The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Central African Republic
Just a note from the Central African Republic, where our colleagues in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) today strongly condemned the attack on one of its convoys last night, near Bangassou, which is about 474 kilometres east of Bangui. Initial reports indicated one Cambodian peacekeeper was killed and eight peacekeepers were injured, including one Cambodian and seven Moroccans. In addition, three peacekeepers that had initially been reported missing have been found dead. One peacekeeper remains missing. Eight anti-Balaka fighters were also killed in the firefight.
The UN Mission has sent a helicopter and peacekeepers to secure the site and search for the missing. The injured peacekeepers were evacuated to Bangui and are receiving medical care. The UN Mission is obviously closely coordinating with [Central African Republic] officials to ensure that the perpetrators are arrested and brought to justice. We join the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the [Central African Republic], Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, in extending our deepest condolences to the families of the victims, their contingent and their country. We expect further updates as the day goes on.
Just to remind you that the Secretary-General will be leaving New York this evening to attend the London summit — the London Somalia Conference. He will then travel on to China for the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation — taking place this weekend in Beijing — and then on to Strasbourg to speak at the European Parliament. We will obviously update you on the travels as they continue.
You will have seen yesterday, last night, that the Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, will reconvene the intra-Syrian talks under the auspices of the United Nations in Geneva on 16 May. As preparations for talks continue, the Special Envoy reiterates his hope that the agreement reached last week in Astana will be implemented in full — thus bringing about a significant de-escalation in violence, and helping shape an environment conducive to the political intra-Syrian talks in Geneva. The Special Envoy is expected to brief the Security Council later in the course of this month.
Our humanitarian colleagues in Iraq tell us that the re-intensification of hostilities in northwestern Mosul City is significantly affecting the humanitarian situation. Families continue to arrive at the newly established mustering point at Badoush, in north-east of Mosul, along the Syrian highway, where emergency assistance and basic services are being provided by humanitarian partners. High trauma casualty [rates] continue. Since 17 October, health-care partners report over 12,000 people have been referred to hospitals in Mosul and neighbouring governorates, and nearly half of these reported cases were from west Mosul only.
Serious concerns remain regarding the protection of civilians in the west of the city, where approximately 360,000 people are still living in Da’esh-controlled areas. Humanitarians continue to respond to families on the move, those displaced, and to people inside Mosul wherever access allows. Emergency response packages with basic food, water and hygiene items have been distributed to meet the needs of 2.6 million people since October 2016. Humanitarian partners are trucking 3.1 million litres of water per day into eastern Mosul to meet water shortages.
The UN refugee agency announced today that, in the last 24 hours, they had received alarming information on two new shipwrecks in the Central Mediterranean. The first took place on Friday night, with some 82 people feared dead or missing. Another shipwreck took place off the coast of Libya on Sunday, with some 163 people feared dead or missing. This brings the total number of people believed to have died or disappearing while trying to cross from North Africa to Italy to more than 1,300 since the beginning of the year. So far, in 2017, over 43,000 migrants or asylum seekers have used the Central Mediterranean route to reach Italy.
And today, we express our gratitude to our friends in Micronesia, which has paid its regular budget dues in full. This brings the Honour Roll up to 96. And I will stop there. Rosiland?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Steph, regarding the deaths of these peacekeepers, first, some housekeeping. Do happen to know from which country they were from? Do you happen to know how long they were in country? Is there any compensation for their families in a tragedy such as this?
Spokesman: The ones that we can… the initial reports that we have is one Cambodian peacekeeper was killed in the initial attack; eight peacekeepers… other peacekeepers were injured, and that's an additional Cambodian and seven Moroccans. The nationality of the three that were initially reported missing and have now been found dead is still pending. We don't have that information. On the compensation, I don't know off the top of my head. I'm sure there's a protocol for it, but I will find out for you. Evelyn. I'm sorry. Did you have…?
Question: Yes, just a follow‑up. How confident are you that [Central African Republic] officials are going to, one, figure out who are the perpetrators, and two, actually prosecute them… put them in prison?
Spokesman: Well, obviously, as we all know, the justice system in the Central African Republic is under some strain. We will be working with them, and obviously, the peacekeeping mission will be working alongside them to try to track down those who are responsible. As I mentioned, eight anti‑Balaka fighters were killed in the firefight, and they, from all intents and purposes, appear to have initiated this attack on the peacekeeping convoy. Evelyn?
Question: Yes, I was going to ask the same thing of who did it. But, how many Cambodians are there? Do they have a fighting contingent or engineering or whatever?
Spokesman: Yes, we'll get you the details of exactly… of the Cambodian participation. George and then Matthew.
Question: You mentioned this pledging conference or some kind of conference on Somalia to be held in London. Do you have any details on that? Does it have a website? Is it something that can be followed from…?
Spokesman: Yes, it can be followed via webcast. Mathias [Gillmann] in my office will give you all the details.
Question: Okay. And did I get correctly that the Secretary‑General is on his way tonight to London; then he's going to Beijing, and then he's coming back to Strasbourg, all within a few days?
Spokesman: Well, not coming back to Strasbourg. He is… this trip is taking him to London for the Somali conference, to Beijing for the Belt and Road International Forum, then to Strasbourg for a speech at the European parliament. And then he will go to Switzerland to attend the yearly retreat the Secretary‑General has with all of his Special Envoys and Special Representatives.
Question: But, he's going within a few days from North-West Europe, then to North-East Asia, then back to North-West Europe and to Central Europe?
Spokesman: Yes, it's all one trip. Indeed. Indeed.
Correspondent: Good luck. My commiserations. Thank you.
Spokesman: I will pass those on to you… to him.
Correspondent: Sure. I wanted to ask you about the Democratic Republic of the Congo. First, whether the UN has any comment on President [Joseph] Kabila naming a transitional Government in seeming violation of his agreement. And also, there are reports of new massacres in Kasai. There are witnesses saying that the army just bas… went into people's houses and summarily executed them.
Spokesman: We've seen the reports in Kasais, which are, obviously, very disturbing. And I know our colleagues in the mission are looking into it. I don't have any comment on the political end at this moment. Abdelhamid and then Sato.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Do you have any update on the situation in Gaza regarding the electricity crisis and the UN trying to buy some fuel to keep it…?
Spokesman: No, no update. We've, obviously, seen the latest political developments in Gaza. And, as we've said before, we hope for a reunification between Ramallah and Gaza for… to ensure the legitimate authority and Gaza can reassert itself. Sato‑san?
Question: Yes, thanks, Stéphane. As you mentioned, the Secretary‑General's trip to China, to go to the Belt and Road Summit meeting, does Secretary‑General have any plan to meet with the Chinese leadership, including Xi Jinping, and any plan to address a speech at the conference? If so, that the… what kind of message will the Secretary‑General convey to the international society?
Spokesman: The Secretary‑General does plan to meet with senior Chinese leadership. The bilaterals, including with the Chinese and with the other Heads of States, are still being worked out as they happen. We will keep you posted. The Secretary‑General will be there with a message of support for the Belt and Road initiative and also as a strong symbolism of the importance of South‑South cooperation. Iftikhar?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Yesterday, Ambassadors of Islamic countries had a session with the Secretary‑General. Do you have any readout on the subjects… on the topics discussed?
Spokesman: No, let me try to get you something on that. Yep.
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask, there are reports in South Sudan of the Vice President… the convoy of the Vice President, Taban Deng Gai, being attacked and sort of an assassination attempt. And I'm wondering, given that you have a mission there, as you do in the Congo, is there any…?
Spokesman: I haven't seen those reports, but we can ask.
Question: Okay. And I wanted to ask… yesterday, I had asked you about the issue of this expired medicine moved from warehouses in Ibb to Taizz. Do you have any response on that?
Spokesman: No, not at this point. We've asked our colleagues at OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] to look into it, and I'm trying to get something.
Question: Okay. And you'd also said you would try to get a readout on the Dominican Republic Foreign Minister…?
Spokesman: I don't have anything on that. Abdelhamid and then Rosiland.
Spokesman: There's a young girl called Fatima Gaeiji, that's G‑a‑e‑i‑j‑i, and she's 16. She was shot and killed a few hours ago at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, and she's the seventh children… seventh child to be killed this year. Any news about this…?
Spokesman: I haven't seen that report. I will take look and get you something. Rosalind?
Question: Yes. I wanted to get some more details on the Somalia conference. Is this primarily economic? Is this primarily reconstruction? Is this primarily security‑focused? What it is… what is the overall goal for the Somalia conference?
Spokesman: It's a… I would take it a holistic look. It is, obviously, a very important pledging conference. It is there to show… for the international community to show its support for the new Somali President. A number of important political and security measures were passed, and I think this is an opportunity for the international community to show that it stands by the Somali Government in its effort towards reconstruction, its effort to support its people who, as we know, are on the brink of famine, and also to support Somalia and the African Union's fight against terrorism. Evelyn?
Question: Sorry. Where… where's the Somali conference held?
Spokesman: In London.
Question: In London. There is… there've been conferences, in fact, there's one now on the Arctic… development and security in the Arctic region, which both [Rex] Tillerson and [Sergey] Lavrov are attending. Is there anyone from the UN there?
Spokesman: Not that I know of. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you one more time about this… Michel Kafando as a "when actually employed" envoy on Burundi. Yesterday, the Swedish ambassador expressed surprise that it's a part‑time position and said he thinks it's a full‑time position. So, I guess it's not a “gotcha” on him or on you except to say, what is the protocol for the Secretariat informing the Security Council if an envoy is full time or part time? Is it done in writing? And is it material whether an envoy is full time or port time or is that…?
Spokesman: I would refer you to the announcement, and it was, I think… I don't know exactly what the Swedish ambassador said, but I think everything is done in a very transparent way with the members of the Council.
Question: Right, because you're saying… like, the announcement came out after they'd approved it. I'm going back to the same process that applied to Salam Fayyad, the idea of running a name through the Council. Is that done in writing or by telephone? How…?
Spokesman: There are consultations, and then there's a letter that is sent by the Secretary‑General to the Security Council.
Question: And does that… does such a letter disclose whether it's a part‑time or full‑time employee…?
Spokesman: The letter is as transparent as possible. Thank you.