|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Guest at Noon
After we are done with the briefing, Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict will be our guest. She will be here to present the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict.
Then at 2:45 p.m. here in this room we will have the Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Division on Sustainable Development here to launch the latest Global Development Report.
From Iraq, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country, Nickolay Mladenov, expressed his regret that Iraq’s newly elected Council of Representatives was not able to reach an agreement on naming a Speaker today.
He called upon all political leaders to set aside their differences and elect a Speaker during the next session which is due to be held next week. That step would allow the Parliament to elect a new President, move forward on the government formation process and engage in resolving the legitimate concerns of various communities. Mr. Mladenov again warned that any delay or failure to observe the deadline set by the Iraqi Constitution will be detrimental to the country’s integrity and more information is available on the mission’s website.
Also from Iraq, the Mission (UNAMI) released today the new casualty figures for June. It says that at least 2,417 Iraqis have been killed and another 2,287 have been injured in acts of terrorism and violence during the month. The Mission reports that this includes more than 1,500 civilian deaths — the highest toll in one month since 2007. Mr. Mladenov said the staggering number of civilian casualties in one month points to the urgent need for Iraqi leaders to restore security and address the root causes of violence through a Constitutional political process.
At today’s briefing in Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned in the strongest terms the surge in violence and killings in Iraq. The office continues to strongly urge all parties to the conflict to respect international human rights and international humanitarian law and has called on the Iraqi authorities to hold accountable those responsible for violations.
And also earlier this morning, you would have seen the Secretary-General had expressed his deep gratitude to the Government of Saudi Arabia for their generosity, following the Government’s contribution of $500 million to the UN for lifesaving humanitarian efforts in Iraq. The Secretary-General welcomes the timely funding which will help UN agencies and partners support millions of Iraqis impacted by the ongoing conflict.
And as you know, yesterday the Secretary-General had condemned in the strongest terms the murder of three Israeli teenagers who were abducted on 12 June in the West Bank and said there can be no justification for the deliberate killing of civilians. The Secretary-General believes the heinous act by enemies of peace aims to further entrench divisions and distrust to widen the conflict. It must not be allowed to succeed, he said. He called on all parties to abide by their obligations under international law and to refrain from any actions that could further escalate this highly tense situation. The full statement is online.
Also today, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, added that his thoughts are with the bereaved families of the three Israeli teenagers who were killed. He said that the perpetrators must be brought to justice, as any association with or support for terror or violence must be rejected and will have consequences for those concerned. In this regard, Mr. Serry continues to be deeply troubled by statements from Hamas representatives suggesting support for this heinous act.
And in Geneva, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also mourned the killings and called on all Israelis and Palestinians to exercise maximum restraint and to prevent the situation from worsening further. The Human Rights Office reiterated its call for strict adherence to all international law by relevant actors and to avoid the further loss of life and injuries and negative impact on human rights and that full statement is available online.
The heads of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) warned today that funding difficulties, compounded by security and logistical problems in some countries, have forced cuts in rations for nearly 800,000 refugees in Africa.
At a meeting in Geneva, the WFP Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin, and the High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, made an urgent plea for $186 million to allow WFP to restore full rations and prevent further reductions elsewhere through December 2014. For its part, UNHCR needs $39 million for nutrition support it provides to malnourished and vulnerable refugees in Africa.
Across Africa, 2.4 million refugees in some 200 sites in 22 countries depend on regular food aid from WFP. A third of those have seen reductions in their rations. Supplies have been cut by at least 50 per cent for nearly 450,000 refugees in remote camps and other sites in the Central African Republic, Chad and South Sudan. Another 338,000 refugees in Liberia, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Ghana, Mauritania and Uganda have seen their rations reduced between 5 and 43 per cent.
And from South Sudan, our humanitarian colleagues say that aid operations in Bentiu, Unity State, continue at full pace, though the security situation in the area remains tense. Aid agencies continue to scale up water and sanitation with now one latrine for every 100 people sheltering in the UN base, and seven litres of water per person per day.
Aid agencies have launched operations in Nhialdu, south-west of Bentiu, where many of the displaced arriving in Bentiu live. Initial reports indicate that the food security situation is extremely worrying. The first loads of relief supplies flew in to that area yesterday with distributions starting today. Humanitarian agencies have also launched operations in Koch, further south, which is one of the areas that has been harder to reach during the crisis. Humanitarian agencies aim to assist 3.8 million people by the end of the year. So far, 1.9 million people across South Sudan have received some form of assistance this year.
And from Somalia, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country, Nicholas Kay, today congratulated the people of Somalia as they celebrated their fifty-fourth Independence Day. He called on all Somalis to unite and to continue working together to build a peaceful future in their country and that statement is available online.
From Pakistan, the UN and non-governmental organizations are helping nearly 470,000 people uprooted in North Waziristan in Pakistan, near the country’s border with Afghanistan. The displacement of these people — three quarters of whom are women and children — was triggered by the Pakistani military’s operations against armed insurgents in the area. Nearly 100,000 people have also fled to Afghanistan Khost province seeking shelter. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says food, medicine and sanitation services, among others, have been provided to the displaced.
And today, the Secretary-General has appointed Major General Delali Johnson Sakyi of Ghana as the Chief Military Observer and Head of the Mission for the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). He succeeds Major General [Young-Bum] Choi of the Republic of Korea, who completed his two-year assignment on 16 June 2014. The Secretary-General is grateful for his contribution to UN Peacekeeping. Major General Sakyi most recently served as Force Commander with the UN Mission in South Sudan. We have more information in my office.
And just to flag that in a LinkedIn Influencer video interview released this morning, the Secretary-General discussed his priorities, including why he has taken on climate change, gender equality and mobility at the UN. The interview is available on the Secretary-General’s LinkedIn Influencer account and on all UN social media platforms.
And tomorrow, we’ll be joined here by John Ging, Operations Director at OCHA, and Ted Chaiban, Director of Emergency Programmes for UNICEF. They will be here to brief on their recent visit to Somalia and Yemen.
And at 12:30 p.m., you will have your regular briefing from the Ambassador, the President of the Security Council for July, Ambassador Richard Gasana of Rwanda who will brief you on the programme of work.
That’s it for me. Edie?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Steph, the Fifth Committee met until 3 o’clock in the morning and they were unable to reach agreement on a peacekeeping budget, which means the Department of Peacekeeping (DPKO) is currently unfunded. What impact is this going to have on UN peacekeeping operations?
Spokesman: Well, as we understand it, the discussions are still ongoing. We’re following them closely. What is critical and what is important for us, for the Department of Peacekeeping, is to have a stable source of funding, but we’re obviously following the discussions closely. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Follow-up on that, in covering it, it seems that Under-Secretary-General [Hervé] Ladsous and a guy called Rick Martins briefed the G-77 [“Group of 77” developing countries and China], and among the questions that arose were this $2 million in cuts which were being proposed. Mr. Ladsous said the cuts in UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation] in Darfur would definitely be undertaken, and I wanted to know, one, can you describe how do those cuts have to do with what many have described as an upsurge in violence there, and two, have to do with what many have called for a review of the voracity or completeness of reporting of UNAMID of Government killings in Darfur?
Spokesman: I think on UNAMID, on the reports as you know, we’ve, there’s been a strategic review undertaken and we’re obviously taking a look at the Mission. On, you know, the size and scope of the missions, the mandates are decided by the Security Council, and I said, we are just keeping an eye on the Fifth Committee as it continues.
Question: But the $200 million, if you don’t mind, the $200 million figure, does that come from the so-called partners? Donor nations? Or does it come from DPKO?
Spokesman: If I have more I’ll give that to you. Great. Yes?
Question: Thank you, I apologize if you already have spoken about this topic in the past weeks I’ve been away for a while, but it appears that the US Government has intelligence about some association between the Al Nusra front in Syria and the Al-Qaida front in the Arabian peninsula to create a new non-metallic explosives.
Spokesman: I’m sorry, you need to speak a little louder.
Question: Ah, you don’t hear me?
Spokesman: No, that’s fine; just put the microphone a little closer.
Question: Since when? From the very beginning?
Spokesman: No, just the second part.
Question: Okay, they are supposedly jointly working to produce a new and creative design for non-metallic explosives. This has been going around in the media for a while. And in Europe, we are all expecting to see if United States is going to ask for extra security at the airports right now in the summer. Has this report about Al Nusra, Al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula cooperating in Syria, has it arrived on the desk of the Secretary-General? Do you have anything on it?
Spokesman: I’m not aware of the particular report on this new type of explosive, but I’ll see, I’ll ask around. Mr. Avni?
Question: Yes, I heard what you said about Serry and his concern about Hamas. The question is, since Israel has blamed Hamas and pointed the finger at Hamas as the perpetrator of the killing, does the United Nations share that part of it? I mean, does the United Nations have any inkling as to whether Hamas is responsible or not?
Spokesman: No, I think what Mr. Serry was referring to were statements that were made in the media.
Question: Follow-up on this. Since there was, in this room, some doubt as to whether there was a kidnapping at all, since today there was a tape released just now in which one of the kids was whispering in a phone call to police that “we’ve been kidnapped”, isn’t it time that maybe the Office of the United Nations in Israel would stop distancing itself from every statement made by the Israelis?
Spokesman: I don’t really understand what you mean by distancing. I think that the…
Question: Well, last week, there was question here whether there was a kidnapping at all and the answer was that there was no independent verification.
Spokesman: I would refer you to the statements being made in this room and the Security Council, including here just a few minutes ago by me when we referred to them as having been abducted, and I would leave it as that. Yes, sir?
Question: Thank you, would you please provide us with on some details on the exchange between Mr. Jeffrey Feltman and Mrs. Bouthaina Shaaban in Oslo? Thank you.
Spokesman: I will look into that.
Question: So, are you aware of it?
Spokesman: I said I will look into it. Yes, Matthew?
[The Spokesman later said that Mr. Feltman did meet Bouthaina Shaaban on the margins of the Oslo Forum.]
Question: Sure, I wanted to ask about Ukraine and DRC [ Democratic Republic of the Congo]. On Ukraine, obviously as the President [Petro] Poroshenko has renewed air strikes and artillery strikes and has said, there’s kind of a quote I wanted to ask you about, where he says, “We’ll free the land from parasites.”
Spokesman: I expect to have some language for Ukraine very shortly.
Question: What about this word parasite?
Spokesman: I said I expect to have some language for Ukraine very shortly. Do you have a second question?
[The Spokesman later read the following: The Secretary-General is following with grave concern reports of renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine. He is extremely disappointed that the unilateral ceasefire declared by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko never achieved the momentum needed to end the violence. He renews his call on all sides in Ukraine to not give up the idea of a functioning ceasefire and work toward a definitive cessation of violence through a continued political and diplomatic process. The Secretary-General reiterates that a continuation of hostilities can only further exacerbate an already precarious situation. He strongly condemns the persistent unlawful violence at the hands of armed militia groups and enjoins them to lay down their weapons and express their grievances peacefully and in accordance with international law.]
Question: Yeah, I do actually, I wanted to ask about, on Friday when I asked about this report or complaint to the Security Council Section Committee about MONUSCO flying Mr. Remuli around, you said it was at the request of a group of Special Envoys. Who, which Special Envoys? Apparently, Mary Robinson and maybe Belgium’s own envoy? Was Russ Feingold part of it? Was…
Spokesman: Yes, my understanding the US was part of it, and the complaint you referred to was about, reportedly, the reports that he had flown outside of the country, which as you know was not the case, contrary to what was reported.
Question: But there’s a whole paragraph in the complaint letter that says that, why did MONUSCO undertake to fly to Goma, to Kisangani and Kinshasa? And the reason why I keep asking about this is it seems like it’s a use of UN resources, just knowing why this flight took place.
Spokesman: Sure, if I have something on that I will share it with you. Yes, sir?
Question: Since yesterday, of course, the Israelis have been waging some kind of attacks on Gaza and almost since the abductions have happened, nine Palestinians have been killed, almost 600 have been arrested. Are there any mediations being done from the United Nations in order to stop the aggression against Gaza and the population in the West Bank?
Spokesman: I think both the Secretary-General in statements and Mr. Feltman have called [for] restraint and have called for the full adherence to international law in these operations and have flagged the detainees that have been taken by the Israelis in Security Council briefings.
Question: I have another question, regarding the Iraqi refugees. Has Saudi Arabia opened the borders for any Iraqi refugees or Syrian refugees since the outbreak of this crisis?
Spokesman: I will check with UNCHR but my feeling is that you know the answer to the question you’ve asked. But I will check, I didn’t mean that, I will check with UNHCR and in the meantime, I will get our guest.
* *** *For information media • not an official record