The Secretary-General's Press Encounter with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of Turkey

11 Feb 2017

The Secretary-General's Press Encounter with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of Turkey

Honourable Prime Minister,

Ladies and gentlemen of the press,

It is indeed for me an enormous pleasure and an enormous honour to be in Istanbul, starting my first bilateral visit since I was elected Secretary-General of the United Nations. And I believe it was my duty to start here in Turkey, as I have a huge depth of gratitude [to] the Turkish Government and the Turkish people.

For ten years, as you know, I was United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and during that period, Turkey became the largest refugee-hosting country in the world. And I’ve witnessed the enormous generosity of the Turkish Government and the Turkish people, opening their borders, their houses and their hearts to their sisters and brothers coming from Syria but also from many other parts of the world.

This generosity should be matched. This is also a moment to launch an appeal - when we see so many borders being closed and when we see so many escaping their responsibilities – this is a moment to appeal for effective burden-sharing and to make sure that the integrity of the international refugee protection regime is maintained.

At the same time, this was a very important occasion for us to discuss the role that Turkey is playing in the UN – a very relevant role.

Turkey is today one of the pillars of the international multilateral system. Turkey was one of the founders of the Alliance of Civilizations, co-chairs the Group of Friends of Mediation, was the host of the World Humanitarian Summit and has been very active in all areas in which multilateral governance is relevant for today’s world.

We had very positive and constructive discussions on some of the issues of common interest.

Turkey is one of the guarantor powers in the Conference for Cyprus, for the unity of Cyprus, and I am hopeful that the efforts of the two communities that go on meeting at the highest level and the efforts of the guarantor powers will allow for a breakthrough in the near future; a breakthrough able to fully respect the concerns of the Turkish Cypriot community about its security but, at the same time, compatible with the concerns of the Greek Cypriot community.

And we believe that it will be possible to find solutions for the range of issues that are still outstanding. The United Nations will be entirely at the disposal of the two Cypriot communities and of the guarantor powers to support the search for a solution that is acceptable for all.

I want to express my deep appreciation for the role that Turkey has played in convening - and in the way it oriented - the Astana Conference; the success of the ceasefire obtained  - it is absolutely essential to maintain - and also the very careful way that Turkey made sure that Astana would lead to the Geneva Conference in which the political solution dimension will be at the centre of the discussions. The role that Turkey has played has been in our opinion extremely positive and we are very grateful and very appreciative for that fact.

Not to mention of course the large humanitarian support that Turkey has been providing to the Syrian people in the recent past.

It is now very important to have in Geneva discussions that go to the substance of the issues and allow for a political solution to start [being] built.

To fight terrorism is extremely important but let’s have no illusions: we will never, as an international community, be successful fighting terrorism if we don’t find political solutions in which the people can feel comfortable and the people can feel duly represented at the political level.

And the same applies to Iraq: we are totally engaged as UN to make sure that - especially in the context of the liberation of Mosul and after that - there is an effectively inclusive and non-sectarian approach to the solution of the Iraqi problems and that the Iraqi people will be able to come together in full equality in order to guarantee a peaceful future for the country.

We had also very positive discussions about Libya in which I strongly hoped that the different parts will be able to come together and finally establish the peace and the security that is essential, not only for Libya but for many other countries, neighbours in the East, West and South, that need to have stability in Libya in order to be able to guarantee their own security.

And at the same time, we exchanged ideas on several other situations.
I believe we are fully in agreement that there is no plan B but the two-State solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And it is absolutely essential to avoid unilateral actions that undermine the possibility of that two-State solution.

We were also very much shared the same views about the need to bring stability to Afghanistan and to find peaceful solutions to the several other conflicts that still concern us all.

I would also like to say that I fully understand the need of any government to make sure that the security of the State, of its cities, be protected against coups d’état or terrorist attacks. As I also strongly believe that that needs to be done in line with the rule of law and the full protection of human rights. And we had very constructive discussions also in this regard.

I want to thank you very much, Honourable Prime Minister, for your gentle hospitality. I don’t think I could start better my bilateral visits. I am very grateful for the excellent discussions that we had and looking forward to meeting your President tomorrow.

Thank you very much.

Question on burden-sharing related to refugees.

Secretary-General: I think there are two areas that are absolutely essential.

One area is burden-sharing in relation to support to the countries of first asylum, support to the host communities, support to projects that can help - in employment, in infrastructure, in education, in health - both refugee populations and the host communities.

The second area of burden-sharing is the resettlement of refugees, the acceptance of a larger number than we have had until now of refugees coming from countries of first asylum to other countries, that share – usually we say “share the burden” but I would like to say “share the responsibility.” Because the protection of refugees is not only the responsibility of neighbouring States of a crisis; it is a collective responsibility of the international community.

Questions on the timeline for a solution in Cyprus and who will be invited to the Syria talks in Geneva.

Secretary-General: First of all, in relation to Cyprus, the two leaders of the two communities are meeting every week now and are making progress in relation to the outstanding issues that need to be solved between the two communities. At the same time, we have the security guarantees package that will have to be discussed with the guarantors.

The two processes are interlinked and so there is not yet a date fixed for the Conference but we will be working together in order to make sure that from this interlinkage, we come to the best possible chances of success.

Now you asked what are the chances? Usually, when asked if I am optimistic or pessimistic about a process, I answer with a famous sentence by Jean Monnet: I am not optimistic, I am not pessimistic, I am just determined.

I am determined to do my best, knowing that the role of the United Nations is not the leading role. The leading role is of the communities and the guarantors. We are in a supporting role but I am determined to do my best to help facilitate the conditions for a success.

[Regarding the Geneva talks on Syria], it is not for me to decide who will represent the opposition, in what form. The only thing we want is [for] that representation to be inclusive -- to be inclusive of all the relevant parties of the opposition, both at the level of the armed groups that were in Astana and also of the political component, that is absolutely essential.