Obama Meets With U.N. Secretary General

Remarks by President Barack Obama and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

President Barack Obama: Well, let me just say that I am very grateful for the Secretary General taking the time to visit with us today.  As I’ve said previously, I think the United Nations can be an extraordinarily constructive, important partner in bringing about peace and stability and security to people around the world.  And the Secretary General has shown extraordinary leadership during his tenure as Secretary General.

We had a wide-ranging conversation.  There are a host of international issues that we both agreed have to be addressed.  We talked about the economic crisis and how that’s affecting not only developed countries, but very poor countries around the world, and the potential threat to food supplies if it continues to worsen, and the need for international coordination.

We discussed the issue of Afghanistan, where the Secretary General has been very helpful in bringing together a donors conference.  We’re going to be talking about how we can ramp up and better coordinate civilian activities in Afghanistan so that we can be more effective in that region.  And we also talked about the upcoming elections in Afghanistan.

We discussed Haiti and the concerns that we both have about a long-suffering country that’s just gone through a terrible crisis as a consequence of hurricanes.

And one of the things that we spent I think the most time talking about was the issue of Darfur.  As many of you are aware, we have a ongoing crisis in Darfur that has heightened recently, where the Khartoum government has kicked out some of the most important nongovernmental organizations that provide direct humanitarian aid to millions of people who’ve been internally displaced in the Sudan.  And we have a potential crisis of even greater dimensions that what we already saw.

I impressed upon the Secretary General how important it is from our perspective to send a strong, unified, international message that it is not acceptable to put that many people’s lives at risk; that we need to be able to get those humanitarian organizations back on the ground; and that the United States wants to work as actively as possible with the United Nations to try to resolve the immediate humanitarian crisis and to start putting us on a path for long-term peace and stability in the Sudan.

And this is something that the United States Secretary to the United Nations, Secretary Rice, has been working on diligently.  It’s something that we care about deeply.  And we’re hopeful that we can make some significant progress.

Last point that I would make is Secretary Ban has spoken extensively about the issue of climate change, and as all of you know, this is something that my administration is deeply concerned about, as well.  We welcome his leadership.  We’re looking forward to working with some of the major countries involved to figure out how, even in the midst of economic crisis, we can move forward and prevent what could be longer-term ecological crises that could

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