|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, and Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, via telephone from Cairo.
Deputy Spokesman: Good afternoon. As you know, in just a few seconds we are connecting by telephone with Stéphane Dujarric, the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, who is travelling with him. They are currently in Cairo, and once Stéphane calls in, he can give you some details of the trip they have had so far. As you know the Secretary-General thus far has been in Qatar, in Kuwait and now in Egypt, and we are just going to have Stéphane call in and then after he has done with his portion of the briefing, I will give you some other bits of information from around the UN system. Just one second and we will get to him.
Deputy Spokesman: Stéphane. All right, we see your bearded photo, so that must be you. Hey, Steph, how are you doing?
Spokesman: Don’t read anything into the beard. [Laughter] I am well. Just to let you know, because we are actually in a car, we are on our way to the Foreign Ministry. But, can you guys hear me well?
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, we can hear you. Go right ahead.
Spokesman: Alright. So, the Secretary-General just arrived in Cairo a couple of hours ago. We are on our way to meet the Foreign Minister. We will then have a press conference with him. We will likely meet the Secretary-General of the Arab League later this evening, and we also expect the Secretary-General to meet with United States Secretary of State John Kerry late tonight, as we expect Mr. Kerry to arrive in Cairo this evening. And tomorrow morning, before leaving Egypt, we expect a meeting with the Egyptian President, President [Abdel Fattah] al Sisi.
You all saw the public remarks the Secretary-General made in Doha yesterday, so I won’t go over those. This morning, we left Doha for a stopover in Kuwait. We met the Amir of Kuwait. The Secretary-General thanked the Amir for his leadership role in the Arab League and told the Amir he was in the region to promote a ceasefire. He stressed that a ceasefire is not enough, and that the root causes of the conflict also have to be addressed. The Secretary-General added that all efforts should be made to strengthen the Palestinian Government of National Unity, led by President [Mahmoud] Abbas. He also encouraged an internal Palestinian dialogue. The Amir also updated the Secretary-General on his recent meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who had been in Kuwait to meet the Amir yesterday.
The two also discussed the political and humanitarian situation in Iraq, and the Secretary-General thanked the Amir for Kuwait’s support, $10 million support towards the UN’s humanitarian work in Iraq. And just last, from the meeting, on a different note, the Secretary-General invited Kuwait to participate at the highest level at his September climate change summit, stressing the importance of the active participation at the summit by oil and gas producing countries.
Just to add that, obviously, in Cairo, the Secretary-General is there to support the efforts to stop the fighting in Gaza, and the rocket attacks in Israel, and he is indeed very grateful to the Government of Egypt for Egypt’s leadership in mediating a durable ceasefire.
I think the overriding messages that he brings is, first, that the violence must stop, and needs to stop now. He is asking all sides to create the space to aid victims and assist the wounded, and second, as I said earlier, that a ceasefire that simply returns matters to where they stood before the latest terrible bloodshed is not enough. Going back to the situation before won’t solve the problem, but only defer it, renew violence for another day. And the Secretary-General will stress that there is a need for a plan on the aftermath to allow Gaza to breathe and heal and focus on recovery and reconstruction.
And just a note on the humanitarian front, that UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] is now housing up to 80,000 Palestinians in its various shelters and relief centres and UNRWA schools, and that we estimate that to be about 5 per cent of the entire population. So, that’s the key [points] of what the Secretary-General will tell the press here in Cairo in about an hour and a half. I am happy to take a few of your questions and I will just take two or three, because we will be getting out of the car very soon. Over to you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Hello, Stéphane, this is Talal Haj from [Al] Arabiya. Stéphane, it seems that all efforts now are heading towards a ceasefire, so I want to ask you, when you said that things cannot go back to where they were before, does the Secretary-General envisage the lifting of the siege on Gaza as part of the ceasefire? And secondly, in 2009, he visited Gaza after he helped in a big way to stop the war there. Why isn’t he doing it now? I am sure when he is in Israel they will take him to show him the places where the rockets fell, and to show him the damage that took place. Why isn’t he going to Gaza?
Spokesman: On your second part about why he is not going to Gaza, I don’t want to get into the logistics of the programme in Israel and in Palestine until later today. Details of that programme are still being worked out. You know, as far as a ceasefire, obviously it is a big focus of the discussions here with all the parties, and as part of that, it is also important that there is a space created to assist the wounded, extend relief to trapped civilians, and you know, these are the kinds of steps that could also move the way to a more permanent ceasefire. But, obviously, we have seen the cycle of violence and ceasefires and violence and ceasefires, and what the Secretary-General is saying is that we also cannot be satisfied with a ceasefire, which would be a great victory in itself, but that we will need to go further with some of the other parts of the problem. Over to you.
Question: Jonathan Wachtel with Fox News. Stéphane, can you be more specific about what concretely was discussed [between] Mashaal and the Qatari Amir and also Ban Ki-moon’s participation in that dialogue?
Spokesman: No. Just to make it clear, what I said was that Khaled Mashaal was in Kuwait yesterday and met with Amir of Kuwait. The Amir briefed the Secretary-General on his discussions with Khaled Mashaal, and I will leave it at that. It is obviously up to the Kuwaitis if they want to share more of that information. But, just to be clear, there was no discussion between… the Secretary-General did not participate in any trilateral discussions, did not, repeat, did not participate in any trilateral discussions. There were none.
Question: Hi, Stéphane, Karahman with TRT. Just to go back to the answer you gave to Talal’s question about the [Secretary-General] going to Gaza. Is there a possibility? Is that what you are saying, that still the Secretary-General may go to Gaza, is that what we understand? And also, it seems things like the ceasefire effort is being coordinated by the [Secretary-General] mostly, and not by Egypt. Who is leading those efforts, and what kind of ceasefire will be offered? Will it be offered by the UN or by Egypt? Thank you.
Spokesman: Obviously, I think the focus here is on supporting Egypt’s leadership in mediating a durable ceasefire. No one is questioning Egypt’s leadership in this effort. And in terms of a visit or not a visit, I don’t want to create any speculation one way or another. All that I am saying is that you all know this region better than I. We need to take things one step at a time. We are organizing this trip hour by hour. Our programme here was set just when we arrived. Once I am able to share with you the details of the programme tomorrow, the first part of which will be meetings, when we arrive in Israel, the first part will be meetings with senior Israeli officials, I will do so. But, please don’t read anything, don’t speculate as to what I may or may not be saying.
Question: Thank you. Would the Secretary-General call for accountability for what is going on against the civilian population in this war, especially that he has been calling everybody to stop breaching international humanitarian law? Thank you.
Spokesman: I think, if you look at what the Secretary-General said yesterday in Doha, in terms of accountability, he really could not be clearer in his call for accountability, in terms of what the civilians have gone through, and accountability by all parties.
Question: Hi, I’m Asma from Egypt. I wanted to ask you: there are some reports about maybe they will be changing some sections in the Egyptian initiative, they will add some sections to the initiative. Do you know something about that and does the Secretary-General intend to talk about that with the Egyptian President? And do you think they need more sessions to make Hamas agree to a ceasefire? Thank you.
Spokesman: I didn’t catch all of your question. Obviously, we are literally driving on the banks of the Nile on a beautiful afternoon in Cairo, about to meet the Foreign Minister and the President tomorrow, so once those meetings have happened, I can give you a little bit more of a readout. And the Secretary-General himself will speak to the press. We obviously expect to hear a bit more detail about the ceasefire and what has been proposed during those meetings. Over to you. I can take one more question because we are about to get out of the car.
Question: Sure, thanks a lot. Stéphane, last night at the stakeout, it was passed out these flyers that the Israel Defence Force gave to residents in Gaza, and I wanted to know, does the Secretary-General think that that’s enough notice for people? And also, as I asked you before, and I know that you had said you would answer at some point, how did the Secretary-General fly from New York to Qatar? Was it on a Qatari plane, and what safeguards are in place to make sure… would he take a flight from any nation?
Spokesman: Okay, Matthew, we are pulling into the Foreign Ministry now. It was the Qatari Government [that] very generously chartered a plane for the Secretary-General to enable him to go about his visit. This is not the kind of visit that we could do if we were not flying on a private plane. It is not a Qatari plane; it was chartered. It is a British-registered plane, as some of you will be able to see on the photos. But, it is a private aircraft funded by the Qatari Government.
If you hear me breathing hard it is just that I am running to try to get into the Foreign Ministry. On the flyers, I really can’t comment because I haven’t seen them. Briefly, the Secretary-General’s concern for civilians is well known and has been expressed clearly by him. Alright, I will try to do this tomorrow, as well, okay? Over to you.
** Middle East
Further to what Stéphane said on the Middle East, in the latest situation report on the emergency in Gaza, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that up to 60 Palestinians are reported to have been killed from Saturday to Sunday, making that 24-hour period the deadliest since the start of the current escalation.
Mass displacement has increased, including up to half the residents of the Ash Shuja'ieyh suburb, who have fled to Gaza City. The overall number of displaced people is now reported to have exceeded 100,000, including some 84,000 people sheltering in schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The Palestinian Ministry of Health reports that more than 3,000 Palestinians have been injured. The main priority for humanitarian agencies continues to be the provision of food, water, mattresses and hygiene items, as well as fuel for essential water, health and sewage facilities.
The World Food Programme continues to provide daily food rations, together with UNRWA, and more than 50,000 people have received emergency assistance in the last 24 hours. The World Food Programme is distributing daily food rations to more than 2,000 hospital patients and staff across the Gaza Strip. And the World Health Organization is coordinating with the Ministry of Health and other partners on the most urgent health needs.
The Secretary-General has condemned in the strongest terms the systemic persecution of minority communities in Iraq by the Islamic State and associated armed groups. He remains particularly disturbed by reports of threats against Christians in Mosul and other Islamic State-controlled parts of Iraq. In recent weeks, tens of thousands of members of ethnic and religious minority groups have been displaced or forced to flee and seek refuge, while many others have been executed and kidnapped. The Secretary-General warned that any systematic attack on civilians, because of their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith, may constitute a crime against humanity. He called on all armed groups to abide by international humanitarian law and protect civilians living in areas they control.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, has also condemned such attacks against minorities. He has reiterated the UN’s commitment to rapidly respond to the needs of the hundreds of minority families who were forced to flee their homes. UN humanitarian agencies are now preparing a response and mobilizing additional supplies to help families arriving in the Kurdistan region. And more information is available online.
And last night, we issued a statement on the hostilities in South Sudan, in which the Secretary-General said he was deeply concerned by the attack by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) on opposition forces under the command of Riek Machar on Nassir, Upper Nile State.
The Secretary-General calls on Mr. Machar to cease immediately all offensive operations on Nassir and other points, and on the Government of South Sudan to desist from launching a counter-offensive. He calls on both parties to stop the violence immediately, reconvene political negotiations and demonstrate the political will necessary to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The full statement is available online.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reports heavy firing by opposition forces against a Sudan People’s Liberation Army barracks in Nassir Town shortly after daybreak this morning. The shooting had subsided by mid-morning. Opposition forces engaged in some sporadic shooting at the SPLA barracks in the late afternoon today but there was no return fire. Most of the town appears to be under the control of opposition forces, apart from the SPLA barracks, which are located in the western part of the town.
** Central African Republic
The Secretary-General has called on Central Africans to seize the opportunity of the Brazzaville Forum for reconciliation in the Central African Republic to open a new page in their history.
In a message to the Forum held today in the Republic of Congo and delivered by his Special Representative for the Central African Republic, Babacar Gaye, the Secretary-General said that the holding of this Forum was a sign of hope and now needed to be translated into a new beginning for the country. The Secretary-General noted the importance of the next steps of the Central African Republic’s reconciliation process. His full message is available online.
The Security Council has scheduled a formal meeting on Ukraine at 3 p.m. this afternoon. You’ll recall that, in a press statement issued on Friday, the members of the Security Council expressed their deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims, and to the people and Governments of all those killed in the crash in eastern Ukraine on 17 July of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The members of the Security Council called for a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with the international civil aviation guidelines and for appropriate accountability.
The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, arrived in Nepal, which is the fifth-largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping, earlier today. This is the first stop of a five-day-long trip that will also include Bangladesh and India. Mr. Ladsous is visiting all three countries to thank them for their contributions to UN peacekeeping missions around the world and the sacrifices made by their uniformed personnel and civilian staff.
In all three countries, the Under-Secretary-General is expected to meet with senior Government officials. Additionally, while in Kathmandu, he will brief the Institute of Foreign Affairs on Nepal-UN peacekeeping cooperation and later he will address army officials on UN peacekeeping.
In Bangladesh, which is the largest contributor of “Blue Helmets” to UN peacekeeping, Mr. Ladsous will speak at the Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operations Training, an institute that trains peacekeepers, on the trends and challenges of UN peacekeeping. He will then head to India, which is the second-largest contributor of peacekeepers, on 25 July, before returning to New York the following day.
And tomorrow, the UN Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador, Actress Mia Farrow, will be the guest at the noon briefing. And she will brief on her recent visit to the Central African Republic. That’s it from me. Any questions? Yes, Ali?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Just a quick question on when exactly the Secretary-General is coming back to the United Nations, and I have another question. Do you have the percentage of the civilians killed on either… on both sides, from the Israeli side, how many civilians as a percentage were killed, and on the Palestinian side? Thank you so much.
Deputy Spokesman: You will have seen the figures we had given for civilian casualties last week, the reports that our Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs received from its health partners on the ground. On those, you’d see that the ratios were about three quarters of the casualties last week had been civilian casualties. I don’t know if it will be the same this week. We’ll have to accumulate more numbers. But, certainly the information we had had was that more than 430 Palestinians have now been killed. And as for the Secretary-General, he is expected back by the end the week. Yes, in the back?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. What is the information on the United Nations aviation team? They had travelled to Ukraine. Have they been able to get access to the site of the crash or not yet? We understand that they arrived about 20… 24 hours ago.
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, I believe that some people from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have travelled to Ukraine. We’d need to get an update from them on their activities. But, we’ll try to see whether they have some. Yes?
Question: Farhan, Japan and France on Saturday prevented protesters from supporting Gaza from coming out. How does the United Nations view the curbing of liberties of people who wanted to voice their concerns about the massacres committed there?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, as I believe I told one of your colleagues last week prior to these events that the Secretary-General believes in the right of people to freedom of expression and the right of people to peaceful assembly.
Question: But, do you view… does that mean that you are concerned of curbing the liberties there?
Deputy Spokesman: That applies in all cases. All Governments need to respect their citizens’ right to peaceful assembly and the freedom of expression.
Question: Regarding Rafah Crossing, would that be on top of the agenda of the Secretary-General to open it, just to alleviate the suffering of those injured? Today there was an attack on Al Aqsa hospital in Gaza. Five people were killed. Twenty-five or more were injured. What do you think about targeting hospitals there?
Deputy Spokesman: Again, we have said in the past that we don’t want civilian infrastructure and places where civilians are concentrated to be targeted, and we have also spoken out against the targeting of humanitarian workers and humanitarian facilities, and that remains the case. As for the question of Rafah, I don’t want to pre-judge what the Secretary General’s discussions will be. We’ll try to get details on that once he has actually met with the Egyptian officials. Yes, Karahman?
Question: Farhan, how does the UN see what’s happening in Gaza? Do you see it as a crime? Do you see it as just casualties? Do you see the Palestinians as just bare numbers? How do you describe what’s happening there and all these people there being killed? Since you are calling for accountability, what kind of crime do you think this is? And also, to kind of follow-up on the question we asked Stéphane, just to make sure to confirm, you are… the [Secretary-General] is not ruling out going to Gaza, is that what I understand?
Deputy Spokesman: I would just leave it at what Stéphane said. The schedule is being worked out, hour to hour, and that is as much as we know at this stage. And regarding the situation in Gaza, you’ll have seen what the Secretary-General has said, and I’d refer you to his recent remarks. Most recently, he gave press remarks while he was in Doha yesterday and I’d refer you to those. Matthew?
Question: Two things about Somalia. One is that there was a rally in Mogadishu over the weekend where the mayor of Mogadishu was reported to have said that Al-Shabaab members should be decapitated wherever they are found. And also the new Somalia police force commissioner is a man named Mohamed Hassan Ismail Farah, who is actually wanted for war crimes in Somaliland in the past, and what I wanted to know is does Nicholas Kay or the Mission, what do they view of these… I’m sure they are against Al-Shabaab but what do they think of the mayor of Mogadishu calling for the decapitation of members, and what do they think of this appointment of this controversial figure as part of the Somali, the head of the Somalia police force?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, Mr. Kay hasn’t made any comment on that appointment. We don’t necessarily make comments on all the various people appointed to different positions, although if he has any concern, we’ll let you know. Regarding Al-Shabaab, of course we have been very concerned about activities of Al-Shabaab and we certainly have tried to discourage their efforts to gain greater control in Somalia. But, at the same time, of course, we hope that in any effort to deal with Al-Shabaab, that the parties concerned will respect international human rights and humanitarian law.
Question: I guess I’m… I’m only asking because you’ve said all this stuff about accountability. I understand that it is not Mr. Kay’s role to comment on every appointment, but this seems to be a particularly controversial one, so I just wondered. I guess I’m asking you if the Mission or the Secretariat has any concerns in this regard?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, there has been no comment from him; if that changes, of course, I’ll let you know. But, like I said, of course, it’s not us who is doing those sorts of appointments. Yes, Stefano?
Question: I wanted to ask Stéphane, because I asked you already last week, but do again with you. Just yesterday, the Secretary-General used the word “protecting the civilians” and also the President of the Security Council. The word “responsibility to protect” is not used here. And the situation in Gaza looks like it’s very, very similar or even worse of situation that happened before with the Security Council, including the Secretary-General, were calling for “responsibility to protect”. That means when any authority in charge to protect civilians is not protecting them, the international community has to act. So, I would like to know, is the Secretary-General in this moment talking about the responsibility to protect the civilians in this case? Israel is able to protect its own civilians, but who is protecting the Palestinians in Gaza? Thank you.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, the Secretary-General hasn’t used that particular phrase, but at the same time, you’ve seen from his actions how seriously he takes the need to protect civilians in Gaza. He is already now on the third stop of a series of stops throughout the Middle East in his effort to get a ceasefire and he is doing this precisely because he believes that a halt to fighting is essential. Civilians have borne the brunt of the attacks so far and he wants to make sure that they will be protected. So, what he is trying to do is make sure that, first of all, there will be a ceasefire and second, that the root causes of the problem will be dealt with so that we do not continually come back to this kind of tension and this kind of conflict which has been ruinous to the people of Palestine and Israel alike. Yes, Yoshita?
Question: On Mr. Ladsous’ visit to India, do you have any more information as to who he’ll meet, because Indian soldiers have had casualties at various peacekeeping operations? Would that also come up during his meetings with officials, as you said, if he meets them?
Deputy Spokesman: This is as much detail as I have right now. I’ll see whether the Department of Peacekeeping Operations provides more as the trip progresses. Jonathan?
Question: Two questions. I’m a little confused as to why the Secretary-General is travelling on a plane, a private plane funded by the Qataris, even though it’s a British-registered plane. Why is the UN not facilitating his travel? And secondly, what has been the fate of the rockets that were found inside the UNRWA school? I’ve read some reports on in the Allgemeine newspaper, for instance, that those rockets have gone back to Hamas. Where are they?
Deputy Spokesman: The question of the rockets that were found is that the UN Relief and Works Agency is investigating to see how they got there into the school and if we have anything further, once that investigation has proceeded, we will let you know.
Question: But, where are they now, physically, those rockets?
Deputy Spokesman: I believe that UNRWA is looking at the rockets themselves, that they, themselves have been trying to investigate what happened and how they got into this vacant school. Regarding the question about the use of the plane, as you know, the Secretary-General had to embark on this trip on extremely short notice. He has to go to a number of countries. And so, the question was what was logistically possible. Our ethics office, our legal office have made clear that use of private planes is acceptable if it’s essential for the purposes of necessary travel, and that certainly seems to be the case.
Question: I’m sorry, just one [second], so you’re saying that this type of scenario in which a country has funded the travels of the Secretary-General is commonplace or is this a one-off?
Deputy Spokesman: It’s not commonplace. But, there are certain times when it’s essential in order for necessary travel to be conducted.
Question: Farhan. Hold on. Thank you. Follow-up to Stefano’s question: What happens when this ceasefire is achieved? What happens to the people that are killed, that the crimes that are committed on both sides, what happens to those? Are those just forgotten? What are the Secretary-General’s views on that? I mean, this will be… probably, there will be ceasefire at some point and will the world move on?
Deputy Spokesman: The Secretary-General has himself made very clear that there needs to be accountability. How that will happen, how that will be carried out remains to be seen. But, certainly, he believes that there needs to be accountability for the sort of actions that taken place. Yes, you and then Oleg?
Question: I mean, I understand what you are saying that the use of private planes, generically if necessary, is signed off by the ethics office, but my question is, really, is it… private planes provided by anyone? Would the Secretary-General, would he receive, would he accept such service from any Member State, or would he accept it from corporations? The question becomes, given that given countries have different views of the conflict, is it… what review is made before accepting a particular country’s contribution?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we do have, like I said, an ethics office and a legal office that can look into these things and see whether something is appropriate or not.
Question: Was this particular flight checked or you’re saying there’s a generic ruling in advance that any private plane is okay?
Deputy Spokesman: No, I don’t think there’s a generic ruling about this, but certainly, if you need to justify this for essential needs, and something like this, a trip that the Secretary-General was able to embark on and made the decision on just at the end of last week and then had to travel, starting Saturday evening, something like that would have been extremely hard or basically impossible to do in a different sort of way.
Question: I’m asking because of this reason. Because in the budget Committee, often many of those, particularly developing world countries, they say that things should be funded out of the UN’s general budget rather than taking voluntary contributions from States that then have influence. So, my question is, isn’t there a travel budget? We’ve asked in this room many times to know what the budget is, so I’d still like to know that. But, if there is a budget, why wasn’t the general UN budget used for this rather than taking a specific gift from a specific country? That’s the question.
Deputy Spokesman: The worry is, of course, if you run out of money early, does that mean you can’t travel, even if there’s a crisis? In this case, there was a crisis that necessitated sudden travel. Yes?
Question: How can you ensure that UNRWA materials, such as concrete, are not being used for building tunnels into Israel if they were supposed to be used for UNRWA projects?
Deputy Spokesman: With any UN projects, the UN looks to see that the sort of items it provides are used appropriately. And so, that’s always the case. If concrete is going in for UN projects, they need to be used for UN projects, and we do follow-up to make sure that they’ve gone where they are supposed to go. Oleg?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Can we request a readout of the Secretary-General’s meeting with John Kerry and Nabil ElAraby, because during last several days there were a number of meetings and phone calls and we didn’t have any.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, Stéphane actually verbally gave you some of the readouts just now in the last few minutes and that’s part of what needs to happen. Basically, this is, as I just pointed out to your colleague, a trip that is being made on the fly, and so we’re trying to provide as much information as we can, once we can. So, Stéphane will also try do some of that just in an oral presentation when he can. If we can get the readouts the more traditional way, we’ll try that, as well. Yes?
Question: Hi. I’d like to know what the [Secretary-General’s] point of view is about the four months of Iran nuclear talks that is expanded?
Deputy Spokesman: That’s really a matter between, as you are aware, between the various parties involved, the six nations on the one side and the Government of Iran, and we’re hopeful that they can continue with their talks and come to some sort of productive conclusion that can deal with the concerns, the outstanding concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme. Yes, Jonathan?
Question: Can you explain the rationale for why the United Nations has chosen to defer to Egypt? I know the UN is heavily involved in the negotiations on reaching a ceasefire, but why rely on Egypt as the lead nation to resolve this conflict?
Deputy Spokesman: This is an Egyptian-led initiative and has been for some time. At the same time, we’re in touch with a wide number of nations and wide number of Governments. You’ve seen the countries he has already travelled to and we’re trying to bring a wider group of countries and influences to bear, so that the parties can actually go behind a durable ceasefire. The point is not about Egypt. The point is about arriving at a durable ceasefire and that’s what we’re trying to do. Yes?
Question: Hi, Farhan. I have two questions, because I was away for quite some time. Number one, on nuclear talks between Iran and “5+1”, human rights, is it still on the agenda? Do they talk about the human rights while they’re negotiating? And number two, with Israel, we’ve seen this over and over all the time, and usually the West and big Powers tend to check the other way. What is it with Israel that each time they commit such a crime, which is almost 85-90 per cent of the casualties are civilians, there is no sanctions, very easily pushed away and blamed somebody else or something else? Thank you.
Deputy Spokesman: The second question is really more of a viewpoint, so I don’t really have any comment for that. Regarding the first question on Iran, those talks that are taking place between the six countries, the “E-3+3” and Iran. And it’s up to them to determine the agenda. And we’re simply being kept apprised of what the results of those talks are.
Question: But, isn’t it UN involved in this?
Deputy Spokesman: No, we’re not part of those talks. Yes?
Question: On this issue of readouts, I was sort of expecting, I think that President [Petro] Poroshenko has spoken to the Secretary-General and I wanted to know, his read-out on his side, given was that the request was made that the Secretary-General work to get the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic be declared as terrorist organizations. Did that call take place, can you confirm that that was what was said and [Benjamin] Netanyahu, his office has said that his office has asked the Secretary-General to somehow produce photographs about the rockets in the UNRWA schools. So, I just, there are hear specific things that leaders have said they raised to the Secretary-General and I wanted to know from you, can you confirm them?
Deputy Spokesman: We don’t have readouts from those particular phone calls. I can confirm that each of them did take place at the end of last week. Regarding the discussion with President Poroshenko, you’ll have seen the briefing that Jeffrey Feltman gave towards the end of last week to the Security Council and that detailed our basic point of view about the latest incident that has taken place in Ukraine. And regarding the talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I believe that the Secretary-General is going to meet with the Prime Minister in Israel within the next few days and we’ll be able to provide some details of that.
Question: Just generally, the idea of declaring separatist groups “terrorist”, does he think the term “terrorist” might be starting to be used a little bit loosely? Or what’s his view of this?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, it’s not up to the Secretary-General to make such a designation. As you know, these are decisions taken by bodies of Member States and we leave it in their expertise. Have a good afternoon, everyone.
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