Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon began a two-day visit to Germany today by meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, with whom he discussed Sudan, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Georgia/Abkhazia, Kosovo and Iran’s nuclear programme.
Addressing reporters after their meeting, Mr. Ban expressed thanks to the country for its “overall cooperation, political, financial and military support to the United Nations,” adding that 18 UN bodies are located in Berlin, Bonn, Frankfurt and Hamburg.
He also voiced his appreciation to Ms. Merkel for her “personal leadership” for “advancing the global agenda, particularly on climate change and the food crisis and development issues.”
Also today, the Secretary-General addressed an event organized by Managing Global Insecurity and the Bertelsmann Foundation on the topic of responsible sovereignty, which he called “one of the defining challenges of the 21st century.”
In that context, he highlighted the responsibility to protect (RtoP) – a doctrine adopted by world leaders at the 2005 World Summit that holds States responsible for shielding their own populations from genocide and other major human rights abuses and requires the international community to step in if this obligation is not met.
“If Member States can indeed summon the will to act collectively in some cases like this, then others may be deterred from inciting or committing such atrocities,” the Secretary-General stated.
“Likewise, if UN rules, procedures, and practices are developed in line with this bold declaration, then there is less likelihood of RtoP principles being used to justify extra-legal interventions for other purposes,” he added.
He emphasized that the responsibility to protect does not alter the legal obligation of States to refrain from the use of force except in conformity with the UN Charter. “Rather, it reinforces this obligation. By bolstering UN prevention, protection, response, and rebuilding mechanisms, RtoP seeks to enhance the rule of law and expand multilateral options,” he said.
Earlier today in the German capital, Mr. Ban met with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, with whom he discussed Cyprus. The Secretary-General held a similar meeting with Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias yesterday in Paris.
During his two-day visit to Paris, Mr. Ban discussed all aspects of the Middle East peace process in separate meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
He commended both leaders for their continued commitment to the peace process and discussed how to make vital progress in the period ahead in the bilateral negotiations on the core issues, in implementation obligations under the Road Map, in addressing immediate concerns in Gaza and solidifying the recent calm, and on the regional track between Israel and Syria.
Speaking to reporters yesterday after meeting with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Mr. Ban said he saw some encouraging developments in the situation in the Middle East in general, including the election of a president and the formation of a unity Government in Lebanon.
He also cited the agreement between Lebanon and Syria to launch a process to establish diplomatic relations and the indirect talks between Syria and Israel through the auspices of the Turkish Government as welcome developments.