UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Press Conference

25 Jun 2020

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Press Conference



New York, 25 June 2020

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome. 


We mark tomorrow’s 75th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Charter at a time of colossal global upheaval and risk.


From COVID-19 to climate disruption, from racial injustice to rising inequalities, we are a world in turmoil.  


At the same time, we are an international community with an enduring vision – embodied in the Charter – to guide us to a better future. 


The same Charter whose values enabled us to avoid the scourge of a Third World War as many had feared. 


Our shared challenge is to rise to this moment.


Let me start with COVID-19.


A microscopic virus has brought catastrophic consequences to our world.


The pandemic has laid bare severe and systemic inequalities. 


And it has underscored the world’s fragilities more generally – not just in the face of another health emergency but also the climate crisis, lawlessness in cyberspace, and the risks of nuclear proliferation again.  


People are losing ever more trust in political establishments and institutions. 


In the face of these fragilities, world leaders need to be humble and to recognize the vital importance of unity and solidarity.


None of us can predict what comes next. 


We are in the middle of the mist.


Where we can, the United Nations has cut through the fog – and acted.


The United Nations family has mobilized to save lives, control transmission of the virus and ease the economic fallout.


We have shipped more than 250 million items of personal protective equipment to more than 130 countries; ensured education for 155 million children; and provided mental health support for 45 million children, parents and caregivers.


We placed the UN supply chain network at the service of Member States and established 8 global air hubs that have reached more than 110 countries, providing 69,000 cubic meters of medical goods in the last six weeks alone.


We have trained nearly 2 million health and community workers…


Created safe channels for 3 million children and adults to report sexual exploitation and abuse …


And reached more than 2 billion people with information on staying safe and accessing health services. 


From the beginning, the United Nations has been calling for massive global support for the most vulnerable people and countries – a rescue package amounting to at least 10 per cent of the global economy and promoting the mechanisms of solidarity to ensure that the developing world can also benefit from it.


The United Nations is supporting work to accelerate research and development for a people’s vaccine, affordable and accessible to all. A global public good. 


My appeal for a global ceasefire has been endorsed by nearly 180 countries, more than 20 armed groups, as well as religious leaders and millions of members of civil society.


The difficulty is to implement it. 


My Special Envoys and I are working together to establish effective ceasefires and doing everything possible to overcome the legacy of long-lasting conflicts with deep mistrust among the parties and spoilers with a vested interest in disruption.


We are also fighting the plague of misinformation.  Next Tuesday, June 30th, our new “Verified” initiative will ask people using social media platforms to participate in a special global “pause” before sharing questionable information.


Today, I am presenting an overview of our comprehensive United Nations Response on COVID-19 – documenting not only our action over the last three months, but also offering a roadmap toward recovering better. 


We cannot go back to the way it was and simply recreate the systems that have aggravated the crisis.


We need to build back better with more sustainable, inclusive, gender-equal societies and economies.


There is no good reason, for example, for any country to include coal in their COVID-19 recovery plans.  This is the time to invest in energy sources that don’t pollute, don’t cause emissions, generate decent jobs and save money.


The United Nations is strongly committed to leading the renewal.


For 75 years, we have sought to help stitch the world together in productive cooperative relationships for global problem-solving and the common good. 


Today, we are pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals, providing food assistance for 87 million people in 83 countries and vaccines for half the world’s children, helping to save 3 million lives every year. 


And women and men of the United Nations are assisting 80 million refugees and displaced people and enabling more than 2 million women and girls to overcome complications from pregnancy and childbirth. 


Forty political missions and peacekeeping operations, with 95,000 troops, police and civilian personnel, strive to keep the peace and to protect civilians.  Our electoral assistance now extends to 60 countries each year. 


And our help for victims of torture reaches 40,000 people.  And some 7,500 monitoring missions every year seek to protect human rights, make violations known and hold perpetrators accountable.


This is the work of the United Nations, day in and day out, around the clock, around the world.


Throughout this anniversary year, we have also been listening.


For that, we mobilized more than 5,000 partners and convened more than 1,000 listening sessions in 124 countries.


More than 230,000 people in 193 Member States and observer states engaged in our forward-looking UN75 survey. 


The responses paint a clear picture of priorities in the time of COVID-19 and beyond:


Number one: universal access to healthcare.


Number two: strengthen solidarity between people and nations.


Number three: rethink the global economy against inequality. 


As we mark Charter Day and look ahead, we must reimagine the way nations cooperate.


We need a networked multilateralism, bringing together the UN system, regional organizations, international financial institutions and others.


And we need an inclusive multilateralism, drawing on the indispensable contributions of civil society, business, cities, regions and, in particular, with greater weight given to the voices of youth. 


In the 21st century, Governments are no longer the only political and power reality.


And we need an effective multilateralism that can function as an instrument of global governance where it is needed.


The problem is not that multilateralism is not up to the challenges the world faces.  The problem is that today’s multilateralism lacks scale, ambition and teeth. 


And some of the instruments that do have teeth, show little or no appetite to bite, as has recently been the case with the difficulties faced by the Security Council.


We need to give multilateralism the capacities to confront our challenges, not only to meet immediate needs, but to enable future generations to meet theirs. 


In an ever more interdependent world, national interests are not easily separated from the global good.


Shared values, shared responsibility, shared sovereignty, shared progress – these must be our guide and our goals.


I understand the challenge. 


It is difficult to have a meaningful transformation of the mechanisms of global governance without the active participation of the world powers – and, let me blunt, their relationships today have never been more dysfunctional.


But I firmly believe that an awakening will come when we recognize our shared fragilities – when the factors that today divide instead begin to force people to finally understand that division is a danger to everyone, starting with themselves.


Ultimately, that is the way out of the mist.


Our Charter still points that way. 


I draw encouragement from much that the United Nations has helped make possible across the decades, and from the heroism of so much of the COVID-19 response. This is solidarity and unity to build on.


I look forward to discussing these matters with world leaders in September in whatever format necessary. We absolutely must come together to reimagine and reinvent the world we share.


Thank you.


**Questions and Answers


Spokesman:  Before we go to questions, there is no interpretation, so please do ask your questions in English.


The first question will go, as it always does, to the President of the Correspondents Association, Valeria Robecco, from the Italian News Agency. Valeria, you have the floor.


Question:  Thank you. Thank you, Stéphane, and thank you, Secretary‑General, for this press conference. I really hope that somehow in the near future we can have an in‑person press conference.


So, I have two quick questions. The first one is, I know is it’s a silly thing to say, but given the current situation with COVID‑19 around the world, would you expect some kind of in‑person meetings during UNGA, or it is more probable to have an all‑virtual gathering this year?


And the second one is, this year, of course, marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. Looking at the, how fragmented is, are the some... I mean, the picture of some members of the United Nation, I'm thinking, for example, of the Permanent Member of the Security Council, do you think there is a chance to have a meaningful rather than a symbolic result at the UN75 summit in September? Thank you so much again.


Secretary-General:  Well, thank you very much for your questions. First of all, it will be up to the Member States to decide what is the format that will be adopted in the General Assembly. I believe that we will have a meaningful digital dimension, virtual dimension, but I hope that there will be a possibility to have also some aspects of physical presence.


And I must say that I'm hopeful that we'll have a good resolution at the General Assembly, and I'm hopeful that Member States will be able to come together and take profit of these unique moments – 75 years, 75 years in which I think it's important to recognise that many things have happened; many negative things have happened, but at least the Third World War so many people have predicted was avoided. We had what many called the "long peace" with many small conflicts, but conflicts in which the big powers did not get involved against each other.


And it is very important that this long peace remains, and it's very important that we now create the conditions to address the smaller but still dramatically deadly conflicts that we are facing in today's world.


Spokesman:  James Bays, Al Jazeera.


Question:  James Bays, Al Jazeera, Secretary‑General. We are having, and we all understand the reason that you're going to have a ceremony that's taking place tomorrow, though it's virtual, and it looks like you're going to have a mainly virtual General Assembly. But given the tensions between the US and China, given the threats to multilateralism that you've already talked about, is there not some disappointment from you that you could have had a GA where you had President Xi, President Trump there, President Putin? Is there some disappointment that this has coincided with the 75th anniversary and you're missing an opportunity to reinvigorate multilateralism?


Secretary-General:  It is a disappointment. I would, of course, very much prefer to have them here. I still hope that a summit of the P5 will be possible before the General Assembly, and it will be very important to address some of the contradictions that still, to a large extent, paralyse very important issues in the Security Council.


Obviously, diplomacy needs contact, it needs presence. We are doing our best through these virtual mechanisms. Look at the intense negotiations in Yemen. We are doing everything we can to bring the parties together to have an agreement, but obviously, it is much more difficult when we cannot just come together, discuss with each other in presence, and we need to use these virtual mechanisms to contact, which, of course, it is very important that they exist, but nothing replaces personal contact. Nothing replaces personal diplomacy with human contact and a human contact that can generate empathy, that can generate consensus, that can generate a common feeling to work together, address the dramatic challenges that we face.


Spokesman:  Maria Khrenova, TASS Russian News.


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane. Thank you, Secretary‑General, for this press conference. So, I was going to ask you about the P5 summit, but you already mentioned it. So, my question is about the just‑announced initiative. It was announced by American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he said that US and European Union are going to have a bilateral dialogue to resist the threat of China. So, how concerned are you that this is the kind of, using your metaphor that this is the kind of multilateralism...


Secretary-General:  Well, it is clear that we have today two...


Question:  I'm sorry. I...


Secretary-General:  ... situation... sorry?


Question:  I... something interrupted. Sorry, I will just finish. Yeah, that using a metaphor this is the kind of multilateralism which actually bites and this can threat the future of United Nations. Thank you.


Secretary-General:  Now, let’s be clear. We live in a moment in which we face enormous challenges. It is my deep belief that, as I said, we can only face with them with solidarity and unity.


I believe there are enormous contradictions in today's world. There are countries with different systems, with different approaches to, different areas of international affairs. But my opinion is that the fragility of the world today is such: The challenges and the risks that we face – from climate to pandemics to nuclear proliferation to the lawlessness in the cyberspace – are such that what needs to unite us must be more important than what divides us.


And my wish, and that is why I believe a summit like what I mentioned be important, my wish is that the big powers will understand that, independently of what divides them, they need to come together and mobilise the world to defeat the pandemic, to defeat climate change, to put some order in relation to the cyberspace and, at the same time, to create the conditions for our recovery to be a recovery in which we build back better in a more sustainable and inclusive economy and society.


Spokesman:  Majeed, can you hear us? Majeed Gly, Rudaw Media Network.


Correspondent:  Yes, Stéphane. Can you hear me?


Spokesman:  Yes.


Question:  Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General. It's good see you again, at least virtually. Secretary‑General, it's been more than a week since Turkey, backed by Iran, has launched a military operation into Iraq to what Ankara claims is targeting Kurdish rebels. In reality, Turkish air strikes pounded Sinjar and areas where Christian and Yazidi minorities are still recovering from ISIS genocide back in 2014. Same Christian and Yazidi minorities that fled north‑east Syria due to Turkish invasion last year are threatened by Turkey and Iraq.


And following the air strike, Turkey is now launching wide‑ranging attacks into the mountains of Kurdistan, and Turkey is reportedly establishing dozens of permanent bases neglecting Iraq's multiple official complaints to your office that Turkey is violating Iraq's sovereignty, and yet your office has been largely silent publicly.


Is it okay for Turkey to take over territories from Iraq and threaten minority population of Kurdistan just like it does in north‑east Syria, where even UN is forbidden to deliver cross‑border humanitarian assistance? Thank you.


Secretary-General: [Line muted] preserve Iraq's sovereignty. And Iraq is in a very important transition at the present moment. We are working very closely with the Iraqi Government in order to make sure that we support all the mechanisms necessary for the Iraqis to come together to overcome their challenges and to be able to establish, with their neighbours and with the different powers in the world, a relationship in which the interests of Iraq and the sovereignty of Iraq is preserved.


Spokesman:  Sato, NHK.


Correspondent:  I have a follow‑up. Can I...


Spokesman:  Sure, go ahead, a quick one.


Question:  Yes, sir. Mr. Secretary‑General, what about Turkey's action in northern Iraq and in some parts of Syria? What is your position about that specifically?


Secretary-General:  I think I already responded clearly to what I feel, and I think that I have nothing to add.


Correspondent:  Thank you.


Spokesman:  Mr. Sato, NHK.


Correspondent:  Yes. Stéphane, can you hear me?


Spokesman:  Yes.


Question:  Yes. Thank you very much for taking my question. Good to see you again, Mr. Secretary‑General. So, my question is about nuclear disarmament, as well, and this year marks 75th anniversary of a nuclear bomb dropping in Japan.


So, how likely are you going to join the Hiroshima memorial this August? There is some unclear situation with COVID‑19.


And how do you expect the upcoming NPT Review Conference possibly before the deadline of the new START next year? Thank you.


Secretary-General:  One of the most emotional moments as Secretary‑General was last year when I was in Nagasaki on the anniversary of the bomb. I was, once in the past, as a tourist in Hiroshima, and this was also a very emotional moment for me. And it was really my intention to go to the ceremony in Hiroshima this year.


The situation is still very unclear about quarantines in the US and quarantines in Japan, and so, very probably I don't think it will, it's realistic to foresee my presence.


I will, in any case, send a very strong message, and I want to fully associate myself to the people of Hiroshima and to the people of Japan in this moment.


At the same time, we are working, the non‑proliferation review was, as you know, postponed for next year. We are working hard with the parties to make sure that this review is a relevant, positive moment.


And I think there are three things that are interconnected. I just had today a meeting with my Advisory Board on disarmament. We need to make the three things move: disarmament, arms control, and non‑proliferation. And we need to combine the three initiatives that allow us to avoid proliferation and, at the same time, to regain the momentum that the disarmament had last century and was, unfortunately, lost in the recent past, and review the arms controls mechanism taking into account all the changes that are occurring in the world, the new technologies, and the fact that we are not equipped to deal with some of the most dramatic forms of progress.


One of the examples I've been, many times, quoting, it's my deep conviction that the world should not allow weapons that can kill people without any human intervention. Automatic weapons should not be allowed. And there are other aspects that require a review and, of a modernisation of our arms controls mechanisms. And I see all these things together, and I hope it will be possible to have the non‑proliferation review as a success.


Spokesman:  Thank you. Pamela Falk, CBS News.


Question:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary‑General. Thank you, Steph. It's Pamela Falk from CBS News. It's nice to see you. The question is about your comment about dysfunctional relationships. Could you be more specific on if you're talking, on who you're talking about? Seemed like you might be talking about the P5 at the Security Council or also about some conflicts that haven't been resolved from the Middle East to Yemen to Iran, Iraq, a lot of them. So, what do you mean "dysfunctional"?


And on arms just a little bit of a different topic, on arms control that you just mentioned, the US met with Russia on arms control. The New START Treaty is about to expire and tried to get China into a new framework, and it didn't work on that front. Are you worried about arms control relationships and treaties not being as functional as they were in the past? Thank you.


Secretary-General:  Well, I think that we have two main nuclear powers. There are other nuclear powers, but there are two main nuclear powers, the United States of America and the Russian Federation. And you have the two biggest economies in the world, the United States and China. And if there are relations that are very dysfunctional today are exactly those relations.


Obviously, we see the implications of that in a moment where, in my opinion, we need to mobilise the whole world to defeat COVID‑19, to defeat climate change, to put order in the cyberspace, and to guarantee that nuclear proliferation does not represent a new risk that can be avoided.


And, obviously, answering the second part, I am concerned with the fact that some of the instruments that were defined last century are being put into question and that the progress that was made late last century in relation to disarmament and arms control is seriously put into question, and I hope that this trend can be reversed sooner rather than later.


Question:  And on dysfunctional, what, can you be more specific? Thank you.


Secretary-General:  Well, the truth is that I think I've spoken several times about it. I think there is, today, a risk that, instead of having a global economy, we might move into two global spheres with different rules, with different internets, with different trade mechanisms, with different dominant currencies and, eventually, with different artificially intelligent strategies, with different military and geostrategic positions.


And I would recall that Thucydides, when he spoke about the war about, between Sparta and Athens that created the so‑called Thucydides Trap. I'm not saying that we are moving into a war. I'm just saying that, to avoid confrontations in the future, it's important that people invest in mending the relations today, overcoming the divisions, and finding common ground to address new challenges the world is facing.


Question:  Are the US and Russia, China is Sparta and Athens?


Secretary-General:  Is... sorry?


Question:  Are the...


Secretary-General:  I didn't understand.


Question:  Is your reference to Sparta and Athens a particular reference to US and Russia?


Secretary-General:  No, no, no, no. I mean, it's, indeed, in this case, it was a reference to the US and China. When we speak about Thucydides Trap, Thucydides Trap can be translated into a sentence:  It was the rise of Athens and the fear that that triggered in Sparta that made the war inevitable.


Now, I believe the war is not inevitable. I don't think Thucydides was right, but if we want to avoid wars in the future, we need to invest in making relations functional in the present.


Spokesman:  Go ahead.


Question:  Mr. Secretary‑General... is it me? Yeah.


[Cross talk]


Spokesman:  Go ahead.


Question:  Mr. Secretary‑General, after Russia annexed Crimea, your predecessor Ban Ki‑moon issued a fairly mild statement, pretty much calling on everybody to get together and talk. He didn't even mention Russia by name. By contrast, yesterday, you issued a fairly sharp rebuke to Israel even before it actually announced what parts of the West Bank, if any, it plans to apply sovereignty to. Can you explain the difference?


Secretary-General:  For me, there is no question. I mean, we are clearly in favour of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and we have never recognised the, what has happened in Crimea. And we have said what we have said yesterday because exactly we want to prevent an annexation that, in our opinion, would be, in the Middle East, a factor that would undermine the regional stability and the perspectives of peace between Israelis and Palestinians that remain our key objective.


Spokesman:  Mohsen Taherzadeh from Iran News Agency.


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane. Thank you. Mr. Secretary‑General. My question is, given the [audio gap, inaudible], it seems the US is [audio gap, inaudible] to undermine and even destroy the JCPOA...


Secretary-General:  I'm terribly sorry. The connection is not good. I'm not being able to understand what you say. Do you mind doing it again and speaking very slowly, and we will...


[Cross talk]


Question:  Okay.


Secretary-General:  ... try to put it longer here.


Question:  Okay, sure. Given your ninth report regarding the resolution 2231, it seems the US is trying to use this report to undermine and even destroy the JCPOA, which is clearly against your multilateralism call. What is your reaction about that? Thank you.


Secretary-General:  Well, our position in relation to the JCPOA has always been the same. We consider the JCPOA was a very important step forward in relation to the questions of a nuclear proliferation, and we still believe that everything must be done in order to make sure that the JCPOA is not destroyed.


Spokesman:  Frank Ucciardo, TRT World.


Frank? Okay, we'll try to come back to you.


Betul, Anadolu News. Betul.


Question:  Thank you, Steph. Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General, for this press conference. Betul Yuruk with the Turkish News Agency, Anadolu. I have a couple questions. Going back to the 75th anniversary of the UN Charter, if you could tell us what your biggest concern as the UN is marking the 75th anniversary.


And my second question is, are you going to seek a second term? Thank you.


Secretary-General:  In relation to the first, I think that there is not one concern. There is a combined concern, is the fragility of the international community, the fragility of the planet.


You see one virus that has put us on our knees, and we have not been able to fight it effectively. It's spreading now everywhere. There was no control, no effective coordination among Member States. We are divided in fighting COVID‑19.


Climate change, again, a threat to the planet. We have not yet been able to come together effectively on that. Look at the technological evolution in genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, all areas in which we have not yet looked into effective mechanisms of governance that need to be different from the ones of the past.


So, it is this enormous fragility and the need to strengthen our capacity to, with multilateral institutions that are more powerful and with effective international cooperation to create the conditions for the humanity to overcome these challenges.


In relation to the second question, I want to tell you that, for the moment, I don't even think about this. My only concern is to make sure that I do well what I have to do well, and it's my experience in political life in the past that, if you start thinking about what you are going to do as your next step, you undermine what you need to do now.


Spokesman:  Thank you. Ben Evansky, Fox News. Ben?


Question:  Yes, thank you, Stéphane. Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General. Are you confident that your whistleblower policy is working? In particular, the case I bring up is of Emma Reilly of the human rights office. For all her efforts of blowing the whistle on giving the names of Chinese activists to China by the office, she has experienced retribution for those efforts and now looks like she might be fired. Will you allow her to be fired? And does your whistleblower policy need to be updated? Thank you.


Secretary-General:  Well, the whistleblower policy is one of the key instruments we have. In relation to that question, there was an investigation that was recently finished, and we are now moving ahead with the conclusions of the investigation. But one thing is an individual case in which we can have different opinions about this or that. The other thing is a policy in which I am adamant that all those that do their job, their obligation as whistleblowers, are effectively protected.


Spokesman:  Sylviane Zehil, L'Orient Le Jour. Sylviane?


Question:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General. This is Sylviane Zehil from L'Orient Le Jour. My question is on the Syria and Lebanon. The Caesar Act implemented on June 17 against the regime of Bashar Assad has repercussions on the serious financial and economic crisis in Lebanon. And today President of Lebanon, Aoun, said the civil war is, climate is looming over the country.


What can the US do to come to the rescue of Lebanon to help it get out of the financial pit and its consequences on the economy, institutions, and education since many schools and universities are closing their doors? I have, is the presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon a factor of concern since the country's resources are absorbed by such a presence? And what action could the international community can take to lighten this burden? Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General.


Secretary-General:  I believe you are asking what the UN can do.


Question:  What the UN can do, yes.


Secretary-General:  Well, the UN is fully mobilised through our two missions in Lebanon and through our country team to fully support the Lebanese Government in relation to overcoming the enormous challenges that the country's facing from the economic, the financial point of view and from the point of view of the impact of the Syrian crisis and of the refugees in the economy and the society of Lebanon.


Of course, our economic capacity is limited. What we have been and we were, from the beginning, very active in that, was in the mobilisation of the international financial institutions and in mobilisations of the donor community in order to fully support Lebanon in these circumstances.


We do not have direct instruments to go further than what we are doing, but we have been consistently acting to advocate for a strong support to Lebanon in the present circumstances because we believe that the stability of Lebanon is very important for the region. And we are, and I witnessed myself the plight of the Syrian refugees and the dramatic impact on the Lebanese society. So, I want to express my full solidarity with the Lebanese people in this regard.


Spokesman:  Thank you. Thank you. Michelle Nichols, Reuters.


[Cross talk]


Question:  [Audio gap, inaudible] civil war climate in Lebanon? Are you concerned...


Secretary-General:  I hope that we will, I mean, I hope that there will be, there are grievances. There are forms of miscontempt. I hope they can be expressed peacefully, and I hope that the authorities will show the necessary restraint. And I'm hopeful that the Lebanese that have learned with the past, with the civil war of the past, the Lebanese will be able to use that lesson in order to preserve the stability of the country.


Spokesman:  Michelle Nichols of Reuters. Michelle?


Question:  Thanks, Stéphane, and thank you, Secretary‑General, for doing this briefing. Yesterday, you said that it was time for the Quartet to take the lead on the Middle East peace process. Is that your way of saying President Trump's peace plan is dead?


And on North Korea, given it's two years since President Trump met with Kim Jong‑un, is it time for the UN to, again, take the lead on trying to sort out North Korea as well? Thank you.


Secretary-General:  Well, in relation to the Quartet, we have been working hard and myself, but especially Nickolay Mladenov, to create conditions to have a meeting of the Quartet without preconditions and allowing for the Quartet to meet both with Palestinians and Israelis. Until now, we have not been able to create the conditions for that to be possible, but we do not give up and we'll do everything possible to allow for that to happen. We believe dialogue is the only way out of the present situation.


Now, we are, to a certain extent, in June commemorating the second anniversary of that encounter that you mentioned. And, of course, we consider that was a very positive step, and we will be very supportive of every initiative related both to the improvement of the relationship between DPRK and the United States and the full denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, as we are supportive of the contacts and the dialogue between the two Koreas in the present moment.


And this month of June is also the 20th anniversary of the first‑ever meeting of leaders of the two Koreas.


Spokesman:  Thank you. Abdelhamid Siyam. Abdelhamid?


Question:  Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General. My name is Abdelhamid Siyam from Alquds Alarabi. My question is about the crisis now between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. As you know, the crisis has been brewing for some time and UN kept a low profile. There is a meeting of the Security Council on Monday as far as I understand. Have you tried to reach out to the partners to see what can the UN can do? Are you in contact with any of the group involved in this brewing conflict? Thank you.


Secretary-General:  Yes. This week, both Ms. [Rosemary] DiCarlo [of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs] and Ms. Inger Andersen [of the UN Environment Programme] have been in contact, both with the three countries and with the observers. We believe the Khartoum Process is not exhaustive. I'm waiting for a phone call that I will have today with the Prime Minister of Sudan. As I said, we believe that the Khartoum Process is still moving forward. We fully support it, and we have offered and I will offer again today our good offices to the Prime Minister of Sudan for anything we can do to support this Khartoum Process. We believe that the only way out in a situation like this is through dialogue among the parties, and we will be at the disposal of the parties. We don't, we are not here to seek any protagonism. Sometimes there are too many actors trying to solve a problem.


What we believe is that the three countries themselves and the Khartoum Process with all those that the three countries will want to involve and we are, as I said, ready to do whatever we are asked for and at the total disposal of the parties. I will reaffirm it today as I said, again, to Prime Minister [Abdalla Adam] Hamdok in his particular role. Whatever we will be able to do, we are entirely at their disposal. We believe dialogue is the only way out.


Spokesman:  Thank you. Frank Ucciardo? Frank?


Frank, can you hear us?


Spokesman:  Okay. Let's try Rick Gladstone, New York Times. Rick?


Question:  Hi. Thanks, Stéphane. Thanks, Mr. Secretary‑General. The President of the General Assembly said the other day that most of the world leaders are going to be speaking via virtual... virtually at the General Assembly. This also affords an opportunity for leaders who have never been physically there to speak, thinking of the President of Syria and the leader of North Korea. Would you welcome their attendance at this virtual General Assembly? Thank you.


Secretary-General:  Well, I believe that all states that are members of the UN have the right to participate in all UN activities and, obviously, if leaders speak, all leaders are entitled to participate. It's up to them to be able to do it.


Obviously, if there is a virtual mechanism, and probably it will be the only [way] possible if we think of the number of delegations and the number of members of each delegation independently of the physical presence in the plenary that can be maintained, thanks to the delegations that exist in New York, but it's difficult to envision the possibility of such a large flow of people as we had in the past. It's up to Member States to decide in the end what the mechanism will be implemented, but if there will be a virtual mechanism, of course, all heads of State and government are entitled to participate without any exception.


Spokesman:  Thank you. Benno, DPA, German Press Agency.


Correspondent:  Can you hear me?


Spokesman:  Benno? Yes, go ahead.


Question:  Okay. Thank you so much, Stéphane. Thank you, Secretary‑General. It's Benno Schwinghammer from the German Press Agency, DPA. My question concerns US troop withdrawal in Germany. US President Donald Trump yesterday announced that he wants to withdraw troops from Germany and at least partly station them in Poland. This seems to be a big concern on the one side for NATO partners and on the other side also for Russia. Do you feel that this decision could have a negative impact on power dynamics in Europe?


Secretary-General:  Well, I, this is a matter in which I have not enough information to have a clear opinion. This is a matter to be decided among, this is an alliance that is relevant for this purpose. It's among the members of the alliance to decide how this will be done.


Spokesman:  Ali Barada? Ali, go ahead.


Question:  My name is Ali Barada from France 24 and Asharq Al Awsat Newspaper. First question is that, despite your repeated calls and the reforms that you've been carrying since you became Secretary‑General at the UN, it seems that the UN looks irrelevant to what's going on in the crises in the world. The UN hasn't been able to mitigate the problems in the Middle East, even when there was and still a common threat for humanity, COVID‑19. As we just mentioned, the UN was not able to put the... all the countries together to take a unified position. Do you think that you need... the UN needs to... more fundamental reforms that... than that you are carrying? Thank you.


Secretary-General:  Well, I think it's important to recognise that the UN and all other actors involved that, until now, have failed in relation to the Middle East crisis, but there are many achievements that the UN and the international community as a whole have managed during this period of 75 years. The most important is that there was not a confrontation among the big powers as it was the case, if you'll remember, there were two World Wars in the first half of the century. And since then, no major confrontation among world powers. There's no other period in history in which the same has happened.


So there are many things that I believe the UN can be proud of, and I mentioned many aspects related to humanitarian action. I mentioned peacekeeping operations. I mentioned many crises that were solved, the prevention of conflicts that have happened. I mean, our involvement in electoral processes has helped last year. Many elections were supposed to generate a conflict, and it wasn't the case.


So, I'm not so pessimistic about the capacity of the UN, but it is true that we live in a world where power relations are unclear, where many spoilers are involved in several conflicts, and it's very difficult to mediate them and to solve them. It is true. And this is the reason why I've been saying that I believe we need a multilateralism, but a multilateralism that is, that works to be inclusive but also that is strengthened, that is able to have its role in global governance where that governance is needed and that has teeth and the ability to use them.


And that, of course, needs reforms, and reforms that can only be possible if countries can come together and agree on shared responsibilities, shared sovereignty, shared strategies. And we know that this is difficult, but we know that the challenges we face are such that I hope that this wake‑up call of COVID‑19 will help us, after the difficulties of the present moment, will help us to finally come together and understand the needs of change and the needs of reform.


Spokesman:  Thank you. Last question to Erol Avdovic. Erol?


Question:  Secretary‑General, again, from [audio gap, inaudible] Kosovo of the world, since COVID‑19 prevented you to go to Srebrenica, as you told me in February, what you plan to do? Are you in contact with the Bosnian diplomats? What kind of event or statement do you plan?


And also on Kosovo, it seems to be that this Saturday, there was not going to be Washington meeting between Kosovo and Serbia, as it was announced by the Trump Administration. The Trump Administration was about to deal with the economic side, European Union with the political side. What would be the role of the United Nations in that negotiations? Thank you.


Secretary-General:  Well, first of all, in relation to the last question, we are here to support. The European Union has had leadership, as you know, with relation to that aspect. We are here to support. We have a Mission there, and the Mission plays its role. But we do not intend to dispute leadership in relation to this process. We are here to support the process, and we hope that the process will be able to move forward.


In relation to the first question, it is, it's a very emotional issue for me. I am terribly sorry I will not be able to be there. It was my intention to be there.


I think that this is one of the most tragic moments in the history of Europe and the history of the UN, that what has happened is horrifying, and we need to learn the lessons of Srebrenica to avoid any kind of genocide in the future. I think it's very, very important, very, very important that we celebrate it with all the means at our disposal. We will do it as much as we can, and this is something I will never forget. At the time, I was in my country, a citizen of my country, seeing these things happening and horrified by it. That horror still maintains. We need to do everything to make these things not to be forgotten and especially for these things never to be repeated.


Spokesman:  Great. Thank you very much to all of you. Thank you, Secretary‑General. And we hope to see you all very soon in person. Thank you again for tuning in. And thank you, Secretary‑General.


Secretary-General:  Thank you very much. All the best.


Correspondent:  Thank you so much. Bye.


Secretary-General:  I'm enjoying my quarantine.




[Secretary-General presser concludes at 1:06 p.m.]