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

20 October 2015

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, everybody.

**Middle East

The Secretary-General has repeatedly expressed his anguish and deep concern at the escalating violence in Israel and Palestine.  In an effort to help defuse the current tensions, he has begun a visit to the region today to meet with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and President [Mahmoud] Abbas, and other senior officials. He met with Israeli President Reuben Rivlin shortly after his arrival and said his visit is intended to encourage and support all efforts to lower tensions and prevent the situation from spinning out of control.

The Secretary-General is also expected to meet with Israeli and Palestinian victims of the recent hostilities and terror attacks.  In a video message issued before his departure to the region, the Secretary-General spoke directly to the peoples of Israel and Palestine about the dangerous escalation in violence across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, especially in Jerusalem.  He voiced his dismay at seeing young people, children, picking up weapons and seeking to kill.

The Secretary-General told the Palestinian people and leadership that violence will only undermine the legitimate Palestinian aspirations for statehood and the longing of Israelis for security.  He said that Palestinians have the right to live a decent life in dignity, respect and freedom.  But it can only be reached by establishing a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel, not through the violent acts we have been witnessing.

The Secretary-General told the Israeli people and leadership that he appreciates their genuine concern about peace and security and also understands the anger many Israelis feel.  But he said that walls, checkpoints, harsh responses by the security forces, and house demolitions cannot sustain the peace and safety that Israel needs and must have, adding that there is no so-called “security” solution.

He asked Palestinian and Israeli leaders alike to stand firm against terror, violence and incitement.  He called on them to demonstrate in both words and deeds that the historic status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem will be preserved, and to reaffirm their commitment to end the occupation and pursue a two-State solution by making changes on the ground.  That video is available online.


Yesterday afternoon, we issued the following statement, saying that the Secretary-General is deeply saddened by the news of the execution of two juvenile offenders last week in Iran.  The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child — both ratified by Iran — prohibits the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed by persons below 18 years of age.

The Secretary-General is concerned that these two executions reflect a worrying trend in Iran.  Over 700 executions are reported to have taken place so far this year, including at least 40 public, marking the highest total recorded in the past 12 years.  The majority of executions were imposed for drug-related offences, crimes that do not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes”, as required by international law.

The Secretary-General reaffirms the opposition of the United Nations to the imposition of the death penalty and calls on the Government of Iran to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

**Security Council

The Security Council began an open meeting this morning on its working methods, on which it heard from the Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson.  The Deputy Secretary-General noted that while the Council decides on its own procedures, the Secretariat stands ready to provide institutional memory and advice to the rotating Council Presidencies and to its other members.  His remarks are available in our office.

The Security Council also adopted a presidential statement on the Central African Republic earlier this morning.

**Sri Lanka

The Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Miroslav Jenca, will begin a visit to Sri Lanka tomorrow.  His five-day visit follows recent discussions between the Secretary-General and President Maithripala Sirisena on the margins of the General Assembly.

Mr. Jenca’s visit will provide an opportunity for continued dialogue with Sri Lankan authorities and stakeholders, and will inform the longer-term UN peacebuilding programme to support Sri Lanka.  He will also participate in the UN Day event in Colombo on 24 October to celebrate the twin milestones of the UN’s seventieth anniversary and Sri Lanka’s sixtieth anniversary as a Member State.


Our humanitarian colleagues say that the number of people displaced following military offensives around Aleppo in Syria is now estimated to be around 50,000.  People need tents, water services, basic household kits and cooked meals.  Our local humanitarian partners are helping to meet the needs of displaced people.

As we mentioned yesterday, three convoys of 31 trucks with medical and humanitarian supplies for 30,000 people were delivered simultaneously on Sunday to Fouah and Kefrayah in Idlib Governorate, and Zabadani and Madaya in Rural Damascus Governorate.  The number of people reached is expected to rise to 40,000 in the next couple of days.


The World Food Programme (WFP) is delivering food to the non-government-controlled area in the city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine for the first time since all humanitarian activities were suspended there three months ago.  Two truck convoys, carrying enough food for nearly 16,000 people for one month, reached Donetsk in the past five days.

More convoys bringing food are being planned so that the total number of vulnerable people to receive assistance will be 20,000.  As another winter approaches, the humanitarian community is concerned about the needs of the most vulnerable people, especially those who had to flee their homes.  You can read more about this on WFP’s website.


The UN refugee agency, or UNHCR, said today in Geneva that the number of people who have arrived by sea to Greece so far this year has topped half a million, with 8,000 people arriving yesterday.

It said that many refugees and migrants are desperate to move quickly onwards to Western Europe, fearing that borders ahead of them will close.  The spike in the number of arrivals is sharply increasing reception pressures on Greece, and the Agency said that it is important that reception conditions be adequate to the task.

Without this essential element, the relocation programme agreed by Europe in September is in serious peril and may fail, UNHCR warned.  The total number of refugees and migrants to reach Europe so far this year via the Mediterranean is now over 643,000.  You can read more about this on UNHCR’s website.

**Honour Roll

For the Honour Roll, Oman has become the 133rd Member State to pay its regular budget dues in full.  Shukran, Muscat.

**Press Conferences

And this afternoon at 1:15 p.m., here in this room, there will be a briefing by the Chair of the Committee against Torture, Claudio Grossman; along with the Chair of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, Malcolm Evans; and the Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Juan Ernesto Méndez.  And then tomorrow at 1:15 p.m., here in this room, there will be a briefing by the Minister of Internal Affairs of Spain, Jorge Fernández Díaz.  And that is it for me.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  As you mentioned, Secretary-General was supposed to meet Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas.  Is he bringing with him any concrete new ideas to break the deadlock?

Deputy Spokesman:  In terms of ideas for the peace process, of course, first, we need to make sure that the leaders themselves will be willing to negotiate with each other and to return to negotiations on a two-State solution.  This is something that the Secretary-General has been encouraged, encouraging, as has, as have the other members of the Middle East quartet.  But the Secretary-General, in terms of what his ideas are for the way forward, laid them out very clearly in his video message, and I would just refer you to that.  Yes, Joe.

Question:  Yeah, well, in the video message, as you quoted, the Secretary-General called on Palestinian and Israeli leaders to stand firm against terror, violence, and incitement, and to demonstrate in both words and deeds that the historic status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem will be preserved.  So I have a two-part question.  First, I want to go back to what I had asked you on Friday concerning the evidence submitted by UN Watch that a number of UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] employees have posted on social media incendiary language inciting violence and anti-Semitic attacks.  You said it remains to be seen whether there were, in fact, personnel of the UN Relief and Works Agency and that an investigation would be undertaken.  So the first question is, is that investigation underway?  Has the Secretary-General, now that he's visiting the region, going to personally intervene and speak with UNRWA personnel to impress upon them that this is not accept… if these claims are true, that this is not acceptable?  And UN Watch, I should say, has indicated that previous submissions of evidence of previous incendiary rhetoric by UNRWA personnel have essentially been ignored by the UN.  The second part of the question is on the holy sites.  There is a resolution being considered, I think, today by UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] recommending that the Western Wall be integrated with Al-Aqsa Mosque, and this was certainly… would certainly change the status quo.  So I'd be wondering whether the status… the Secretary-General has any comment on that.  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  Regarding your second question we're aware of the press release put out by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.  And we would refer you to them for any further comment on this.  The Secretary-General has made it very clear that from his standpoint, he wants the historic status quo of the old city of Jerusalem to be preserved, and that remains his position, including to the leaders of both sides.  Regarding…

Question:  Well, would he oppose that resolution?

Deputy Spokesman:  What?

Question:  Would he oppose that resolution?  As I believe the director of UNESCO expressed some real concern about it, the Secretary-General has just indicated that, to the leaders of the Palestinians and Israelis that nothing should be done to change the status quo and the holy sites, and here's a proposal in UNESCO to do just that.  Doesn't he have an opinion that...

Deputy Spokesman:  Like I said, the Secretary-General's position is precisely to maintain the historic status quo, and that is where we stand.  Regarding your earlier question on the UN Relief and Works Agency, they have followed up in the past and they will continue to follow up on these charges.  I have no further details on that.

[The correspondent was later informed of the following: UNRWA takes all allegations of violations of UN principles as well as its neutrality and established social media policies very seriously.  UNRWA condemns and will not tolerate anti-Semitism or racism in any form. Every allegation brought to our attention has either been or is being assessed, and where there are prima facie facts to support the allegation, in accordance with due process.  Some allegations have been found to be authentic, others not.


Already, working closely with Facebook’s legal team, UNRWA has brought about the removal of more than 90 imposter or unauthorized Facebook pages.  In some cases, it has determined the alleged ‘UNRWA staff’ are not in fact UNRWA employees or are no longer UNRWA employees.  However, and very regrettably, in a number of cases so far, the Agency has found staff Facebook postings to be in violation of its social media rules.  These postings have been removed and the staff have been subject to both remedial and disciplinary action, including suspension and loss of pay.  The remaining allegations are under assessment.]

Yes, Benny.

Question:  To follow up on the… to follow up on that question on the Western Wall and UNESCO, as you know, outside of this building, very few people would know exactly UNESCO, Secretariat.  It's all UN basically.  So with the Secretary-General giving very, you know, generalized comments about how everything should go, isn't it fair to ask him whether a major UN agency is, as Irina Bokova said today, making a move that could be seen to alter the status of the old city of Jerusalem and its walls and incite further tensions?  Isn't it fair for him to weigh in on something that, according to maybe his successor, it might incite further tensions, I mean, while he's there specifically to lower tensions?

Deputy Spokesman:  I will leave it to UNESCO to speak for themselves on their actions.  From our standpoint, like I said, the Secretary-General has been very, very clear about where we stand on the actual status of the sites.  He wants the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem to remain as is and to be respected as is.

Question:  Farhan, this is a major UN agency that is doing something that, not only alters, but, I mean, it goes directly to one of the sides… to one side's [inaudible] and you're saying, ah.

Deputy Spokesman:  I'm not saying "ah."  That is what you're saying, and frankly, I've given you the details of exactly what the Secretary-General expresses.  Yes, please.


Question:  I have a question regarding the stat… when you talk about the status quo, what you exactly refer to?  I suppose you are talking about the situation in East Jerusalem and Palestine before the occupation of East Jerusalem.  Is that correct?  Yeah.

Deputy Spokesman:  What we want to see, as has been stated repeatedly in recent weeks, is for the way in which the holy sites are handled and the way in which access is granted to the holy sites to remain the way it has been in, in past years without any further, without any change.

Question:  But, sorry, follow-up.  What do you mean past years?  You mean from the occupation, how it was until the occupation of '67?

Deputy Spokesman:  The system that we've had in place in the old city of Jerusalem throughout this period in which the Israelis and Palestinians have been living there together is the one we want to see prevail.  Yes.

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  I'm just going to switch gears a little bit, if that's okay.  Yesterday...

Deputy Spokesman:  I kind of thought you might.

Question:  Yeah?  Canada had an election.  After almost ten years, we have a new Government, a new party, a new leader in Canada.  And as you know, Ban Ki-moon gave an interview to CBC almost a year ago in December urging Canada to be more, and I'm quoting, ambitious and visionary when it comes to the climate and that, as one of the G7 countries, it's natural that it should play more of a leadership role.  And I'm wondering if you can tell me how the UN hopes that the change in leadership might change the dynamic as far as Canada's participation in the upcoming Paris Climate Summit.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, while we welcome the strong participation by the Canadian people at yesterday's elections, at the same time, we wouldn't have any particular analysis to share on how the dynamic would change.  The Secretary-General's position remains unchanged from what he told [the] Canadian Broadcasting [Corporation] last year.  Canada is a member of the Group of 7, and as a result, it has a particular role to play in terms of providing leadership on climate change issues, and the Secretary-General hopes and expects that Canada will play that role and will play, in particular, a very useful and decisive role in terms of the Conference of Parties that will take place in Paris this December.  And he is hopeful and expectant that they will go ahead with that.  Yes.

Question:  I wanted to ask about Burundi and then something on the Global Sustainability Foundation.  In Burundi, the leader of the MSD opposition party, Charlotte Umugwaneza, was killed, has been essentially assassinated.  Her body was found, and separately, a journalist from Radio Publique Africaine, Afrikan, Egide Mwemero, was arrested in eastern DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo], where he had previously been told to stop broadcasting by the DRC government.  So on the one, I want, what's the reaction to the UN to, like, assassination of political leaders in Burundi?  And what does MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] have to say about the silencing of Burundian press as soon as they cross the border into the DRC?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding your first question, as you're aware, just a little over a week ago, we issued a statement voicing the Secretary-General's concerns about the violence in Burundi, including killings of members of political groups, and our concerns continue to apply to the violence that we've seen since that statement was issued.  And he does continue to be worried about how the, the political situation on the ground in Burundi has been playing out and by actions taken by different forces, including by the security forces.  Regarding your question about the journalist, of course, the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as all our missions everywhere, affirms the right of reporters to go about their work without hindrance and we would be concerned at any violation of that.

Question:  And is there any... apparently, there's no update on the envoy, on an UN envoy, replacement envoy, but if the idea to refer to President Museveni, does the UN, can you say any steps that the Ugandan mediation has taken in Burundi to bring the sides together, or has nothing taken place?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't speak for the Ugandan mediation.  What I can say is we continue as well through our own political efforts to follow up on the situation on the ground in Burundi.  We have made our own concerns known, including in our recent statement, and we will continue to follow up through our Department of Political Affairs and our officials on the ground.  Yes.

Question:  Me?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, Abdelhamid.

Question:  Thank you.  I have a number of questions, but I will start with Libya.  But I go back to the issue of Palestine.  Today is October 20th, the deadline for the two parties to reach the agreement on the national accord government.  Apparently, the deadline is passing and, according to the news, the parliament in Tobruk rejected the political agreement.  Is there any update on the issue of Libya?  And what will happen and is Bernardino León considering the idea of resigning his post?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding that, first of all, regarding the reports that, of any parties rejecting the agreement, we have heard some voices, but all the participants need to make their voices heard and we believe that there's actually strong support for the agreement and for the process, and this is something that Bernardino León has been reiterating in his own remarks in recent weeks.  Regarding your larger question about the process and Mr. León's role, the Secretary-General continues to follow developments in Libya very closely and urges the participants in the UN-facilitated dialogue to urgently endorse and sign the Libyan political agreement presented on the 8th of October.  After months of turmoil and uncertainty, Libyan leaders should not squander this opportunity for peace and stability.  The Secretary-General reiterates that the United Nations, through the United Nations' support mission in Libya, stands ready to support a Libyan Government of national accord.  He also notes the commitment of the international community to offer significant support to the new Government, and the Secretary-General reiterates his full support for his Special Representative, Mr. Bernardino León.  

Question:  Thank you.  Can I continue…

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.

Question:  …with some, a few other questions? 

Deputy Spokesman:  Sure.

Question:  In his message, the Secretary-General said, addressing the Palestinians, that violence will not bring you closer to your dream of independence and statehood.  Something like that, right?  So what does he mean by that?  Would he… will just being quiet bring them closer?  They've been quiet since 2005 when the end of the second intifada was officially declared and the new President was elected and he advocating nonviolence, Mr. Abbas, and they've been quiet all those years.  So why doesn’t that didn't bring them closer to the statehood and independence?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well…

Question:  What will now… if they give up this kind of protest, how they will become closer to realizing their statehood and independence?

Deputy Spokesman:  The Secretary-General firmly believes that there is no way that the sort of violence we've seen, including stabbings and attacks by children, can bring us any closer to any positive result, let alone statehood for Palestine.  As he said yesterday, the goal of a Palestinian State and of Palestinian dignity can only be reached essentially through negotiations, by a Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel.  That is the vision of a two-State solution we've been pursuing all along and that is what we will continue to pursue.  We know the course has been difficult.  We know there have been frustrations on both sides at how the process has gone.  But that doesn't mean that you give up on the peace process or on negotiations.  In fact, the sort of violence we've seen in the last few weeks with people from both sides being killed, with people being afraid to walk the streets, should once again tell people that this is the time to go back and pursue peace.  Yes.

Question:  Well… well, first of all, thousands of rockets launched from Gaza into civilian areas in Israel after Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza is hardly peace.  But my question…

Deputy Spokesman:  Gentlemen, you can have these debates with each other but with me, it’s not…

Question:  I correct the record on that.  My question on the UN Watch claims, last month, they submitted a report claiming that 12 UNRWA officials engaged in anti-Semitic incitement and you said that that has been investigated.  So I would like to know what results of that investigation has it been submitted back to UN Watch and is it publicly available?  That's my first question.

Deputy Spokesman:  I would refer you to my colleague, the Spokesperson for the UN Relief and Works Agency, Chris Gunness, and he can provide you with details of how they've been responding to these requests…

Question:  Well, there haven't been anything that we're aware of that's been made public or submitted to UN Watch but…

Deputy Spokesman:  Like I said…

Question:  I think… you said there's been an investigation…

Deputy Spokesman:  No, what I've said, no what I've said is the Relief and Works Agency looks into all of these.  It takes them very seriously.  UN personnel are not supposed to engage in any sort of inappropriate activities.

Question:  But you don't know the results of that investigation…

Deputy Spokesman:  And the Relief and Works Agency has looked into it.  I’ve talked with my colleague Chris about it, and I suggest you do the same.

Question:  I'm sorry.  I can't let you off that easily.  Do you know the results of that investigation?  What did he tell you, and what can you share with us?

Deputy Spokesman:  There are different results in different cases.  I'm not going to go through the whole one, all of them.  Like I said, Chris Gunness has the details, and you can get those from him.  Masood.

Question:  Farhan, can you please update me because update us, rather?  The Secretary-General is in Israel, Tel Aviv, today.  Did he meet with…

Deputy Spokesman:  No, he's not in Tel Aviv.  He's in Jerusalem right now, I think, I believe.

Question:  What?

Deputy Spokesman:  I think he's in Jerusalem.

Question:  Did he meet with the Israeli Prime Minister?

Deputy Spokesman:  He is going to meet with him probably in the coming hour.

Question:  And what did, what do you think the Secretary-General aims to achieve in these meetings?  Because it seems that their positions are very strong, and they're not going to, and intractable.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, like I said…

Question:  Can you...

Deputy Spokesman:  … his visit is intended support all efforts to lower tensions and prevent the situation from spiraling out of control.  So that is his priority.  Above and beyond that, if we can make progress on any of the further structural issues, that would be an added gain, but right now, the focus of the visit is to keep any further deterioration from happening.  Yes, Nabil.

Question:  Follow-up on that.  Does the SG [Secretary-General] believe that now there is, there should be a meeting for the quartet to discuss the situation?  And I have a question on Libya.  What's your reaction on the Libyan government position?  They refused to sign the peace agreement.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, I just answered your colleague, Abdelhamid's question on that topic, so I would refer you back to what I said on that concerning Libya.  Concerning the quartet, yes, there's a role for the quartet to play.  I don't have anything to announce on this, but, but we had indicated a couple of weeks ago that there was a possibility of the quartet envoys having a meeting.  If there's a meeting either at the envoy level or principals’ level in the coming days we'll announce it at that time.  Yes.

Question:  Yes, just to follow up, just to clarify, thank you, you said UNRWA takes all of these charges, all of these concerns seriously.  I'd just like to clarify.  Does the Secretary-General take these reports of UNRWA personnel engaging through social media to incite violence, does the Secretary-General take these concerns seriously?

Deputy Spokesman:  He takes any, he takes any credible reports against, against UN personnel seriously.  What remains to be determined at the ground level is, is whether they've carried out these actions or not.  But certainly, all the UN personnel have to be sure in all of their actions, including in their private activities and social media activities, to uphold the values of this Organization.

Question:  And one other question, just, and this is a serious question.  Is the Secretary-General concerned about appearing ineffectual if you have major UN agencies like UNESCO making moves which are clearly not in congruence with what he's saying from public podiums?

Deputy Spokesman:  The Secretary-General is going to continue with his efforts and he has been very clear about his positions and where he feels the dynamic of this crisis needs to head.  He will talk to the leaders on that basis.  Obviously, there's a wide network of organizations in the UN system.  It is clear that those organizations need to understand the role of the United Nations as a UN body in addressing the crisis, the crises it faces in a coordinated way.  At the same time, we do understand that there is a far-flung network of bodies, but that shouldn't deter from the Secretary-General's views or the work he does on the ground.  Yes, Abdelhamid.

Question:  In 1947, [inaudible]… did the UN ever take any resolution to annul that resolution?  That's one thing. 

The second, in 1929, there were skirmishes between both the residents of Jerusalem, both Arabs and Jews, near the Wailing Wall, or the Western Wall, and the League of Nations established a legal committee and they did a study, and it was published 1933 about the, this Wailing Wall, or the Western Wall, and I refer you to this study what did the League of Nations issue following the investigation what happened in 1929.  Now, my question is, in his statement, why the Secretary-General avoided mentioning the casualties?  He didn't say there are 40 Palestinians were killed, including 8 children, and he, if you read the statement, you found that he was trying to very carefully put the blame and the appeal equally to the two parties, the occupier and the occupied.

Question:  The Secretary-General's words are very clear.  We've given the numbers, including, by the way, in a briefing that was given by Tayé-Brook Zerihoun last Friday in the Security Council.  So it's, so we are keeping track of those.  But this is not about numbers.  This is about the right of people, of all the peoples of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, to go about their lives without fear and without a constant climate of insecurity.  The Secretary-General believes, and he has made it very clear, that there are things each side needs to do, and he's laid them out very carefully in the video message yesterday.  And I don't have anything to add to that.  But it's clear that this is what he believes is the way forward, not through a constant cycle of violence and recrimination.  Yes, Oleg.

Question:  Speaking of history, have the Secretary-General...

Deputy Spokesman:  No, no, Oleg, not you.

Question:  Oh, Oleg.  Sure.

Question:  Stéphane…

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah.

Question:  …let me take the [inaudible] sideways.  There's a debate in the Security Council today on the working methods, and there has been some critique about what is said to be some interlapping between the responsibilities of the Security Council under the UN Charter and some other UN bodies like, like the General Assembly and others.  Do you see, do you recognize that there is such an issue of interlapping?  And does it have any negative impact on the work of the bodies?  Thank you.


Deputy Spokesman:  Well, to the extent there ways in which the functions can overlap, we try to coordinate in ways that the bodies can work most efficiently with each other.  I'd refer you simply to the remarks that were made by the Deputy Secretary-General for what our thinking is on that, but we have continually reported to the Security Council and to the General Assembly on ways to better improve our working methods so, essentially to take care of any of those particular issues.  Yes, Benny, and then Matthew.

Question:  Yeah.  Colleague Oleg.  After… speaking of history, that historical document that was prepared, the Secretary… have there been any further requests to, to circulate it in the Security Council?  Have you made it available to members of the Security Council?  What's the status?

Deputy Spokesman:  We are aware of some requests by Member States for the document.  It's, it's possible then as a response that it will be circulated to the members.  Like you said, this is a historical document that's been prepared.  And I do expect at some point it will be shared.

Question:  I didn't say that.

Deputy Spokesman:  What?

Question:  Deputy Spokesman said that.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah.  You said it just now, echoing the Deputy Spokesman from yesterday.  Yes.

Question:  Okay, sure.  Thanks a lot.  I wanted to ask one question about Global Sustainability Foundation, one about Mr. Ng Lap Seng.  Seems that the Global Sustainability Foundation held a luncheon for…

Deputy Spokesman:  Benny, Matthew's talking.  Yeah.

Question:  …held a luncheon for and raised funds for this Arc of Return, it's a monument to the recollection of transatlantic slavery.  And I wanted to know, one, I mean, pending… this just seems it's a fact, it's on their website they basically present themself as a major sponsor of the monument, which isn't really my understanding, but can you find out without, it's not an audit.  It's just a financial question.  Did they, in fact, give money to it, and why did they sponsor the luncheon for it?  What was their, in what capacity did they do that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Again, this is one of the topics for which we expect any relevant information will come out through the audit, so we would await that…

Question:  Can't you answer just a simple financial question…

Deputy Spokesman:  No, I'm not going…

Question:  This is a monument to which the Secretary-General raised funds… 

Deputy Spokesman: I'm not going…

Question:  …how much did they give?

Deputy Spokesman:  I'm not going to do the work that the auditors are doing.  We're waiting for the auditors to go about their work, and we'll see what they have to say.  If there's any additional avenues we need to pursue after that, we can do that at that point.

Question:  Okay.  I want to ask you another question.  Mr. Ng Lap Seng, who's now out on $50 million bail, I guess I'm just won… this is what I want to ask you.  Given that he… how it seemed he sort of penetrated the UN system, including several photo ops with Ban Ki-moon against a blue background in Cipriani's, I wanted to ask you, a major financial newspaper, just on cursory research, said he's a co-owner of the Fortuna Hotel, which has… quote, this is all from their promotional material, table dancing by strippers, boasted attractive and attentive hostesses from China, Singapore and Korea, and erotic girls from Europe and Russia.  And I wanted to know, given, given everything that's said from this podium about UN Women and the need to take these issues seriously, how is it possible… how is it possible that this, an individual engaged in these activities, came… came to such a position of prominence and, and, and closeness to the Secretary‑General?

Deputy Spokesman:  Matthew, we do not speak for David Ng Lap Seng or his group or his business holdings.  Any questions on that have to go to his organizations.  The United Nations does not deal with any of the, of the entities, with entities like the ones that you've described.

Question:  The money from it was donated to various UN causes.  That’s why I'm asking you to respond to this pending, this unending audit, what do you think of this?

Deputy Spokesman:  The nature of corporations is that any corporation can have many, many different holdings.  I'm not going to comment on all of the holdings of different groups, depending upon what they do with the UN.  What we're trying to monitor is how the funds from these groups affected the UN and the dealings with the two entities that we've been talking about.  That's being audited, and we'll follow up on that.  But the group's activities as a whole, that's an issue for other authorities.  It's not…

It's not an issue for the United Nations…

Question:  I understand what the audit is…

Deputy Spokesman:  It has nothing, it actually has no actual relevance to the work we've done.

Question:  It's just how the money is spent by the UN, not where the money came from?

Deputy Spokesman:  The audit is designed to follow up on what effect, what impact, the activities the groups and of the monies that they spent have and that's what we're following up on.  Yes.

Question: The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Yemen is apparently sounding optimistic about holding talks between the two [inaudible].

Deputy Spokesman:  Actually, I'm glad you brought that up, not to interrupt, but some people have been referring to what they say is a Facebook post by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.  That is not his Facebook account.  He does not have that account, and we're trying to talk to Facebook about that because that is a fake account.  So some of those comments that you've been seeing are not the comments of Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

Question:  Well, I'm talking about what his comments are on the UN website where he is sounding that yes, that he has met with these leaders in Riyadh and that he has met with the Houthis and that they're ready to hold talks.  And that he's coming here to brief the Security Council.  That's…

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah.  That part, yes, that's what Stéphane said at yesterday's briefing and that's accurate.

Question:  What I want to ask is that, when he’s coming, is he going to be briefing the press or just the Security Council [inaudible]?  Will he be able to talk to the press when he’s here?

Deputy Spokesman:  We're certainly going to try to round him up for you, yes.

Question:  And, also, can I ask you this question which I've been asking you, I know I get no response, on India and Pakistan.  The Pakistani Prime Minister is now in Washington to press President [Barack] Obama on this India-Pakistan standoff on nuclear weapons and so forth.  Can you please tell us as to, what is it that the Secretary-General can advise at this point in time, India and Pakistan, two rivals, and will he offer his good offices again for these two to mend fences?

Deputy Spokesman:  You've seen what the Secretary-General has said in the past on the issue of Kashmir and his concerns still apply but we have nothing new to add on that.  Regarding the question of good offices, as you know, the way UN good offices work is that they would need to be requested by both parties.  Yes.

Question:  Okay.  This is a non-Middle Eastern question, actually goes back to some of the themes that Matthew was talking about, on a broader plane.  Stéphane has used the phrase "UN brand" from the podium, and that phrase has been used on other occasions.  So as part of the investigation or audit or other examination going to be, the impact on the UN brand is potential diminution, dilution by associations with individuals who are using the backdrop of the UN logo and colours and UN personnel in connection with their sponsorship, their co-sponsorship of events involving the UN.  The impact may go beyond just specifically how particular streams of money were being used at the UN.  It goes to the value of the overall brand and goodwill.  And is the impact going to be looked at specifically in that vein?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, at this point, while the work is going on, it's hard for me to predict what the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) is going to report once it's concluded its work.  What's clear, when the Secretary-General asks for this, is his concern about precisely the reputation of the United Nations, of our work, and of our officials.  As you know, this is something that has put into question, in many of your minds, the role of the President of the General Assembly, and so it's very important for us that the reputation of the UN and the integrity of the Organization will be looked after.  And so we'll have to see in that light what the work is that, that's done.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Over the weeks now, we have been asking questions about the meeting of the quartet and we have been told that they are consulting towards such a meeting.  The United Nations is an important part of the quartet.  What are the obstacles that are on their way of finding a way to meet?  Why have they not met so far?

Deputy Spokesman:  There had been a, an announcement that the members of the quartet might meet in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, but as you know the events on the ground have overtaken some of this discussion and have made it difficult to arrange at a precise point in time.  We're still looking forward to a time and a place when it will be suitable, either the envoy level or the principal level, for the quartet to meet and then we'll arrange it at that point.  Yes.

Question:  Question on the Central African Republic.  I just want you to clarify one thing that you said.  Is it, are you, is the Secretariat yet viewing the… Secretariat viewing the charges of the Southern District of New York as mostly or entirely related to the PGA [President of the General Assembly]?  I guess I'm asking this because things like South-South News and...

Deputy Spokesman:  You said... wait.  You said Central African Republic first?

Question:  I said I have a question on that, but I want to… I want you to clarify…

Deputy Spokesman:  Oh, you're doing your normal thing of mixing two topics together.

Question:  Yes, I am.  I'm doing it…

Deputy Spokesman:  That's confusing.

Question:  Many people ask repeated questions.  I wanted to ask you this.  Are you saying, yesterday, I'd asked Stéphane at the founding of the Global Sustainability Foundation, there was Mr. Nambiar.  There was the spouse of the Secretary-General.  There was not Mr. Ashe anywhere to be seen.  So I just want to be clear.  Is this an audit about two… merely two entities, but as relates to the UN Secretariat or just to the PGA's office?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, no, it's as we have, it's as we described in the statement before.  It's about the UN as a whole.

Question:  Okay.  The… on Central African Republic, there seems to be a problem of trucks getting in from Cameroon.  There are complaints by truckers but I'm asking because it seems to be stopping humanitarian aid from getting in.  They say up to 90 per cent of the goods that are supposed to get into CAR [Central African Republic] come from Douala, Cameroon, and that the truckers say MINUSCA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic] is unable to protect them and they're all stopped at border.  Is it actually true and what is the UN doing to ensure that this material gets into the country?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the UN mission, MINUSCA has been trying to make sure there's enough conditions of safety that humanitarian aid can travel freely through the country and it's continuing to do that.  So I don't speak for the truckers, but certainly the UN mission has been trying and has been facilitating deliveries of humanitarian aid and that's what it will continue to do.  Have a good afternoon, everyone.

For information media. Not an official record.