25 May 2016

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

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General arrived on Jeju Island in the Republic of Korea this afternoon, coming directly from Istanbul, where he had attended the World Humanitarian Summit.

The Secretary-General attended an official dinner this evening hosted by Hong Yong-pyo, Minister of Unification of the Republic of Korea.  In his remarks at the dinner, he underscored that diplomacy is the only way forward to resolve the complex and dangerous situation on the Korean Peninsula.  At the same time, he said, diplomacy must be firmly based on respect by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for international law, particularly the decisions of the Security Council.

Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will deliver opening remarks at the Jeju Forum before traveling to Japan.

**Security Council

As you know, the Security Council, this morning, adopted a resolution on sanctions in Liberia.  Council members also held a briefing on their recent mission to the Horn of Africa.

We do expect a statement later, hopefully sometime in time for this briefing, concerning the dropping of sanctions on Liberia.


The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, will brief the Security Council today by video teleconference on the progress of the talks taking place in Kuwait.   

Yesterday, Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed convened two bilateral meetings with the Government of Yemen delegation.   

Following those meetings, the Special Envoy said that we are moving towards a general understanding that encompasses the expectations and visions of the parties.  He said that he is now working on overcoming various obstacles and addressing the specific details of an implementation mechanism.  The discussions are complex and difficult, he said, but bring us closer to a comprehensive agreement.


The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is deeply concerned about recent statements made by the authorities in Gaza, including by the Attorney General, of their intention to implement a number of death sentences, and it fears that the first executions may be imminent.

The Human Rights Office reiterates that death sentences may only be carried out in extremely limited circumstances, and pursuant to a trial and appeals that scrupulously follow fair trial standards.  The High Commissioner’s Office has serious doubts as to whether capital trials in Gaza meet these standards.  It is also concerned about reports indicating that these executions will be implemented without the approval of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which is required under Palestinian law.  We have more information online.


Special Adviser Jamal Benomar is traveling to Bujumbura today following the conclusion of talks on Burundi that took place in Arusha, Tanzania.

The Special Adviser hopes that the talks in Arusha were a first step towards genuine and inclusive dialogue.  He welcomed the meetings and stressed the undeniable challenge of starting a viable political process.  He urged all of those involved to work diligently in order for that to happen as soon as possible.

Mr. Benomar has been consulting with various stakeholders who attended the talks and will continue to reach out to and consult with others who did not attend.  During his visit to Arusha, he reiterated to former President Benjamin Mkapa that he and his team are ready to assist and support the facilitator in moving the process forward.

**South Sudan

On South Sudan, the Humanitarian Coordinator there, Eugene Owusu, has strongly condemned the killing of a Slovakian nun and medical doctor who was shot on 15 May 2016 in Yei, while on a humanitarian mission, and later died.

He has welcomed the steps being taken by the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice and is urging them to act swiftly.

Sister Veronika Racková was driving an ambulance when she was attacked. Her death brings the number of aid workers killed in South Sudan since the beginning of the conflict in December 2013 to 54.

The Humanitarian Coordinator said that he urged the Transitional Government of National Unity to strengthen the safety and security environment for aid workers.

**Central African Republic

And similarly, in the Central African Republic, the acting Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Kouassi Lazare Etien, has condemned the killing of a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff member who was shot dead on 18 April in an armed ambush in the area of Kouki, Ouham Province.

He is urging all parties to ensure that those providing humanitarian assistance can safely access people in need and conduct their activities without hindrance.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that humanitarian access in Central African Republic continues to be impeded by persisting insecurity and violent attacks. An increase in the number of violent attacks against humanitarian organizations in May has led to the suspension of some activities and even the relocation of staff to Bangui from some field locations.

**Africa Day

Today is Africa Day 2016 and in his message for the day, the Secretary-General urges all stakeholders to rally behind the transformative vision set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

Highlighting the theme of this year’s commemoration, which focuses on the rights of women, the Secretary-General says that this shows the commitment of Africa’s leaders to place women – as key drivers and enablers – at the front and centre of all efforts to implement the development goals.

He also calls on Africa’s leaders to use its economic gains to address rising social and economic inequalities, and ensuring that no African is left behind, adding that this will be crucial for tackling the root causes of conflicts, terrorism and violent extremism, as well as for fostering peace and stability in the continent.  The Secretary-General’s full message is available on our website.


In Vienna, a high-level event was held today on the recently launched Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants (GLO.ACT).

The four-year initiative marks a significant milestone in the global fight against trafficking and smuggling, and brings together the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the European Union, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Speaking at the event, the head of the Office on Drugs and Crime, Yury Fedotov, noted that for all of the positive effects of migration, these unprecedented flows of people are generating new criminal opportunities, particularly for migrant smugglers and human traffickers.


We mentioned yesterday the launch of a new report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime on poaching and illegal trade in wildlife.  And today the UN Environment Agency (UNEP) is launching a campaign called ‘Wild for Life’ to mobilize millions of people to end illegal trade in wildlife.

The Secretary-General said on the launch of the campaign that thousands of wild animals are illegally killed each year, often by organized criminal networks motivated by profit and greed.

UNEP Goodwill Ambassadors are lending their weight to the cause. Among them are Brazilian model Gisele Bündchen, who is fighting for sea turtles; four-time African Footballer of the Year Yaya Touré, who is backing elephants; and actor Ian Somerhalder, who is rooting for pangolins.

**Press Encounters

Tomorrow for the noon briefing, we’ll have two guests: the Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, and Under Secretary-General for Field Support, Atul Khare, and they’ll speak at the top of the briefing.  And that’s for tomorrow.

**Questions and Answers

Are there any questions for me?  Yes, Intisam?

Question:  Farhan, the Security Council in the Presidential Statement a month ago to… regarding Yemen, asked the… Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to present a plan how he wants to… or his office to support the further development of the talks, but it seems to be that this plan is not ready yet.  So my question… and… so why?  This is the first question.  And the second part of the question is, is it true that Ould Cheikh Ahmed is going to ask the Security Council to expand his office and to move it to Jordan?  Yeah.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, first of all, the briefing that he will give to the Security Council will be this afternoon.  You'll probably be able to get some more details once he has briefed the Security Council.  Regarding his plan, he has made clear that he's working on proposals with the parties, and, as I just mentioned, he's working on overcoming various obstacles and working on the details of an implementation mechanism.  The basic point, as he mentioned several times in recent days, is that the discussions are complex.  They are difficult.  But we are moving closer to a comprehensive agreement.  That's what he will brief the Security Council on this afternoon.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  The French Government is still planning to hold the international peace conference on the peace… Middle East peace process on 3 June.  Is the Secretary‑General attending?  And, two, why hasn't the Quartet written its report on time to be presented to this meeting?

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe the Quartet report is being finalized.  Hopefully, it will be ready even in the coming days.  It really depends on how quickly they can… the Quartet members can finalise the text, but that is being done as we speak.  Regarding the Secretary‑General's travels, I don't have anything to announce at this stage.  But certainly, his participation is being considered.  If we have something to announce later on, we'll announce it at that point.  Ozlem?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Greek Cypriot leader [Nicos] Anastasiades cancelled his meeting this week both with Mr. [Espen Barth] Eide and also with Mr. [Mustafa] Akinci.  And what does UN… I mean, does UN have anything to do to ease this tension?  And does the Secretary‑General think that a solution is within reach this… this year? Because that's what the leader said… announced before.  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  This is what the leaders themselves have said, and we have lauded them for their work together.  What the Secretary‑General has made clear in the last couple of days is that the two leaders have already demonstrated great courage and great perseverance in the process.  They've achieved quite a bit.  And what he's doing is he's encouraging them to redouble their efforts in the months to come.  He believes that that will ultimately be to the benefit of all the people of Cyprus.  So we're working with them.  Mr. Eide continues his work with the parties, and we hope that that will bear fruit.  Yes, you had something more?

Question:  But I mean, does the UN directly interfere with this process and make it possible that these meetings are not cancelled unilaterally?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we haven't received any official communications regarding the cancellation of any meetings, but we are working with the parties, and we will continue to work to bring them together.  And we certainly hope, given the investment that the leaders have already made in this, that they will continue with this.  Yes, James?

Question:  Farhan, if I can ask you for an update on what has become a bit of a forgotten crisis, if we go back over three years ago, the Secretary‑General announced that… with the Haitian Government they were going to set up a fund, $2.2 billion, to help the people of Haiti.  Given that most experts believe the UN actually brought the cholera to Haiti, is the Secretary‑General upset, even ashamed, that that fund is now still less than 20 per cent funded?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, certainly, as with many of the funds and projects that we have around the world, we want to see them all fully funded, and this is a very clear case where, if you have the right amount of money in place, you can have the right amount of interventions, whether they be vaccinations or improvements in Haiti's sanitation and health infrastructure.  And that could drive the number of new cases and the number of deaths downwards.  At the same time, the work that we're doing is proceeding.  I did receive an update from our health agencies on the ground, so the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF are currently supporting the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population in a vaccination campaign against cholera.  And the intention is to reach 400,000 people this year.  That campaign was launched first on 11 May in a town called Arcahaie, which is north of Port‑au‑Prince.  And what the campaign aims is to provide two doses of oral vaccine to some 118,000 people this month and next month.  And that vaccine would basically provide between three and five years of protection against cholera.  So we're… that's kicked off.  And for that campaign, for both… for the phases of the campaign this year, we have an initial budget of $3.6 million.  And so we're hoping to get full funding for that.  But, yes, you know, we do have continual challenges with funding, but we are pressing the various countries, and we do want them to support the Plan of Action by the Government of Haiti that we're supporting, and we believe with that, we can continue to bring this downward.

Question:  A follow‑up, if I may.  You say… you've laid out some of the things you're doing, but is the UN doing enough to try and get this money?  The UN had a senior coordinator for the cholera response in Haiti.  He left his post last summer.  He's not been replaced.  And I… I understand his office has been quietly closed.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, what happened is his office was then… the responsibilities that the official, Mr. Pedro Medrano, had, once he ended his term last summer, those responsibilities were folded back into the work of the country team, and the country team is following up…

Question:  So it's not such a high priority now.

Deputy Spokesman:  It remains a high priority.  It doesn't have a separate official, but the officials in‑country are handling it.  And they have been getting money.  For example, the details I have from their latest document on this is the Haitian humanitarian response plan was launched on 7 April, requesting $20.3 million for 2016 for alert and rapid response.  Out of the $20.3 million that was requested for this year, so far $10.5 million are already funded.  So we still have a gap of $9.8 million, and we're pushing for that.  But, as you see, it's not that there's no money there.  There is money that's been acquired, and we're trying to put that to use.  Yes, Colum?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  Just one question:  I want to know if you can tell me whether the staff of Deputy Secretary‑General [Jan] Eliasson or of Susana Malcorra that have ever been instructed to approach Helen Clark or UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) to raise questions about possible retaliation against Lena Sinha.  And before you refer the question to UNDP, I just wanted to remind you the questions are really about the actions of the Secretariat, not UNDP.

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe, as far as I'm aware, neither of those officials, neither the Deputy Secretary‑General nor the Chef de Cabinet themselves, were in contact on this.  I think that there are people on each of their staff who have been in touch with their UNDP counterparts about the various issues regarding Myanmar.

Question:  But this was an issue about Lena Sinha.  Have they been in touch with the UNDP's office about the issue of possible retaliation?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't know whether they have been in touch on the question of retaliation.  I do know that they've been in touch on the larger question of how the office on the ground in Myanmar has been working and what… and the work it's been doing.

Question:  But this is about Sri Lanka, really.  This is not about Myanmar.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah.  I'll… yes.  I believe that they have been involved regarding also the follow‑up to the Petrie report on Sri Lanka, yes.

Question:  Including Lena Sinha?  Sorry to keep belabouring…

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't know whether it's specific to Lena Sinha and her case.  I do know that they have been involved in different follow‑up activities having… you know, basically having to do with the range of issues, including how our initiatives, such as Human Rights Up Front, are being implemented.  Yes, Iftikhar?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  The United Nations in the past has had contacts with the Taliban.  I would like to know whether there has been any contact since the death of Mullah Mansour.

Deputy Spokesman:  Regarding that, I don't have anything to say on this.  Our contacts, as you know, are primarily with the Government of Afghanistan, and we have encouraged efforts by the Government of Afghanistan to reach out and deal with elements of the Taliban who can be helpful in bringing an end to the sort of violence we've seen in the country over the past decades.  But… and so we continue to encourage those efforts, but there's nothing specific to say by way of contacts.  Joe?

Question:  Yes.  If I understood this correctly, in the transcript of the Secretary‑General's press conference with President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan yesterday, he mentioned a figure, I believe, of $240 billion as a… the need for that amount of money to… excuse me… address global humanitarian crises.  Is that a figure that he's seeing as an annual figure that's going to be necessary?  So that's number one.  Or, if not, what… over what period of time does he see that 240 or so billion dollars would need to be raised?  And secondly… excuse me… as was noted during the press conference, I believe the only G7 leader that attended the World Humanitarian Conference was Chancellor [Angela] Merkel.  When the Secretary‑General goes to the meetings in Japan and meets with the world leaders there of the G7, is he going to convey specifically, A, his disappointment that other G7 leaders were not at the humanitarian conference and, B, request that they give some urgent attention to this huge $240 billion gap?  And is the $240 billion… again, that figure is, I believe, what he mentioned in that range… in addition to the global climate change fund figure of $100 billion a year that is being looked at as… for commitments starting in 2020?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I believe the Secretary‑General mentioned both of these topics in his press remarks yesterday that we've put out, so I would refer you basically to his press remarks.  He actually, in those remarks, specifically mentioned his disappointment at the other G7 leaders, aside from Chancellor Merkel.  So he has already put that out on the record.  And as for what he has to say to the G7 leaders when he sees them, we'll put those out in the coming days as he holds that meeting.  And, similarly, regarding the question of funding needs, I'd refer you back to what he said in the press encounter, which is now out online.

Question:  Well, I… excuse me.  That's exactly what I was asking for clarification on, because I don't recall him specifying the time period over which this gap of $240 billion would need to be raised.  Is that what he sees now as an annual requirement to meet all of the anticipated humanitarian crises, man‑made and natural, around the world?  And how does that dovetail with the funding that's being sought, I believe, starting at $100 billion a year, for the climate change fund starting in 2020?  I mean, none of that was in the transcript.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the climate change fund is a separate expense.  This is what he believes is being needed right now and, in coming years, of course, we'll provide other figures as we have.  But this is the amount that's based on our evaluation of the situation as it exists right now.

Question:  For this year, you're saying, or for the coming years.  I'm just trying to understand whether this is…

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe it's longer than a year period.  It's not that we're asking for money annually.  We're asking for this right now as what is needed to fund the sort of exercises that we see as necessary for the current humanitarian climate.  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  I want to ask about UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) and separately about South Korea.  On UNIFIL, I'm sure you've seen the story in El País about the alleged theft and resale of food meant for peacekeepers in markets in Lebanon.  And I guess, two things I wanted to ask you about it… about the story as it seems that the mission is confirming that there's an investigation, but they didn't go further.  Is it… can you say whether it's an OIOS (Office of Internal Oversight Services) investigation?  And also, they say that the Italy-based contractor Es‑Ko is the one that brought the food, and I want to know, since Es‑Ko has contracts in a number of other missions, is this something that OIOS or anyone here, DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations), would be looking at to see whether this is a pattern in other missions?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding the allegation of a diversion of food, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, has already taken the appropriate measures to ensure that such an allegation is properly investigated.  When those allegations were first made, UNIFIL immediately launched an investigation in line with established UN rules and regulations.  There's no indication confirming any evidence of a systematic sale of food rations in local markets or any involvement of UNIFIL contingents.  The investigation is still under review.  The investigation is being conducted in order to verify the facts and individual responsibilities, if any.  The UN will, of course, take all appropriate measures if there are credible… if there's credible evidence of wrongdoing.

Question:  Do you know if… I mean, just one follow‑up.  The El País quotes an employee of Es‑Ko.  And so I'm wondering, does this investigation… you're saying… sounds like it's not OIOS.  It's just the mission?  Have they spoken with employees of the contractor who have come forward in blowing the whistle about resale of food?

Deputy Spokesman:  As far as I'm aware, this is a UNIFIL investigation.  It's still underway.  I've told you what information they have right now, but they're still proceeding.

Question:  And I wanted to ask one other thing.

Deputy Spokesman:  Sure.

Question:  I wanted to ask… this has come up during the Secretary‑General's trip in South Korea.  The… the… basically, people there are citing a GA (General Assembly) resolution that was passed in January 1946, which says, quote, “because the Secretary‑General is a confidante of many governments, it is desirable that no member should offer him at any rate immediately upon retirement any governmental position”.  And so they're saying that this is… essentially, it's a GA resolution and that comments now made in Jeju, but the idea of Ban Ki‑moon running for President of Korea in 2017 would be contrary to a GA resolution.  So I wanted to know… I'm sure he's aware of this… this… the mayor of Seoul, a former human rights lawyer, has raised it.  Others have raised it.  What is his response to how this GA resolution applies to his situation?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the Secretary‑General's response to this entire topic is one that he made clear even today, where he said that right now he's not considering the idea of what he does next after he ceases to be Secretary‑General.  Right now he is going to focus on his work as Secretary‑General.  It's at the start of next year that he'll actually have the time and the ability to think about other things.

Question:  I'm sure you've seen all the headlines.  All the headlines say that his statement that… that beginning 1 January, he will be back as a South Korean… is taken… I mean, and I understand you can say he's taken, but it doesn't seem unfair to say this is a GA resolution.  Does he acknowledge that this is the resolution?   And, two, it seems to say immediately… especially immediately upon retirement, this should not be done.  So is he saying… what's his response?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't really think that there's any point in trying to read into his words more than what he's said.  Right now the idea is he's not considering any sort of post‑UN activity.  You know, he won't take up that issue until the following year.  Yes, Moshfiqul Fazal?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  People of Bangladesh… on Bangladesh, people of Bangladesh are very frustrated and the civil society and the international community as well.  An unelected government is in power.  The local government election is going on with the participation of the opposition, union council election.  But at least… phase by phase is going on.  At least 90 people killed, and it is widely [inaudible] by the government activists.  So how you are observing the situation and what is the stand of the UN in this situation?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't have anything new on Bangladesh to add to what we've said on this last week.  Our basic concerns still apply. Yes, yes, you.

Question:  To follow up on the question about UNIFIL, what are the sanctions, the measures that you can adopt against who in this… in this case of fraud?  And it's interesting because it's very recurring, the fraud cases in the UNIFIL.  Are you adopting additional measures, or how you going to attack this case?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, like I said, the investigation is currently proceeding.  There is, again, no indication at this stage confirming any evidence of a systematic sale of food rations or any involvement of UNIFIL contingents.  And, of course, this investigation is determined to investigate facts and individual responsibilities.  We will take appropriate measures if there's credible evidence of wrongdoing, but at this stage, like I said, we do not have that evidence.  And before we proceed, I would like to read the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary‑General on the adoption of Resolution 2288, terminating the Liberia sanctions regime:

“The Secretary‑General welcomes the adoption today of Security Council Resolution 2288 (2016), which terminated the sanctions on Liberia.  The Secretary‑General notes that targeted sanctions measures have accompanied the consolidation of peace and the rebuilding of State institutions in Liberia since 2003 and that these measures have been progressively adjusted as Liberia has met the benchmarks set out by the Council.  Today’s lifting by the Security Council of the remaining arms embargo on non‑state actors further signals the significant progress made by Liberia and the sub‑region in maintaining stability.  The Secretary‑General echoes the Council's call in Resolution 2288 (2016) on the Government of Liberia to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken to establish the necessary legal and administrative framework to combat the illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition.”

That's it for me.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  I heard what you said about Mr. Benomar going to Bujumbura.  I wanted to ask you, there's… there's… you know, without question, there are photographs of a colonel… retired colonel in the army, high profile, Mr. [Lucien] Rufyiri having been assassinated today in front of his house.  There's… and there's also reports on some of the few independent radio stations of weapons being distributed to the youth militia.  So now that this… you'd said yesterday that the human rights observers of the UN are on the ground.  One, do they have anything… have they looked into this idea of the distribution of weapons?  And two, does the UN have any response to yet another assassination of a military figure on a seemingly partisan or ethnic basis?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we have expressed, as you know, our concerns about all of the violence that has been affecting the population in Burundi.  We want to see the attacks against anyone for any reason to cease.  And, as you know, we do have human rights monitors on the ground following up on the various reports and various allegations.  So we do have our concerns.  At the same time, like I said, we'll continue to offer our support for President Mkapa and his efforts as facilitator.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  In response to my earlier question about the participation of the Secretary‑General and the international peace conference in Paris on 3 June, you said that that participation is being considered.  Why is there hesitancy?  Doesn't the Secretary‑General consider this conference to be priority?

Deputy Spokesman:  He does consider this conference to be a priority.  I do, however, as all of you very well know, not announce trips until the announcement is ready.  So we will have to wait a bit further.  This is something that's a week away, and we'll have to see.  All right.  Yes, Sylviane?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Yesterday there was a statement on Lebanon, a Security Council statement on Lebanon.  What is the… why this statement came yesterday?  Is it like because two weeks ago, we had Resolution 5059 and it was almost the same terminology in the resolution… in the… in the 5059 report.  And another… another thing, is… during the summit meeting in Istanbul, is Mr. Ban Ki‑moon met… did Mr. Ban Ki‑moon met with… with Prime Minister Tammam Salam?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't have a readout of any meeting with Tammam Salam.  I believe that they did see each other briefly, however.  Regarding the statement, as was made clear in the statement itself yesterday, it was issued on the occasion of the holding of the municipal elections.  Moshfiq?

Question:  Yeah, thank you, Farhan.  82 years old senior editor of Bangladesh now in prison and his physical condition is very bad.  The Amnesty International experts, they are concerned about his physical condition, and his family also scared about his physical condition.  So would you like to add anything?

Deputy Spokesman:  As you know, we have our regular concerns about the freedom of all media in all countries and those apply in this case.  We believe that all media need to be able to go about their work without hindrance or fear of hindrance.  Linda?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  This is regarding Ukraine.  I was wondering if you could just give an update in terms of the latest conditions, humanitarian and perhaps human rights conditions, in Eastern Ukraine.  And also, how satisfied is the UN with developments there so far?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we're continuing with our work, including in Eastern Ukraine.  I don't have a specific update right now to give you, but… but we do continue with our work, and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has been having sufficient access and ability to go about their duties.  [He later shared the latest OCHA update on Ukraine with the correspondent.]  Yes, Ozlem?

Question:  Farhan, will there be a readout with the… about the meeting of Secretary‑General with Mr. Akinci yesterday in Istanbul?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, there was no formal meeting with Mr. Akinci.  I believe he showed up for an event that the Secretary‑General was also at.  So they saw each other briefly in the context of that event, but it was not a scheduled meeting by any means.  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  I'd asked a couple days ago about the Sudanese Government saying that Omar al‑Bashir has been invited to an event and has sought a U.S. visa.  So yesterday, the State Department's Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner referred the question back to the UN, saying, I'd refer you to them for details about who they send them to, meaning invitations.  So I wanted to just be clear again.  First of all, it wasn't clear… one article said it was an invitation to an AIDS/HIV conference.  The other one talked about the General Assembly.  Has there been… are there routine mailings to the heads of… Heads of State or Heads of Government of the 193 to come to both events, and has one been sent this year?

Deputy Spokesman:  There are routine mailings to all governments in order to ensure representation at the highest level of each government, and those are sent to the permanent missions of each government.

Question:  And that was done for the HIV/AIDS conference as well as the GA?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah, exactly.  That goes for a range of meetings where we try to ensure a high level of participation.

Question:  Right.  So the U.S. was asked directly whether they will, in fact, allow this head of government in to come to the UN.  And they said that they are in favour of… they left it sort of vague.  So I wanted to ask you again, just from a UN perspective, understanding your desire for accountability, etc., is it the right of Heads of State to come to the UN headquarters?

Deputy Spokesman:  We don't dispute the right of any government official to travel.  However, regarding the case of Sudan, as you know, there is an outstanding warrant of the International Criminal Court (ICC).  We do and continue to urge all states to cooperate with the work of the International Criminal Court and with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council concerning that.

Question:  Sure.  Can I ask one thing about Myanmar?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah.

Question:  I just want… while it's still fresh.  You'd answered the question and said there's some contacts between the Executive Office of the Secretary‑General and Myanmar, and I'm assuming that's in response to the recent VICE story about seemingly the SR… the… the… the… the resident coord… representative working around human rights concerns.  So can you say… some people there are saying that there's a danger of retaliation of staff that cooperated with the story.  Is that… I… I'm not saying you said that.  I'm… I just wanted to ask more since you said that these people here from headquarters are in touch with them in Myanmar.  Is it about finding out if the story is… has more truth… has truth to it, or is it looking into protecting those who spoke to VICE?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, I would just characterize the work that we do on this as making sure that the UN system as a whole is supportive of high human rights standards in Myanmar.  And it's really about the substance of the issue.

Question:  And is Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar at all involved in this process?  I notice he… he still has the position, right, of good offices on Myanmar?

Deputy Spokesman:  Of course he does.  He continues to do that work.  Have a good afternoon, everyone.

For information media. Not an official record.