UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave an interview to the Interfax News Agency
What do you consider to be indisputable achievements during your first year as Secretary-General? Is there anything you regret?
What I've learned over this last year is to always expect the unexpected. This is what makes being Secretary-General so profoundly interesting and exciting. In truth, this is a very humbling job. When faced with a host of global threats, such as climate change or non-proliferation, to name just two, my determination to push Member States to solve these problems the only way that they can be solved - collectively - is redoubled.
As for successes, it is up to individuals, the Member States, and other public and private organizations to assess my performance, but December's climate change conference in Bali, where world leaders took a vital first step toward reaching a comprehensive climate change accord by 2009, was a key achievement.
From my first day in the office, I have been on the go, engaging leaders in their capitals and across the UN community. All the issues which you may have seen last year, including reform of the United Nations, Darfur, climate change, and Lebanon, are ongoing and very complex, so we need to continue and step up our efforts. I think we have established good tracks on the basis of which we can move ahead on these projects.
Most commentators sound pessimistic about chances of reforming the whole United Nations system. In your opinion, what should be done in this sphere without delay?
We need to change the UN culture and re-engineer the United Nations for life in our fast-paced modern world. We need to move faster and more effectively in responding to global challenges, and we must meet the highest standards of ethics, transparency and accountability.
Is Security Council reform still on track? What is your view of this critically important UN body's future? What do you think about the idea of enlarging the number of the Council permanent members with veto power?
Security Council reform is the most important aspect of the United Nations' institutional reform. I sincerely hope that Member States will make progress on this issue because, considering the tremendous, dramatic changes in the international political scene during the last 60 years, it is necessary that the Security Council be expanded in a manner that will be acceptable to the Member States. For my part, I will spare no effort to facilitate such consultations among Member States to enable Security Council reform.
Your position on Kosovo has not always been in agreement with the attitude of Russian diplomacy. Why do you think that is? Do you see any future for the UN in Kosovo, or will the European Union soon take up exclusive responsibility there?
Security Council resolution 1244 remains in effect. Pending guidance from the Security Council, UNMIK therefore continues to consider resolution 1244 as the legal framework for its mandate and implement it in light of the evolving circumstances. My overeaching objectives continue to be to ensure the safety and security of the population in Kosovo, with particular attention to the minority communities, to uphold international peace and security and the overall stability in Kosovo and the region, to ensure the safety of UN staff, and to safeguard the UN's achievements and legacy in Kosovo and the Balkans.
Russia and a number of other countries have warned that Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence might trigger a "parade of sovereignties." In particular, prospects for independence are being openly discussed now in Palestine, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Intentions to secede from Kosovo are being publicly stated in Mitrovica. Do you see such a threat? Is international recognition of the above-mentioned self-proclaimed entities possible?
I wouldn't want to speculate about what may or may not happen throughout the world as a result of developments in Kosovo. Each situation needs to be examined based on its unique circumstances. Without commenting on Kosovo's independence itself, I wish to note that Kosovo is a highly distinctive situation by the virtue of the fact of the international community's intervention in the exercise of Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo since 1999. I wish to also remind you that recognition of countries is a matter for individual Member States - not the Secretary-General or the United Nations Secretariat.
The North Korean nuclear issue seems close to being resolved. Do you think that the DPRK is still a problem for the international community? What should be done by Pyongyang to put an end to its international isolation?
I am encouraged by the progress that has been made on the DPRK nuclear issue, and continue to support the six-party process, which has brought about considerable positive results in recent years. I continue to hope that the six-party process can help to resolve the outstanding issues concerning the DPRK and bring the country into greater contact with the wider international community.
Should one be equally optimistic about the Iran nuclear issue? What is your take on the position of a number of States who consider that Tehran's plans are a real challenge to peace and security and thus are taking preventive measures to stave off a possible nuclear threat from Iran?
In terms of the Iranian nuclear issue, I welcome the continued dialogue between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as the progress achieved under the work plan agreed by both parties in August 2007. At the same time, I stress the utmost importance of full compliance by the Iranian Government with the relevant Security Council resolutions. As for measures taken by individual States for their own security needs, that is a matter to address to those States, on which I have no comment.
What do you think about the current state of the Middle East peace process? What is your attitude towards Russia's idea to convene an international conference on the Middle East?
I am very concerned by the situation on the ground, and in Gaza in particular, over the last ten days, and have spoken out publicly on this. Politically, I applaud the sense of responsibility and indeed political courage Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas showed earlier this year in re-embarking on the political process despite public skepticism and many anxieties. The Annapolis process needs to move forward and it needs support. The international community should do everything it can to ensure that the parties move ahead in the bilateral negotiations towards an agreement on all core issues without exception.
But the Annapolis process can only be sustained by real changes on the ground. For my part, I will continue to remind all parties of the framework of international law, and to work closely with Quartet partners, regional countries, and the Security Council, towards implementation of the Road Map. The goal must be an end to the occupation that began in 1967 and the coexistence in peace and security of the State of Israel and the State of Palestine.
Regarding Russia's idea to convene an international conference on the Middle East, I have been discussing this with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Quartet members for some time now. I understand that the Russian Government is still carrying out consultations on this issue. In general, I am supportive of the concept and hope that a conference will take place. But I prefer to await an actual proposal from the Russian Government before commenting further.
On Darfur, on the one hand, the UN and the African Union managed to deploy a joint peacekeeping operation, unique in its scale. On the other hand, the peacekeeping force does not possess enough "muscle," while reports from the area remain disturbing. What are possible ways out of this situation, which is beginning to look like yet another stalemate in Africa?
In my most recent report to the Security Council on the deployment of the African Union-United Nations hybrid operations in Darfur (UNAMID), I reported on the sharply deteriorating situation in West Darfur.
In light of the security conditions on the ground, the most urgent priority in Darfur is the establishment of a cessation of hostilities, with effective mechanisms for monitoring compliance and violations. To this end, I urge the Sudanese Government and all parties to cooperate fully with the efforts of the Special Envoys of the African Union and the United Nations to convene negotiations as soon as possible.
There is a need to demonstrate that UNAMID can bring a material improvement to the lives of the people of Darfur or it must risk losing their confidence, and so I appeal to all UNAMID troop and police contributors to expedite the deployment of units and assets pledged to the mission. I urge Member States to provide the outstanding enabling units, including air assets.
The fortunes of the "bottom billion" seem to be the most natural among your priorities. What is your evaluation of recent trends? Were there any events proving a qualitative shift towards better conditions in the poorest countries? What is to be done to involve not only governments and international organizations in this work?
The "bottom billion" cannot be forgotten. Most live in Africa or the small developing islands of Asia, eking out lives of hardship on incomes of less than $1 a day. We must pay careful attention to these nations with special needs. We must heed the voices of the world's poorest people, who too often go unheard. And we must redouble our efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals, particularly in Africa. I will seek to mobilize political will and hold leaders to their commitments on aid, trade and debt relief.
We, the UN, governments, civil society and corporations, all have a role to play in this struggle. We have entered a new phase of globalization -- one that creates inclusive and sustainable markets, builds development and enhances international cooperation through the active cooperation of the public and private sectors. The UN's Global Compact programme is an outstanding example of that cooperation and partnership.