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

8 March 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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Women’s Day

Today is indeed International Women’s Day.  The theme this year is “The Time Is Now:  Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives” and celebrates the women’s rights activists fighting sexual harassment, violence and discrimination against women.  In his message for the Day, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations stands with women around the world as they fight to overcome the injustices they face.  “Let me be clear:  this is not a favour to women,” the Secretary-General said.  “Gender equality is a human rights issue, but it is also in all our interests: men and boys, women and girls.  Gender inequality and discrimination against women harms us all.”  The Secretary-General also spoke this morning at a special event in the General Assembly Hall to mark the Day organized by UN-Women, and he emphasized that “gender inequality, discrimination and violence against women harm us all.  Until power is fairly shared, the world will remain out of balance.”


Turning to Syria, today, the United Nations and our partners were not able to return to Douma in East Ghouta because the movement of the convoy was not authorized, due to security reasons.  As you will recall, on Monday, the United Nations and partners were forced to leave after nine hours in Douma due to hours of ongoing shelling in East Ghouta and Damascus, so that 10 of our trucks were fully unloaded while four were partially unloaded.  As a result, half of the food for 27,500 people was not delivered.  The United Nations continues to receive reports of escalating fighting in East Ghouta and shelling on Damascus, endangering civilians and preventing humanitarian assistance from reaching hundreds of thousands of people in need, including thousands of vulnerable children.  The complete assistance to reach a total of 70,000 people in Douma, including medical and health supplies, still needs to be delivered.

The ongoing hostilities in East Ghouta have reportedly resulted in over 100 deaths in the past 48 hours.  Since 24 February, when the Security Council adopted resolution 2401 (2018) demanding a cessation of hostilities throughout Syria, hundreds of people have reportedly been killed and thousands injured due to air and ground strikes.  The United Nations remains ready to deliver assistance to all people in need in Douma, other areas in east Ghouta and other hard-to-reach and besieged areas as soon as conditions allow.  We continue to call on all parties to immediately allow safe and unimpeded access for further convoys to deliver critical supplies to hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.


This morning, in the Security Council, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, briefed members of the Security Council.  He said that just one week ago, Afghanistan had successfully hosted the second conference of the Kabul Process for peace and security, where all participants endorsed a call for direct talks between the Government and the Taliban without preconditions.  He said the Government has laid out a series of concrete proposals for opening talks, and it is now upon the Taliban to come forward and start the direct talks to put an end to the suffering of the Afghan people.  Mr. Yamamoto also expressed concern about the deepening of divisions in Afghan society and stressed that national unity provides the only basis for the implementation of effective reforms in the country.  He added that the upcoming elections provide further opportunity to ensure that unity and stability prevail, and that all groups are represented.  Mr. Yamamoto said that the United Nations is working with the Independent Election Commission to ensure women's participation in all stages of the elections as candidates, campaigners and voters, and is also working to ensure that the election process can overcome prevailing scepticism.  Mr. Yamamoto is expected to speak to you at the stakeout following the conclusion of today’s meeting.


Turning to Yemen, our humanitarian colleagues report that fierce clashes continued this week in Sa’ada governorate in northern Yemen.  Air strikes and clashes have also intensified in the neighbouring Al Jawf Governorate.  In Sa’ada, humanitarian partners are distributing emergency food assistance to 103,000 families across the governorate.  Partners are also rehabilitating a water network and installing solar panels to power water pumps in Sa’ada City for 10,000 people, and rehabilitating water projects in Haydan for 6,000 people.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

Yesterday, Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, briefed the Security Council for the first time in her role as Special Representative.  She highlighted the progress made in preparation for the presidential and legislative elections in the country, paying homage to the determination of the Congolese people to participate in the political process.  She stressed that a failure to generate confidence in the full and faithful implementation of the 31 December 2017 agreement will only serve to heighten political tensions, and fuel the risks of inciting violence for political ends.  During these times of heightened tensions, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) remains steadfast in its commitment to support the Congolese authorities to protect those most vulnerable, and most affected, by acts of violence, she said.


The Under-Secretary-General for Counter-Terrorism, Vladimir Voronkov, and Michèle Coninsx, the Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), have just concluded a two-day visit to Iraq with the support of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).  This was the first joint country visit of the two United Nations offices since the creation of United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism in 2017.  The joint delegation congratulated the Prime Minister of Iraq on the military victory against Da’esh and commended the Iraqi Government for its continued and long-term resolve in the fight against terrorism.  They underscored the importance of comprehensive efforts in accordance with the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and relevant Security Council resolutions.

**Press Briefings

Tomorrow, my guest will be Pramila Patten, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.  She will brief you on her recent trip to Iraq and the Republic of Sudan.  And we will end the briefing here and open up to questions from you.  Mr. Avni?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes, it came up, in the visit downstairs of [Benjamin] Netanyahu and the exhibit, the question of… of the UN disclaimer that says this is not representative use of the UN.  What is the policy? And…

Spokesman:  That is, in fact, the policy.  The policy is for exhibits that are sponsored by Member States in the not public area of the UN, that there is a disclaimer that says:  “The content of the exhibit is the responsibility of the Member State in question and not that of the United Nations.”  We put up that disclaimer for… as I said, for exhibits sponsored by Member States.

Question:  All exhibits sponsored by Member States?

Spokesman:  All exhibits sponsored by Member States.

Correspondent:  Because I've seen exhibits that don't have that disclaimer.

Spokesman:  I can tell you… I mean, I… there was one in… recently, I think the Indonesian, if I'm not mistaken, and the disclaimer was there.  I have seen that disclaimer, so…

Question:  But, it… the larger question is, if it's… you need to put a disclaimer on it, why allow it in the halls of the UN?

Spokesman:  The UN is a place where many a member… is… this building is the home of Member States.  Not all those Member States have the same views on every issue.  It is… we are providing the space for them to have an exhibit.  It is… the exhibit whether… for any mission, it doesn't mean that the Secretary‑General agrees or doesn't agree.  It just means that the Permanent Mission in question is responsible for the exhibit.  And, if anybody has any questions as to the content, it is up to the permanent mission to answer those questions.

Question:  So, is it only in situations where there's questions as for the content, or are there some situations that are so self‑evident that they'll need that disclaimer?

Spokesman:  I've rarely seen anything in the United Nations that is self‑evident.  So, the disclaimer… the short answer is, the disclaimer is there for exhibits that are sponsored by Member States.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  Same topic.  I actually… I had asked you about that Indonesian one, and I just… I guess, to be cl… to understand it more fully, when it was later taken down, the… the… the… the advertisements or promotions for automatic weapons, tanks and rocket launchers, it was said from… from this podium that the… they'd gone beyond what had been agreed to.  So, even though it had the disclaimer, the UN had had some negotiation as to what could be shown and what couldn't.  Did that take place in this case?  And I have a…

Spokesman:  Exactly.  Yes, a consultation for all the exhibits.

Question:  So… so, on this one, this was agreed to?

Spokesman:  It's… there's consultations on the exhibits.  The consultations do not imply that the content of any exhibit reflect the views of the Secretariat.

Question:  And the… the question I wanted to ask is… you were… I saw you were down there, and I mean this with all due respect.  Obviously, Officer Sullivan, Matthew Sullivan, maybe he was put in a hard spot, brought up to the microphone, but it seemed to me that he was saying that… that, each year at the GA, he greets Prime Minister Netanyahu, and reviews his speech.  And then he said, "You're a great orator", and then he said… he seemed to say that the cartoon of the bomb and the fuse was a particularly good speech.  And I'm just wondering… everyone is definitely entitled to their views, but I know that many UN staff feel constrained from… from praising one way or another a speech viewed as controversial, and I wanted to know, what are the rules?

Spokesman:  Indeed, I was.  I think Inspector Sullivan was thrown into a limelight that he did not seek.  The Prime Minister seemed to have called for him.  And the inspector has been here and has a had very long and extremely distinguished career here, is known… he has known Heads of States and Heads of Governments for a long time, including the current Prime Minister of Israel, who, as you know, also served as Permanent Representative here a few years ago.

Correspondent:  Right.  I just have one more… because you were saying he didn't seek it out, but I was… I was down there, as well.  And again, I mean this will all due respect.  I saw him taking selfies with… with… with Benjamin Netanyahu before he was brought to the microphone, so, clearly…

Spokesman:  Well, I think in both cases, the Prime Minister came… called out Inspector Sullivan and went to find him.  Inspector Sullivan was there to do his work, to secure the area, to supervise security.  He at no point sought out to have his photo taken.

Question:  This… this… this detail that after each speech… I mean, I know, for example, there was a… Ralph was a security guard here, but I never heard him say one way or another if he liked a particular leader or liked a particular speech.  I'm just wondering, for the benefit of going forward, because I've known people to be disciplined for it.  I'm not… I'm asking you, what is the rule?

Spokesman:  I think… I feel I've answered your question.  Ms. Kent?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  I know that the UN is aware of the case of Kavous Sayed Emami, the Iranian‑Canadian who died in Evin Prison last month under suspicious circumstances.  Yesterday, his widow and two sons were boarding a flight for Canada.  They're dual nationals.  The sons were allowed on, but the wife, the widow, was barred from getting onto the plight… the flight and, according to the sons, has had her Iranian passport confiscated.  And I'm wondering if the UN is aware of this, is in touch with Iranian authorities, what you know about the circumstances surrounding this and if you have any more information surrounding the circumstances of his death, et si c’est possible, si on peut avoir la réponse en français aussi, ce serait génial?

Spokesman:  Let's go in English first.  Yes, we've seen the reports.  We're concerned by the reports that the Iranian authorities have prevented the onward travel of Maryam Bombeini, the wife of Kavous Sayed Emami, the Iranian‑Canadian sociologist and university professor who, as you know, died in custody recently.  As far as we understand it, his family was informed of his death on 9 February and was reportedly subject to pressure to proceed with his burial without seeking an independent confirmation of the cause of death.  And, also, at the time, I would refer you that the High Commissioner for Human Rights also expressed its concern at these events as well as the expressed concern at the arrest of other environmentalists.  Nous avons effectivement vu les informations concernant ….  Allez, on va essayer de faire ça en français : nous avons effectivement vu des informations qui nous [préoccupent] énormément concernant l’empêchement de voyager jusqu’au Canada de Madame Maryam Mombeini, la veuve du Docteur Kavous Sayed Emami.  Nous savons que sa famille a été informée le 9 février et a été apparemment le sujet de différentes pressions pour enterrer Dr.  Emami avant qu’il y ait pu avoir une enquête indépendante sur les causes exactes de son décès.  Yes, sir?

Question:  President [Nicolas] Maduro of Venezuela yesterday was urging the Secretary‑General to appoint, as quick as possible, a mission to observe the… the upcoming elections.  One, can he do that?  And two, does he have any response to… to this request…?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General cannot dispatch UN staff to observe elections without a specific mandate from the General Assembly or the Security Council.

Question:  And a follow‑up.  Does… has the Secretary‑General forwarded this request from Venezuela, either to the Security Council or the General Assembly?

Spokesman:  I think Member States, as far as I understand… as I understand, are aware of the request, but there needs… for any observe… observation mission, there needs to be a legislative mandate from either the Security Council or the General Assembly.

Question:  Just one more, if I may.  He… President Maduro also said that the Secretary‑General was being lobbied by the US not to dispatch this mission.  Do you have any comment on that?

Spokesman:  Well… I'm not aware of any specific lobbying by the US, but, again… or any other Member State, but it's not the Secretary‑General's position.  So, any lobbying should be done to those who have the authority to dispatch that.  Monsieur and then… oh, sorry.  I'll come back to you.  I apologize.

Question:  Thank you.  Regarding Yemen, do you have any updates on the contacts by Mr. [Martin] Griffiths with the… with the parties or his whereabouts?

Spokesman:  Mr. Griffiths, I expect him to be here, I think, early next week to meet with the Secretary‑General but no other political updates to share.  Nizar?

Question:  Yeah, Stéphane, do you have any news about the developments in Afrin area, especially in Jandaris area, a town which has been taken over by the Turkish forces today?

Spokesman:  No, I, unfortunately, do not… do not have any information.  We, obviously, continue to be concerned about what we… most likely a challenging humanitarian situation for the civilians that are there.

Question:  Well, when you talk about challenging, can you describe how challenging it is?  Because what we…

Spokesman:  I think any civilians that live in an area where fighting is ongoing can be described minimum… at minimum as challenging.

Correspondent:  For example, 48 hours, the water supply was bombarded from… by airstrikes directly in… in that area.  And people are… are looking for water everywhere.

Spokesman:  Okay, the question, sir?

Question:  Yeah.  Well, this… did you get…?

Spokesman:  I don't have any specific information on that, but if those reports were true, I think, that would answer the question.

Question:  On Ghouta, today, 30 families attempted to flee the complex there, and then they come under shelling while… when they arrived at the crosspoint… at the crossings near Wafideen.  Do you have anything about that?

Spokesman:  Look, what is clear is that the security situation today in Ghouta did not allow us to send humanitarian aid in to see for ourselves the situation on the ground.  This is yet another reminder for the need for [resolution] 2401 (2018) to be fully implemented, for the guns to fall silent so people can leave if they need to leave; the wounded and the sick need to be evacuated and, as importantly, getting humanitarian aid into the area.  Yesterday, we tried… two days ago, we tried to deliver food aid for over 27,000 people.  We were… we had to cut the mission short.  Today, we wanted to go back in there, and we were not able to, due to the ongoing fighting.  The fighting needs to stop.  Unless it stops, we are put in an extremely difficult situation, us and our partners, to try to get humanitarian aid in.

Question:  Do you have any information that the rebels or the armed groups are preventing civilians from fleeing the area?

Spokesman:  I don't have any first‑hand information.  What I do know is that the civilian population in East Ghouta continues to suffer under the sounds of… under the… constant air and ground attacks.

Question:  How… Sorry.  I have a follow‑up on that.  How do you have information that Afrin… where people are prevented from fleeing the area when you don't have first‑hand observers there…?

Spokesman:  We have… we go with the information that we have.  Olga?

Question:  Sorry.  Thanks, Steph.  Question also about Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech downstairs.  He has just assured journalists that Israel did not walk away from the peaceful negotiations, but Palestine did.  Just want to ask, what's the… what's SG's view on the situation and what does UN see unwillingness of one of the parties of the Middle East conflict to… to negotiate?

Spokesman:  What the Secretary‑General's view is that he's extremely concerned at the lack of progress in a positive development in the peace process.  The lack of direct talks between the parties, the creation of facts on the ground, the ongoing violence that we have seen.  I think the reports… the periodic reports shared by Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov paint a fairly bleak picture and his… the Secretary‑General's view has not changed since the last briefing on the Security Council.  Carla?  And then…

Question:  Thank you.  [Inaudible] there are multiple reports that the US Administration has a complete vacuum of skilled negotiators dealing with the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea].  As you know, Joseph Yun just resigned, and Victor Cha was… his appointment was rescinded.  The one person who does have the skill and is ready, willing, and able and put it in writing, as you know, is Jimmy Carter.  And when will he be considered to conduct negotiations with North Korea, now that there is such promising development?

Spokesman:  I think that's a question for the United States Government.  The Secretary‑General has, I think, said that he would do whatever he can to help facilitate the process and offers his good offices, and that's his position.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Thank you.  Regarding the assessment visit of the UN partners to Rann in north-east Nigeria, what is the update?  How soon do we intend to see the aid workers return to Rann?

Spokesman:  I think the aid workers will return as soon as we feel the situation is safe.  I will try to get you an update on the current assessment process.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Omar Kiswani… his name is Kiswani, K‑i‑s‑w‑a‑n‑i.  He is the President of the Palestinian Students Union at Birzeit University.  He was snatched by Israeli dressed in civilian clothes, dressed like Arabs, from Birzeit University, from the campus, inside the campus.  Was this report made… did it make any ripples at the UN level?  Did Mr. Mladenov… is he aware of that?

Spokesman:  I was not aware of… I was not aware… I was personally not aware of the report, but I will look…

Question:  I mean, this is something really… a major development…

Spokesman:  I'm not debating that fact.  I'm just saying I was not aware of the report, so I will see what we can find out.  Mr. Avni?

Question:  Just… sorry.  These things.  One more follow‑up on the exhibit thing.  I'm sorry.  You say you have consultations with anyone who wants to put up a… up an exhibit like that.  So, the question… two questions.  A, what is the pep… the purpose of those consultations? Are you trying to approve, disapprove?  And B, have you ever… has the UN ever banned any exhibit because the… it was too controversial?

Spokesman:  I'm not aware of any outright ban.  I think it's… the consultations are there to come to… to an agreement that the exhibit and its content, while remaining the sole responsibility of the Member State, fall within a pretty broad category of things that are not… are — I don't know what word to use — not too offensive and are there to ensure the exhibit can go forward, again, under the full responsibility of the Member State.  The consultations are not a seal of approval or disapproval.  It's exactly that, a consultation.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  I have some other things, but I'm sorry.  Now… I just want to… since we're on this, I just want to understand it better.  You had said that the Indonesian‑sponsored exhibit that had the automatic weapons, tanks and rocket launchers, you asked them to take it down.

Spokesman:  Right.

Question:  So, that's not ban?  It was… it would have been…

Spokesman:  It was not what was agreed to in the consultations.

Question:  And I also saw in the lobby here a Chagos Island exhibit which had black electrical tape put over particular words.  Are you aware of that?

Spokesman:  I'm not aware… I'll look into it.

Question:  Okay.  I wanted to ask you about the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo].  Just this morning, Sigrid Kaag said that she'll be travelling, I guess, with Mark Lowcock at the same time to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  And I'd asked her about the case of Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan.  She said she'll be raising it, but I'm wondering, what's the UN's update?  What's the… what steps are being taken to get to the bottom of the death of these UN sanctions experts?

Spokesman:  As you know, the UN has sent experts to help support the investigation by the authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Those experts have… are… have gone there.  They may still be there.  They're going back and forth, but they're working with the authorities who have the responsibility to find those responsible for the death of our colleagues, and we will continue to follow up with them in that regard.

Question:  And I also wanted to ask you, yesterday, just… one, if you have any comment.  The US Holocaust Memorial Museum stripped a human rights award from Aung San Suu Kyi based on her response or… or lack of response in the Rohingya.  I wanted to know if you have any kind of, I guess, comment on… on that and also what the status of the envoy… many Member States now, whenever the issue comes up, are saying they urge António Guterres to move forward?

Spokesman:  Consultations are being had.  And I have no particular comment on the decision… the, as we say, the sovereign decision of the US Holocaust Museum.  Linda and then Melissa.

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  This is going back to the clashes in eastern Ghouta, and it's a little similar to Nizar's question.  Basically, I'm trying to get a better sense of… of the fighting and the prevention of deliveries of aid there.  And we know the UN calls for both sides to stop the fighting, et cetera.  We kind of know about the Government's role, but is there any further information or picture about the significance of the rebels' role in the fighting, as well as preventing the delivery of aids?

Spokesman:  Look, the… you know, we don't run a forensic military operation on the ground.  So, our experts on the ground, our security advisers who work for the UN, help make the determination whether or not it's safe.  The environment in which we have to deliver aid in eastern Ghouta is extremely complex.  Like you said, you have the Government.  You have also other parties.  You also have other groups that may be under some, to put it mildly, loose command and control.  So, the danger comes from many, many different places.  And it's an assessment that we have to make every time.  Sometimes we make the decision not to go.  Sometime the Government tells us we can't go.  The point is the guns need to fall silent, and then we can actually bring aid in.  I mean, when they brought a convoy in two days ago, there was still fighting going on, but at a level which they felt they could still and should still try to drive those trucks in.  After nine hours on the ground, it was felt it was too dangerous.  They had to turn back.  Not all the aid was delivered.  I have to let my colleagues on the ground make those calls without second guessing them in an extremely dangerous place.  But, we're not giving up and trying to get into the areas that need it most.  But, you know, we don't have tanks to push our ways… way through.  We're delivering there in white humanitarian trucks with UN emblems and Red Cross or Red Crescent emblems.

Question:  Quick follow‑up?  In terms of numbers, we know that hundreds of people have been killed.  I was just wondering if those numbers are primarily or just civilians or they included, you know, fighters?  And is there a way to differentiate?

Spokesman:  I think sometimes it's difficult to differentiate.  The numbers that we have really focus on civilians.  Melissa?

Question:  Hi.  Thanks, Steph.  Sorry.  I don't know if it was me and I didn't hear it.  I saw… I heard you say you were concerned about Ms. Bombeini being barred from leaving Iran, but my question was, is the UN raising this with Iranian authorities?  Are you in touch with Iranian authorities about why she was barred from leaving the country and why she apparently had her passport…?

Spokesman:  I don't know if any contacts were had today, but I know there had been contacts at various levels.  Yes?

Question:  I have a follow‑up.  The… a UN panel has come out with a report talking about the… a pattern of arbitrarily detaining dual nationals in Iran.  Some human rights groups have actually come out and said that it's tantamount to hostage‑taking, and I'm wondering what the Secretary… Secretary‑General has to say about it.

Spokesman:  It's not for us to comment on the reports of the various panels or commissions.  I would refer you to the Secretary‑General's remarks at the Human Rights Council and the importance he sees in the application of universal human rights everywhere and to all countries, and also what we've said, the importance of all countries to cooperate with various UN human rights mechanisms.  Nizar?

Question:  Stéphane, people are fleeing Afrin.  Many of them were interviewed by Al‑Mayadeen, and they did not mention at all that they have been banned.  We are talking about thousands of people fleeing Afrin and Jandaris and other areas.  None of them spoke about being prevented from leaving the towns and villages, as you earlier mentioned a few days ago, that you have first‑hand information that people are prevented from leaving the town by armed groups.

Spokesman:  You have information.  I have information.  I don't know what to tell you.  I'll stand by what I've said in the past.

Question:  Where did you get that information from?

Spokesman:  We got it through the sources that we trust.

Correspondent:  How… in the case of Ghouta… also, we have crew members there all the time, and we filmed even some of the civilians who attempted to flee were shot at, and the soldiers had to run and save two children… save two children from them.

Spokesman:  No, I… I think… Nizar, you've raised this point… Nizar, you've raised this point before, and I've answered it.  People should be able to be… to leave freely, but they… there… the most important thing right now is for the guns to fall silent and for the resolution 2401 (2018) to be fully implemented.

Correspondent:  Well, you have…

Spokesman:  Wait, no, no, no… we can come back…  Nizar, I will come back to you.

Correspondent:  Stéphane, you are not taking me equally.

Spokesman:  I always treat you fairly.

Question:  Thank you.  I'm going back to this exhibit.  Stéphane, I know at least three cases when the UN interfered to remove a poster or a picture.  I can read them now, because I personally know about them.  Now, how can the UN allow an… an art exhibit or archaeological exhibit that contradicts UN resolutions, flagrant case of violation of UN resolution?  Isn't that distortion?  Isn’t the UN endorsing…?

Spokesman:  I'm not going to get into the content of this exhibit.  Okay?  This exhibit went through the proper channels.  Every permanent mission, whether it's the Permanent Mission of Israel or another permanent mission, has a right to use these facilities according to the rules and regulations that are applied across the board.  This was the case in this exhibit, and I will leave it at that.  Thank you.

Question:  So, are these… every tableau was approved by the UN?

Spokesman:  I'm saying there were consultations.  The content of the exhibit is the responsibility of the permanent Member State that sponsors the exhibit.

Question:  Can I ask you a hypothetical question?

Spokesman:  You can ask me, but I won't answer it.

Question:  If North Korea would do an exhibit promoting nuclear weapons, would the UN allow that?

Spokesman:  I don't answer hypotheticals.  I have trouble enough answering based on facts.  Yes, ma'am?

Question:  Thank you.  Stéphane, on 28 March, there is a preparatory conference on the International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament.  Do you know whether any of the permanent five members will be attending that?  And does the UN have any comment about the fact that all permanent five members on the Security Council are in violation of Article 6 of the Nuclear Non‑Proliferation Treaty?

Spokesman:  I don't know about the conference and their attendance.  It sounds like you could have five phone calls to make and you can check.  On your second part, all I can say is that the Secretary‑General has stood firmly for the need for global denuclearization.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to… I… it was pretty… pretty recently that the Secretary‑General sent his very, very warm regards to President [Abdelfattah al] Sisi of Egypt, and so, in that re… in that connection, I wanted to ask you, the noted photographer, Mahmoud Abou Zeid, also known as Shawkan, has now been informed that he faces the death penalty.  He's been in jail for four and a half years.  It's kind of a cause célèbre.  And I wondered if the Secretary‑General, who has these warm feelings, is this something he might have a comment on, a photojournalist being… facing the death by hanging?

Spokesman:  I will check on that particular case.  The Secretary‑General stands firmly against the death penalty.  And as for questions of the ongoing climate in Egypt, I think I answered that to Masood two days ago, and my answer stands.

Correspondent:  And I wanted… since it's International Women's Day, got to ask this one.  In… in… in Côte d'Ivoire, it's reported that… that on International Women's Day itself, the labour law is being updated to ban women from working at jobs “where the work exceeds the physical capacity of women or work that presents danger, that is unlikely to under… or is likely to undermine their mor… their morality, including working underground or in mines”.  So many people are saying this is kind of inconsistent with the trends that the Secretary‑General and others have been speaking about…

Spokesman:  I don't have the details of the particular law, but it is clear to us that women can and should be able to have any employment they so choose.

Correspondent:  And when he did his Facebook Live thing yesterday…  I wanted to ask you this.  He seemed to take a question, I guess, online about India, and he said he's very committed to no double standards and… in the workplace.  And, as you know, UN… UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] in India is citing immunity in a… in a… in a… in a now widely publicised case.

Spokesman:  I would ask UNFPA.  Mr. Varma, the floor is yours.

For information media. Not an official record.