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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
Secretary-General
23 January 2008



Secretary-General
SG/SM/11386/Rev.1*

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

AT PALAIS DES NATIONS, GENEVA, 23 JANUARY 2008
 

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Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, you just spoke about water.  The situation in Gaza is exploding because of the cuts, etc., etc.  Israel announced today that 7,300 more units are going to be built in five Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem.  They have cut off again fuel and gas.  You know, of course, that 200,000 people have crossed the border into Egypt.  So, could you comment on the whole situation?  How do you see it?  How do you see the repercussions of that humanitarian crisis?  Thank you.

The Secretary-General:  This is really a serious situation and I am as deeply concerned as anybody else.  I know that the Human Rights Council is meeting and also the UN Security Council has met.  I myself have taken my own efforts to address this issue, to help ease the tensions, as well as the humanitarian suffering, of the people in Gaza.  As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I have a broad responsibility on humanitarian issues.  And this is what I have been repeatedly urging to the parties concerned.  Just before my departure from New York, I have spoken to Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert and urged [him] strongly to ease these restrictions on crossing and to provide the necessary fuel and supplies so that the people should not suffer any longer.  They were going through a very difficult period.

What I would like to urge to the parties concerned [is], first of all, first and foremost, they should try to resolve all the issues, all the political issues, however complex, however difficult they may be, to resolve in a peaceful means, through dialogue.  I know this very serious security concern of [the] Israeli people and Government and also I admit their legitimate security right to defend their country from all these security problems, or rocket fire coming from Gaza.  At the same time, I would hope that the Israeli Government should not take such a collective punishment to the general public.  They are innocent, just civilians who are managing their day-to-day lives and the economic situation has been seriously deteriorating.  And again, at the same time, I would urge these people to also respect the security and safety of Israelis.  They should stop immediately firing rockets into [ Israel].  The international community has started, taken a very important initiative last year in Annapolis, and the dialogue has been going on.  The Middle East peace process has been going on.  We should not discourage or frustrate this Middle East peace process so that we will be able to see, first of all, the end of this conflict by concluding a peace treaty by the end of this year.  As the Secretary-General of the UN, as a participant in the Quartet, I will spare no efforts in trying to help facilitate this process.

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Question:  (Translated from French) Mr. Secretary-General, could you tell us why you have decided not to attend the special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the situation in Gaza, and is this connected with the fact that the United States and Israel have decided not to attend that session?

The Secretary-General:  First of all, it is not correct that I have not decided to attend the special session of the Human Rights Council.  I am aware that the Human Rights Council has convened a special session this afternoon although I did not receive any invitation to attend, in fact.  If you may look at my schedule in Geneva, a very brief visit, I have had numerous commitments.  Right after this I have to fly to Davos.

As per the substance of the question, I have made known in very clear terms, as I have already stated, what my position on the escalation of the situation in Gaza is.  I appreciate that the Council is looking in depth into this particular situation.  And it is rightly doing so.  I would also appreciate if the Council will be looking with the same level of attention and urgency at all other matters around the world.  There are still many areas where human rights are abused and not properly protected.  That is why I am emphasizing the importance of raising the awareness of this principle of human rights, particularly during this sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Human rights victims wherever and whoever they may be, they deserve protection of their rights.  And this is exactly what the United Nations and the international community as a whole should do.  The Human Rights Council, with the introduction of the universal periodic review, will also ensure a very thorough review of the human rights situation of all Member States.  I am sure that I will have another opportunity when I come to Geneva to attend the Human Rights Council.  And you have my firm commitment to this principle of human rights.  Thank you very much for your participation.


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*     Reissued to include translated text originally delivered in French.


For information media • not an official record

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