Syria crisis to top Generally Assembly agenda

Thursday, September 20, 2012
Ban Ki-moon while addressing reporters in New York
[PHOTO: UNifeed] 
New York: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters he would use the upcoming high-level General Assembly session to personally press more than 120 world leaders to act on Syria.

The ongoing crisis in Syria, where over 18,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the uprising began in March 2011, will be "top of my agenda", Ban said at a press conference ahead of the General Assembly's annual high-level debate.

Ban noted that the opening of the Assembly's sixty-seventh session takes place against a backdrop of widespread violence linked to intolerance, and condemned both "those who deliberately provoke others with hatred and bigotry" as well as "those who, in response to such provocations, fan those flames further still".

Asked what action he expected the General Assembly to take in this regard, he said he would urge all world leaders to "speak out" in a united way to stop both intolerance and those "who really try to use this kind of opportunity".

In response to a question on the Middle East peace process, Ban noted that he believed it should be addressed in a comprehensive way, but Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation should also play an important role. With "no such progress at this time" he said he was "deeply concerned". Together with continuing instability in the region, this would be one of the key issues during this General Assembly.

On Iran, the Secretary-General said there were "so many questions unanswered by the Iranian authorities" that "if they claim, insist that their nuclear programme is genuinely for peaceful purposes, that should be proven by the international community, by gaining the international trust and confidence."

Asked whether Palestine's expected request for non-member state observer status at the General Assembly was "helpful" or not, Ban said it had been a long-held aspiration of the Palestinian people to join the United Nations, and "it has been long overdue".

He added that he believed that process should come out of a negotiated settlement of the Middle East peace process. The Palestinian authorities filed for formal membership of the United Nations last year.

Asked about East Asia, the Secretary-General said he was "increasingly troubled" by rising tensions between China and Japan over territorial disputes. He said efforts must continue "to build mutual trust and confidence to avoid tension in the region". He "sincerely" hoped leaders would have an opportunity to meet and "discuss this matter amicably and peacefully" during the General Assembly in New York.

More than 120 world leaders are expected to take part in this year's general debate, which takes place from 25 September to 1 October. In addition, Ban will host a number of meetings on the margins of the debate, including on the rule of law, polio eradication, disarmament, sustainable energy and nutrition. He will also launch a new initiative, entitled 'Education First.' -UNifeed
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