The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon, everyone.
Yesterday evening, we issued the following statement, attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, on Sudan. The Secretary-General is disappointed that the Sudanese parties failed to reach an agreement on a cessation of hostilities in Darfur and the Two Areas of Blue Nile and South Kordofan States, during the last round of negotiations from 9 to 14 August 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Secretary-General strongly urges all the parties to resume negotiations, abide by the Roadmap Agreement, and refrain from any attempt to escalate the conflict in Darfur and the Two Areas.
He reiterates that there can be no lasting alternative to a negotiated settlement and stresses that a cessation of hostilities is the first, indispensable step towards achieving this goal. The Secretary-General appreciates the vital role played by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and his Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan to bring about a lasting peace in Sudan.
And we also issued the following statement. The Secretary-General is alarmed by the escalation of airstrikes and ground fighting in Yemen and along the Saudi Arabia-Yemen border since the end of talks in Kuwait on 6 August. Civilians, including children, are paying the heaviest price in the ongoing conflict, as civilian infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals, continue to be hit.
In this connection, the Secretary-General condemns the reported attack from the direction of Yemen that hit a workshop, killing at least seven civilians in Najran, Saudi Arabia yesterday, as well as the reported airstrike that hit a home in Nehm, east of Sana’a, in Yemen, which killed at least nine civilians. The Secretary-General reminds all parties of the utmost necessity to protect civilians and to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. He repeats his call on all parties to the conflict to immediately cease all hostilities and for the Yemeni parties to return to direct talks facilitated by his Special Envoy for Yemen.
The Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told reporters today in Geneva that he had adjourned a meeting of the Syria Humanitarian Task Force eight minutes after it had begun, because the meeting would have no point unless there was any humanitarian progress on the ground. He said that, so far in August, no convoys had reached any of the besieged areas of Syria because of the continued fighting. The only progress made, he said, was in the World Food Programme’s continued delivery of aid by air drops to Deir Ezzour. Mr. de Mistura reiterated the UN’s call for a humanitarian pause of at least 48 hours in order for UN humanitarian convoys to reach all the parts of Aleppo that are in need. We are aware now of information from the Russian Ministry of Defence, saying that it would support that call.
The UN refugee agency today reported some success in the first two years of a five-year programme aimed at ending the detention of children who are asylum seekers. In analyses published today the agency said that 12 countries had made what they called “important progress towards ending detention of children” in the past two years. These measures contributed to an overall decrease of 14 per cent in the total number of children detained across the 12 countries in the last year, in comparison to 2014 when all the countries detained children for immigration-related purposes.
The agency said that there is strong evidence that detention has a profound and negative impact on child health and development, regardless of the conditions in which children are held, and even when detained for short periods of time. It said that children, in particular unaccompanied or separated children, should, in principle, not be detained at all. A press release and the full report are on UNHCR’s [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] webpage.
We have a brief update from Uganda where yesterday we told you UN agencies were looking for increased funds to assist 200,000 refugees there. Today, the Refugee Agency reports that it has acted quickly to contain an outbreak of cholera in the recently-opened Pagirinya settlement in Adjumani district. The camp is caring for 30,000 South Sudanese refugees, all of whom arrived in the last six weeks. The agency says 49 South Sudanese refugees and one Ugandan national have been treated for the disease. Containment measures include chlorination of water, sanitary garbage disposal, strengthening of hand-washing facilities, and a door to door awareness-raising campaign. More details are on the agency’s website.
And you will have seen that yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) named Michael Bloomberg, philanthropist and former Mayor of the City of New York, as Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases. These diseases, which include heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, are responsible for 43 million deaths each year — almost 80 per cent of all deaths worldwide. For the past decade, Mr. Bloomberg has been working with WHO on tobacco control and injury prevention.
In his new role, he will work with national and local political leaders around the globe, extending the reach of WHO’s work to reduce exposure to the main risk factors — tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol — as well as to promote proven measures to reduce injuries from road traffic crashes, burns, falls and drowning. More on this appointment is available on WHO’s website.
And you had asked earlier about a UN staff member arrested in South Sudan. I can say that the UN Mission in the country (UNMISS) is pleased about the release of one of our national colleagues, who had been arrested in Yambio on 21 July. The Mission also reports that it was notified of the arrest of another UNMISS national staff on Tuesday in Wau. The staff member has been released from police custody on bail yesterday evening. UNMISS currently has three national staff members who are incarcerated, including radio journalist George Livio. UNMISS is trying to visit them on a regular basis to check their well-being, but is frequently denied access. We continue to advocate at the highest levels of Government to ensure that, at a minimum, detainees have access to medical care and visits by family and lawyers. UNMISS continues to call on the South Sudanese authorities to respect national and international standards on incarceration and the rule of law.
**Day of Remembrance
And tomorrow is the thirteenth anniversary of the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. There will be a brief ceremony at 9:45 a.m. in the public lobby of the General Assembly Building. The ceremony will also mark the observance of World Humanitarian Day, which was designated by the General Assembly in 2008 to coincide with the date of the bombing in Baghdad. The Day also honours humanitarian aid workers who have been killed or injured in the course of their work. We have more details about this event in our office. That’s it for me. Yes, Whitney?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Hey, Farhan. The Times has a story from last night that the UN is ready to admit it played a role in bringing cholera to Haiti. Is that the case? And is the UN going to admit it was responsible for bringing cholera to Haiti?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, regarding that, what I can say is that, in partnership with the Haitian Government, the UN's been heavily engaged in cholera eradication since the 2010 outbreak, but over the past year, the UN has become convinced that it needs to do much more regarding its own involvement in the initial outbreak and the suffering of those affected by cholera. A series of options have been under consideration. The draft report and its recommendations that we have received from a human rights rapporteur will be a valuable contribution to the UN as we work towards a significantly new set of UN actions. The new response will be presented publicly within the next two months once it has been fully elaborated, agreed with the Haitian authorities and discussed with Member States.
Question: Can I follow up? Are reparations for the victims one of the things that are being considered? And why… why the change over the last year?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, first of all, I don't believe that this is something that we're describing one way or another as reparations, and our legal position on this issue has not changed since the last times that we've been discussing this. What I can say is that over the years we have tried a number of different ways to solve the problem of how to deal with cholera in Haiti. As you know, even though the number of cases and the number of deaths has thankfully been reduced, it remains a problem. It continues to spike from time to time. And the issue is not resolved. We've tried a number of things. You remember the appointment of a Special Coordinator, Pedro Medrano, some years back. But, both in terms of the funding that we need and in terms of the actual efforts on the ground to bring this outbreak to a close, we haven't been there. And we keep trying to figure out how to go about the right way of resolving this. And that's what we've been doing in these last months, as well. I think it speaks to the attention that the Secretary‑General's paid that, one way or another, over the last six years, we have continually reviewed what we've been doing to make sure that we can be doing the right thing, and that's what's going on right now.
Question: Same topic?
Deputy Spokesman: Hold on. Yes?
Question: Thanks, Farhan. Just a follow‑up on that. So, the new response is how to deal with the outbreak, not to deal with what caused the outbreak. Is that correct?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, like I said, we've been convinced that we need to do much more regarding our own involvement in the initial outbreak and the suffering of those affected by cholera. What we're doing, in other words, is trying to see how this can be resolved. That is… remains under discussion. I don't really have a lot of details to provide at this stage while it remains under discussion. But, ultimately, what we're trying to do is put, at the centre of this, the needs of the actual Haitians affected by this outbreak.
Correspondent: I just… I had another question, as well, actually on South Sudan.
Deputy Spokesman: If it's not on cholera, then let's see whether we can… yes?
Question: Sure. I guess I just want… in what you said, you said the… the… to deal with the Haitians impacted, and these obviously include families who lost a… a family member or breadwinner who died due to the cholera. So, I guess what I'm wondering is, there are headlines all over the world saying Ban Ki‑moon is acknowledging his responsibility and putting it in a very positive light. What… what exactly… I mean, what would you say to a theory that says that these… this combined with the Yemen announcement that Ban Ki‑moon may or may not write to the Saudis and reiterate his list is sort of an attempt to make… the Secretary‑General is taking action on these two controversial topics without actually doing anything. What has he actually done? Is he going to write a letter to Saudi Arabia? They're two issues. I'm mixing them because I see…
Deputy Spokesman: You're kind of mixing two topics. If you’re…
Question: They came out on the same day, and they're both quoting unnamed UN officials, and the other one quotes you. So, what is actually being done on these two topics?
Deputy Spokesman: Indeed, I'm a named UN official. And what I can say about Yemen, on the question of a letter… ultimately, what I can say is that there's an ongoing review of measures that the Saudi‑led Coalition is taking to stop and prevent violations against children and other civilians in Yemen. That review is continuing. And, as you would expect, as part of that review, there will be communications back and forth.
Question: Right, but, so, it… unless that story is inaccurate, there are senior Ban Ki‑moon officials saying that this letter's going out. And so, stories come out saying Ban Ki‑moon's getting tough with the Saudis. Is this… given that the statement yesterday sort of equated a relatively unprofessional attack across the board onto Saudi Arabia with airstrikes from the air that have been ongoing for days, what is… what's the timeframe for him to take action on Saudi Arabia? Two months, as well?
Deputy Spokesman: I don't think that there's an equation. I think, if you've noticed, in the last four days, there have been three statements about Yemen. Each of them say fairly tough things, and each of them apply across the board to the need to protect civilians and particularly children in Yemen. That's one of his priorities.
Question: Does he now think it was a bad idea to take them off the list, that this may have emboldened them to take these airstrikes?
Deputy Spokesman: What we have said repeatedly is that they continue to be under review. That review is ongoing. Yes, Benny and then Oleg.
Question: Back to cholera. So, there are cases in New York courts. Does the UN insist on immunity in that case, now that we tweaked a little bit our response to it?
Deputy Spokesman: As I said just a few minutes ago, our legal position has not changed. We'll continue to monitor events as they arise.
Question: But, I mean, in those cases, is monetary compensation requested or asked for, is it… is it possible to settle out of court on some kind of compensation money‑wise with the claimants in New York?
Deputy Spokesman: I don't have anything to say on that at this point. Yes, Nick?
Question: Farhan, "our own involvement in the initial outbreak", this phrase you've use used, A, is it the first time you've used that phrase publicly? And B, what precisely does it mean, "our own involvement in the initial outbreak"?
Deputy Spokesman: It means just that. We've been looking at this for some time, as you're aware. There was already a panel that looked into the question of our involvement. We've been trying to see exactly what we can do about our own particular role as this has been going on. And basically, like I said, the Secretary‑General and the officials around him, they've continued to examine this over the years. What we're trying to do is figure out how to resolve this, how to do the right thing. And that is something that remains under discussion, as I just said. Rami?
Question: Thanks, Farhan. On Yemen, the Yemeni Mission to the UN sent a letter to the Secretary‑General regarding the head of UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] in Yemen attending an event where the Houthis and the GPC [General People’s Congress] were celebrating the creation of their Supreme Political Council. The Yemeni Government is obviously really upset about this, and they've requested that the SG [Secretary-General] take corrective action. Do you have a response to that?
Deputy Spokesman: I do not, beyond saying that we stand by the impartiality of all of our staff. Yes, Oleg?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. If I would go back to Syria, you said you're aware of the reports that the Russian Defence Ministry agreed to this call. Did you get any formal notification from them, either over here or in Geneva? And how will you discuss this situation, when de Mistura today announced the suspension of the humanitarian task force?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, first of all, it's not a suspension of the task force. He was adjourning it for that day. And, yes, he did adjourn the meeting after eight minutes because he didn't see the point in discussing it at a time when there was no progress on the ground. The work of the task force is not suspended. He has since, in the intervening hours, been informed by the Russian Ministry of Defence about their support for the concept of a 48‑hour humanitarian pause, so we do take note of the announcement by the Russian Federation, and we welcome it. As we have said consistently, the UN will look at any proposal to mitigate the suffering of the people of Aleppo, but for a humanitarian pause to support the provision of humanitarian assistance, it must be agreed by all parties. It is vitally important that it be for a sufficiently long period of time that allows assistance to reach those in need, and it is vital that people and aid workers are able to move safely and freely. We await further detail on how the proposal will be implemented. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. On the cholera issue still, you have been talking about how to deal with the problem. My question is very specific. Does the United Nations admit its own share of responsibility in the issue?
Deputy Spokesman: I don't have anything new to tell you on that. You've heard what I've just had to say, but beyond that, I don't have anything further. Yes, Olga?
Question: Thanks, Farhan. I'd like to follow up actually on Oleg's question after you said you are waiting for further details on how the proposal will work out. So, do you expect that humanitarian pause will finally start next week?
Deputy Spokesman: It's certainly our hope that a pause can be put into effect as soon as possible. Like I said, we are awaiting further details on how the proposal will be implemented, and it's crucially important that a humanitarian pause can be agreed to by all parties. If that's the case, we certainly would be ready to move, and we stand ready to respond to the immediate needs of the vulnerable people in Aleppo right now. Trucks with food, water, and medicine are ready to move immediately, and ambulances to evacuate urgent medical cases are on standby. But like I said, we do need further details, as well as the agreement by the various parties. Nabil?
Question: Farhan, what do you mean exactly by that? Do you mean that the parties should reach an agreement, or you need to hear from the parties separately, or is… is de Mistura's office talking to the parties on the ground regarding the pause? What's… what's the mechanism to reach this agreement or the pause?
Deputy Spokesman: We're in touch with the various parties. Right now the UN calls on all parties to the conflict under long‑established and accepted international humanitarian law to allow safe, unimpeded, impartial humanitarian access. Of course, to ease the suffering of the civilians in Aleppo and across the country, what's most needed is a fully‑fledged ceasefire, and it's needed for fighting to stop everywhere. But, this is… before we can get to that, this would be a welcome first step if it can be supported by the parties on the ground.
Question: And a follow‑up on Rami's question, Yemen. I mean, do you find it a normal practice for UN representatives in Yemen to attend political meetings that the Houthi‑Saleh Coalition organized to launch their Council… Political Council?
Deputy Spokesman: I don't have anything further than what I just told Rami on that. Yeah, Michelle?
Question: Thanks, Farhan. South Sudan. Has anyone from the UN spoken to Riek Machar today, and do you know where he is? Is he in Kinshasa?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, regarding where he is, the information we have is that Riek Machar has been handed over to the authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We are not in a position to confirm his location.
Correspondent: Handed over? What does that mean?
Deputy Spokesman: What we can say is that, as soon as the UN [Organization Stabilization] Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO, was alerted of the presence of Riek Machar in the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo], the Mission contacted the DRC authorities, who requested MONUSCO to facilitate his extraction and transfer to their care. We can confirm that an operation was undertaken by MONUSCO on humanitarian grounds to facilitate the extraction of Riek Machar, his wife, and ten others from a location in the DRC in support of the DRC authorities. And like I said, right now, he has been handed over to the DRC authorities, and he's with them.
Question: Could I follow up on that? What are some of these humanitarian grounds? Can you just explain the circumstances under which he was removed or transported to… yeah. Or why he needed to be extracted?
Deputy Spokesman: He needed to be extracted upon request, like I said, of the Congolese authorities. He had appeared in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And, like I said, it was the Congolese authorities who requested his extraction.
Question: Extraction, though, because he was being held by an armed group or… I don't quite understand.
Deputy Spokesman: He needed to be moved safely from one spot to another, and MONUSCO was felt… it was felt that MONUSCO was the best party that could move him from one area to another one.
Question: What area was that?
Deputy Spokesman: It was an area close to the border with South Sudan.
Question: It was with his consent? I mean, it sounds like… you're saying you did it at the request of the Congolese authorities, but did Riek Machar ask to be taken to safety?
Deputy Spokesman: I believe that this is with his consent, yes.
Question: And he's in Kinshasa now?
Deputy Spokesman: I do not know where he is. I don't think it's in Kinshasa, but I'm not in a position to confirm his location, as I just mentioned. Yes? Yeah, sure.
Question: Can you just start that again? I'm very confused. What's happened? And just start at the beginning and just give us a recap, if you don't mind.
Deputy Spokesman: We were aware yesterday of the presence of Riek Machar in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At that point, the UN Mission contacted the authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who, in turn, requested MONUSCO to facilitate his extraction and his transfer to the care of the DRC. We have undergone an extraction operation, and so he is currently in the care of the authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Yes, Mr. Abbadi and then Oleg. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Mr. de Mistura seems to be very discouraged when he stated that the parties speak about nothing but attacks, strife, bombing, etc. Is the Secretary‑General concerned that he might be in line for giving up the post?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, since the words that Mr. de Mistura said, within the hours since then, I've been in touch with him, and he did inform me about the proposal made by the Russian Ministry of Defence. That's encouraging, and we're trying to get some further details to see where we can build on that. But, it's a hopeful sign. Let's see where we can go from that point. Yes, Oleg?
Question: And also on Aleppo, you said you're waiting for details from the Russian side. But, it's the UN who suggested this idea of the 48‑hour humanitarian pause. And also, how would it be implemented? Because nobody's going to stop the airstrikes against terrorists, because they are legal. I mean, and you can do that. How could you designate who you'll attack or who you will not in Aleppo?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, the details of how this will be implemented are being worked out right now, and so that's part of what we need to see happen. It's clear what our basic conditions are on this, and this is something we've been discussing for some time, including through Mr. de Mistura and through Stephen O'Brien. It's important to have a lengthy pause, something like 48 hours. It's important to have the pause respected by all the parties on the ground, so it's safe to travel and bring in aid. It's important to use main roads, including Castello Road, so that you can get aid in by truck, because Mr. O'Brien has explained to you how much more useful it is to get truck convoys going. So those are the sort of details we're trying to see how that will be carried out. Yes, Benny?
Question: On de Mistura, I understand you talked to him yesterday, and he's more encouraged. Can you confirm…?
Deputy Spokesman: No, today.
Correspondent: Oh, today, sorry.
Deputy Spokesman: Yeah, just this hour.
Question: Can you confirm reports that he at least was on the verge of resigning or quitting? Since you talked to him.
Deputy Spokesman: When I spoke to him, he seemed moderately encouraged by how things have been going just over the past few hours.
Question: So, you didn't talk to him about, you know, recent… because there were reports that he was telling UN officials that he is considering quitting. You didn't talk to him about that, or did you talk to him about…?
Deputy Spokesman: No, I did not, nor did he sound particularly discouraged. Yes, Dulcie?
Question: Yeah, so how did the UN become aware of Machar's presence? Did he show up at MONUSCO's door, or what was the transmission of information?
Deputy Spokesman: I think I've shared as much detail as I can possibly share about how he turned up. We did become aware of this over the course of yesterday when we then communicated, like I said, with the Congolese Government.
Question: But, how did you get this information?
Deputy Spokesman: I am not able to impart that to you. Yes?
Question: It's top secret?
Deputy Spokesman: Not top secret, but secret enough that I can't say it at a briefing. Yes?
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you about Burundi. There have been… first, there's some… there are various Tutsi members of the army, some who are out of the country, who are basically trying to… saying they don't want to go back because they face imprisonment or killing. There's… there's… some nine have gone missing. Six have been killed. So, I wanted to know whether this is something that the Special Adviser or the team on the ground is concerned about, a seemingly ethnic split in the army, and how this also impacts the impending deployment of 800 Burundian troops to the Central African Republic.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, as for the deployment of troops, that's a process that is under way, and we'll see how that is carried out, but it will follow the normal guidelines for vetting. Regarding the situation on the ground in Burundi, the Special Adviser does continue to be in touch with the Government and other sides. We are trying to work with the various communities to make sure that the country continues to deal with its problems in an inclusive manner.
Question: On Western Sahara, you'd said two days ago that [inaudible]… whatever, the Mission was liaising with the two sides about this reported incursion. What's the result of that liaising?
Deputy Spokesman: Yeah, the Mission acronym you're looking for is MINURSO. All the Mission acronyms are starting to blur into one, I know. Okay. On this, on 16 and 17 August, the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, MINURSO, deployed ground and air capabilities to investigate allegations of violations in the southwestern part of Western Sahara near Mauritania. MINURSO has not observed military presence or equipment in the buffer strip. The Mission observed what were assessed as civilian vehicles moving across the berm but was not able to determine additional information. MINURSO continues its liaison with both parties in order to ascertain the facts with regards to the alleged incident. MINURSO has been in touch with the Polisario [Front] to share the preliminary findings of its investigation. Yeah?
Question: Sure. I'll try to do this fast. I wanted to ask you, what are the… the… the rules for doing a “fundraiser” inside the UN? I'm asking because I've seen a flyer which is saying that, on 2 October, there will be such an event. It said that this is a fundraiser and that, by invitation only, come to the UN early at 9:30 a.m. for an event that begins at 10 a.m. And I wanted to know, what… is it… is it legal for a group to do a fundraiser, to charge money to attend events inside the UN?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we would need further details. I think first you'd need to deal with who the sponsors of this are and get some further information from them about what this entails.
Question: Right, but what's the UN rule? It seems like you should have a rule.
Deputy Spokesman: I think I would need to ask, but in order to ask, I would need the details. But, you'll need to get the details from the organizers. Yes, Michelle?
Question: Farhan, the video that's been going around of this little Syrian boy being pulled out of the rubble from the airstrike and put in the back of the ambulance, has the SG seen this video? And what was his reaction to it?
Deputy Spokesman: I don't know whether the Secretary‑General has seen it. I haven't been in contact with him. Certainly, the Deputy Secretary‑General is aware of it. Mr. de Mistura's aware of it, and this is something we find very moving. Again, all of these images are a testament to the need to stop the fighting. That's what we're aiming for. And this is something that's long overdue. Yes?
Question: Back to South Sudan, given UNMISS's involvement here in the transfer of Riek Machar, what is its assessment or the UN's assessment at large of… of the current implementation of the peace deal? What is Riek Machar saying to UNMISS?
Deputy Spokesman: What we have to say on this is simply that the peace agreement remains the only viable option for the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan. We urge Riek Machar and all stakeholders to resume the implementation of the agreement and put a final end to the long‑term suffering of the people of South Sudan.
Question: What is he doing in the DRC?
Deputy Spokesman: What is he doing in the DRC?
Correspondent: Yeah, you took him there.
Deputy Spokesman: That's a question for him, not for me.
Correspondent: But, you took him there.
Deputy Spokesman: No, we didn't take him there. He was there. We took him from one part of the DRC to another. Yes?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. We have repeatedly been asking this question. When would the Secretary‑General give a press conference here? Do you have any idea now?
Deputy Spokesman: Yes. Tentatively, we're scheduling it for the middle of September, around 14 or 15 September. We're trying to get a date locked down for you, and we'll let you know. Nabil?
Question: Was UNMISS involved… or did UNMISS do anything to help Mr. Machar move from…?
Deputy Spokesman: No. No, the UN Mission in South Sudan had no involvement in this whatsoever. Yes?
Question: Did he have to be extracted by MONUSCO because he was in imminent danger?
Deputy Spokesman: You can make your own inferences. Yes, Dulcie?
Question: Yeah, and does he require medical care? Has MONUSCO been providing him any medical care?
Deputy Spokesman: We have been providing him with whatever medical assistance he needs.
Question: What… what is that?
Deputy Spokesman: I would not be able to divulge. Yes?
Question: Sure. I just wanted to make sure… this is not on South Sudan. I wanted to ask you, you've referred a couple times in recent days to the idea of… of public financial disclosure by… by officials. And I've seen on the website that Ban Ki‑moon says that he urges his officials to do it, but, of course, it's not required. That I understand. But, what I've noticed is that until recently, in previous years, there's been a list of all officials. And if you click some names, it says, "I choose not to disclose." For 2015, the most recent year, the officials who don't disclose aren't even listed. So, it seems like it's a step back. And I wanted to know, for example, Mr. Hervé Ladsous was listed in 2013 as declining to disclose. He's the head of peacekeeping, as you know. I don't know how the urging of Ban Ki‑moon resulted in that. But, in 2015 he's not even on the list. So, maybe you know or you can ask them, how is it decided to drop the names from the list of officials who choose not to disclose? Because it makes it even more opaque, obviously, because you can't even tell that they didn't disclose. They're not listed, unless you do cross‑reference back…
Deputy Spokesman: No, well, you know who the officials of the UN are. They either choose to make their disclosure on a voluntary basis or not. That is their decision. However, regardless of whether they make it public or not, they do make disclosures to the UN, and those are reviewed.
Question: Right. Was it specific… was it a change in policy, from all the years, 2000… for example, Mr. [Mathew] Nimetz appears in 2007, but he doesn't appear in 2015. Mr. Han [Seung-soo] doesn't appear. So, who decided… I guess it's the ethics… on whose authority was it decided to make it less opaque which officials are not following Ban Ki‑moon's ostensible urging to disclose?Deputy Spokesman: Well, like I said, there's still financial… the public financial disclosures are still available, and that's the basic point. If they choose to make them public, they're available on the website. Yes?
Question: So, Farhan, did you just confirm that Mr. Machar needed medical care and that the UN provided…?
Deputy Spokesman: No. I said whatever medical assistance he has needed, we've been able to provide. Yes. Emoke?
Question: The same on Machar. Is the UN Mission in any way aware or part of Machar supposedly travelling into Ethiopia, where he's supposed to arrive today, and tomorrow he's scheduled to give a press conference in Addis?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, like I said, he… right now, he is in the hands of the authorities of the DRC. He's not in the hands of the UN Mission. I'm not aware of travel to Ethiopia. Yes?
Question: Back to de Mistura. So… okay. So, he's encouraged by the 48 hours and that kind of thing. But, meanwhile, there's the other issue, which is the political track, the US/Russian‑led political track that was supposed to be happening in Sep… in 1 August. It's now August… whatever. Is that back on? What are we doing? I mean, is that at all viable? Are we… I mean, because de Mistura alluded to that yesterday in his press conference, and it seems like dead.
Deputy Spokesman: We need, as he said, to have the right atmosphere for talks that will actually be productive. He is still intending to hold the next round of intra‑Syrian talks, hopefully, by the end of August, but for that to happen, the right atmosphere has to be in place. If it's not, there's no point in holding the talks.
Question: So, if… and that's a big if… the right atmosphere, meaning the 48‑hour thing, materializes, that means we are back to the political process?
Deputy Spokesman: Let's see whether we can get the atmosphere in place before we make any promises. But, the intention is to hold the talks as soon as possible, and hopefully, by the end of this month. Yes?
Question: Follow‑up. Do you think that the improvement of the situation in Aleppo, some improvement, which you expect to come from the 48‑hour ceasefire, will actually be enough to create these conditions you are looking for? I mean, there's the Four Towns Agreement. There are other parts of Syria that are being…
Deputy Spokesman: Well, let's put first things first. Let's see whether we can get this to work, and then we can gauge what the effect is. But the hope is that the overall improvement in the atmosphere can be achieved. Have a good afternoon, everyone.