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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
Secretary-General
12 June 2009


Secretary-General
SG/SM/12306

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



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

AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, 11 JUNE 2009
 

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On the Middle East:  I look forward to the next meeting of the Quartet, tentatively scheduled later this month in Italy.

There is encouraging momentum on which to build.

I congratulate the Government and people of Lebanon on the recent elections.

[United States] President [Barack] Obama’s address in Cairo has lent new momentum to the peace process.

The rights of both peoples, Palestinians and Israelis, to self-determination, statehood and security are the basis of any policy going forward.

We must deal with obvious humanitarian challenges.  As I have said before, the Gaza blockade is devastating the population and achieving little in security and political terms.  If the crossings continue to remain closed for most goods, the people of Gaza will slide into even deeper hardship, with the risk of further radicalization.

On the issue of settlements, the UN position is well known.  It is critical that Israel freeze settlement expansion and dismantle outposts as the Quartet, and more recently US President Obama, have asked.

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Question:  What are you willing to do to help Mr. Obama with the momentum on the peace process?  What exactly have you been asked to do?  What are you willing to come up with?  And the Dennis Ross part, also?

Secretary-General:  As a member of the Quartet -- a principal -- I am going to participate in the Quartet meeting later this month in Italy.  I have been discussing this matter all the time with the key principals of the Quartet, as well as other world leaders, including President Obama.  I said that President Obama’s speech was historic.  It has a far-reaching impact, not only [in] the region, but beyond the region.  It was a very encouraging and fantastic statement, which has been widely accepted and appreciated by the whole world, including Middle East leaders.  That is what I am going to contribute myself, as Secretary-General.

Question:  On the Middle East, George Mitchell has been in the area, he has been speaking about reconstruction of Gaza, for example.  He called for the United Nations to take the lead part in this reconstruction, for example.  Are you able, are you willing, to take the lead in the reconstruction of Gaza, providing, of course, the Israelis lift the ban on reconstruction material and everything else?  Would you be able to do that, are you able to take the lead on reconstruction of the destruction in Gaza?

Secretary-General:  For detailed matters, we will discuss during our forthcoming Quartet meeting, but as a matter of principle, I am ready, I will always stand ready to do whatever I can, including leading the reconstruction of Gaza.  But this requires coordination, and also support from all the parties concerned, including the Quartet principals.  This is exactly what I am doing, and I appreciate the Special Envoy, George Mitchell, who is now in the region travelling, and also President Obama, [United States] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- they have been making strenuous efforts now to revive the Middle East peace process.  I have been discussing again this matter with the new American Administration.  I met Vice-President Joseph Biden last week in Washington and this has always been a top agenda priority.

Question:  You have the issue of lifting the ban first, to get reconstruction material into Gaza?

Secretary-General:  I raised this issue, discussed it so many times with Israeli leaders, including [Israeli] President Shimon Peres and Defence Minister Ehud Barak and the Vice Prime Minister [Silvan] Shalom, when they were here, and I will continue to do this.  We have proposed a package of proposals to the Israeli Government.  I hope that they are now considering our proposals to allow these construction goods, and all others, in addition to humanitarian goods -- we need those materials to be delivered inside Gaza so that we can really start reconstructing this community.

Question:  ...

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And I have another follow-up on the Israeli official visits to your office, and next week I think Mr. [Avigdor] Lieberman is coming.  What are you going to tell him, exactly?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  I am looking forward to meeting Foreign Minister Lieberman next week.  I think my discussion with him, though it will be the first time meeting him myself, we have had telephone talks.  We will discuss a wide range of issues pertaining to the Middle East peace process, as well as this very immediate humanitarian assistance, including the construction materials issue.  Except food and water and medicines, nothing has been allowed to be shipped inside Gaza, so the situation has reached quite a difficult point.  I have been urging this issue to the Israeli authorities.  I am sure this will be one of the key issues.

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Question:  Secretary-General, you said that you spoke with Israeli leaders -- did you ask them to pay $11  million to the United Nations which is promised to the Members of the UN?  And how has he responded to you?

Secretary-General:  I raised this issue officially, and my Legal Counsel -- Ms. Patricia O’Brien -- is now making a detailed evaluation and assessment and proposals.  You may know that for the damage and losses of UN facilities and premises, I have requested $11.2 million.  This will be again assessed by both the United Nations and the Israeli Government.  But there are other issues -- loss of lives, and many other related issues, which will be the subject of continuing consultations and discussions.

Question:  When do you expect to make a decision on the Board of Inquiry, sir?  And why not expand it to include other damages that were inflicted on the Palestinians, if you accept the principle that Israel should pay compensation for damages?

Secretary-General:  I made it quite clear in my summary report to the Security Council that my summary was focused on the terms of reference and mandate which was given to the Board of Inquiry at that time.  I am now in the process of taking the implementation process one by one, gradually.  For other matters, broader issues, which have happened to the general public in Gaza, or some other issues, the United Nations Human Rights Council has taken a decision and Judge [Richard] Goldstone has been in Gaza and he is now taking necessary actions.  I have supported his mission.  I met him in Geneva last month and I pledged my full support, and I also conveyed my support, and requested the Israeli Government to provide full support to Goldstone’s mission.

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Question:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, for this press conference.  About two and a half years ago, upon assuming your responsibilities as Secretary-General of the United Nations, you pledged to have an administration that is open and transparent.  And yet when the investigative team in Gaza submitted its report, you decided to publish only the summary.  How do you conciliate between this decision and your declared intention of being transparent and open?  And how difficult, lonely and agonizing was that decision for you?

Secretary-General:  When it comes to transparency, accountability, that has been my top priority and virtue.  I am going to continue to do that, to make this Organization, and the work of the Organization, transparent and accountable and efficient.  On specific questions about the transparency of my BoI report, I think I made it quite transparent.  The reason why I summarized it was because of some very specific confidentiality which needs to be protected, which was provided by the Israeli military authorities.  I think I thought it was fair to protect those particular, specific confidential matters that were not much related to the overall conduct of this report.  That is why I wanted to summarize this report, rather than to submit it in its entirety. I think I have kept my commitment and my virtue to make everything transparent and in an accountable way.

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For information media • not an official record

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