WASHINGTON, DC, February 14, 2013 (ENS) – Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held talks in Washington D.C. today focused on high risk issues, including climate change, the nuclear test conducted by North Korea, the wars in Syria and Mali and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“U.S. leadership will remain crucial in the period ahead,” Ban said during a press encounter with the newly-appointed Secretary of State.
“We have been working very closely on many regional political security issues and also global issues including climate change,” said Ban. “I’m very much encouraged to work with you to achieve a legally binding [climate] treaty by 2015.”
“I have been very encouraged by President Obama’s call to action on climate change both at his Inauguration and in the State of the Union Address,” said the UN chief. “This is a global imperative.”
Secretary of State Kerry said that climate change is a topic which he and the secretary general have discussed together many times. “It’s something that he is passionate about and I am passionate about,” he said.
Referring to President Obama’s call to deal with climate change, Kerry said, “it was a call that he expressed in renewed and urgent terms, which I think the world heard. He has urged all of us to tackle this challenge head on, as he said, for the sake of our children and our future.”
Ban also welcomed President Obama’s stated intention to pursue reductions in nuclear arsenals.
“In both these global issues,” he said, “the Secretary of State is committed more than anybody else, and I know that you will fill this important role – your role – with great knowledge and vision and passion that have been the hallmarks of your career.”
“With respect to the nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DRPK, this was a direct challenge to the international community,” Ban said.
“I have repeatedly called on the leadership of Pyongyang to give up its pursuit of nuclear programs and to instead focus on building a better future for the country’s people by addressing dire humanitarian and human rights situations,” he said.
“I encourage the Security Council to act with unity and to take appropriate measures as soon as possible,” Ban said. “I count on the Secretary of State’s strong leadership.”
Kerry said, “With respect to North Korea, this week’s test was an enormously provocative act that warrants a strong, a swift, and a credible response from the global community. And I want to echo the Security Council’s statement that this test is a clear threat to peace and security in the world.”
“In the days ahead, Mr. Secretary General, we’re going to ramp up our coordination with the Six-Party partners, with the Security Council and other UN members, and other allies and partners in order to guarantee that we respond appropriately,” Kerry said.
The two men also consulted on the desperate humanitarian situation created by the war in Syria.
Kerry said he spoke this morning with Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud al-Faisal. “The first thing he mentioned to me was, in his estimate, perhaps as many as 90,000 people who have been killed in Syria, vast numbers of refugees, which creates enormous dislocation and burdens on the countries that are prepared to receive them.”
Calling this a “dangerous humanitarian situation,” Kerry said Syria’s President Assad “has the ability to be able to make the difference here by deciding to engage in a legitimate diplomatic process. He must end this killing.”
Ban said, “The tragedy continues to deepen without any prospect of a political resolution.”
“We need to rally the international community in response to the UN’s appeal for more funds in order to deal with the humanitarian assistance for those suffering inside Syria as well as those people who have been dislocated,” Kerry said.
Countries and regional organizations in January pledged more than $1.5 billion to provide humanitarian assistance to civilians affected by the conflict in Syria, exceeding the initial target set by the United Nations and its partners.
Recent months have brought an escalation in the conflict, which has left more than four million people in need of humanitarian assistance, including two million who have fled their homes and are now living without basic services.
Said Ban, “In addition to these and other crises, the United Nations is striving to defeat poverty and advance sustainable development.”
On Monday, Ban told the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington that Syria and climate change are two major issues that threaten huge, global consequences.
“Fighting rages. Sectarian hatred is on the rise. The catalogue of war crimes is mounting. Sexual violence is widespread,” said Ban of the situation in Syria, as he delivered the Sorensen Distinguished Lecture at the think tank.
“In both cases, the international community is not upholding its responsibilities,” Ban said. “Both risk the harsh judgement of history should present trends continue. And both require collective action that must involve the United States.”
Turning next to what he called “the gathering threat of climate change,” Ban noted that scientists have long sounded the alarm on what he called the gathering threat,” stressing that the potential consequences were well known, including “a downward global spiral of extreme weather and disaster,” along with development reversals, increased displacement, aggravated tensions over resources and destabilization of fragile states.
Despite the dire possibilities, he said, “Too many leaders seem content to keep climate change at arm’s length, and in its policy silo. Too few grasp the need to bring the threat to the center of global security, economic and financial management.”
“It is time to move beyond spending enormous sums addressing the damage, and to make the investments that will repay themselves many times over,” Ban said, noting the potential of the renewable industry to do that and to spur the world economy, as proposed in his Sustainable Energy for All initiative.
“A global climate change agreement would give us the engine we need to advance us decisively on this path,” he stressed.
Calling for government and business leaders to mobilize the political will for a global, legally binding climate change agreement by 2015, Ban said, “World leaders have pledged to reach an agreement, and we must hold them to that promise.”