The UN Secretary-General: Remarks at press conference on Kabul

28 Oct 2009

AS DELIVERED (Q and A to follow)

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a great pleasure to see you again.

This is a sad day and a very difficult day for the United Nations.

As you know, militants attacked a UN guest house in Kabul early this morning.

At least 25 UN staff members were there, including 17 women and men of the UNDP election team.

Five staff have been killed and nine wounded according to our latest information.

I want to extend my deepest condolences to the families — and to our UN family. I have just spoken to my Special Representative, Kai Eide, and conveyed my deepest condolences. I really wanted to be with them on this very difficult and sad day.

The UN team in Afghanistan has lost colleagues and friends. The world has lost women and men committed to the values of peace, dignity and respect for all.

I condemn this shocking and shameless act, and the terrorists who committed this crime.  It is unjustifiable by any standard.

If anything, this incident should remind us how tough our job is. Our people work, often selflessly, in the most dangerous places in the world.

Those who gave their lives today came to Afghanistan armed not with guns or bullets. They came with a more powerful weapon – hope. Hope for a better day for Afghanistan and a commitment to help its people build a better world and a better future.

We will not be deterred from this noble mission.

We stand by the people of Afghanistan today, and we will do so tomorrow.

We will, of course, review our security procedures, as we do regularly for the Afghanistan mission as a whole. We will take all necessary measures to protect our staff.

We have also witnessed an appalling bomb attack in Peshawar today. More than 80 people have died, according to our reports. I want to express my outrage at the loss of so many innocent lives.  

Before taking your questions, there are some other issues I would like to raise.

First, climate change.

We have only five weeks before the UN conference in Copenhagen on climate change.

There is a long way to go still.

I have been working closely with the Danish Prime Minister, who is in turn engaged intensively with other governments on the substance and form of an agreement that may emerge.

All countries must commit to limit emissions.  Developed countries must adopt ambitious mid-term targets.  At the same time, developing countries must also limit the growth of their emissions, moving away from a “business as usual” trajectory.

Let me also touch on a few other matters in the news.

In Iraq, we saw a bomb attack earlier this week in which hundreds were killed and wounded. As elsewhere, these acts of violence target the innocent and aim to disrupt the country’s fragile democracy.

In response to a request from the Government of Iraq, I will send Assistant Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco to Iraq for preliminary consultations related to Iraq’s security and sovereignty.

We have also seen disturbances at the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound.  

Events in Jerusalem can undermine trust throughout the region, and I call upon all to avoid provocative acts. We should see this as a reminder that, in the absence of progress in direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, political tensions in the Middle East will only grow.

The Human Rights Council has now referred the Goldstone Report to the General Assembly, which will consider its findings and recommendations. I look forward to its decision. I have called repeatedly on both the Israeli government and the Palestinians to carry out full, independent and credible investigations.

Meanwhile, ten months after hostilities ended in Gaza, we see no progress on reconstruction or the re-opening of borders. At the donors’ conference in Egypt, we raised $4.5 billion in financial assistance. Little if any of that money has been delivered. Families have not been able to rebuild their homes. Clinics and schools are still in ruins. I urge Israel to accept the UN reconstruction proposals as set forth, recognizing that the only true guarantee of peace is people’s well-being and security.

On Iran: the inspection of the new Iranian enrichment site in Qom, conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency this week, is a positive step. Meeting with President Ahmadinejad in September, I urged Tehran to take this step and cooperate fully with the IAEA on all outstanding issues.

I also welcome the draft agreement, circulated by the IAEA, related to the supply of fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Agreement would constitute an important confidence-building measure and could set the stage for further advances in the negotiations between Iran and the EU3+3.

Let me close where we began, on Afghanistan again.

As you know, the second round of presidential elections is scheduled for November 7.

No one underestimates the difficulties, especially in the aftermath of today’s attack.

At this point, I would simply say that all operational preparations are being put in place to minimize fraud.

If the first round showed anything, it was that fraud does not win. It merely undermines the legitimacy of the results.

Once again, I urge Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Karzai to uphold the law  and the Constitution; to encourage participation of the Afghan people; and, after the vote, to work to unify the country around an agenda for progress.

The United Nations is committed to doing all it can to support the Afghan people as they once again cast their ballots and shape the destiny of their country.

Thank you very much, and now for your questions.