question: My question actually is a follow-up to Giampaolo’s.  The Iranian Mission put out a statement early this morning saying that the President expressed grave concern that you, the Secretary-General, instead of waiting for the IAEA as the competent body to reflect on the issue of the newly-discovered, or the newly-announced, facility, the new enrichment facility, has chosen to repeat, and I quote, “the same allegations that a few Western Powers are making”.  I wonder if you could respond to that, and could you also tell us whether you expressed any direct concerns to him about the implications of this new facility in terms of sanctions, possible military action?

Secretary-General: To that argument, I responded by saying that this new uranium enrichment facility is contrary to the Security Council resolution.  They have [to make] all the processes transparent, in a most transparent way, and that they should receive the full inspections and they should give full access to IAEA.  This is what I told him.  I know that according to their letter they have informed the IAEA on 21 September about the existence of this.  But then, what has happened before 21 September, while this facility was being constructed?  Therefore, there’s clearly a question of transparency.  He told me that he would be ready, their country would be ready, to accept these inspections by the IAEA.  I sincerely hope that all these questions pertaining to this new facility and other facilities, all these pending issues concerning the nuclear development programmes of Iran, should be resolved through dialogue in a transparent and objective manner, with the International Atomic [Energy] Agency involved.

Question: Did you raise the issue of additional sanctions and the possibilities that Iran might face?

Secretary-General: I told him that this is contrary to the Security Council resolution.  Iran must fully comply with the relevant Security Council resolutions.  This is what I told him, and I was acting on my own behalf, as Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Question:  Thank you.  Let me change the subject.  My question is about North Korea.  On Sunday, you met the Vice-Foreign Minister of North Korea; but on the contrary, yesterday, he criticized the sanctions against North Korea.  Could you get any positive sign to resume six-party talks or other kinds of bilateral talks with North Korea about nuclear issues?

Secretary-General:  I think Vice Foreign Minister Pak Kil Yon repeated the basic positions of the DPRK Government, regarding the sanctions by the Security Council as well as the six-party talks.  I repeatedly urged him and his Government that all the pending issues should be resolved through dialogue, including within the framework of the six-party talks, and also using bilateral talks with key parties participating in the six-party talks.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, last time you were here, I asked you whether Peter Galbraith will be going back to Afghanistan.  Your office had said that he was going to be here today to brief with Kai Eide on Afghanistan.  He appears to be on his farm in Vermont today.  Can I ask you, is he still going to be your Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, or are you going to replace him as Deputy Special Representative to Afghanistan?

Secretary-General:  He is still as Deputy Special Representative of UNAMA [the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan], and as I told you, I have full confidence and trust in my Special Representative, Mr. Kai Eide, and also he is one of the integral staff of UNAMA.

Question:  Sorry, sir, my question was framed in the future tense.  I asked: will he remain your Special Representative?  Will he be going back to Afghanistan, Peter Galbraith?

Secretary-General:  I think I don’t need to answer for that question for anything which may happen in the future.  We will have to assess the situation.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, I’d like to follow up on that Iranian announcement about your meeting.  They also said that President Ahmadinejad had asked you for your help with the treatment of Iranian prisoners in the United States.  Did he bring up anybody specifically on that matter?  And the overall tone of the message makes it seem like it might have been a tense meeting, and I know you’re meeting the Foreign Minister today.  So could you characterize the sort of tone or the mood of your talks with the Iranians, please?

Secretary-General:  I hope you understand that it would be a little sensitive to disclose what I have discussed in a private meeting.  As you know, I had some open, public meetings, and I had some minutes of engaging in private talks with him, discussing some other sensitive issues, like humanitarian issues and human rights issues.  Maybe, I hope, one day we’ll be able to disclose it, but for the time being, I’m not in a position to comment on that question.

Question:  Was there any particular prisoner the Iranian President asked for your help with?

Secretary-General:  I answered your question already.

Question:  A follow-up:  Did the President of Iran give you any indication that he is willing to engage in this idea of freezing sanctions simultaneously with freezing the enrichment of uranium? Because you speak about the “burden of proof” and that was the language used with Iraq before the military attacks.  But my question has to do with you appointing a high-level envoy to investigate what the Iraqis have called “terror across the border” into their territory.  Who will you appoint, and have you taken up this issue with the Foreign Minister of Syria, Mr. Walid Moallem, when you met with him?

Secretary-General:  On that issue, as you know, I have received a letter from [Iraq’s] Prime Minister [Nouri Kamil al-]Maliki, and I have conveyed that letter to the Security Council for their consideration.  I have also expressed my concern over the mounting tension between Iraq and some neighbouring countries, and we will do whatever we can to reduce the tension, first of all.  But at this time, I do not have any answer at this time.  I’m still reviewing the situation and considering what action I should take, including the appointment of an envoy.

Question:  Did you discuss that with the Foreign Minister of Syria?

Secretary-General:  I have discussed this matter with President [Jalal] Talabani of Iraq and Foreign Minister [Walid] al-Moallem of Syria.  But it would not be proper for me to disclose all the contents of our discussions.

Question:  Don’t you think that by declaring right now that the new installation is contrary to Security Council resolutions, that you are taking a position?  My question is:  why don’t you wait until the inspectors go?  Because the Iranians are saying we already informed, ourselves; so you’re already judging that they’ve violated Security Council resolutions, like the Western countries do.  Don’t you think you should have a different position from the United States and others?

Secretary-General: This is a question of when you should inform your intention or the existence of such facilities, or a plan to be transparent and credible -- when you have such intent to build these facilities.  They should have informed, notified the IAEA a long time before.  Not just before everything would be completed.  That’s what I am raising.  So there is clearly a question of transparency.  That is why the world leaders have expressed their deep concern, and that is why I have also expressed my concern.

Question:  But not all world leaders, sir.

Secretary-General:  Of course.

Question: Mr. Secretary-General, even though allegations of fraud in the Afghan elections are being investigated and votes recounted, the United States and its NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] allies meeting here at the UN have said that they believe President [Hamid] Karzai has won and decided to support his anti-insurgency plan.  Now, sir, since the United Nations is also involved in the electoral process in Afghanistan, what is the status of this election?  And sir, do you believe that President Karzai has actually won this election?

Secretary-General:  The official position of the United Nations is that, first of all, we have to wait for the official outcome of the counting by the Independent Election Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission.  We have to wait.  Before that, I’m not in a position to say who would be the winner of this election.  We have full confidence and trust in the Independent Election Commission, as well as the Electoral Complaints Commission.  So I understand that the final results may be available on or around 7 October.  So until then, we have to wait.

Question:  I’m sorry, unless I missed it, what was your response to Libyan leader Muammar Al-Qadhafi’s remarks and his ripping of the UN Charter?  And why didn’t you come out publicly and denounce his attack on the institution that you are the leader of, coming into your house and doing this?  Your Spokeswoman had a quote, I saw, but unless I missed something from you, what is your opinion of what happened?

Secretary-General:  I understand that my Spokesperson, Michèle Montas, has already answered and made some comments on that. 

The Charter of the United Nations is the very foundation of our Organization, the United Nations, and it is a symbol of the legitimacy of the United Nations.  Any behaviour to denigrate this Charter is unacceptable.

Question:  I have a follow up surrounding Iran -- if you are to have a meeting again later today, what do you expect to come out of that meeting, if you already said the niceties about bridging the gap?  What do you hope to [achieve], and when is the meeting?

Secretary-General:  This is going to be part of my ongoing efforts to, first of all, bridge this gap and urge Iranian authorities to fully cooperate with the international community to resolve all pending issues.  There are so many issues:  nuclear, humanitarian and human rights issues.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, yesterday, your Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs discussed a positive feeling in the meeting between you and the Vice-Foreign Minister of the DPRK.  I just want to get a better sense of what was positive about that meeting, and do you see the UN playing a role in the disarmament talks any time soon?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  We discussed how we can further strengthen the cooperation between the United Nations and the DPRK.  We discussed the idea of opening the communication channel.  I think the DPRK showed a positive attitude towards my proposal, but that will have to be discussed later.  As you may know, earlier this year we had discussed with the DPRK Government to dispatch some senior officials from the United Nations to discuss this cooperative relationship with the DPRK and the United Nations.  They also appreciated the United Nations assistance in humanitarian areas, by OCHA [Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] and UNICEF [UN Children’s Fund] and UNDP [UN Development Programme], and I assured him that the United Nations will continue to provide such humanitarian assistance to address all the difficulties, particularly the food security issues and other areas.

Question:  Was disarmament cooperation discussed at all in this meeting?

Secretary-General:  We discussed in general about the need to address the nuclear issue of DPRK, in fully complying with Security Council resolutions and the importance of returning to the six-party talks, resolving this issue through dialogue within the six-party talks.  And I also advised, urged him to improve their bilateral relationships with countries in the region, particularly with Japan.

Question:  Japan had raised to you the issue of the abductees, but then in the readout of your meeting with the DPRK, it didn’t seem that the issue came up.  Could you explain if that is the case?  And I also just wanted to ask, on this thing of children shot in Sri Lanka, did you get a commitment from the Government not to shoot unarmed civilians who leave the camp?

Secretary-General:  This abductee issue of Japan has been a long pending issue.  I have made my points clear on many occasions, that this should also be resolved within a bilateral context.  We said yesterday that the relationship with Japan, which is one of the important participants of the six-party talks, as well as one of the important regional countries, it would be desirable to engage in bilateral talks to improve their bilateral relations.

Now, on Sri Lanka, yesterday we had an extensive discussion with the Prime Minister.  And the Foreign Minister [Rohitha Bogollagama] and Defence Secretary [Gotabhaya Rajapaksa] were also present in the meeting.  They were the key people in managing this situation.  I made three points clearly again, which I did during my visit, and which was repeated and urged again during Mr. [B. Lynn] Pascoe’s visit earlier this month.  First, that all IDPs should be resettled, as they had promised, by the end of January.  There should be extra measures taken, particularly during this monsoon season, because their suffering will be much, much more serious during this wet season.  They should immediately begin to reach out to minority ethnic groups, including Tamils.  Then, I emphasized the importance of instituting immediately this judiciary accountability process for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.  Those were three points, and they committed that they will do as we have agreed.  But we have to have a close watch and monitor this process.

Thank you very much for all your active participation and for covering all the very many important events.  Thank you very much.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.