29 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.

**African Union

The Secretary-General is on his way back from Addis Ababa, where he attended the thirtieth Assembly of the African Union.  On Saturday, he began the day with a bilateral meeting with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat.  They signed a Framework for the implementation of the Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which underscores the overriding priority for both organizations to eradicate poverty.  Speaking to the press after the meeting, the Secretary-General said that the partnership with the African Union was a strategic choice for the UN and that the UN stands with the African Union and recognizes its leadership as it tackles African problems.  The Secretary-General then joined the leaders of the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) for a consultative meeting on the situation in South Sudan.

Later in the afternoon, he attended an event entitled “Renewed Partnership to End Hunger in Africa by 2025 — Five Years Later”.  The Secretary-General then attended a special meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council to examine a comprehensive approach to combating the transnational threat of terrorism in Africa.  During the day, he also met with a number of Heads of State and Government and Foreign Ministers, including those from Ethiopia, Angola, Libya, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.  On Sunday, the Secretary-General attended a working breakfast on the theme of “Equal Access of African Women in High-Level Positions at the African Union and in the United Nations System”.  He then joined the AU Heads of State and Government for the opening ceremony of the thirtieth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union.  In his remarks, the Secretary-General reaffirmed the UN’s strong commitment to the Member States and people of Africa.

The Secretary-General then spoke to the press.  He stressed the need for a redesign of peacekeeping forces, and for them to be better equipped, better prepared, better led, more able to protect populations and themselves, but also to have adequate mandates and political and financial support.  He also stressed the need for adequate support to African forces in peace enforcement and in counterterrorism operations, with strong mandates from the UN Security Council and predictable funding.  Prior to leaving Addis Ababa, the Secretary-General attended an event on strengthening humanitarian and development collaboration.  Throughout the day, he also had bilateral meetings with leaders from Guinea, Somalia, Liberia, the Central African Republic, and South Africa.  And also in Addis Ababa, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, yesterday released $10 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to urgently help the most vulnerable people displaced by the conflict along the borders of the Oromia and Somali regions in Ethiopia, as well as vulnerable people in the host communities.


Staffan de Mistura, the Special Envoy for Syria, has arrived in Sochi, Russian Federation, where he was sent by the Secretary-General to attend the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue, which is taking place today and tomorrow.  In a statement issued over the weekend, the Secretary-General expressed confidence that the Congress in Sochi will be an important contribution to a revived intra-Syrian talks process under the auspices of the United Nations in Geneva, based on the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué and Security Council resolution 2254 (2015).  Meanwhile, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted that its Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie, said on Sunday that any negotiated solution to Syria’s long-running conflict must respect the human rights and dignity of all Syrians, including millions of refugees living in neighbouring countries.  UNHCR has details of Ms. Jolie’s visit to the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan.

**Social Development

This morning, the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, spoke at the opening of the fifty-sixth session of the Commission for Social Development.  She said that the Commission has a key role to play in addressing the challenges of eradicating poverty, reducing inequality and protecting the environment, which are also at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.  She also encouraged the Commission to emphasize the need to accelerate inclusive and equitable economic growth and sustainable development, including full, productive employment and decent work for all.  Her remarks are available online.


Over the weekend, you will have seen that we issued a statement on Afghanistan in which the Secretary-General strongly condemned the deadly attack in central Kabul.  He stressed that indiscriminate attacks against civilians are grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and can never be justified.  The Secretary-General extended his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and wished a speedy recovery to those injured.  We also extend these sentiments to the victims of the attack at a military academy in the capital this morning, which killed at least 11 soldiers.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

Over the weekend, the Secretary-General also condemned the killing of a peacekeeper from Pakistan deployed with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) following an ambush by an armed ‪group in South Kivu Province.  At least one other peacekeeper was wounded in the attack.  The Secretary-General extends his heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased and to the people and Government of Pakistan.


From Ecuador, we join the UN system in the country in condemning the attack against a police command centre in the district of San Lorenzo this Saturday.  The UN country team expresses its solidarity with the people and Government of Ecuador, especially with the people who were injured in the explosion.

**Antibiotic Resistance

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) first release of surveillance data on antibiotic resistance reveals high levels of resistance to a number of serious bacterial infections in both high- and low-income countries.  According to the director of WHO’s Antimicrobial Resistance Secretariat, Dr. Marc Sprenger, the new report confirms the serious situation of antibiotic resistance worldwide.  Some of the world’s most common — and potentially most dangerous — infections are proving to be drug-resistant.  That’s why WHO is encouraging all countries to set up good surveillance systems for detecting drug resistance that can provide data to this global system.  To date, 52 countries are enrolled in WHO’s Global Antimicrobial Surveillance System — or GLASS.  The full report is available online.

**Honour Roll

And today, I thank the Marshall Islands and the Philippines, both of which paid their regular budget dues in full for 2018.  This brings the Honour Roll total to 25.  Are there any questions for me before we go to Brenden Varma, speaking for the President of the General Assembly?  Yes, Carole.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Farhan, what are the Secretary‑General's concerns about the fighting in southern Yemen?  It seems that the situation is getting worse.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  We have been concerned about the situation there.  Regarding that, as you know, we've been calling on all the sides to respect international humanitarian and human rights law.  We continue to monitor the security situation in Yemen, including in Aden, and the impact on the humanitarian situation.  While there are reports of armed clashes in Aden, all UN staff are safe and accounted for.  Aden airport has been closed.  We call on all parties to end the fighting and engage in constructive dialogue to resolve their concerns.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Yes.  Two questions.  One is a follow‑up on Carole's.  Just has the Secretary‑General of the United Nations spoken to the Saudi Coalition people about halting these attacks which are going on and on and also by providing more money for the people suffering in Yemen?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding the provision of money, you'll have seen the statement we put out at the end of last week thanking Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for the contributions that have been made and expressing the hope that this money will soon be provided to the people in need.  We are in touch with the Coalition at a variety of levels trying to urge them also to halt the fighting, but this is part and parcel of what needs to be done by all the parties on the ground, including the other fighting forces.  Yes?

Question:  Do you…?  Yeah, do you have the name of the Pakistani peacekeeper killed in the Congo?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't have the name for you.  I believe, first, we wait to make sure the family members are informed before we put the name out, but our colleagues in peacekeeping would be able to provide that at that point.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Can you tell us more about the flow of aid from Hodeidah and Saleef?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we have been getting aid in.  As you're aware, last week, we provided a number of updates about the aid coming in, but the ports are in use.  They're continuing to get traffic, but the amounts going in are not nearly enough, and we continue to urge all parties to allow for a greater and more sustained access.

Question:  With all the help from Saudi Arabia and United [Arab] Emirates, still is not enough, you think?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, you'll have seen again the statement we issued late last week, and I would refer you to that.  We're encouraged by getting support.  We're certainly encouraged by funding, but we do need much more because there's a desperate amount of need of the people in Yemen.  Raed?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  Since Mr. de Mistura's participating in Sochi conference, does that mean that the Russian met the condition that the SG provided them with?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, you saw the statement that we put out over the weekend, which describes the situation.  What we want to make sure is that all of the developments, including in Sochi, have strengthened the Geneva process and allow for the implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolution 2254 (2015).  Yes?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  With regard… follow‑up on Raed's question, how does the Secretary‑General see… view the current separation or di… diluting the… the Syria talks into three tracks? We have now the Geneva/Vienna track.  We have the Astana track.  And now we have the Sochi track.  How does the Secretary‑General see?  Does he see that this is kind of side-lining the UN in the Syria talks, or does he see that this is… adds to it or complement it?  Because now it's really getting into multiple directions, that there is a fear, genuinely founded from the Syrians, that it is… this is a way in killing the… the issue and keeping the situation as is, maintaining the status quo.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding that, one of the important points to take into account is the statement by the Russian Federation that the outcome of the dialogue taking place in Sochi today and tomorrow would be brought to Geneva as a contribution to the intra‑Syrian talks process under the auspices of the United Nations in accordance with Security Council resolution 2254 (2015).  So, rather than seeing it as separate tracks, what we're trying to do is make sure that all of the other efforts complement the Geneva process, and what we want is for the Congress to be an important contribution to the political process in Geneva, based on full implementation of the Geneva communiqué and of resolution 2254 (2015).  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  What kind of contribution to the Geneva process do you expect from the Sochi gathering?  Are you going to accept whatever Constitution recommendations are going to come out from there?  Is Mr. de Mistura going to work with the… any sort of document that's going to be circulated there, since not all the parties are going to take part in the Sochi meeting?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, at this point, I mean, although we're aware that not all the parties have attended Sochi, the UN‑convened intra‑Syrian talks will be reconvened in the near future, and we'll see where we go from there.  But, Mr. de Mistura's on the ground and can evaluate what is happening in Sochi.  But, our hope, like I said, is that this is a contribution to the Geneva process.  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask about… on Yemen, about a… a… something that the Secretary‑General said during his time in Addis on this new way of working.  He said experiences from countries like Ethiopia, Uganda, Yemen and Somalia, where the new approach is working.  So, people… various people looking at the situation in Yemen, in cholera and famine, sort of wondered what it… what new approach is working from the UN's perspective in Yemen?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, part of the progress we've made in recent weeks in Yemen is being able to open up access and including things like the delivery of cranes, the… the amount of commercial traffic coming into the ports.  This is not a solution to the problem.  In order to solve the problem, we really need two things, not just better and sustained access, but, more crucially, we need an end to the conflict.  As long as the conflict goes on, there's a huge amount of humanitarian need in Yemen.  As you're well aware, this is… and, you know, needs in excess of 20 million people, so it's very large.  But, we have been able to make progress in recent weeks, and we're trying to make further progress.

Question:  And did he meet [Omar al] Bashir?  This reported… I heard your litany of countries and I couldn't quite keep up with them, and I didn't see a readout.  But, the Foreign Minister of Sudan has said that he met with Omar al‑Bashir, who's indicted by the ICC [International Criminal Court], as you know, for genocide and war crimes.  Did he meet with him? And what… what… is this a change of policy?

Deputy Spokesman:  It's not a change of policy.  They were both at the same summit.  In that context, they did meet with each other on the grounds of the sort of operational necessity that does allow the Secretary‑General to meet from time to time with him.  That doesn't obviate the need, of course, for respect of the International Criminal Court.

Question:  But, was Sudan in the list of countries that you read out just at the top of the briefing?  And if not, why not?

Deputy Spokesman:  It was not, because it was not a formal scheduled meeting.  Yes?

Question:  My question would be about [the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia] issue.  A new round of talks under Mr. [Matthew] Nimetz between Greece and [the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia] is starting tomorrow, as Mr. Nimetz is visiting Athens.  Mr. Nimetz claimed in a recent interview of his that this is a positive… there is a positive momentum in the negotiations right now.  How do you comment on these developments?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, just to agree with him, he has made clear that he believes in meeting with the leaders, that there has been some positive momentum generated.  We'll see where they go from there, but with the right spirit of compromise by the leadership and by the peoples of the two countries, we can make progress.  Yes? Yes, please.

Question:  For the same issue, the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, has not achieved the consensus with the opposition party regarding the negotiation.  And also, Mr. Nimetz is not considered an impartial negotiator by many Greeks, especially after he used the term "Macedonian citizen" on his interview in [the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia] television.  Are you concerned with these developments?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we believe fully in the… that he is an impartial mediator and has proven that over the years, and we would show the… show you to the vast number of statements he has put out over the last years and looked to them for their objectivity.  We'll see what results he can achieve over this round, but, like he has made clear, this… there are grounds for cautious optimism based on the willingness by the parties to work with each other, and let's see where we go with that.  Yes, Edie?

Question:  A couple of follow‑ups, Farhan.  First, on the Secretary‑General's meetings on South Sudan, is there any readout?  Was there any momentum towards the possibility of a… an enforced ceasefire?  And, on Greece and Macedonia, do you have any more details on the schedule of Mr. Nimetz? And, on Sochi, are… are we going to get any kind of a readout from Mr. de Mistura?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, working backwards from your questions, regarding Sochi, we are in touch with Mr. de Mistura's delegation to see whether there's a way that we can either get some further details from him or whether we can even get him to participate in a briefing in the coming days.  And we'll see whether we can get that sorted out, but that is something we will try to do if at all possible.  Regarding Mr. Nimetz and his talks, you know, this is a process that's under way.  I think he's made clear what his reasoning is in terms of the prospects for progress, and now we'll see where we can go with the leadership on that.  Regarding South Sudan, the Secretary‑General made clear in his remarks to the press over the weekend that we, as the UN, will support the initiatives that the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in the African Union will find adequate in terms of dealing with the situation.  What we're trying to do is make sure also that the cessation of hostilities is respected, and it's… the Secretary‑General said that it's clear that, if it's not respected, tougher measures will need to be taken.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, Farhan.  About the fighting in the Turkish onslaught on Afrin in Northern Syria, there are reports coming from the area that napalm has been used against Afrin City.  Also, there was ruining by bombardment, by aerial bombardment, of an ancient site, archaeological site, in that area.  And the Syrian Government protested about this.  What does the United Nations say about that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the UN is concerned about reports of the shelling in Afrin District that have resulted in civilian casualties and civilian displacement, and also affected civilian infrastructure.  Yesterday, we heard reports of shelling on the villages of Sheikh el‑Hadid and Kobali, which reportedly killed several people, including women and children.  And civilians affected by the fighting are reportedly prevented by Kurdish authorities from fleeing the district.  The UN urges all parties, and those with influence over them, to ensure the protection of civilians, freedom of movement, and to allow sustained and unhindered access by all humanitarian parties to provide life‑saving assistance to all in need.

Question:  Do you have a comment about the napalm and the targeting of ancient sites… napalm and targeting of ancient sites?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we… like I said, we're opposed to all the targeting of the various civilian targets, including historic sites.  Yes, Oleg and then Majeed?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  Again, on Syria, is Mr. de Mistura tomorrow taking part in the briefing in the Council?  Is he going to be visiting from Sochi?

Deputy Spokesman:  It's possible that he will.  We do expect if the logistics can be arranged that both he and Mark Lowcock will be able to brief the Security Council by [video teleconference].  But, we'll see how those arrangements work out in terms of the logistics.

Question:  Do you expect him to in any way comment on the outcomes of the Sochi meeting?

Deputy Spokesman:  We're actually trying to see whether he can do that to the press.  Like I said, I… there's nothing to announce on that, but we'll see whether that can be worked out.  Majeed?

Question:  Follow‑up on the use of… reports of the use of napalm in Afrin.  Is there any way the UN could verify those claims?  And, as you know, napalm is inter… according to international law, it's prohibited to be used against civilians for its very wide-range damage that can inflict on civilians.  Can you tell me more about that?  And also about… on Friday… that's another question… you mentioned that there are problems of access.  Can you tell me more about what UN have done so far during the weekend?  To gain access to Afrin.

Deputy Spokesman:  We are trying to gain access.  The main problem, of course, is the fighting in the area, which makes it difficult to get access to different parts.  So, one of the things that's needed is a halt to the fighting.  Regarding your question on napalm, I don't have any ability to confirm first‑hand these reports.  We're not on the ground there, but we would need to get further details to make sure that something like that has been used.  Sam?

Question:  Thanks.  On Afrin, you said civilians are trying to get out.  They're being prevented by Kurdish authorities.  Do you know where they're trying to go, where that's happening exactly?  Do you have any more detail on that? because it's sort of surrounded the area, so where are they trying to leave through?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, I don't know where, but they are trying to leave the areas affected by fighting so, in other words, going to other parts of the area, other parts of Aleppo governorate that are not as affected.

Question:  And it's Kurdish authorities that are blocking that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Reportedly, yes.  Yes, Frank?

Question:  Yeah.  Regarding your… your… your response of dialogue in… in Sochi before, given the reality check of you don't have all the players together in one place, why should anybody take the talks in Sochi seriously if you don't have all the elements you need to succeed?

Deputy Spokesman:  Ultimately, there's a number of different talks happening.  Some of them will not have all of the participants, but the point is to make sure that all of the various outcomes can feed into the process that we have been running, which is to say the Geneva process.  That process includes all of the various players, as you know, and what we're trying to do is make sure that the Geneva process is as productive as possible so the results of the various talks, including the ones in Sochi, are meant to feed into our own efforts in Vienna.  Yes?  Masood first and then Edie.

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  On this Afghanistan peace process, which seems to be at a total standstill and nobody seems to agree on anything, no… Taliban don't want to go to Qatar, and over here, they're still not agreeing on the modus operandi to begin the talks.  Can the United Nations in any way broker the talks?  I know every time I ask the question, you say, we don't have a mandate.  I'm not talking about mandate.  Peace is essential.  Is there any way that the United Nations can somehow get the parties together?  We're at this point in time, murder and having… the killings are continuing unabated while the peace process is at a standstill.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we do encourage the parties to engage in dialogue, and our UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has worked with the various parties trying to bring that forward.  Ultimately, of course, that is for the parties themselves.  Edie?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  On the Secretary‑General's meeting with President al‑Bashir, could you give us any more details on what was discussed?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, I don't have anything further.  Discussions on operational necessities ultimately involve the sort of work that we need to accomplish on the ground.  So, obviously, as you know, we do have a presence on the ground with our various forces, including the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), and so it would be about… some of that would involve the work of those bodies.

Question:  Follow‑up?  Okay.  I wanted… because this is what the Foreign Minister of Sudan said about the meeting.  He described the meeting as… as extremely successful and positive.  He told reporters on Sunday, the UN Secretary‑General hailed Sudan's Government's efforts to achieve peace in Darfur and its declaration of a ceasefire in the zones, and he went on… you know, it… basically, he… he kind of characterized it, not so much as operational, as being one of praise.  And I'm wondering, have you seen this readout?  And if so, is it true or not true?  And why didn't you do your own readout?

Deputy Spokesman:  We are not really issuing a lot of readouts from any of these meetings.  We do provide certain details, as I've done here.  But, regarding that, it's typical for Member States to have their own characterizations of meetings.  When we talk about meetings, ultimately, the point that we give is that they are designed to achieve certain ends.  We… you know, we do them to make sure that crucial bits of work are achieved.  It's not about praise or about compliments.  It's about concrete results.

Question:  Was I wrong that there was… at least under Ban Ki‑moon, there was a policy of keeping contacts with ICC‑indicted individuals to an absolute minimum?  And how do you put that meeting in that context?

Deputy Spokesman:  That remains the case.  The policy has not changed.

Question:  Can I ask you about Afrin?

Deputy Spokesman:  Hold on.  Stefano?

Question:  Yes.  We know how much the Secretary‑General cares about the migrants’ issues and refugee… and he deliver many speeches already.  But, it's been in January this year an increase of migrants trying to reach Europe through the sea from Libya, Tunisia.  And there has been a spike on the deaths, and it looks like, practically every year, it's the same thing.  So, is there any plan that the UN is doing to take the job off of the traffic end and maybe help these migrants to find a safe way to… to reach their goal?  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, you're aware of the work that we have been trying to do to concentrate the attention of Member States on the need to deal with the situation of migrants in a comprehensive manner.  You'll have seen the report that Louise Arbour presented, and we're trying to get all States, whether they are receiving countries you… transit countries, or countries of origin, to work with each other to make sure that migration is managed in an effective way that respects the rights and the dignity of all the people involved.  And so, that is underway, and I'll refer you back to the report that was issued on this.

Correspondent:  Yeah, just a… just a quick follow‑up.  I understand, in fact, I am aware of all the attempt.  It's just that because, as I was say in the beginning, this month, just in few weeks, there's been a spike, percentage of people crossing and people dying.  So, and it looks like things are getting worse instead of better.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah, and these are recurring problems which attest to the need to actually deal with the situation of migration in a comprehensive and a holistic manner.  Otherwise, we'll keep coming back to these problems again and again.  This is what the Secretary‑General has been saying for some time now.  And the events of the last few weeks demonstrate how serious the situation is and why we need to deal with it in a much more forthright manner than we've done.  Yes, Majeed?

Correspondent:  Yes, Farhan.  Two follow‑ups about Afrin.  You mentioned some information about the reports from ground.  I believe that's not directly from UN staffs.  But… but, since you rely on some reports that's coming from activists probably or… or… I want you to tell me the source of information.

Deputy Spokesman:  These are the best possible sources of information we can have on the ground.  We don't simply rely on news sources that could be biased, but we try to verify everything.

Question:  And I wanted to ask you about the number of civilian, the death of civilians.  There are reports that, according to the hospitals, that dozens of civilians have been killed because of the bombing and including 12… reports of 12 children have been killed because of the bombing in the past two to three days.  Has the… have the UN received any of these reports?  Did you verify these claims?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  We can't verify the numbers, but, yes, there have been reports of a high number of casualties, including of women and children, and we are very concerned about that.

Question:  And the second follow‑up.  I want to ask about the legality of this.  You know, Russia's military presence is… they say it's because of the approval of Damascus, and the US is under the framework of fighting terrorism.  Can you tell me about… has there been any contact with the UN, any discussion about the legality of the Turkish operation in Syria, which is, according to the UN Charter, still a sovereign country?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't have any comment to make on that other than that, of course, we want all of the military actions on the ground to be in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law.

Question:  Do you think it's legal?

Deputy Spokesman:  I've said what I can say on that.  Yes.  Zach?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  To what degree, if at all, did the Secretary‑General discuss the crisis in Cameroon and Nigeria during his meeting?

Deputy Spokesman:  One second.  Let me check.  I don't have any particular comment on this.  I mean, this is something, obviously, that comes up in his meetings with other leaders, but I don't have anything in particular in terms of meetings with particular leaders on this.  Yeah?

Question:  I guess… I was going to ask about Afrin, but I just want to ask, I mean, I just… just a yes or… I guess… yes or no.  The… the… whether… whether… at the AU [African Union] or otherwise, it's now been 21 days since leaders of southern Cameroon were taken into custody in… in Abuja while the Deputy Secretary‑General was actually in town, in Abuja.  Has the UN made any inquiry at any level as to where they are?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  Yes.

Question:  Where are they?  What answer do they…?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't have any details on their location to give you, but this is something that was raised, including by the Deputy Secretary‑General.

Question:  While she was there?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.

Question:  Okay.  Could I ask, on Afrin, this is a different take on it, but there… Turkey has arrested over 300 people, including journalists for… for commenting negatively on social media and otherwise on the bombing of Afrin, calling… saying that they are “spreading terrorist propaganda when they criticize this olive branch, so‑called, campaign”.  Does the UN… I mean, I guess it goes without saying, but is there… is there any UN response to the idea that… that… that even reporting facts about… about an ongoing military campaign can be construed as… as terrorist propaganda?

Deputy Spokesman:  We would be concerned about any actions that constrain the rights of the media to report freely on the facts of any situation.

Question:  And I wanted to ask you just one other thing, something I asked Stéphane [Dujarric] last week.  It has to do with the budget resolution that was passed saying that resources for Kiswahili radio in particular should be reallocated back to where they were supposed to be.  And I wanted to know… because my understanding is that this was raised now in the Africa group, and there's a note verbale coming to him.  Is it DPI's [Department of Public Information] position that they complied with that resolution that…?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  We've checked with our DPI colleagues.  Yes, they have complied with the resolution.  There's a certain amount of detail about how they provide Kiswahili and Portuguese services, but the bottom line is, yes, they have been working with Member States and working within the framework of the resolution.

Question:  Are there Kiswahili‑speaking staffers that are being let go 1 February and losing their visa and returning to Tanzania?

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe that there was one case of someone who had… actually whose contract had ended at the end of last year and then got a one‑month extension, in other words for the month of January, and that has now ended.  So, that is a case where the previous contract simply had gone to its limit.

Question:  But, is that post actually being filled?  My understanding is that it's not, that you're basically going to have one of the few Kiswahili things empty.

Deputy Spokesman:  DPI is trying to fulfil all of the language functions within the range of the number of posts it has and the budget it has.  And with that, Brenden, come on up.

For information media. Not an official record.