UN Secretary-General’s Press Conference Prior to the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly
14 September 2023
Secretary-General: Dear members of the media, it is a pleasure to be with you again. Now that you are preparing for the High-level week of the General Assembly, allow me to begin with the very sad news and tragic developments in North Africa.
I want to express my deepest condolences and my full solidarity with all those affected by the devastating earthquake in Morocco and the massive floods in Libya.
These heart-wrenching disasters have claimed thousands of lives and affected countless families and communities.
The United Nations is mobilizing to support relief efforts and we will work in any and every way we can with partners to help get emergency assistance to those who so desperately need it.
In recent days, I have attended a number of gatherings of various groupings of world leaders.
In Nairobi, to focus on climate solutions in Africa.
In Jakarta, to strengthen our partnership with Southeast Asian nations.
In New Delhi, for a summit of G-20 leaders.
And tomorrow in Havana, to meet with leaders of the G-77 and China.
But next week begins the greatest G of all – the G-193 – the High-Level Week of the General Assembly.
It is a one-of-a-kind moment each year for leaders from every corner of the globe to not only assess the state of the world – but to act for the common good.
Action is what the world needs now.
We will be gathering at a time when humanity faces huge challenges – from the worsening climate emergency to escalating conflicts, the global cost-of-living crisis, soaring inequalities and dramatic technological disruptions.
People are looking to their leaders for a way out of this mess.
Yet in the face of all this and more, geopolitical divisions are undermining our capacity to respond.
A multipolar world is emerging.
Multipolarity can be a factor of equilibrium.
But it can also lead to escalating tensions, fragmentation and worse.
So, to bring our multipolar world together, we need strong, reformed multilateral institutions, anchored in the United Nations Charter and international law.
Today’s multilateral institutions that were created after the Second World War reflect the power and economic dynamics of that time, and so, they need reform.
I know reform is fundamentally about power – and there are obviously many competing interests and agendas in our increasingly multipolar world.
But at a time when our challenges are more connected than ever, the outcome of a zero-sum game is that everyone gets zero.
I will go into further detail in my address to the General Assembly on Tuesday.
In addition, next week we will also shine a spotlight on how to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals at the half-way mark to 2030.
On how to boost ambition to tackle the climate crisis.
On crucial questions of funding and investments for development.
On health challenges, hotspots and a host of other issues.
My appeal to world leaders will be clear:
This is not a time for posturing or positioning.
This is not a time for indifference or indecision.
This is a time to come together for real, practical solutions.
It is time for compromise for a better tomorrow.
Politics is compromise.
Diplomacy is compromise.
Effective leadership is compromise.
If we want a future of peace and prosperity based on equity and solidarity, leaders have a special responsibility to achieve compromise in designing our common future for our common good.
Next week here in New York is the place to start.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Thank you, Secretary-General. So my question is next week, the high-level week, so there is any room for hope or on making some progress in general on Ukraine, but more specifically on the Black Sea Grain Initiative? Thank you so much. Sorry. And thank you for being here, on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association.
Secretary-General: Well, next week, I will be receiving President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy. I'll be receiving President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan. I'll be receiving [Foreign] Minister [Sergey] Lavrov. And obviously, this question will be on the table of our discussions. So I'm not going to say whether I am optimistic or pessimistic. The only thing you can be sure is that I remain determined. Determined is, by the way, the title of our report. [Laughter] I remain determined to do everything possible, to re-establish the Black Sea Initiative, the exports of Ukraine foodstuffs and also to go on, on our work in relation to the facilitation within the sanctions regime of the Russian foods and fertilizer products.
Question: Hi, Secretary-General. Xu Dezhi with China Central Television. In New Delhi, you said it's easy to blame the UN for what the Member States do. Let's not make the UN the scapegoat of the failures or the negative actions that are committed by Member States. What do you think the UN still can do in such a critical time when it's more and more difficult to unite with what the Charter described, "We the Peoples," because of what Member States did or what they interacted with each other? And what positive note do you expect for the coming weeks with world leaders gathering here? Thank you.
Secretary-General: So, this was in the context of a question in which I was asked if the UN had failed in Ukraine. I said, just a moment; let's be clear: It was not the UN that invaded Ukraine. So Member States must assume there is possibilities, and we should not use the UN as a scapegoat for the failures of Member States in the respect of the Charter. So this was the context in which I said what I said. What can the UN do? The UN can, first of all, assert its principles. There is a voice that the UN can - and I'm talking about the Secretary-General of the UN in particular - the Secretary-General of the UN needs to be able to be the defender of the Charter and of international law, and the UN has a convening power that in some circumstances manages to bring together parties to a conflict or actors that are relevant in order to be able to overcome divisions and in order to be able to get to solutions. And we have shown that convening power in some circumstances. But in others, as we know, it is very difficult to make Member States come together when the level of divisions is as high as it is. But we will do everything we can to raise our voice and we'll do everything we can to convene with our mediation efforts, in order to help create conditions for addressing the dramatic crisis that we are facing at the present moment.
Question: The positive... The expectations, what positive breakthrough could happen next week?
Secretary-General: I believe that next week, there will be an important breakthrough in creating the conditions to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I'm very hopeful that the SDG Summit will indeed represent a quantum leap in the response to the dramatic failures that we have witnessed until now in relation to the implementation of the SDGs. That would be my most important objective in relation to the next week here in New York.
Question: Secretary-General, Sherwin Bryce-Pease, South African Broadcasting. After attending the BRICS Summit, the ASEAN Summit, the G20 Summit, ahead of the G77+China and UNGA (United Nations General Assembly), you might be forgiven for suffering a bout of summit-itis. But I would please throw it forward to the G77 in China. What are your expectations from this group, given, you know, it serves as a sort of a preview to UNGA, the SDG Summit? The focus is likely to be on financing for development, issues of a just transition, the means of implementation. What can that group do as one of the largest developing blocs in the world, what can it do to inform what you want to achieve here next week?
Secretary-General: That group is essential. I would say it is vital, because the central question we are addressing in relation to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the response to the climate disruption, the central question is, first of all, our countries are able to mobilize their own resources and to align their policies with the SDGs. And this is valid for all developing countries and then for all the members of the G77. So there is a commitment that each country must make. But we also need to recognise that the present international financial situation does not facilitate the life of developing countries. And so the G77 and China are also important in helping to build the consensus and raising their voice in order to make the changes in the international financial architecture, in order to make the changes in the debt policies, in the concessional funding policies and in many other aspects in order to make sure that the international financial system works to the benefit of developing countries and allows them to overcome the present situation, which many of them are facing debt distress or close to it. And if not, the fiscal space that is needed to be able to effectively implement the Sustainable Government Goals. So there are two aspects. What the countries can do and how they can mobilise their resources and align their policies with the SDGs. And what we can together do in order to have more equity, more justice, more fairness in international economic and financial systems to allow developing countries to do so.
Question: Thank you, Secretary-General. I'm here. Sorry. Amelie Bottollier from AFP News Agency. My question is about the Climate Ambition Summit. If I'm not mistaken, you received over 100 responses to your letter from heads of state and governments. Now you have to choose which one can make it to the list of the first movers and first doers. So which country have you selected to be on this list? And especially since you said many times the G20 countries are not doing enough, will you be able to invite one of the G20 country to this first movers, first doers summit? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, it's early to say it will be coming because we are still working on that. But it is true that G20 countries represent 80 percent of global emissions. I said to the G20 that it looks that nobody is in control, that climate change is coming out of control. But the truth is that the G20 are in control because they are the big emitters. And I would, of course, be very happy if several of the G20 countries would be able to come to the summit and announce a quantum leap in their efforts to reduce emissions, and at the same time, to better support financially the developing countries that are facing enormous difficulties in order to develop their own programmes of mitigation and adaptation.
Question: Thank you, Secretary-General. Thank you for the briefing. You spoke briefly just now about the geopolitical tensions that'll be possibly on display next week, and you've previously warned of a fracture. What's your current assessment of sort of where the world is with respect to that? And how concerned are you that the war in Ukraine might sort of simply overshadow any action that could come from next week on other issues?
Secretary-General: I think the war of Ukraine is indeed a key factor in the aggravation of geopolitical divisions. And so, the solution - a peace in Ukraine, in line with UN Charter, and in line with the international law - would be very important to allow for geopolitical divisions to be reduced. But those geopolitical divisions have other dimensions. And one of my main concerns is that we see the risk of fragmentation. I've been saying that our multilateral institutions are outdated. Our multilateral institutions do not reflect the world of today. And so, it is important to have a serious commitment to reform those multilateral institutions, to make them fully universal and to make them more fair and more equitable and more representative of the reality of today's world. And this is a possible instrument we have to reduce the risks of the so-called great fracture. On the other hand, it is very important to be clear that we want one global economy, one global financial system, one global and open internet, one global trade regime and a convergence of strategies in relation to the capacity to have effective governance on disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence. And the IMF has recently published a research in which if we fracture the world into different economies, economic systems, different trade regimes, different financial institutions, the loss is of around $7 trillion globally. So I think it's in the interest of everybody taking into account the divisions that exist, taking into account the difficulties. It's in the interest of everybody to have a global compromise. And compromise was one of the words that I used in a more repeated way in the recent presentation that I made at this press conference. We need spirit of compromise. There are divisions. There are different interests. There are different visions. There are different cultures. But the world needs compromise.
Question: Sorry. Just a quick, very quick follow-up. Has the great fracture started?
Secretary-General: We have some symptoms, but we are not yet in an irreversible situation. So we are clearly on time to avoid it. But we are seeing some aspects in which we see the risks of division piling up.
Question: Thank you, Stephane. Thank you, Secretary-General. You touched on my question actually, but we'd like to have some more details of how the UN intend to save the SDGs? What do you have in your bag of tricks? Because we don't want to see the same repeat of the 8 Millennium Goals. We keep moving the post every time. Can you give us some more details? Thank you so much.
Secretary-General: The most important initiative we had in relation to the rescuing the SDGs was the proposal of an SDG Stimulus. And I was encouraged by the fact that the G20 meeting has welcomed the SDG Stimulus. And I'm very hopeful that the declaration of the SDG Summit will also be very positive in relation to the SDG Stimulus. And that means a wide range of measures in relation to debt, in relation to concessional funding, in relation to the capitalization and at the same time, the change of the business model of multilateral development banks to give them more resources and to allow them to be much more effective in mobilizing private finance together with their actions. So there is a wide range of proposals. Some of those proposals are, I would say, completely new and they represent a meaningful change in how things are done today and the way to overcome the fact that we have a dramatic gap in financing for developing countries. And my strong hope is that the summit will be able to support the SDG Stimulus and that we will then be able, in cooperation with many other actors, to put in place measures to guarantee its implementation.
Question: Thank you, Steph. Thank you, Secretary-General. It's Pamela Falk from CBS News. Just before you walked in the room, North Korea and Russia are meeting... have met about what some people believe is an exchange of ammunition for technology. What is your message regarding North Korea's advancement of its nuclear programme?
Secretary-General: Well, I have two messages. First message. It is absolutely essential to abide by Security Council resolutions and [the Democratic People’s Republic of] Korea has been violating those Security Council resolutions. And recently, I believe yesterday, we had two new missiles… and second, any form of cooperation of any country with [the Democratic People’s Republic of] Korea must respect the sanctions regime that was imposed by the Security Council. And that obviously is extremely relevant in the case that you have mentioned.
Question: Thank you, Secretary-General. Benno Schwinghammer with the German Press Agency. As of now, it seems from the P5 countries, just one leader is coming to the high-level week. What does that say about the profile of the event? And what would you tell leaders from the global South who are concerned that the high- level week doesn't have enough punch to act on their demands?
Secretary-General: I don't think it is because we have or we have not a leader of a country that the high-level week is more relevant or less relevant. What's important is the commitments that governments are ready to make in relation to the SDGs, in relation to many other aspects of this week. So this is not a vanity fair. There is, by the way, a large number of the heads of the state and government that are coming. I can give you the statistics or maybe you can give the statistics. But that is not what matters. What matters is not the presence of this or that leader. What matters is the commitment of the respective government in relation to the objectives of the summit.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. Yoshita Singh with Press Trust of India. At the G20 Summit, the New Delhi's Leaders' Declaration was adopted by consensus under the Indian presidency amid geopolitical divides. What is your comment on the fact that this declaration was adopted by consensus? And what message does it give to the world? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, the simple fact of having a consensus means that there was a compromise and compromise is something that is essential in present dates. On the other hand, I'd like to say and I believe I should pay tribute to the Indian presidency. The Indian presidency did its best in order to have the South's voice represented and did its best to put development agenda in the centre of the discussions of the G20. Then, of course, the conclusions are what they are. It depends on what countries are ready to accept. But I think that effort needs to be underlined.
Question: Thank you, Steph. Thank you, Secretary-General. Just a quick follow-up on Ukraine and the Black Sea grain deal. You said that you'll be meeting with the Ukrainian president, Turkish president, and Russian foreign minister. Will you have separate meetings? Or will you try to bring all of them together? Thanks.
Secretary-General: They will be separate meetings. [Laughter]
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. This is Abdelhamid Siyam from the Arabic daily, al-Quds al-Arabi. This is your seventh year in office, and I had been asking you about the question of Palestine, and you keep repeating about the two-state solution, and there is no Option B. My question this time will be a little bit different. Does the Palestinian people have the right to resist occupation, similar to any people who fell under colonial powers, foreign intervention, foreign occupation? They are made heroes in their countries. We put some of their statues in the UN because they fought colonialism and foreign domination. Why only the Palestinians, when they resist their occupiers, they are labelled as terrorists or violence? Or your representative in Jerusalem, Tor Wennesland, he called it unacceptable terrorism. Why? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, I would like to say that I believe that we'll be able to have a meeting on Monday that is being organized by the European Union and several Arab countries, in order to try to put again on the table the question of the peace process. Now, I came from India and I went to pay tribute to Gandhi. Let's not forget the example of Gandhi. I think it's important to recognise, to fully recognise the rights of the Palestinian people. I think it's important to condemn any attempt to undermine the two-state solution, construction of settlements, eviction of Palestinian families and many other aspects. But I do not think that it is with violence that the Palestinians will be able to better defend their interests. That is my humble opinion.
Question: Thank you, Steph. Thank you, Secretary-General. This is Maryam Rahmati with Volant Media. My question is regarding human rights. As you know, this Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini by morality police in Iran. As you know, so many people have lost their lives. So many people have been unjustly imprisoned, and the crackdown still continues on the people in Iran. How concerned are you about human rights in Iran and woman's rights in Iran? And are you going to share these concerns when Ebrahim Raisi, the Islamic Republic President, comes to New York? And also if you can briefly tell us are you going to address the women's rights situation in Afghanistan with the world leaders during the high-level week? Thank you.
Secretary-General: The answer is yes in relation to both questions. As I did the last year, it is obviously my intention to raise the question of human rights in my meeting with the Iranian delegation. I presume that the president will be there. And the question of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan is absolutely central to all concerns and will be one of the issues that will be very much in the agenda.
Question: Hello, Secretary-General. It's Margaret Besheer with Voice of America. Just before we came to the room, your special envoy in Sudan, Mr. [Volker] Perthes, announced he's stepping down. We also heard a catastrophic humanitarian briefing from OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs). I know there's a humanitarian meeting about Sudan next week, but beyond helping on the humanitarian front, what can the UN realistically do to help solve the military aspect of this conflict? And is there any hope for any sort of bringing together of people next week around that?
Secretary-General: Well, the hope never dies, and we fully support the initiatives of the African Union and IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development). As we do, based on our belief that the best way to solve African problems is with African leadership. Unfortunately, we are witnessing a never-ending series of terrible fighting with dramatic impact on civilian population. And this is absolutely intolerable. And I think that the international community must come together to tell those that are leading the fight in Sudan, they need to stop, because what they are doing is not only the destruction of their own country, but it is a serious threat to regional peace and security.
Question: Thank you, Secretary-General. This is Alejandro Rincón with NTN24 International News Channel. Throughout the year, you have warned us about how democratic spaces around the world have receded and seem to be eroding. So I'm wondering if are you concerned whether or not you're concerned about this could be a trend that could go further? And in many countries, including in Latin America, there's different efforts to try to subvert democracies and democratic values. So in the upcoming meeting, we will try to use your many meetings with world leaders to try to strengthen democracy and prevent the further erosion of democracy and democratic values in the world.
Secretary-General: That is indeed a central question. We are witnessing in many countries of the world governments restraining the civic space, the rights of opposition, the rights of press, undermining the democratic nature of the regimes. And we are seeing even in democratic countries, because of misinformation, hate speech, polarization, and many other aspects, we are seeing how democracy can be undermined from inside. And so these are two main concerns that we have, and I believe it's extremely important to fight those that are abusing their authority to limit democracy, but also to address the root causes of the loss of trust in democratic societies that are undermining also the functioning of those democratic societies, at least in many countries in the world.
Question: Thank you, Secretary-General. This is Toshi Inaba from Kyodo News, Japan. And I'm rather new here, and kindly allow me to ask a naive question. What's the point of having UN Headquarters and UN General Assembly here in New York, one of the most expensive cities? And, there's a history and I don't know how much is spent for like housing allowance and other benefits for UN officials. But… and you might say it's the decision for Member States to make if there's a relocation. But if, you know, you might be able to save, like, millions of dollars annually for those in need. Isn't that part of your duty to pursue that possibility? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, the headquarters in New York are something that was decided by Member States in San Francisco. And then I don't think that there is a chance to change the Charter in relation to that point. But, we have been very committed in the creation of centres in different parts of the world to be able to reduce all costs. And, first of all, the General Assembly has not yet been able to agree on the locations of the back office centres that we intended to promote when I was in UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency). I did a very meaningful transfer of posts from Geneva to Budapest at the time, to be able to reduce costs. And we are very much committed and very hopeful that the General Assembly will come to a consensus in order to move as much as possible our activities to cheaper locations. So your concern is a concern that we feel. That doesn't mean that we can change the location where the General Assembly takes place.
Question: Thank you, Secretary-General. Nada with the BBC. You know, you spoke there about the need for reform at a time when the UN is more important than ever to tackle these global issues. We remember when President [Joseph] Biden first came, he talked about, you know, the United States being back on the global scene. Given its leading role in institutions that you now say are part of a bygone era, what do you want to see from the United States in terms of pushing that reform? What will you be telling President Biden about what more you want to see from his administration?
Secretary-General: Well, when one looks at the Security Council on the Bretton Woods System, I do believe that it is in the interest of the United States that in the Security Council, we have a larger representation, namely of Africa or Latin America - just to give examples, the two continents that have no permanent members in the Security Council. And that, in my opinion, would benefit, not undermine, would benefit the United States and the other permanent members, because it would give a much higher legitimacy to the Security Council, which I think is good for everybody. And in relation to the international financial system, it is true that the international financial system we have today was created after the Second World War, and it reflects what were the economic relations of the time. And so there is a very clear dominance of Western countries in relation to the international financial system. We believe that everybody has to gain to have an international financial system that reflects the present situation of the global economy. And that would guarantee also that the financial system would become much stronger than what it is today. As I have been explaining time and time again, the Bretton Woods System became smaller. The paid-in capital of the World Bank is today less than one-fifth of what it was as a percentage of global GDP in 1960, which means that the alternative to reform is not to maintain the status quo. The alternative to reform is fragmentation, is the stimulus for alternative systems to appear. And that I believe is totally against the interests of the United States and the interest of the world as a whole.
Question: Oh, thank you, Secretary-General. Linda Fasulo with NPR at the UN. My question has to do with corruption around the world. Certainly, the SDGs have not been achieved, and there is and the G20, for example, has not lived up, the countries have not lived up to their pledges. My question though focuses also on national corruption. And what you see in terms of the level of corruption and how significant is it in terms of the impact, the negative impact it has on countries in the South?
Secretary-General: It's very significant. One of the obstacles that exist in relation to the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals is the deviation of resources through corruption. And we have one agency that is particularly committed to the fight against corruption, UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime). And we have agreed that we would strengthen our role as United Nations in relation to fighting corruption globally and addressing different ways to do it effectively. For instance, one of the best instruments that corruption has is illicit financial flows. And illicit financial flows are taking place to a certain extent with the tolerance of many Member States. To fight illicit financial flows effectively, internationally, is a very important tool to limit corruption, namely in developing countries. So we have, for instance, in the African continent, more money moving out in illicit financial flows. That's the money moving in, in relation to ODA. So to fight corruption is indeed an absolutely essential instrument to make sure that countries have the resources necessary to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.
Question: Thank you, Steph. Mr. Secretary-General, this is Iftikhar Ali from Associated Press of Pakistan. My question is about follow-up on the G20 declaration, which was unanimously adopted in New Delhi. Sir, in paragraph 78, the declarations deplores all acts of religious hatred and intolerance. In this context, sir, did you raise with the Indian leadership the recent acts of violence against Christians and Muslims by Hindu extremists in India?
Secretary-General: Well, I had no meeting with Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi. There was no bilateral meeting during the G20 Summit. But our position has been very clear. Religious intolerance is a violation of human rights that is totally unacceptable.
Question: Thank you, Steph. Thank you, Secretary-General, for this briefing. Yvonne Murray from RTE News. You've just spoken about the importance of democracy to this agency. As you know, every year, democratic Taiwan makes an appeal to join the United Nations. What is your view on its ongoing exclusion from the UN?
Secretary-General: My role is not to have views. My role is to implement General Assembly resolutions. And the General Assembly resolution is clear, and we abide by the General Assembly resolution.
Question: Thank you very much, Secretary-General. Alan Bulkaty from RIA Novosti News Agency. I will follow-up on a grain deal matter. There are media publications claiming that you and President Erdogan are preparing some kind of new proposals for Russia in this regard. Could you please uncover them in some way, given the fact that Russia stated clearly that they would be satisfied only by fulfilment of the UN-Russia memorandum, but not the guarantees? Thank you.
Secretary-General: No, as it was public, we have shared with the information, full information given to the Turkish side. We have shared a number of benchmarks with the Russian Federation that we consider necessary to establish a system of mutual guarantee, allowing to re-establish the Black Sea Initiative and to facilitate, even if a lot has been done in this regard, the Russian exports. And I'd like to say because this has been in the press that those efforts are being done not to violate the sanctions regime, but within the sanctions regime - to make sure that there are not indirect impacts or chilling effects that were not wished when the sanctions regime was established.
Question: Thank you, Secretary-General. My question is on a follow-up on Maggie's question on Sudan. Are you going to accept the resignation of your special envoy to Sudan? And since you mentioned the international community in finding a solution, do you think it's the time now for a direct intervention by the Security Council to find a solution since the regional organizations failed to do so?
Secretary-General: I would hope the Security Council will be able to be united in this regard. I'm not sure that that is the case. But there are a number of initiatives that are on the table to push for a solution. And, of course, we'll be supporting those initiatives, in particular, the African Union and IGAD. But I do not see, easily, the Security Council being able to come together with a solution to be imposed on Sudan.
Question: Are you going to accept the resignation of your special envoy to Sudan?
Secretary-General: Yes. I mean, he has very strong reasons to resign and I have to respect his will and accept his resignation.
Question: My apologies for being late, but I was writing Volker Perthes's resignation announcement in the Security Council. Mr. Secretary-General, you and many diplomats we've been speaking to want to make sure that next week's high- level week meetings put the spotlight clearly on the Sustainable Development Goals, poverty, inequality. But with President Zelenskyy coming, how do you keep the spotlight off Ukraine and some of the diplomats we've been speaking to are also very concerned that other conflicts like Sudan, like Yemen, like Libya and a number of other countries aren't going to be getting any attention?
Secretary-General: Well, we don't want to have only one spotlight. We have the possibility like in several theatres to have different spotlights. And this, but I think it's very important that there is a serious discussion about Ukraine. And I think it's very important that the SDG Summit represents a quantum leap in relation to our capacity to implement the SDGs. So I believe that there is room for all issues to be seriously discussed. And I am not afraid that the different crisis we are witnessing in different parts of the world that they will take out of the agenda, the importance of the SDGs.
Question: Hello. My name is Serhii Barbu. I'm Ukrainian journalist, TV Channel 5. Since July, Russia has destroyed 250,000 tonnes of Ukrainian grain. It's all about Russian rockets and drone attacks on Ukrainian ports. This grain was supposed to be delivered to countries that need it, but it just burned. So what should be Russian responsibility for this crime? Thank you.
Secretary-General: We condemn the fact that following the end or the suspension of the Russian participation in the Black Sea Initiative that there was a systematic bombardment of harbour facilities and warehouses, of foodstuffs in Ukraine. We were very clear in condemning these and more. I said that from the point of view of the Russian Federation, this would also have consequences in reducing the goodwill that exists in other parts of the world in order to take into account also the importance of Russian exports of the same foodstuffs. So, this is a moment in which I believe it's absolutely essential to stop any attacks on any food security items or items related to food security. And it is also important that any civilian vessel in the Black Sea is not attacked.
Question: Joe Klein, from Canada Free Press. And thank you for this press conference. You have spoken repeatedly and increasingly in an urgent tone about the climate change crisis, and it's potentially devastating impact on the environment and on humankind. Yet, in fact, you said recently that the world is boiling. The new head of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), however, has urged toning down such hot rhetoric. Maybe that's a euphemism, but such extreme rhetoric that could scare people about climate change and instead try to mobilize support for practical solutions, including innovative technologies such as carbon capture. Could you on that and...?
Secretary-General: No, I have not seen that declaration. So I will not comment on a declaration that I have not seen, but I can give you a comment on the substance. I have not used any extreme rhetoric. I'm just telling the truth. And I believe there is no way we can fight climate change if we ignore the truth. And the truth is that climate change is having really devastating impacts worldwide, and we have seen it. Now, whenever I say this, I also say that there are reasons for hope, because we are not yet too late. And we need to use the understanding of how dramatic the situation is to mobilize the resources and the political will to do what can be done, because it's possible to do, which is to stick to 1.5 degrees as a limit of temperature growth at the end of the century. And, of course, to use all possible instruments and carbon storage is one of those instruments. But having said so, it is also important to say that when one talks about new instruments, they are welcome to add to our efforts, but they should not be a pretext to reduce our commitment to mitigation, because for the moment that is the main instrument we have in order to make sure that we contain global warming.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. This is a question for you as the Secretary-General, but also as a former leader of UNHCR. About those thousands of migrants that are just reaching the island of Lampedusa in Italy, in the last hours, do you think that those migrants should actually, especially the one the thousand that are arriving from Libya at the moment should be actually considered refugees? And do you think that Italy is doing anything possible at the moment? And what about the European Union?
Secretary-General: Well, I think the last flow is more from Tunisia than from Libya. That's at least the information I have. Now that question should be asked to the High Commissioner for Refugees, because he is the authority in that regard. And I always respect his authority. But I think we are witnessing, when we look at the Mediterranean, the mixed flow, we have people that clearly are refugees in line with the '51 convention and we have people that essentially moved for economic reasons. Both need to see their human rights respected. But of course, refugees, beyond their general human rights, have the rights that were defined by the '51 Convention. So I think it's a mixed flow, in my opinion. You have refugees, you have migrants. And there is a way to distinguish, which is refugee status determination. And European countries have rules that allow for this determination to be made. But I also would like to say that in relation to these flows, it's essential to have European solidarity. It's essential to have the assumption of a European responsibility. Because the effort cannot be put only in the countries that are at the borders of Europe. The effort needs to be shared by all European countries. And this is something that, when I was High Commissioner for Refugees and now as Secretary-General, I go on insisting. This is a problem that is not only a problem of the countries that receive this influx. It's a problem of the European continent and in particular, the European Union, and there must be mechanisms of solidarity and burden sharing that are effective in this regard.
Question: Thank you, Steph. Thank you, Secretary-General, for this briefing. Kris Reyes with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Secretary-General, what is your best hope and expectations in meeting with President Zelenskyy, Minister Lavrov, President Erdogan next week? And do you think that being at the United Nations, essentially, your home turf, surrounded by symbols of everything that this institution stands for, do you think that will make a difference in advancing peace talks?
Secretary-General: Well, I would love to have a chance to be able to mediate in order to have peace talks. But I think we are far from that to be possible. And we go on insisting on the need for peace, but not any kind of peace: a just peace in line with UN Charter and in line with the international law. But I hope that there will be a possibility to have meaningful discussions, namely in relation to some aspects that are relevant from the point of view of the interests of the international community as a whole. And obviously, the Black Sea Initiative is one of them.
Question: Sinan Tuncdemir from Rudaw Media Network. I have two questions. First one is, what should be the top subject in, like, high-level meetings next week? Do you have any message for the leaders? Do you think they should focus on more, like, universal and global problems, like hungers, poverty or climate change? Like, do you have any message for them? And the second question is, as you know, Erdogan wants to meet [Bashar al] Assad. But Assad doesn't want to meet him until he withdraws from Syria. Do you think that could be a good start for, like, building peace in Syria, Erdogan can… like, Türkiye can withdraw from Syria?
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, in relation to the first question, it is clear. Our most important objective in this summit is to make sure that there is a quantum leap in the capacity of the international community to push for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. In relation to peace in Syria, naturally, all forms of dialogue of the parties concerned are positive. And if there will be a dialogue that you mentioned, I hope that that dialogue can produce positive results.
Thank you very much. Thank you.