Press Conference by Secretary-General António Guterres at United Nations Headquarters

Following is a transcript of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ press conference, held in New York today:

Ladies and gentlemen of the media, thank you very much for your presence.  It’s good to meet all of you once again.  We have a very busy week ahead.  Global leaders will gather here next week at a time when our world faces major threats — from the nuclear peril to global terrorism, from inequality to cybercrime.  Hurricanes and floods around the world remind us that extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent and severe, due to climate change.

No country can meet these tests alone.  But, if we work together, we can chart a safer, more stable course.  And that is why the General Assembly meeting is so important.

Today, I want to mention two issues at the top of global concerns — and two reform initiatives.  First, the situation in Myanmar.  Grievances that have been left to fester for decades have now escalated beyond Myanmar’s borders, destabilizing the region.  The humanitarian situation is catastrophic.  When we met last week, there were 125,000 Rohingya refugees who had fled into Bangladesh.  That number has now tripled to nearly 380,000.  Many are staying in makeshift settlements or with host communities who are generously sharing what they have.  Women and children are arriving hungry and malnourished.

I urge all countries to do what they can for humanitarian assistance to be provided.  As you know, I wrote an official letter to the Security Council to express my concern.  I welcome the Council’s decision to discuss this crisis today.  I have condemned the attacks made by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in Rakhine State, but there have been disturbing reports of attacks by security forces against civilians, which are completely unacceptable.  Aid activities by UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations have been severely disrupted.

I call on the Myanmar authorities to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law, and recognize the right of return of all those who had to leave the country.  I urge them to ensure the delivery of vital humanitarian aid by United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and others.

I repeat my call for an effective action plan to address the root causes of the crisis.  The Muslims of Rakhine State must be granted nationality or, at least for now, a legal status that allows them to lead a normal life, including freedom of movement and access to labour markets, education and health services.

Turning now to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The nuclear and missile tests by the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] have created great instability and tension on the Korean Peninsula, throughout the region and beyond.  Unity in the Security Council is critical.  This week’s unanimous adoption of a new resolution sends a clear message that the DPRK must comply fully with its international obligations.

I call on all Member States to ensure the full implementation of this and other relevant Security Council resolutions.  But, Security Council unity also creates an opportunity for diplomatic engagement — an opportunity that must be seized.  The solution can only be political.  Military action could cause devastation on a scale that would take generations to overcome.

I would also like to announce two new initiatives to strengthen the work of the United Nations that are part of my broader reform agenda.  When I took office, I called for a surge in diplomacy for peace.  Since then, I have increased my own engagement and worked to improve our institutional capacity to conduct mediation.  As part of this effort, I am announcing today the establishment of a new high‑level advisory board on mediation.

The Board is made up of 18 internationally recognized personalities who bring experience and skills, deep knowledge and extensive contacts to this extremely important task.   The names will be distributed to all of you.  I will look to the Board to provide me with advice and to back specific mediation efforts.  I am confident they will help us to collaborate more effectively with regional organizations, non-governmental groups and others involved in mediation around the world.

Today, I am also launching my gender parity strategy for the United Nations.  This road map fulfils an urgent need, a moral duty, an operational necessity — and a personal priority.

The strategy now completed aims to achieve parity at senior levels by 2021, and across the board by 2028.  I have already started to do my part.  Since January, over half of my appointments to the Senior Management Group have been women — a total of 17 women and 15 men so far, including both appointments and renewal of mandates.  There is a large majority of men in the present mandates, which means that in the new appointments, the high percentage of women is even higher.

But, more than statistics, we will need to change our own attitudes and approaches.  We must lead by example on gender equality and women’s empowerment, which is one of the greatest human rights challenges and opportunities in our world.

Finally, I know the headline crises rightly fill our screens and working agendas every day.  But I want to shine a spotlight on an under-reported emergency.  In the Central African Republic, we have seen a 37 per cent increase in refugees and displaced people in just the last three months.  This is grave cause for concern in a country where more than half the population are in dire need of assistance.  I hope global leaders will give this crisis their attention during their talks next week.

I would also like to highlight that when we do act together, we can achieve results.  The international humanitarian system sounded the alarm earlier this year about the threat of famine in Somalia, Yemen, South Sudan and northern Nigeria.  I remember this was my first press conference in this room.

Despite serious food insecurity in these countries, which has tragic consequences, famine as such has so far been kept at bay — thanks to coordinated efforts by Governments, non-governmental organizations, donors and the United Nations system.  I want to express my deep appreciation to the work of all my colleagues in the UN humanitarian agencies.  You, the media, have also played a very important part.

Some 13 million people in these four countries are receiving life-saving aid each month.  We must continue to meet the needs of all those who look to us for support.  But, this is a reminder that when we act together as united nations, we can make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.

Thank you very much for your attention, and now, of course, I will be able to take your questions.

**Questions & Answers

Spokesman:  Sherwin.

Question:  Secretary‑General, good to see you.  Thanks for this briefing.  And, on behalf of the UN Correspondents Association, good luck for your first UNGA [United Nations General Assembly] as chief of the United Nations, and have a lot of hand sanitizer on standby.  My question is…

Secretary-General:  I don't need to sanitize.

Question:  Lots of handshakes.  Let me quote you your words last week: "I am totally committed to the reform of the UN to make it more effective, more nimble, more able to respond, for people to feel that the UN is working for them."  Do you believe, Secretary‑General, that, given the mass exodus of the Rohingya that we're seeing across the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh that the United Nations has lived up to your words, or is the reputation of the United Nations again being sacrificed at the altar of the Security Council, given its ineffective response to date?

Secretary-General:  I think there are three dimensions on this.  One dimension is the action of the Secretary‑General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the other officials that have been, very clearly, living what I believe is necessary in order to make the Myanmar authorities find a way to address the dramatic situation that exists, and as I mentioned, take the necessary measures.  On the other hand, it's important to recognize the huge effort of UN agencies and other non‑governmental organizations supporting the refugees in Bangladesh in extremely difficult circumstances, you can imagine, with this massive flow.  Unfortunately, we are not allowed to do the same inside Rakhine State at the present moment and [that is] one of the reasons of my appeal.  On the other hand, I wrote an official letter to the Security Council.  I don't know if you are aware, but the last official letter sent by the Secretary‑General to the Security Council on an issue was in 1989 about Lebanon, which means that this was a very important commitment from my side to ask the attention of the Security Council.  And I'm happy the Security Council has introduced it in today's discussion, and I hope the Security Council will be able to have a very clear message in relation to the situation in Myanmar.

Spokesman:  James.

Question:  Secretary‑General, James Bays from Al Jazeera.  I asked you this question last week, and it's about how you term the violence that's being carried out right now in Myanmar.  Your High Commissioner for Human Rights said it seems to be a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.  Given the situation has gotten so much worse in the last week, do you believe this is ethnic cleansing?

Secretary-General:  Well, I would answer your question with another question.  When one third of the Rohingya population had to flee the country, can you find a better word to describe it?

Spokesman:  Edie, then Majeed.

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General.  I'll do just two follow‑ups, one on… one on North Korea and one on Myanmar.  On Myanmar, the Security Council has, so far, failed to agree on any kind of a statement.  Your letter was, of course, exceedingly important.  Are you prepared to follow up your letter by invoking Article 99, which says, and I quote, “the Secretary‑General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which, in his opinion, may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”?  And, on the DPRK, diplomats tell me that you've been on the phone constantly trying to work on ways to resolve this crisis.  Russia's UN Ambassador said after the vote that the United States' unwillingness to include the idea of having you use your good offices to resolve the dispute “gives rise to very serious questions in our minds”.  So, I wonder if you could respond to that, and could you give us an update on your contacts and whether you've made any headway and what you’re planning as a follow‑up during the GA?

Secretary-General:  Well, first of all, I didn't invoke formally Article 99, but what I did was exactly to draw the attention of the Security Council for the situation, and I've done it officially.  And I invoked the regional destabilization — that it is taking place.  I think we sometimes give too much importance to the formalities.  I think the substance is what matters, and I think the substance here was clear.  And I hope that the Security Council will, indeed, have a meaningful discussion.  And I had the opportunity to brief the Security Council again yesterday during our monthly lunch.  So, it's a matter that I'm following with a lot of interest and a lot of personal commitment.  I visited Rakhine State many times in the past in my past capacity, and this is a matter that I feel very deeply in my heart.  The suffering of the people is something that… I mean, I feel very, very strongly.  In relation to the good offices of the Secretary‑General, the good offices of the Secretary‑General can only be implemented when there is a consensus in the Security Council about the need to use them.  That consensus was not yet reached or not reached.  So, of course, I am available.  I am ready to do whatever is considered necessary.  But, one thing it is clear; a mediation can only take place when the parties to a conflict all want that mediation to occur.

Spokesman:  Majeed.

Question:  Mr. Secretary‑General, this is Majeed Nizamuddin Gly of Rudaw Media Network.  My question is about… about the Kurds.  A nation that has been living under occupation, oppression and genocide ever since colonial Powers made a choice for them and forced them into modern Iraq.  Now for the first time in modern history on 25 September during UNGA, the Kurds want to exercise their right of self‑determination.  Just like Saddam Hussein, some politicians in Baghdad just yesterday threatened the Kurds with bloody civil war and military campaign in response to that referendum.  My question is, don't you think the Kurds, like any other nation, have the… have the right of self‑determination, a right that's enshrined in the UN Charter?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  I don't subscribe to many of the comments that you made in describing the situation.  But, let me be very clear on one thing.  Iraq is facing an extremely decisive moment in its history.  Iraq was victim of a dramatic attack of Da’esh that occupied large chunks of the country, and it has been slowly reoccupying its territory, which is not yet completed.  At the same time, we are deeply concerned with the need for an effective reconciliation of the different communities in Iraq.  So, our advice at the present moment is for an enhanced dialogue, mainly between Erbil and Baghdad, to come to an understanding on the near future.  And I would hope that unilateral decisions from one side or another would not undermine the belief I have that this is a very sensitive moment in Iraq and that we need to do everything possible to the benefit of the Iraqi people in its entirety, including, of course, the Kurdish population, to which I have a lot of personal sympathy.  I visited Kurdistan many times.  I've relations with many of the Kurdish leaders.  I understand their concerns.  But, my appeal is at the present moment for dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad to make sure that we are able to stabilize a situation that is still extremely fragile.

Spokesman:  Michelle.

Question:  Thanks, Secretary‑General.  Just a follow‑up on Myanmar.  How… sorry.  How concerned are you that there's a risk of genocide taking place in Myanmar?  Have you spoken with Aung San Suu Kyi since you last spoke to her on Wednesday?  And with regard to your mediation board, which crisis tops the list for them?

Secretary-General:  Sorry?

Question:  Which crisis tops the list for your mediation board?

Secretary-General:  First, in relation to Myanmar, yes, I've spoken several times with Aung San Suu Kyi.  And I believe that we are facing a very dramatic situation, and that is the reason why I appealed to the Security Council to seriously consider the situation and…

Question:  [Inaudible]?

Secretary-General:  Again, we can… the question here is not to establish a dialogue on the different kinds of technical words that have different meanings.  I think the question is to say, this is a dramatic tragedy.  People are dying and suffering at horrible numbers, and we need to stop it.  That is my main concern.  And in relation to the mediation efforts, if I would have to consider a priority situation in which I believe progress can be made in the short term, even if many others, of course, deserve our attention, but if you ask me to choose this situation, which I believe progress can be made in the short term, and correspond for us undoubtedly to a very important priority, I would select Libya.  I think there is an opportunity in Libya, and I appeal for all countries that have an influence in Libya, and I appeal for all Libyans to seize this opportunity and to be able to overcome the divisions and move in the direction of a solution.  And my Special Representative is working very hard.  We will have again an important moment here during the General Assembly to bring together all people involved, and I think there is an opportunity for peace and stability in Libya.

Spokesman:  Somini, on the right.

Question:  Thank you.  Secretary‑General, do you plan to meet with [United States] President [Donald] Trump? What will be your message to him on a couple of specific things that you've alluded to — firstly, North Korea, secondly, Myanmar, and thirdly, climate change, which you've also spoken to in the past?

Secretary-General:  Well, first, I plan to meet with President Trump.  I don't plan to tell him about North Korea or Myanmar anything different from what I told you.  I think we need to be able to tell the same thing to everybody that we meet about every issue, because, if not, we will not be credible.  And in relation to climate change, my position is very clear.  I do believe climate change is a serious threat.  I do believe recent events have proven it again.  I do believe that the Paris Agreement is something that must be implemented by the international community and with an enhanced ambition.  And I do believe that the green economy is not only necessary to rescue the planet, it is also the smart way to look into development at the present moment.

Spokesman:  Iftikhar.

Secretary-General:  But, this is not new.  I've said it many times.

Question:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary‑General.  Iftikhar Ali from Associated Press of Pakistan.  I originally wanted to ask you about Myanmar, but I now go to the lingering crisis that is Afghanistan, a country about which you have deep knowledge.  The UN, sir, has a large presence in Afghanistan to promote peace and stability, but the… under the new United States policy, more troops are being sent to Afghanistan to bring about a military solution.  Sir, do you think there is a military solution to the crisis in Afghanistan?

Secretary-General:  I don't think there is a military solution to the crisis in Afghanistan, as I don't think there is a military solution for practically any crisis in the world.  I believe it is important in Afghanistan to invest in the conditions to create a political solution.  I believe that is possible.  I believe that means the engagement in dialogue with the relevant parties, and I think that, even when the United States have announced their surge, they were also saying that they believe a political solution is necessary.  So, it is clear for me that, independently of short‑term measures that might be taken, the political solution is the long‑term road that we need all to move on.

Spokesman:  Apostolos.

Correspondent:  Apostolos Zoupaniotis, Cyprus News Agency.  Mr. Secretary‑General…

Spokesman:  Sorry, Apostolos, wave to us, please.  There he is.

Secretary-General:  Yes, yes, yes.

Question:  Mr. Secretary‑General, on 6 July, you decided to close in Crans‑Montana, Switzerland, the Cyprus conference, a conference that you have described previously as open‑ended.  What prerequisite is… right now you place in order to continue your good offices mission and your initiative?  And also, when are you planning to issue your good offices report on Cyprus?

Secretary-General:  It's very simple.  I plan to use my good offices as soon as the parties are in agreement for those good offices to be put in place.  And the report, I hope it will be presented… we are still working on it.  I hope we will be presenting it probably end of this month, beginning of next month, after the high‑level session, which, as you can imagine, we are all completely overwhelmed.  But, it is to come soon.

Spokesman:  Carole, AFP.

Question:  Mr. Secretary‑General, clearly, the most watched leader next week at the UN will be Donald Trump.  Can you tell me, how do you think he's going to be received at the UN given his policies, his statements on the Organization, his remarks?  And is there anything he might say that… that you hope he might… that you're hopeful that he might say?

Secretary-General:  Well, I think that all the efforts I've been making until now are in the direction of trying to create conditions for the relationship between the United States and the United Nations to be a constructive relationship.  And I hope that that will also be the message of President Trump, and I hope that, if that is the message that will be conveyed, that that message will be well received.

Spokesman:  Abdelhamid.

Question:  Thank you, Secretary‑General.  Abdelhamid Siyam from the Arabic daily Al‑Quds al‑Arabi, based in London.  I wish this press conference will extend for two hours to ask about Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, but my question would be about Palestine.  You just visited the area, sir.  First, do you think there… truly there are enough land to establish an independent continuant, sovereign, viable Palestinian state?  That's one question.  The second, you have been requested to treat Israel as a normal State, and your Spokesman said so:  Israel needs to be treated as just a normal State.  Is there any country in the world that has been in violation of Security Council resolution and General Assembly resolution, Human Right Council, ICJ [International Court of Justice] as much as Israel?  Thank you very much.

Secretary-General:  Well, what I said, first of all, is that I believe the two‑State solution is a must, that there is no Plan B to the two‑State solution.  And obviously, for the two‑State solution to be possible, we need to have a territory adequate for both States.  And that is the reason why we have taken a very clear position in relation to the settlement activity that you know.  Second, I never used the word "normal".  What I said is that Israel needs to be treated with the same rights and obligations as any other State.  And that, I think, is true for Israel or for any other State that does whatever is done.  There are rules that need to be abided by.  And of course, if they are not, they should… the non‑implementation of rules should be clearly denounced and condemned.  But, all States, as I said, must have the same obligations and the same rights.  And this, I think, is unquestionable.  I didn't make any comment of the characteristics of the State.

Spokesman:  The young lady at the end of the fourth row there, you.  Go ahead.

Question:  Veronica Figueroa para 24 Colombia; Mr. Secretary-General

Secretary-GeneralPuede hablar en español

QuestionEl Presidente colombiano va a venir la semana que viene y acaba de pedir otra misión de acompañamiento para el cese al fuego con el ELN.  ¿Están las Naciones Unidas preparadas para acompañar a Colombia en un proceso, si necesitan hacerlo?  Y también viene el Ministro de relaciones exteriores venezolano.  ¿Esta Asamblea va a dictar la posición de las Naciones Unidas en la situación de derechos humanos en Venezuela?

Secretary-GeneralCon total sinceridad, hay que decir que las noticias de Colombia son las mejores noticias que tenemos en el mundo y estamos muy entusiasmados con el acuerdo de cese al fuego entre el ELN y el Gobierno colombiano.  Naturalmente, de acuerdo con lo que será necesario y las discusiones que se están haciendo, estamos no solamente preparados pero muy interesados en ayudar concretizar el éxito de este cese al fuego.  Y naturalmente, en relación con Venezuela, pensamos que… van a empezar de nuevo las negociaciones entre el Gobierno y la oposición — y yo estuvo en contacto muy estrecho durante todo este tiempo con el Presidente Zapatero en relación con esto — y hicimos ayer, yo creo, una nueva declaración apoyando a esas negociaciones.  Creemos que una solución política con el acuerdo de las dos partes es absolutamente necesaria para salvaguardar la democracia y los derechos humanos en Venezuela.

Spokesman:  Nizar.

Question:  Thank you.  Nizar Abboud of Al‑Mayadeen Television in Lebanon.  My question is regarding Yemen.  Yemen, of course, the… cholera is very… is getting out of control, more than 600,000, as you well know.  And the rate of increase is 5,000 or more a day.  When… do you think that the United Nations should tell the Coalition, which is carrying out that attack against Yemen continuously, enough is enough?  And what else can the United Nations do to alleviate the suffering of Yemenis?

Secretary-General:  What we are doing at the present moment, exactly in relation to that concern, through our Special Representative, is to try to negotiate an agreement allowing for both the harbour of Hudaydah and the airport of Sana’a to be open to allow for the humanitarian aid that is absolutely crucial to be able to reach the populations in distress.  And the humanitarian situation in Yemen is, as you know, catastrophic.  So, we are totally committed to try to reach an agreement with the parties to make it possible to have full and effective access for humanitarian aid, which will be absolutely crucial also in relation to the cholera.  There are other aspects that he is engaged in, but these two are the most important.  But, we also believe that this should be confidence‑building measures to allow to restart effective political negotiations to put an end to this conflict that is one of the bloodiest and most dramatic conflicts of our time.

Question:  Sorry, just a quick follow‑up.  Do you believe that the Coalition is… can really conduct an investigation on… on slaughter in Yemen?  Or this… should this be done by International Tribunals or any independent…?

Spokesman:  As you know, there are initiatives in the context of the Human Rights Council that are taking place.  Independently of that, any party to any conflict can conduct its own initiatives.  But, as you know, there is exactly an initiative of this sort at the present moment in the Human Rights Council.

Spokesman:  Benny Avni.

Question:  Mr. Secretary‑General, Benny Avni of the New York Post.  So, to follow up on Abdelhamid question, in your visit to Ramallah, you didn't meet President [Mahmoud] Abbas.  Could you explain why?  And he was a… I believe it was reported you met [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan that day.  And also, on Trump, there will be a lot of pressure on you from different quarters, including in the United States, to confront him directly on several political issues that were mentioned here.  Will that be your style, or are you going to be a little more… a little less confrontational?

Secretary-General:  First of all, the reason is very simple.  I mean, I had the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister and a number of very relevant high officials of the Palestinian Authority.  The visit went very well.  And so, I understand that, for reasons that have to do with the questions of unity between West Bank and Gaza, the visit of President Abbas to Turkey was absolutely crucial.  And I respected, of course, that choice.  There was no diplomatic incident at all related to it.  On the contrary, there was a very meaningful dialogue taking place.  I… you will be able to listen to my speech in the beginning of the Assembly, and when you listen to my speech, your question will be answered, not by opinions I might issue today, but by the proof that is in the words that I will pronounce in the General Assembly.

Spokesman:  Fathi.

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General.  Ahmed Fathi, American Television News.  Back to UN reform, you have announced a short while ago that you're going to be submitting a plan for UN Mission in Libya (UNMIL) reform.  Would that plan or new ideas be sort of a blueprint for other UN missions in order to… to contribute to the peacekeeping operations around the world that UN is undertaking?  And what will be your message to the Member States with regard to the financing of the DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations], since there are some reductions.  Maybe not major this year but for future years, we are anticipating much larger reductions from the US side.  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  Now, first of all, what was done is something that I believe should be a normal way to proceed, which means, in all missions, we need to have regularly evaluations of the mission.  This one was done by Jean‑Marie Guéhenno, and based on this evaluation, we are now taking the measures to adapt the mission to the needs of the new situation that exists in Libya.  I think that we should… that doesn't mean that the same conclusions of the evaluation will apply in all other evaluations, but this procedure of evaluating regularly our missions and adjusting them to the realities on the ground is, I think, essential.  And one of the reasons that I've asked for the management reform aspect is to have the possibility to implement quickly the conclusions of any evaluation in relation to the changes that will be necessary on the ground of each operation.  Now, in relation to peacekeeping, I am very keen on preserving the integrity of our peacekeeping operations in all its aspects.  We have given instructions, because that, I think, the right thing to do when we deal with Member States that pay their contributions based on their own citizens' taxes — we have given instructions to look carefully into all the procedural aspects of our missions in order to make savings where those savings do not undermine the efficiency of the mission.  To give an example, we hope to have a 15 per cent reduction in air assets by a more rational use of the air assets that are present.  And this kind of policy will be followed systematically.  We cannot afford to misspend $1 when all the dollars are necessary — dollars, Euros, yens and whatever are the currency — when all the money is necessary to make sure that our missions have the necessary level, equipment and capacity to deal with the problems of the situations we face in line with the diagnostic of those situations.  So, my intention is to do everything to preserve the integrity of the peacekeeping missions, but, of course, to do also everything possible to make it in the most effective and cost‑effective way.

Spokesman:  Gentleman against the wall there.  Go ahead.  If you could use your microphone.  And if I could ask all of you just to limit yourself to one question.  Thank you.

Question:  On the US policy and the paying for UN policy in general… yeah, yeah, the US policy… for US policy, America First, and now that you seem is focusing on people.  So, what's the link between the two?

Secretary-General:  Well, we can have different opinions about the use of the word "first".  Now, when I was Prime Minister of Portugal, I always considered that, for me, as Prime Minister of Portugal, Portugal would come first.  But, it's my deep belief that the best way to preserve the American interests is to engage positively in global affairs and to engage positively in support to multilateral organisations like UN.

Spokesman:  Sylviane and then Matthew.

Question:  M. Secretary-General, un question en Français.  Lors de sa visite à Berlin, le Président israélien [Reuven] Rivlin a déclaré à Angela Merkel qu’Israël pourrait être forcée de prendre des mesures préventives contre le Hezbollah pour retirer l’arsenal d’armes de cette organisation.  De son côté, l’Ambassadrice [Nikki] Haley n’a pas ménagé les menaces contre la FINUL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] et aussi contre le Hezbollah.  Vous-même, vous avez été dans la région pendant le renouvellement de mandat de la FINUL qui avait demandé beaucoup de négociations ardues, vous n’avez pas été au Liban pour constater de visu ce qui se passait sur le terrain.  Est-ce que vous pensez que le Liban est en péril, quelles sont les mesures préventives qu’il faut prendre pour préserver la force de la FINUL, et aussi quel est le message que vous avez à donner au Président [Michel] Aoun lorsque vous allez le rencontrer, surtout qu’il s’agit du Hizbullah?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  Je crois qu’en ce qui concerne et les autorités libanaises et la communauté internationale, pour moi la question clef, c’est le renforcement des institutions nationales libanaises, et surtout de l’armée libanaise.  Je crois qu’il faut donner au Liban tous les attributs nécessaires à l’exercice effectif et total de sa souveraineté.  Et là, une question clef de mon point de vue, c’est le renforcement de l’armée libanaise et mon appel à la communauté internationale, c’est de garantir au Liban tout l’appui — d’ailleurs si vous regardez la générosité libanaise face aux réfugiés qui sont entrés au Liban, que le Liban mérite -, de donner au Liban tout l’appui pour qu’il puisse renforcer ses institutions et notamment son armée.  A mon avis, c’est la meilleure mesure préventive que l’on puisse avoir en relation avec les risques de conflits qui pourraient exister entre Israël et les milices du Hezbollah.  Et je crois que le rôle de la FINUL est exactement de renforcer le rôle d’une armée libanaise qu’on veut renforcer elle-même, pour être un facteur de stabilité dans la région.  Et nous sommes en train de faire une révision en demandant des capacités accrues aussi du point de vue du fonctionnement de la FINUL.  Mais à mon avis, la question clef et la priorité, et pour le Liban et pour la communauté internationale, c’est le renforcement de l’armée libanaise et de son rôle, notamment dans le Sud du Liban.

Spokesman:  Matthew.

Question:  Sure.  Thanks a lot.  Matthew Lee, Inner City Press, on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, hoping for readouts of your diplomatic merry‑go‑round upstairs during the GA week.  I want… you speak the lot about reforms.  It's something I tried to ask at the stakeout, but thanks for giving me the question.  This case of John Ashe, who I know has deceased — may he rest in peace — but there was a court decision this summer in which basically it painted a picture of the UN as being quite susceptible to bribery.  There was a Chin… a Macau‑based businessman, Ng Lap Seng, was found guilty.  So, I won't go through it all except to say, I wanted to know what your view of whether the UN… beyond just some reforms to the PGA's [President of the General Assembly] office, whether it has instituted enough reforms.  Your… your… the former PGA yesterday sitting here said that there are crows picking around the side of the UN.  There are a lot of business interests… basically, they try to buy their way into the UN by hooking up with a small State.  So, I wanted to know whether your reforms will address that.  And there's also a Code Blue report out today about sexual abuse where they say that, of cases they've uncovered, many of them are not disclosed in the conduct and discipline website.  What's your plan during this GA week to try to address the sexual abuse issue of peacekeeping?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  Well, in addition to the sexual abuse, as you know, we have taken already a number of measures.  A global victims advocate was appointed, and four victims advocates were appointed in the four situations that are more dramatic in several African contexts.  We are preparing a compact to be signed with Member States in order to make sure that there is effective commitment in relation to this.  I'm creating a circle of leadership with Heads of Government and State to assume engagement of states in making sure that everything is investigated properly.  And so, we are really committed to make the best we can in this area, knowing the difficulties and the problems and sometimes even the… especially, my main concern is with the victims that sometimes have an enormous problem in coming with their cases because of the risks that they might face in different conditions with the community or even with the country or even if the UN Mission is not properly organized.  So, we are deeply committed to that.  But, the best protection in relation to abuses is the whistle-blower policy protection.  We have introduced a first group of measures to enhance the whistle-blower protection when I assumed functions immediately in January.  So, it's probably my first measure.  And after that, we have introduced a number of other reforms, which I believe are bringing our whistle-blower protection policy to the state of the art.  And if that's not the case, if there are other things to be suggested, we are ready to introduce them, because that is the best guarantee that people can detect and denounce things that happen and that they will be protected if they do so.  This is, for me, an absolute must and the best possible guarantee an organisation can have in relation to the risks of abuse of power or abuses of any other kind or of corruption or whatever.  So, this is a big concern for me, and I think we are acting as we can but with total determination to address the problem.

Spokesman:  BBC.

Question:  Thank you, Secretary‑General.  BBC, Bahman Kalbasi here.  Secretary‑General, last week, the ambassador to the UN… the United States ambassador to the UN, basically laid the groundwork for the Trump Administration to leave or kill the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] or Iran deal, as it’s known.  What would you say to Mr. Trump given that IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] has said eight times so far that Iran has been in full compliance with the nuclear deal?

Secretary-General:  I think this agreement is a very important agreement.  I think that it contributed to an important de‑escalation at the moment, and it is a factor of stability.  And it's my opinion that all parties should do everything possible for this agreement to be preserved.

Spokesman:  Marie Boourreau.

Question:  RFI a sorti une enquête aujourd’hui sur la mort des deux experts de l’ONU qui montre qu’il y a eu des défaillances notamment du Board of Inquiry concernant des traductions.  Il semble que les deux experts aient été pris dans un guet-apens et que l’Etat congolais pourrait être impliqué.  Quand est-ce que l’ONU va annoncer une enquête indépendante sur la mort des deux experts?

Secretary-General:  Nous sommes en train de faire les consultations que j’ai annoncées au Conseil de sécurité et aux familles pour mettre en place notre dispositif à nous.  Il y avait différentes possibilités ; la plus efficace serait à mon avis l’intégration d’experts indépendants à l’intérieur du système congolais.  Je ne sais pas si ce sera possible ou non.  Sinon, nous prendrons notre initiative : nos collègues du Département des Affaires politiques sont en train de faire toutes les consultations nécessaires pour mettre en place le système qui puisse être le plus efficace possible pour que la vérité soit connue.

Spokesman:  Talal.

Question:  Thank you very much.  Mr. Secretary‑General, the crisis in the Gulf, the dispute between Qatar and three of its neighbours and Egypt, I understand, of course, you want to leave the solution for the regional mediation efforts and you support the… and you said that; you support the Kuwaiti mediation efforts.  But, it's been months now, and this mediation hasn't really bear fruits and it's going around in circles.  Isn't it time that your office and your high office took part in this mediation pushing the parties closer together and avoiding a very dangerous situation that could threaten the peace and security of that area?

Secretary-General:  Well, first of all, I want to express my total confidence in the Kuwaiti mediation.  I went to Kuwait on purpose just two weeks ago to express that confidence and to express our full support.  I don't see ourselves creating a parallel initiative.  We are ready to fully support that mediation.  And, in our contacts with the parties, because we have contacts with the parties, not mediation, but contacts, we have been insisting on the need to find a political solution because this is, of course, not only impacting negatively in relations among the countries, but it is having wider aspects that it would be useful to eliminate by an agreement.  We will go on with these kind of efforts, but I want to reaffirm our total support to the Kuwaiti mediation, and I have to say that I believe that they have been doing an excellent work with the difficulties that we all know.  I also would like to underline what [United States] Secretary of State [Rex] Tillerson has done in relation to this.  We've been following all these efforts with a lot of interest.  But, as I said, it's not our intention to duplicate efforts but to strengthen the efforts that exist.

Correspondent:  Just a follow-up, sir:  [inaudible] they're trying their best and [inaudible] has done his best, but the situation is getting worse.  The verbal attacks between the countries are getting worse.  Isn't it time to look at strengthening through your offices the Kuwaiti mediation efforts?  That's what I'm trying to say.  It's… it's not working.

Secretary-General:  Look, it's… mediations cannot replace political will of the parties.  So, I don't think it's by duplicating mediation efforts that we will solve the problems.  I think what our appeal is is for the political will of the parties to overcome the situation.  But, as I said, we will remain engaged and in very close contacts… I was, again, yesterday with the ambassador of Kuwait… in very close contact and fully supporting their efforts.

Spokesman:  Mr. Abbadi.

Correspondent:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General, for this press conference.  I hope you will be in a position to give more regular press conferences so that someone… some of us do not have only a rare opportunity to ask you a question.

Secretary-General:  If I may interrupt, we have… I was told that we would have more regular contacts, and you will witness that I did two stakeouts and a press conference.  I'm indeed accelerating these contacts.  But, as you understand, I have a lot of other things to do, too.  And, if I'm always here, I might not be able to do the things that might be news for the press conference.  Please go on.

Question:  US Ambassador Nikki Haley said that she wants to see the Secretary‑General of the United Nations an Executive Officer.  That has a lot of implications.  There are many people who, given the complexity of the problems, want to see strong leadership coming out of the Secretary‑General, going beyond invoking Article 99 and good offices.  What do you think of that idea?

Secretary-General:  It's very simple.  We have a constitution; that is, the Charter.  I'm doing everything I can within the limits of the Charter with the widest possible interpretation of the Charter.  But, I cannot violate the Charter.  The moment I violate the Charter, all my capacity to act will be totally undermined.

Spokesman:  Valeria, ANSA.

Question:  Thank you, Secretary‑General.  [Inaudible] I have a follow‑up on Myanmar, if you had contact with Suu Kyi after she decided not to come to the UN? And then my question is… is on Libya and on the refugees crisis, if… the relocation of the refugees is still an unsolved problem, and my question is if you plan to discuss the issue with Italy and other European countries and if you have any positive signal from some country?

Secretary-General:  I have not had any contact after yesterday evening when I read that Aung San Suu Kyi was not coming.  There is a channel that is open between the two of us; that is, contacts are taking place between people we have designate, but I have not any contact after that announcement.  In relation to the second question, the answer is yes.  I intend to discuss the issue, and I think it is very important that Europe plays a constructive role in relation to the management of global migration affairs.  And I hope that that will be translated into some effective steps, but I wouldn't like to go further at the present moment, because it would undermine the possibilities of useful contacts.

Spokesman:  Oleg, and I think that will have to be the last question.  Sorry.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Thank you, Secretary‑General.  How concerned are you with the latest diplomatic rift between the United States and Russia?  The two countries have been sending out diplomats, closing consulates and diplomatic facilities.  Do you foresee any consequences or any complications of this for the UN work, for example, peace efforts in Syria?  And also, a short second question:  Do you agree with the notion that the civil war in Syria is over, and now it has transformed into fight against terrorism?  Thank you so much.

Secretary-General:  Well, first of all, I think it is obvious that an important pillar for international peace and security should be a very positive and constructive relationship between the United States and the Russian Federation.  And I can only wish that that relationship is established.  And, of course, when that relationship is not good, the international community as a whole suffers.  I think this is obvious, and it is clear for me that many of the problems in the world are easier to solve if the two countries have a common position and work together to address those problems.  I think that in Syria, we still have a number of different things happening.  We still have de‑escalation zones with some of them with some problems.  We still have aspects of fighting.  We don't have a political solution between Government and opposition.  We have a fight against terrorism, but a fight that is conducted in different fronts in different ways, and I think that there is a risk of fragmentation in Syria that is very important to take into account.  So, I would say Syria still needs a lot of attention of the international community, and I hope that, both in Astana and in Geneva, it will be possible to make progress in the near future to allow for a political solution to finally be a way to create the conditions to stabilize the country in the future.

Spokesman:  Great.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

For information media. Not an official record.