4 January 2018

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 Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Central African Republic

The UN Mission in the Central African Republic has strongly condemned the violence that has resulted in loss of life and population displacement in Paoua in the north-west of the country.

According to preliminary reports, armed men of the Revolution Justice armed group attacked Muslim neighbourhoods on the night of 31 December.  Following the intervention of UN peacekeepers, tensions had decreased by the afternoon of 1 January.

However, the presence of armed group members in the city is preventing a return to normalcy.

The Mission has sent reinforcements and multiplied patrols in the city to better prevent attacks against civilians.

**Equatorial Guinea

In response to questions I was asked earlier, I can say that we are aware of reports of an attempted coup d’état in Equatorial Guinea on 28 December.  Little information has emerged on the details of the attempt. 

We condemn all attempts to seize power unconstitutionally. 

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Francois Lounceny Fall, intends to visit Malabo next week to meet with the authorities. 


And I was asked yesterday about the use of braille at UN Headquarters.

Braille overlays that are customized for the delegate voting units at UN Headquarters have been available for delegates since 2016.  They are provided to delegations upon request through the advance team of the Meetings Servicing Unit of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management. 

In addition, requests for braille overlays can be made in person through the United Nations Accessibility Centre, which offers information and communications technology to support delegates with auditory, visual or physical impairments. 

The Accessibility Centre is located at level 1B, near the Secretariat Building escalators.

And that is it for me.  Do you have any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Yes, Carol.

Question:  Farhan, you've seen the reports of South Korea and the US deciding to suspend military drills during the Olympics in South Korea.  I'm wondering what your reaction is to this.  And this, coming after the reopening of the hotline and Kim Jong‑un's overtures to the south, is there a sense here that we're…  we're seeing the beginning of a thaw?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, let's continue to see how matters develop, but, as I made clear yesterday, the Secretary‑General is very keen to make sure that all the Security Council resolutions concerning the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula can be implemented.  And, in that context, he's hoping that the recent moves will help pave the way for such resolutions to be implemented through diplomatic initiatives.  And, of course, we'll continue to monitor the events as they develop.  Yes.

Question: Farhan, thank you.  With regard to Yemen, it seems there is intensification of targeting civilians everywhere by the Saudi‑led coalition.  Today, a restaurant was hit in Hodeidah.  All these people in the restaurant…  many of them were killed or injured.  Yesterday, there was another massacre.  These are happening at very high frequency.  What does the United Nations think about that?  Do you condemn it, or is there any progress on the political side as well?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  Regarding our concerns about the fighting, Jamie McGoldrick, our Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, made clear his concerns about the situation in Hodeidah just a few days ago, and I'd refer you back to his press release.  We continue to be concerned at any attacks on places where there are concentrations of civilians or alternately civilian facilities.

Regarding diplomatic prospects, of course, Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed continues his work, and he is trying to reach out to parties to make sure that there can be a halt to the fighting and a return to negotiations.  Yeah.

Question: Sure.  Just on what you read out on  on Equatorial Guinea, I'd asked yesterday about the country team there.  You say you don't have information and about Ms. Coumba Mar Gadio.  Is she still the Resident Coordinator?  And what's the status of what of of the UN's actual presence in the country?

Deputy Spokesman:  We do have a presence there, a country team and a Resident Coordinator.  I believe she remains the head of the office, but like I said, regarding our response to this situation, what we're going to try to do is see what Special Representative Fall can achieve when he visits Malabo next week.

Question: And one other a question, I guess, on on François Fall.  The  the Commonwealth Secretary‑General, Ms. Scotland, visited Cameroon, and she went, you know, to to Bu  Buea, Bamenda.  She went to the to the region.  She issued a call for dialogue.  And so it made me wonder, and I wanted to ask you again, it doesn't seem that Mr. Fall, in his visits to Cameroon, has actually visited the Anglophone areas.  Has anyone in his team done so?  And is the UN is his approach, such as it is, to Cameroon in any way taking into account or working with the Commonwealth under Article 8 or otherwise of the UN Charter?

Deputy Spokesman: Well, he reaches out to different interlocutors as needed, including regional groups.  But Mr. Fall has also met with representatives of the Anglophone community.  He and his team have done so.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  How concerned is the Secretary‑General about the detention of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar?

Deputy Spokesman:  We've made clear our concerns about the situation, and we've also made clear, when this issue came up, that these two journalists had not been providing information to the United Nations.  They are going by their journalistic tasks, and we, as with all journalists, we hope that they can go about such tasks without hindrance.

Question:  Follow‑up.  Have any UN officials reached out to Myanmar?  And, if they have, whom in Myanmar have they spoken with?

Deputy Spokesman: I'd rather not specify what our contacts are on this issue.  I've said what we have to say about this, but, obviously, they were not working for us, and it's clear that all journalists should be free to go about their work without harassment or detention.  Yes.  Yes, you.

Question:  Do you have any reaction or hopes for the ministerial meeting that may happen in Canada on DPRK?  And sort of as a follow‑up, do you know if Russia and China will be invited to that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the question of who will be invited is really one for the Canadian authorities.  Obviously, we're hoping that all initiatives to deal with the question on the Korean Peninsula can be helpful towards the implementation and the peaceful implementation of the Security Council resolutions on the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, do you know when Ms. Zerrougui will start her work in the DRC?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we named her appointment just about a week or so ago.  Hopefully, it will be fairly shortly.  We don't have an official start date to say just yet.  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to the the Foreign Minister of Greece, Mr. Kotzias, had sat down with reporters and said that the name issue he expects to be solved in 2018, saying this would remove a roadblock for for former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. 

Anyway, at least as written up, the interview doesn't even mention Mr. Nimetz.  And I'm wondering, can you give some description of what I know he's been on this file for a long time.  What's he been doing recently?  And why would it be that that that that the Greek Foreign Minister, in addressing the issue, the UN didn't even seem to be part of the picture?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't have to clarify what the Greek Foreign Minister would say.  That's really up to him.  For our part, Mr. Nimetz has been going about his work.  We've always announced whenever there are meetings conducted on the name issue, and we'll announce the next one whenever we have the time to give.  Yes?

Question: Iran has conveyed a message of concern regarding the foreign deference in the protests inside Iran.  Has the Secretary‑General received that letter?  And what is his response to it?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, we've received the letter.  Regarding the Secretary‑General's views, we issued a statement on Iran yesterday, so I would just refer you to that.

Question:  How do you view the situation now in the do you have an update about the situation in Iran?

Deputy Spokesman:  The statement we put out yesterday describes our views on the situation.  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  I'm sure you saw that the the President of the General Assembly met with a DPRK Permanent Representative and put out a readout.  Maybe I guess I'm wondering, has the Secretary‑General did does he would he like to himself speak with North Korea, whether it's through the Permanent Representative or otherwise?  I'm just wondering, I guess, is it can you say whether DPRK has asked to meet with the Secretary‑General as they asked to meet with the PGA [President of the General Assembly]?  And, if not, what would you read into that?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't have anything to say about contacts with the DPRK today on this.  What I can say is that, if there is any meeting with officials from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, we'll let you know at that point.

Question:  And I've noticed on the on the since since I think he came back on the 3rd.  Both days it said all appointments are internal.  Can you give some some sense of what he's doing?  I mean, he issued this red alert, so some expected, like, when he got back, he'd what's he doing up there?

Deputy Spokesman:  He's meeting with officials throughout the Secretariat, basically dealing with what the big concerns are including, you know, meeting with some of the key committees that he has.

Question:  Okay.  Can I ask a snow question?  I just wanted to ask

Deputy Spokesman:  Sure.

Question:  I was sort of  since the city itself closed public schools and the transit issued various warnings of changes and I did see that the that the UN suspended tours and visitors 

Deputy Spokesman:  Uh‑hmm.

Questionwhat's the relation between who makes the decision for the UN?  And what's its relation to New York City's, including transportation, decisions?

Deputy Spokesman:  These decisions are made by the Department of Management and the Department of Security and Safety.  They look at the relevant considerations about whether it's safe to come here or not, and they do take in account the facilities available in New York City, but this is the decision they made as of this morning.

Question:  What's the distinction between, I guess, visitors and and staff and correspondents, non‑resident correspondents?  What's the what's the could you know the basis of them suspending tours but

Deputy Spokesman:  If we do not have the capacity on certain days to maintain security for all the various entrances, then there's certain activities, like the activities of the visitors' side, that would need to be suspended.

Question:  Just because I remember after Superstorm Sandy, there was a lot of I remember there was a big meeting in the North Lawn Building where diplomats were kind of critical of the UN in terms of its communication of weather‑related issues.  Have there been improvements since that time?  And were they reflected today?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  And staff received periodic updates throughout the evening, in fact, about whether or not the building would be open.  If the building were closed, we would have put out announcement as soon as we could.

Question:  Did journalists

Deputy Spokesman:  I was hoping we could do that, frankly.

Question:  Sure, sure.  I mean, personally, I didn't receive anything.  So, I'm wondering, did did MALU or DPI inform some journalists, non‑journalists?  How did it work?

Deputy Spokesman:  You'd have to ask MALU, the media accreditation people, what they did.

Have a good afternoon.

[The Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit clarified that it had sent out an advisory and a tweet this morning to inform journalists that the building was open.]

For information media. Not an official record.