The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
As previously announced, the Secretary-General is in Crans-Montana, in Switzerland, where he is attending the Conference on Cyprus. Discussions are ongoing, we will keep you posted if there are any press conferences or press encounters planned, which you should be able to watch live here on WebTV, when and if they happen.
From Crans-Montana, the Secretary-General will travel to Hamburg, in Germany, tomorrow morning, to attend the two-day G20 Summit. On 7 and 8 July, he will participate in sessions on topics including sustainable development, climate change, Africa, migration, health and women’s empowerment. The Secretary-General is also expected to hold a number of bilateral meetings with world leaders at the G20. We will confirm those as they happen. On the evening of 8 July, the Secretary-General will travel on to Kyiv, in Ukraine. On Sunday, 9 July, he will meet with President Petro Poroshenko and other senior Government officials. The Secretary-General is expected to be back in New York on the afternoon of 10 July.
Starting tomorrow, the second Chiefs of Defense Conference will be held here at UN Headquarters. Around 100 national Chiefs of Defense will attend along with military representatives from the African Union, the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Also Force Commanders from UN peacekeeping missions in Mali, Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be present.
Under the theme “Meeting the Challenges”, the Conference will address political, strategic, operational and support aspects of UN peacekeeping operations, such as rapid deployment, robustness of actions, training, military women deployment and conduct and discipline. The Chiefs of Defense Conference is part of a wider process to improve the overall performance of our peacekeeping missions. The conference will start at 10 a.m. tomorrow and will be closed by the Deputy Secretary-General just before 4:30 p.m.
From Mali, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) condemns the continuing ceasefire violations by two signatories of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement — the CMA and the Plateforme. These violations include movements of armed convoys, provocations and even armed clashes, like the ones ongoing south of Aguelhok. The Head of the UN Mission, Mr. Annadif, urged the leadership of both groups to put an end to these violations immediately. If violations persist, they risk undermining their credibility as partners in Mali's quest for a lasting peace, he stressed.
In Afghanistan, our humanitarian colleagues inform us that armed clashes between the National Defence and Security Forces and Non State Armed Groups continue around Kunduz city and are driving people to leave their homes. Some 3,500 people have been displaced by the most recent fighting, with nearly 1,000 having arrived in Kunduz. Humanitarian partners are monitoring the situation, coordinating the internally displaced person assessment and response in the city, and they are working to preposition food stocks. Our humanitarian colleagues said markets remain functioning, but continued blockage of the road access to Kunduz could hamper availability and drive prices up.
The Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, spoke to the press last night in Astana, in Kazakhstan. He said that the UN appreciates the hard work of the so-called Astana Guarantors and of all of the countries involved in de-escalating the violence and strengthening the ceasefire. Mr. de Mistura said that there are two complementary and mutually supportive processes going on. One, he said, is the Astana process, which is continuing to make clear progress on reducing the violence. But, he stressed, de-escalation by itself is an interim arrangement and what is needed is progress on the political side. The Envoy confirmed that a new round of intra-Syrian talks will begin on Monday in Geneva. He voiced hope that the current progress in the Astana process will be used to lead to progress on the political side.
Our colleagues at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released their monthly Food Price Index today. The Index is up 1.4 per cent in June, amid surging prices of high-protein wheat due to deteriorating crop conditions in the United States. However, global cereal supplies are likely to remain abundant in the coming year, with stocks expected to expand further to a new record high. More details on the FAO’s website.
**Senior Personnel Appointment
We have a confirmation of an appointment to announce. Following the Secretary-General’s recommendation, the General Assembly has confirmed Mukhisa Kituyi of Kenya as Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, or UNCTAD, for another four years. Mr. Kituyi has served for an initial four-year term as UNCTAD’s seventh Secretary-General and has an extensive background as an elected official, an academic, coupled with wide-ranging experience in trade negotiations, and in African and broader international economics and diplomacy.
**International Organization for Migration
We want to congratulate our colleagues at the UN migration agency for being honored with the Jacques Diouf Award for Global Food Security. The Award is presented every two years to individuals or institutions that have made a significant contribution to the improvement of global food security.
I was asked offline about our reaction to the ongoing tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh. I can tell you that, as the Secretary-General underlined on 22 June, we are increasingly concerned over the deteriorating security environment, including the most recent cease-fire violations along the Line of Contact and in the broader Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.
We took note of and echo the Co-Chairs’ recent statement with reference to the renewed violence on 4 July at Alkhanli village of Fizuli region, which resulted in casualties, including among civilians. We call upon the sides to refrain from any military action, and strongly urge them to take immediate steps to de-escalate tensions and prevent further violence. An early return to the negotiations table in good faith is the only way to resolve this long-standing and dangerous conflict.
**Press Encounters Today
At 3 p.m., in this very room, there will be a briefing by Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez of Costa Rica, President of the UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading [towards] Their Total Elimination. And I will now take some questions. Yes, Ma'am.
**Questions and Answers
Question: What is the Secretary-General's stance on the nuclear-weapons-ban treaty? Thanks.
Spokesman: Well, I think, you know… I think we want to acknowledge the overwhelming support by the States participating in the Conference for the adoption of the… of the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. The drafters of the treaty have sought to ensure that the treaty strengthens, complements and reinforces the existing international nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regimes. We, obviously, as the Secretariat are supporting and backstopping the negotiations as per the relevant General Assembly resolution. We urge all States to continue to work to narrow their differences on all matters of disarmament and international security in order to reach the common goal of a nuclear-weapons-free world.
Question: But, what do you mean by "backstopping"?
Spokesman: Well, we work as the Secretariat to the negotiations.
Question: So, he's behind the treaty?
Spokesman: Well, I think, as I said from our stance, we urge all States to continue to narrow their differences on all matters of disarmament and international security in order to reach the common goal of a nuclear-free world. Our participation in the negotiations is as… is our work as the Secretariat in helping the Member States negotiate.
Question: So, he thinks the treaty is a good idea?
Spokesman: I think what I've said is that we urge all Member States to keep working to reach a nuclear-free world. Farnaz.
Question: Thanks, Stéphane. I wanted to ask you whether the Secretary-General has been involved in any of the North Korea negotiations? Has he made any calls to the Security Council Ambassadors and Members on where he stands on this?
Spokesman: You know, I think the Secretary-General was clear in his own statement and Mr. Jenča's statement in condemning the launch of the missile and urging the Republic… the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] to abide by all Security Council resolutions. There are discussions, we're all aware, in the Security Council. I have nothing to report — that I can report — on contacts the Secretary-General has had.
Question: Stéph, the pretrial chamber of the ICC [International Criminal Court] has ruled against South Africa that it violated its obligations under their own statute by not arresting Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir when he was in Johannesburg in 2015. What's the Secretary-General's reaction to the ruling and kind of the broader conversation that continues to be had about the jurisdiction of this Court as it pertains to African countries in particular?
Spokesman: Look, we've seen the ruling by the ICC on the case involving South Africa, and the presence of President al-Bashir in June… in 2015 in South Africa. We're reviewing the decision. It's not to us to comment on judicial decisions made by the… by the ICC. However, from our standpoint, we continue to reaffirm the importance of the Court of the ICC as the centrepiece of a global system of international criminal justice. Mr. Lee.
Question: Just to ask you… I've asked you before about Zambia, but now President Lungu has moved to declare a state of emergency, and I noticed yesterday that the Secretary-General actually, as it happened, met with the returning Permanent Representative of Zambia. What… did the issue come up? Does the UN have any… now that things have moved to this stage after the arrest and continued jailing of the opposition leaders, suspension of Members of Parliament, what about a state of emergency? Does this trigger anything at the UN?
Spokesman: No, we've… we're obviously aware of the situation in Zambia and the declaration of what I think is being referred to as "a state of heightened alert". We're following the developments closely. For our part, we believe that tensions and differences in the country are better addressed through constructive and inclusive dialogue among all stakeholders, including with the opposition. The UN remains committed to supporting Zambia on its path to sustainable peace and development.
Question: Okay. I also wanted to ask you something. I had asked you maybe about 10 days ago about this Mr. Gahomera of the Burundian military getting training, but you'd said from this very podium back in September  there was Alfred Mayuyu, if the name rings any bells… he's now being redeployed. He was repatriated by the UN from the Central Africa Republic due to his military history. And he has now showed up on a list that's been published to be deployed to AMISOM, which is a UN-supported peacekeeping mission. So, I wanted to know… I guess I'm relating the two of them in saying: what is the UN's role in making sure that people it repatriates with… with credible evidence of abuse don't simply go and…?
Spokesman: I think that's a question first and foremost to be addressed to AMISOM.
Question: But… I've also seen this document and Mr. Gahomera who I think is going to go to AMISOM, but it's a joint UN-AU predeployment training. So, the UN's role is not just financial. Isn't that an opportunity for the UN to vet abusers?
Spokesman: I think as I said, that's a question first and foremost for AMISOM.
Question: I want to ask you about the Ng Lap Seng case. It's obviously continuing, but there are now… it has emerged in… in court filings that the defendant, Ng Lap Seng, charged with bribery in the UN, intends to introduce certain UN documents, including past versions of the Office of South-South Cooperation's website in his defense. And so the prosecution, the Department of Justice has asked him to disclose that. He says he's not going to disclose it yet. What I wanted to ask you as it turns out, we never did get a press conference by the Office of South-South Cooperation. Can you now get a statement from them on changes they've made to the website since the case broke and why they made them? Because it becomes… it's not a question of… it's a UN question about an unresolved, never…?
Spokesman: I mean… listen, I think… I think the Office has responded to your questions and you're welcome to ask them again.
Question: Are you sure?
Spokesman: Yes. Thank you. See you tomorrow. Maybe.
* *** *