30 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.


The Secretary-General is in Crans-Montana today, in Switzerland, where he is chairing the Conference on Cyprus.

Earlier today, he spoke to reporters that the reconvening of the Conference offers an historic opportunity to reach a comprehensive settlement to the conflict that has divided Cyprus for far too many decades.

He noted that the road back to Switzerland has not been easy, but the path to lasting peace never is.  The Secretary-General said that, to get to this point, the leaders have overcome significant challenges and made unprecedented progress.  He saluted the determination and common vision which has led them to this point.

The Secretary-General said that he firmly believes that, through determination and political will, it will be possible to clear this final hurdle and reach a comprehensive settlement.  You can read the full transcript online.

**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels

On Sunday, the Deputy Secretary-General will depart New York for Addis Ababa to participate in the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union, which will take place on 3 and 4 July under the theme “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth”.

Ms. [Amina] Mohammed will also have bilateral meetings with senior Government officials of participating States, as well as heads of regional and subregional organizations in the margins of the Assembly.  She will be back in New York on 5 July.

**Mine Action

This morning, the Security Council adopted its first ever resolution on mine action.

The new resolution stresses the importance of considering mine action during the earliest stages of planning and programming in peacekeeping operations and special political missions, as well as in humanitarian responses.  It recognizes the positive contribution of mine action to peace sustainment and stabilization efforts.

The Council also requested that the Secretary-General provide information on threats posed by landmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices, and efforts to mitigate these threats, when reporting on peace operations and humanitarian responses.


The Council members also heard a briefing this morning by Jean Arnault, Head of the UN Mission in Colombia.  He said that the completion of the laying down of individual weapons by the FARC-EP [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army] has created new opportunities.  The Mission and the FARC-EP, with the support of the armed forces and the police, can now devote their full attention to the disposal of hundreds of arms caches, the collection of weapons in them, and the destruction of explosives and unstable armament.

He added that the UN was honoured by the request from the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP to establish a second verification mission focused on reintegration and wider security guarantees, and to begin as soon as possible.  Like the first mission, the second one will be as much about fostering cooperation and building confidence as it will be about verification, he said.

**Human Rights

Just to flag the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a number of statements, one on the situation in Venezuela and another on the situation in Guatemala — and that is available on their website.


They also expressed extreme concern at the situation of civilians in Mosul in Iraq, where the fighting has become more intense in the bid to retake the whole city from Da’esh.

The High Commissioner reminds all parties to the conflict that they must abide by the principles of humanity, distinction, proportionality and precaution in carrying out military operations.

For its part, UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] says that thousands of children continue to be trapped in relentless violence in the Old City of Mosul.

The Head of UNICEF in Mosul, Peter Hawkins, said that children stranded in the fighting are hiding in their basements, while those who try to flee risk being shot.


Regarding Syria, the High Commissioner for Refugees’ [UNHCR] Office say they see a notable trend of spontaneous returns to and within Syria in 2017.

So far, aid agencies estimate that more than 440,000 internally displaced people have returned to their homes during the first six months of this year.

In parallel, UNHCR has monitored over 31,000 Syrian refugees returning from neighbouring countries so far in 2017.  Since 2015, some 260,000 refugees have spontaneously returned to Syria, primarily from Turkey into northern Syria.

Given the returns witnessed so far this year and in light of a progressively increased number of returns of internally displaced people and, in time, refugees, UNHCR has started scaling up its operational capacity within Syria.  More details from UNHCR.


Just to note that yesterday, in his briefing to the Security Council, Jeff Feltman, the Head of the Political Affairs Department [DPA], said that two years after the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] regarding Iran, the Secretary-General is immensely encouraged by the continued commitment by all participants to the agreement.  That was in public.

**Equator Prize

Our friends at the UN Development Programme [UNDP] announced this year’s winners of the Equator Prize, which recognizes organizations and communities which showcase innovative solutions for tackling poverty, environment, and climate [challenges].

Among the winners are a cooperative in Honduras that sells an essential ingredient in the fragrance and flavour industry; an initiative promoting conflict resolution in Mali to protect the endangered African elephant; a family homestay network in Indonesia; and an insurance scheme in Pakistan that protects the endangered snow leopard while paying farmers damages for livestock losses.

The winners will be honoured at a celebration in New York on 17 September.


Our friends at the World Meteorological Organization [WMO] inform us that a UN-led initiative to improve early warning systems and increase resilience will be expanding to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger with two new projects.  The initiative is also assessing progress in existing projects in Burkina Faso, Mali and the Pacific, and is planning new ones in the Caribbean and Papua New Guinea.  WMO said the ultimate goal is to mobilize more than $100 million dollars by 2020 for early warning systems in least developed countries.

**Asteroid Day

Today is… the [International Asteroid] Day seeks to raise public awareness about the impact hazard of asteroids and inform the public about the crisis communication actions to be taken at the global level in case of a credible near-Earth object threat.

The Day coincides with the anniversary of the Tunguska impact over Siberia, in 1908, which is the largest impact event recorded in history.


Something that we would like to highlight and note: our former boss, former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has joined The Elders — that was announced by the group today.  We obviously congratulate him for that.

**Press Briefings

On Monday we will not be present in terms of a live noon briefing; we will post updates online, the Office will be staffed.  But at 12:30 p.m., Ambassador Liu [Jieyi] of China, President of the Security Council for the month of July, will be here in person to brief you on the Council’s programme of work.

**Honour Roll

Today we thank our friends at the Lao People’s Democratic Republic for paying their annual dues in full, which brings us up to?

Correspondent:  109 or 110?

**Questions and Answers

Spokesman:  110.  Matthew won the asteroids, so we'll give him the first question.  All right.  Let's… you ask a question, then I'll take a complaint from Carole.  Go ahead.

Question:  All right. No, sure.  I… I guess I wanted to…  I'm sure you've seen that… that Myanmar has announced officially that they are not… they are going to ban visas for the three UN investigators and any of their subordinates.  And so I'm wondering, combined with the… the… the arrests of three journalists that were, you know, speaking to groups that now are themselves negotiating with the Government, is it the time… is the Secretary‑General… what does he think of this? Is this…

Spokesman:  I think… we think it's obviously important for every country to cooperate with the UN's human rights mechanism, whether they be Special Rapporteurs or investigations put forward by the Human Rights Council.

Question:  What communications has the Secretariat, either through its new or… or… or the existing Resident Coordinator otherwise, had with the Government, given this open statement of…

Spokesman:  I'm not aware of anything that I'm able to share with you at this point.  Carole?

Question:  Stéphane, about the peacekeeping budget, is the Secretary‑General concerned that the cuts that were approved by the General Assembly today are going to hurt the peacekeeping missions?  And my complaint on that was that the documents that we've received by… well, the… the links to documents that we've received by email since yesterday are not working.  So we haven't seen any of the documents the General Assembly voted on today for peacekeeping.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Well, I will note your complaint and check… Yes.  That I will agree with.  You know, obviously, following the decision taken by the General Assembly on the peacekeeping budget, we will now translate the approved resource levels into activities to implement the mandates given to us by the Security Council on the peacekeeping front.  The overall level is meaningfully smaller than what we had last year, but we will make every effort to ensure that the mandates are implemented.  We cannot overstate the value of peacekeeping to achieve peace and stability.  It remains the most cost‑effective instrument at the disposal of the international community to prevent conflicts and foster conditions for lasting peace.  Edie?

Question:  Just a follow‑up.  Since we can't open the links, it would be really helpful if someone from the GA or the Fifth Committee could actually put out a release on exactly what the Council did, because there are a whole slew of resolutions, and it's very difficult unless you've been eyeballing the Fifth Committee negotiations.

Spokesman:  No, no.  I completely agree with you.  We'll take a look at it as soon as I… 

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  We'll move to the second row from right to left.  Physically, not politically.  Yes.

Question:  Huh?

Spokesman:  Go on.  Sorry.

Question:  On this… I'm sorry.  On the sad situation in Mosul, do you have any… are your representative over there has said is there, in fact, the claims of the Iraqi Government that they have, in fact, captured Nuri Mosque in the city… Old City?  Is that correct?

Spokesman:  We're obviously watching the situation… the military operations in Mosul.  I'm not, at least from this podium, able to confirm one way or another.  As you know, we are not on the front lines with the military authorities.  We come in soon after, fully supportive of the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi authorities as they try to rebuild the city.  And, of course, as I think Lise Grande has said a number of times, restore essential services, especially focusing on electricity and water.  But I'm not able to… I'm not in the business of confirming military gains.

Question:  On this… on this situation in North Korea, I just wanted to find out, because things are getting bad, because Mr. [Donald] Trump again issued an, “all the time I'm fed up”, and this is North Korea, and I'm… I mean, threatening that basically actually the action were taken.  Does the United Nations know as to what threat level it is and how the North Koreans are going to respond when this happens?

Spokesman:  I… listen, I'm not going to analyse or I have no way of analysing the statements made by the President, and I have no way of predicting what the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] will do.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  Thank you.  I think Monday morning, Stéphane, a settler's car, armoured car, hit a Palestinian car, killing mother and four children.  But there were controversial explanation, if it was an accident or it was intentional.  So, can you verify that with OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] or with [Nickolay] Mladenov's office if it was intentional or it was just a pure accident… A mother and four children were killed.

Spokesman:  We'll check what they have, but, obviously, we would expect that investigations are done, but I'll see what we have.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, I… I… I just had a question about The Journal.  It listed about the Palestinian forum, and it said, if you want to see the programme, look into the… you know, click on here… click.  And then you click and you get a bunch of things, and it's very confusing.  And so it was hard to figure out where the programme was and how to use once you clicked where you were…

Spokesman:  This is which forum?

Question:  The Palestinian forum that's happening.

Spokesman:  Right.

Question:  So I'm wondering if there could be some clarification about how this is… you know, the website and what they're doing…

Spokesman:  Sure, we can check with the… okay.  Carole?

Question:  On the OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] Fact Finding Mission confirming the use of sarin, did you have any reaction to that?  It now comes to the JIM [Joint Investigative Mechanism] for an assessment.  Any view on… on how that…

Spokesman:  No, I mean, we… you know, we've seen… I mean, I've seen the public statements made by some on a report that, as far as I know, has not been yet made public.  I haven't seen the report.  [He later said it has become a public document.]  I think, though this is to be confirmed by the President of the Security Council, we do expect Mr. [Edmond] Mulet to brief… as head of the JIM, to brief the Council very soon.  And so I think he will have more to share on that.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you, this… what was said going to be the reform, the reform of the development system of the UN, I thought it was going to be done in June.  But I'm finding it's now 30 June.  So, has… has a written proposal been made?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General will brief the Member States on Wednesday in the morning.  He will brief ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] and outline his vision for the reform of the UN's development system.  And that will be a public meeting.

Question:  Great.  Now that he's in… you'd said yesterday that, you know, wait for him to get to… to… to Switzerland before saying what his next moves are. What are his next moves between now and Wednesday?

Spokesman:  Right now, he's focusing on the discussions in Crans‑Montana.  So I don't want to preempt when he will leave the discussions as they're still ongoing.

Question:  Okay. And, I wanted… in the Council, there was the report on the… the Council's visit to Haiti.  And the issue of cholera came up.  The re‑investor reported, I guess, what was heard inside the meeting.  Outside the meeting was… things were… were spicier still in terms of the UN, you know, not living up to what people believe was said.  I've seen a picture of Josette Sheeran briefing, I guess, at the Canadian Mission.  Is it possible in early July to get her here to describe what her work's going to be and…

Spokesman:  We can see what we can do.

Question:  …to your knowledge, has anything been raised or does she have a position on individual reparations?

Spokesman:  We'll see what we can do.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  I'm sorry if I missed this, but this is a technical question.  Is there any announcement extending the job of the Spokesman for another period of time?  Was there any announcement?

Spokesman:  Every day for me is a victory.  Masood?

Question:  I'm sorry, Stéphane. I must have missed it. When is the press conference of the President of the Security Council?

Spokesman:  Monday.

Question:  The 3rd.

Spokesman:  The 3rd of July at 12:30.

Question:  At 12:30?

Spokesman:  Yes, sir.

Question:  At 12:30?

Correspondent:  He said it already.

Spokesman:  Okay. Thank you. Goodbye.

For information media. Not an official record.