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

7 June 2017

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.

**Press Briefings

As soon as we’re done here, there will be a briefing by Ocean Conference Spokesman Damian Cardona Onses, and the guests will be Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and Martha Rojas-Urrego, Secretary-General of the Ramsar Convention on wetlands.

**Iran

I will start off with a statement on the attacks in Tehran earlier today.

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the terrorist attacks on the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the Parliament [Majlis] building in Tehran today.  He extends his sincere condolences to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured.

The Secretary-General hopes those responsible for this unjustifiable violence will be swiftly brought to justice.  All countries must work together in fighting terrorism while upholding the universal rights and values that bind the global community.

That statement should be now online.

**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels

Yesterday evening, the Deputy Secretary-General left New York for Brussels, Belgium, to attend the Opening Ceremony of the European Development Days.  She is also meeting a group of civil society, SDG [Sustainable Development Goals] Advocates and a number of senior officials of the European Commission and the Belgian Government.

**Security Council

This afternoon, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Martin Kobler, will be briefing the Security Council.

**Iraq

Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that between Monday and Tuesday (5 and 6 June), more than 8,400 people were displaced from western Mosul.

This has been the highest level displacement in the past week — it was more than twice the number of people who fled between Sunday and Monday.

The UN remains concerned for the protection of civilians in Da’esh-controlled areas of western Mosul, where more than 100,000 people are believed to remain in Mosul's old city and northern neighbourhoods.

**Artificial Intelligence

In Geneva, the Artificial Intelligence for Global Good Summit began earlier today at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) offices.  The Summit aims to accelerate the development and democratization of artificial intelligence (AI) solutions that can address global challenges related to poverty, hunger, health, education and the environment.

In a video message to the Summit, the Secretary-General said that AI has the potential to positively transform our world socially, economically and politically and to serve the global good.

He added that while the potential gains for development are many, we need to ensure that developing countries can see these gains and are not left behind.

**Medicines

The World Health Organization (WHO) updated its Essential Medicines List with new advice on which antibiotics to use for common infections and which to preserve for the most serious circumstances.  Other additions include medicines for HIV, hepatitis C, tuberculosis and leukaemia.

The WHO Essential Medicines List is used by many countries to increase access to medicines and guide decisions about which products they ensure are available for their populations.

**Super Dads

Stars from the world of entertainment and sport including Mahershala Ali, David Beckham, the All Blacks, Novak Djokovic, Lewis Hamilton, Hugh Jackman and Thalía joined Super Dads, a new UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) initiative to celebrate fatherhood and highlight the importance of love, play, protection and good nutrition for the healthy development of young children’s brains.

With more than 90 countries celebrating Fathers’ Day this month, the initiative invites families to post photos and videos of what it takes to be “super dads,” using the hashtag #EarlyMomentsMatter on their Instagram and Twitter accounts.

To inspire families across the world to share their “super dads” moments; photos and videos of UNICEF ambassadors and supporters who have got behind the campaign will be posted on UNICEF’s Instagram and Twitter accounts, and featured on the web gallery until 18 June.

**Noon Briefing Guest

Tomorrow, my guest will be Geert Cappelaere, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.  He will brief be here to talk to you about the situation in Yemen.

**Questions and Answers

This silence means you may now ask questions.  Edie?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  I wonder if the United Nations has any comment on Ambassador Haley's comments in Jerusalem today, saying — and I quote — “I have never taken kindly to bullies, and the UN has bullied Israel for a very long time, and we are not going to let that happen anymore,” closed quote.

Spokesman:  You know, I haven't seen exactly what she said.  I think the… it would be interesting to see what parts of the UN she's referring to.  I think, for the Secretary‑General's part, he has spoken out clearly that Israel shall be treated as any other Member State in this Organization, with the same rights and the same responsibilities as any of the other 192 Member States.  Nizar?

Question:  The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, said a month ago in an interview that Saudi Arabia will not wait until the war comes to its territory; it will carry the war into Iran.  At the time, I asked the question about a possible preemptive war that could be carried out by Saudi Arabia, and the United Nations, or you, ignored it and you said… or dismissed that.  Do you feel that the Secretary‑General should do something in order to hamper any escalation in the situation, especially that Iran is accusing Saudi Arabia of the attack today?

Spokesman:  Well, I think the Secretary‑General, through his discussions or his effort or through those of his envoys in the region, notably in Yemen, has constantly pushed for a peaceful and political solution to the tensions that we're seeing.  And he will continue to do that, and that has been in his discussions with various leaders in the Gulf that he's had during his travels there.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  Is he… is he… does he want to contact any of the parties…?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General has been… has had discussions in the past with leaders in the region.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  The Israeli Cabinet met for the first time in a tunnel under the Al Aqsa Mosque.  They approved a project of a cable car that brings tourists to the Western Wall of the Al Aqsa Mosque.  Is there any position on that?

Spokesman:  No, not… not that I can speak off the top of my head.  Mr. Abbadi and then Matthew.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  As you indicated, the Secretary‑General underlined the importance of artificial intelligence in development.  What is the UN doing in this area?

Spokesman:  I would encourage you to follow what is going on at the international telecommunications meeting, and I think that would answer your question.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you about this memo that's emerged from the Central African Republic, not only about the Congolese… Congo Brazzaville battalion but about the camp itself that they're based in, saying that it's totally contrary… Code Blue has written to the Secretary‑General, but also the memo speaks for itself.  It basically describes a camp that's totally at odds with the possible zero tolerance of sexual abuse.  So I'm wondering, what is his response to this… beyond… I believe maybe they'll repatriate the battalion, but the critique seems to be much more fundamental:  that there are camps with no kitchens for the soldiers, people going into town trading sex for food…

Spokesman:  I think what the report shows is that the Force Commander has been doing his job.  It's part of the Force Commander's responsibility to check and to check on the troops, assess their performance through a number of evaluation mechanisms.  The report has been sent to Headquarters.  The assessment was, indeed, done on the Republic of the Congo troops, on their… the contingent and on the base.  The result of the evaluation, which was done not too long ago, has been shared with the Member State, and we're following up on various options.  UN peacekeeping is obviously, as we've said in the past, very much committed to the high standards of performance and conduct, and they will spare no action to reach that goal.

Question:  Who's responsible for these bases?  I guess what I'm saying is it's one thing to say that soldiers did something, but if this is a UN base, was the Congolese battalion entirely in charge of setting it up, or who checks these things?

Spokesman:  It's part of the peacekeeping mission, and, obviously, this is part of a routine evaluation.  And, as you said, the report is being evaluated.  It was done as part of the work that is required by the military and contingents.

Question:  Can you… I wanted to ask you whether… you said that Libya is on the Council's agenda this afternoon, and it is.  I wanted to ask you, can you… has the Secretary‑General requested a strategic review of the entire presence in Libya of the UN?  And is Mr. [Jean-Marie] Guéhenno, former head of DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations], involved in it?

Spokesman:  I'm not aware, but I can check.  Mr Abbadi… sorry, Carla.  Yep?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  I'm sorry. Your microphone's not on.  I cannot understand you.

Question:  Thank you.  Who was it… who was the funder of the Commission of Inquiry, the Kirby report? And can you comment on the ethics of paying defectors larger sums of money for more gruesome testimony, if you can call it that, and also the primary defector upon whose report…

Spokesman:  I'm not sure I understand what you're talking about.  What are you referring to?

Question:  The Kirby report.

Spokesman:  Oh, in DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]?

Question:  Yeah.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Sorry.

Question:  And the primary defector upon whose testimony the report was based, Shin Dong‑hyuk, admitted that he had lied and falsified his statements so…

Spokesman:  My understanding is… and I may be struck down and wrong, but my understanding is this was done by the Human Rights Council, so you should refer your questions to them.

Question:  Can you, though… since it's a part of the United Nations, can you comment on the ethics of paying…

Spokesman:  No, I'm not going to comment on the report and the methodology. I said that is part… that's a question to the Human Rights Council.  Ben?

Question:  When is the SG likely to appoint the USG [Under-Secretary-General] for counter‑terrorism?  And what do you say about reports saying that there was a back‑room deal done when he was elected with the Russians… for the Russians to get this post?

Spokesman:  I've never been in a back room, so I wouldn't know.  The project was, as far as I understand, approved by the Fifth Committee in the General Assembly.  So the process of recruiting the new Under‑Secretary‑General is under way.  And when we have something to announce, we shall do it from this podium.  Yep?

Question:  Thank you.  Stéphane, today, Iraqi Kurds announced that they going to independence referendum on September.  What is SG's position on this in terms of Iraqi territorial integrity? Thank you.

Spokesman:  Let me get you… let me get back to you on the issue of the referendum.  Matthew, then Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  Sure. I wanted to ask you, first, it's just a factual thing.  Yesterday, in going to cover the… the Gabon photo op with President Ali Bongo, it started about 15 minutes late.  And at least, to my eye, it seemed that the Saudi Permanent Representative to the UN came out of the Secretary‑General's Office at around 6:00. And I wanted to know, can you confirm such a meeting?

Spokesman:  No.

Question:  Why not?

Spokesman:  Because I can't.

Question:  Did it take place or not?  Can you ask…?

Spokesman:  I cannot confirm right now.  If I can confirm it, I will, but I can't.

Question:  Okay.  I wanted to ask you, yesterday, you'd said that hopefully today you would have something after 4:00… on the situation in the Al Rif region of Morocco.

Spokesman:  I don't have anything for you.

Question:  So when you said that you might have it, does that mean that DPA [Department of Political Affairs] is…

Spokesman:  No, it just means…

Question:  Be quiet?

Spokesman:  That I… I'm sorry?

Question:  No, no…  Does it mean that…

Spokesman:  It just means that I don't have anything to share with you.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you. As you indicated, Iran was the subject of attacks, and ISIS re… claims those attacks.  At the same time, Iran is fighting terrorism in Syria.  And yet some States, including some Gulf States, believe that Iran is sponsor of terrorism.  What is the position of the Secretary‑General?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General believes that every country, every Member State, has a responsibility to do what it can to fight terrorism within the confines of international law and international human rights law.

Correspondent:  But does he believe that Iran is a sponsor of terrorism?

Spokesman:  I think I've answered the question.  Abdelhamid?  And then I can confirm that there is, in fact, a strategic assessment of the UN presence in Libya that Mr. Guéhenno is leading.

Question:  Is he now a UN official?  That was going to be my…

Spokesman:  I'm sure he's employed on a contractual basis to conduct this.

Question:  The rifts now among the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] members are becoming wider and a little bit more vindictive and brutal, and I think so far the Secretary‑General did not say anything, although many countries around the world did say something, including the United States of America.  So why the Secretary‑General so far is still silent on a major crisis?

Spokesman:  I think he…  As I've said, we're watching this crisis very carefully.  We've noted the initiative by regional leaders.  We very much hope that those initiatives will help ease tensions and address the concerns.  The… for the Secretary‑General, I think he… as we're all aware, the Middle East, like other parts of the world, face a number of challenges that do not respect international boundaries… national boundaries, including terrorism and climate change.  Regional unity and solidarity create a promising platform to overcome these issues, as well as to promote solutions to the crises in Syria and Yemen.  Linda?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  I was wondering, turning to Syria, if you could share what some of the latest developments are in terms of UN efforts, particularly in terms of a polit… you know, bringing about a political solution.

Spokesman:  Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura continues his work.  I think when he's ready to reconvene discussions in Geneva, he will.  As we understand it, there will be a meeting in Astana later this month.  I have no doubt that we will be represented in one way there, whether it's Mr. de Mistura or somebody else.  So, the process continues.  I think it's frustratingly slow for those Syrians who are inside the country and those who are outside who just want to go home.  Dulcie?

Question:  Yeah.  Can you con… tell us what the status is of the annual children and armed conflict report?  And is the UN considering dropping the annex, the list of naming and shaming?  Thanks.

Spokesman:  No, I'm not able to… the work on the report continues.  It will be released to the Security Council later this summer.  I think you will find that the report remains as hard‑hitting and clear in its narrative as it has always been.

Question:  So it will still have the annex or not?

Spokesman:  That's what I'm… that's my answer for the time being.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you.  Some reports indicate that France is seeking to request the UN to establish a mission in the Sahel.  What's the fact?

Spokesman:  I mean, I've seen the press reports.  Obviously, any sort of mission in that regard will need the approval of the Security Council.  All right. I'm going to get our guests.

For information media. Not an official record.