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

26 January 2017

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.

Let me start up with a note on Syria and then we will go to the Security Council.

**Syria Mechanism

As you’re aware, on 21 December of last year, the General Assembly adopted a resolution to set up what it known as “the Mechanism” — the full title is the “International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011”.

That resolution asked the Secretary-General to develop the Terms of Reference for the Mechanism and to report back on the implementation of the resolution.  The Secretary-General has, as of just now, transmitted documents to the General Assembly on those issues.  And those will be posted online shortly.

The documents make clear that the Mechanism has two main tasks: (1) to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses; and (2) to prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings, in accordance with international law standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes, in accordance with international law.

The Mechanism will be headed by a senior judge or prosecutor with extensive experience in criminal investigations and prosecutions, assisted by a deputy and a secretariat.

The Secretary-General will be announcing the appointment of the Head of the Mechanism by the end of next month — that is the month of February.

**Press Briefings

Tomorrow ambassadors — the Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein and the Permanent Representative of Qatar will brief the press on the implementation of the resolution.  That will be at 10 a.m., I assume here or in front of the Security Council — but we will let you know.

**Security Council

Staying on the subject of Syria, the Security Council heard today from the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, who said that 2016 was a year where we witnessed devastation and suffering in Syria at levels that defy comprehension; and yet, as we start 2017 and as hard as it is to imagine, there are some emerging reasons to hope.  Since 30 December, he said, a nationwide ceasefire continues to hold, despite some breaches.  This has provided a rare moment of respite for many, and we must all do everything in our power to see that it is consolidated and extended.

Mr. O’Brien welcomed the agreement by Iran, Russia and Turkey in Astana to establish a trilateral mechanism to observe and to ensure full compliance with the ceasefire.  He said that saving Syrian lives is the shared priority of all of us, and the UN stands ready to assist in the establishment of the mechanism.

The World Food Programme (WFP) Deputy Executive Director, Amir Mahmoud Abdulla, told the Council that six years into the crisis, the humanitarian and food security situation in Syria continue to deteriorate.  He said that 7 million people in Syria are food insecure and a further 2 million are at risk, while four in five Syrians now live in poverty, with almost 80 per cent of households across the country struggling to cope with food shortages.

Before getting briefings on Syria, the Council extended the mandate of the UN mission in Cyprus by six months.

This afternoon, it will be the turn of Yemen to be on the agenda and Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed will be briefing the Council, giving them and by extension you an update of what is going on.

**Iraq

Turning to Iraq and as the conflict in Mosul intensifies and greater numbers of civilians are caught in the crossfire, the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners have increased trauma care services to ensure that injured patients have a greater chance of survival.  However, additional funds are needed in order to provide a full range of health services to the 2.7 million people affected.  

Trauma casualty rates remain high near frontline areas, with many trauma cases requiring referral from Mosul to Erbil in northern Iraq.  From 17 October until 18 January 2017, 1,610 wounded civilians were sent to Erbil’s two main hospitals to receive trauma care.  Many hospitals in Mosul have suffered extensive damage and are no longer able to provide health services to the general population and to civilians injured.  Without these services, patients are experiencing serious complications, and in some cases death.  WHO has more details online.

Yesterday, a joint mission of humanitarian agencies attempted to visit a primary water treatment facility in eastern Mosul, but the mission was unable to conduct an inspection of the plant due to insecurity along the facility’s approach roads.  Water supply in eastern Mosul remains a major humanitarian concern as many water mains require replacement, pumping stations require repair, and some pumping stations remain under the control of Da’esh.

**The Gambia

From The Gambia, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, arrived in the Gambian capital Banjul earlier today, where he is planning to have further discussions with President [Adama] Barrow, who also arrived in the capital today.

Mr. Chambas will also meet with the speaker of the national assembly, the diplomatic community, and civil society organisations.  He will assess how the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel and the UN country team can best assist the political transition.

**Libya

I was asked by a number of you for an update on Libya.  I can tell you that over the past month, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Martin Kobler, has been actively reaching out to all Libyan stakeholders, in addition to Libya's neighbours and the international community, to advance the implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement.

At the national level, he held meetings with the Presidents of Libya’s Presidency Council, House of Representatives, High Council of State and the Central Bank.

As you know, for the UN the process is Libyan-owned and led, without foreign interference or any imposed solution.  The UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) plays a convener and advisory role.  Mr. Kobler has set 2017 as the year of decisions and breakthroughs.

**South Sudan

The newly arrived Special Representative of the UN and head of the Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), David Shearer, met yesterday with Salva Kiir, the President of South Sudan, in Juba.  He reiterated the Mission’s commitment to supporting peace efforts.

He told President Kiir that the UN and UNMISS are there to support the Government and help the people of South Sudan, and said his job will be done when the conditions in the country permit UNMISS to leave.  He added that he had come to South Sudan with an open mind.

Mr. Shearer also met with the South Sudanese Minister of Cabinet Affairs.  Mr. Shearer was pleased to hear the Minister reiterate the South Sudan Government’s commitment to the deployment of the Regional Protection Force (RPF) mandated by the Security Council.

**Nigeria

Just to give you an update on a humanitarian operation that we had flagged a little earlier in the week in Nigeria: a major vaccination campaign against measles is concluding this week in northeast Nigeria, expected to reach more than 4.7 million children.

The campaign is covering the three states most impacted by Boko Haram.

In 2016, there were approximately 25,000 cases of measles among children in that area.

**Holocaust

A couple of events to flag: speaking ahead of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, the High Commissioner for Human Rights today said that the painful day forces us to contemplate the horrors to which bigotry, racism and discrimination ultimately lead.

You are all invited to attend the main commemoration, which will be tomorrow in the General Assembly from 11:00 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.  And that will mark the UN Holocaust Memorial Ceremony.

The Ceremony will include remarks from the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly, the Permanent Representative of Israel, the Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States, and Holocaust survivor Noah Klieger will deliver the keynote address.  That is in the GA (General Assembly).

**Benefit Concert

On Sunday, at 7 p.m., if you want to clear your head, you are invited to a concert by the UN Chamber Music Society of the United Nations Staff Recreation Council.  They will perform a benefit concert, in collaboration with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).  All proceeds for the concert will go to the refugee agency.

And the Concert is at 7 p.m. at All Saints Episcopal Church on 60th Street.  If you are interested, let me know, or let us know.

**Honour Roll

We are happy to announce three more full payments to the regular budget.  Today, we thank Australia, Guinea and Sweden, bringing up the total to…?

Correspondent:  19.

Spokesman:  Edie, if you have a question, you win.  Sorry?  If you bring money, you can also have… you know, if you contribute directly…

Correspondent:  Then I'll definitely defer to Joe.

Spokesman:  Let's go.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Okay.  Could you tell us when the Secretary‑General plans to accept the credentials of the new US Ambassador?

Spokesman:  We hope as soon as soon as possible and as soon as practicable.  We, obviously, very much look forward to her presenting her credentials and the Secretary‑General beginning a solid and meaningful dialogue with the incoming US Administration.  We should have a little more practical details later this afternoon.  Yes, go ahead.

Question:  Two questions.  What does the UN think about safe zones in Syria?  And, if the United States, the new Administration, decides to decrease funding of the United Nations, how will the work of the UN be affected?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  You know, on the safe zones, we've seen the reports in the media.  It's, obviously, something that we need to take a look at in more depth before commenting further.  I think, like all of you, we've read various reports in the media about things that may or may not happen.  So I won't comment on policies that have not been enacted.  Obviously, the US is a major partner and the largest donor to the United States… to the United Nations.  And to repeat myself yet again, I think the Secretary‑General looks forward to initiating the dialogue with the new Administration, once everybody's in place.  Mr. President?

Question:  Steph, hi.  Hi, Steph.  In response to The New York Times article yesterday about possible cuts being discussed in the United States Government, I wonder what action is the United Nations taking to mitigate possible cuts that could emanate from the United States?

Spokesman:  We've… again, these are reports that came out yesterday.  This Organization is an Organization funded by Member States, and I will leave it at that.

Question:  If I may follow up.

Spokesman:  You may.

Question:  What is the atmosphere… could you characterize the atmosphere within the Secretariat after the November election that saw Republicans win all three branches of the United States Government?  And how would you characterize historically the relationship with the Republican Government of the United States as opposed to Democrats?

Spokesman:  Look, we are eager to start discussions with the incoming US Administration.  Both the UN and United States are in a period of transition.  I think we're over that… we will be over that period of transition very soon as soon as the new Permanent Representative arrives and takes office, and we look forward to starting those discussions and actually discussing on things that have… that are concrete as opposed to things that are being reported.  The historical analysis I will leave to historians but just to say that, obviously, we've had engaged… the United States has been engaged with the United Nations, regardless of who's… which party has had the upper hand in Washington.

Question:  Would you say, Steph, that the United Nations is often hamstrung by these discussions around funding and… and, you know, sort of the carrot and the stick scenario?  Do you feel you can speak your mind?

Spokesman:  The UN has the funding structure that it has.  It is one we operate with every day and one we will probably continue to operate with in the foreseeable future.  Joe?  Then I'll come back to you.

Question:  Yeah.  Actually, I'd like to ask you a question about the funding structure, and this might be a little technical.  But one of the criticisms of the current assessment structure is the way in which assessments are calculated.  For… for example, purchasing power parity is used by the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank but not by the UN, as I understand it, in terms of calculating assessments.  And the US percentage would be a lot less, actually about 15 per cent, if PPP were used.  So have there been analyses that you can share with us that have looked at various kinds of measures, including PPP?  And could you see if we can have a briefing with someone from the statistical or economic sections of the Secretariat, subject matter experts, that discuss… can discuss this?

Spokesman:  The formulation and the scale of assessment, questions about that need to be directed to 193 Permanent Representatives.  This is… it's a structure that is managed by the Member States and how the… through the Fifth Committee and other matters.  It's not for me to comment on how Member States reach those… and elaborate those formulas.

Question:  But they receive, I assume, significant input and expert analyses from the Secretariat.  And I'd like to see if we can see those…

Spokesman:  In the scale of assessment, the Member States are very much the masters, and I think, initially, all your questions should be directed to them.  Carole?

Question:  Stéphane, just to clarify on Sherwin's question, has the Secretariat been in touch with anyone from the US Administration about these proposed Executive Orders?

Spokesman:  As I said, these are… on your exact question, no, because these Executive Orders, as far as we know, are not Executive Orders, and they're reports in the media.  Majeed?

Question:  Just about that, this… as you said, these Executive Orders have not been signed, but can you tell us about the impact, the possible impact?  To what extent the U… give us an idea to what extent the United Nations rely on US funding, especially the humanitarian and the peacekeeping progress.

Spokesman:  Those are all public numbers.  I'm not going to… and you can all very well and easily figure out who gives what, because it's clear that… which Member States contribute what to the organization.  I'm not going to speculate on things that may or may not happen and that have only been reported in the media.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  Thank you.  There is a report compiled by ESCWA (Economic and Social Commission for West Asia).  It's called Injustice in the Arab World.  This report, which is made of 324 pages, it's supposed to be a UN report.  It was placed on the UN website, and it was ordered to be taken out.  The pressure came to the Secretary‑General, and it was ordered to be omitted, and to… the UN is distancing itself from this report.  Could you explain that, please?

Spokesman:  I'm not going to comment on your preambular narrative.  We went through this yesterday.  What I said yesterday and I'll repeat today, this was a report put forward, drafted by independent experts.  It will be published by these independent experts under their own steam.

Question:  But it was an ESCWA report.

Spokesman:  I think if you have any… you can… further questions, you can direct to ESCWA.  This is what I have to share with you…

Question:  Do you deny there is any pressure on the UN?

Spokesman:  I've said all I have to say on this report.  Oleg then Benny.

Question:  Stéphane.  I heard that you do not comment signed Executive Orders, but you cannot not mention that there are also some laws being prepared in the Congress, for example, one on the financing and the other on repeal of the UN… of the US Host Country Agreement, which would effectively throw out the UN headquarters from New York, and also the immunity for the UN staff.  Aren't you concerned with the way the things are going with the new Administration from the first days of the start?  And… and also…

Spokesman:  This is why…

Question:  … I mean, are you pre… is there any exit strategy or something that is prepared by the UN in case the financing is cut off or anything?

Spokesman:  Listen, I think we all… we're in a period of uncertainty.  As I said, the new Permanent Representative will arrive very shortly.  The Secretary‑General will have some very good discussions with her and later on, I'm sure, with the Secretary of State and other members of the Administration.  And we will work through all these issues, but we're very much aware of the environment… of the current environment.  Mr. Avni?

Question:  Yes.  Let's talk about the specific budget, and that is the DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations).

Spokesman:  Let's.  Yeah. Let's talk about you and me.  Yes, go ahead.

Question:  Let's talk.  Currently, the US pays, as far as I know — correct me if I'm wrong — 28 or 28.5 per cent of the… yet there's a congressional cap at 25 per cent.  There were all kinds of negotiations between… could… could you unpack this for us a little bit from the UN's side?  How did we get to 28.5 from a congressional cap of 25 per cent?

Spokesman:  Again, I think the elaboration of the scale is one to talk to Member States about, and I think your question is better addressed to the United States Mission.

Question:  No, but it was… this was based, from what I understand, on UN assessment.  Is that correct?

Spokesman:  But the scale of assessment itself is one that is drawn up by Member States.

Question:  The… wait, wait, wait.  I understand that, but does the UN say, okay, you'll pay 28 per cent; you'll pay 2 per cent; you'll pay 15 per cent?

Spokesman:  No, the Member States sit around a table as… Benny, you've been here for a long time, almost longer than me.

Question:  Yeah, but I never know anything about anything.

Spokesman:  The Member States negotiate and agree on a scale of assessment.  The Secretary‑General doesn't go around and say, okay, 2 per cent for you; 3 per cent for you.  That's not how it works.  Yes, go ahead.  Mademoiselle?

Question:  Yeah, it was the same question and if the US team can go unilaterally to cut the… the… the budget and the funding.  It's a negotiation.

Spokesman:  The scale of assessment is negotiated within Member States.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  Two things on peacekeeping.  I wanted to ask, first, you were saying… you keep saying that these are… that this auditing and reducing US funding of international organizations is not yet signed, but the… the now confirmed US Ambassador to the UN, three times in her confirmation hearing, said that the UN should not pay troop-contributing countries whose peacekeepers are found to have abused.  So I wanted to know, I guess I'm asking you again, what is the thinking… what's the threshold currently of the number of OIOS (Office of Internal Oversight Services) cert… you know, certified or probable cause findings that would trigger a cutting off of funding or the non-use in the future of a troop-contributing country, given that 25 obviously doesn't make it?

Spokesman:  Obviously, these issues are being taken very seriously and are examined on a case‑by‑case basis.

Question:  And I wanted to know, one of the proposals that's been made even prior to the next year's budget is simply the possible veto or threat of veto of the renewing of mandates of peacekeeping missions.  What I wanted to know is, how does that work?  Has there been… has there ever… I've seen, like, the Georgia mission once was disbanded due to a naming issue.  But where has… what… are there contingency plans in place if the mandate for a functioning, you know, several‑thousand‑troop peacekeeping mission comes up and it's not extended?  What happens?  How does it keep getting paid?

Spokesman:  Well, I… the… you know, we've had missions draw down.  It happen… if I'm not mistaken, I think a… one of the UN's previous missions in Haiti at some point was vetoed by a permanent member of the Security Council.  These things are extremely unfortunate, but we have to abide by the rulings of the Security Council.  Fathi?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Just a follow‑up on Ben's and Salima's question on the assessment for the budget.  Is… this is usually done within the framework of the Fifth Committee or within a separate format…

Spokesman:  It's done every two years.  My understanding is it's within the framework of the Fifth Committee.  Yes?

Question:  Hi.  Yesterday, the US President, on one of the interviews, approved of torture.  I was wondering if it had been approved with President… we recognize that torture is illegal with United Nations.  If it been shown that US is torturing prisoners, does UN willing to take the President of United States to ICC (International Criminal Court)?

Spokesman:  It's… you know it's not a… you know how the ICC works.  That's a hypothetical question.  Very seriously, the UN stance against torture remains unchanged.  We have a number of human rights mechanisms that are there to shine a light on places where torture takes place, and those mechanisms will continue.

Question:  Does that mean yes?

Spokesman:  It means what I said.  Evelyn?

Question:  Another policy of Mr. [Donald] Trump, the curbs on refugees from Muslim countries, does that not violate the Refugee Convention, which the US found, aside from any human rights issue there?  Is there any reaction to that?

Spokesman:  We, obviously, hope that the measures announced and taken regarding refugees is a temporary one, especially at a time where there's never been a greater need for the protection of refugees.  I mean, we've seen the largest movement of refugees since the Second World War.  And I would say and add that the US resettlement programme is one of the most important resettlement programmes that the UN works with and the UN… and the US has been a leader in that… in large part, in the resettlement programmes.

Question:  One more question on that.  Any more reaction to the gag rule on abortion counselling from UNHCR…

Spokesman:  From UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund)?

Question:  …I mean UNFPA?

Spokesman:  No.  I would… what I got from them I shared with you, and I would encourage you to talk to them directly.  Carla?

Question:  Thank you.  Stéphane, does the UN have any comment on the resumption of the use of secret detention sites, which was in the front page of The New York Times yesterday?

Spokesman:  I think, again, these are all things that may or may not happen.  It's… our principled positions on torture and arbitrary detention is unchanged.  Yes, in the back.  Go ahead.

Question:  Just following up on Evelyn's question about the refugees.  Do you guys have any estimate on, you know, how many refugees are awaiting resettlement and how many this would impact?  And does the Secretary‑General have any plans to, again, reiterate that refugees don't pose a threat, given President Trump's…

Spokesman:  It's a basic message of the United Nations that refugees need solidarity and need help.  For the numbers, we can put you in touch with our IOM (International Organization for Migration) and UNHCR colleagues here.  Carole?

Question:  Stéphane, just two technical questions.  The Syria mechanism that you mentioned at the top of briefing, are they going to be housed here or in Geneva with the COI or…

Spokesman:  That's a very good question.  Let me… I'll get right back to you and maybe somebody can bring the answer to me. [He later informed her that it would be based in Geneva.]  Sorry?

Question:  Okay.  Do you have a date for the press conference with the Secretary‑General?  Because he's not going to spend a whole month without meeting…

Spokesman:  No, they are two separate things.  The cosponsors of the resolution, Liechtenstein and Qatar, will brief the press tomorrow…

Question:  Yes, I know, but the Secretary‑General…

Spokesman:  …and then the announcement by the Secretary‑General of the head and deputy will be by the end of February.

Question:  I know, but, separately, a general press conference by the Secretary‑General to us, the UN press corps.

Spokesman:  Oh, a date for the general press conference.  I do not…  I know who you are.  And as soon as I have a date, I will share one with you.

Question:  So before the end of the month, I would assume.  No?

Spokesman:  As soon as I have a date, I will share one with you.  It's one question I wish I didn't have to answer every day.  Yes?

Question:  Stéphane, Russia presented a draft res… constitution for Syria to the parties of the war, and would that document be part of the negotiation in Geneva?  And do you have any comments about the draft?

Spokesman:  No, I don't, and I think it's a little too early to tell on that front.

Question:  Would it be a part of a discussion Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura presented…

Spokesman:  I think it's a little too early to… I think everybody's still digesting what happened in Astana.

Question:  Yeah, I think you mentioned that yesterday…  As you know, Israel decided to build 2,500 units in East Jerusalem, and the Prime Minister said he would soon be lifting all restrictions on building settlements in East Jerusalem.  Any statement on that?

Spokesman:  Abdelhamid, we've… I've said this, I think… at least, I think, a couple of times this week:  For the Secretary‑General, there is no alternative to a two‑State solution.  There is no Plan B.  He very much feels that any unilateral measures that can be an obstacle to the negotiations to a two‑State solution are of grave concern and are…

Question:  But that's…

Spokesman:  And we would consider legal… illegal settlements as part of that, and we would also… and our position on settlements is unchanged and has been repeated often either by the Secretary‑General or by reports by Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov to the Security Council and other senior officials. 

Question:  But this is a major development, 2,500; is it worth a statement?  A special, specified…

Spokesman:  I think I've been… whether it's a written statement or me expressing these things, I think it expresses the deep‑seated beliefs of the Secretary‑General.  Mr. Lee, and then we'll go to Edie.

Question:  Ask you, on Yemen, a freedom of information request has… has found that the UK Ministry of Defence is tracking over 250 allegations of humanitarian law violations by the Saudi‑led coalition.  So it may be… I guess I'm wondering, since… since Secretary‑General Ban Ki‑moon, when he took them off the list, said that this process would continue in communications with the Saudis, number one, has… has this process involved getting information from other Member States that are themselves, because they sell arms to Saudi Arabia, tracking them?  And, two, what… what did the Secretary‑General do between when he said that he was going to continue to look at this and the day that he left?  Was…

Spokesman:  I think when… I said as soon as I have more to add on this process, I will do so.

Question:  But does the process involve specifically asking the UK for this…?

Spokesman:  I can't answer to the details of that.  Edie?

Question:  Stéph, I'd just like to put in a request that, assuming that Nikki Haley presents her credentials tomorrow to the Secretary‑General before he leaves for Africa, would it be possible, in light of the great interest, to get some kind of a readout on their discussion?

Spokesman:  Request is duly noted and digested.  Evelyn.  No, that's an unfair assessment, Mr. President. [Laughter]

Correspondent:  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  Yeah.  That's a fair assessment.  Evelyn, go ahead.

Question:  Thanks, Steph.  I'm a bit confused on the General Assembly mechanism for crimes in Syria.  I thought they had that resolution in December.  Was there another one today or what?

Spokesman:  No, they… you're right.  The resolution was in December.  The resolution asked for the Secretary‑General to report back on the implementation of the resolution, and that's what happened today.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask, now that Helen Clark has said that she'll be leaving by 19 April, what… can you describe what the process will be that António Guterres will use to choose… choose a new… a new administrator of UNDP (United Nations Development Programme)?  Has he received nominations, for example… 

Spokesman:  No, we was… he was…  He was informed by Helen Clark of her desire to step down at the end of her… of her term.  There is a well‑determined process of consultations between the Secretary‑General and the Executive Board of UNDP on finding a successor, and that process will be followed.

Question:  Was there… yesterday, he met with the French Minister of Development and Francophonie.  I was kind of expecting some kind of a readout.  Did I miss one?  Was one put out?

Spokesman:  No, there was no readout that I know of.

Question:  And I wanted to ask, I guess, related to that, there are some in the South Korean media asking to know where it's available to find the daily schedules that are put up every day.  Are they just thrown out, or is there some repository of who met with the Secretary‑General…?

Spokesman:  Well, I'm glad you're… you've asserted a role as the Spokesman for the South Korean media but they can look on the website, and everything should be archived.  We can help…

Question:  All right.  I have one last question.

Spokesman:  Yes, go ahead.

Question:  The UN Joint Staff Pension Fund supposedly keeps something called a hospitality log that whistle-blowers there have said… which is basically a logging of… they're calling it wining and dining but, essentially, entertainment expenses for engage… involved in speaking with stockbrokers and other financial professionals.  And what I'd like to know is, given the sort of controversial nature of this type of expense, is it possible to get that disclosed?  Does the Secretary‑General believe that UN system hospitality logs should be disclosed?

Spokesman:  Let me look into it and see what this is all about.  Majeed?

Question:  Stéphane, there's a report of… about Mosul.  There's a report that the Iran‑backed Shia militias attacked Kurdish Peshmerga forces near Mosul, near Sinjara, which is… which makes the situation very… even more sensitive regarding to Mosul.  Do you have any comments about those tensions?

Spokesman:  No, I had not heard those reports.  I will look into it.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  There are certain gifts given to the former Secretary‑General that were put in his office.  Can you explain to us which gifts had been taken as… on personal basis or… and which gifts remained in the office?

Spokesman:  Sure.  Well, the… from having seen the office, most of the things in the previous Secretary‑General's Office were photos, as one can imagine.  He took his family and personal photos with him.  And the new Secretary‑General will be decorating his office.  Yeah?

Question:  I'm sorry if this question has been asked before, but I have to ask it.  Yesterday, US President cast a shadow on elections and has document of 3 to 5 million has been violated election.  What's the UN opinion on the US election?  Do they approve of the election?

Spokesman:  I think, as I said on the day of the election, the UN had no role in observing or organizing the elections in these United States of America, and, therefore, I will not comment.  Mr. Roth, you will get the last word or at least the last question.

Question:  You may wish you had cut me off.  I think you said the Secretary‑General is going to Ethiopia.  Right?  Did I miss that?  In the next few days?

Spokesman:  You did miss it.  He's going to go to Addis Ababa.  He's leaving Friday, tomorrow afternoon.

Question:  Right, I heard that yesterday.  Which means he will not hold a press conference in this first month.  So the comment and question would be, I think it's sort of mind‑boggling that a new Secretary‑General, who doesn't owe us anything, is not going to meet the press in the…

Correspondent:  Hear! Hear!

Spokesman:  No, she meant "hear! hear!" like supporting you, not “louder”.

Question:  Oh.  …in the first month, for someone who campaigned when looking at the transcripts of his appearances at the GA and elsewhere on… you heard the words "transparency", "openness".  So the question shouldn't be: Is he going to?  It's… you've, obviously, had access to him, and I don't think we'll hear too much frankness here, but the question is, why has he not held one?  And I can understand, as a new figure in Washington, there's a lot on his plate.  It would… I don't know if Ban Ki‑moon or Kofi Annan did, but are you telling me we're going to be coming around with the same situation that critics said Ban Ki‑moon was a phantom?  What's happening?

Spokesman:  Again, like some of your colleagues, not commenting on the preambular narrative.  I think the Secretary‑General is… will hold a press conference at some point.  I think he's… there's been a lot… as you can imagine, a lot going on these first two… two, three weeks, more than one may have expected in… when looking forward from mid‑October.  I think he's also keen to have something to announce, but this is a situation that I'm well aware of, and I will continue to work on it.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.