10 June 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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Security Council

Earlier today, the Secretary‑General addressed the Security Council debate on the protection of civilians.  Stressing that protecting civilians is an over‑arching responsibility that involves all the critical functions of the United Nations, including human rights, humanitarian, political and peacekeeping, the Secretary‑General said that the organization remains committed to supporting Governments in their efforts to protect their people, and persuade parties to conflict to abide by their obligations.

On peacekeeping, he added that the Secretariat is doing its utmost to support missions through a renewed focus on performance and accountability, and will continue to help prevent and address abuses committed by peacekeepers.  However, [even] the most effective peacekeeping can never protect every civilian from harm, he said, adding that no amount of strategy, resources or accountability will mitigate the grave and tragic consequences of war on people.  He called on Member States to help find sustainable political solutions to conflicts, based on the rule of law and human rights standards — which he said was the ultimate solution to protecting civilians.


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said today that the joint UN‑Syrian Arab Red Crescent truck convoy has delivered food for 2,400 people in Daraya, Syria, as well as water, hygiene, sanitation and other supplies for about 4,000 people.  This was the first food supply to Daraya in years.  At the same time, we continue to call for unconditional, unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access to people in besieged and hard to reach areas.  About 4.6 million people are currently living under those conditions in Syria.  Daraya has now been provided with a one‑month supply of humanitarian assistance, but a sustained access to the besieged people is necessary.


From Yemen, the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has strongly condemned a series of rocket and mortar attacks against several residential areas in Taizz, in Yemen, that took place between 3 and 8 June, which killed 18 civilians, including seven children, and injured 68 others.  Several markets were hit while full of people who were shopping ahead of Ramadan.  Since 26 March [2015] and up to 8 June [2016], the Human Rights Office has documented a total of 3,539 civilians killed and 6,268 injured.

**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels

The Deputy Secretary‑General, Jan Eliasson, will travel to Geneva, Switzerland, to give a keynote address on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Human Rights Council, which is to be held on Monday. And the Deputy Secretary‑General will then travel to Oslo, Norway, to participate in the Oslo Forum [2016] on 14 and 15 June.  He will be back in New York on Thursday.

**International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) published today a study on the long‑term impact of bearing witness to the Tribunal.  The study examines the impact that testifying has had on 300 witnesses from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, and Serbia.  Most of them experienced severe emotional or physical trauma during the war — and more on the ICTY website.


And UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] says that $670 million is needed in 2016 to help refugees stuck in Greece and Balkans.  So far, approximately $329 million has been received from donors.  Among refugees and migrants are many people with specific needs, such as unaccompanied or separated children, single women, pregnant or lactating women, the elderly, people with disabilities, as well as the sick and injured.  The number of children among refugees has been on the rise, reaching 38 per cent of the total arrivals from Turkey to Greece in 2016.  UNHCR says that although border closures and the EU‑Turkey agreement have cut the flow of refugees and migrants dramatically, those who have arrived in Europe still need help.

**Outer Space

And the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs has published a comprehensive annual report on its activities.  And this latest report describes the Office’s work in promoting international cooperation for the peaceful use and exploration of space, and in the use of space science and technology for sustainable economic and social development.

**Press Conferences

After we are done here — we expect around 1 p.m., Jean‑Marc Ayrault, the Foreign Minister of France, who will be here to brief you.  And on Monday at 11:30 a.m., the current President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, will introduce the President‑elect of the seventy-first session of the General Assembly.

**Vannina Maestracci

One more announcement — as you may know sort of a bittersweet announcement — today is the last day in the office for our colleague, Vannina.  She is returning to her hometown of Montreal and I think I don’t have to tell you how invaluable and amazing Vannina has been.  Yes, Michelle?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  I think I speak for most of us when I say we're all going to miss Vannina, too.  A question on the planned 17 June meeting with the Saudis to discuss the Children and Armed Conflict report.  Who are you expecting to attend this meeting?  Will it be at foreign minister level, or will it be the ambassadors?

Spokesman:  I will tell you my complete ignorance, but which 17 June meeting are you talking about?

Question:  And just a question on Western Sahara.  I believe there's a technical mission there at the moment being led by Mr. [Jamal] Benomar.  Some people have raised concerns that he's leading the mission given he's a Moroccan.  What can you tell us about that?

Spokesman:  He's not leading the mission.  He's part of a delegation from DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] from the Secretariat that is there.  This is part of the ongoing dialogue with Morocco in order to see how we can implement the relevant Security Council resolution for the full return of the mission to its area of activities.  Masood, and then Carole and then Matthew.

Question: Stephane, in the event of the Secretary-General’s open admission that, in fact, that he was pressured by the Saudis and the other eight countries into delisting the Saudi[-led] coalition and basically that amounted to blackmail, and he succumbed to that.  What does it that he plans to do that in the future the Secretary‑General do not have to go through the same pressure again and be blackmailed by Member States with clout?

Spokesman:  I think the Secretary‑General was clearer than I could ever be on this issue.  He said what he had to say.  It was very clear.  I would refer you back to the words that he used.  It was one of the most difficult… difficult and painful decisions he has had to make, and he had to weigh different options in making that decision.  And he said, you know, looking to the future, and I will quote what he says:  “When UN reports come under fire for difficult… for raising difficult issues or documenting violations of law or human rights, Member States should defendant the mechanisms and mandates that they themselves have established.”  I think the point that he's making is that he is acting on behalf of Member States, fulfilling the mandates, and that whether it's in peacekeeping, whether it's human rights, and he needs to have the full backing of the Member States.

Question:  Is it suggested a [inaudible] firewall?

Spokesman:  It's not a matter of firewall.  I think it's a matter of support.  It's a matter of ensuring that the Secretary‑General has the political support across the board to fulfil the activities that have been mandated to him by the Member States.  Carole?

Question: Just on that point — does he expect the Security Council to say something on this issue, and is he disappointed that they haven't?

Spokesman:  I think it's not specifically on this issue.  I think we've seen it in the past.  It's about ensuring that the work of the Secretary‑General, when done, especially in fulfilling the mandates given to him that there is full support.  Obviously this particular report will come to the Council in August, and we will, of course, we hope to hear the full support of the Council for the Secretary‑General's work.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Something on that and then Haiti, cholera.  I want to know, you had said from here that Jordan and the UAE [United Arab Emirates] had also démarchéd, and then you said “and others”.  I'm going to ask you to say a bit more on the others.  Can you say if Bangladesh, particularly Sheikh Hasina contacted the UN?  And if in that case the threat or leverage perceived or expressed orally was the contribution of peacekeepers to the UN as leverage?  Because of the interest in this, if Ban Ki‑moon is saying this is a pattern, are there other instances that you can name in which a Member State either financial or peacekeeper withdrawal threat has led him or forced him to take actions that he wishes he had not had to take?

Spokesman:  On your last part, I will let the Secretary‑General's word from yesterday stand.  There was a phone call, I believe, from the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh to the Secretary‑General expressing their concern at the placement of the Saudi‑led coalition on the list.

Correspondent:  And on Bangladesh, it was repeated there were many people who earlier perceived when the Secretary‑General had been speaking out about Bangladesh and then seemed to stop that a threat was made to withdraw the Bangladeshi peacekeepers from South Sudan.

Spokesman:  I'm not aware of statements being made to the UN, and I think the Secretary‑General has continued and will continue to speak out when we see journalists or others being killed on the streets of Bangladesh.

Question:  Have you seen the Lancet thing?

Spokesman:  I have not.  I'll come back to you.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  Stephane, first, there was a statement today from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the collective punishment of the Palestinian people. I expected you to read that statement as well.

Spokesman:  I think he made… the High Commissioner for Human Rights made that statement very publicly in Geneva to your colleagues.  I'm aware of it.

Question:  But, normally you…?

Spokesman:  I don't do everything all the time.

Question:  But, my question is the following:  In his statement about the terrorist attack on Tel Aviv, the Secretary‑General said the following:  He said the Secretary‑General is shock that the leaders of Hamas have chosen to welcome this attack, and some have chosen to celebrate it.  Some have chosen to celebrate.  Who are the some… and is he sure there are some who chose to celebrate it?

Spokesman:  I think we've seen reports, and if we were not sure, we would not have made the statement.

Question:  But, that was a video played, and it was refuted later.  It was a celebration in the 2014 war when there was an announcement…

Spokesman:  I'm not aware of the video you're talking about, but it is clear that there were statements from Hamas supporting… but that’s what I am talking about…

Question:  But, I'm asking some chose to celebrate.  That is incorrect.

Spokesman:  I take your point under advisement.  I'll come back to you.  Nabil and then James, and then Nizar and Evelyn.

Question:  Thank you.  So, I think this is the second time that the Secretary‑General expresses his disappointment that he's not supported enough from the Security Council within a few weeks, right?  So, do you think or does he think that there is a need to review the relationship between the Secretariat and the P5 maybe or the Security Council just to make sure that this doesn't happen again or there is more understanding?

Spokesman:  I'm not sure there's a need to review anything.  The Secretary‑General, in fulfilling his mandate, whether it's on the Children and Armed Conflict… which, in fact, is a double mandate from the General Assembly and the list itself is from the Security Council… or whether it's peacekeeping, it's clear, these… I don't know what review we would need to do.  What we're just asking, what he asked when the issue with Western Sahara came up and what he asked in more broad terms was the support of the Security Council when he is implementing their instructions.  James, then Nizar.

Question:  You read a statement about Daraya and some food arriving in Daraya.  Yet, after the food arrived, Daraya was barrel bombed.  What is your reaction?

Spokesman:  I think any attack against civilians needs to be condemned in the strongest words whether they're barrel bombs or shelling.  It's hard to imagine how much more suffering the people of Syria can take, and this is what Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura, the Secretary‑General has been calling for, for some time, is a halt to the violence.  At least a deep lowering of the violence that we've seen and this… and humanitarian access.  I mean, the fact that we need to negotiate everything, that we need to negotiate the withdrawal of the injured is just unacceptable.  We need to be able to reach those people in need when they need to be reached.  Nizar?

Question:  The Secretary‑General condemned Hamas and those who celebrated the shootings in Tel Aviv.  However, when a Palestinian was shot and he was bleeding, the ambulances were next to him, there were those in Israel who were celebrating that and they endorsed it and they supported that strongly.  But, we did not hear any condemnation from the United Nations on that particular incident.

Spokesman:  I did not see those particular reports.  Do you have two questions?  Go ahead.

Question:  Saudi Arabia pledged to fund the first appeal for Yemen.  Did they honour their pledge in the first place that was a year ago or more?

Spokesman:  If my recollection is right, yes, they did.

Question:  And how about the other places?  The other appeals?

Spokesman:  We can get you… the breakdowns of who contributes to what appeal is fairly transparent, and then we can get you those numbers.

Correspondent:  The Saudi ambassador yesterday denied that he was informed about the report during the preparations.

Spokesman:  We can go on like this for quite some time.  The procedures were followed.  The concerned countries, all the countries that are mentioned in the report have been… were consulted.  And a draft… the procedure which was scrupulously followed by the Office of Children and Armed Conflict also involves giving all those who are mentioned in the report a draft version of the specific… of the specific section.  And that was done both for the Saudis and through the mission here and through the mission of Yemen here.

Question:  And that will include Saudi Arabia?

Spokesman:  Yes.  Evelyn and then we will go to Nick.

Question:  Yes.  I was going to add to what James said, that there were 28 barrel bombs supposedly dropped from helicopters.  But, also, who reported that burn kits to treat people with dressings and painkillers could not… were rejected by Damascus for delivery. Do you have anything on that?

Spokesman:  I did not see that report.  We can look at what ours at OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] colleagues in Geneva said.  Nick?

Question:  Steph, we've seen this week that big donors to the UN get a form of diplomatic immunity when it comes to criticism.  I wonder how much damage that's done to the UN's credibility this week and also its reputation.

Spokesman:  You know, I read…  I stood next to the Secretary‑General as he was reading his remarks.  I think his transparency and his criticism goes to the… goes against the… your qualification of this as diplomatic immunity.  I think the Secretary‑General was very transparent and strong in saying that this kind of pressure that he's been put under was unacceptable.  This is not good for the UN as a whole.  It clearly is not.  I think the Secretary‑General needs to be given the authority and the leeway to fulfil the mandate that he has been given by the Member States themselves.

Question:  How would you define the Secretary‑General's relationship with the Security Council right now?  And are there other incidents aside from Morocco and Saudi Arabia where the Secretary‑General felt that he wasn't being supported by the Security Council that you can tell us about?

Spokesman:  No.  I think I will leave it at the remarks that the Secretary‑General made.  The relationship is constructive.  Like any relationship, it has its ups and downs.

Question:  A follow up on the Western Sahara.  Can you give us an update of the situation of MINURSO [United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara] since the resolution of the Security Council [inaudible]?

Spokesman:  It has… the staffing… as far as I know, the staffing hasn't changed in the last few weeks since the… a large group of our colleagues had to leave the mission.  I can try getting you those numbers right after the briefing.  I just don't have them with me.  Carla, and then Ann, then Go.

Question:  Thank you.  It's not clear, the Secretary‑General said that he had temporarily removed Saudi Arabia, but the Saudi ambassador said it was permanent.  Which is it?  I mean, from the report.

Spokesman:  I can only speak for us.  So, the Saudi ambassador said what he said, and I've said what I had to say, and the Secretary‑General said what he had to say.

Question:  That it is permanent?

Spokesman:  No.  We said they were removed pending a review, and we're waiting for them to submit information to us.  Ann?

Question:  Regarding the deteriorating human rights situation Crimea, Ukraine which is illegally occupied by Russia, according to the latest report by the UN High Commission for Human Rights, violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression are increasing in Crimea.  Can't the UN and the UN Secretary‑General or even UNESCO [UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] in particular do more for the Crimean indigenous [inaudible] broadcasting in their own language in Crimea by Russia and numerous other human rights violations by the occupier?

Spokesman:  Again, you refer to the report.  I think the mechanism put in place by the Secretary‑General to have this periodic report of human rights is a very important one to highlight the human rights situations… situation in Ukraine.  Obviously, the Secretary‑General always stands for freedom of expression and freedom of the media.  Go?

Question:  Thank you, Stephane. I'm sorry if I missed that.  The IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] has announced a couple of days ago that North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear site is likely to be reactivated.  Do you have any comment on that?

Spokesman:  We've seen those reports.  I think the Secretary‑General's position is that he calls on the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] to abide by all its obligations under international law especially when it comes to nuclear issues.  Sylviane?

Question:  [inaudible]?

Spokesman:  I mean, we can have the Secretary‑General brief instead of me or replay it.  I am just going to repeat what he said.

Question:  Thank you, Stephane.  On the Secretary-General’s travels to Greece, what does he expect to achieve? Do you have anything to say about refugees?

Spokesman:  Again, the Secretary‑General will be going to Lesbos to highlight the plight of refugees — I think, to also thank Greece and the Greek people for the immense solidarity they have shown.  He will be able to tour a number of the facilities that are on the island and, again, to highlight all these issues dealing with the refugees and migrants as we get closer to the September summit on the mass movement of migrants and refugees.  And we also can expect him to discuss issues relating to Cyprus, obviously more on Greek issues, and to the name issue, as well.  Abdelhamid and then Matthew?

Question:  My first question is very simple.  The OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation] requested a meeting with the Secretary‑General regarding that Israeli exhibit.  He was in Istanbul when the request was made.  What happened to that request?  Is he still meeting with the OIC?

Spokesman:  I'm not aware of any meeting.  I can check if he's meeting before he leaves again.  But, I have nothing… I haven't seen anything.

Question:  My second question is the mayor of Tel Aviv, his name is Ron Huldai, he said perhaps the only country in the world holding another nation under occupation without civil rights is Israel.  Why the reference to occupation did not come in the statement of the Secretary‑General?  If you cut it from the reference, from the background, then this statement would indict all the people…

Spokesman:  Again.  I think you've all… this is a bit of asymmetric warfare when you're quoting from your iPads.  I don't have access to every statement that's been made on everything.  What is clear is that the Secretary‑General condemned a terrorist attack on civilians that took place in Tel Aviv.  That is clear, and he will condemn any terror attacks on civilians.  On the broader point of the situation in Israel and Palestine, the Secretary‑General has never been afraid to speak about the issue of the occupation, and he will continue to work towards a two‑state solution.  Nabil?

Question:  We're back to the SG’s disappointment regarding the… what's happening with Saudi Arabia and the coalition.  So, one of the P5 ambassadors welcomed today the agreement between the SG and Saudi Arabia of this report, and I want to ask if there was any communication between the SG and the Security Council members on this matter.  And what did he hear from the Security Council members on this?

Spokesman:  I have nothing to share on what we've heard, but, as always, there's often constant contact between the Secretary‑General's office and various Council members.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Transparency question.  One has to do with the UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] Office of South‑South Cooperation.  I've been told that the funds from Ng Lap Seng and his entities that they took in prior to October are still in their possession.  I wanted to know, can you explain why they're still there after eight months and why they have not done a press conference in these eight months?

Spokesman:  I can't confirm that's a fact, and I would encourage you to call them and talk to them directly.

Correspondent:  You had said from this podium…

Spokesman:  I know what I said.

Question:  Who runs the system?  If Ban Ki‑moon is transparent, can't this small office…?

Spokesman:  I will talk to them and you will talk to them and we'll see what happens.

Question:  Also you said the Secretary‑General was meeting with Lee Han‑Chan.  I wanted to know, I didn't see a readout and I’d seen a report in the Korean media that the meeting was cancelled.

Spokesman:  It was cancelled at the request of the former Prime Minister.

Question:  I wanted to know, the Hwanlun club transcript, I guess it's not going to be provided.  But, I've been contacted by somebody who was there who has provided a direct quote, which I guess is on the record, basically in which he said, contrasting himself with candidates for Presidency in the United States, he said, "Candidates running for President in the US are 70 and 76 years old and said I've been running marathons for, like, 100 metres.  No Secretary‑General has done it like I did."  So, how would you… Given what he said at the stakeout that he's not running, it seems like to be talking about presidential candidates in other countries and their age, it seems a bit weird.

Spokesman:  I think you're reading too much in very dry tea leaves.  The Secretary‑General has said clearly that his focus until 31 December, 11:59 p.m. will be on being Secretary‑General of the UN.  He will then decide how best to be a citizen, a global citizen.  He was asked about his age, and he gave the answer he gave.  And I can tell you from the exhausted look on my face that the man is in much better shape than I am, despite being a few decades older.

Question:  Is there a readout on Sudan, the Foreign Minister?

Spokesman:  No.

Question:  Why not?

Spokesman:  I don't have one.  If I have one, I'll share it with you.

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Given today's discussion of the Security Council, do you know when we're going to get an update on the more than 100 possible allegations of sexual abuse in the [Central African Republic]?

Spokesman:  We can… I think we last updated you a couple of weeks ago.  We'll see how things turn and how we can give you an update.

Question:  And do you know when they're going to update the website, the OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] website, at least the numbers?

Spokesman:  The DPKO website?  It should be updated on a regular basis.  If it’s updated, we will…

Correspondent:  For the Gabonese and Burundian troops that are in this batch, it's been a blank for months.

Spokesman:  We will ask.  Nizar?

Question:  Not a single day passes without an air strike conducted by Saudi Arabia against Hajja, Sarwa, Nehim, Jawf, Marib and all these governorates; however, the condemnation today came against the attacks on the markets in Taiz.  Why this selection of Taiz, whereas all these air attacks are violations of the cessation of hostilities agreed before the negotiations of Kuwait?

Spokesman:  We have not… I don't think we've been able to talk about every violation of the cessation of hostilities, but I think we have condemned attacks clearly on civilians, civilian infrastructure whenever they occur and whenever we have information to confirm them.

Question:  But, there's no proportionality here when you talk about airstrikes and mortar shells.

Spokesman:  I think the focus needs to remain on the people and those who are being killed.  Whether they're being killed by air strikes, shells, or anything else, when civilians are killed, it is to be condemned.

Question:  Are there any reports coming about cluster bombs still being used in Yemen?

Spokesman:  No.  I have nothing else.  All right.  I will get the Foreign Minister.

For information media. Not an official record.