Remarks With United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

John Kerry
Secretary of State
United Nations
New York City
July 25, 2013

The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Secretary Kerry, welcome to the United Nations. I’d like to highly commend and appreciate the strong leadership of Secretary Kerry for global peace and security and development and human rights.

Today, we have a lot to cover, therefore I’ll be very brief what we are going to discuss. First of all, of course, we will be discussing this appalling situation in Syria. The conflict is now continuing almost two and a half full years. More than 100,000 people have been killed. Millions of people have either been displaced or become refugees in neighboring countries. We have to bring this to an end. The military and the violent actions must be stopped by both the parties.

And it is thus imperative to have a peace conference in Geneva as soon as possible, as was initiated by Secretary Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. Our Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi and I will spare no efforts to convene this meeting as soon as possible.

At the same time, as you may know, the head of chemical weapons investigation team, Dr. Sellstrom, and my High Representative for Disarmament Angela Kane have just visited Syria, are meeting senior officials of the Syrian Government to discuss about the modalities of investigation. We will get a report since they are coming out of Syria now. We’ll get the report soon.

On Middle East, I’d like to highly commend and appreciate Secretary Kerry’s leadership and consistent and principled engagement to revive this peace process for a two-state solution. Hard negotiations still lie ahead, but only the parties can make a decision, hard decisions. I strongly urge the leaders of Palestine and Israel to seize this opportunity and respond positively and courageously so that the two-state solution can be realized as soon as possible.

With Secretary Kerry and members of the Security Council, today we will discuss about this horrendous suffering now in the east of Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the region. It is imperative that we support the Framework Agreement for Peace, Security, and Cooperation in the D.R.C. and in the Great Lake region.

In that regard, I welcome the convening of this Security Council meeting on the situation in D.R.C., chaired by Secretary Kerry. And I also welcome the appointment of U.S. Government Special Envoy Senator Russ Feingold. I hope that you will very closely coordinate with my Special Envoy Mary Robinson, and my Special Representative Martin Kobler, who will work very closely with you and other parties.

Beyond this all regional conflicts, Secretary Kerry and U.S. Government, President Obama, have been helping the United Nations, the international community, to combat climate change and to define and establish sustainable development goals and a sustainable development agenda. These are keys to long-term prosperity of this world, and I count on continuing leadership and engagement and support of Secretary Kerry and President Obama and U.S. Government.

U.S. Government strong leadership is crucial in addressing all regional and global issues for humanity. Again, Mr. Secretary, welcome to the United Nations, and I look forward to have continuing partnership and strong supporting engagement of U.S. Government. Thank you very much. Welcome.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you, Secretary.

SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN: Do you want to say --

SECRETARY KERRY: Sure. Do I need to – there we go. Well, Mr. Secretary-General, thank you for a very generous, warm welcome here to the United Nations. It’s a privilege for me to be here with you. I’m honored to have the privilege of chairing the Security Council debate today on the subject of the Great Lakes region. We are very grateful for your leadership, grateful for the United Nations.

I was just, a few days ago, in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, where I saw firsthand the extraordinary work of the United Nations, the experience they have brought to the table in an effort to relieve enormous levels of suffering, suffering that is growing by the day, which requires all of us to work even harder to try to bring about peace negotiations.

There is no military solution to Syria. There is only a political solution, and that will require leadership in order to bring people to the table. Yesterday I had a conversation with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia. We remain committed to the effort to bring the parties to a Geneva 2 to implement Geneva 1, and we will try our hardest to make that happen as soon as is possible.

In the Great Lakes region, there is an opportunity for peace. This is an area that has been beleaguered by targeted, egregious violence, and the framework that has been put in place is an opportunity to be able to make a difference. Special Envoy, former Senator Russ Feingold will indeed cooperate extremely closely with Special Representative Mary Robinson and looks forward to going to work in order to implement the framework and bring about a sustainable solution to the absence of governance and to the problems of violence in that part of the world.

With respect to other areas, there are huge challenges, and we know. In South Sudan –in Jonglei state– we need access, humanitarian access, and we will continue to press President Kiir and others in order to make that available.

And finally, the granddaddy of them all, I guess, the question of the possibility of peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Both leaders in the region, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, have made a courageous decision to try to return to final status talks. And it’s my hope that that will be able to happen as procedures are put in place by both countries in order to empower that.

So, Mr. Secretary-General, it’s a privilege to be here in this institution which dedicates itself day-to-day to ending violence, to enforcing people’s prospects for peace, and to trying to live by a code of universal values that I think all of us are proud to be affiliated with. So thank you for your leadership, and thank you for welcoming me here today. Thank you. Thank you, sir.

PRN: 2013/0924