The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
You saw that over the weekend, the Secretary-General expressed his concern following the violent dispersion of protests by national security forces in Kinshasa and a number of cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Secretary-General urges all Congolese political actors to remain fully committed to the 31 December 2016 political agreement, which remains the only viable path to the holding of elections, the peaceful transfer of power and the consolidation of stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
**Central African Republic
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) reports that the security situation in Paoua in Ouham-Pendé prefecture remains tense following an anti-Balaka attack against the Muslim community this past Sunday. Two individuals were killed and 800 civilians sought refuge around the MINUSCA camp. MINUSCA deployed reinforcements to Paoua to enhance the protection of civilians in the town. Peacekeepers are also patrolling the area to defuse tensions.
The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq, expressed deep concern yesterday over reports of the unannounced destruction of settlements for internally displaced persons, along with humanitarian infrastructure in K13, in the Kahda District of Banadir, in Mogadishu. Over 23 settlements, housing over 4,000 internally-displaced person households, were destroyed. Personal property and livelihoods have been lost as people were not given time to collect their belongings before the destruction started. An assessment was carried out today to establish the immediate needs of the displaced and where the people have settled. Some partners have already started providing assistance, such as clean water. Additional response activities, including provision of temporary sanitation facilities and distribution of hygiene kits, are in the pipeline. Throughout Somalia, more than 2 million people are displaced due to drought and conflict, including one million newly displaced in 2017 alone. Displaced people constitute one-third of the 6.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
A total of 69 Iraqi civilians, [not including police], were killed and another 142 wounded in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in Iraq in December 2017, according to casualty figures recorded by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). This compares with 63 civilians killed and 140 wounded in November 2017. Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate, with 122 civilian casualties. Ján Kubiš, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, expressed his hope that, as we move into the new year, these figures will fall rapidly as much-needed peace and stability return to Iraq.
For press conferences, today, at 1 p.m., Ambassador Nikki Haley of the United States will address the press at the Security Council Stakeout. And then at 3 p.m., Ambassador Kairat Umarov of Kazakhstan, President of the Security Council for the month of January, will brief the press and present the new programme of work for this month. That programme of work was approved earlier today. That's it for me. Yes, Joe?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Yes, does the Secretary‑General have any comment on the protests in Iran and the reaction of the Iranian regime, including cutting off access to the internet and to messaging applications, as well as some mass arrests and the killing of approximately 13 or 14 people? Thank you.
Deputy Spokesman: Yes. The Secretary‑General has been carefully following the reports of protests in a number of cities in Iran. We regret the reported loss of life, and we hope that further violence will be avoided. We expect that the rights to peaceful assembly and expression of the Iranian people will be respected. Yes, Sia Pak?
Question: Follow‑up to my colleague. Has the Secretary‑General contact Iranian regime in order for the situation at the moment, or contact any oppositions in Iran? Has a contact been made?
Deputy Spokesman: I don't have any contacts by the Secretary‑General to report at this time, no.
Question: Is he going to… I mean, until when he is going to wait until…?
Deputy Spokesman: We're evaluating the situation as it develops. If further steps from him are needed, we'll let you know about it. Yes, Maggie?
Question: Farhan, last week, there were news reports out of Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo that about 100 militants were killed, and it was related to operations… related to the killing of the 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers. DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations]… DPKO didn't have anything late last week, but I was just wondering if there was any confirmation of this… of these local reports, if it ever came through or not?
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, we… we believe that our colleagues on the ground, MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo], have confirmed the reports of some of the deaths. You'll have seen the Secretary‑General's own statement that we put out a couple of days ago reflecting his concerns about the violent dispersion of protests by the national security forces.
Correspondent: No, no, sorry, not the protests — there was reports last week that the army… the Congolese and Ugandan army had attacked ADF [Allied Democratic Forces] or some militants responsible for the killing of the 15 Tanzanians, nothing to do with the elections, but DPKO couldn't confirm it.
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, I believe we do have a confirmation of some of the killings. Hopefully, if one of my colleagues can bring that in, but we were able to get a number of people who were killed from about a week ago. Yes?
Question: On the same topic? Yeah, because I… I had been asking in writing last week about whether the U… Ugandans claim that they made these… they… they took these actions without any boots on ground without ever crossing the border, so they were done with either artillery or with airstrikes. And some of these camps are… are… are far from their border. So, I'm just wondering, as I'd asked last week, was MONUSCO informed of airstrikes taking place in areas where they have, you know, personnel? I guess it has to do with the kind of coordination and also, you know, whether they think that the people killed were all, in fact, ADF fighters or some… there's some reports locally that there's civilians hit. So, I'm just wondering, what's the UN's sort of role and foreknowledge and knowledge of these airstrikes and artillery strikes by Uganda into DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo]?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, first, let's… in relation to Maggie's question, I'll try to see what information we can get. I believe we had received something just before I entered here about casualties from the attack last week, so we'll try to get something.
Question: And could I ask one another thing that I asked last week, which was this reported letter by Pramila Patten of the… the… the Special Adviser on sexual violence and conflict. I'm sure you saw the story quoting from a letter from her to the Secretary‑General, saying that Aung San Suu Kyi refused to… to address the issue of alleged rapes by the Myanmar army of Rohingya. And so, one… somehow last week, they couldn't… you couldn't confirm that even such a letter was written. Was… did she write a letter at the end of her mission and… so, that's one question. And the second one is, can you confirm what The Guardian reported as the content, which is that Aung San Suu Kyi didn't engage whatsoever on these serious allegations?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we're in touch with her office. Once we have any information from her about her Myanmar mission and what she had to say about Aung San Suu Kyi's actions, we'll let you know.
Question: But, do you have the… I mean, did she write a letter, or is The Guardian wrong?
Deputy Spokesman: I can't confirm that at this point. We're in touch with her office. Is that it? Yes, Ben?
Question: Just, why did it take so long for the Secretary‑General to actually come out and say something on the Iran protests?
Deputy Spokesman: This is something we've been saying over the last few days. I mean, we haven't had a briefing, but we've been saying this for some days now. Yeah?
Question: Where… I looked over the weekend. I didn't see anything issued by the Secretary‑General on this. Where was a statement made concerning Iran before you just read out what you did today?
Deputy Spokesman: My colleagues and I have been responding to questions from the press. It wasn't a statement, no. Yeah?
Question: Sure. I wanted to know, the… the… Kim Jong Un, in his New Year's Day address, among other things, he said he has a nuclear button on his desk that he can push any time, but he also seemed to be open to talks with South… Republic of Korea, including about the Olympics. And I wanted to know… with certain preconditions. I wanted to know what the Secretary‑General, given his red alert for the world, what does… how does he view that speech and the… both the… both the button comment and specifically the offer to talk about the Olympics?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we're not going to comment about the overall rhetoric in general. As you know, we've mentioned to all sides the need to de‑escalate unhelpful rhetoric. But, regarding the remarks about the Olympics, as you're aware, the General Assembly has recognized that the Olympic games can foster an atmosphere of peace, development, tolerance and understanding on the Korean Peninsula and beyond, and the Secretary‑General hopes such engagement will contribute to the resumption of sincere dialogue, leading to sustainable peace and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. Yeah, Seana?
Correspondent: [Inaudible] that was the same question.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, that was a relief. Yeah?
Question: Sorry. I have to ask again about Iran. If Secretary‑General doesn't contact Iranian authority in regard to the demonstration, how we going to find out where UN stands?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, at this stage, like I said, we'll let you know about any contacts as they proceed.
Question: I mean, the fighting going on. People are getting killed on… from both sides. So, when do you think it's going to be a time for UN to initiate the contact?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, at this point, we're evaluating the situation and trying to see what contacts would be most helpful, and we'll proceed along those lines. Yeah?
Question: Sure. I want to ask you about Cameroon and Liberia. I'd asked you, over the holiday, there's been quite a lot of military action, including near the border of Nigeria, more refugees. And I just wanted to know, did Mr. [Francois Lounceny] Fall, during this period, 10… 10-day period or whatever, have any contacts? Was there any… has the UN been following that? Because things seem to actually be getting more militarized and more people killed in the tame… in the towns I emailed you the names of.
Deputy Spokesman: He's following the situation, and he'll continue to engage with the authorities in Cameroon as well as the contacts he's made on this.
Question: And on the trip by… to Liberia by Mr. [Olusegun] Obasanjo was… obviously, the election was… you know, it was announced. Did he… what did he do while he was there and how big… I mean, just to understand how these… this mediation… Special Advisers work, did he go on his own? Did he have DPA [Department of Political Affairs] people that went with him? And what did he do when he actually arrived there before the announcement of George Weah, the winner of the election in Liberia?
Deputy Spokesman: He had contacts with the various parties in an effort to make sure that there was going… that there will be a smooth transition on the ground. Beyond that, you'll have seen the statement we issued, I believe, last Friday night about the elections in Liberia. And that's where we stand. Have a good afternoon, everyone.