24 August 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.

All right, good afternoon.


I just start off by obviously saying that the Secretary-General is very much saddened by the reports of lives lost and damage caused by earthquakes today in Italy and Myanmar.  He expresses his condolences to the peoples and Governments of both countries.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is in contact with the national authorities and continues to closely monitor both situations.  Along with our partners, we stand ready to support the national authorities and local organizations should any humanitarian support be needed.

**Dag Hammarskjöld

I also have a statement slightly longer on the release of the Secretary-General’s follow-up note to the report of the Independent Panel of Experts dealing with the death of Dag Hammarskjöld.  The Secretary-General released today his follow-up note to the 2015 report of the Independent Panel of Experts appointed by him pursuant to GA resolution 69/246.  The Panel’s role was to examine and assess new information relating to the tragic death of the former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of his party.

In resolution 70/11 the General Assembly requested that the Secretary-General pursue pending requests for information which the Panel had made to a number of Member States.  Accordingly, the Secretary-General pursued the pending requests for information from Belgium, South Africa, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States.  The letters from the Secretary-General to these Member States and the responses are provided as annexes to the Secretary-General’s [note] which is now on the official documents’ website.

In the resolution, the General Assembly also requested, as recommended by the Panel, that the Secretary-General explore the feasibility of the establishment of a central archival holding or other arrangement that would enable access to relevant records and archives with a view to ensuring their preservation and access.  The Secretary-General has reached out to individuals and institutions that may hold relevant information to request that they provide an inventory of such information.  Responses continue to be received.

The Secretary-General and the General Assembly have both previously stated that a further inquiry or investigation would be necessary to finally establish the facts of the matter.  However, any further inquiry or investigation would benefit from an assessment of potential new information, including from South Africa [or] other sources.  Accordingly, the Secretary-General has recommended that the General Assembly appoint an eminent person or persons to review the new information which may exist.  Such person or persons would then be able to determine the scope that any further inquiry or investigation should take.

The Secretary-General has stated previously that the most likely source of any additional material would be the files and records of Member States.  To this end, he has again urged all Member States to continue to search for and disclose relevant documents and information.  Ultimately, it is up to the General Assembly of the Member States to decide on any further action.  And as I just said, the report is now up on the website.

**South Sudan

In South Sudan, the UN Mission in the country, UNMISS, reports that the situation in Juba remains calm but tense. UN peacekeepers maintain a proactive posture to re-establish a secure environment outside of the Protection of Civilians sites in the capital, in the aftermath of fighting last month.  This includes increasing the frequency of patrols in the city. Peacekeepers also continue to patrol in and out the protection sites close to UN House, including intensified patrolling along the Yei Road, where a number of incidents of sexual violence against civilians were documented by the Mission last month.

Meanwhile, the peacekeeping mission also reports tensions in Yei in Central Equatoria region.  A peacekeeping patrol to the town yesterday received reports of continuing clashes between Government and opposition troops.  In Nassir, in Upper Nile, the Mission also reports an exchange of fire and heavy artillery between the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Opposition earlier this week.

**State of Palestine

On Palestine, the Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Piper, met today with the Chairman of the Central Elections Commission, Dr. Hanna Nasir, to discuss the latest preparations for the forthcoming local elections scheduled to take place on 8 October of this year.  These elections will be the first concurrent poll in the occupied West Bank and Gaza since 2006.  Conducting them in line with established international standards can contribute to advancing Palestinian reconciliation, Mr. Piper said.  He warned that the lack of party unity or any attempt to influence the outcome of the elections, including through intimidation, threats, violence or coercion during the election campaign, risks widening divisions and undermining the Palestinian national cause.

**Honour Roll

We are pleased to announce two new Member States to the Honour Roll — Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Saint Kitts and Nevis.  Both Member States have paid their regular budget dues in full, bringing the number to?  You're all pathetic.  How many?  How many Member States?  103.  All right.  Yes, sir.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you.  Stéphane, today, Turkey, USA and other Coalition members… some members start military operation to liberate Jarablus near the Syria‑Turkish border.  What Secretary‑General has to say on that?

Spokesman:  I have nothing particularly on these incidents.  We're obviously watching… watching the situation closely.  Our focus remains on trying to establish the 48 hours' cessation of hostilities to allow humanitarian aid to go through.  Yeah.

Question:  Hi.  What is the SG's reaction to the latest submarine‑launched ballistic missile yesterday?  And it represents the first time that this type of missile has reached Japanese air defence identification zones.  So, what reaction does the Secretary‑General have on that?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  The latest launch of a submarine‑launched ballistic missile by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in defiance of the united call of the international community to reverse its course is deeply troubling.  Not only are such actions a clear violation of relevant Security Council resolutions, but they also undermine peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula.  We, again, urge the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] to take steps necessary to de‑escalate the situation and return to dialogue on denuclearization.  Mr. Lee.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you, the… the Hadi Government in exile has announced that it wants to move the Central Bank either to… from Sana’a to Aden or even out of the country.  And many people, including humanitarian groups, are saying this will cause, you know, even more problems in terms of aid.  What does the UN believe the Hadi Government should do and what's their response?

Spokesman:  I haven't seen those particular reports.  If I have something, I will share that with you.  Yeah.

Question:  Has the Secretary‑General discussed… I mean, is the UN aware of this burkini ban in France?  And what do you make of… of the imposition of these regulations in several cities across… across France?

Spokesman:  You know, I think… we've seen… we've seen the reports.  We have seen… seen the photos.  I think it's important that the dignity of individuals be respected.  I'm not sure in this particular case, in the case that we saw, of the photos, it was respected.  I know our colleagues at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) are also concerned about these blanket bans and positions having to do… having to do with clothing.  Yes.

Question:  Diego Senior for W Radio for Colombia.  As you might know, Mr. Dujarric, the Government and the guerilla of the FARC have reached a final accord that was announced earlier this morning.  It happened in Cuba.  They're announcing it officially later today.  The Secretary‑General filed a report to the Security Council about how the mission will start.  Any update on that report and a reaction on behalf of him?

Spokesman:  You know… you know, I think the Secretary‑General, as you know, was in Havana to witness the signing of a preliminary agreement, and I think we're pleased the direction that things are going in.  We're waiting, obviously, for the official… the official announcement from Havana, but, once it comes, I can assure you that we will welcome it.  But, obviously, we're waiting for the official announcement.

Question:  Will he be able to be there for the…?

Spokesman:  I think we have to… we have to wait for the official… let's not get ahead of ourselves… wait for the official date to be announced and for an invitation to be extended, and then we can figure that out.

Question:  Sorry.  I was going to follow up on… on that first question of mine.  Is there a concern from the United Nations that those images that you refer to are going to inflame tensions in areas probably where the UN is present already?

Spokesman:  Look, you know, I don't want to speculate on the impact of… these images might… might have.  I think it's about… it's about respecting the dignity of people.  It's about respecting the dignity of women.  And, as I said, I think, from what we've seen in the photos, it doesn't look like that was the case in this particular… in this particular incident.  Mr. Lee.

Correspondent:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you about Burundi, the one about Mr. Mayuyu, which I've asked about…

Spokesman:  I have an answer for you.

Question:  You do?  Good.  Also, I have… I'm sorry to… there's been a report also in Radio Publique Africaine about… of mass graves.  The group APRODH, run by Mr. Mbonimpa, said they found eight… 14 mass graves, including of people who dug the graves buried to eliminate witnesses.  So, I wanted to, I guess, get that one in the hopper.  But, on Mr. Mayuyu…

Spokesman:  I can confirm from our colleagues in peacekeeping that Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Mayuyu from Burundi, who was deployed to UN peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic as a military observer in July this year is to be repatriated with immediate effect.  The Permanent Mission of Burundi has been notified of the Secretariat's decision.

Question:  Can I just… and again, this is not to be mean‑spirited, but, on 5 August, standing where you are, Farhan said, Mayuyu is not on any roster.  And so, I'm left wondering… not… not so much… I mean, I don't believe necessarily that there's any kind of misrepresentation, but how can the mission not know who's…?

Spokesman:  I can only give you the information I have… I have now.  I'm not sure if those were Farhan's exact words.  I'm sure he was speaking with the information that he had at the time.  The point is that we looked into the matter, and I can confirm that information to you this morning.

Question:  No, I… I appreciate it, but I guess, in terms of taking the vetting, if the vetting… if the mission is not able to actually even run a name… run a name through its roster…?

Spokesman:  I think you're extrapolating from this one incident.  Ms. Lederer.

Question:  Thank you, Stéph.  The Government of Myanmar has named Kofi Annan to try and find a solution to the problem in Rakhine State with the Rohingya Muslims dominating there.  Is this something that the UN was involved in at all or… and if so or if not, is it something that the UN supports?

Spokesman:  Sure, I mean, the… this is an appointment by the Government of Myanmar, the Secretary‑General had been informed.  We had been informed.  The former Secretary‑General, Mr. Annan, called the current Secretary‑General… what day is today?  Thursday, Wednesday?

Correspondent:  Wednesday.

Spokesman:  Wednesday.  He called him on Monday to inform him, and the Secretary‑General expressed full support for Mr. Annan's work and mission.  Mr. Lee.

Question:  I actually… one follow‑up on that.  Is it… the Government of Myanmar is saying that the Secretary‑General will be attending this conference at the end of August with various ethnic groups.

Spokesman:  We'll have travels ready to be announced probably in the next day or so.

Question:  Kenya, as well?  Is he going to the Africa‑Japan conference prior to that?

Spokesman:  We'll have to… you will have to wait with bated anticipation.  Mr.… Evelyn.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Do you have any more information on Mr. Machar in the Sudan, how he got there, what the state of his health is and so forth?

Spokesman:  No, I mean, we've seen the press reports like you have.  I'm not aware that we had any involvement in his… in his transport from the Congo to… to Khartoum, as it has been reported.  Matthew.

Question:  Sure.  Thanks.  These are maybe interrelated questions.  One is, the Dutch ambassador has yesterday tweeted a photograph of himself signing a piece of paper saying "signed cooperation agreement with UN peacekeeping on communications equipment for UN MINUSMA, Netherland partner".  And there's been this controversy about the… the… either the inability or unwillingness of NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] member countries that serve in that mission to share their equipment with the Chadians and others that are serving.  Do you know if this signing yesterday is… is the re… the rethinking of that…?

Spokesman:  No, I'm not aware but you can call DPKO/DFS.

Question:  Okay.  And the other one, I expect you to say ask the Dutch.  So, this is the related one.  Yesterday, you'd said… and I just want to… I'd asked you about this Ark of Return ceremony that was sponsored by Ng Lap Seng and the Global Sustainability Foundation.  And you said, "ask the organizers".  And I just want to be clear, because Ng Lap Seng, as you know, is under house arrest.  Sheri Yan is in jail… has been sentenced to jail.  So, when you say "ask the organizers", are you actually saying to ask people that have been indicted for bribery or how…?


Spokesman:  I’m just saying the people who put the event together.  And I have some more language on the issue regarding Turkey and Syria.  As the Security Council has affirmed through numerous resolutions, the fight against ISIL and other terrorist groups remains a priority for the international community, and the Secretary‑General has strongly condemned ISIL attacks against Turkey.  At the same time, the United Nations urges all to respect international norms and principles.  We also emphasize that all sides must, under all circumstances, protect civilians and civilian infrastructure in any action undertaken.  Yes.Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  But, the Turkish military forces are saying we are also going to target the Kurdish fighters that are fighting ISIS.  What's your comment about that?

Spokesman:  I think it's… it's important that, as I said, all international norms and principles be respected in the fight against terrorism and also that all sides must, under all circumstances, protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Question:  Nadia Murad, a former ISIS prisoner that she spoke at the Security Council, the… in Iraqi media, they're saying that the UN designated her as an ambass… Goodwill Ambassador.  Do you know anything about this?

Spokesman:  I haven't heard, but I can check.  Evelyn.

Correspondent:  Yes, to follow up on my colleague's question, you're not talking about civilians with the Kurdish… their fighters.  It's not a Protection of Civilians…

Spokesman:  I answered his question to the best of my God‑given abilities.  Yes, sir.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted… one, have you received a letter from the… has the Secretary‑General received a letter from the Polisario Front asking to establish monitoring bases in this al Guerguerat…?

Spokesman:  Not that I'm aware.

Question:  Okay.  And the other one I wanted to ask is, there's a widely circulated story of women in Kashmir offering their bangles to Ban Ki‑moon as a kind of an insult to say he hasn't done enough.  And I wanted to know if there's a response to this bangle offering.

Spokesman:  I think we are… we are fully supportive of everyone's right to demonstrate their opinions peacefully about issues that they care about.  Evelyn.

Question:  What's the ETA for the JIM [Joint Investigative Mechanism] report?

Spokesman:  ETA is… as you know, the Secretary‑General received it this morning, briefed on it.  It is in the process of being transmitted to the Security Council.  It will likely go to the Council at some point today, if it has not already done so.  Okay.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.