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

24 August 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.

**Middle East

A couple of trip announcements:  one near, one far.  In terms of distance, we will start with the fact that the Secretary-General will leave New York on the evening of Friday, 25 August — that is tomorrow — for a trip that will take him to Kuwait, Israel and the State of Palestine.

His first stop will be in Kuwait, where, on Sunday, he will meet with the Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and other senior Government officials.  In his meetings, the Secretary-General plans to discuss the situation in the region, as well as thank Kuwait for its tremendous generosity for humanitarian causes.

Later that evening, the Secretary-General will travel to Israel and Palestine, where he will meet with the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to discuss the prospects of reviving the peace process.  He will also engage with civil society and university leaders and visit a UNRWA facility.

The Secretary-General will be back here in New York late on the evening of 30 [August].

**Gaza

And a related note, the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, Robert Piper, today released an additional $2.5 million from the Humanitarian Fund for the Occupied Palestinian Territory to cover urgent needs in the Gaza Strip.

Part of the funds will go towards the UN’s emergency operation to supply fuel to nearly 200 critical health, water and sanitation installations.  Virtually all 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza benefit from this fuel operation.

The Gaza strip is into its fourth month of a serious energy crisis, with the power supply to homes and services having barely covered 25 per cent of needs of the last six weeks.

Hospitals are operating almost 24/7 on generators not designed to be used continuously.

More information online.

**Meeting with Mayor de Blasio

In terms of travel closer to home, later this afternoon, the Secretary-General will travel downtown to meet with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at City Hall.

We expect the discussion to centre around local-level implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in an urban setting, including climate change.

The Secretary-General will of course also thank the Mayor for New York’s strong support to the United Nations as our host city.

**Myanmar

I have a note on Myanmar:  we welcome the release of the comprehensive report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State and take note of its emphasis on issues related to identity and citizenship, particularly its call for freedom of movement for all people, as well as the need to address the root causes of violence and reduce inter-communal violence.

We look forward to reviewing the report’s recommendations further.

In the meantime, we would like to acknowledge again the significance of the Government’s establishment of this Commission and the importance of its mandate to analyse the situation of all communities in Rakhine State and draft recommendations toward conflict prevention, reconciliation, institution-building and long-term development, as well as humanitarian services.

The UN stands ready to support the Government’s implementation of the recommendations for the betterment of all communities in Rakhine State.

**South Sudan

Back here, the Security Council met on South Sudan this morning.  Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, El Ghassim Wane, said that while the National Dialogue has made some progress, achieving inclusivity and a free and secure environment remains a challenge.

He reiterated that the conflict in South Sudan is a man-made one for which the leaders of the country bear a direct responsibility.  But he said the same leaders can also bring it back from the impending abyss.

All that is needed is genuine political will to halt military operations, peacefully negotiate and make the compromises necessary to achieve sustainable peace.  He said it is crucial that the leaders of South Sudan hear the international community’s unified demand of what is expected of them.

And the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, added that battlefield fortunes continue to inform the calculus of both the Government and its opponents.  He said that alongside its military pacification efforts, the Government is creating an appearance of reconciliation efforts.

He also stressed that the prevailing insecurity, population displacement, and lack of appropriate institutions, in an increasingly divided ethnic environment, militate against organizing credible elections within a year, and may well contribute to deepening and extending the conflict.

**Iraq

From Iraq, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that military operations continue in Iraq’s Telafar, with the number of civilians fleeing the city having dropped from 2,000 people per day earlier this month to around 100 people yesterday.

It is not clear whether this sharp drop is a reflection of the reduced population of Telafar or if civilians are unable to leave.

All people who have fled received aid as soon as they reach assembly points outside the city.

**Syria

In next door Syria, there are still 11 besieged areas, home to more than 500,000 people, where there is no humanitarian relief and no freedom of movement for civilians.  And that’s according to Jan Egeland, Special Adviser to Staffan de Mistura.

Mr. Egeland added today while speaking to the press that, while eight of these areas had been reached by aid workers, three have not been reached at all.

He voiced hope that convoys will soon reach two of the areas not reached so far:  Barzeh and Qaboun, with facilitation letters from the Government having been received.

He called it heart-breaking that some 12,000 people in Foua and Kefraya were not reached last week, appealing to the humanity of those besieging the area to let relief be delivered to women and children.

Mr. Egeland noted that the Daesh-held five neighbourhoods of Raqqa is an area where the needs are beyond belief and where protection concerns are acute.  Some 20,000 civilians are believed to be in the area but there is no way for them to escape.

You can read the full [transcript] of his remarks, as well as those of Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, the Deputy Special Envoy for Syria.

**Migration

Our colleagues at UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] today released a report showing a decline in the number of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe this year.  However, the agency warned that many migrants are still resorting to being transported by smugglers and trafficking networks, risking death, serious abuses, or both.

Overall Mediterranean crossings fell sharply in the first half of this year compared with the same period [last year], due to a 94 per cent decline in people using the sea route from Turkey into Greece.  Meanwhile, crossings from North Africa to Italy have remained at about the same level as last year (83,752 people as of the end of June).

The report says an estimated 2,253 people died or went missing at sea, and at least 40 died on land routes at or near European borders.

The UN Refugee Agency calls for renewed commitment to ensure protection and solutions, including concrete steps to address smuggling and trafficking.

**Road Safety

I wanted to flag that in Nigeria, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt, today called on African countries to scale up their efforts to tackle road fatalities, noting that the continent has the highest rate of traffic-related deaths in the world.  In Nigeria alone, 35,000 people die each year in traffic accidents.

Speaking at a lecture series in Abuja on federal road safety, Mr. Todt said that if changes are not made, road fatalities are expected to increase exponentially in Nigeria, and stressed the need for strong political will and governance, as well as cross sectoral support to make significant achievement in the future.

**Questions and Answers

Khalas.

Mr. Klein.

Question:  Yes.  Actually, two questions.  First is a very quick one.  Does the Secretary‑General intend to visit Gaza?

Spokesman:  At this point, all I can share with you is what I’ve shared with you.

Question:  Okay.  And the second is going to be a bit longer.  As you know, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination issued a two‑page decision, it was released publicly yesterday, invoking a rather unusual procedure of early action and urgent warning in relation to Charlottesville.  And its chairperson said in an interview with The New York Times that consideration should be given to some limitations on freedom of expression when it comes to neo‑Nazi expression of views, racist chants…

Spokesman:  I read…

Question:  …etc.

Spokesman:  I read the story.  I’m happy to hear the question.

Question:  Well, the question is, I know the Secretary‑General made some general remarks yester… last week, but I’d like to know whether he agrees that Charlottesville, as opposed to flashpoints around the world that have not merited this urgent warning procedure, does he agree that Charlottesville did merit that, invoking that procedure.

Spokesman:  To…

Question:  And does he agree that there should be some constraints, and I don’t mean in the US specifically, but some constraints on so‑called hate speech, legal constraints?

Spokesman:  First of all, it’s not for the Secretary‑General to comment on statements or procedures made by the human rights mechanism, Special Rapporteurs or other committees.  The human rights mechanism, as it exists, is a critical part of the UN system and the UN’s work in upholding human rights.

What the Secretary‑General believes and what he said, I think, in a, in a Tweet that, everywhere and anywhere, we need to stand up against racism, against bigotry, and against xenophobia.  And that has been his, I will say, his lifelong work, and it’s something, a message that he has repeated over and over again.  He will continue to repeat, no matter where, in what country that may happen.

Question:  Well, has he issued any denunciation, for example, of Sudan, where the reports of modern slavery persisted?

Spokesman:  I think, I think a statement where the Secretary‑General says we need to stand up against racism, xenophobia, discrimination, everywhere and anywhere, I think, to me, is universal.

Correspondent:  But that’s very generic. I mean…

Spokesman:  I think it’s universal.  And wherever it happens, we will, we should and need to stand up against it.

Mr. Lee.

Question:  Sure.  I want to ask you about Yemen.  Yesterday, I’d asked you about that air strike, and you’d said that the UN human rights mechanism is looking into it.  Do you have any casualty figures?

And I also wanted to ask you about noted advocate and Sana’a resident Hisham al‑Omeisy, who’s been missing now for 10 days.  People say he’s in Houthi custody.  And I’m wondering whether anyone in the UN system, since the envoy apparently can’t speak to the Houthis or they won’t speak to him, has anyone in the UN system spoke… requested the…

[inaudible]

Spokesman:  I’m aware of his situation…

Question:  …release of Mr. Omeisy?

Spokesman:  …I will check up on it.

I don’t have any update from our colleagues on Yemen on casualties.

Question:  But I guess, more substantively, is this… and I understand the Security Council is calling for all parties to speak to the envoy, but, given that it’s now been several months that the side… the side in control of Sana’a has said they won’t speak to him, they don’t view him as, as independent or impartial, is this a downside to not having an envoy that can speak to both sides? Who…

[inaudible]

Spokesman:  [inaudible] I think the…

Question:  …in the UN system has asked for the release of Hisham al‑Omeisy?

Spokesman:  …the Secretary‑General’s envoy speaks to as many parties as possible and is getting the input of all the parties.

Question:  Could you get back on this case of Omeisy?

Spokesman:  If I get something, I will get back to you.

Stefano, then Olga.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Today, in Rome, hundreds of refugees from Eritrea and some also from Ethiopia that were living in, in a building, occupying a building, they’ve been removed by the police, apparently was violence.  There was violence going on.  And UNICEF say, in Italy, say that many children were involved, and it was like a situation where it was actually very dangerous for, for these people.  So, there is any comment coming from Secretary‑General for a situation that is getting…?

Spokesman:  He, you know, we don’t have the details of the situation.  I think the images that we saw were, were disturbing.  We hope that any and all of these police operations are done in order to ensure the full respect of the rights of, of migrants as, as people.

Thank you.

Olga, and then Dulcie.

Question:  Thanks, Stéph.  About this proposal from Geneva from Mr. Egeland on humanitarian process in Raqqa, if it’s possible, have you heard anything back from, from those on the ground about the implementation of the…

Spokesman:  No, I’m, we have not and I think Mr. Egeland and their team would be the first ones to hear through the various coordination mechanisms that exist in Geneva.  But if we hear something, I will let you know, but I have not.

Dulcie.

Question:  Thanks.  So, what is the budget for the new office of the victim advocate?  And is that in the UN Secretariat, or is that in the peacekeeping department?

Spokesman:  It’s, it’s a good question.  Let me just double-check.  I know she’s at the Assistant Secretary‑General level.  Let me double-check before I speak, I speak out of turn.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Question:  Guatemala has announced that President Morales is coming tomorrow to meet the SG.  Do you know what time and what issues they expect to discuss?

Spokesman:  The, the meeting, we did receive a request for a meeting from the Presidency of Guatemala.  We’ve informed them of the Secretary‑General’s availability tomorrow afternoon.  We’ve not heard back an official confirmation.  I haven’t gotten anything this, this morning.

I think, as to why they have to have the meeting, you should ask them.  Obviously, you know what we’ve said yesterday concerning the situation in Guatemala.

Mr. Barada.

Question:  Thank you, Stéph.  So, the Secretary‑General trip to Kuwait.  Is he carrying a specific message to Kuwait?  Why Kuwait, not other countries…?

Spokesman:  Well, he’s…

Question:  …in the region?   And my… so, since he’s going to see, most likely in a month or so, the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the Palestinian Authority, is he going to, to promote, to provide any proposals to revive the peace process?  So, can you tell us more about this visit?  Thanks.

Spokesman:  Two things.  On the visit to Kuwait, he has not yet been to Kuwait.  As you know, for various logistics reasons, Kuwait’s not a place he’s already visited.  He’s been to most of the countries in the Gulf.  He’s been to Saudi Arabia.  He’s been to the UAE.  He’s been to Oman.  He’s been to Qatar.

Kuwait is a country he had wanted to visit but had not been able to.  Obviously, Kuwait plays a very important role in the region, notably, currently, on the, on its mediation efforts towards resolving the crisis in the Gulf, also having an important role in Iraq and other, other areas in the region and, as I said, to thank the Kuwaitis for their support, their support for, for UN’s humanitarian work.

On the, on the visit to Israel and Palestine, I think the issue is obviously an important issue on the UN’s agenda.  It’s important for the Secretary‑General, I think, to go to visit both places early in his tenure.  He will be reiterating his, the UN’s commitment to providing Israelis and Palestinians with all possible support to reach a comprehensive two‑State solution as the only option for realizing the national aspirations of, of both peoples.

Question:  On Togo, why does the UN, has been quiet, on the political fight, ongoing political fight, in the country?

Spokesman:  We’re obviously keeping a close eye on the, on the region, on the country. The Secretary‑General’s representative in the region, regional representative, is expected to go in early, in early September to Togo.  Mr. Chambas is expected to visit Togo in early September, so, we should have more then.

Yes, sir.  No, not you.  You I don’t call, sir.

Question:  Two things.  Do you have any details on how the airport blockage in South Sudan, the situation there was resolved?

And back to Guatemala, you mentioned yesterday that there’s been reports that the President is going to ask for the removal of the head of the, of the anti-corruption committee.  Is removing Velasquez anything that, something that the Secretary‑General would consider at all?

Spokesman:  Well, I think, as we said yesterday, we fully support Mr. Velasquez and the very important work that the commission does.

On South Sudan, there were discussions with the authorities who, rightfully so, control their airspace.  South Sudan is a sovereign country, so we need clearances for those flights.  Discussions were had on the ground, and the issue was resolved.

Mr. Avni.

Question:  Two questions.

Spokesman:  Sir.

Question:  Thank you.  Thank you, sir.  Two questions on the trip.  First, on, on Kuwait, does the Secretary‑General seek a role for the UN in resolving the Saudi‑Qatari or Gulf crisis, as he called it, dispute?

Secondly, on the… his trip to, to Israel and Palestine, does he, is it coincidence that it happens at the same time that Jared Kushner is there doing mediation of his own?

Spokesman:  Yes, it’s coincidence.

Question:  [inaudible]  Was it planned before or…?

Spokesman:  It’s been in the, it’s been in discussion for a few weeks.  So, it is a matter of pure calendaring coincidence.

On the Gulf crisis, the Secretary‑General’s not seeking any role.  I think he’s expressed his support for the regional, the regional efforts that are ongoing.  And, as a matter of principle, should his good offices be needed and be requested by the parties, he remains available.  And that’s a statement of principle, but we’re not seeking anything.

Oleg.  Sorry, yeah?

Question:  But suffice it to say that he’s there, he will talk with the Kuwaitis about their…

[inaudible]

Spokesman:  I’m sure, I would not be surprised if the issue came up.

Question:  And one more follow‑up…

Spokesman:  Yeah.

Question:  …on Joe’s question, actually, two.  One, you didn’t answer his question about the Secretary‑General’s position on limitation to expressions of hate or whatever it is.

And, secondly, does the Secretary‑General believe that there’s a, a rise of Nazism and, and that kind of political… that it’s sufficient to warrant a, maybe even UN intervention in the United States?

Spokesman:  Nobody’s talking about any UN intervention in the United States.

[laughter]

We’re, let me say, on a serious note, I think the Secretary‑General, since coming into office, has noted the rise of, in many countries, of xenophobia and of intolerance and of racism and has spoken out strongly against it.

You’d asked another question, which I’ve now forgotten.

Question:  [inaudible] Limitations to free…

Spokesman:  The right to free speech and right to expression is a fundamental human right, but there are also aspects of incitement to hate and incitement speech that need to be taken into account.

No, no, you may not.  Go ahead.

Question:  Thanks, Stéphane.

Spokesman:  I’m, you have the right to speak but at the time I ask you to speak, so that’s your fundamental right.

Yes, Oleg.

Question:  On the trip to Middle East, so when exactly is the SG is going to arrive to Israel and Palestine?

Spokesman:  He’ll be, basically, the bulk of the Israel‑Palestine programme will be Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Question:  All right.  And, also, on South Sudan, could you provide the numbers of how many SPLA in Opposition members are currently in eastern DRC and what’s happening with the discussions on their possible repatriation?

Spokesman:  Not at this point, but I can get you something right after the briefing.

Yep.  Did you have a question?  Yeah.  Did you, okay.  Go ahead.

Correspondent:  [inaudible] I t was answered.

Spokesman:  Oh, it was answered.  That’s, questions I like.  Yes, go ahead.

Question:  My name is Yassein Najar.  We’re talking about a situation in Syria.  Do you have any issue about that or they’re talking about that?  Because right now, next week and we having holiday, still the war on, the bombing on in Damascus, around, you know.

Spokesman:  Well, this, you may have gone out on your break when I was speaking, but I highlighted what, the very eloquent words of Jan Egeland on his extreme concern at the continuing violence that the civilians are bearing the brunt of in, in various parts of Syria and his call for the, his call for all those who are besieging areas to allow humanitarian aid to get through to those who desperately need it.

Monsieur.

Question:  Me, Stéphane?

Spokesman:  You’re not Monsieur.  But I will get to you, Joe.  Don’t worry.

[laughter]

Question:  Stéphane, on the UNIFIL mandate on Lebanon, earlier this month, António Guterres said that, in fact, he wrote a letter to, to see the way to improve the mandate.  Did he arrive to a conclusion?  Any recommendation?

Spokesman:  That’s a discussion that’s ongoing in the Security Council on the renewal of the mandate of UNIFIL.  I think the Secretary‑General is making his views known.  It is now up to the Member States to come up to a consensus.

Mr. Klein.

Question:  Okay. I can now exercise my right to free expression?

Spokesman:  Yes.

Question:  Okay.  Thank you.  I just want to further follow up because we’re still, still trying to discern if the Secretary‑General has an opinion where the appropriate line should be between permissible expression of views, even if controversial, and racist hate speech where he thinks goes over the line and perhaps should be restricted in accordance with international law.  Could you be a little bit more specific?

Spokesman:  Those are issues that national jurisdictions have, have grappled with and have come up with, with issues.  I think people have a right to express themselves.  When those expression enticement to hate is, leads to violence and death, then it obviously becomes a great concern.

Mr. Lee, then we’ll go…

Question:  Sure.  I want to ask you about Myanmar and then about an event here in the UN.  On Myanmar, a couple, a number of times, when asked about whether the Secretary‑General was going to speak to Aung San Suu Kyi or was concerned about the UN experts being banned from going in, you were, you said they were waiting for the Kofi Annan Rakhine Commission to finish.  It’s now finished and made a number of recommendations.

I wanted to know, what’s, number one, what’s the UN, what does the UN think of the report?  Is it now time for the UN to, to more directly call for the entry of… of… of the UN team into the country?  And… and is the UN going to be working on, on the recommendations in the Annan plan or has the UN essentially lost its…

Spokesman:  Matthew, it’s unlike you, but I did read a whole thing about what we thought of the plan…

[inaudible]

Question:  Okay.

Spokesman:  …and…

Question:  Then let me get that second one.  My mind is elsewhere.

Spokesman:  That’s all right.  That’s all right.

Question:  I’ll go back over the transcript.

Spokesman:  Okay.

Question:  What I wanted to ask you about is, I’d asked you previously about an event, this is… number of times I’d asked you about Carlos Garcia, used to be the former Permanent Representative of El Salvador.  And, in the Ng Lap Seng case, he was shown to have assisted in the laundering of money between Ng Lap Seng and Francis Lorenzo.

So, I wanted to ask you, there’s a, there’s an event tomorrow in ECOSOC, which is a, sponsored by a group which is… is linked online and in its founding with Carlos Garcia.  And it’s listed in a press release that was put out yesterday with the Secretary‑General planning to attend… attend…

Spokesman:  What’s the event?

Question:  The event is… I’ll read you the full, the full title.  It’s one of these long ones. It’s called “Road to the Future of Sustainable Development:  Moving from Commitments to Results through Inclusive Innovation.”  And it has a press release by the group WOCG, talking about life pods.  And it says there will be a statement by António Guterres.

So, my question is, has this group, including its links to… in its very founding, to Carlos Garcia and Francis Lorenzo, been vetted by the UN?

Spokesman:  Let me check.  I was not aware, I’m not aware of the Secretary‑General participating.  I will look into it.

Question:  Whether or not he participates, I guess, my question is, given that these… these exhibits…

[inaudible]

Spokesman:  I’m not a, yeah, I know.  I’m not aware of the event.  So, I will look into…

Question:  Okay.  Last time you didn’t answer it…

Spokesman:  I did answer you.

Question:  Well, yeah, that evening when…

Spokesman:  Well…

Question:  …the NGO asked you to…

Spokesman:  I answered you.

Correspondent:  Right.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Monsieur.

Question:  On the peace process in the Middle East, the current US Administration seems to be not backing any more the two, the two‑State solution.  So, is this something that’s going to make it hard for the UN to, to keep on, on this, on this peace process?

Spokesman:  I’ll… I have trouble enough speaking for the UN.  I will let the US speak for itself and let you interpret it.

For the Secretary‑General, the only feasible solution is a, is a two‑State solution, and that’s what he will be, that’s the message he will keep reiterating.

Mr. Barada and then Dulcie.

Question:  Yesterday, the US Ambassador described the situation in southern Lebanon as growing more dangerous because of Hizbullah’s arms, according to her statement.  Do you share, from the UN perspective, the same assessment with the US Ambassador?

Second, on the fight along the border between the Lebanese army and Daesh, do you have anything to say on that?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Nothing on your second, on your second question.

You know, as for UNIFIL, I think UNIFIL is very transparent in how it, it fulfils its mandate.  It has a very clear mandate with limitations and, and it follows that mandate.  You know, I think, this year, there’s been no incident involving hostile activity from the UNIFIL area of operations or any breach of cessation of hostilities between Lebanon and Israel.  We’ve reported whatever isolated instances when unauthorized weapons were observed, and UNIFIL reports as it’s due to report.  The Member States are right now discussing the renewal of its mandate, and we’ll wait to see what happens.

Question:  Follow‑up on that?

Spokesman:  Dulcie… Dulcie.  One second, Benny.

Question:  Yeah, I wanted to ask you about the next step by the Secretary‑General to address the investigation of the two UN experts in the Congo.  What, what is the next step?  And does it require approval from the Security Council, what, whatever he decides?

Spokesman:  There are discussions ongoing within the Secretariat, and obviously, it’s a discussion that’s being had with Security Council members as to what form, a follow‑up mechanism will be, will be established.  It’s, it’s important that justice be, be had for the sake of our two colleagues who were murdered.  And what shape that follow‑up mechanism will take will be announced in due course, but those discussions are ongoing.

Mr. Benny.

Question:  I like “Mr. Benny.”

[laughter]

Following up on Ali’s question, so the other thing that [United States Permanent Representative Nikki] Haley said was that UNIFIL isn’t pursuing its mission aggressively.  Do, does, is it your contention or UNIFIL’s contention that it is pursuing its mission aggressively?

Spokesman:  It is pursuing its mission according to its mandate.

Mr. Lee, then Stefano.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you, I saw that… oh, this… this is a dangerous… you may have actually given this readout as well while I was thinking about this event.  But Feltman, Jeffrey Feltman, being in Somalia, have you spoken of that?

Spokesman:  No, I don’t have anything on that.

Question:  Okay.  So, I wanted to ask, he’s there.  They’re tweeting pictures of him with Farmajo.  But what I wanted to know is, given that he’s so close to Kenya and… is he… where else has he gone on this trip?  I was unaware that he was there.  And can we get some kind of a readout of this trip and whether or not it will include Kenya and… Kenya, if you have any update as more and more people are saying that the results that were put online don’t line up with what was announced and what the Secretary‑General congratulated.  Is there any updated statement by the UN concerning…?

[inaudible]

Spokesman:  Not, not from us here.  There’s a calendar which is playing itself out and there are institutions that are at work on this.

And I’ll see what I can get you on Mr. Feltman.

Question:  And on the visit this afternoon to City Hall, it might seem like a strange thing, but there was a debate last night between Bill de Blasio and Sal Albanese.  It’s an election season here.  Is it… the UN… I often hear them say that they don’t engage with incumbents while there’s a contest or they might… is there any attempt by the Secretary‑General to reach Mr. Albanese or any of the other candidates or is this…?

[inaudible]

Spokesman:  No, he’s meeting with the, he’s meeting with the Mayor of the city of, of New York, and I’m not aware of the Secretary‑General having any contacts with any of the candidates from the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, or any other party who are running for the right to sit and work in City Hall.

Stefano.

Question:  I have two questions, two questions.  Can I?  One is about the waves of migrants of refugees in the Mediterranean.  The data says that in August, actually, the numbers of those waves toward Italy, they went down by, like, a lot.  And one of the reasons say because now the Libyans are able to stop the traffickers.  In this case, of course, those refugees will, will be pushed back in Libya.

But other, other data says, that were published in Italy say because actually also in those camps that there are in Libya, the UN that now is monitoring them is offering incentive, economic incentive, to, you know, for them to return in their countries.  Can you, do you know anything about this?

Spokesman:  I’m not aware of the UN offering economic incentives for people to return home, but you can check with UNHCR.  The numbers that I just gave a few minutes ago from UNHCR said the crossings, North Africa to Italy, have remained at around the same level as last year.  So, that’s the numbers…

[inaudible]

Question:  On this month, you mean, in August.

Spokesman:  The levels this year, so far…

Question:  Oh, this year. Okay…

[inaudible]

…They talking about this month of August that they went down.

Spokesman:  Okay.

Question:  And then the second question is, maybe you think it’s not related to the UN, but I think it is.  In the meeting that Secretary‑General is going to have today with the Mayor, Bill de Blasio, do you think they’re going to talk about this debate that’s going on in the United States, but now it came to enrich the city about the statues, you know, the opportunity to take off statues like, for example, there was the talk about the Christopher Columbus statue…

Spokesman:  I’m not, I don’t…

Question:  I’ll tell you why it is, I think it’s relevant, because it has to do with, not only with history of this country or any country, but heritage affects people.  And the question is, because it was just reporting that the Mayor de Blasio say that he’s on the table a discussion to put…

Spokesman:  No, no, I’m aware of the story.

Question:  So, do you think that the Secretary‑General…

Spokesman:  I don’t…

Question:  …should address this issue?

Spokesman:  I don’t expect it to come up.

Mr. Klein.

Question:  Thank you.  On UNIFIL…

Spokesman:  Yes, sir.

Question:  …you mentioned, in your view, UNIFIL is carrying out its mandate.  I just want to ask about the scope of the mandate.  If a Member State, using Israel as an example, should report to UNIFIL its, its information that there are concealed weapons in southern Lebanon in houses or mosques or schools, not visible to the naked eye but, but it gathered intelligence on that, would the mandate include UNIFIL sending out, proactively, inspectors to follow up on that information?

Spokesman:  What I can tell you is that UNIFIL’s mandate does not authorize accessing private property unless there’s a credible evidence of a violation of resolution 1701 and an imminent threat of hostile activity emanating from that specific location.

Where information regarding suspected presence of illicit weapons in privately owned areas is received, UNIFIL works closely with the Lebanese armed forces and the Lebanese authorities to verify the information.  Lebanese authorities have the primary responsibility for ensuring that there are no unauthorized weapons in the area between the Litani River and the Blue Line.

Question:  But, if the Lebanese authorities are heavily influenced by Hizbullah, which has been accused of concealing such weapons, not only in private residences, but in schools, hospitals…

Spokesman:  I…

Question:  …is that… what you’re saying is that it’s just delegated out to the Lebanese authorities…?

Spokesman:  No, what I’m… what I’m saying is that the Lebanese authorities have the primary responsibility.

Mr. Lee and then, sorry, Dulcie.  Sorry.

Question:  Yeah, I want to ask you on… on South Sudan, there’s a very specific… there’s a… the UN’s own Radio Miraya has confirmed that a WFP [World Food Programme] plane crashed into a house and a child was killed.  So, obviously, that’s a tragedy, but what I wanted to ask you about is it quotes the, the UN’s Adnan Khan said the UN would provide support to the grieving family, which is commendable.  I don’t know if it means financial support.  And, if it does, that’s also good.  But, obviously, people, for example, in Haiti are left wondering, what is the… what’s the… how is the decision made when a death is, is said to be attributable to the UN, people being compensated and… or not being compensated?

Spokesman:  I think they’re, they’re two different issues.  The issue surrounding Haiti has been litigated.  Our position has been clear.  Our focus right now is on combatting cholera in Haiti and giving support to those communities impacted.

WFP has confirmed that a 5‑year‑old girl was killed when one of its planes that had just done some airdrops landed at the airport in very bad weather.  It’s extended its condolences to the family, and it will provide all possible support to them.

An official investigation is under way, and the aircraft will be carefully reviewed to discover why it was so low.  It was an Ilyushin 76 cargo plane, and it hit a tree and metal roof of a single‑story house as it tried to land at Juba airport in what has been described as very low visibility and heavy rain.

Question:  Just… and I… it’s definitely a trag… I guess, what my question is, by you referring to litigation, is it, like, if this family litigated, then they wouldn’t be compensated…?

[inaudible]

Spokesman:  No, I think…

Question:  Is there a case… no, I understand.  Is there a SOFA in place?  Is there a status of forces agreement with a compensation panel…

[inaudible]

Spokesman:  There’s a SOFA in place, and obviously, there needs to be an investigation.  What WFP is doing is providing some immediate support, and then the, it will run its course.

Dulcie.

Question:  Yeah, just a follow‑up on Joe Klein’s question.  So, as a matter of course, does the Israeli Government inform UNIFIL of information it knows about arms smuggling?  I mean, is there communication…?

[inaudible]

Spokesman:  First of all, it sounds like it’s a question for the Israeli military.  There are regular coordination meetings between the UN, the Lebanese armed forces, and the IDF [Israel Defense Forces].  And information is communicated.

Yes, sir.

Question:  Just a follow‑up about Qatar.  Qatar today, they said they’re going to back normal relationship with Iran.  That’s what we heard today on the news.  Don’t you think that’s going to put Qatar in a lot of trouble in that?

Spokesman:  It’s up to Qatar to analyse the impact of its diplomatic actions.  What is important for the Secretary‑General is that the current ongoing crisis in the Gulf be resolved.

Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.