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

23 November 2016

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

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

Good afternoon, everyone.

First of all, I would like to welcome a group of young Palestinian journalists who are here with us today as part of the DPI (Department of Public Information) annual training programme for Palestinian journalists.  Welcome, and I hope you enjoy the briefing.


I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Cyprus.  The Secretary-General has been updated by his Special Adviser on Cyprus, Mr. Espen Barth Eide, about the outcome of the talks that took place between the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr. Mustafa Akıncı, and the Greek Cypriot leader, Mr. Nicos Anastasiades, in Mont Pèlerin, Switzerland, on 7‑11 November and 20‑21 November.  Despite the best efforts of Mr. Anastasiades and Mr. Akıncı, the talks did not yield the desired results regarding agreement on the criteria for territorial adjustment, and they decided they would return to Cyprus to reflect on the way forward.

The Secretary-General shares the disappointment of the two leaders who had hoped that the meetings in Mont Pèlerin would pave the way for the final phase of the talks.  On the same night of 21 November, thousands of people from both communities gathered in the buffer zone in Nicosia in support of the leaders’ shared vision of a united homeland.  The Secretary-General is confident of the leaders’ continued desire to deliver on these expectations with a mutually beneficial solution.  Cypriots deserve nothing less.

The Secretary-General encourages Mr. Akıncı and Mr. Anastasiades to do their utmost to overcome also this particular hurdle and conclude the promising work that they had undertaken in Mont Pèlerin.  They have made significant progress across chapters over the past eighteen months, advancing their talks further than ever before.  They should continue to build upon their substantial achievements.  The Secretary-General urges the leaders to continue their efforts in line with their shared commitment to do their utmost in order to reach a settlement in 2016.  Especially in a region and in a world marked by increasing tension, they must not let this historic opportunity slip.

The Secretary-General reiterates his full support and the commitment of the United Nations to assist the two leaders in reaching their shared goal, while respecting that the future of Cyprus will be determined by Cypriots, for all Cypriots.  He will be in contact with both leaders soon to discuss the next steps.  He is in close contact with his Special Adviser who is currently assessing the situation.

The Secretary-General urges all interested parties to avoid any statements and actions that would make the resumption of talks more difficult.  He reminds them that temporary setbacks are not uncommon in peace processes as talks approach a final stage.  The Secretary-General also calls upon all interested parties, especially the guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom, to do their utmost to support the leaders during the coming days and weeks, which will be crucial for the negotiations and the future of Cyprus.

**Middle East

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, warned the Security Council today that the inaction in moving forwards with Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts has a cost, measured in human lives and suffering.  The situation on the ground is changing steadily and dangerously, as proponents of Israeli settlement expansion feel emboldened, internal divisions among Palestinians flare up and the prospect of a future Palestinian state comes under threat like never before.  

He said that he visited Nablus, in the West Bank, twice this month, adding that the harsh conditions he saw, combined with regular Israeli incursions and the lack of a permanent home, create a potential for violence.  What people need, he said, are courageous Israeli and Palestinian leaders who together can chart a clear strategy to peace and security.

Stephen O’Brien, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, also briefed the Council, saying that 70 per cent of the population in the Gaza Strip currently receives some form of international assistance – yet our ability to deliver that assistance has become increasingly restricted.  In the West Bank, he reported, the pace of demolitions and confiscations of Palestinian property by the Israeli authorities has far exceeded previous years on record – more than double this year compared to 2015.  Their remarks are available in our office.


In a statement issued last night, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, welcomed the resumption of UN inter-agency humanitarian aid operations at the “berm” along the Syrian-Jordan border.  The resumption of humanitarian operations has opened a lifeline to an estimated 85,000 Syrians – three-quarters of them women and children – stranded in a remote, arid desert area, in desperate need of lifesaving assistance and support.

Food and essential items were delivered yesterday to approximately 170 households in the Rukban community in preparation for the winter months.  This was the beginning of a planned two-week distribution cycle, with further plans to provide basic health care services in the coming days.  Mr. O’Brien welcomes the continued partnership and support of the Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Jordanian people, which will be needed to ensure full, safe and sustained humanitarian access to the many tens of thousands of displaced Syrians living at the “berm”.

**Central African Republic

From the Central African Republic, the UN peacekeeping Mission in the country, MINUSCA, reports that tensions remain high in Bria following clashes between the Front Populaire pour la renaissance de la Centrafrique, or FPRC, and the Union de la Paix en Centrafrique, or UPC.  The Mission confirms that at least 16 civilians have been killed and 52 wounded.  The local Red Cross has reported an additional 58 deaths, which the Mission is trying to confirm.  One UN peacekeeper was also injured by gunshot.  The violence also caused the displacement of around 6,000 people, who have sought refuge at an improvised site adjacent to the UN camp.  In response to the security situation in Bria, the UN Mission has reinforced its patrols in the city and is facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance to meet the immediate needs of internally displaced people.  The Mission also continues to engage in mediation efforts together with local, national and religious authorities.

**Intellectual Property

And finally, a new report by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) today found that the number of patent applications rose to 2.9 million in 2015, up nearly 8 per cent from the previous year, according to a new report.  The jump was powered by innovators in China who filed more than 1 million applications for the first time within a single year.  After China, innovators from the United States and Japan filed the most applications.


And just to let you know, tomorrow there will be a US holiday.  There will be no briefings or other events at UN Headquarters, and on Friday we will not have the noon briefing, but we will update our regular websites. The briefings will resume next Monday.  And before that, before we head to our holidays, are there any questions?  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  You refer to the statement to the Security Council this morning by the Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Mr…

Deputy Spokesman:  Mladenov.

Question:  Mladenov.  He said two things, among other things.  He said that "a carefully worded statement or a well‑crafted speech will not reverse the current trajectory."  My first question is, whom is he refer… referring to in this instance?  And, second, he says, "They need to see a plan to rebuild trust and create the conditions to return to meaningful negotiations."  Who will present that concrete plan, in his view?

Deputy Spokesman:  The basic onus that Mr. Mladenov places is on the leadership of the Israelis and the Palestinians.  He makes it very clear that what is needed primarily is courageous Israeli and Palestinian leaders who can actually themselves chart a clear strategy to peace and security.  You're aware that the international community itself has tried to help them with different plans, including, as you know, the work that has been done recently by the Quartet in their recent report.  At the same time, you've also mentioned that he said that… that worded… a carefully worded statement or well‑crafted speech [is] not enough.  That's something he very sincerely believes.  There's been a lot in the last half‑century, a lot of words about the situation between the Israelis and Palestinians.  Our young journalists in the back of this room have heard them over and over again.  I'm sure you know what they all are by heart.  But what's needed now is action, because the actions on the ground is what is the problem.  As you know, whether it's the question of settlements, whether it's the question of a unified Palestinian leadership, there are many realities on the ground that impede the existence of what we all want to see, which is two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security.

Question:  When he said "a well‑crafted speech will not do", does he include in that the words and the declarations of the Security Council?

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe he includes all of us, the Security Council, even those of us speaking here.  We here speaking from this podium have used the same words.  And however important those words are, they are not sufficient.  What's needed now is action.  Yes?

Question:  Yes.  Just… I'm sorry.  A follow‑up.  I have both a follow‑up to that and another question.  I don't understand how you have the occupied and the occupier negotiating and you expect to get a resolution that helps deal with an occupation.  Doesn't there have to be something else that makes up for that imbalance and the fact that one is very… has all kinds of means and the other has… is occupied?  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  This is a dynamic that the UN has had to deal with in many different circumstances around the world, and the UN and the international community are there to work with the various parties to even out differences among them.  It's no different from a variety of other diplomatic scenarios that we face.

Question:  I have a second… the second question has to do with, there's a procedure of private people or NGOs (non-governmental organizations) sending communication, correspondence, to the Security Council.  And I'm trying to figure out where they send that, because there's a list that's published yearly that lists some things that have been sent, but when you try to understand what address those get sent to, it becomes total… totally obtuse.  There's… it's… it's very difficult to… to get any answers.  And people have sent some things to the Security Council.  They don't get on the list.  And where… how the ones have gotten on the list do, it would be good to understand.

Deputy Spokesman:  I think you'll need to talk to the different members of the Security Council.  As you know, the Security Council comprises Member States, and each one would have different policies of how it receives and demarcates correspondence.


Question:  But this is supposed to somehow be that the Secretariat holds these communications and only gives a list to the Security Council, and if anyone on the Security Council wants to see one of these, they have to go to the Secretariat.  So somehow the Secretariat is involved…

Deputy Spokesman:  That's a different… if it has to do with our support for the Presidency of the Security Council, because we have an office that will support the presidencies as they come in.  But if it's about the membership of the Security Council, that would be a different topic because those are, as you know, individual Member States.

Question:  But… so it's the Office of the presidency of the Security office that one would…

Deputy Spokesman:  The presidency of the Security Council has… has… 

Question:  …one should go to?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah.  And they have support… regular support from the Secretariat for their work during the presidency.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah.  I just… I mean, what… I guess, could you describe… what's the role of the Security Council Affairs Division in making sure that documents that are submitted one month… I mean, what happens month to month on communications received?  Are they literally passed from the mission of Senegal to the mission of Spain, or does some copy of DPA [Department of Political Affairs]… do they ride herd on this, and can they provide the information she's asking for?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah.  There is a Security Council Affairs Division, which is part of the Department of Political Affairs, that provides support, including to the presidency of the Security Council, and they work with them in terms of the registration of documents and the circulation of documents.

Question:  I wanted to ask you something on South Sudan.  On South Sudan, there's a… there's an adviser to President Salva Kiir called Daniel Awet Akot, who said… he was asked about the Japanese contingent that arrived in South Sudan, and he said, very clearly, he said, according to them, there can be no use of force without the consent of the host Government, and this would seem to be contradictory to the idea of protection of civilians.  And he also said that there's… there remains to be negotiated a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) for the new "approved by the Security Council" peacekeepers.  Is that the case?  And what is… what are the… are there peacekeepers arriving in South Sudan who are, in fact… legally have their hands tied from even protecting civilians, or is Mr. Daniel Awet Akot wrong in what he says?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding that, in terms of the Protection of Civilians mandate, that is a Security Council mandate, and our peacekeepers in the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) have that.  And it is something that they are able to fulfil.  Regarding the decision by the Japanese, as we have been informed, you know, this is an engineering company.  And engineers are usually equipped to perform the role of infantry, if required to do so.  In this case, the Japanese will have weapons for self‑defence and protection tasks that… and that is something that has been dealt with by the Japanese Government.  Beyond that, I'd refer you to the Japanese authorities.

Question:  And is the size 130?  Because the… the… he's saying that there's a contingent of 130 Japanese peacekeepers.  They're all engineers, or are some straight‑up peacekeepers?

Deputy Spokesman:  I… as far as the size of this, Japan has some 270 engineering troops in South Sudan, plus a support element.  Okay.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Yesterday, the representative of Switzerland Security Council, during the debate on water, peace and security, looked at the question of water in the context of preventive diplomacy.  And he suggested that that item be on the list… on the potential list of the United Nations as a preventive… as preventive action before conflict erupts.  Would the Secretary‑General support this proposal?  And would he be willing to ask for the necessary funds to reinforce preventive diplomacy?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, of course, it's up to the Security Council to determine whether that will be the case or not.  Of course, we're supportive of any efforts to bring these sorts of serious issues to light in the Security Council.  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to… to ask… first… first of all, in Burundi, there are a lot of people now tweeting around photographs of returning con… I guess con… I don't know if it's contingent‑owned equipment but basically armoured personnel carriers with UN markings coming back into the country, apparently from the deployment in… in CAR.  So I wanted to know is, what are the rules that apply to… to removing these markings before bringing equipment home in order to not give the impression that, if the Government uses them in its own fashion, that this is somehow a UN operation?  Because there are pictures of them on the road with markings all on them.

Deputy Spokesman:  Once the operation is done… I mean, obviously, if they're being brought back, they can still have their markings on them.  But once an operation is done, they will have to have their markings removed.  They cease to be UN equipment.

Question:  Right.  And how does the UN make sure that action, in fact, takes place?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, it's the responsibility of the governments, but we would follow up if they don't abide by that responsibility.  Yes?

Question:  Yes.  Back to the question about the S/NC of the people sending correspondence.  The question is, where should they send them?  Because there's a notice in the journal that says that nations… members of the UN can send their correspondence to a certain address.  But when I… I called to find out, could… is that a place also that NGOs or private individuals can send correspondence?  And they didn't answer my question.  They just switched me to the… to the Spokesperson, and that… then I was told, send it to the… that the people should send it to the particular President of the Security Council, but it… it's… there must be a process so…

Deputy Spokesman:  I think you will need to… depending upon who you're sending this correspondence to, you'll need to check with the relevant Member State that you're sending it to, and they can let you know what the rules are.

Question:  But it's not a… it's… it's… has to do with sending things to the whole Security Council.  I'm not sending it.  Somebody… people have tried to do that, and they've gone around in circles.

Deputy Spokesman:  They would need to deal with the relevant members, whoever they're sending it to in the Security Council.  Like I said, these are different Member States, each one.

Question:  So you say it somehow gets to a member of the Security Council but it's for the whole Security Council, and then somehow this then goes to the…

Deputy Spokesman:  The question of circulation is something that the Secretariat can help with, but how it is sent to a Member State, you would have to check with that Member State.  I don't speak for the individual Member States on the Security Council.  They are each individual.

Question:  But it's not being sent to an individual.  It's being sent to the whole Security Council, whereas there's a… in The Journal, it says where to send something if you want… if a Member State wants to send something to the whole Security Council.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah.  We're talking in circles, but they would need to get in touch with the relevant Member States.  Okay?

Question:  Sure.  A couple of, I guess, Ban Ki‑moon questions.  One is, he apparently did an interview with CNN yesterday in which he said that he's closely watching the influence‑peddling scandal in South Korea with grave concern and he's aware that people are very angry and frustrated.  So I wanted to know, we've asked in this room a couple of times about what his view is of this shame and gate or whatever it's called, and basically, we've been told he has no comment at all.  Now that he's said publicly that he's been following it very closely, what is his view of it?  And… and… and even the CNN host said it sounded like he wants to run for President or political… 

Deputy Spokesman:  That's not quite what she said.

Question:  Well, this is KBS.  I'm reading to you from the Korean Broadcasting System, which is obviously for the country…

Deputy Spokesman:  You can watch the CNN broadcast…  That is not quite what she said.

Question:  Why don't you release the transcript of when Ban Ki‑moon does interviews as other… like the State Department and others do?

Deputy Spokesman:  You can watch it for yourself.  I believe it's available online.  But, in any case, he did make clear what his personal views were, and I would just refer you to the CNN… 

Question:  So that was a person… it was a personal view.

Deputy Spokesman:  I would refer you to the CNN interview, in which, by the way, he also, once again, stated, as we have said from here, that, throughout the rest of his term, he will focus on his work at the UN; and once 1 January comes around, he will then think about matters accordingly.

Question:  But I guess… this is what I want to ask.  We often hear this term of art that he's following something closely and he's deeply concerned.  And I usually take that to mean in his capacity as Secretary‑General.  Is this an issue in which he's only following closely and deeply concerned as a private individual, or is there some secretarial role that he's performing?

Deputy Spokesman:  He's not dealing with this as Secretary‑General of the United Nations.  He made clear in his comments his concerns about Korea as a Korean.  Yes?

Question:  Do we know to which countries the Secretary‑General will travel before the end of his mandate?

Deputy Spokesman:  He is travelling tomorrow, first to the United Arab Emirates briefly and then to Turkmenistan for a conference on road safety.  There may be a couple of other trips down the line, which we will announce in due course.  But, at this stage, you can expect that there will not be that many more travels to announce.  Yes?

Question:  Secretary‑General, when he was in Marrakech and during a press conference, he indicated that he's going to meet with President‑elect Donald Trump.  Any update on this presumed meeting?

Deputy Spokesman:  No.  Yes?

Question:  I wanted to ask, I saw this… and you've probably seen it as well.  It's a press release saying that Ban Ki‑moon will appear at an event 3 December at which Steven Tyler of Aerosmith will be given a humanitarian award, and it appears to be a fund‑raising dinner with sponsorships up to $50,000.  And so I wanted to know, when the Secretary‑General makes such appearances for which people are charging money, is there any attempt by the UN system to make sure that those giving the money are not contractors or prospective contractors with the UN, given the conflict of interest it would create?

Deputy Spokesman:  If it's not a UN‑organized meeting, it doesn't… it's not our responsibility.  There are certain events that he shows up at which are not events organised by the United Nations, and so it would be up to you deal with the actual organisers.

Question:  But, if, as in this case, they're raising money for the event by saying the Secretary‑General will be there, it seems like… you're trying to say he just shows up and there were already people giving money, but as with the Council of Korean‑Americans in December… I mean in October in D.C., they raised money for months saying Ban Ki‑moon would be there.  So I've tried to ask you, one, release the speeches, and, two, do you have a list of donors or some way to make sure this isn't a backdoor way to buy influence with the UN?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, these are not.  He's not doing anything to raise money for them.  There are some events… you know, we make decisions on which events he shows up at and which he does not.  And so he may do that… he may attend or not attend depending on the cause.  But it's not an event organised by the United Nations.

Question:  Is he an Aerosmith fan?  Can we interpret this?  I mean, he chose to attend this event, and this is the way it's being portrayed.  Steven Tyler, Ban Ki‑moon, $50,000.

Deputy Spokesman:  I would doubt he pays that much attention to the music of Aerosmith.  Yes?

Question:  Sato from NHK.  I came late.  Sorry.  Have you ever… have you made a comment on the new UN ambassador to the… US, UN ambassador to United Nations?

Deputy Spokesman:  What I can say about that, of course, that appointment would still need to be confirmed by the Senate, I believe, so that remains a while ahead.  We don't want to get ahead of that.  We are aware of the naming of Nikki Haley, and it's someone with whom officials here are acquainted in terms of being aware of her position on many issues, including the laudable comments she made following the horrifying racist shootings in Charleston, South Carolina.  Having said that, the only basic comment we have is that it's heartening to see an effort to get the position of the Permanent Representative to the United Nations filled as quickly or named, at least, as quickly as this.  So that's a good sign for the future.  Have a great weekend, everyone.  Oh.  Yes?

Correspondent:  Sorry.  One more question.  About yesterday, the Secretary‑General made a speech at the New York University.  And it seemed that his last speech in the public occasion regarding the disarmament.  How did you see that speech?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah, it was a very important speech on disarmament.  There's a lot of the good nuggets there.  We put it out last night, so I'd urge you to read the speech.  Have a happy Thanksgiving.

For information media. Not an official record.