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

6 October 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.

**Nobel Peace Prize

As you will have seen now, this morning, the Secretary-General tweeted out his congratulations to the International Campaign to [Abolish] Nuclear Weapons on their win of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017.  Now more than ever, the Secretary-General said, we need a world without nuclear weapons.  And we do expect a full statement very shortly.

[The following statement was issued afterward:  The Secretary-General congratulates the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) on being awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.  Events over the past months have reminded us of the catastrophic risk that nuclear weapons pose to humanity.  This Prize recognizes the determined efforts of civil society to highlight the unconscionable humanitarian and environmental consequences that would result if they were ever used again.

In July, these efforts contributed to the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the first multilateral legally binding instrument for nuclear disarmament in decades.  Nuclear disarmament has been an objective for the United Nations since the very first General Assembly resolution in 1946, which established the goal of ridding the world of nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction.  At a time when nuclear anxieties are at the highest level since the Cold War, the Secretary-General calls on all countries to show vision and greater commitment for a world free of nuclear weapons.  The Secretary-General stresses the urgency to do all we can to end the threat of a nuclear nightmare.]

**Children and Armed Conflict

As you are also well aware, the Secretary-General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict is out as a document, online in six languages, and you heard from his Special Representative, Virginia Gamba, on that topic earlier today.  In a statement we issued yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General said that he is appalled that more than 8,000 children were killed and maimed in conflict situations in 2016.  The Secretary-General once more urges parties to conflict to abide by their responsibility to protect children, in accordance with their obligation under international humanitarian and human rights law.  He calls on all parties to conflict to engage with the United Nations to improve the protection of children in line with the relevant Security Council resolutions.


The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, spoke to the press in Geneva today, having recently wrapped up a visit to Bangladesh with UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) Executive Director Anthony Lake.  The Emergency Relief Coordinator stressed today that the origins of the crisis in Bangladesh are in Myanmar and that its solutions ultimately have to be in Myanmar.  He reiterated the Secretary-General’s calls for unfettered full humanitarian access and [an end] to military operation; and the safe, dignified and voluntary return of Rohingya refugees.  He said that this is a refugee crisis and reiterated his gratitude to the Government, institutions and people of Bangladesh for their generosity towards these refugees.

Meanwhile, UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] is focusing on protecting refugees and providing them with shelter and water and sanitation.  It is also working towards relieving overcrowding in the two existing camps of Kutupalong and Nyapara.  For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) aims to put the additional funding towards stepping up health services, including by bolstering the prevention of communicable diseases.  Our humanitarian colleagues now tell us the number of Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh since 25 August stands at 515,000 people.


Turning to Syria, the UN continues to be deeply concerned for the safety and protection of over a million people across Syria’s Deir ez-Zor Governorate.  On Wednesday, fighting around Sawa village and surrounding areas led to hundreds of families reportedly fleeing to northern Deir ez-Zor or to the eastern countryside.  Many of the displaced have moved to locations difficult for humanitarian workers to have access.  The last UN interagency humanitarian delivery to Deir ez-Zor city was on 27 September, which delivered assistance for 75,000 people.  Since the last delivery, fighting in the western countryside south of Deir ez-Zor city has reportedly resulted in the highway in the area being cut off, and it continues to be inaccessible for commercial and humanitarian movement.


The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights today echoed the concern of the Secretary-General about the violence in South-West and North-West Cameroon.  The Office calls on the Government of Cameroon to establish prompt, effective, impartial and independent investigations to ensure accountability.  They also urge the authorities to ensure that the security forces exercise restraint and take measures to prevent the use of force when policing demonstrations.  The High Commissioner’s Office reiterates that people should be allowed to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, including through having uninterrupted access to the internet.  Our colleagues also call on all people to pursue peaceful means to make themselves heard.  The High Commissioner’s Office urges the Government and Anglophone groups to engage in a meaningful political dialogue so that the grievances of the Anglophone population can be fully addressed.


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) urged today more countries to join the treaty against illegal fishing — the Port State Measures Agreement — aimed at ridding the world of a multibillion-dollar scourge that damages human nutrition and environmental sustainability.


We have a press release on the financial situation of the UN which is available on our office, courtesy of the Department of Management.


Today, the Secretary-General has appointed Major General Kristin Lund of Norway as the Head of Mission and Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO).  Major General Lund succeeds Major General Arthur David Gawn of New Zealand, who will complete his assignment on 19 October.  The Secretary-General is grateful to Major General Gawn for his two years of dedicated leadership.  Since joining the Norwegian Army in 1979, Major General Lund has had a distinguished military career, with wide-ranging command and staff experience at both national and international levels, including as the Deputy Commander of the Norwegian Army Forces Command.  Her bio is in my office.  If I am not mistaken, she was also the first woman to be appointed a Force Commander at the United Nations.

**Press Briefings

After I am done here, we will hear briefly from Brenden [Varma] and then we will be joined by our guests:  Feki tamoeloa ‘Utoi kamanu, the Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.  She will be joined by Odbayar Erdenetsogt — I apologize for the pronunciation — Ambassador at-Large and Interim Director of the International Think Tank for LLDCs; and Ambassador Lazarous Kapambwe, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Zambia to the UN and Chair of Landlocked Developing Countries.  They will brief you on the intergovernmental agreement on the International Think Tank for the Landlocked Developing Countries, which enters into force today.  Right after that, you will hear from the Ambassador Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Ambassador Abdallah Y.  Al-Mouallimi.  And at 1 p.m. on Monday, there will be a press conference here by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the newly minted winners of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.  Khalas.  Questions? Yes, sir.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [Inaudible]… do you like answering about Cyprus?

Spokesman:  There are no questions I don’t like answering.

Question:  Okay, thank you.  First, Stéphane, yesterday, answering about recognition, you said that this procedure is up to other international organizations and not up to the Secretary-General to decide.  How is it possible for the United Nations and the Secretary-General to talk about any kind of recognition that will officially divide an equal UN member, like the Republic of Cyprus and to neglect…

Spokesman:  I think what I… go ahead.

Question:  Thank you.  And to neglect 200,000 refugees, like myself, actually, who were forced to leave their home in 1974 because of the Turkish invasion and occupation.

Spokesman:  Two things.  The settlement of Cyprus is one that is up to the parties.  The United Nations has put up its good offices.  The Secretary-General has put up his good offices.  A report has gone to the Security Council.  It will be made public later this month.  And I think the Secretary-General’s views on the issue is well known.  What I was answering was on the issue of principle, on how recognition of membership is devised.  It is not a statement on the current state of the discussions in Cyprus.  Yes, sir?

Question:  The second question is related to what you just said.  Although the Secretary-General’s report is not yet a public document, like you just said, we are all aware that there was no reference by the Secretary-General for the reason that led to the Crans‑Montana failure, and the reason is because Turkey refused to withdraw their troops and guarantees.  Is the General… Secretary-General aware that the absence of such a reference encourages Turkey, the invader, to talk about two states in Cyprus? For example, three days ago…

Spokesman:  I think… I’m not here to hear a statement.  What is the… I will answer the question, which is the Secretary-General put in a lot of effort this year on the Cyprus issue.  I think he was very clear in his statement after Crans‑Montana.  He used very clear and simple words.  I don’t think they’re up for reinterpretation.  There will be a report to the Security Council, and I think we’ll let the report speak for itself.  I will come back to you.  Thank you.  Yes ma’am?

Question:  Hi.  It’s been widely published that the Trump Administration is planning to decertify Iran next week.  Is the Secretary-General concerned that this might trigger a new arms race in Iran, and what is he doing about it?

Spokesman:  As a matter of… as a standing order, we’re not going to comment on things that may or may not happen.  I think the Secretary-General’s been very clear on his view of the joint agreement… JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] — thank you, Matthew — and that he feels it was one of the most critical diplomatic achievements of the past years, and that everything should be done to preserve it.  Mr. Klein?

Correspondent:  Thank you.  I want to go back to Cyprus for a moment, if I may.

Spokesman:  Who would have thunk?

Question:  Who would have thunk.  As you know, settlements have been declared illegal under international law in the West Bank, previously in Gaza but now in the West Bank, for quite a number of years and including in the resolution passed last December by the Security Council.  So I would like to know whether the Secretary-General would distinguish the settlement of Turkish residents from Turkey, en masse, in the Turkish portion of Cyprus.  Does he see that as also potentially illegal settlement activity, particularly with the military from Turkey stationed there, or does he see a distinction?

Spokesman:  I appreciate your question.  I will leave the compare-and-contrast exercise to analysts and journalists.  The Secretary-General has done… put in a lot of time and effort to try to reach… and I would say to his immediate predecessors as well, a settlement on Cyprus.  He has… it is up to the parties to come to an agreement.  The UN is there to facilitate it, and there are obviously a large number of issues that have to be worked through by those parties.

Question:  But if settlements… no, let me just…?

Spokesman:  I’m not… listen.  I’m not equipped intellectually or in any other manner to go into this issue in the depth that you would like me to go into.  Yes, sir?

Correspondent:  Thank you, Matthew.

Spokesman:  I know Farhan [Haq] and I look alike, but I guess maybe I need to shave my beard.  Yes, go ahead.

Correspondent:  I think it was because of that.

Spokesman:  That’s okay.  Go ahead.

Question:  I need more coffee.  So I have two questions about Iraq.  The first one is you might have heard the news that Iraqi forces successfully controlled Hawija.  That was the last major ISIS stronghold in Iraq, a major victory for the Iraqi forces.  Is there any statement coming out by the Secretary-General or by yourself?  And the second question is about the tensions between Erbil and Baghdad.  Right now, the French president has made an initiative for dialogue.  I know your envoy has met with most of the leaders these days, but it doesn’t look like it’s enough.  The tensions are really rising; it hasn’t been stopped.  Why the Secretary-General is not taking more role than sending his envoy, given that his priority, since day number one, is preventing a conflict?

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General’s following this issue extremely closely.  Our colleagues in the political mission in Iraq are in the lead and are keeping the Secretary-General abreast.  We’re fully aware of the rising tensions.  Our calls continue for calm.  If I have any more to share with you on the discussions, I will.  On the liberation of Hawija, I don’t have anything specific, just to say that obviously, our humanitarian colleagues are… on the ground have created space for those people who had fled the town.  And I think with the liberation of Hawija or any other town that we’ve seen from Daesh, it’s important that the reconstruction not be only physical but also psychological, in a way, to ensure that people feel safe in coming home, that communities of different faiths or groups are able to live together, and that they all have faith in the authorities.

Question:  With regard to the tensions, does the Secretary-General think this is… these current efforts are enough?

Spokesman:  I think we’re watching the situation as it goes.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure, thanks a lot.  I want to… I do want to ask you about Cameroon, but since you… you said that you… you like answering all questions, I want to start with…

Spokesman:  I knew that was going to come back to me.

Question:  Yeah, it is, and you’re… this is… it’s a policy question, so I think…  Which I think you’re equipped to answer.  I believe so.  It’s… it’s a media access question, and it’s not about me.  It has to do with the journalists from… from Saharawi Media, RASD TV, who applied a month ago to be accredited to cover the UN, including this month when Western Sahara is on the Council’s agenda.  And he received a denial that said that you can only be accredited here if you’re with an organization formerly registered… formally registered as a media organization in a country recognized by the UN General Assembly.  So I know some people think of this as sort of the Taiwan rule.  But is it true, is it the case that this rule is also applied to Western Sahara which, although not a country yet, is party to a conflict on the… on the… can you…

Spokesman:  I don’t… I’ll look into it.

Question:  And also what is the… because… and the policy… the second part of the policy question is:  Given the propensity of some governments to… to dislike, decertify, and close down and media, including in Cameroon, why does the UN… I could understand them saying we need to… we, as the UN, say this is a media organization, but why does a media organization have to be approved by its own government, which is what the line quoted to this individual implies?

Spokesman:  I will look into the issue.  Your Cameroon… Go ahead.

Question:  Yeah, yeah.  And I did see Prince… or Rupert Colville’s statement and I just… and I want… and you may say ask them, but I wanted to ask you.  There’s two things in it that I wanted to ask you about.  One of has — they used a Government figure of ten killed, which is much lower than you can just find in a cursory search.  So does this imply that the UN has no capability, or it just hasn’t yet tallied its own figures? And can you find out from the Secretariat or UN system-wide what is the presence of the UN system in the two regions that these various statements have referred to? Are there…

Spokesman:  Okay, I know we have a presence.  I’ll… I thought I had the information, I’ll get that to you.  I can’t speak for our human rights colleagues, but I believe they… they… as a matter of course, they can speak on things they can actually verify.

Question:  Right.  And the final thing, and I appreciate it, is that you didn’t read the part of the statement where it finished by welcoming Paul Biya’s statement calling for dialogue.  And so yesterday… I know you don’t read the whole statement.  I understand.  But too many people… this was… was a particularly absurd part of the statement, the reason being the President hasn’t been back to the country since the GA.

Spokesman:  I mean, we have welcomed the Government’s call for a dialogue.

Question:  Do you believe that any dialogue has taken place and will Mr. Francois Fall play a part in that dialogue?

Spokesman:  We remain available and we would like Mr. Fall to travel as soon as possible.  Jordan?

Question:  Thank you.  There is a report that the SG, actually on Wednesday, had a phone call with the King of Saudi Arabia, who was in Russia.  If that’s the case, did the SG discuss the report on armed…?

Spokesman:  They did speak while the King was in… was indeed in Moscow.  They had a very good and pleasant discussion on, I would phrase it as on issues of global… on the Middle East and beyond, and issues of common concern.

Question:  My question:  If the SG phone call was mainly because of the report on the armed conflict?

Spokesman:  I think there are a lot of issues on the bilateral UN—Saudi agenda.

Question:  Can you tell me…?

Spokesman:  No, I can’t tell you more.  I’ve run out of words.

Question:  Can you tell me yes or no, or you don’t know?

Spokesman:  What I know is irrelevant.  What I’m answering is relevant.  Last question, then we’ll go to our guests.

Question:  Second one, please?  Thank you for giving me this opportunity.  Like you said in the first place, allow me to say that there’s no doubt about the Secretary-General’s attempts regarding the Cyprus problem.  However, the Crans‑Montana failure was due to the refusal of Turkey to withdraw their troops…

Spokesman:  No, I’m not entering into a debate of what happened.  I just want to hear your question.  If you have a question…

Correspondent:  I have a question.

Spokesman:  Give me a question mark.

Question:  Three days ago, because of this… because of this reference, they declared enclave tax to the Greek Cypriots.  This is a very serious question.  How is the United Nations and the Secretary-General responding to that? Enclave tax in our own country.  That’s the question.  Thank you.

Spokesman:  The… all these numbers of issues need to be dealt with by the parties, and the Secretary-General very much hopes that the parties will reach an agreement, and I will leave it at that.  One quick question, and then we’ll go to Brenden.  [He later added:  At 10:50 a.m. on 4 October, an UNFICYP vehicle carrying humanitarian supplies departed Nicosia for Greek Cypriot communities in the Karpas, as has been regular practice for close to four decades.  UNFICYP was obliged to limit today’s delivery to medical aid supplies, following the Turkish Cypriot administration’s unilateral decision to impose taxes and fees on other humanitarian goods.  UNFICYP regrets the decision taken by the Turkish Cypriot administration, which it considers to be an unfortunate development.  The Mission’s role of delivering humanitarian assistance to Greek Cypriot and Maronite communities in the northern part of the island is based on a longstanding agreement between the sides known as Vienna III, and provides hundreds of elderly and other vulnerable people with basic supplies on a weekly basis.  UNFICYP stands ready to assist the sides to reach a mutually acceptable solution, with the interests of the affected communities in mind.]

Question:  Do you have any statement in your… in your book or binder or whatever it is that you have back there on Cambodia moving to… to… to decertify the main opposition party?  I know you’ve had other comments in the past.

Spokesman:  Not at this point, but I’ll get something.  Brenden will brief very briefly, and then I’ll come back with our guests.

For information media. Not an official record.