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But we know above all that the enormous array of the world’s challenges that we face requires huge cooperation between all countries and the United Nations, and the United Nations plays the vital role in that collaboration. So I’m really glad that the Secretary-General is one of my very first guests here at the State Department, and we have a great deal to discuss this morning.
Let me just outline a few of my chief concerns that we hope to discuss today with the Secretary-General. First of all, with respect to North Korea, this week’s test was an enormously provocative act that warrants a strong, a swift, and a credible response from the global community. And I want to echo the Security Council’s statement that this test is a clear threat to peace and security in the world. In the days ahead, Mr. Secretary-General, we’re going to ramp up our coordination with the Six-Party partners, with the Security Council and other UN members, and other allies and partners in order to guarantee that we respond appropriately.
We will, of course, in a few moments discuss the challenges of Syria. As President Obama said very clearly on Tuesday, we have to keep the pressure up on the Assad regime and we have to support opposition leaders who respect the rights of the Syrian people. As I have been doing in all of my first meetings, I intend to look forward to hear the Secretary-General’s ideas. He is deeply invested in the diplomatic process now with Lakhdar Brahimi’s initiative, and I want to learn from the Secretary-General what he thinks we can do to best assist in the effort to try to change President Assad’s calculations, to stop the bloodshed and begin a peaceful political transition towards a democratic future for all of the people of Syria.
We will also consult on the desperate humanitarian situation. I had occasion, Mr. Secretary-General, to speak this morning with the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia. The first thing he mentioned to me was, in his estimate, perhaps as many as 90,000 people who have been killed in Syria, vast numbers of refugees, which creates enormous dislocation and burdens on the countries that are prepared to receive them. So we will consult shortly on this dangerous humanitarian situation, and recognizing that President Assad has the ability to be able to make the difference here by deciding to engage in a legitimate diplomatic process. He must end this killing.
We need to rally the international community in response to the UN’s appeal for more funds in order to deal with the humanitarian assistance for those suffering inside Syria as well as those people who have been dislocated.
We will also talk about Iran. The talks between the P-5+1 and Iran will resume in Kazakhstan later this month. I want to reiterate that these talks can only make progress if the Iranians come to the table determined to make and discuss real offers and engage in a real dialogue. It is important that we do that. And I have said before and I will repeat again: Countries that have peaceful programs do not have problems proving to people that they are peaceful. So we are not going to get trapped into a delay-after-delay process here. It’s important to engage, and I think it is incumbent on the Iranians to prove that they are prepared to meet our willingness, President Obama’s willingness, again and again stated by the President, to be open to a diplomatic resolution here.
I also plan to discuss a topic which the Secretary-General and I have talked about many times together. It’s something that he is passionate about and I am passionate about, and that’s the subject that President Obama raised in his second inaugural address and then again in his State of the Union message in which he issued a call to deal with climate change. And it was a call that he expressed in renewed and urgent terms, which I think the world heard. He has urged all of us to tackle this challenge head on, as he said, for the sake of our children and our future.
I know from many conversations with the Secretary-General – we’ve been at events together, at negotiations together, we’ve spoken at events together – this is a major priority for the United Nations, and we appreciate his leadership.
And finally, I’d also like to discuss today the next steps in Mali in light of the successful French intervention there. We urge the government to continue the political transition process towards elections and to step up negotiations with the non-extremist groups in the north.
So in addition to that, we have a very full agenda, which is why we’re not going to take questions, and I hope you’ll forgive us for that. We haven’t yet engaged in the discussions, so we wanted to let you know what we’re doing, but we’re also going to be discussing Somalia and the Middle East peace process and a number of other issues as well. So suffice it to say the United States and the United Nations share all of these concerns. They’re global concerns. If we didn’t have a United Nations, we’d have to invent one. So we’re grateful for the leadership that is exhibited by the Secretary-General, and I am committed on behalf of President Obama to make certain that we strengthen our relationship with the UN even further in the years ahead. And I want to thank the Secretary-General for being here today and for his leadership. Thank you, sir.
SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON: Thank you, Secretary Kerry, ladies and gentlemen. Let me begin by thanking Secretary of State Kerry for welcoming me to the State Department. The Secretary of State is a longstanding friend of the United Nations, and I am especially glad to visit him at this early stage of his tenure. Secretary Kerry, my heartfelt congratulations again on your appointment of the Secretary of State of the United States. We have been working very closely on many regional political security issues and also global issues including climate change. I know that you will fill this important role – your role – with great knowledge and vision and passion that have been the hallmarks of your career.
I have come to Washington at this time as part of my ongoing reach out to American Government and people. We need the strong United States leadership in addressing many regional and global challenges. I had yesterday productive discussions with members of both Senate and House of Representatives. Secretary of State Kerry and I have many issues to discuss today and in the future.
Let me just state out a few issues of our – most of concern. First is Syria. As Secretary of State Kerry has just mentioned, the tragedy continues to deepen without any prospect of political resolution. Nearly 70,000 people have already been killed. UN agencies are mobilizing humanitarian assistance for growing numbers of refugees and displaced people both inside and outside of Syria – and also both government-controlled areas and also opposition-forces-controlled areas. Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi and I are calling Security Council to be united and speak and act in one voice. And we support the initiative by Moaz al-Khatib for head of Syrian National Coalition for dialogue with Syrian authorities. This is an opportunity we should not miss.
In Mali, regional and international actors have supported the French and Malian military action. I appreciate the United States Government strong support in this operation and their continuing commitment for peace and stability in Mali. The United Nations is working closely with the key partners, including African Union and ECOWAS towards a peaceful solution that restores constitutional order, addresses genuine grievances, promote reconciliation, and ensures the country is – country’s territorial integrity.
With the respect to the nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, D.P.R.K., this was a direct challenge to the international community. I have repeatedly called on the leadership of Pyongyang to give up its pursuit of nuclear programs and to instead focus on building a better future for the country’s people by addressing dire humanitarian and human rights situations. I encourage the Security Council to act with unity and to take appropriate measures as soon as possible. I count on Secretary of State’s strong leadership as was stated just now.
On the Iranian nuclear issue, I sincerely hope that the P-5+1 meetings in Kazakhstan later next month will bring fruitful progress.
On the Middle East, I welcome the plans of President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry’s visit – to visit the region. I know that Secretary of State has traveled extensively in the past, has good relationships with many leaders in the region, and knows the importance of the issue. We all need to make special effort to forge a two-state solution before the window of opportunity closes. It is important that the right of Israel to exist should be respected and also the viable Palestinian Authority, in terms of political and financial situation, be supported so that both can live side by side in peace and security. That is a two-state solution.
In addition to these and other crises, the United Nations is striving to defeat poverty and advance sustainable development. I have been very encouraged by President Obama’s call to action on climate change both at his Inauguration and in the State of the Union Address. This is a global imperative.
I also welcome President Obama’s intention to pursue reductions in nuclear arsenals. In both these global issues, Secretary of State is committed more than anybody else, and I’m very much encouraged to work with you to achieve a legally binding treaty by 2015.
U.S. leadership will remain crucial in the period ahead. At a time when families and government everywhere are feeling severe financial strains, the benefits of working with the United Nations are clear: burden sharing, wise use of the global taxpayers’ money, and international solutions in the national interest. I look forward to strengthening the U.S.-UN partnership and working closely with Secretary of State Kerry towards our shared goals of peace, development, and human rights.
And ladies and gentlemen, and Secretary Kerry, finally let me note that today, Valentine’s Day, is also V-Day, when people around the world are speaking out about violence against women as part of the One Billion Rising campaign. On this special day, I urge all governments to send us a Valentine message, a concrete commitment of action to end violence against women and girls around the world. I know that Secretary Kerry and the United States will continue to stand with us in this course. I thank you very much.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very, very much. Thank you, sir – and especially for that last plea. Thank you for that. Thank you. We’re going to go work. All right. Thank you.