|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.
I’ll start off with a statement on Iraq.
The Secretary-General is gravely concerned by the serious deterioration of the security situation in Mosul, where thousands of civilians have been displaced in the recent violence. He strongly condemns the terrorist attacks in Anbar, Baghdad, Diyala, Ninewa, and Salah al-Din provinces that have killed and wounded scores of civilians over the past several days. The Secretary-General extends his profound condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government of Iraq.
The Secretary-General urges all political leaders to show national unity against the threats facing Iraq, which can only be addressed on the basis of the Constitution and within the democratic political process. He encourages the Government of Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government to cooperate in restoring security to Ninewa Province and in delivering urgently needed humanitarian aid. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) stands ready to help these efforts.
The Secretary-General remains deeply concerned about the situation in Anbar. He welcomes the convening of an Anbar reconciliation conference and strongly encourages all local tribal, political and religious leaders to participate constructively in order to put an end to the fighting.
The Secretary-General recalls that all Member States have an obligation to implement and enforce the targeted financial sanctions, arms embargo and travel ban imposed on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) under the sanctions regime pursuant to Security Council resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1989 (2011).
The United Nations, including UNAMI, will continue to support the Government and the people of Iraq in building a peaceful, democratic and prosperous country.
And also I have another statement on Kosovo. In a statement issued this morning, the Secretary-General welcomes the successful conduct of elections for the Assembly of Kosovo on 8 June 2014. He is encouraged by the preliminary positive reports from local and international observers, as well as the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), of the smooth and orderly conduct of the elections and broad public participation throughout Kosovo. He commends Kosovo’s authorities and population on this achievement.
The Secretary-General calls on the Kosovo authorities to remain committed to strengthening democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights of all in Kosovo. He looks forward to a renewed high-level engagement by Belgrade and Pristina in the European Union-facilitated dialogue, once the new leadership is in place in Pristina. The United Nations and UNMIK will continue to support this important engagement. The full statement is available online.
From Afghanistan, the UN Assistance Mission in that country called today for continued improvements to the national electoral process, ahead of the second round of presidential elections scheduled for 14 June.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Jan Kubiš, who met with the Commissioners of the Independent Electoral Commission yesterday, said that the electoral institutions must help to improve transparency and communication in the management of results. Further improvements to the electoral process will build trust and reassure the Afghan people that their vote counts.
The UN Mission also welcomed the release of a new report by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. The report documents views from over 4,600 Afghans on prospects for peace in the country. We have further information in my office.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
And from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we have additional information about new combatants laying down arms. In South Kivu, a group of 83 combatants of the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) formally disarmed. It is the first operation of voluntary disarmament of FDLR combatants in the South Kivu province. They were accompanied by 234 dependents. The voluntary disarmament of FDLR combatants continues to be a priority, but the UN Mission in the country warns that the military option is still on the table if the process is abandoned or unsuccessful.
And from South Sudan, the UN Mission in that country (UNMISS) is observing talks at the extraordinary session of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, otherwise known as IGAD, at their Assembly of Heads of State and Government which opened in Addis Ababa today. The next round of negotiations between the Government and the Opposition of South Sudan is scheduled to begin on Thursday.
Meanwhile, in Upper Nile State, the Mission reports heavy gunfire and mortar shelling from the direction of Jazeera Islands yesterday. And in Unity State, the Mission says that some State officials have been using Radio Bentiu to deliver hostile messages to the local community. The UN strongly condemns the use of Radio Bentiu for these purposes which is creating more divisions and undermining efforts to stabilize the situation in South Sudan.
And today in Geneva, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, delivered her final opening address to a session of the Human Rights Council. In her speech, she highlighted human rights problems around the world, including in Syria, where she said that Aleppo has been bombed to rubble, with widespread loss of life and extensive damage to fundamental infrastructure. She reiterated her disappointment that the Security Council has been unable to reach agreement on action to ensure accountability for crimes in Syria.
And on Sri Lanka, she said her office has put in place a staff team that will be supported by several experts and Special Procedures mandate holders, to conduct the comprehensive investigation mandated by the Human Rights Council to advance accountability and reconciliation.
Among other topics, she said that she was disturbed by the military coup in Thailand, including suspension of constitutional guarantees of human rights and detention of former government members and political activists. The High Commissioner added that she was disturbed by the recent increase across the political spectrum in several States in Western Europe of a discourse rooted in anti-immigrant and racist sentiment and religious intolerance. And her full statement is available online.
The World Health Organization and UNICEF have warned that outbreaks of measles in several regions of Somalia have left many children at risk of disability or death. Millions of children need to be urgently vaccinated against the highly contagious disease. In March and April of this year, there were over 1,350 cases — four times the number seen during the same period last year. In May alone, nearly 1,000 cases of measles have been recorded.
UNICEF reports that malnourished children, seen in high numbers in Somalia, are more susceptible to measles. The UN agencies have appealed for $9 million to conduct a nation-wide vaccination campaign targeting about 5 million children and youth under 15 years of age. Funding gaps for humanitarian efforts in Somalia remain a major issue. So far, aid organizations have only received about 21 per cent of the humanitarian appeal, asking for $933 million this year.
And also from the World Health Organization (WHO), it said today that it had been informed by China of four additional cases of avian influenza among people. The WHO says there is the potential for the virus to spread through the movement of live poultry, but that at this time there is no indication that it has spread internationally. It also notes that there has been no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, so the risk of ongoing international spread by travellers is considered low. The WHO encourages countries to continue strengthening influenza surveillance, and more information can be found on the WHO website.
From London, the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, organized by the Government of the United Kingdom, kicked off in London today. The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and the refugee agency’s Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie, are co-chairing the high-level summit.
UN officials, including the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura; the Executive Director of UN-Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; and UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos are expected to attend. UN-Women will be presenting the Secretary-General’s Guidance Note on Reparations for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence during the Summit. And we will try to get more information on this as the day goes on.
Also, tomorrow, a high-level “Interactive Dialogue on Addressing Conditions Conducive to the Spread of Terrorism” will take place tomorrow from 9:30 to 11 in the Trusteeship Council Chamber. That event is being held under the auspices of the President of the General Assembly, and he and the Secretary-General will both speak.
And lastly, tomorrow, the General Assembly will hold a plenary meeting to elect the President of its sixty-ninth session, and that is tomorrow. And then we expect the person who is expected to win that vote to speak to you after the vote.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Right here?
Spokesman: No, wherever the GA is meeting in plenary, which I assume is the North Lawn building. If it’s not, I will let you know.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Two quick questions. You talked about Navi Pillay’s statement on Syria, and today the ICIS… ISIS terrorists… ISIS terrorists are actually in control of a few cities in Iraq, in northern Iraq close to Mosul, the city of Ninewa is under their control. Do you guys have any statement on that? And also on Ukraine, USG [for Political Affairs Jeffrey] Feltman was there and he came back but we haven’t heard about the SG’s position on Crimea. What is his position on Crimea? Do you recognize annexation or you do not? Thank you.
Spokesman: Two things: on Iraq, I think you may have come in a little late, but I read out a lengthy statement so I will spare your colleagues the re-reading of that lengthy statement. And you can find it online and I think you will find that it answers the questions that you raised.
On Ukraine, the Secretary-General continues to be guided by the relevant General Assembly resolution, and as for Mr. Feltman, he did represent, as you know, the Secretary-General at the inauguration of President Poroshenko and he had a number of meetings, and we put out a note to correspondents on that yesterday.
Question: Yes, since you mentioned the election…
Spokesman: You’ve got to be ready.
Question: I am ready. Since you mentioned the election for the… election… the selection of the GA President, is the Secretary-General in principle concerned about anti-homosexuality laws in several countries, including the one of that… the… Secretary-General… the new Secretary-General… the new President represents?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General as you know has spoken out very forcefully over the past years on the need to ensure that LGBT people enjoy the same human rights as anyone else and that they enjoy the same protection of the law and the same protection of the rule of law as anyone else, so I think no one can question the Secretary-General’s commitment on these issues and he has spoken out in various countries very directly and he has raised this issue with Heads of State and Government. As for the soon-to-be President-elect of the General Assembly, that is a choice made by the Member States. It is their prerogative and it does not involve the Secretary-General, though, I will add, the Secretary-General will speak at the plenary meeting tomorrow.
Question: But just to follow up, is he concerned about the symbolism of somebody who represents a country that has legislated, as you said, you know, anti-LGBT laws at such a high level at the UN?
Spokesman: I think, you know, again, the choice of the President of the General Assembly is made by Member States. Edie? If you’ve yielded to the gentleman to your right…
Correspondent: No, he took it.
Question: Right. Steph, on, going back to Iraq, is the United Nations trying to do anything more in promoting dialogue and an end to this violence? I noted that the only thing that you mentioned was helping out on the humanitarian side.
Spokesman: I think the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Mr. Mladenov, also met yesterday with the Prime Minister to how we can help to support the Government in the dialogues, especially the reconciliation dialogues in Anbar province that brings together tribal leaders and political leaders as well as religious leaders. Let’s go down the line here, go ahead.
Question: Steph, regarding Myanmar, since there are continuous very strong statements, warning, from the United Nations and UNHCR that Rohingya Muslims under the various circumstances as a result of the inter-ethnic violence there, does the Secretary-General, did the Secretary-General, and what talked to when he had an opportunity to talk to the Myanmar officials including Aung San Suu Kyi, if I’m not wrong with the pronunciation of her name, and what are the next steps of Mr. Nambiar in that sense?
Spokesman: I don’t think… I’m not aware of any high-level contacts recently between the Secretary-General and Myanmar authorities. As I mentioned yesterday, the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs is in Myanmar for the next four days and she’ll be back here next week and she has promised to come and brief you. So she’s gone to those states and those areas that you mentioned so we’ll have an update next week.
Question: What about Mr. Nambiar?
Spokesman: I’ll see if I have anything new on that, I’ll let you know.
Question: Just quick one more. Do we know where is the date… is the date is set for Prince Zeid, the Secretary-General choice for the new High Commissioner…
Spokesman: 1 September.
Question: Excuse me?
Spokesman: 1 September.
Question: September, but when the General Assembly will vote or confirm that?
Spokesman: Oh, for the vote? It should be in the coming… I’m sorry I didn’t want to anticipate your question. It should be in the next few days.
Question: Given that [inaudible] controlling both sides of the Syrian border, [inaudible] and also Ninewa in Iraq, how’s the humanitarian aid going to be delivered in these regions? I mean across border aid. [inaudible] has received some in the past. Would they continue, I mean, even under ISIS rule?
Spokesman: I think as you heard from Ms. Amos when she was here, our humanitarian colleagues through the incredible support of local NGOs in Syria, notably the Syrian Red Cross, are trying to deliver aid wherever they can. Access remains very difficult, not only cross-border, but especially across the lines. What we can do is ask OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] for some recent numbers on aid deliveries in those areas, but obviously, we are trying to reach the most vulnerable people wherever they are.
Question: I have another two questions regarding one; the prisoners in Palestine by the Israelis, they are… they are… [inaudible] now it’s almost two months since they started their hunger strike. You issued a statement two days ago, but is there any follow-up? Are you in contacts in order to alleviate their suffering? These people are…
Spokesman: I will check with the Special Coordinator’s office. Yes?
Question: One last question regarding the water supply in the Euphrates. Today, there’s a large article in As-Safir and interviewing people concerned in Aleppo and elsewhere, confirming that the water shortage is there and the supply of water is intermittent. Sometimes they allow it and sometimes they deny. The Turkish authorities are not supplying Syria its allocation of water and obviously they are using water as their weapon to get some, some concessions from Syria. So what’s the position of the United Nations?
Spokesman: Again, I will check with our humanitarian colleagues. It’s not from lack of asking. Masood?
Question: Yes, Stéphane on this process of nominating Jordan’s Ambassador as the new human rights chief, did the Secretary-General have a shortlist I am not aware of… that he… when he selected Jordan’s Ambassador to be the next… what do you call it… human rights… what’s it called… human rights chief?
Spokesman: You know the post advertised through posting on the Secretary-General’s website. People were interviewed and one person was selected.
Question: Yes, my understanding is that both China and Viet Nam have sent letters to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon regarding the dispute over the drilling platform in the South China Sea. Other than distributing that letter to the Member States, which I believe was requested, does the Secretary-General intend to try to use his good offices to mediate the dispute or appoint a Special Representative for that purpose? And does he have any comment or position regarding, you know, the claims that are in the letter?
Spokesman: I think on the, on your last part of your questions, the Secretary-General expressed his position during his speech to the Shanghai summit encouraging all those who are involved in disputes in those seas to do it through the framework of international law and in, through peaceful dialogue. As a matter of rule, the Secretary-General’s good offices are always available to anyone but obviously it always involves both parties asking for his good offices, but that’s just a matter of principle.
Spokesman: Not that I’m aware.
Evelyn, please go ahead. Yes, sorry.
Question: Rape is in the news in a big way this week. I mean, we know Egypt, regardless of who’s in charge, there seems to be total impunity for rapists, but now we also have quite a few incidents reported in South Sudan, very close to where the UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] troops are located. Does the UN have too few troops or do they not get the memo or do you know anything about it?
Spokesman: Well, I don’t, I’m not sure what memo you are referring to, but on the, you know, on the issue of sexual violence, it’s obviously an issue the Secretary-General takes very seriously. As I mentioned, there is, he has sent a number of people to attend the conference that is going on in London right now and he will deliver a paper on the issue of reparations for conflict-related sexual violence and we’ll try to get you a copy of that note. On the specific case in South Sudan, we’re aware of it, we’ve asked the Mission, it’s unclear where it happened, but obviously the Mission and the peacekeepers and the humanitarian folks in South Sudan take their responsibility of protection of civilians very seriously. And as you know, I think more than 80,000 civilians are being housed in UN camps and the Mission is overstretched in trying to protect as many civilians as possible. Let’s go with people who haven’t asked a question yet.
Spokesman: No, he’s already asked a question. Let me do the choosing.
Question: I guess I’ve noticed the past few months a lot of questions on climate change asked here have come around to the summit in September and I was also noticing that there hasn’t been a lot of updates about the RSVPs, I guess, that have been received. First off, did the SG specifically ask Prime Minister Abbott today whether he would attend those talks, and two, could you just provide a little bit more clarity about the planning process? Is the expectation that because the General Debate was pushed back that world leaders are just going to drop by because they’re in town? Or does the SG’s Office see a need to go individual by individual and makes specific requests?
Spokesman: I think, I don’t have a readout of the meeting with Mr. Abbott yet, but obviously the Secretary-General, in every meeting he’s had with Heads of State or Heads of Government, has pushed very hard to encourage them to attend his climate summit. So I think to answer your questions, it’s a little bit of both. Obviously, the scheduling of it just before the start of the General Debate is to ensure that it’s easier for them to attend, which doesn’t preclude individual outreach at the level of the Secretary-General, at the level of his senior aides. It’s very important that political leaders be present at the summit to announce both commitments on climate change and we also expect a high participation of civil society and the private sector as well. And as for an update on the RSVPs, I don’t have one to share with you at this point.
[A readout of the Secretary-General’s meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was issued later in the afternoon:
“The Secretary-General met Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in New York today. The Secretary-General and the Prime Minister exchanged views on the situations in Syria, Ukraine and their respective regions, as well as on Fiji.
The Secretary-General thanked Australia for its consistent support for the Organization and they discussed a number of issues around UN peacekeeping specifically.
The Secretary-General commended Australia for its strong leadership of the G-20 and both he and the Prime Minister agreed on the need to do more on poverty eradication. The Secretary-General emphasized the vital importance of September’s climate summit and sought Australia’s full and constructive participation in that crucial gathering.”]
Question: And generally, even though the Bonn talks are occurring this week and there’s been a lot of concern that only 20 per cent of countries sent ministers there, which was pretty low, and obviously COP19 was also pretty low as far as Heads of State. Is there concern on the SG’s part about where we are this summer? Hoping…
Spokesman: I think you know the Secretary-General remains very hopeful and what he’s heard from his interlocutors is a strong commitment to climate change. And obviously as a reminder, this Summit is not meant to supersede or go beyond the negotiating track that is been done through the COP. It is a political meeting to infuse some energy and to have new bold commitments.
Question: Sophie de Bellemanière for the French weekly Le Point. Yesterday, we saw there was a big celebration for the World Cup here and the Secretary-General played soccer, but there was absolutely no mention…
Spokesman: She is. She is using the microphone. I’ll repeat the question. Go ahead.
Question: There was no mention, either of the riots in Rio or the strike in Sao Paolo, and I would like to know what is the position of the UN on this issue.
Spokesman: Of course, you know, for the Secretary-General, sport in general and the World Cup and football is something he sees as bringing people together as being as a force for peace and for tolerance. We’ve seen what is going on in Brazil and we very much hope that the World Cup will take place in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and of peace.
Question: I have a question about the report by the Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic. I was looking for it at your office today and was told that it’s been withdrawn. Do you know the reason for the withdrawal and does this mean…
Spokesman: It’s still… it’s only a preliminary advanced report. If I can get you more details, I will.
Question: Regarding the reconciliation in some parts of Homs governorate in Syria, what role did the Mission in Syria play in arranging that? Recently, there have been some agreements.
Spokesman: I don’t know. I’ll find out.
Go ahead, Erol.
Question: Steph, when you talk about Kosovo election and the Secretary-General welcoming this peaceful election that were held on Sunday, you also mentioned at the end, I don’t know whether you read but I read the statement, it was mentioned actually that the UNMIK will continue to facilitate, to contribute to the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. I wonder what will be the specific contribution since we know that it’s entirely under the auspices of European Union.
Spokesman: I think the wording, if I remember what I actually read, was to support in any way they could.
Benny? And sorry, then we’ll go to you, Masood.
Spokesman: In whatever way they can, in whatever way the parties would like us to do it.
Question: Just curious because this issue was brought up a couple of days here and in this room, did the Secretary-General plan to bring up, in his meeting with Abbott, Australia’s new position on Jerusalem?
Spokesman: As soon as we get a readout, I will share it with you.
Yes, sir, Masood?
Question: Yes, on this the United Nations with the Government of Nigeria on the issue of kidnapping of girls because today another 20 girls were kidnapped and the other issues still… I mean they’re still unresolved so…
Spokesman: Yes, clearly we are engaged. I think, as we’ve been saying here on a number of times, the Secretary-General has a Special Envoy, Said Djinnit, who, in fact, just concluded another visit to Nigeria. The focus of the UN support is on what we would call an integrated support package to support the communities impacted, to support the girls that have escaped, to hopefully support the ones that will be released, having gone through the trauma they’ve gone through. And we also expect Mr. Djinnit to be in London later this week to have some more meetings on the sidelines of the conference on ending violence against women. And what was your other question?
Question: Basically, there are no whereabouts of these 200 or 300 girls?
Spokesman: You know, as we’ve said here, we’re obviously, we’re following the situation very closely. We’re not involved in the military or police actions. Our focus is more on support on development and humanitarian. And we have repeatedly condemned, I think, in no uncertain words, the kidnapping of these girls.
Question: Has the Nigerian Government asked for any logistics support, although it’s been offered support by…
Spokesman: Those discussions, as far as I’m aware, have been done on a bilateral basis.
Yes, Edie, go ahead.
Question: Steph, do you know if the UN is doing anything to help the refugees who are fleeing from Mosul?
Spokesman: I will get an update on that specific question.
[The Spokesman later added that UN agencies in Iraq, including the UN refugee agency, the World Food Programme and UNICEF, are waiting to scale-up their efforts to meet the increasing humanitarian needs in Mosul, but the volatile security situation is affecting their ability to access people in need. According to the International Organization for Migration, an estimated half a million people have fled the city. Aid organizations hope to reach people with food, water and sanitation, and other essential supplies soon.
UN agencies in the country are also running out of supplies and need funding urgently. This year humanitarian organizations appealed for $105 million to provide aid across Iraq, including in Mosul, but have only received 14 per cent of the funding so far.]
Yes, Kahraman, and then Erol.
Question: Can I follow up on this?
Spokesman: Yes, go ahead.
Question: Just follow-up on Masood’s question. There was a lot of talk on using drones, the necessity of using drones, in Africa. Is UN, was UN considering or does UN consider using drones in that Boko Haram case or…
Spokesman: I think, as you would know, the deployment of such things are done within the context of unmanned aerial vehicles, done within the context of a peacekeeping mission or a political mission, not even a political mission, really, a peacekeeping mission. And again, the UN support is on the humanitarian, on the development side. Whatever military, intelligence support is being done by Nigeria on a bilateral basis.
Question: Thanks, Stéphane. The situation in Syria, it looks like it’s getting out of control, and, I mean, there is no news of Joint Special Envoy from the SG. Are you going to surprise us one of these days or is this going to continue like this?
Spokesman: It’s a strange question. I mean, I know what you’re trying to get at. Obviously, yes, there will be an announcement at some point. The issue of Syria is very high on the Secretary-General’s agenda. As he said, this period is being used for a lot of stock-taking on our end and hopefully on the side of the international community and the Security Council on how to best support the people of Syria.
Question: Can you hear me? Still on World Cup, in general, not only Brazil, looks like the protest that’s been around in Brazil is to do with how the money was spent, public money spent in, you know, big stadium and so on instead of development. And so I would like to know if the position in general, you say that the sport is something that unify, but at the same time, does the Secretary-General of the UN justify the fact that billions of dollars are spent in organizing this big event and less money is directed…
Spokesman: As you know, I don’t think it’s on the SG to say whether or not the money was justifiably, whether or not it was justifiably spent. Masood?
Question: Yes, sir, I just wanted to ask the question about… what do you call… the Secretary-General’s travels. He’s travelling now to several countries again. Do you have some sort of budget for his travels and how much expenditure that has made so far…
Spokesman: Yes, I have that number and I’ll, I just don’t have it with me but I have that number so I will share it with you.
Question: Can you send it to me as well?
Spokesman: I can send it. I will make sure everybody gets it. Thank you. Have a good afternoon.
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