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

25 September 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.

**Bangladesh-Myanmar

Starting with Bangladesh: our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the number of Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar and arrived in Bangladesh in the past month has reached 436,000.

Aid agencies have reached more than 80 per cent of these people with food aid and are scaling up their support.  Some 1.5 million litres of water are also being provided daily, and humanitarian partners are also supplying a wide range of supplies, including shelter kits, as well as health care.

As of this morning, aid agencies have received 43 per cent of the $77 million appealed [for] in the initial response plan.

However, the scale of the emergency has surpassed early projections.  The response plan is being revised, with funding requirements projected to rise to $200 million to reach 1.2 million people — including the newly arrived refugees and those who came earlier, as well as host communities in Bangladesh.

Humanitarian partners continue to be grateful for the role being played by the people and Government of Bangladesh.  The Government has deployed the army to support aid distributions from the Government and private individuals.

**Middle East

Nickolay Mladenov, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, spoke to the Security Council by video this morning and said that Israel's illegal settlement activities have continued at a high rate, a consistent pattern over the course of this year.

His full briefing was made available to you.  And as you know, that was part of the requirements of Security Council resolution 2334.

**Mali

Following the explosive device attack on a convoy of the UN Mission in Mali [MINUSMA] yesterday, our colleagues from the Mission tell us that a heavy exchange of fire between UN peacekeepers and unknown assailants followed the explosion.  Three Bangladeshi peacekeepers were killed in the attack.  Three of the wounded peacekeepers are expected to be evacuated from the Gao hospital to Dakar [Senegal] for medical treatment today.

And you will have seen yesterday, we issued a statement in which the Secretary‑General condemned the attack.  He also urged the Government and the signatory armed groups to expedite the implementation of the peace agreement, so as to isolate the terrorist groups and other entities bent on undermining the peace and reconciliation process.

**Somalia

Turning to Somalia, the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General, Michael Keating, today welcomed the recent introduction of legislation that would amend the 2016 media law, and urged law-makers to give due consideration to the concerns raised by prominent members of Somalia’s news media about the existing law and the proposed amendments.

**Libya

The Humanitarian Coordinator in Libya, Maria do Valle Ribeiro, today condemned the continued fighting in the city of Sabratah that claimed a number of lives, including of civilians.  According to information received, three civilians were killed and eight others were injured, including a woman and an 8‑year-old child.  These figures include a family whose car was hit by a rocket while fleeing the conflict.

**Syria

Turning to Syria, our humanitarian colleagues are aware of reports of a school in Syria, which was used as a shelter for internally displaced people in Khan al-Sobol in rural Idlib, being hit by an airstrike.  Four people were killed and many others injured.  Increased violence in south and west rural Aleppo has also been reported, and as a result, some of the local councils in the area have reportedly suspended classes.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, a UN-Syrian Arab Red Crescent-International Committee of the Red Cross inter-agency convoy delivered food, health, nutrition, education items and children's clothing for 25,000 people in the besieged towns of east Harasta, Misraba and Modira in eastern Ghouta, rural Damascus.  The area was last reached by an inter-agency convoy in June of this year.

Delays in bureaucratic procedures stalled the movement of the entire convoy, limiting the ability of technical staff to conduct assessments, and resulting in the offloading of trucks of humanitarian supplies lasting well into the night.

**Press Conference

That is it.  I will stop there except to mention that after we are done, Brenden [Varma] will brief on behalf of the PGA [President of the General Assembly].  6 p.m. today: Tadamichi Yamamoto, Special Representative for the UN in Afghanistan, will be at the Security Council stakeout.  Tomorrow we will have the President of Guyana at 10 a.m.  At 2 p.m., the Special Representative for South Sudan will brief you.

That's it, and I will leave the rest to Brenden.

**Questions and Answers

Michelle?

Question:  Thanks, Stéphane.  You have probably seen by now the North Korean Foreign Minister spoke to the press before he left New York this morning.  He said that Donald Trump's latest tweet was a declaration of war and that Pyongyang wouldn't hesitate to shoot down US bombers even when they're not in North Korean airspace.  Does the Secretary‑General have a reaction to this?

Spokesman:  I think, as he said in his General Assembly speech, when you have the rise of tension, the rise of rhetoric, so does the risk of miscalculations.  Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings.  We would want to reiterate that the only solution for this is a political solution and I would also reiterate the Secretary‑General's call for statesmanship, which he delivered in the General Assembly.  Mr. Roth?

Question:  I realize it may be difficult to say this even if it happened, but would you be able to tell us in any way did the North Korean representative ask for the Secretary‑General when they met Saturday to get more involved in the process?

Spokesman:  I will leave you with the readout that we've already issued.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Stéphane, I have two questions about the referendum in Kurdistan region of Iraq.  The first one is, despite Secretary‑General's statement in the Security Council, the vote took place today.  What's your reaction?  And the second one is, the Iraqi Prime Minister ordered deployment of Iraqi troops in the disputed territory.  That's considered… that's controlled by the Kurdish Peshmerga.  This could lead to a… a… a… really high tensions or conflict…

Spokesman:  No, we would… we'll look into those reports.  On your first question, unfortunately, I'd hoped to have something for you, but I expect it very shortly.  Mr. Lee?  Sorry, then…

Question:  Some other things but two follow-ups.  One is, on… on Kurdistan, during the photo op with the Secretary‑General with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, he… the league… Arab… Arab League Secretary-General referred to a letter he'd written to the Secretary‑General about Kurdistan.  Can you… what's the content of the letter?  Was it distributed?  What… what's…

Spokesman:  No, I'm not aware it was distributed.  I can check if it was received.

Question:  The other one had to do with you were mentioning you'll stand behind the readout, so I wanted to ask you about one readout, which, apparently, you didn't stand behind, which was the… the office… the Organization for Islamic Cooperation [OIC].  The two versions that were put out, I just want to… I sort of want to understand, because I'm interested in the… Cameroon and other readouts, how they're prepared.  The first version of the OIC readout said that Somalia was discussed and the plight of the Rohingya.  Then the second version was issued, which dropped Somalia in its entirety and switched… plight of the Rohingya to the word Myanmar and included Middle East peace process.  Was Somalia not included at all?

Spokesman:  We had… Secretary‑General had a large number of bilaterals.  Sometimes mistakes do happen.  The readouts, the correct one is the always the last one and the corrected version…

Question:  So that means that Somalia wasn't discussed…?

Spokesman:  Okay.  What I'm saying is that there's a corrected readout and that's the readout.  Mr. Sato?

Question:  So tomorrow is the International Day of Tot… Nuclear… Total Elimination of Nuclear Deal [Weapons].  Do you have any person for the event or the SG will make a statement?

Spokesman:  Yes, there will be a statement from the SG.  Yeah?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Two questions.  Are you concerned that the Rohingyas in Myanmar could be the victims of human traffickers?  And my second question will be on Cyprus.  The Secretary‑General met the leaders of the Turkish and the Greek Cypriot leaders over the weekend, and is the UN… and is it still in dispute of reflection?  Do you have any other statement or any other comments, apart from the readout we had?

Spokesman:  No.  On the Cyprus issue, nothing new to announce.  Obviously, the Secretary‑General was very interested to meet… to have the meetings he had in New York.  As he said in Crans-Montana, he remains available when the parties will come to him, so I think we still remain in a period of reflection.  Your second question… or your first question, the other question.

Question:  The Rohingyas.  Are you concerned…

Spokesman:  Yes.  I think anytime there is a mass movement of people — we've seen hundreds of thousands of people move — a large number of these people are children or women travelling only with their children in a movement of people that is… where people are fleeing violence that is not being… when it’s not an organized movement of people, it always creates a heightened risk for trafficking and for abuse of those who are already extremely vulnerable.

I do have a statement on the referendum.  The Secretary‑General is concerned about the potentially destabilizing effect of today's referendum in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

The Secretary‑General respects the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Iraq and considers that all outstanding issues between the federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government should be resolved through structured dialogue and constructive compromise.

The Secretary‑General expects that United Nations mandated activities across Iraq, including in the Kurdistan region, will be allowed to continue unhindered.  He calls upon the relevant authorities for their continued support.

End of statement.  Would you let me know when the… our guest is on the line?  Is he on?  Okay.  Go ahead, Joe.  We'll…

Question:  Yeah.  Now that you've read that out, the organizers of the referendum said that the purpose of the referendum was to document the sentiment of the Kurdish people in contemplation of then having negotiations with the central Iraqi Government.  They were not looking to use this as a pretext for immediate secession… seceding from Iraq.  So, if that's the case, why would that be considered destabilizing?  You're getting a sentiment of the Kurdish people, consistent with the principle of self-determination, which is enshrined in the UN Charter, for the purpose of negotiations.

Spokesman:  Look, I… no one is questioning what is enshrined in the… in the UN Charter, least of all the Secretary‑General.  I think what is… Sergio, are you on?

Speaker:  Yes, I'm on, and I can hear you very well.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Give us two seconds.  No one is questioning what's enshrined in the UN Charter, least of all the Secretary‑General.  What is clear is that we're in a period of heightened tension in the region, and I think the Secretary‑General has expressed his sentiment fairly clearly in the statement.

Question:  The stated purpose of the organizers is to facilitate negotiations, not to [inaudible] for secession.

Spokesman:  I understand.  We're not the organizers of this vote.  We're expressing our position on it.  Matthew, and then we'll go to our guest.

Question:  Great.  Really fast.  In Kenya, the… the UN staff member on leave, Roselyn Akombe, has said she's facing death threats.  There's also reports of investigation of her role in the… in the Electoral Commission and the arrest of a… of a member of parliament for allegedly insulting the President, [Uhuru] Kenyatta.  I'm just wondering, what is the UN… the UN, since it has an office in Nairobi and is seeing these things take place, including the arrest of parliamentarians for verbal insults to the President, does the UN have any response to what's taking place…?

Spokesman:  I don't have anything on that.  You're welcome to check also with the office in Nairobi.

For information media. Not an official record.