The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
First, some travel to announce: the Secretary-General will travel tomorrow to the Netherlands, where he will attend on Thursday the closing ceremony of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the presence of His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. The Secretary-General will also meet on Thursday with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and other senior Government officials, and he will also have a dinner hosted by the King and Queen Maxima. While in The Hague, the Secretary-General will also meet at the Peace Palace with the President and members of the International Court of Justice and with the President of the International Criminal Court. The Secretary-General is also scheduled to speak at an event on “the UN and Current Threats to International Peace and Security” at the Peace Palace, together with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands. On Friday, the Secretary-General will open a Humanitarian Data Centre — an event that is being co-sponsored by our colleagues at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Here, as you will have seen. Staffan de Mistura, the Special Envoy for Syria, briefed the Security Council this morning on the conclusion of the eighth round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva. He noted the Syrian Government’s refusal to meet directly with the opposition until the Riyadh 2 declaration was withdrawn. The Special Envoy said that the time has come for the UN to provide specific elaboration on the constitutional and electoral baskets. Mr. de Mistura proposed a series of next steps, which he said come from his intense engagement with the parties to implement resolution 2254 (2015). The full text of his remarks has been distributed.
Mark Lowcock, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, welcomed the Security Council’s adoption earlier this morning of a resolution extending resolution 2165 (2015), on humanitarian access in Syria, for an additional 12 months. He said that cross-border deliveries will remain an essential part of our efforts to meet the needs of all those across Syria who require humanitarian assistance. And he added that in besieged eastern Ghouta, increased fighting and lack of humanitarian access is rendering life unbearable for an estimated 393,000 people trapped inside the enclave.
Turning to Yemen, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is deeply concerned at the recent surge in civilian casualties in Yemen as a result of intensified airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, following the killing of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sana’a on 4 December. OHCHR in Yemen verified that 136 civilians and non-combatants were killed and 87 injured as a result of airstrikes in Sana’a, Sa’ada, Al Hudaydah and Taizz governorates from 6 to 16 December. The Office urges all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, including their obligation to respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. They should take all feasible precautions to avoid, and in any event to minimize, the impact of violence on civilians.
And I was also asked earlier today for a reaction on the reports that Saudi Arabia had intercepted a missile fired from Yemen and that the Houthis have claimed responsibility for its firing. While we are not able to independently confirm the reports, we do condemn all attacks targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. We urge all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law. We call for restraint amid the mounting tensions, and reiterate that military escalation is not the solution. We urge all parties to the conflict to engage meaningfully with the UN to revitalize inclusive negotiations on a political settlement.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, is wrapping up his visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This morning, he visited the Semuliki base in North Kivu, which has been attacked on 7 December by Allied Democratic Forces militia members — he did this to meet with peacekeepers stationed there and to gain a better understanding of what actually happened. He also visited United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) facilities at Mavivi and an operating base at Kamango before heading back to Beni. As you know, the Under-Secretary-General travelled to the country after one of the worst attacks on UN peacekeepers in recent history, in which 14 “blue helmets” from Tanzania were killed and more than 40 others were injured.
A couple of notes from our colleagues at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): turning to Ukraine, they notice temperatures plummet across Ukraine, they report that they are stepping up distributions of aid, including clothing, fuel and cash to the most vulnerable people impacted by the conflict in the East of the country. The aid items will reach some 15,300 people, who are mainly single parents, elderly, families with many children, and people with disabilities or chronic illnesses.
UNHCR also reports that the agency is stepping up its presence in south‑eastern Nigeria, to provide life-saving support to thousands of people fleeing unrest in English-speaking parts of Cameroon. Since tensions intensified in October, joint UNHCR and Government teams have registered over 7,200 arrivals in remote areas of Nigeria’s Cross River State. Thousands more are awaiting registration. Most registered asylum seekers are women and children and are hosted by local communities near the border. But, as the unrest in Cameroon continues and more asylum seekers arrive, UNHCR is concerned that the local population’s capacity will soon be stretched to its limits.
After we are done here, Brenden [Varma] will brief on behalf of the President of the General Assembly. Just a reminder — of course, I am sure Brenden will have more on this — that tomorrow, at 1 p.m., the President of the General Assembly will hold a press conference in this very room. Then you may ask it, sir.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you. On the Humanitarian Data Centre, you said the SG's going to open on a Friday?
Spokesman: It's a Humanitarian Data Centre, monitoring centre, in The Hague.
Question: In The Hague?
Spokesman: In The Hague.
Question: Oh, okay. So, there is office for humanitarian [affairs] office there?
Spokesman: It's in conjunction with the Dutch Government and OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It's a data centre. It's a data centre, a monitoring centre.
Question: I have another question if you allow me. Does the UN have a list of countries… blacklist of countries, Member States that violate Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions, like… and if you don't, why not? I mean, since you have…?
Spokesman: I think the… each… the resolutions imposing sanctions by the Security Council are monitored by Security Council committees. They are responsible for monitoring those committees. The Secretary‑General reports back as required from… depending on the resolutions, on implementation of resolutions. So, there is a reporting mechanism built in resolutions, whether through a Sanctions Committee or through reports of the security… of the Secretary‑General to the Security Council. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. You… you… I'd wanted to ask you something about UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund], but first, on DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo], you said, you know, the ADF [Allied Defence Forces] which did the attack… and I know that earlier, when Mr. Lacroix was here, they said that they were looking into it. Do you have some kind of further detail? I mean, I'm… have they claimed credit for it? What's the… and what are the plans to actually… I've seen headlines saying that the UN is now going to take the ADF on. Can you just give a little bit more… I think maybe Mr. Lacroix announced this, but what's the evidence behind it? And what are the plans to take them on?
Spokesman: I think it's based on information the mission has been able to procure locally that they feel comfortable in saying that. And, obviously, we have a mandate to fulfil in the DRC, and we will do so. Your next question, sir?
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you, I went to cover that event at UNICEF yesterday, and I think that… that Anthony Lake is having his farewell today. Many people have been waiting for this announcement of the new head of UNICEF. Can you confirm that it is, in fact, Henrietta Fore and that there was a shortlist of four, including a former health minister of Mozambique? And I'm asking you, I guess, in the spirit of kind of transparency, like, did he recruit names from countries other than the United States? And what's the status of naming a new head?
Spokesman: I'm waiting for an announcement, hopefully, any day now. As you know, I'm not able to confirm it, because, frankly, I don't know who was on the short list, and I definitely do not know who is going to be named.
Question: Is there a process… my understanding is that he's… he's decided to… does he have to check formally with a board…?
Spokesman: It's done in consultation with the Executive Board of UNICEF.
Question: Okay. And this is… you may not like this one, but I just want to ask it because I want to understand it better. In going to cover the event yesterday, on my way over there, I noticed, you know, two cars in front of the building. And, when I got there, I saw the Secretary‑General drive up in the two cars, and it seems like it's only half a block away. Maybe he was going somewhere else, but I just want to be clear… given all the statements from here about climate change and various things, what's the explanation of two cars to go half a block?
Spokesman: I don't know if he went half a block. I'm not aware of all the Secretary‑General's movements and will not speak on security issues. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. The Secretary‑General is scheduled to receive later on the Deputy Foreign Minister of China. What is the subject under discussion?
Spokesman: I don't know. We'll see if we can get some sort of a readout, but the meeting was done most likely at the request of the Chinese side.
Correspondent: Okay. All right. Love the… the enthusiasm is visible.
Spokesman: It's overwhelming. It's proportional to the crowd.
Correspondent: Well, okay. I wanted to ask you may… whether you can confirm this. First, there's a report today that the Kenyan police have locked up children as young as 4 to 10 years old. And the reason I'm asking is it seem… there's a separate report saying that UNODC [United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime] has decided to suspend its cooperation with the Kenyan police based on alleged brutality during the recent election…
Spokesman: I saw the press reports from UNODC. Trying to get some information from them to be able to confirm exactly what cooperation had there been and what has been stopped.
Question: And I guess just to understand, does the UNODC… it doesn't have its own Executive Board but who… do they… they decide on their own? Maybe when you get this information because there's a country team that's pretty… that was very praising of the process, and I haven't seen them comment about…
Spokesman: We'll see what we can get. Yes?
Question: I'm not sure if this question for you or for Brenden…
Spokesman: It's for Brenden.
Question: But, it's normally… it's for you. On… on Thursday meeting for the GA, how many letters the SG officials received from Member State about the meeting on Jerusalem on Thursday…
Spokesman: I think that is for Brenden, because I think the requests would have gone to the President of the General Assembly.
Question: What about the Secretary‑General's role in this impending budget? I mean, things seem to be coming to a head. It was said that the goal is to finish it on Friday. Seems like he's going to be out of town. Does he play any role in… in… in defending his budget and trying to bring the sides together…?
Spokesman: Well, obviously, his senior officials are in… are available or are in dialogue with the Fifth Committee and come down as requested in to answer questions. It's obviously a process that we are watching closely, and I know the Secretary‑General is in charge… in touch with the chair of the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly. Thank you.