The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. Happy Monday.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Martin Kobler, will brief the Security Council this afternoon. Following consultations, he is expected to speak to you at the stakeout. Also, I just wanted to flag that Mr. Kobler issued a statement earlier today congratulating the Libyans on the advent of the holy month of Ramadan. He urged them to use this period of forgiveness and reconciliation to put their differences aside and end national divisions and fragmentation. He also called on all sides to release those illegally detained as a measure of goodwill.
The Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, and the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, both have welcomed an agreement by the Yemeni parties to release all children that are prisoners. The Special Envoy said that the unconditional release of children was agreed by the parties and the mechanics of the release of detainees in the coming days was to be addressed.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, as you will have seen, the Secretary-General condemned the attacks with heavy weapons, including rockets, mortars and artillery in Taiz. He underscores to all parties that targeting civilian areas is a violation of international humanitarian law and urges them to fully respect their obligations in this regard. The Secretary-General calls for an independent investigation to ensure that perpetrators are held to account.
The Yemeni parties, meanwhile, continued their meetings yesterday in Kuwait with the Special Envoy, and he said afterwards that those meetings invalidated the rumours suggesting that one of the parties suspended their participation in the sessions. He said that the peace talks will continue during Ramadan and expressed his hope that the month will be an opportunity for the parties to abandon violence and uphold Islam’s values that call for solidarity, the respect of human rights, and the peaceful resolution of differences.
Meanwhile, from Iraq, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Ján Kubiš, has welcomed the call by [His Eminence] Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for the protection of civilians and their property during the ongoing military operations to liberate Fallujah. In a statement, Mr. Kubiš reiterated his call on all parties to the conflict to do their utmost to protect civilians and to adhere strictly to international humanitarian law, and ensure that they have unhindered access to medical facilities and humanitarian assistance, and are able to leave areas affected by violence safely and with dignity. His full statement is available online.
And from South Sudan, just to flag that a five-man team of UK military engineers from the United Kingdom landed in Juba on Friday. Their arrival marks the beginning of the deployment of a contingent of UK troops in South Sudan. The next group of 30 is scheduled to arrive in Juba in two weeks.
**Central African Republic
And from the Central African Republic, the UN Mission there (MINUSCA) deplored the death of a civilian during an escort operation by the Mission. Peacekeepers were escorting President [Faustin Archange] Touadera yesterday when they were apparently stopped by armed men who tried to seize the weapon of one of the peacekeepers. During the altercation, one of the people was shot and killed. Some of the peacekeepers were injured and have been hospitalized. The Mission immediately launched a fact-finding investigation. More information on the circumstances of the incident and the results of the investigation will be communicated in due course.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
And regarding the DRC, you will have seen a joint statement issued earlier today by the African Union (AU), the UN, the European Union (EU) and the International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF). The four organizations underline once again the crucial importance of holding a successful political dialogue with all Congolese parties to a consensus that would allow for free, fair, transparent and credible elections, in accordance with the Congolese Constitution.
They urge the Government and all political actors in the DRC to refrain from any action that could increase tensions or lead to violence. More than ever, restraint and spirit of responsibility are needed at this particular moment of the history in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The full statement is online.
The Secretary-General’s [Special] Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed ibn Chambas, is chairing today, in Yaoundé, the second Meeting of the Heads of Delegations of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission — in his capacity of Chairman. The two delegations will discuss ways of reviving the activities of the Mixed Commission and implementing confidence-building initiatives to help populations impacted by the demarcation.
Mr. ibn Chambas’ office tells us this meeting is a key step towards the completion of the tripartite border demarcation process and the consolidation of peaceful relations between Cameroon and Nigeria. There will be a Final communiqué from the meeting.
You will have seen the statement we issued over the weekend expressing the Secretary-General’s sorrow at the passing of Muhammad Ali. Who, as you know… he was a Messenger of Peace, named one in 1998, and as such, he travelled the globe to support children and others caught up in conflict, and to promote reconciliation between people and nations. And well before taking on this role, he came to the UN in the 1970s to campaign against apartheid and racial injustice.
**Senior Personnel Appointments
Three senior personnel appointments to announce today, all changes at the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF): the Secretary-General is appointing Omar Abdi of Canada as Deputy Executive Director for Programmes; Shanelle Hall of the US will become Deputy Executive Director for Field Results; and Maria Calivis of Italy will assume, ad interim, the functions of the Deputy Executive Director for Programmes. All those bios are available in my office.
I also want to flag today — a ground-breaking international accord aimed at stamping out illegal fishing went into effect and is now legally binding for the 29 countries and one regional organization that have signed up. The Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing — a new acronym for today, PSMA — is the first-ever binding international treaty that focuses specifically on illicit fishing. More information from the FAO.
**Food Waste Reduction
A partnership of international organizations with UNEP [UN Environment Programme] is launching a global standard on definitions and requirements to manage food loss and waste. The initiative, titled Food Loss and Waste: Accounting and Reporting Standard is aimed towards Governments, companies and other entities working to minimize food loss and waste.
**United Nations Population Fund
Our colleagues at the UN Population Fund, UNFPA, wanted us to let you know that the thirteenth Rafael [M.] Salas Memorial Lecture, which they are organizing, will be held today at 4:30 pm in the ECOSOC Chamber. The lecture will be presented by former President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, on “the importance of investing in young people to achieve sustainable development and the demographic dividend.”
Press conferences today — as soon as we are done here, there will be a press conference on the Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals]. And then at 1:30 p.m., there will be a briefing by the Habitat III Secretariat entitled "Habitat III Updates and the Role of Stakeholders in the New Urban Agenda".
Tomorrow, at 10:15 a.m., embargoed briefing by Ayhan Kose, Director of Development Economic Prospects Group of the World Bank to present their June Global Economic Prospects report. At 11 a.m., a press conference to announce the appointment of a new UNAIDS [International] Goodwill Ambassador. I don’t know who that is. And then at 12:30 p.m. — briefing by Lord O’Neill, the Chair of a Review of Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR), along with Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England and Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health of South Africa and Chair of the Stop TB Partnership. That briefing is sponsored by the UK.
We want to say thanks to Burkina Faso and the Seychelles — which paid up their dues in full today which bring us up to? Who is keeping count? All right. Carole. Eighty-seven [paid-up Member States]. Thank you for caring. Thank you for caring. It had been a while. Carole.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Stéphane, I wanted to ask about Syria. We're hearing the… the letter that Stephen O'Brien [Under-Secretary-General for Public Information] said would be delivered to the Syrians for… requesting approval for airdrops was not really delivered on Sunday, but instead there's talk of land deliveries to go through and then possibly a 10 June deadline to then request the airdrops. What do you know about this?
Spokesman: I mean, at this point, the focus is on… is on land deliveries. On 3 June, full approval was granted by the Government of Syria to deliver aid to 23 out of 34 requested locations. That was in response to the June plan, which Jan Egeland [Special Advisor to the UN Special Envoy for Syria], I think, had talked about. In response to areas not approved or only approved for partial deliveries, the UN sent a note verbale to the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday, on Sunday, requesting full approvals to deliver assistance by land to all locations specified in the June plan. We're obviously awaiting the answers from the Government. The UN continues to call on the Syrian authorities to obviously allow full, unimpeded access to 1.1 million people in all 34 locations.
Question: [Inaudible] is there a… is there a new date? When… for the response? Are you awaiting a response by 10 June?
Spokesman: Well, obviously, we're waiting for, as soon as possible, for the 11… to get clarification on the 11 locations for which either no permission or partial permission was… was granted. These are for land deliveries. I think, as we've said repeatedly here, our main focus is on land delivery given the… the challenges both in terms of safety, logistics of… of air deliveries. Masood.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Palestine has asked the International Criminal Court to begin inquiry at… to probe into these killings since 2014, of the Palestinian killings in the occupied territories. Does the Secretary‑General support the call by the Palestinians and the Human Rights Watch is also [inaudible…?
Spokesman: The International Criminal Court is independent. I have no comment on that, and I had not seen that report frankly. Abdelhamid.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. As you know, we were expecting the Saudi ambassador to speak to the press now, and Saudi Arabia is very completely annoyed, outraged, in fact, for adding the name of Saudi Arabia to the list of shame. Now the Secretary‑General has annoyed Saudi Arabia. He annoyed Morocco, as you know, and he annoyed Palestine, OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation] and the Arab League for allowing the art exhibit of Israel. So, now he's in… in… in some kind of trouble with many more than one Arab country and more with Muslim countries. So is there an explanation to that?
Spokesman: I'm not sure how to start answering your… your question. I think, in his role as Secretary‑General, the Secretary‑General speaks out and speaks out clearly based on principles. What he says is not going to always make everybody… everybody happy. I don't think I need to revisit the other things you… you had mentioned. On Yemen, I think it's important that we not forget the victims. Since the beginning of this conflict, the Secretary‑General and other senior officials have repeatedly expressed their deep concern at the number of children that were killed, civilians that were killed, civilian infrastructure, including hospitals that were involved in the conflict. As you know and as you mentioned, we have received demarche from the… from Saudi Arabia and others regarding inclusion of the Saudi‑led coalition in the annex of the report of Children and Armed Conflict. I think, of course, the Secretary‑General does not equate the actions of… of those in the coalition with terrorist groups or non‑State actors like Al‑Qaida, Ansar al‑Sharia. And we're looking at ways of changing the format of the list to make the distinction between terror groups and Member States very clear. We also welcome any information… any new information that Saudi Arabia and members of the coalition may bring to the attention of the Secretary‑General, of the Secretariat, and that information could then be included in the presentation that the report… that the Secretariat will make to the Security Council when it presents the report a little later on. Mr. Lee. I'll come right back to you.
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you about this report of peacekeepers in Somalia selling their weapons to civilians. A number of AMISOM [African Union Mission to Somalia] peacekeepers from Uganda have been arrested. And I wanted to know, given the UN is… you know, provides support to this mission and also just legally if you're aware, don't they have immunity? Like, if peacekeepers that commit rape in CAR [Central African Republic] can't be arrested by CAR authorities, how are these peacekeepers? Are they not international…?
Spokesman: I don't… I don't… I don't know the details of the status of force… the status of mission agreement between the African Union and the Somali government. You'd have to check with them. They're not UN peacekeepers. I've seen the reports. We would hope that they're fully investigated and that the national… the Uganda… the Ugandans or any other Member State involved ensures that those… if they did, in fact, sell their weapons are brought to justice.
Question: Sure. And just because it's also on Uganda, there's a report of South Sudanese refugees of this thing called the Kiryandongo camp in Uganda having fought and been killed by the Ugandan military, and I believe the UNHCR [UN Refugee Agency] is aware of it. I sort of thought… do you have anything…
Spokesman: I had not seen. I'll come back to you. Carole.
Question: I just want… Stéphane, can you clarify what you mean by changing the format?
Spokesman: I think to… as the list is now, it lists per conflict and then doesn't make a distinction, really a clear distinction, between non‑State actors and Member States in the list. We're looking at changing the format, not the content but the format of the list.
Question: So, they can stay on the list [inaudible]?
Spokesman: As you said, the report… the report is out. There's no… so it's really looking at the way the information is presented. Olga.
Question: Thanks, Stéphane. Also, the follow‑up on Syria. So, yes, you said the land access for besieged areas is the high priority, but what's going to happen if till the end of this week you still don't have an answer from Syrian government about 11 cities?
Spokesman: I think the decision… obviously, these things are looked at on almost a daily basis. If at some point we decide that the land access definitely will not be granted, then obviously, we will look more at the airdrop option. But, I think, as we explained, the airdrop options, whether done high altitude with parachuting pallets or actually having to land helicopters in urban zones, is really our last choice. But, obviously, we're… if we have to do it, we have to do it.
Question: And… and in these 11 locations, UN is going to need a helicopter or airdrops?
Spokesman: No, these are all… the 34 that I've mentioned, as far as… far as I understand it, are all land… land access.
Question: No, no, no. The 11 that you still don't have an answer from Syrian Government…?
Spokesman: They're all land access. So we would like… we're waiting for the permission for land access for all of them.
Correspondent: If there is no land access…
Spokesman: Obviously, if there is no land access, then other options will be looked at, but the focus right now of our work and our discussions with the Syrian Government is on the land access.
Spokesman: You may try.
Question: So, what led to this backtracking of… you know, on Friday, you announced you're sending a letter to Syrian Government on Sunday and also that WFP [World Food Programme] would start preparations for airdrops. So, what led… was it the grounding of permissions for 34 places? Was it some discussion with the Syrian Government?
Spokesman: I mean, there are, obviously, always discussions with the Syrians… Government. Our focus always remains on the land access. So, if we see that we're getting the land access that we need, that's the way we will go. WFP is… has… is fully aware that they may be called upon to do the airdrops. They've done the planning, you know, as… I think, as they said themselves on Friday, the plan is… is ready to go. But, obviously, we can do a lot more in terms of delivering aid through land access. Lou.
Question: Follow‑up on that. If the WFP is ready to go and, given that the ISSG [International Syria Support Group] had said, after 1 June, they should get ready for airdrops, why not carry out airdrops while you wait for permission to do… to get land access? I mean, just sort of going over… ground [inaudible] colleagues have gone over…?
Spokesman: The amount of… of supplies you can do in one airdrop… from one cargo plane is the equivalent of one truck. So, obviously, we would rather… rather, even if we have to wait a few days, go through with the land routes than take the risk of the airdrops.
Question: But, why not do both?
Spokesman: I think… because, obviously, it is… you can… it is safer, and you can bring a lot more aid through land routes. Evelyn. Go ahead.
Question: Presumably, it would take a while for the Syrian government to give you permission. It wouldn't be overnight. So, why not go ahead with that bureaucratic process…
Spokesman: Because, obviously, the permission of the Syrian Government is also needed for airdrops. And the… but the… the permissions could very well come overnight. It's an administrative issue and a political one. Evelyn.
Question: Yeah. On the same subject, why does one need permission for the airdrops from the Syrian Government, which is denying every… all sorts of aid? Cannot Russia help clear the skies? And… secondly, has Mr. Kubiš commented specifically on reports of torture of Shia militia of those who have escaped from Fallujah?
Spokesman: Yes, he did. In a statement, he expressed his concern at the reports of the human rights violations that we've seen against those trying to flee Fallujah. He's urged the Government to fully investigate those reports and to hold accountable anyone who may be… who may be involved. I think, as we've said, again, on the airdrops, we do need the permission of the Syrian Government. It is standard operating procedure by WFP to ask… to get clearance for air operations where… where they operate. And beyond the… beyond the legality, I think it is important… it is important for the safety of those… of those crews and to ensure the successful… successful operations that all those who have military air assets in the area understand that the UN is about to do… is about to do airdrops.
Question: Cannot Russia help clear the skies?
Spokesman: I think that's a question you could ask the Russian mission. Mr. Lee.
Question: Sure. Ask you something about Burundi and then something about an aide‑mémoire that the UN sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. On Burundi, I'd asked on Friday of Farhan whether this incident in which teenager students are being… now they've been arrested. It's actually developed since then and face five to ten years in jail for drawing an X on the forehead of Pierre Nkurunziza, the President. And he said he wasn't aware of it, but he'd look into it. So, I wanted to know, have you now verified this, and… and do you have any comment on that? And also on the detention of… of a Bonesha F.M. journalist, Egide Ndayisenga?
Spokesman: On your first one, no, I have nothing… nothing on that. On the second one, I think, as we've repeatedly said, it's important that media in Burundi and other places be allowed to operate… operate freely without harassment.
Question: Yeah. Is the country team there and the human rights observers… I'm guess I'm saying these things are taking place…
Spokesman: The fact that I have nothing to say doesn't mean nothing is happening. And that's a general rule.
Question: All right. This I wanted to ask you and I'll try to keep it brief. I've seen now a aide‑mémoire that the UN, I guess, Office of Legal Affairs sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and they said this. It had… since it involves you, I wanted to ask you about it. It says that, as to a meeting held in this room on 29 January, the UN has no documents, correspondence or other written materials in print or electronic that it was a closed meeting. And it says you arranged it entirely orally that it would be closed. So, I wanted to ask you this. As a financial matter, how is it possible to arrange for UN audio engineering without there being any written record and how…?
Spokesman: Matthew, I don't know what document you're quoting for or what… the veracity of this leaked document.
Correspondent: They sent it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Spokesman: We've gone through your personal case here over and over again, and I would ask you to take it up with DPI [Department of Public Information].
Correspondent: This quotes you.
Spokesman: Masood. Lot of things quote me.
Question: Stéphane, Iran has been saying that it has been in compliance with the nuclear deal reached with the international community, and that it has not been compensated accordingly. Does the Secretary‑General believe that Iran has been in compliance as the EU [European Union] representative also said that [inaudible] nuclear deal and that the sanctions against IAEA?
Spokesman: That's not a role for the Secretary‑General. I think those issues need to be taken up with those parties that are signatory… but the… IAEA does not report to the Secretary‑General. Carole.
Question: Stéphane, just to get back to the Saudi and the Children and Armed Conflict report, I think the issue was that how did Saudi… the Saudi coalition get on the list when Israel last year over the Gaza conflict didn't. Presumably in conflicts, both sides would argue that there was not deliberately targeting of children, that children died.
Spokesman: The report, I think, speaks for itself. It's out. Everything is a… everything has a judgment to it. As I said, the… Ms. Zerrougui has done a lot of work on the report. She does so every year. And there are mechanisms that are outlined in the report, monitoring mechanisms that follow General Assembly resolutions, and those… that was followed. And the result is… is the report as it stands. Abdelhamid.
Question: A follow‑up, same issue, is really becoming an important issue here at the UN. The issue, Stéphane, that Saudi Arabia's name was… or Saudi‑led coalition was added after the report was completed. Exactly the opposite happened last year when the annex included Israel, and it was taken out. That is the question.
Spokesman: Abdelhamid, you're stating as fact something I don't know. All right? I think there are always… whenever a report comes out, a UN report comes out, there is debating. There's discussion within the house. The report is done when it's issued. And it has been issued. And it is done. Thank you. Go.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. You mentioned last week that maybe SG come up… up to the stakeout sometime this week…?
Spokesman: Yes, we're working on Thursday around 11 a.m.
Question: At the Security Council stakeout?
Spokesman: Yeah, I'll give you more details, but that's what we're aiming for.
Question: Has the Secretary‑General requested to meet with a leader of the Minjoo party as is reported in The Korea Times. It said it's at his request. And it is being read it's the first time he's meeting with a leader of such a party, that its nine years here and its being put in the context of a possible run for presidency.
Spokesman: On the second part of your question, the Secretary‑General has said over and over again that he's focused on being SG, and he'll make decisions about his post‑SG life once he's reached the post‑SG life. He has met with a number of Korean officials over the nine years. I think it's not surprising. He is scheduled to meet with Dr. Lee Hae‑chan, former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea, and a member of the General Assembly… of the National Assembly, and that's… on 8 June, I believe. It's my understanding that the meeting was done at the request of the mission of… of Korea, knowing that both the… Mr. Hae‑chan and the Secretary‑General had served in different capacities under the administration of President Roh Moo‑Hyun.
Correspondent: Because the article says, “Secretary‑General Ban asked to have tea with Lee”, and it quotes an official…
Spokesman: I think I just answered…
Question: You're denying it…?
Spokesman: I… yes, I just answered so… thank you.
Question: Can we get a readout of the meeting?
Spokesman: We'll see what we can get. Wait for the next briefing.