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

25 August 2014

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

25 August 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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, just to let you know we will… I know, traditionally, we have not been doing briefings in the last week of August, but I am sure that you will be delighted to know that we will be continuing the Briefing all week.

**Ebola

We will start with some updates on Ebola.  The UN system is focusing on tackling the serious outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa.  And I want to speak a little bit about the challenges with air transportation into and out of the countries affected.  The current limitations on flights into and out of these countries, and the restrictions placed on aircraft originating from these countries transiting through airports in neighbouring countries, though understandable, are not warranted.  It is not an optimal measure for controlling the impact of Ebola virus disease.  The measure does not reflect what is known about the way in which the virus passes between people.  In this sense, three considerations are important to keep in mind for the public at large:  Ebola is not spread through airborne contact.  In addition, transmission is unlikely to occur through water or food; a person infected with Ebola virus is not contagious until symptoms appear; and Ebola is spread through direct contact with the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with the virus. 

Protocols can be well established to safeguard against contagion, namely, Ebola affected individuals displaying symptoms of the infection can be identified before boarding airplanes and prevented from traveling.  As an additional safeguard, detection on arrival can trigger, if necessary, protocols for isolation of the patient and infection verification.  The current trend of limitations on flights is having adverse effects on efforts to control the disease.  Current flight limitations are hampering the movements of international experts involved in the control efforts.  These flight restrictions hinder the capacities of aid organizations like Médecins sans Frontières to deploy their personnel in support of the crisis response and mitigation.  The ability of programmes involved in controlling the outbreak to transport essential equipment and materials to the region is also being severely hampered.  These flight limitations contribute to the economic and diplomatic isolation of the affected countries and further compound the stigmatization already experienced by their citizens.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is always available to provide necessary advice on health aspects of international travel and to assist nations with establishing reliable border, airport and seaport health checks.  And, according to the World Health Organization, the latest figures of the Ebola outbreak are a total of 2,615 cases and 1,427 deaths that have now been reported in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.  The UN System Coordinator for Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, is now in Guinea, after visiting Liberia and Sierra Leone and we hope to have an update on his travels a bit later on.

**Democratic Republic of Congo — Ebola

And still on Ebola, our humanitarian colleagues report today that the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has confirmed that Ebola has resurfaced in the country.  The Congolese Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi said the outbreak killed 13 people since July in a remote village in the area of Boende, in Equateur Province, more than 1,200 kilometres from Kinshasa.  Minister Kabange said the strain of this outbreak was different from the one that's been ravaging West Africa.   The Congolese authorities, the World Health Organization and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] are mobilizing against the disease.  The UN Mission in the [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] has created an Ebola taskforce and is tracking and screening all of its staff travelling to and from the affected countries in West Africa.  Ebola was first discovered in the [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] in 1976.  And this is the seventh time the disease has broken out, with the latest bout being in 2012 when some 36 people died in Orientale Province.

** Syria

And as you saw over the weekend in a note to correspondents we shared with you, the UN confirmed that it facilitated the handover of Peter Theo Curtis.  He was handed over to UN peacekeepers in Al Rafid village, Quneitra, in the Golan Heights, at 6:40 p.m. local time, on 24 August.  And after receiving a medical check-up, Mr. Curtis was handed over to representatives of his Government.

** Iraq

From Iraq, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has condemned the appalling, widespread and systematic deprivation of human rights in Iraq led by the Islamic State and associated forces.  Ms. Pillay said that the armed groups are systematically targeting people based on their ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation.  She added that they are carrying out ethnic and religious cleansing in areas under their control.  Ms. Pillay warned that such persecution would amount to crimes against humanity. She urged the international community to ensure that the perpetrators of these vicious crimes do not enjoy impunity.

Over the weekend, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, called for immediate action to prevent the possible massacre of Iraqis in the northern town of Amerli.  Residents in the besieged town have been cut off from food and water supplies by the Islamic State for almost two months.  Mr. Mladenov urged the Iraqi Government to ensure that residents receive the aid they need.  He called on Iraq’s allies and the international community to work with the authorities to prevent a human rights tragedy.  And the Secretary-General is following the situation in Amerli very closely and he very much shares the concern expressed by Mr. Mladenov. 

Further on Amerli, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that the township continues to face insecurity and severe food shortages, as well as water and medical supplies.  According to reports, the Islamic State forces have blocked key entry routes into Amerli, virtually cutting all overland access.  There have been unconfirmed reports of women dying in childbirth, unable to reach hospitals outside the town.  Aid workers are continuing to search for a way to bring life-saving assistance to the town but the United Nations and its partners do not have access to the area by land or air.  [The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] in Iraq will continue to monitor the situation in Amerli as closely as possible.

** Myanmar

Moving on to Myanmar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser in that country, Vijay Nambiar, wrapped up a visit to Myanmar today — his eighth in the past year.  He met with the President, Foreign Minister and other senior officials, and also spoke with diplomats and members of political parties, representatives of ethnic armed groups, civil society, aid agencies, women and youth organizations.  Mr. Nambiar took part as an observer at a meeting on national reconciliation between the Government and ethnic armed groups — the first of its kind held in the country.  On behalf of the Secretary-General, Mr. Nambiar called on all involved to take a leap of faith and to set aside all narrow agendas in the common interest of peace and a unified Myanmar.

The Special Adviser also visited Rakhine to see first hand the progress made to provide aid to local communities, as well as actions being taken to address underlying causes of violence.  In his meetings, Mr. Nambiar spoke about the reform and democratization process, development and strengthening the cooperation between communities and ethnic groups, among other topics.  He also underlined the UN’s commitment to support Myanmar during this critical period of reform.

** Ukraine

And from Ukraine, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, wrapped up her mission to that country.  Yesterday, she visited areas of eastern Ukraine to see for herself the impact of the continued fighting on millions of people.  Since March of this year, some 200,000 people have fled their homes in search of safety within Ukraine and tens of thousands have fled to neighbouring countries.  At a centre for the displaced in Krasnyi Lyman, women who had fled the fighting with their families told Ms. Amos that the fighting must stop so they could feel safe again.  She also met with authorities in Sloviansk and commended the progress made in getting basic infrastructure repaired and the ongoing work preparing for winter.  The United Nations wants to get more aid to people in the affected areas, but is hampered by continued insecurity. Despite the security challenges, Ms. Amos said that the UN is looking at ways in which to get into the more difficult parts of eastern Ukraine, especially as winter approaches. 

**South Sudan

And a couple of notes from South Sudan:  the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) condemns the detention of a team of six Intergovernmental Authority on Development, otherwise known as IGAD, ceasefire monitors and three aircrew in Buoth, about 35 kilometres South West of Bentiu.  This happened on Saturday; they were detained by forces allied to Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in Opposition.  A Sudan People's Liberation Army liaison officer, who was part of the team, died in the detention reportedly due to natural causes.  The monitors were part of a verification team and were in Unity State on a routine mission.  The UN assisted in locating and flying the ceasefire monitors and the aircrew back yesterday.  The Mission reiterates its full support for the IGAD mediation, and the monitoring and verification mechanism, as agreed to by both parties on 23 January, and calls for the full cooperation with all parties in finding a peaceful and durable solution to the current crisis. 

And also from South Sudan, just an update on the number of civilians we are now protecting.  The Mission reports that the UN is now protecting more than 102,000 civilians at 10 of its bases across the country, the highest number of people that have taken refuge in its protection of civilians’ sites since the conflict began on 15 December last year.  The largest number of civilians — some 47,000 — are currently seeking protection at its site in Bentiu, followed by more than 17,000, each, at the UN House site in Juba, and in Malakal in Upper Nile State.  And we have more information available online. 

** Central African Republic

And from the Central African Republic, our humanitarian colleagues report that insecurity is increasing in Batangafo in the north-west of the country.  Some 19,000 people have been newly displaced by fighting between armed groups and international forces, and two international NGOs have temporarily relocated staff from Batangafo to the capital Bangui.  Our senior humanitarian colleague in Bangui, Claire Bourgeois, is scheduled to visit the area tomorrow.  [The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] has also recently opened a sub-office in Batangafo to improve coordination of the humanitarian response.

**Occupied Palestinian Territory

Also an update on numbers from Gaza:  the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that hostilities are continuing in Gaza, and that the number of displaced continues to rise.  At least 460,000 people — more than a quarter of Gaza’s population — are now displaced.   As of yesterday, more than 280,000 people were sheltering in 85 schools run by UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East], more than 36,000 in seven Government schools supported by UNRWA and 14,000 in 17 Government shelters.  An additional 140,000 have been registered as staying with host families.  Meanwhile, as you know, this should be the start of the school year.  But, UNRWA and Government schools are not ready for the new school year in Gaza, which was supposed to have started yesterday.  More than 200 schools were affected by shelling need to be repaired, including 22 which have been completely destroyed.  UNRWA’s TV station will run education programmes at emergency shelters and will expand psychosocial work with humanitarian organizations.

** Cyprus

And a couple things to flag:  as you would recall late Friday, we announced the appointment of Espen Barth Eide of Norway as the new Special Adviser on Cyprus.  He succeeds Alexander Downer of Australia.  And the Secretary-General expresses his gratitude to Lisa Buttenheim, his Special Representative in Cyprus, for serving as Acting Special Adviser.

**Richard Attenborough

And lastly, our colleagues at UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] have put out a statement from Anthony Lake, on the life of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lord Richard Attenborough, who recently passed away.  With the passing of Lord Attenborough, the world has lost not only a great voice, but a great soul.  He touched the lives of millions of people through his remarkable films, and through his travels and work as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.  He changed the lives of countless children.  We join his many admirers in honouring his life and mourning his loss, said Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF.

**Questions and Answers

Spokesman: Kirsten…

Question:  Thanks, Steph.  I have a number of questions on Peter Theo Curtis.  Can you tell us where he is now?  When he’ll be coming to the United States?

Also, any details about why he was released now?  We know it was the Qatari Government that negotiated this, but did the UN play a role, also?

Can you confirm that no ransom was paid as has been reported?  Et cetera…

Spokesman:  More information.

Question: Yes.

Spokesman:  What I can tell you is that the UN was not involved in the negotiations for his release.  We were contacted on Saturday by the parties concerned to facilitate his handover to the authorities of his own country.  So basically Saturday, overnight Saturday, well into Sunday, senior officials here worked the phones.  And with the really great assistance of the UN force in the Golan Heights with UNDOF, he was successfully returned and handed over to representatives of the United States in the Golan Heights.

Before being handed over, he received a medical check-up, quick medical check-up with UN peacekeepers and he seemed fairly healthy.

As for the rest, it’s really beyond our purview.  Where he is now, I know he was released to US authorities, who you should check with them as to his whereabouts.  And again we were not involved in the negotiations.  We were really there to [inaudible] and gladly facilitated his handover.

Question:  Were you contacted by American officials?

Spokesman:  We were contacted by parties concerned, the Americans and as well as the Qataris.

Question:  Follow-up on then… do you mean he was not taken through Damascus?  He was handed over in the Syrian-occupied Golan?

Spokesman:  He was handed over to a representative of his Government.  So that’s what I have.  As I said, you should check with the US as to his…

Question:  So the Syrian authorities were not involved in any way?

Spokesman:  I have given you what I have.

Question:  So what I understand is that UNDOF handed over to the United States in the occupied Syrian Golan?

Spokesman:  He was handed over as far as I know on UN — within the area of operation of UNDOF.  Joe, and then?

Question:  Yes, and turning to Libya, could you provide a little bit more detail on Mr. Leon’s, if I’m pronouncing it correctly, mission?  I know general terms is to try to achieve a truce, but I’m wondering if you could provide any more detail as to whom he may be having meetings or discussions with, particularly if he’s going to be discussing possible peace terms or truce terms with General [Khalifa] Hifter and with Ansar al‑Shariah.

And also, are there any UN personnel still remaining in Libya?  Tripoli, et cetera…  Thank you.

Spokesman: On your last part, I believe there is a very small number.  But I will double‑check that for you.  Mr.  Leon takes his seat, so to speak, at the beginning of September.  But as we’ve said here, we have sent teams to Tripoli in the meantime to talk to all the parties.

All that to say Mr. Leon will arrive in Libya at a time of — that is showing of extreme — that is worrying us quite a bit.  We’re seeing the fighting on the ground.  We’re seeing rebel groups trying to create a political reality on the ground.  You know, the UN is… you know, we understand that the differences between the various sides are complex but they need to be resolved.  They need to be resolved peacefully and they need to be resolved through negotiations.  You know, as far as the UN is concerned, we continue to support the legitimacy of the elected assembly.  And I think what is also worrying is that all this fighting has created a humanitarian situation that is making it much more difficult for families to thrive and survive in Tripoli and in other parts of the country.

Just this morning our colleagues at OCHA told us there are at least 10,000 families, about 50,000 people, that have been displaced as a result of the fighting.  So all that to say, there’s going to be a lot of work for Mr.  Leon.  And he will have to talk to whomever he needs to talk to.  But the message from the United Nations is clear, is that all the parties involved need to settle this peacefully and need to support the political process.

Yes, sir.  And then Matthew.

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Sorry for this before.  My question is on, since we now have some reports saying that the Syrian Government is willing, showing the will to work with any of the, they say like that, sorry for my interpretation, who are fighting ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in the region, including Syria.  What would be the comment of the Secretary-General on that?  Does he think that it’s possible?  And how does that would affect the Geneva peace process?

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General continues to believe that the situation in Syria needs to be resolved peacefully and through negotiations.  We need to have access, greater access for humanitarian colleagues for those people who are suffering.  We’ve seen improvements, as you’ve heard from here.  We’ve been updating you on the convoys; we’ve been able to deliver thanks to the new Security Council resolution.  And as you know, there will be a latest report on the humanitarian situation that will be going to — released and discussed in the council later this week. 

Matthew?

Question:  What about fighting terrorists?

Spokesman:  That’s what I have.  Mathew…

Question:  [Inaudible] one is that there’s a new law in Sierra Leone which would provide for jail time for people that, quote, “hide Ebola patients”.  And I wanted to know in the same way that you commented on travel restrictions if the UN has any view on that.  Also, can you confirm and I guess comment on what the replacement plans are for the Filipino peacekeepers leaving UNMIL and also leaving Golan Heights?

Spokesman:  Right.  We have not received anything official from the Government of the Philippines.  We have seen the press reports.  So until we hear from the Permanent Mission or the foreign ministry, we really have no, any comments.  We have seen the press reports and we’re obviously trying to get some clarifications.

You know, on Ebola, I think the way to read what I’ve just read out is that the right measures need to be put in place to safeguard public health.  And the stigmatization needs to be fought.  People need to understand where the actual risks are and where the risks are not.  And we would encourage Governments, both in the way they handle it nationally and through bilateral means to seek the assistance of the UN system, of the World Health Organization to put in place the right measures.

Question:  A follow-up.

Spokesman:  Hold on.

Question:  On the quarantine in West Point.  I’m trying to figure out in Monrovia, they quarantined a whole neighborhood and said they couldn’t leave.  Is this viewed as reasonable by the UN?

Spokesman:  Again, I think we need to… what is put in place needs to reflect the actual risk.  And we shouldn’t do anything that stokes fear and stigmatization.  Ibrahim?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Back to US journalist, my question about the first one, James Foley.  I’m going to make a story about him but I’m looking about reaction about this killing of ISIS in Syria.

My question exactly why we see a big reaction in the world, even here, the United States, the Security Council statement, the Secretary-General statement.  And the daily hundreds of people in Iraq are killed.  But the reaction not equal with this case?  Because he is a US journalist or…

Spokesman:  That’s — it’s a valid question.  I think we’ve — I can’t speak for the Security Council.  I can’t speak for the editors of major news organizations who decide what to put on their front page.  But I think the condemnation from this podium, from the Secretary-General of acts of barbarity; acts of violence that we have seen being perpetrated by the Islamic State have been clear and unequivocal.  We’ve condemned them.  Navi Pillay just condemned them.  I think it could not be clearer, the Secretary-General said and that Navi Pillay said it could very well constitute crimes against society and war crimes.  I think what we had with Mr. Foley is a name and a face.  And I think the violence that was perpetrated against him symbolizes the violence that others are suffering.

Evelyn and we’ll move down this way.  Sorry.  And then we’ll move outside of the front row a little bit, yeah.

Question:  On Ebola in Liberia.  How are they screening people coming in and out of the country?  Are they taking the temperatures of people?

Spokesman:  From what I understand, from the people who are actually doctors and public health experts, there are fairly easy ways of checking people’s temperature as you go in and as you go out.  But it is the responsibility of Governments to put these things into place.

Question:  And what is the role of the UN peacekeepers there?

Spokesman:  The UN peacekeepers continue in support of their mission and their mandate in assisting the Liberian Government.  But they are not directly involved in… the troops are not directly involved, as far as I know, in the response to Ebola.

Question:  I had another question.

Spokesman:  Let’s…

Question:  Thank you, Stephan.  And I hope you tolerate our blunt questions as much as we tolerate your vague answers sometimes.

[Laughter]

Spokesman:  Everybody’s entitled to an opinion.

Question:  You listed Gaza in your briefing as the last item while the situation in Gaza is really — it’s a kind of war of genocide against a civilian population.  Every day there are 30, 40 people killed.  Two‑story buildings were eliminated.  There is 360 small factories were completely destroyed.  The whole civil life in Gaza is being systematically destroyed.

Yet everything is going normal.  I mean the SG going with his business as usual.  He’s not concerned even about those children.

Spokesman:  Listen, I appreciate your opinion, but really I’m interested in your question.

Question:  My question:  Why there was not even a statement expressing concern about what happened in the last 24 hours to 36 hours in Gaza when there is nothing happening except destruction and killing?

Spokesman:  You know, I think for — we’re seeing almost an unprecedented scale of suffering around the world in different hot spots.

And everyone needs to… deserves to be heard.  And I know there are some issues that you care about more than others.  But the UN system is a big system.  The Secretariat has the width and breadth of dealing with different crises at different times, multiple crises.  We’re fairly stretched.  We’re very stretched.  And we need the assistance of the international community to help us deal with these various issues, from CAR, from South Sudan, to Gaza, to what’s going on in northern Iraq.

But if you think that the Secretary-General has not shown any concern to the situation in Gaza or has not spent any time in dealing with the situation in Gaza, then I’m not sure you’ve been listening to my answers, vague or not.

Masood?

Question:  Let me just follow up that.  The Secretary-General had telephone conversation with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  We got the readout.  Was he able to persuade Mr. Netanyahu to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza?

And the request of the human rights bodies, which have been pending, that they want to get access into Gaza to investigate the charges of crimes against humanity?

Spokesman:  The ceasefire was issued after the phone call is what we have.  Obviously I’m sure other issues were discussed.  And if we have more to share, I will share them with you, Masood.

Question:  Yeah, but he was not able to?  That’s all that happened?

Spokesman:  That’s all I’m able to share with you.  Yes, sir.  You guys negotiate.  Let him have a question.  He hasn’t had one.

Question:  In regard of Ebola, in a few weeks General Assembly going to happen and many people around the world going to come here.  Is the UN ready for this?

Spokesman:  Yes, I think it’s a discussion we’re having.  Obviously those discussions will involve the host country, which is responsible for the security and for the safety.  But it is obviously something that is — that we are discussing and that we’re looking at. 

Nizar?  One second.  Let’s get people who haven’t had a chance first.  Go ahead.

Question:  Anna on behalf of News AM.  Stéphane, are you informed that Valerie Amos, she visited — and also met lots of officials in Ukraine and concluded her visit and she was more or less pleased with it.  But could you please tell us a little bit more about Under-Secretary [General] Mr. Feldman who is also there and I believe he’s still continuing his visit?

Spokesman:  No.  Mr. Feltman is here.  I saw him with my own two eyes this morning.  So I know he’s back here.

Question:  So he’s back.

Spokesman:  I think he had, as we updated on Friday, he has had good discussions.  He met with Ukrainian President, senior officials.  And I’m sure he will be briefing in a more public setting within the coming days.

Question:  Because it would be really important, you know, to learn his opinion as well and the results that he achieved.  And one more little question.  How does UN and specifically Secretary-General view Russian humanitarian help to Ukraine?

Spokesman:  I said what we’ve said in the past is that it’s important that humanitarian help be distributed in coordination with all the parties involved as well as the International Committee for the Red Cross.

Question:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  One second.  We’ll do a second round.

Question:  Thanks, Steph.  It’s been exactly one year to the day since reports surfaced that the UN teleconference system was infiltrated, to some extent, by the United States.  Martin at the time said the UN was going to proceed by getting in touch with the relevant authorities.  A year on, what improvements have been made?  Can the UN vouch for the security of its telecommunications networks?

Spokesman:  It’s a great question and maybe I should list all the improvements that have been made.  That was somewhat of an attempt at humor.

Obviously, whatever improvements were made will not be shared.  But more importantly, it’s not just a matter of improvements.  It is that inviolability of the United Nations communications need to be respected by all 193 Member States.

Let’s go start again here.

Question:  With the case of the Golan, the hostage, Qatar once again showed that they have ties with Jabhat al‑Nusra which is indicated as a terrorist organization.  In the past, Syria accused Qatar of giving instructions.  And they gave evidence of that by letter and cable which asked and al‑Nusra to capture the Filipino peacekeepers.  And that case was not investigated enough, I mean the peacekeeping department here did not really…

Spokesman:  I said please, your question.

Question:  This is a question.  I mean this is a very serious matter.

Spokesman:  I know it’s a serious matter, but I just want to hear your question.

Question:  The question is why there are not taking these allegations seriously and the evidence which was presented by Syria to pursue, to see the cooperation between Qatar and Jabhat al‑Nusra?

Spokesman:  I think all these things are being looked at whether it’s the Security Council or the Secretariat.

Question:  [Inaudible]

Spokesman:  It’s what I have for you. 

Kristin and then Matthew...

Question:  A UN committee, I think it’s the Committee to End Racial Discrimination, issued a statement today.  They are calling for a peacekeeping mission for Iraq.  I realize that would have to go through the Security Council.  But is there any work being done to look at the possibility of a peacekeeping force of some sort?  Has Secretary-General done any research on this or asked to do any research on it?

Spokesman:  I think there would need to be peace to keep to send any peacekeepers.  And I think, as you rightly said, it is a matter for the Security Council.  Evelyn?  Okay.  Go ahead.

Question:  Thank you again.  Lately ISIS is making a lot of news because their prosecution of minority, those who are against and grabbing lands.  But these things happening in Middle East all over.  Has UN coming to the point that teaching human rights and supporting human rights more in the Middle East?  So these things do not happen.

Spokesman:  You know — thank you for a question.  But I think it’s more of a question for graduate school seminar.  Obviously, the situation is very concerning with the number of human rights violations that we’ve seen.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has national programmes, works with national authorities.  But it is also the responsibility of Governments to ensure that people are knowledgeable about human rights and tolerance and respect.

Matthew, and then we’ll go down this way.

Question:  It’s a pretty straightforward question.  The Egyptian assistant Foreign Minister has announced that Egypt will be sending peacekeepers to the new UN force in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA.  And I wanted to know given the allegations made about the killing of up to about 1,000 protesters by the Egyptian security forces that still remain unprosecuted and unresolved, what steps DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) is taking to ensure that the soldiers and security forces not only sent to MINUSCA but to you know UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur) in Darfur and Mali are not, in fact, soldiers who took part in those events?

Spokesman:  Let me check about the reports and then we can talk about what they’re doing. 

Sir?  And then Masood?

Question: Thank you, sir.

Spokesman:  You said you wanted to be last.  Oh, okay, sorry.  Go ahead.

Question:  Just a pure question.  You said before that the Secretary-General condemned every possible time whatever needed to be condemned in regard with the fighting of terrorism in Syria and Iraq and et cetera.  My question is:  Beside condemning and issuing the statement, now we did have sort of offer from the Syrian Government who was also condemned for their conducting their way of handling demonstrators, peaceful demonstration, et cetera, why Secretary-General or does the Secretary-General really considering any kind of cooperation with that Government in addressing or in fight besides condemning the terrorism activities in that region?

Spokesman: On the political end on Syria, those issues are being dealt with by the new special envoy, Mr. de Mistura, but otherwise, I have nothing more to add there.  I understand.  I have nothing more to add.

Evelyn?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Two quick questions if they’re quick.  There is an elephant in the room when you spoke about Valerie Amos and the Ukraine.  Is she having anything to do in the distribution or the oversight on the Russian trucks coming in and out?

Spokesman:  No.  The issue with the coordination for the distribution of the Russian trucks is something that the ICRC would handle.

Question:  Yes, but is she looking into it?  It’s like walking through the waters.

Spokesman:  There are still some security concerns, but right now it’s really up to the ICRC.

Question:  And, secondly, a footnote to the violence in Gaza, Hamas has executed several people and vows to execute more, which Human Rights Watch has written a lot about.  Anything out of this place?

Spokesman:  I think the issue of extra-judicial executions is something we have condemned and we will continue to condemn. 

Masood?

Question:  Mine is a very small question.  Finally you came to me.

Spokesman:  You guys all have to just take it down a notch.  I get to everybody.

Question:  Okay.  Down a notch.  Okay.  Now, there are reports that at the India-Pakistani border there have been clashes, three people have been killed and several injured.  And Indian Government has said it is going to give appropriate response to Pakistan for it is, what you call, involvement.  Can you please tell us what the Secretary-General has to say about that?

Spokesman:  Let me check with our colleagues in DPA (Department of Political Affairs) and DPKO or — if we have anything on that issue? 

Nisar, and then Matthew?

Question:  We haven’t heard any statements regarding the armistice that the Syrian Government is granting to many rebels, hundreds of them in recent days at least, in areas in Damascus in East Ghouta, in central Damascus, as well.  Areas which were under siege for a long time and then the rebels surrendered, not surrendered, they arranged, they made arrangements for amnesties with the Government.  And they’ve even been allowed to keep their weapons.

What was the opinion of the United Nations?

Spokesman:  I have not seen those reports.  I will check and I will get you something on that.

Question: These happened even in…

Spokesman:  I believe you.  I don’t disbelieve you.  I just need to check.  Mr. Lee…

Question:  Sure.  In South Sudan there’s been Toby Lanzer made one comment and now the bunch of companies in Juba have talked about a trend of crackdowns on the press and censorship, not only the locked‑up journalists but directives going out to media organizations not to report on what SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) and opposition is saying or not to report on sanctions against Dinka leaders in the Dinka language.  What I wanted to know specifically is how does this relate to Radio Miraya?  The UN radio there.  To my knowledge, they have haven’t reported on the sanctions against SPLA leaders in their broadcasts.  So the question arises:  Are they obeying these orders?  What’s the relation of that station and you could say the same thing about…

Spokesman:  It’s a UN station.  We have spoken out on the increasing efforts to curtail operations of media.  I don’t have anything specific.

Question:  Has that been reported on the station you spoken out here?  Anything concerned about in‑country censorship.  Is it possible to get an answer?

Spokesman:  You can try to get the missions and we’ll see if we get anything. 

Last three.  Yes, sir.

Question:  On Ebola issue that my friend asked, you said that the responsibility of the summits that is going to be General Assembly beginning and obviously the people are coming from all over is responsibility on the host country, United States.  What is the responsibility of the United Nations?

And also I have to ask you.  It looks to me that for the second time in order you try to put the hot potato from the UN to somebody else.  In Syria from Secretary-General to Mr. de Mistura… and now from…

Spokesman:  I’m happy for you to do color commentary on my briefing.  You asked me a question, I give you the answer.  I don’t, you know, it’s the way it’s worked since the spokesmen were invented.  It’s one of the oldest professions.

Sorry.  It’s been a long day.

[Laughter]

Yes, exactly.  On the  US, obviously the safety and security of what goes on outside and of people coming into United States is clearly the responsibility of the host country.  What I said is we are — this is something that we are talking about, that we are discussing.  And obviously the UN has responsibilities.  But it is within the walls of the organization.

Masood and then Carla.

Question:  On Mr. Nambiar’s visit to Myanmar and especially what is happening at this time with the Rohingya people over there, would you be able to give us a briefing on this situation in Myanmar?

Spokesman:  We can always ask.  We can always ask. 

Carla, last question...

Question: Does the UN have any comment on the averted possible collision between China and the US surveillance plane?  Plana said it was a large-scale high frequency?

Spokesman:  I’ll refer you back to what the Secretary-General said in Shanghai early this year where he hoped that all the issues relating to the South China Sea and other areas would be resolved peacefully.  I’ll be here all week.

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