|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 Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon, everyone.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Nikolay Mladenov, met with Speaker Osama Nujeifi of the Iraqi Council of Representatives today. He expressed his concern for the grave situation, saying that the ongoing violence in parts of Iraq is the most severe threat to its security in years. He reiterated the UN’s support for the Iraqi Government in its efforts to fight against terrorist organizations. Mr. Mladenov briefed the Security Council during consultations via video conference this morning at 11:30 a.m. I believe those consultations are continuing right now.
In a statement we issued yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the upsurge in violence in Iraq at the hands of terrorist groups. He said that terrorism must not be allowed to succeed in undoing the path towards democracy in Iraq as determined by the will of the Iraqi people.
The Secretary-General urges the international community to unite in showing solidarity with Iraq as it confronts this serious security challenge. He calls for full respect for international humanitarian law and human rights law in efforts to counter terrorism and violence in Iraq.
In a separate statement, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the seizure of the Turkish consulate in Mosul by extremist groups and the abduction of the Consul General along with several staff members and other Turkish citizens. He recalled the fundamental principle of the inviolability of consular premises and called for the immediate, unconditional, and safe release of those abducted.
The members of the Security Council also deplored the recent events in Mosul in a press statement yesterday evening.
**Iraq — Humanitarian
UN agencies are calling for the protection of civilians caught up in the fighting in Iraq. They are also appealing for additional support to respond to the crisis.
UNICEF says that up to half of the estimated 500,000 people who have fled since 5 June are children. UNICEF and its partners are prioritizing the delivery of emergency aid, including immunizations to help prevent diseases such as polio and measles.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has reported that in parts of the disputed areas between Iraq and Kurdistan, there is no food available in the shops nor are there services such as electricity and water. It is providing food assistance to some 42,000 of the most vulnerable displaced people. And airlifts of emergency food and other supplies are being planned.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has stepped up its efforts to provide shelter, protection and emergency supplies to displaced families. Preparations for its displacement camp in the Dohuk Governorate are under way. Some 1,000 UNHCR tents have been delivered, and UNICEF and partners are coordinating emergency water and sanitation activities for the camp. UN agencies are also providing assistance at transit areas near checkpoints into Erbil. And we have more information in our office.
**Libya — Statement
I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General concerning Libya.
The Secretary-General continues to follow closely the situation in Libya and stresses the importance of the peaceful and timely holding of elections on 25 June.
The Secretary-General reaffirms the important role of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) in providing technical assistance in support of building and reforming State institutions. He also commends the UN Mission’s work in the areas of good offices and facilitation of dialogue, which it carries out with impartiality and openness to all national parties concerned. He encourages all Libyans to remain engaged in the search for political solutions that would respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people.
The Secretary-General reiterates his full support for his Special Representative, Tarek Mitri, as he leads UNSMIL’s work.
Also on that, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has stressed the importance of holding a national dialogue meeting irrespective of differences and divisions seen among representatives of the Libyan political parties.
The Mission understands some of the concerns and emphasizes respect for different opinions, but continues to urge all parties to work together to ensure a suitable political and security environment to conduct the upcoming elections. In the meantime, it has postponed the dialogue meeting scheduled for 18-19 June. It reiterates its commitment to work for the stability of Libya and to ensure progress in the transitional process. We have more information in my office.
**Secretary-General in Brazil
The Secretary-General arrived early this morning in São Paulo, Brazil, to attend the opening game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. He said he was excited to be in Brazil and added that the shared passion shown during the World Cup is a great demonstration of how sport can unite people around shared values: teamwork, fair play and mutual respect.
Before heading to the Itaquera stadium, where the national teams of Brazil and Croatia will play the first match of the World Cup, the Secretary-General participated in a lunch offered by Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, for the foreign dignitaries who gathered in São Paulo for the occasion.
In Brazil, the United Nations is carrying out a number of projects and activities related to the World Cup. For instance, UNICEF launched a campaign against trafficking and exploitation of children. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is awarding environmental-friendly hotels in Brazil with the “Green Passport” seal; UN-Women is coordinating a campaign against violence against women, which is an initiative launched by the Secretary-General; and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is assisting the Brazilian Government in compensating the carbon footprint of the whole World Cup.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
From the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN Mission tells us that sporadic exchanges of fire along the border with Rwanda have now stopped. Five Congolese soldiers have reportedly been killed in clashes yesterday between the Congolese and the Rwandan army, and one Rwandan civilian was injured. Both the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] and Rwanda have asked the Joint Verification Mechanism to investigate the incident.
The Head of the UN Mission, Martin Kobler, is in contact with Congolese and Rwandan authorities to help defuse the situation. Efforts are under way to avoid any unnecessary tensions and to encourage the DRC and Rwanda to remain engaged in the implementation of the Peace and Security Cooperation Framework and continue furthering good neighbourly relations, which had improved recently.
Earlier today in London, the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura, addressed the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict on behalf of the Secretary-General.
She said that the Summit is an important vehicle to strengthen collective action to end impunity, improve global response and ensure women’s participation and empowerment. It can also help to enhance the role of military and other security sector actors, including UN peacekeepers, to prevent conflict-related sexual violence. She called on the international community to continue supporting Governments as they exercise their primary legal and moral responsibility to protect their citizens. We have the full remarks in our office.
Today is the World Day against Child Labour. To mark the Day, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said that well-designed social protection policies can make a real difference in the fight to eradicate child labour.
According to their latest estimates, the total number of child labourers fell from 215 to 168 million between 2008 and 2012. The head of the International Labour Organization stressed the need for social protection, along with universal compulsory, formal, quality education at least up to the minimum age for work; decent work for adults and youth of working age; effective laws; and strong social dialogue. More information on this is available online.
And I would also like to flag today a report from the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The report shows that world manufacturing has entered a phase of steady growth after a prolonged period of recession, with a 5.1 per cent growth rate in the first quarter of 2014. That’s the highest rate in several years. The full report is available online at unido.org.
And that’s it for me. Are there any questions? Yes, Benny? Yes, you first.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Okay, so does… because now there is a Unity Government in Palestine, does the United Nations consider the Palestinian Authority responsible for shooting of rockets from Gaza?
Deputy Spokesman: We have consistently condemned indiscriminate rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Palestinian factions in Gaza should respect and enforce the ceasefire understanding reached in Cairo in November 2012. At the same time, we welcome President [Mahmoud] Abbas’s prompt and strong condemnation of yesterday’s incident. We hope that the Palestinian Authority will soon be able to take up security functions in Gaza and unify the security forces under one legitimate authority. We also expect Israel to remain committed to the ceasefire understanding and act with restraint. Yes, please?
Question: Thank you. Does UNAMI [United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq] have any information about the Turkish diplomats and truck drivers in Iraq? Do you have any information?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, I don’t have anything new beyond the statement that we issued yesterday evening. You’ve seen what both the Secretary-General and the Security Council have had to say about this. Right now as we speak, Nikolay Mladenov, the Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, is in dialogue by videoconference with the members of the Security Council to share any further information. If we have any updates, we’ll provide it, but at this stage, the most we have is what we shared last night.
Oleg, did you have a question? Oh well, never mind, I’ll wait. Okay, yes? Yes, you again, two in a row.
Question: Wow. On Iraq, is…is… does the UN have any function right now in the fluid situation in trying to get everyone together, that kind of stuff? Also, is the UN prepared for any dangers that might happen, just like it did in ’03?
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, of course, we are always well prepared in terms of trying to assess what security conditions on the ground are like. We certainly have been trying to do that in Iraq, as you’re well aware, as well as our other outposts, and we’ll continue to monitor the situation to see what the security conditions are like. Regarding your first question, the role of the United Nations has been to offer whatever help we can, including on the political and humanitarian fronts. You’ve just heard what we had to say about both of those. Mr. Mladenov has been in touch with officials in the Government of Iraq, and he continues to be prepared to assist as needed. Meanwhile, of course, we continue to try to provide as much humanitarian aid as we can to the people who’ve been fleeing the recent fighting, and, of course, you’ve seen the full statements that the Secretary-General issued. Yes, in the back?
Question: Can you say more about the humanitarian help that they are providing or trying to provide in Iraq, especially that in similar situation in Syria, there is difficulties to get to people in places that controlled by the ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant]?
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, you may have missed something I read out just at the start of this briefing. I’m not going to read the whole thing again, but yes, UN agencies are trying to respond to the humanitarian needs in Iraq. Among other things, UNICEF and its partners are trying to deliver emergency aid, including immunizations for polio, measles and other such diseases. The World Food Programme is providing food assistance to some 42,000 of the most vulnerable displaced people, and different agencies are trying to provide assistance at a displacement camp in the Dohuk Governorate and transit areas near checkpoints into Erbil. Yes? Oleg, this time you really did raise your hand.
Question: Yes, I did. Farhan, there are a number of reports coming from eastern Ukraine. One of them pointing that incendiary bombs are being used… thrown at the civilian areas and others that there are massive people leaving the eastern part of Ukraine. Did the UN try to investigate these reports, and what’s the current status of the investigations? Thank you.
Deputy Spokesman: As you know, we do have human rights monitors deployed in Ukraine. They are continuing to look into all the various reports and allegations, and they will continue periodically to issue their reports. We’ll have to wait until the next report goes out to see whether these latest allegations are confirmed or not, but they are looking into whatever allegations they receive. Yes, please?
Question: What period is covered in the report that will follow on 17 June? The report on Ukraine, what period will be covered?
Deputy Spokesman: It will be all the allegations following that precise period. In other words, all allegations…
Question: Up to what date?
Deputy Spokesman: I don’t know. I think it’s up through the end of June, but I’d have to check. Yes?
[The Deputy Spokesman later added that the report would cover the period from 7 May to 7 June.]
Question: Thank you, Farhan. So the Secretary-General has expressed very clear solidarity to Iraqi authorities regarding this fight against ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], but as you know the Syrian Government also expressed its readiness to support the Iraqi Government in this fight; so do you have any comment on this Syrian-Iraqi alliance?
Deputy Spokesman: I don’t know whether remarks made by a Syrian official constitute an alliance in and of itself. I wouldn’t have any comment beyond the comments that we’ve made. The Secretary-General’s views are conveyed in his statements, and we’ll stand by those. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Hi, the Ukrainian Government has accused Russia of sending tanks across the border. Does the UN have any response to that?
Deputy Spokesman: We would need to get any confirmation. Again, we have people on the ground looking into all the various allegations, and we’ll see what reports they have to make on those. Yes, Iftikhar?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Although the UN Mission in Afghanistan, in Kabul, have made statements concerning this second phase of elections asking people to come and vote, but does… I want to ask whether the UN has this time, in this phase, any involvement in monitoring the elections?
Deputy Spokesman: We are not election monitors. As you know, there is a body of Afghans, the Independent Election Commission, which looks into all the complaints for elections, and so we have been supporting the work that the Independent Election Commission does on the ground, and we hope and trust that all the parties will channel any of their objections, if they have any for the run-off process, to the relevant electoral bodies.
Question: Follow-up on Iraq: is the Iraqi Government in touch with the United Nations Secretary-General or any officials about this current situation?
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, in fact, one of the first things I pointed out was that the Head of our Mission in Iraq, Nikolay Mladenov, met with the Speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, Osama Nujeifi, today, and he assured him of our continuing support, but we continue to be in touch with a wide range of Iraqi officials. Yes? Yes, please?
Question: Farhan, is there any information about the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] mission personnel abducted in eastern Ukraine?
Deputy Spokesman: No, we don’t have any fresh information on this. You’re aware of the call that we have made for their prompt release, and beyond that, of course, we would wait to hear from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe about any news that they may have. Yes?
Question: Has the SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] in Iraq made any attempt to meet with ISIS officials?
Deputy Spokesman: As far as that goes, no, he’s been in touch with the officials of the Government of Iraq to assure them of our support. You’ll have seen the comments we made about what we’re actually calling ISIL, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. You’ll have seen the remarks that both the Secretary-General and the Security Council made in their full… in the full texts of their statements.
Question: But also, any attempt to meet with peshmergas, people in the Kurdish area?
Deputy Spokesman: I don’t know if and when he is going to do that, he — that is to say, Nikolay Mladenov — has been in touch and has travelled to those areas before, so I don’t know whether I can have anything fresh to say about that at this stage. If we can get any details of the briefing he’s made to the Security Council, we’ll try to see what we can say, but at this stage, as you know, the Council is in its closed consultations, and they’re hearing an update from him about the various consultations that he’s been having. Yes?
Question: Thank you. Regarding the successor of Lakhdar Brahimi, can we say that the UN is still under the procedure of selection or the procedure is somehow frozen now?
Deputy Spokesman: No, the procedure is continuing. You are quite correct. We are continuing to see how best we can fill the invaluable functions by… that were done by Mr. Brahimi, and we’ll continue to follow up on that. Have a good afternoon, everyone. Oh wait, one more, there you go — late-breaking hand.
Question: Sorry, has the SG received any follow-up from Viet Nam or China regarding the letters submitted last week?
Deputy Spokesman: I don’t have anything to add on what we’ve said about this, so the situation stands as it was. Have a good afternoon, everyone.
* *** *