The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Noon Briefing Guests
As you know, today is International Mine Awareness Day. In a short while, I will be joined by the Director of the Mine Action Service, Agnes Marcaillou, and she will be also joined by Inigo Lambertini, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, and Nazifullah Salarzai, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN, and they will all three of them brief you on International Mine Awareness Day.
I have a statement on the cut in funding to UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund]:
The Secretary-General deeply regrets the decision by the United States to cut financial support for the UN Population Fund, which could have devastating effects on the health of vulnerable women and girls and their families around the world.
He believes that the decision is based on an inaccurate perception of the nature and importance of the work done by UNFPA.
As High Commissioner for Refugees for over ten years, the Secretary-General saw first-hand the life-saving character of UNFPA’s activities.
He appeals to donors to increase their support for UNFPA to allow it to continue its critical work during this difficult period.
Meanwhile, I would also add that UNFPA also issued a statement. In addition to also regretting the decision, the agency refutes the claim that it “supports, or participates in the management of a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization” in China.
As with all of its work, UNFPA promotes the human rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination.
The Secretary-General arrived in Brussels this morning, where he will be participating in the Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, which the UN is co-hosting with the European Union.
The Secretary-General met today with Alexander De Croo, the Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium.
He also met with Mustafa Akıncı, the Turkish Cypriot leader.
And on that note, the Special Adviser on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, announced today that the Cyprus Talks will resume following consultations with both sides and the meeting of the Secretary-General with Mr. Akıncı.
The leaders will resume negotiations on 11 April, and the meeting will be held under the auspices of Mr. Eide.
As I mentioned, the Brussels Conference on Syria in ongoing, and today the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, spoke at the conference in its opening session entitled “Humanitarian situation inside Syria: Needs, challenges and way forward”.
Mr. O’Brien said that humanitarian workers cannot stop the ongoing indiscriminate attacks, medieval barbaric sieges and forced displacements, but will continue to provide a lifeline to millions of people in need, including through regular programmes, cross-line, cross-border and air operations.
As you’re aware, the Secretary-General will deliver his own remarks to the conference tomorrow.
The Joint Special Representative for Darfur, Jeremiah Mamabolo, briefed the Security Council this morning. He said that the Darfur of today is a very different place from what the region was in 2003, when the armed conflict began.
Fighting between forces of the Government of Sudan and the main three non-signatory armed movements has considerably diminished. However, against the backdrop of economic hardship and social depression, banditry and criminality continue to be widespread in the region.
Mr. Mamabolo said that efforts to get parties to the conflict to sign a cessation of hostilities agreement and to start direct negotiations towards an inclusive peace agreement have remained inconclusive. He warned that the status quo is hurting all parties and can only lead to more bloodshed.
He also stressed the need to identify durable solutions to enable the return of internally displaced people to their places of origin or reintegration.
**Central African Republic
Our colleagues at the peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic [MINUSCA] report continued tensions in Mbomou prefecture in the country's south. Yesterday, they observed a large presence of suspected anti-Balaka elements in Zobe Mari and the movement of UPC [Union pour la Paix en Centrafrique] towards Bangassou along the Bangassou-Gambo axis. In the same prefecture, the Mission reports that the UPC continues to undertake attacks in and around Bakouma.
Meanwhile, the engagement of peacekeepers in Ngaba village outside of Bangassou has resulted in the UPC vacating a school they had occupied in recent days.
The Mission also reports violence in Haute-Mbomou prefecture in the country's south-east by UPC elements against a number of villages.
The Mission condemns the violence perpetuated by armed groups. It reiterates its commitment to protect civilians and institutions and to work for the return of lasting peace and stability in the country.
I think we discussed a bit piracy off the coast of Somalia yesterday. And today, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime [UNODC] said that following a five-year lull, there has been a resurgence of attacks by Somali pirates on commercial shipping.
In the wake of three recent attacks, the head of UNODC, Yury Fedotov, called on the international community to be vigilant, work in close partnership, and hold the pirates accountable.
Large parts of the Somali coast remain beyond the reach of law enforcement authorities. The UN stressed that ships should continue to follow the advice of navies and the International Maritime Organization [IMO].
UNODC continues to support both trials of piracy suspects in the region and the Somali maritime law enforcement agencies. Its Global Maritime Crime Programme addresses all aspects of maritime crime, including terrorism; human trafficking; narcotics smuggling; and hostage-taking.
Yesterday, I was asked about the damage to the Euphrates Dam in Syria. I can tell you that repair teams have visited the Dam to assess the damage and have worked on the necessary repairs to the control room in recent days. According to information received from the repair team, the Dam is not in immediate threat of collapse at this point.
Tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a briefing here entitled “Changes of the world population age structure and their consequences for sustainable development: findings and recommendations of the 50th session of the UN Commission on Population and Development”.
Today we say thank you to Antigua and Barbuda, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [DPRK] and Qatar for having paid their dues in full, bringing us up to…? You all fail. Anyway, I’m happy to take questions. The answer is 75, for anyone who’s keeping track.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Sure. Thinking you might have… have something at the top on this… on this attack by the South Sudanese army on Pajok inside the… inside South Sudan, leading to, they say, 3,000 refugees crossing the border. What's the UN doing to protect civilians? And does it have any statement on SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army] forces…?
Spokesman: We're in touch with our mission in South Sudan, and we're trying to get a bit more information on what happened. Okay. Evelyn?
Question: What do you have on Syria's bombing of… in Idlib? And who… who had the chemical weapons?
Spokesman: Well, we… I do expect to have something a little bit more formal a bit later on. We're not currently in a position to verify the reports. I saw that, earlier today, the OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] fact‑finding mission has already announced that it’s begun gathering information to attempt to confirm that medical… that chemical weapons were used. Obviously, any sort of report of use of chemical weapons, especially on civilians, is extremely alarming and disturbing. Any use of chemical weapons anywhere constitutes a threat to international peace and security and is a serious violation of international law. Yep?
Question: Can we expect a Security Council emergency session on this after the U.K. and France requested it?
Spokesman: I've seen reports of that request, but I think that's… you should check with the American presidency. They would let you know. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. I think… I think it was Farhan [Haq] that I asked about the nomination or… or… or floating the name of Richard Wilcox to be the envoy in Libya. Now it's reported he… it's reported that this has also been blocked. Since there was comments by the Secretariat when Salam Fayyad was blocked, can you confirm that Mr. Wilcox was suggested by the Secretariat and was blocked by Russia?
Spokesman: No, it's two different things. Mr. Fayyad's name had been formally submitted to the Security Council under a procedure of no… whatever the… I can't think of the name right now. Anyway — under the usual silence procedure. It went… it did not go forward. Often, in these situations, you get reports of people's names being floated about. What I can tell you is that no name has been yet formally submitted to the Security Council. The discussions inside the Secretariat on finding a Special Representative in Libya continue.
Question: And can I ask? Yesterday… I mean, I was sort of surprised. Yesterday, I just asked you, like, who is currently the head of the Department of Management? And you said you didn't know. Do you know? [Cross talk]
Spokesman: Mr. [Yukio] Takasu is currently the head. When that status changes, I will let you know.
Question: Okay. And I also e-mailed you about Jeffrey Sachs. Does he remain in his position?
Spokesman: Yes, he does.
Spokesman: Okay? I will go get our guests.