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Department of Public Information (DPI)
19 December 2012
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 on 19 December:
Good morning. It is a great pleasure to see you. I would like to express my sincere thanks for all you have been doing in and around the United Nations.
Let me start with the situation in Syria.
Syria began the year in conflict, and ends the year in war. Day by day, the death toll has climbed. Month by month, the regional spillover has grown.
The exodus has reached more than 500,000 people. It will grow in number as fighting rages and in intensity as winter takes hold. Neighbouring countries face a huge financial burden in sheltering and caring for them. The increasing peril faced by Palestinian refugees in Syria is another growing concern. I call on the international community to respond generously and urgently to the humanitarian appeal launched today in Geneva. I am considering convening an international donor conference, in close coordination with key partners, early next year.
While bombs and rockets have stopped falling in Gaza and Israel, it has become clearer than ever that peace must be more than the absence of war. The Middle East peace process is in a deep freeze. The two sides seem more polarized than ever, and a two-State solution is farther away than at any time since the Oslo process began. I am deeply concerned by heightened settlement activity in the West Bank, in particular around Jerusalem. This gravely threatens efforts to establish a viable Palestinian State. I call on Israel to refrain from continuing on this dangerous path, which will undermine the prospects for a resumption of dialogue and a peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Let us get the peace process back on track before it is too late.
Mr. Secretary-General, Recently there has been very heavy fighting in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus. And today, Palestinian President [Mahmoud] Abbas offered to host the Palestinian refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria in the West Bank and Gaza. He appealed directly to you to facilitate that. What is your response?
I have received the request from President Abbas. I am deeply concerned about all the violence taking place against Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk camp. There are more than 160,000 Palestinian refugees who are being housed in that camp. There are some accounts that about two thirds of the residents — or more than 100,000 people — have fled. We will discuss this matter as a priority agenda, how we can support and help those people. At this time, I would urge again all the neighbouring countries to open their borders so that there should be free and unhindered movement of refugees, and I will discuss this matter very seriously.
Does that include Israel, to allow them to cross through Israeli territory into…?
Yes, all the countries who can give support and cooperation, including Israel.
My question to you is regarding the settlements. You called on the Israeli Government to refrain from activities. Yesterday, the Americans expressed their deep disappointment — a recurring sentiment — on the transfer of Palestine [inaudible]. Will you support Palestinian efforts, first to join the International [Criminal] Court, and second, that they pursue criminal charges against Israel to stop settlement activities?
I was very deeply involved in facilitating the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, together with President Morsi and the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. I have been urging them not to provoke each other. When I heard this announcement, I said that this is a near-fatal blow to a very fragile Middle East peace process. You have seen my statements in the past, how many times I have been condemning these illegal settlements. This is clearly a violation of international law, and it is a violation of the Quartet guidelines, and it is obstructing the Middle East peace process. It is encouraging that this ceasefire is holding, but still it is very fragile, and therefore, either side should not take any provocative action which may derail this very fragile process. The Middle East peace process must be put on track as soon as possible. I am urging the Israeli Government to refrain from taking any measures of establishing settlements.
What about the Palestinians joining the International Criminal Court?
I have no comment on that because, with the enhanced status of the Palestinian Authority in the General Assembly [with] non-member observer status, I think they have the right to sign the Rome Statute, but it is up to the Palestinian authorities. It is not in my hands. But, as the depository of the Rome Statutes, whenever there is any such application or whatever, then I will only review on a technical basis.
Again, I am looking forward to seeing you this evening, and more officially and personally, I would like to wish you all the best to your family and yourselves — happiness and prosperity and good health. Thank you very much.
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