"Of course we should have started much earlier, we should have prevented Srebrenica, we should have prevented the Rwandan genocide. In Aleppo, we're doing our utmost efforts," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Ban told DW host Michel Friedman that "the future of one person, like President Assad, should not block this process." Asked if he considered Assad a mass murderer, Ban said that that was for other institutions to decide but added: "It's true that because of his failure of leadership so many people have died, more than 300,000 people have been killed."
The UN Secretary-General said that "the United States and Russia are also working very hard" to improve the situation in Syria. On diplomatic relations between Russia and the US he said: "Their relationship has been a little sensitive. I have urged Secretary Kerry and the Russian side to restore the cessation of hostilities, so we can deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance. We have to deliver a minimum for the five million people who are in besieged areas and hard-to-reach areas."
On whether Russia is part of the problem or the solution in Syria, Ban Ki-moon said: "As a secretary general, I'm not here to make any determinations on who is wrong or who is right."
Ban urged the UN member states "to fully abide by human rights principles and the values of the United Nations. After all, the UN exists for the people. We are serving the people." He admitted that "there are some areas where the UN can improve its effectiveness and efficiencies." However, crises and conflicts in Srebrenica, Darfur, Rwanda and Aleppo would have been even worse if the UN did not exist, he said. "If we didn't have the United Nations at this time, the situation [in Aleppo] would have been much more tragic, much more bloody."
On the future of the UN Security Council, Ban said: "Considering the tremendous changes which are taking place in this world, it's natural that the member states want to see a Security Council mostly responsible for international peace and security; more democratic, more transparent, more representative, so that they can effectively address international peace and security concerns. But unfortunately, member states have not been able to agree on anything including the size or formation of how this is possible."
Ban Ki-moon, born in South Korea in 1944, has been UN Secretary-General since 2007. When he retires in 2017, he will be succeeded by Antonio Guterres, former Portuguese prime minister and UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Renowned journalists Tim Sebastian and Michel Friedman take turns in presenting DW's top political talk show "Conflict Zone" with German and international decision-makers. The program airs every Wednesday at 17.30 UTC and is available online on demand.