The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General will leave New York this afternoon to attend the Paris conference on the Middle East Peace Process, which is taking place tomorrow in Paris.
As Special Coordinator [for the Middle East Peace Process], Nickolay Mladenov informed the Security Council last week that participants at the conference intend to reaffirm their commitment to a negotiated two-State solution and to discuss how they can support both parties constructively in achieving this goal.
The Secretary-General expects to have bilateral meetings with some of the key participants at the conference. And he will be back in New York tomorrow afternoon.
This morning, as you know, he spoke at the Security Council debate on sexual violence in conflict. Stressing that sexual violence is widely recognized as a deliberate strategy used to shred the fabric of society, the Secretary-General urged the international community to continue speaking up for the women, girls, men and boys whose bodies have [for] too long have been considered the spoils of war.
He said that extremist groups, including Da’esh and Boko Haram, are using sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism — using it as a means of attracting and retaining fighters, and to generate revenue. He added that the Yezidi community gave Da’esh up to $45 million in ransom payments in 2014 alone.
He called for the immediate release of all who have been taken captive, as well as for the care and support of those who return, and suffer from social isolation and depression.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, also briefed the Council. She warned that ultimately all our words, laws and resolutions will mean nothing if violations go unpunished in practice, and if we are unable to increase the consequences for committing such crimes.
“Justice may be delayed but it will not be denied,” she added, saying that the international community is steadfast and committed to live up to its duty to prevent these crimes and care for survivors.
Those statements are available online, and obviously the meeting will be continuing for most of the afternoon.
The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O'Brien, is deeply concerned by the plight of civilians trapped in the besieged Iraqi city of Fallujah, where a major military operation against Da’esh is taking place. An estimated 50,000 civilians, including at least 20,000 children, are unable to leave.
Mr. O’Brien said that civilians must be allowed to freely move to safer areas and all who flee must be granted aid and protection. All parties to this conflict are obliged to abide by the international humanitarian and human rights law and do everything possible to protect civilians.
It is vital that aid workers are guaranteed safe, secure and unhampered access in this fluid and dangerous environment.
And regarding Syria, the humanitarian task force met [today] in Geneva as we said yesterday, and following that meeting, Jan Egeland, the Special Adviser of the Special Envoy for Syria, spoke to the press to say that although May was a bad month in terms of humanitarian access, June already seems to be going better. He noted that convoys had reached Daraya for the first time since 2012, with plans to travel to 11 besieged areas in the next few days.
So far, he said, 14 out of 19 besieged areas have received humanitarian aid, and another three besieged areas could be reached for the first time over the coming days.
Regarding Daraya, Mr. Egeland said that yesterday humanitarian workers were able to bring in vaccines, some medical items, especially oriented to children, and baby milk and nutritional items for mothers. There still needs to be [another] full convoy going to Daraya with other items, and Mr. Egeland said that was expected very soon, although possibly not tomorrow.
Meanwhile, on air drops, the Deputy Special Envoy, Ramzy [Ezzeldin] Ramzy, said that WFP [World Food Programme] has been finalizing — continues to work on plans for the airdrops.
As fighting and violence escalate across Syria, the regional directors of UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) say that we risk losing the opportunity to vaccinate and save the lives of more than 1 million children.
For example, due to the sharp increase in attacks on health personnel and facilities in Idleb, the immunization campaign in the city has been temporarily halted amid fears to the safety of health workers and the local population. Since the beginning of the year, there have been reports of attacks on 17 health care facilities across Syria. Only one third of hospitals are currently functioning across the country.
Both World Health Organization and UNICEF appeal to all parties to the conflict to put an end to the violence across Syria so that health workers can resume the vaccination campaign in safety.
The Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, said today that Yemen is one of the more invisible crises in the region and in the world right now, given the dire humanitarian situation people face on a daily basis.
Figures are stark: 8 out of 10 people in the country need some kind of humanitarian assistance.
Mr. McGoldrick said that everyone you meet has been affected by this conflict. He said that humanitarian workers have to be given the opportunity, the funding and the support to deliver assistance to all those in need.
The international community launched a $1.8 billion appeal to help the most vulnerable with food, health, water and sanitation, but the appeal is only 17 per cent funded.
He said that the incident was a stark reminder of the ruthless tactics employed by violent extremists, adding that killing civilians is an act of desperation, political inability and moral bankruptcy.
His full statement is online.
And our humanitarian colleagues say today that since April 2015, the political crisis in Burundi has made the humanitarian situation of poor and vulnerable people even worse.
An Emergency Food Security Assessment released by the World Food Programme this week shows that about 4.6 million people are food insecure people. On average, over 48 per cent of rural households are food insecure, compared to almost 10 per cent in Bujumbura.
Humanitarian actors are scaling up capacity to respond to lifesaving needs and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has opened a permanent office to coordinate humanitarian efforts in Bujumbura.
A humanitarian appeal, requesting $62.3 million, for humanitarian needs in Burundi, but it is only 30 per cent funded.
The UN [Assistance] Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has expressed deep concern over the spate of abductions, hostage-taking and summary executions carried out in recent days against passengers travelling in civilian vehicles.
In a recent incident, armed attackers abducted an estimated 25 civilian men and women the northern province of Saripul. All passengers were reported to be from the Hazara community — five were released but the fate of the rest remains unknown.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom, has called for the immediate and unconditional release of all detained civilians and for an end to this horrible practice.
Our colleagues at the FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] have released today its biannual Food Outlook, which says that global food commodity markets are on a stable path for the year ahead, with solid production prospects and abundant stocks pointing to a broadly stable outcome for prices and supplies.
It also issued today its Food Price Index for May, which is rising for the fourth month in a row, but is still some 7 percent [below] the level reported one year ago.
**Press Encounters Tomorrow
Press encounters tomorrow in this building — in the General Assembly Hall, the first-ever UN Chiefs of Police Summit, otherwise known as UN COPS, will take place. More than 100 police leaders from around the world together with key partners and senior UN representatives will discuss the way forward for UN Police. The Deputy Secretary-General will be in attendance. And at 11:30 a.m., there will be a briefing here on that Summit.
At noon, Farhan [Haq] will be joined by Elliot Harris, the Director of the UNEP [United Nations Environment Programme] Office in New York. He will brief you ahead of World Environment Day, which is Sunday, June 5th.
Another press event but that one is taking place in Kyiv, Ukraine. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović will present the fourteenth report of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. Mr. Šimonović will also do a Q&A at the press briefing.
The report covers the period between 16 February and 15 May 2016, presenting findings regarding the human rights situation in the eastern regions of Ukraine, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, as well as the impact of armed conflict elsewhere in the country.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thanks, Stéph. Could you talk a bit more about the Secretary‑General's trip to Paris? What are his expectations? What's the message he's taking to this conference?
And what are some of the critical compromises he expects from both parties if we are, in fact, to see, as the French certainly hope, that they get back to direct negotiations?
Spokesman: The Secretary‑General will reaffirm his belief in the two‑State solution, the need for leadership from the Israelis and the Palestinians, and… they will also discuss how they can best support both parties constructively to achieve that goal.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Just a follow‑up on this question — does the Secretary‑General and the international community seriously think that there is a change of heart in the Israeli authority's leadership that they will, I mean, seriously talk about a two‑State solution? Given the track record of the present regime…
Spokesman: I think we saw… we saw just a few days ago reaffirmation… reaffirmation from the Israeli leadership into the two… belief into the two‑State solution. We believe we need to see leadership from both sides. It's clear that there remain obstacles to peace, whether it's violence or terror, the incitement of violence, whether it's the continued construction of settlements, the lack of unification between Gaza and the West Bank through the Palestinian Government. We know where the obstacles are, and they need to be overcome.
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask, listening to the Secretary‑General's speech on this sexual violence and conflict, and I was sort of waiting for some reference to sexual abuse by peacekeepers themselves or by the Sangaris force. Is there something that I'm missing in kind of the scope of the meeting? Why was this important topic on which he actually had some… some, you know, responsibility and can do something, not mentioned in his speech…?
Spokesman: I think the Secretary‑General has been clear in his outrage when violations are committed by peacekeepers or international forces. The focus of the meeting was on those terror groups and others who are deliberately using… using sexual violence as a tool of war, and I don't think in any way, shape or form that applies to peacekeeping.
Question: Well, I mean… no, I guess I'm referring to the Sangaris, the bestiality allegations at a minimum are not… don't seem to be of normal… they seem to be…
Spokesman: I think your… your… I don't agree with your logic. I think you're talking about, on one hand, groups and organisations that pointedly use sexual violence as a tool of war. And what I'm talking about are horrendous acts committed by an extreme minority… criminal acts committed by a minority of peacekeepers or international… international forces that doesn't… obviously, it doesn't reflect the intent of the missions.
Question: Sure. And I guess you may… I've been meaning to ask this for a few days. The Secretary‑General's most recent report on children and armed conflict goes through a number of things, but it mentions the attack by the US on the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, but the US is not listed in the annex. The Saudis are listed for similar attacks, I guess, which you might call unintentional, in Yemen. How is this determination made to list the… the…?
Spokesman: There will be… there is a process, and we go through it every year, and there will be a formal presentation of the report by the Special Representative. So I would ask you to save your questions for that.
Question: Thanks, Stéphane. Can you comment on whether or not the UN plans to ask Syria for airdrop access and whether it views the June 1st deadline violated or passed without improvement?
Spokesman: The… as we've said here, the… the issue of airdrops is an extremely complex one. WFP is implementing its plan to move forward with airdrops. However, there are a number of obstacles in the way. I think about 15 of the 19 besieged areas are… are urban or semi urban and would require helicopters to use. We can't do airdrops. Obviously, in… in urban areas, you can't… airdrops are not feasible. So you're talking about the use of helicopters where helicopters… I think each helicopter has about three metric tonnes on board… would actually have to land and offload. One can imagine the security challenges for that. Plus, the security challenges of flying helicopters over the skies of Syria.
So WFP is working on these issues. Obviously, when they feel they have the necessary funding and, obviously, more importantly, the necessary clearances from the Syrian Government, they will go ahead. But there is a need… there is a clear need for… for the clearance to be granted. Just like for… for land convoys, we need to have clearances to go forward. I mean, these are not… we're not talking about combat missions or combat helicopters. These are humanitarian missions.
So there is an intent to go forward and to put the plan… to put the plan in motion. But, obviously, it's a very complex one and one that has a lot of obstacles and challenges.
Spokesman: Yes. No, hold… yeah, go ahead.
Question: So without [Bashar al-]Assad's permission, this is not feasible.
Spokesman: We need… WFP needs the clearances, flight clearances, before going to get the helicopters on board. Obviously, there is a… in any country, you need… you need to have… WFP… in any country WFP operates, it needs the flight clearances.
But I think, added to that, when you're operating in an… in an air space where the Government and other countries are also conducting military missions, one would want to make sure you have all the clearances. Just like for road convoys, you want to make sure you have all the clearances to go through every checkpoint that you may have to go… to go through.
Question: On the same subject, yeah, yesterday's convoys to Daraya and Moadamiyeh, they did not carry any substantial amounts. I mean, most of the trucks were quarter fill laden with products. And most of the products were not food or… and nutritious material. People there were complaining… if land entry was allowed, why didn't they carry some food to these people who have been waiting for many years?
Spokesman: There were nutrition items on a number of those convoys and…
Question: Only milk for children.
Spokesman: And… exactly. And I think these were the first of multiple convoys, as about [Jan] Egeland said. We expect to have more convoys into Daraya and other areas, so obviously, we will get into those areas as much a supply as we are able to get.
Question: Mr. [Bashar] Ja’afari told the Security Council a few days ago that, out of 19 approvals, the humanitarian access was only… the… the… you delivered only 3 convoys out of 19. And also, the entry yesterday of… into Moadamiyeh and Daraya proved that there was no real material to provide to the people. Seems there's lack of material…
Spokesman: I'm not going to second‑guess from this podium the work that my humanitarian colleagues or the Syrian Red Cross and the amazing work that the Syrian humanitarian workers are doing. I am sure they are getting whatever they can, as much as they can into each convoy.
Question: Sorry. It's the same subject. Everybody is taking follow‑ups. On the same subject, why…
Spokesman: Depends how many you're talking about.
Question: …why would you be considering airlifts, which are very costly, and, obviously, you are taking the risk here of being… for being shut down by some terrorist groups, which are active in all these areas and which you may not be able to negotiate with, some of them like ISIS or… or al‑Nusra Front. They are in all these areas. And you may not be able to secure the safety… why would you consider airlift when you are not delivering on land?
Spokesman: Listen, I… again, land conveys are our preferred choice of delivery of aid. Where we can, that's what we're using. If we cannot do land convoys, we'll do either… we'll do airdrops or, as WFP even said, they will go in with helicopters. Every time a humanitarian convoy moves, every time a humanitarian helicopter goes in the air or a plane goes in the air, it's very, very risky. So we are doing the best… we're following the best option possible on a case‑by‑case basis.
Spokesman: Nizar, I will come back to you. Mr. Abbadi and then…
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. On the peace conference in Paris, two questions, if I may. One, how many members of the Secretariat are accompanying the Secretary‑General and at what level?
Second, it is expected that the conference would offer some incentives to the parties, including possibly associate membership to the Palestinians with the European Union. What incentives would the UN be prepared to offer?
Spokesman: I'm not going to be able to answer the second one.
On the first one, he's going with a very small staff. I think Mr.… the only senior adviser that's going with him is Mr. [Nikolay] Mladenov, who is meeting him in Paris. I'm not even going. That's… that's the situation.
Question: I just want to clarify, so the WFP, are they the main agency responsible for delivering humanitarian aid in Syria, including the one last month in Daraya that was blocked?
Spokesman: The way the UN system works is that WFP is responsible for air operations, and in terms of airdrops, whether it is planes or whether it is helicopters, that's their responsibility. The humanitarian convoys that are going by road, obviously inter‑agency convoys; there's food from WFP; there's UNICEF; there's WHO, but the overall responsibility for conducting air operations, humanitarian air operations in the UN falls with WFP.
Question: But by convoy, who's responsible for that?
Spokesman: No, by convoy…
Spokesman: …as I said, there are inter‑agency convoys also involving the Syrian Red Cross. They're being coordinated by the Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs.
Question: So that's the ultimate responsibility, OCHA?
Spokesman: Well, they are… by their name, they are coordinating humanitarian aid.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. As you may know, earlier today, German parliament adopted the resolution that acknowledged the fact of Armenian genocide in 1915. Do you have any comment on that?
And can you please remind the position of the UN according to… towards the fact of genocide?
Spokesman: No, I have no… I have no comment, and the situation… the UN's position has not changed since this was last stated.
Question: Yes, Stéphane. About the situation in Fallujah, where both sides are now digging heels, do you have any idea what's happening? There are thousands of civilians trapped over there. Does United Nations have any idea so when it will be able to get an access to that region at all, if at all?
Spokesman: Obviously, access is dependent on the military operations, which we have no special insight to, obviously no control or… so we're waiting. As soon as it's safe enough for humanitarian aid to go in, we will go in. I think we've expressed, both Mr. O'Brien just a few minutes ago, as I echoed it here, or Lise Grande [Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq], as you've heard her, expressed deep concern about this humanitarian situation in Fallujah as well as the underfunded humanitarian appeals for Iraq.
Mr. Lee, and then we'll go back to you, Nizar, because you may have a question.
I wanted to ask you about Burundi. There was a speech by the President, Pierre Nkurunziza, about Mugamba, which is viewed as a… as a predominantly Tutsi community in the country, saying basically that people have to disarm in the next 15 days or face the use of force. So I'm wondering if you, the Special Adviser, or anyone else is aware of that and what you think of that.
Spokesman: I have not seen reports…
Question: Did you get an answer on whether… two things that I'd asked, one, whether, when the Burundians leave the mission in the Central African Republic, there will be any more Burundians to return. And also if Burundi sought to attend this… UN COPS event.
Spokesman: They are not attending. Whether or not they sought to attend, I think, is a question for them.
And on the… their presence in Central African Republic, I should have something later for you.
Question: I have three questions, in fact. One of them… about Fallujah, Mr. O'Brien spoke about acc… asking access. From what I understand from the Iraqi Government announcement that they have made many access routes for civilians to go out. Does he imply that the… the Government is not allowing or the… the other militias around Fallujah are not allowing the civilians to go out?
Spokesman: No, I don't think there is an accusation against the Iraqi military or militias that they are not allowing civilians to go out. We know they're… women and children are being taken to one location. Young men and older men are taken to another one for security screening. Obviously, the access into town is one that has to be… one that will be had once the fighting stops.
Question: [inaudible] with regard to Bahrain, Sheikh Ali Salman, Sheikh Ali Salman has… did not commit any crime to be convicted for nine years. What's the United Nations going to do for his release?
Spokesman: I… I don't have anything for you on Bahrain today.
Question: Well, yesterday Farhan at least said that Secretary‑General was not very happy about the sentence. He sent me an e-mail. But what… if the Secretary‑General is not happy about that, what is…
Spokesman: As I said, I don't… if I have something for you on Bahrain, I will share it with you.
Question: Okay. On Saudi Arabia, today, they convicted 14 people to death. They sentenced them to death for the death of one security personnel. What is the Secretary‑General's position about that?
Spokesman: Whether it's for this particular case in Saudi Arabia or any case around the world, the Secretary‑General is against the use of the death penalty in any situation.
Question: How about…
Question: …due process…
Spokesman: That's more than three. That was four.
Question: Correct me if I'm wrong…
Question: Correct me if I'm wrong… I know you will… why hasn't the Secretary‑General held a complete press conference here in now almost going on six months? Which I think almost is a new record, this considering editorial page comment by departing key aid Anthony Banbury, saying the UN system is broken; US presidential candidate, in a nationally televised speech, denounces the UN, questioning its fairness or balance; dramatic escalation in sexual abuse and allegations in CAR testing zero tolerance, almost like no tolerance. Is he playing the former North Carolina coach Dean Smith policy kind of running out the clock, four corners defence? Why has that happened?
Spokesman: I expect him to have at least a press stakeout either Tuesday or Wednesday next week, and I will take your commentary on board.
Mr. Abbadi, and then we'll go to Linda.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Still on the Paris peace conference, it's expected that the conference will set up working groups on specific issues. Is the UN… does the UN expect to head any of these groups?
Spokesman: Well, I think we have to wait for the outcome of the… we have to wait for the outcome of the conference. We'll see what happens.
Question: Hi. Thank you, Stéph. Also in regard to the peace conference, you mentioned that one obstacle is the lack of unification between Gaza and the West Bank. I was wondering what kind of role, if any, the UN or… is there an active role that the UN or the Secretary‑General is playing in terms of trying to achieve that?
Spokesman: I mean, this is an issue that the Secretary‑General and his representative have brought up repeatedly in their discussions with… with the Palestinian leadership. And we will continue to do so. We do think that the lack of political unity on the Palestinian side is a… a very important obstacle to moving the situation forward.
Question: Yeah. Can you explain what the rationale is for Ban Ki‑moon's recommendation of the troops be increased in MINUSMA [the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali] by 2,000‑plus? Thanks.
Spokesman: Well, I think it's clear to everyone that the security situation in parts of Mali has deteriorated. I think UN… UN staff have paid for it in blood as we've seen in the last… in the last week. The mission is there to help the central… the Government in… in Mali reassert its authority. Given all the conditions on the ground, the Secretary‑General believes that an increase in the number of troops is warranted.
Question: But part of the problem is that there are theories going around that, because the recent attack was actually done via car bomb in a camp, that there's now infiltration in… among the troops, so adding more troops, will that actually…
Spokesman: Well, we do think that adding more… more troops with greater flexibility in Mali, including air assets, quick reaction forces, will help the peacekeepers deliver on their mandate.
Question: So who… who… who… what kind of troops will be heading to MINUSMA?
Spokesman: Well, I'd refer you to the report. We're talking about quick reaction force, air assets, additional troops specialized in… in high security convoys. The recommendations have gone to the Security Council. Obviously, there will be a discussion on it in the coming… in the coming weeks or so.
Question: So that means more European troops?
Spokesman: No, not specifically more European troops.
Question: Thanks, Stéph. And I'm not sure if you had an announcement on this before I came in at the beginning, but a Cambodian opposition leader has been holed up in his party headquarters for, I think, seven days now to avoid arrest. The UN issued a statement over the week… or had… or had remarks over the weekend about the situation there, which were criticized by some human rights groups as being excessively timid.
Has anyone from the UN, the Secretary‑General or someone else, been in touch with authorities in Cambodia? Are they trying to do anything else, mediate, issue warnings?
Spokesman: You know, I think there have been contacts at different levels. Obviously, the Secretary‑General remains concerned about reports of wide‑spread intimidation, harassment and arrests of members of civil society organizations, the media, members of the opposition, and the National Election Committee. The Secretary‑General once again emphasises the importance of the legal institutions acting fairly and impartially. As an environment of democratic dialogue it is essential for the stability and prosperity of the nation, especially ahead of the elections of 2017 and 2018, he urges the Cambodian authorities to foster the return of a "culture of dialogue" and calls on all political parties to de‑escalate tensions. He calls for full respect of fundamental human rights, in particular the rights of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
Nizar, in fact, I have an answer for you on Bahrain.
Spokesman: Would you like to hear it or did you just want the question?
Correspondent: Okay, okay, yeah.
Spokesman: I mean…
Farhan has gone to the trouble of actually bringing it to me. I think I will read it off too.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Spokesman: The Secretary‑General regrets that the sentence against Sheikh Ali Salman, Secretary‑General of Al‑Wefaq Society, has been more than doubled, despite international appeals, including the Secretary‑General's, for his release. He believes that Sheikh Ali Salman should be pardoned, as he has been peacefully and legitimately exercising his rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.
The Secretary‑General welcomes the release from prison yesterday of Ms. Zainab Al‑Khawaja, a leading human rights activist in Bahrain.
Question: Thank you. Is there anything to follow up on the [inaudible] report on the implementation of that? The Bahrainian uprising started well before the Syrian crisis, and there's no progress whatsoever since they started in any reform happening in Bahrain. What's the United Nations going to do in order to follow up on the implementation of the report?
Spokesman: I think the Secretary‑General and the staff continue to follow the situation closely.
Question: I have another question regarding the Red Cross failed to turn… to show up to deliver food to Daraya on the 17th of this month when they were given permission. And they were… have been accused of failing to show up…
Spokesman: Okay. Nizar, as much as I would like to hear the rest of the question, I can tell you…
Spokesman: …that I do not speak…
Question: So what…
Spokesman: I do not speak for the Red Cross.
Question: Well, this is… this is about delivery… access to Daraya.
Spokesman: And, again, I will not from this podium second‑guess the detailed plans and the work that our humanitarian colleagues are doing on the ground in Syria.
Question: There was a terrorist attack today…
Spokesman: Khalas. Khalas. Go ahead.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Regarding the airdrops in Syria, can you tell me, is your colleagues… are your colleagues and WFP ready to carry out a plan for airdrop in Syria right now?
Spokesman: Majeed, with all due respect, I think I went on quite a lot of detail like 15 minutes ago on this.
Question: But now, right now.
Spokesman: As I said, we're talking about airdrops. We're talking about use of helicopters. It's a very, very challenging situation. But our WFP colleagues are activating the plans, but, obviously, we need the right clearances and the… and assurances that these flights can go ahead safely.
Question: I understand the clearance part. You explained that very well. But that's the legal part. I'm talking about logistical part, the details, plans. Are they ready or not…?
Spokesman: The logistical part is… is what WFP specializes in. So I have… I know they're putting together the plan. And they're activating it.
Question: Sure. Thanks a lot. Two related questions. One is actually about New York. There's a front‑page story in the Times today about the pattern of extremely affluent defendants being allowed to build themselves, quote, gilded cages. One of the three examples is Ng Lap Seng, who's charged with bribery at the UN, $50 million bond living in his apartment quite near here, GPS. So I wanted to know, as a matter of sort of rule of law, does the UN system or the Secretary‑General have any view of the justice of the most affluent defendants being able to essentially hire their own guards and live in their own apartment?
Spokesman: I have no specific comment at this point on this very interesting story on the front page of the New York Times.
Question: Okay. This… this… maybe you'll have this or can get this. The OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] audit of the Ng Lap Seng or, alternately, John Ashe scandal set a deadline of May 31st for… for the Secretary‑General to ensure that DPI [Department of Public Information] improved its procedures for uses of the lobby and of due diligence. So I wanted to know, can you state that it's been done, and can the letter that went out to the departments be released in the spirit of transparency?
Spokesman: I'm sure all our colleagues in the departments and DPI are in contact with OIOS to full implementation of the audit. If I can share more with you, I will.
Question: Just to follow on the commentary, which I know you know, but I'm sure some of our colleagues would agree, when the Secretary‑General appears at a press stakeout, it's usually three to six questions max. I know you know this. This room would be a good location. I shouldn't have to say that after ten years for the… but I was thinking of organizing an airdrop with questions, perhaps, that we could get to him…
Because I… throw in, as Matthew just mentioned, the ongoing corruption story. There are questions at this time, so it would be really nice to hear the Secretary‑General respond on topics that we have… don't have him on the record at all on camera or audio.
Spokesman: Thank you. Mr. Abbadi. Mr. Abbadi.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Still on the… on the peace conference in Paris. The Secretary‑General, I assume, will be meeting with President [François] Hollande and Secretary [John] Kerry. Who else would he be meeting? Is he meeting with President [Abdel Fattah Al] Sisi and others like that?
Spokesman: No, a number of bilaterals are being planned. He is in Paris for only a few… a few hours. And the programme will be confirmed once he gets there. So I will… once the bilaterals that are pencilled in have been confirmed, I will share that information with you.
Question: A follow‑up on…
Spokesman: Masood, Masood…
Question: I want to ask one question…
Spokesman: Masood, it's…
Question: Okay. Two questions. The first one, I'm not sure if you talked at the beginning about closing… media reports about closing the… some UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] offices in northern occupied Palestinian territories. Can you confirm this?
Spokesman: No, I have not heard that at all. Where?
Question: Northern West Bank…
Spokesman: I will check with UNRWA.
Question: Okay. On the second question, on the peace conference, you said that you welcome… or the Secretary‑General welcomed the Israeli announcement of wanting to have… for the two‑State solution. But we know… do you know the details of this announcement? I mean, when they talk about two‑State solution, they talk definitely not about the borders of '67 or not Security Council resolutions, et cetera. So what are you exactly welcoming?
Spokesman: Well, I think what Mr. Mladenov was welcoming in his statement was the recommitment. Obviously, what the ultimate peace deal would look like is something that will have to be negotiated between the parties.
Question: Yes, a follow‑up on Richard's question.
Spokesman: I don't think Richard had a question.
Spokesman: I didn't hear a question mark….
Question: I just…
Question: Is there a particular reason why the Secretary‑General is so reluctant to hold a press conference over here?
Spokesman: He's not… he's not…
Question: Is it because he's scared of…
Spokesman: He's not reluctant. He's held many press conferences here. I understand we haven't had one in a quite a bit.
Question: The last six months…
Spokesman: Masood, Masood.
Question: Yes, sir.
Spokesman: He is not reluctant to have a press conference. We will try to put something down on the calendar. There's been a lot of travel going on. We will try to put something down on calendar. No one is reluctant to do anything.
Question: How long was the…
Question: One on Hodeidah and one on Lattakia. Today there was a terrorist attack on Lattakia. The worshipers coming out from the mosque were blown up by suicide bomber. Do you have any statement on that?
Spokesman: Obviously, we're… we're… this just happened as we were going in. We're very… attacks on civilians are to be condemned in no uncertain terms, and I think especially attacks on civilians in houses of worship are especially heinous.
Question: On Hodeidah, it seems the Yemeni Government, Mr. [Abdrabuh Mansour] Hadi's Government, is preventing diesel from arriving to where they don't… they cannot run their generators, and any supplies have been bombarded from the air. And it's a suffocating situation there with the heat, is very high, and Hodeidah has… all the imports were prevented. So how is this inspection mechanism working when diesel cannot be delivered to generating… to power generations?
Spokesman: The mechanism is working. We can look into detailed cases where you think things have not…
Correspondent: Hodeidah has been suffering for such a long time now.
Spokesman: Mr. Lee.
Question: Sure. One is the follow‑up in the form of request of a question. How long… even though some of it was off the record, how long was the Secretary-General's press conference or press encounter with the Kwanhun Club in Jeju island? And can we get that amount of time sometime between now and the end of the term…?
Spokesman: You will get… you will get all the time that you need.
Question: Oh, well. Okay. Well, here's… I just wanted to ask you for clarification. I saw yesterday evening the statement on Haiti by the Secretary‑General. And I'd asked you what he thought of the… the commission there saying basically the election should be redone, that it was so flawed. So he seemed to say that there's a… it cannot afford a prolonged period of transitional governance. Is he saying there should be a redo of the election? What's his… how does what he say… what he said last night apply to the recommendation that's been made in Haiti?
Spokesman: I think, obviously, these are decisions to be made by the Haitian people and the Haitian Government and the institutions. And, as I said, he believes… he, like many others in the international community, don't think that a lack of… of government should continue that… that much longer. Thank you.