Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

17 July 2014

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

17 July 2014
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
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 Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, everyone.

** Gaza Statement

Earlier this morning, we issued the following statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the humanitarian pause in Gaza:

The Secretary-General welcomes the humanitarian pause in Gaza today and appreciates that it has mostly been respected by all parties.  This temporary ceasefire, brokered by his Special Coordinator, Robert Serry, has allowed civilians in Gaza to resume some daily routines and for repairs to start on essential electrical and water infrastructure.  In Israel, civilians have had a reprieve from rocket fire.  Throughout, the United Nations has continued providing essential humanitarian assistance.

The pause shows that a cessation of hostilities is possible if all the parties demonstrate the necessary will and put the interests of civilians, who have borne the brunt of this escalation, first.  Encouraged by discussions in Cairo, the Secretary-General hopes today’s humanitarian pause can lead to a more durable calm and expresses once again his support for international efforts, led by Egypt, to arrive at a sustainable ceasefire.  In this regard, it will be crucial to address the underlying factors that have led to the recent escalation, including governance issues, the need to bring Gaza back under one legitimate Palestinian Government adhering to the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] commitments, the full opening of the legal crossings, and other unimplemented core elements of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009).

The Secretary-General reiterates the United Nations’ readiness to help facilitate all efforts to this end.  He has dispatched his Special Coordinator to Gaza to help further de-escalate tensions and achieve a lasting ceasefire that will spare Palestinians and Israelis future such rounds of violence.

** Gaza

The World Food Programme (WFP) took advantage of the five-hour humanitarian pause to provide emergency food assistance to thousands of people affected by the escalation in violence and to move food stocks into position around the Gaza Strip.  The World Food Programme is distributing emergency food vouchers in areas where shops are functioning, at a time when banks in the Gaza Strip are closed and household incomes are at risk.  It also transported food, including wheat flour, bread and canned tuna from its warehouses, to distribute to 85,000 people in the next days as security conditions permit.

Meanwhile, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has made a $60 million flash appeal for Gaza.  The appeal is to respond to the immediate shelter, food, health and psycho-social needs of affected families, to replenish emergency stocks, and to prepare for carrying out vital interventions that will be required immediately upon the cessation of military activities.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that at least 219 Palestinians have been killed as of today, and the Palestinian Ministry of Health reports that some 1,585 Palestinians have been injured.  Some 25,000 children need specialized psycho-social support.  Humanitarian agencies report that up to half the Gazan population is without water supply and essential medical supplies are urgently needed for Gaza hospitals.

** Syria Press Encounter

The Secretary-General will make brief press remarks today at 4:45 p.m. in his conference room when he meets with his Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, and his Deputy Special Envoy for Syria, Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy.  The Secretary-General will take no questions at that press availability.

** Syria

In a joint statement issued yesterday, the heads of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Food Programme and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) welcomed Security Council resolution 2165 (2014) on humanitarian access in Syria, which should enable them to reach up to 2.9 million more people with vital aid.  This resolution represents a breakthrough in their efforts to get aid to Syrians in need.  World Food Programme teams on the ground are proceeding immediately to put in place the monitoring mechanism mandated in the resolution.  UNICEF has already positioned supplies ready for the first cross-border convoys supported by the new resolution, including blankets, water purification materials, hygiene kits and syringes.  The full statement is online.

** Iraq

On the situation in Iraq, humanitarian organizations report that additional displacement occurs daily and population movements remain fluid.  Access to basic services in areas controlled by armed groups remains a challenge.  UN agencies and humanitarian partners continue to increase their assistance to families in camps and transit sites in Erbil, Suleimaniya and Dohuk in the Kurdistan region.  More information is available online.

** Libya

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Tarek Mitri, briefed the Security Council earlier today.  He said that the deteriorating security situation in Tripoli over the past couple of weeks is a reflection of the deeply fractured political scene in the country.  Mr. Mitri, who briefed from a UN office in Lebanon, said that the all-out confrontation between two major rival groups in Tripoli continues to play out in the country’s international airport.  He added that the interim Government’s call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire has gone unheeded.

He said that the fighting around the international airport has brought the war close to the office of the UN Support Mission in Libya.  Security concerns had led to the reduction and ultimately to the withdrawal of international staff in the country.  He stressed that the move is temporary and will be reviewed as soon as there is an improvement in security. His full statement is available in my office.

** Afghanistan

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) welcomes the start of the audit of the results of the 2014 Presidential election run-off today.  As you know, the audit, which follows an agreement between the two Presidential candidates, was facilitated by the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry.  Both candidates have committed to participating in and abiding by the result of the audit.  The audit is being conducted by Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission, under the close and extensive supervision of the UN.  The Director of the UN Secretariat’s Electoral Assistance Division, Craig Jenness, has arrived in Kabul to supervise the preparations for this unprecedented audit and its start.

The audit will be internationally supervised in a manner proposed by the UN, in consultation with both candidates.  It will be conducted in accordance with international standards, utilizing a checklist from the Independent Election Commission, enhanced by UN recommendations.  More information about the audit is available on the UN mission’s website.

** Mali

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Mali, Bert Koenders, has welcomed the start of the inter-Malian talks in Algeria.  Those talks aim to begin a negotiation to achieve a global peace agreement.  Koenders urged the Malian parties to commit to dialogue and peace.  He added that the parties need to put aside individual interest and take into account the concerns of the entire population.  He also called on the international community to support the current process.  There’s a press release from the UN mission in Mali available online.

** Africa

This morning, the Secretary-General addressed the General Assembly’s thematic debate on the promotion of investment in Africa.  He said that, during his travels in Africa, he had seen the dynamism and promise of this vast continent.  He noted that foreign direct investment in Africa, including investment from other African countries, has steadily increased since the turn of the century and it now exceeds Official Development Assistance (ODA).

But, he added, much of this investment has been related to resource extraction and exports, with not enough being channelled into vital development needs.  The Secretary-General said that there are many critical financing gaps, especially in agriculture, infrastructure and industrialization, which are now the focus of Africa’s development agenda.  His full remarks are available online.

**International Justice Day

The Secretary-General also spoke at an event today to mark International Criminal Justice Day, and he also took the occasion to celebrate ten years of the UN Relationship Agreement with the International Criminal Court.  He said that this is a day for all of us to underscore a crucial point: justice matters.  Accountability for serious crimes of international concern is central to our global commitment to peace, security, human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The Secretary-General once again called for universal ratification of the Rome Statute and encourages all Member States who are parties to the Rome Statute to do their part to strengthen the International Criminal Court.  His remarks are in our office and online.

**Secretary-General’s Appointment

I have an appointment to announce.  The Secretary-General has appointed Said Djinnit of Algeria as his Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region.  He succeeds Mary Robinson of Ireland, who recently accepted new responsibilities as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Change.  Mr. Djinnit most recently served as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa.  We have more information on this appointment in our office.

And, like I said, at 4:45 p.m., there will be a press event in the Secretary-General’s conference room.  That’s it for me.  Any questions?  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about this latest reports about the crash of the Malaysian Airlines plane in eastern Ukraine?  Did you have a confirmation from the Ukrainian authorities?

Deputy Spokesperson:  On that, we’ve seen the reports that a Malaysian Airlines passenger plane has crashed near the border between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.  We have no further information at the moment.  This is a tragic development and our thoughts are with the passengers, the crew and their families.

Correspondent:  So, about this situation with UNRWA this morning.  I presume… tell me if you’ve addressed it already.  I don’t know if you did.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Depends on which situation you’re talking about.

Question:  UNRWA on its website has condemned the finding of 20 missiles in one of its schools and my question is, first of all:  is there an investigation on who these belong to and whether any of UNRWA’s employees was involved in helping get these missiles into the school?  And also, is UNRWA going to publish, once the investigation is done, is it going to publish the name of the… those names of whoever?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, yesterday, in the course of the regular inspection of its premises, the UN Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, discovered approximately 20 rockets hidden in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip.  UNRWA strongly condemns the group or groups responsible for placing the weapons in one of its installations.  This is a flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law.  This incident, which is the first of its kind in Gaza, endangered civilians, including staff, and put at risk UNRWA’s vital mission to assist and protect Palestine refugees in Gaza.

Question:  Is there an investigation?  Has the Secretary-General asked UNRWA to investigate quickly who is behind this?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, first we’ll have to see what the people working for UNRWA do on their own initiative.  I believe that they’re looking into the matter and we’ll have to see what further updates and what further information they have on this.

Question:  Farhan, UNRWA itself says it puts everybody in danger around it.  So, my question is:  shouldn’t there be a quick investigation to find, A, whether indeed this is the first of its kind, as UNRWA says, and B, who is responsible for it?

Deputy Spokesperson:  It is the first of its kind.  This is what UNRWA has said and this is what we believe to be the case.  We have not had similar incidents before this.  Regarding the follow-up, we’ll see what steps UNRWA takes and we’ll provide further details once that happens.  But, right now, it’s up to them to see how to follow up.  Of course, they want the same answers that you want.  They want to know who did this.  Like I said, they have strongly condemned this and they certainly don’t want a recurrence of any such acts.

Question:  But, strongly condemning, meaning condemning something.  The question is, what happened?  I mean, who is responsible for this?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Certainly they themselves want to know what the answers to those questions are.  They’ve condemned this and they want to know exactly what happened.  We’ll have to see how they follow up on that.

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask Central African Republic.  There are reports of the MISCA [African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic] force there killing one or more civilians in Bozoum.  And I wanted to know, one, what the Mission can say about it.  Two, if the troops involved will be re-hatted.  Tried to ask Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous about it yesterday at the stakeout; he didn’t answer.  So, I also wanted to ask you, it’s reported in Nepal that Mr. Ladsous will be in Nepal beginning 21 July, and strangely, the report in various newspapers there is that the objective of his mission is to acquire information on the latest political situation, the progress made in terms of constitution-writing, et cetera.  And I wanted to know, is that in fact his mandate as the head of DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] and will he be discussing there cholera, as is alleged that the peacekeepers there [inaudible] or screening, which would be obviously much more within his mandate as head of DPKO?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we haven’t had any announcement of his travel to Nepal.  If there is an announcement to make, we’ll make it at that point.

Question:  But, as head of DPKO, does he have a DPA [Department of Political Affairs] role?  Can you say whether DPKO has any role, possibly in evaluating constitution-writing?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, the language you’re referring to is not our language.  It’s not our announcement.  When we make an announcement, we’ll state what it is he’s doing, but at this stage, that announcement is not ready.

Question:  And, what is… in the planning, in the run-up to MINUSCA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic], which was the topic yesterday at the stakeout and in the Council, what is being done about allegation of the killing of civilians by MISCA and what review will DPKO conduct before merely, simply re-hatting the individuals?  And is there any information on this killing in Bozoum?  Who did it?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, on questions of MISCA right now, of course, MISCA is not… they have not been re-hatted as UN, so you’ll need to ask MISCA about that.  That’s really a question for those forces, who are under the control of the African Union.  It’s not under UN control at this stage.

Question:  But, will DPKO conduct human rights vetting before putting a blue helmet on the people that killed a civilian reportedly in Bozoum?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The standard vetting procedures for peacekeepers apply in this case, as it would in any other.  That is to say, anyone who joins up with UN Peacekeeping needs to be vetted to make sure that they are appropriate for UN Peacekeeping.

Question:  So, how does that apply to this case?

Deputy Spokesperson:  You’re asking me how it applies to a case that we haven’t looked into.  You’ll have to ask MISCA about that.  Remember, at this stage, they’re the ones who look into this.  Our responsibilities come later.

Question:  And thanks for indulging me on this.  Isn’t there a human rights component of the existing UN Mission in the country?  So, what do they say about this alleged killing of civilians, by MISCA, in Bozoum?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I haven’t seen anything from the human rights component on this.  If that turns up, we’ll let you know.

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Again, on Gaza — you mentioned the latest number of the deaths of Palestinians, 219, right?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yeah.

Question:  So, could you update us, how many of them are considered civilians, according to the UN?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The large… our sources on the ground have said that the largest number of these have been civilians.  So, it’s been anywhere in the neighbourhood of up to three quarters.  It would be difficult to determine precisely the civilian breakdown, but it’s been largely civilian, for many days running, in terms of the tolls that we’ve received.

Question:  More than three-quarters?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Roughly, three-quarters, yes.

Have a good afternoon, everyone.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.