Following is a transcript of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ press conference, held in New York today:
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
As you know, 2020 marks a milestone for the United Nations — our seventy-fifth anniversary.
Too often, Governments and international institutions are viewed as places that talk — not as places that listen.
I want the United Nations, in this anniversary, essentially to listen — so we are marking our anniversary based on conversations in every corner of the world about the future we want and the United Nations we need.
There is no doubt that people have much to say.
The disquiet in streets and squares across the world is proof that people want to be heard.
They want world leaders to answer their anxieties with effective action.
That means addressing cascading challenges and breaking what I call the vicious circles that define our day.
One such vicious circle is in the realm of peace and security — making conflicts longer, more lethal and more likely to erupt in the first place.
Tensions were of course high as the last year ended, but we were moving in the right direction in a number of hotspots. We were seeing signs of de-escalation and some measure of progress.
That’s all changed.
I have spoken recently about winds of hope. But today a wind of madness is sweeping the globe.
From Libya to Yemen to Syria and beyond — escalation is back. Arms are flowing and offensives are increasing.
All situations are different but there is a feeling of growing instability and hair-trigger tensions, which makes everything far more unpredictable and uncontrollable, with a heightened risk of miscalculation.
Meanwhile, Security Council resolutions are being disrespected even before the ink is dry.
As we can see, problems feed each other.
As economies falter, poverty remains entrenched.
As future prospects look bleak, populist and ethnic nationalist narratives gain appeal.
As instability rises, investment dries up, and development cycles down.
When armed conflicts persist, societies reach perilous tipping points.
And as governance grows weak, terrorists get stronger, seizing on the [vacuum.]
In the year ahead I will press to break the vicious circles of suffering and conflict and to push for a strong surge of diplomacy for peace.
I would like to announce today that I will be attending the African Union Summit this coming weekend in Addis Ababa.
The African Union is one of the UN’s leading strategic partners, and I look forward to discussing the continent’s efforts to “silence the guns”, as well as our shared work to address the full range of global challenges.
Another clear vicious circle is exacerbating the climate crisis.
As oceans warm, ice melts, and we lose the vital service the ice sheets perform — reflecting sunlight, thus further increasing ocean warming.
And as ice melts and the oceans warm, sea levels rise and more water evaporates, fuelling ever greater rainfall, threatening coastal cities and deltas.
Last year, ocean heat and mean sea level reached their highest on record. Scientists tell us that ocean temperatures are now rising at the equivalent of five Hiroshima bombs a second.
Ecosystems are suffering the fallout.
A recent study found that ocean heat in 2019 was 228 Zetta Joules above the 1981-2010 average; a Zetta is a “1” followed by 21 zeroes.
To put that in context, this rise in ocean heat last year is more than twenty times the amount of energy humanity has consumed since 2000.
Meanwhile, as permafrost disappears, and as tundra thaws earlier and freezes later, vast amounts of methane — a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide — enter the atmosphere, accelerating global warming.
And as forests burn, the world loses vital carbon sinks and emissions skyrocket.
The smoke from Australia’s fires is now itself a literal vicious circle — circling the globe, releasing the equivalent of as much as six months of the country’s total carbon emissions in 2018.
What happens in Australia doesn’t stay in Australia — and the same can be said about any part of the world.
A new climate crisis alert by the World Meteorological Organization today indicates that CO2 concentrations will reach new highs [in] 2020.
The challenge for this year’s climate conference in Glasgow, COP 26, is clear: all countries must show more ambition on adaptation, mitigation and finance.
And the big emitters must lead the way.
We need a price on carbon, and an end to subsidies for fossil fuels.
We are still seeing too many plans for coal plants — the addiction to coal remains dangerously strong.
There is some good news. Awareness of the risks is growing. Announcements of climate action by Governments and the private sector are gathering steam. Investments are increasing.
Minds are changing.
This year’s conferences on oceans, sustainable transport and biodiversity are further opportunities for action.
But we need to keep up the pressure to break the vicious circle that is propelling both humankind and the natural world to the point of no return.
Now is also the time to break the vicious circle of poverty and inequality and to shape a fair globalization leaving no one behind.
The Sustainable Development Goals are, as you know, our blueprint.
Development is a goal in its own right. But it is also our best form of prevention.
We have just launched a Decade of Action to deliver the Goals — a great, global mobilization.
Finance, of course, will be critical.
We know that progress on one Goal can generate progress on all — the virtuous circle we know is possible and that can point the way toward growth and prosperity for all.
This is crucial across all fronts — including education, gender equality, health and working together to confront new challenges such as the outbreak of the corona virus we are facing now.
As we can see from the challenges I have outlined today, multilateral institutions are needed more than ever and must be tuned to the challenges of the twenty-first century.
I will continue my efforts to build both a networked multilateralism, with the United Nations and all international organizations working together, and an inclusive multilateralism able to listen and incorporate the contributions of business, civil society, local and regional authorities, and young people.
Despite often deep divisions among Member States, I am determined to keep listening to people, to speaking out for reason, holding fast to principles, and guide myself and the UN by the mission and values of the UN Charter.
That’s how we will break the vicious circles and deliver for people and I thank you.
Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General: Thank you very much. Valeria?
Question: Thank you. Thank you, Secretary‑General, for this press conference. We hope to see you again, very often in this room in 2020.
My question is on Libya. After the 5+5 meeting in Geneva, the UN announced that the agreement on a permanent ceasefire. Is the truce really holding or outbreaks still remain? And which guarantees have had the UN… have the UN had from the Russians on [Khalifa] Haftar compliance? Thank you.
Secretary-General: I must say I’m deeply frustrated with what’s happening in Libya, and I think that what’s happening is a scandal. We had a number of countries coming together in Berlin where they committed not to interfere in the Libyan process, and they committed not to send weapons or to participate on any way in the fighting.
Now, the truth is that the Security Council embargo remains violated. We still see planes coming, both to Misrata and to Benghazi. We haven’t seen any relevant stop in the disrespect of the arms embargo. And the truce that has lasted for a few days has been dramatically violated, and we have seen offensives and military operations of different sorts.
The only good news is that it was possible to have a meeting in Geneva of the five military indicated by the GNA (Government of National Accord) and the five military indicated by the LNA (Libyan National Army). The meeting started yesterday. Ghassan Salamé is shuttling between the two, and we hope that this will be able to produce some result. The objective is, of course, to move from a truce to a ceasefire and then to move on in relation to the other different objectives.
We are still hoping that it will be possible to meet this forum with representatives of the House of Representatives and of the High Council of the Tripoli side.
But let’s be clear. What we are seeing is absolutely unacceptable. We are seeing more and more civilians being targeted. We have seen migrants in a desperate situation, and all the commitments that were made, apparently, were made without a true intention of respecting them.
Question: Sorry. Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary‑General. And, as Valeria said, we’d like to see you as often as possible.
There’s been criticism of the United Nations for not naming those responsible for violating arms embargo, for not naming mercenaries involved in Libya, or those responsible for the bombing of the Tajoura Detention Centre in Libya. How do you respond to that? And how can the world really go and try and stop this if the violators and those responsible aren’t identified?
Secretary-General: Well, I think they have been quite clearly identified on different occasions and namely by Ghassan Salamé, who has spoken very clearly about the action of the different countries in the area, and the situation remains exactly the same. We haven’t seen any improvement in that. And, as I said, Ghassan Salamé has been quite outspoken in relation to that and quite clear in relation to those countries involved, and so I don’t think that this criticism is fair.
Question: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary‑General. Betul Yuruk from the Turkish news agency Anadolu. What…
Secretary-General: From where?
Question: From Anadolu, Turkish news agency. What we’re seeing in Idlib now does not look any different from what we saw in Aleppo and East Ghouta with displacements and bombings. And recently, we have seen a direct confrontation between the Turkish troops and the Syrian troops, resulting in casualties on both sides.
I wanted to ask you if you… whether the President of Syria, President [Bashar al] Assad, has won a military victory and what your message would be… President Assad won a military victory in Syria and what your message is to the Syrian Government and particularly to Russia and Turkey. Thank you.
Secretary-General: No, we have been very clear expressing our enormous concern with the escalation that we are witnessing in Idlib and asking for a cessation of hostilities, and we don’t believe there is a military solution for the conflict in Syria. We have said it time and time again that a solution is political and that the process needs to move on through the Geneva talks and then through the different steps related to it.
As you mentioned, we are particularly worried that now the escalation came into a situation in which we had Turkish army and Syrian army bombing each other, and that, of course, is a change in the nature of the conflict that is extremely worrying. And one reason more for the cessation of hostilities, before the escalation comes to a situation that then becomes totally out of control.
My strong appeal is for a cessation of hostilities, and my strong appeal, again, is for all the conditions for humanitarian aid to be created… humanitarian aid to be distributed, to be created as we are seeing now about, I think, 500,000 people already displaced by the recent offensive and the very dramatic humanitarian needs related to it.
Spokesman: Sherwin, South African.
Question: Hi, Secretary‑General. Do your wind of madness that is sweeping the globe, does that extend to the Trump peace plan on the Middle East… [laughter] …given that it is in conflict with the various UN Security Council, General Assembly resolutions, the 1967 borders, return of refugees, East Jerusalem and settlement. So, given the three‑year build‑up that we’ve had to this announcement and its failure to excite at least one party to this conflict, what would you like to see next? What do you believe are the realistic next steps that need to happen now?
Secretary-General: Well, we don’t consider it to be a meteorological question. [laughter] Our position is very clear. We are the guardians of the UN resolutions and of international law in relation to the Palestinian question. We are totally committed to the two‑State solution, and we are totally committed to support Israelis and Palestinians to come to a peace process for a two‑State solution based on international law, based on Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and based on the borders of ’67. So, it is very clear what we believe in. It is very clear what we defend, and we have not changed our position.
Spokesman: Richard Roth.
Question: Mr. Secretary, CNN. Can you please name the countries and Governments responsible for the failure to prevent the climate change situation from improving?
Secretary-General: Well, I would say that probably we’ll have to consider most of the countries in the world. We have witnessed in 2019 an increase of emissions everywhere or almost everywhere. We have increased… we have witnessed that many countries did not respect the commitments made in relation to…
Question: You said the big emitters in your remarks. Who are the big emitters? [cross talk]
Secretary-General: …the conference in Paris. And, obviously, the central question now, after the decision that was taken here by 70 countries, that they would respect the objective of carbon neutrality is to make sure that carbon neutrality in 2050 is accepted, namely, by the big emitters. Who are the big emitters? Let’s be clear. I mean, the big emitters are well known — the European Union that has affirmed its commitment to it, the United States, China, India, Japan, probably the most… Russia. These are the most important ones.
It’s absolutely vital that these countries, the countries I mentioned, respect also and assume, until we get to Glasgow, the commitment to be carbon neutral in 2050, because carbon neutrality in 2050 is the way to guarantee that we will be below 1 point… we’ll be at 1.5 degrees at the end of the century.
Now, the G20 countries represent 80 per cent of the emissions, and so, obviously, if…and if it is extremely important that small countries have a very determined mitigation strategy, we absolutely need the big emitters to correspond, because if the big emitters do not correspond, our efforts will be completely undermined.
Question: Thank you very much. On Yemen, are we going to see any possibility of holding direct negotiations? Where do we go from here after the death of the Stockholm Agreement, which hasn’t been implemented at all?
And on Iraq, what’s your comment about imposing a prime minister that the Iraqi people do not want? We have hundreds of thousand, maybe a million of Iraqis demonstrating in the street yesterday and today. And I may add the United Nations was a little bit hasty in welcoming that appointment.
Secretary-General: So, first of all, in relation to Yemen, I don’t consider the Hodeidah agreement dead. I consider it in intensive care and very serious situation. But the process is not interrupted. The monitoring is still there. There is a ceasefire that is, more or less, respected with, of course, difficulties, but this is just one aspect.
I was very encouraged to see the de‑escalation that recently took place, namely, with the Houthis stop attacking Saudi Arabia and with Saudi Arabia considerably limiting its military actions. I was following also with interest the negotiations for a political solution in relation to the south.
Unfortunately — and this is one of the things I’ve mentioned — we have witnessed in the last few days a new escalation in the conflict in Yemen. We are doing everything we can for this escalation to be reversed and everything we can to create the conditions for a true political dialogue to be re‑established.
There was one good thing that I would like to underline. It was the permission for a first evacuation, even if a limited number, of people with health problems from the airport of Sana’a, and this is a positive signal. And I can tell you that we have been, both Martin Griffiths and myself, very active in contacting all, directly or indirectly, involved to make sure that we re‑establish the environment that was, I mean, clearly, positively developing in the end of last year. And I mentioned that, in the end of last year, we had some indications in several conflicts that things would be moving positively, and we must do everything possible to reverse these recent problems and to come back to a more positive attitude.
In relation to Iraq, we have been very clear that the demonstrators must be fully respected, that their human rights must be fully respected. We have been very active in saying that situations in which demonstrators are killed and [inaudible] are unacceptable.
I think that our Special Representative was correct in the sense that it was important for the Government to take initiative… or for the President to take the initiative to solve the political crisis, but of course, at the same time, we have been insisting on the need to create the conditions for people to demonstrate freely and for their voices to be heard.
Question: Celia Mendoza, Voice of America. Secretary‑General, what’s your perception of the role of the United Nations and your role in particular in the situation in Venezuela? It’s been more than a year that Juan Guaidó took this paralello presidency. We have seen clashes. We have seen denouncements from one side to the other.
[Nicolás] Maduro said that he wants the United Nations to oversee the process of parliamentary elections, upcoming elections. Do you think that’s possible today? Today, just at the OAS (Organization of American States), which is the regional organization in charge, tried to send a commission to verify human rights violations, and they were denied the entrance.
And then the second part is, you talked about the instability in the region. Bolivia has elections coming up, and Evo Morales wants to be in the Senate election. And your representative, Mr. [Jean] Arnault, sent a message that was very clear about not polarizing the country within that. What’s your vision and sense of what’s happening?
Secretary-General: Well, in relation to Venezuela, it is clear that the capacity of the UN to address the political problem has been limited. Our good offices can only work when both sides want the good offices to work, and until now, we have not had that situation. We have supported the Norwegian mediation. Unfortunately, it had not yet produced results. And we are, of course, very worried that the fact that the situation remains without a political solution. And we believe in the political solution based on dialogue. It’s the only way to overcome these difficulties.
On the other hand, we have been quite active in relation to two aspects — one in relation to humanitarian aid, both to the Venezuelans that left the country and supporting the host countries that are under enormous pressure, as you can imagine, with the number of people that left, and also improving the humanitarian aid inside the country with the limitations that exist for the funding reasons, but with a very clear respect for humanitarian principles and to make sure that there is no discrimination in the way we operate inside the country.
And, finally, the Human Rights High Commissioner, with my full support, was, as you know, very active in the visit, has been very active in relation to the situation. There is an office now there. And, so, this is an area where we intend to go on helping as much as possible the re‑establishment of a situation of normality in relation to human rights. But what is important, what remains important is the political situation.
In relation to Bolivia, you said what I can answer you, we appointed, as I know, a Special Envoy. Our Special Envoy has been very active with only one objective, to avoid… or to help avoid that Bolivia becomes polarized and enters into a conflict that will be terrible for the people and for the future of the country and to create conditions for the re‑establishment of a normal democratic process with normal elections to take place in the country and avoiding the kind of confrontation that would be a disaster for the country.
Question: James Bays, Al Jazeera. A follow‑up question to your comments about Security Council resolutions being breached. Earlier on, you said those countries had clearly been identified, but they’ve not been identified by you. For your words to have real teeth and with your moral authority as Secretary‑General, do you not need to name these names? And I ask you now whether you’d like to name the names of the countries that are breaching the arms embargo on Libya and, for that matter, to call out the member of the Security Council, the permanent member, that is bombing civilians in Idlib.
Secretary-General: As you know, we have… there has been identification of different kinds of equipment and different nationalities of mercenaries by different countries that are reported. No? We are not verifying each of the equipments, but what has been clearly said by the media is that we have equipment, namely, drones, which provide from the United Arab Emirates that there has been movement through Egypt, that we have Turkish troops that, by the way, were confirmed by Turkey, and that there are mercenaries from Sudan, and that there was also elements of a Russian private company operating in the country. So, these are the things that are… we have not a mechanism of verification. These are the things that are reported, and we have asked the Sanctions Committee to be very active in relation to it.
Question: On Idlib?
Question: On Idlib, who is responsible for the bombing of Idlib?
Secretary-General: No, on Idlib, we have… this is public, no? We have operations that are being conducted by the Syrian Government with the support of the Russian aviation, as we have attacks by the groups… the different groups that exist in Idlib, some of them groups that are not considered terrorists, that are, I mean, armed groups against the Government. Others are terrorist organizations that are also attacking and bombing and causing civilian casualties.
Question: Hi. My name is Ibtisam Azem from the daily Arabic newspaper, al‑Araby al‑Jadeed newspaper. I have a follow‑up on Sherwin’s question regarding the Middle East plan and the announcement. Which message do you have to the Americans that they announce a plan without including the people who are under occupation?
And my question is regarding critique from different people, including, for example, the director of Human Rights Watch, who said in interview to al‑Araby al‑Jadeed, my newspaper, “We had high hopes on selection of António Guterres as the Secretary‑General. Today he represents a disappointment, is not prepared to speak frankly when influential countries commit human rights violations. He uses general and empty terms that do not highlight persecution nor puts pressure on countries that practise it as though nothing has happened. He conducts diplomacy behind closed doors, but he has… but we have seen… we have not seen any fruitful results.” So, what’s your comment on this? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, I, obviously, disagree with that observation. I think that we have done a big effort in close cooperation with the Human Rights High Commissioner to address many of the human rights problems that exist in the world. And, obviously, we need, at the same time, to be able to engage with countries in order to avoid the dramatic outcomes of conflict and the dramatic outcomes of different forms of disturbance of peace globally. So, we need to combine the two things. I think we have combined the two things.
I have been fully supporting the Human Rights High Commissioner. There is sometimes a specialization of function. I think my role is essentially to define the principles and to define what needs to be done. Her role is more to look into the concrete situations, but at the same times, in many circumstances, I myself have intervened when it is justified.
And, obviously, we are not an NGO (non-governmental organization). We are an organization whose objective is to address simultaneously the problems of peace and security, human rights, and development and to make sure that we have, in this regard, the most effective capacity to serve and to benefit the people we care for.
Question: A follow‑up to Sherwin, your message to the Americans for not including the people…
Secretary-General: No, we have said very clearly that there are a number of resolutions, there are a number of principles, there are a number of aspects of international law that are not contemplated.
Question: Thank you. Majeed Gly, Rudaw Media Network. Secretary‑General, I have a follow‑up about Iraq. You know, the situation is not just a crisis of governance. You know, the country’s going through a crisis worse than… worse than we saw back in 2014, which led to the catastrophic rise of ISIS, with global implications. Protesters are getting shot and murdered by militias that the Government itself says we cannot control them. Iraq went from partially being ruled by ISIS to be ruled by these militias.
Question of many protesters that… asking is why the international community is not doing enough to stop this bloodshed? And what is your message to the Iraqi leadership and those countries who influence them, namely Iran and the United States? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Our message is very clear. I mean, it’s important to preserve the unity of Iraq. It’s important to preserve the independence of Iraq. It’s important to preserve the conditions to allow for Iraq to establish normal functioning of a state. And one of the conditions of a normal function of a state is the monopoly of the use of force by the State, by the army and the police that belong to the State.
What we have now in Iraq is, unfortunately, a number of militias that sometimes are the worst perpetrators of violations of human rights as far as we hear and we witness many of the attacks on demonstrators, on peaceful demonstrators in Iraq, which are done exactly by militias, which demonstrates that a vital question for the establishment of Iraq as a normal country is that the monopoly of the use of force is established in relation to the army and the police of Iraq.
On the other hand, it’s essential to avoid the external interferences that make it even more difficult for the Iraqis to come together, knowing as we know that the divisions are deep and that the risks of the country imploding are high, and it’s absolutely essential to avoid it, because Iraq is in a geographic location and as a nature that makes it a very sensitive country. To preserve the stability of Iraq is crucial for the region. An implosion of Iraq would have devastating consequences for the region. And, so, Iraq remains for us a very important priority in our advocacy, in our diplomacy, and in the support to the country.
Spokesman: Maria, TASS?
Question: Thank you. Maria Khrenova, TASS News Agency. Mr. Secretary‑General, I wanted to ask you, how concerned are you that the heart of United Nations, this headquarter, is getting less… is becoming less accessible lately.
Secretary-General: Hmm? The what?
Spokesman: The heart of the UN is getting less accessible. That the UN is becoming less accessible.
Question: Should I speak louder? Yeah. Yeah. Sorry. I will repeat. That United Nations is now becoming less accessible by diplomats…
Secretary-General: Ah, yes, yes, yes, okay.
Question: …and that host country, United States, sometimes is choosing who they want to see in United Nations or who they don’t want to see. And for some countries, like Russia, like Iran, like other countries, it’s creating problems. Which actions do you take to help it?
Secretary-General: Well, as a matter of fact, I’m very concerned and very active together with our Office of Legal Affairs and the General Assembly commission that is in charge of the relations with the host country and which is presided by the Permanent Representative of Cyprus that have a very important action also in this regard.
It is absolutely essential to have normality in the attribution of visas. Of course, there are situations that might justify, for matters of national security, any restriction. That is understandable in any country of the world, but that is… what we are witnessing is, of course, something that needs to be normalized, and we need to have normal conditions for functioning of the United Nations, which means that visas needs to be attributed in a regular way.
Spokesman: Pam Falk?
Question: Thank you, Steph. Thank you very much, Secretary‑General, for the briefing. It’s Pamela Falk from CBS News. My question is about coronavirus. Since the time the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined the public health emergency, it’s… the virus has spread dramatically. Do you think the UN and UN agencies are doing enough? What would you like the UN to do? Has China responded appropriately? Some have been critical of the response of China itself. And would you recommend that Dr. Tedros [Adhanom Ghebreyesus] or someone from World Health Organization address the Security Council as others have done in the… in other health emergencies? Thank you.
Secretary-General: That’s… recommend that?
Question: That Tedros or someone come to the Security Council as Ebola was taken up by the Security Council in the past.
Secretary-General: So, as it is evident this has been an epidemic situation that has been growing in an extremely meaningful way, I believe that China has mobilized enormous resources and enormous capacity to respond. And we have, of course, full recognition of that effort. But the dimension of the crisis is such that all efforts are sometimes insufficient, and China itself was the first to recognize that there were some difficulties and short… the name that they use…
Secretary-General: …shortcomings in the response. I think the World Health Organization has been very active trying to support China and to support other countries where cases have been developed. There is a Panel of Experts, as you know, that is supposed to decide whether or not, at a certain moment, it is a global emergency. They decided it at the right moment.
And I… we have been with other agencies, for instance, the World… the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is at the disposal of countries in relation to the problems of movement of people in these circumstances. UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) has also been very active.
So, I mean, if you ask me, are we doing everything we should? Probably not. I mean, we are trying to mobilize our best capacities and best resources, but obviously, this is something with a dimension and the concern that is sometimes difficult to fully respond.
I have one concern. In this situation sometimes, it’s easy to move into, I would say, perspectives in which there tends to be discrimination; there tends to be violation of human rights; there tends to be stigma on innocent people just because of their ethnicity or whatever. I think it’s very important to avoid this.
On the other hand, we have been working also hard in order to protect our own staff. There is no case until now of any staff member involved, but we have been introducing some strong recommendations, first to limit travel to what is absolutely needed in the areas that are concerned and, second, when people travel in those circumstances and come back to submit themselves voluntarily, and they have fully corresponded to a system of isolation, self‑isolation, for the period that is considered the relevant period. So, I mean, we have been very active trying to do everything we can, also to protect our staff and to… without undermining our role and our work that needs to be done.
But my appeal is, of course, for a strong feeling of international solidarity, a strong feeling of support to China in these difficult circumstances but also to other countries that might be impacted and a strong concern to avoid the stigmatization of people that are innocent and that might be victims of that situation.
Question: [inaudible] And is it suggested that Dr. Tedros or someone, would you recommend… [cross talk]
Secretary-General: Ah, I mean, that depends on the Security Council. I mean, Tedros… Tedros is at the entire disposal of the Security Council. The Ebola was a different situation, because in Ebola, you have a security problem in the same area. This is a different… this is an epidemic. It’s not usually the Security Council that deals with that.
But Tedros will be entirely at the disposal of the Security Council, the General Assembly or whatever UN body for whatever purpose that is considered necessary.
Spokesman: Sato‑san, NHK.
Question: Good morning. Fumitaka Sato from NHK. I have two question to you. One is the nuclear disarmament. Last year, one of the moral authority, [Pope Francis], visited the Hiroshima. Do you have a will to visit Hiroshima to… in order to call for the action of the nuclear disarmament this year?
And one other question is about UN75 global conversation. We already did the one‑minute survey, and one month passed from the one‑minute survey. So far, what kind of voice come from the… all over the world to you? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, nuclear disarmament remains one of our key priorities. We have an agenda for disarmament, and we are very worried to see the risks of proliferation of nuclear weapons. We are very worried to see the fact that the medium‑range missile treaty in relation to Europe stopped.
We are very much telling the US and the Russian Federation that it’s essential to renew the New START and to have negotiations on that, because if the New START ends without renewal, it’s not only the question of the limitation of arms, but it is all the mechanisms of control in monitoring that would be put into question. So, this remains very high in our agenda.
And I will be in Hiroshima for the seventy-fifth anniversary, and this will be also a way to demonstrate, not only my solidarity with Hiroshima, but my strong commitment to nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation. The…
Spokesman: The seventy-fifth anniversary…
Secretary-General: The seventy-fifth anniversary. I mean, it’s too early to say what… I mean, you probably have witnessed… we have organized here, in the plenary, a big meeting with youth. I’d already done the same myself in Davos. We are asking all resident coordinators everywhere. We are suggesting Governments. We are suggesting trade unions, NGOs, all organizations to engage in discussions of this nature through the… also, we are doing through two important surveys. One is a simple survey that is widespread. The other is by a scientific team that we’ll be conducting it worldwide, and I’m very grateful for all the countries that have been… we are not spending any UN money on this. It was all based on donation of countries to this programme.
But it’s early. For the moment, we are starting the exercise. We will be presenting to the General Assembly a preliminary report in May and then a final report for the session in September.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General. My name is Sylviane Zehil, L’Orient‑Le Jour Beirut. My question is on Lebanon. [in French] Je vais vous poser la question en français si ça ne vous embête pas.
Secretary-General: [in French] En français, c’est parfait.
Question: [in French] La révolution qui a démarré au Liban le 17 octobre est un mouvement de contestation contre la corruption et aussi pour le changement profond du pays. Ce qui est arrivé, c’est que nous avons eu un nouveau gouvernement [inaudible] très proche de Hezbollah, très proche de Hezbollah, et on sait très bien que le Hezbollah a un arsenal qui a été condamné par les résolutions de l’ONU 1701 et 1559. Est-ce que c’est un sujet de préoccupations? Est-ce que c’est un sujet de préoccupations à la lumière de ce nouveau plan de paix qui a été émis par Trump tout récemment. Ça veut dire aussi qu’avec le spectre d’implantation des Palestiniens, des réfugiés palestiniens et aussi des réfugiés syriens au Liban. Ça fait plusieurs questions.
Secretary-General: Vous avez plusieurs questions. Le Liban est un pays clé de mon point de vue. La stabilité du Liban est un élément absolument essentiel pour la stabilité de la région. Et le Liban représente aussi une expérience de vie en commun des différentes communautés religieuses qui est, en soi-même, une contribution importante dans le monde d’aujourd’hui.
C’est vrai que le Liban fait face à une crise politique complexe, en même temps, avec une expression très évidente de beaucoup de secteurs de la population, que le système traditionnel de gouvernement du Liban ne correspond plus à leurs désirs, à leurs espoirs, à leurs inquiétudes. Et naturellement que cette expression continue aujourd’hui au Liban. Nous suivons avec, naturellement, beaucoup d’intérêt cette expression et cette volonté de réformer profondément les mécanismes de fonctionnement politique du Liban et les besoins de combattre effectivement la corruption. Et d’avoir un état libanais qui n’ait pas une vision sectaire dans sa composition, ça, c’est quelque chose qui est très important dans notre perspective.
Mais en même temps, le Liban fait face à une crise économique et financière très difficile et c’est très important d’éviter que ça puisse conduire à une situation d’augmentation terrible de la pauvreté et de l’instabilité dans le pays. Et c’est vrai que le Liban fait un grand effort du point de vue des réfugiés qui vivent au Liban et c’est très important de préserver la stabilité économique du Liban aussi pour éviter que ces réfugiés puissent payer un prix, encore, un nouveau prix dans leur vie après tout ce qu’ils ont déjà souffert.
Alors, le Liban est nettement une priorité pour nous. Nous avons là deux missions. Une mission qui est surtout liée au sud du Liban, et aux rapports entre le Liban et Israël. Je crois qu’on a eu un rôle important pour éviter des escalades et je crois que c’est absolument essentiel d’éviter un conflit entre l’Hezbollah et Israël et nous continuons d’être très attachés à cette logique.
Et nous avons aussi un Représentant spécial politique, qui suit la situation directement et qui essaie, sans interférences dans la vie libanaise, mais qui essaie d’appuyer tous les mouvements visant à une réforme effective des institutions libanaises.
Question: Erol Avdovic, WebPublicaPress. Mr. Secretary‑General, I would like to turn you a little bit on the less turbulent place… less turbulent place of the world, although it was once very turbulent, in Balkans. As you know, this year, there is going to be 25 anniversary… twenty-fifth anniversary of Srebrenica, also Dayton Peace Accord. And I would like to put that in the context of your initiative of the hate speech.
What would be your message in… to the region in which hate speech still prevail and reconciliation is very slow? And what you are going to do? Are you going to visit Srebrenica this year to be there? And what is… what else can you say about that?
Secretary-General: Yes, I’m going. And I think it’s very important to go to symbolically show exactly a very strong commitment to the need for Srebrenica never to be repeated and the conditions that led to Srebrenica never to be repeated.
We see, with a lot of concern, the evolution in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We believe it is absolutely essential to move into a true reconciliation, and to fight hate speech is, as you know, one of our priorities.
We also are in contact, of course, with the Bosnian authorities, with the neighbouring countries. And from our perspective, it’s… Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country that needs a lot of support of international community in order to be able to overcome the fact that its dysfunctional political situation is remaining and is helping to fuel these kind of divisions that you mentioned.
At the same time, we will be cooperating with all countries of the region, and I noticed that the high representative of the European Union has been moved and said that this will be his first priority, and I believe it’s important that international community be attentive and be supportive to the countries of the region in order to allow them to address the divisions that still exist and allow them to move positively into the process of European integration, if that is the will of their people.
Spokesman: Thank you very…
Question: But what you have to say to those genocide deniers in Bosnia, for example? Do you need that a new law would be essential to punish those, like in Europe — you’re coming from Europe — in order to prevent that?
Secretary-General: It is absolutely clear that accountability for genocide is essential. I mean, in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, there was a special court that worked. I mean, in other situations, the International Criminal Court is active. In other countries, I mean, they don’t accept the jurisdiction. And, so, we still are far from having a solid global legal penal system. But in my opinion, it’s very important to support it and to allow it to work as effectively as possible, exactly for crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide not to go unpunished.
Spokesman: Great. Thank you very much.
Secretary-General: Thank you.