The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
As soon as I am done here or you are done with me, we will have Pramila Patten, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. She will brief you on her travels to Iraq and the Republic of Sudan. And then Brenden [Varma] will brief you following that.
I will start off with a statement on the US-DPRK summit: The Secretary-General is encouraged by the announcement of an agreement between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to hold a summit meeting by May. He commends the leadership and vision of all concerned and reiterates his support for all efforts towards peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions. That statement is now online.
Turning to Syria: today, the United Nations along with our partners — the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) — were able to return to Douma in besieged eastern Ghouta to deliver the remaining food assistance that could not be offloaded from the previous convoy on 5 March. Today’s delivery allowed the United Nations to complete the initially planned delivery of food for 27,500 people, along with health and nutrition items. While the convoy was under way, shelling occurred in the proximity of operations, despite prior assurances of safety from all parties.
The United Nations is waiting for authorization to complete the delivery to Douma for all 70,000 people that was initially approved by the Syrian authorities. The delivery of all necessary humanitarian supplies, including the medical and health supplies previously removed, remains urgently needed and must be delivered without delay. We call on all parties to immediately allow safe, sustained and unimpeded access for convoys to deliver critical supplies to hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need of humanitarian assistance in eastern Ghouta, as well as to all in need throughout the country.
A programming note: We do expect the Secretary-General to brief the Security Council on Monday as part of his required briefing to the Council on the implementation of resolution 2401 — and that will be Monday, at some point in the morning.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, will visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from 11 to 13 March — his first visit to the country in that function.
Mr. Lowcock will be joined by Ms. Sigrid Kaag, the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. They will meet with Government officials in Kinshasa and travel to Kalemie, Tanganyika Province, to see first-hand the humanitarian situation there.
Mr. Lowcock is expected to call for greater support to the humanitarian response in the country, and to invite international donors to the first-ever donor conference for the DRC, which will be held in Geneva on 13 April.
Earlier this year, the humanitarian community in the DRC launched its largest-ever appeal, calling for $1.68 billion to respond to the needs of over 10 million people.
**Bosnia and Herzegovina
A couple of other travel notes: The Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Miroslav Jenča, visited Bosnia and Herzegovina on 7-8 March, where he met with a number of senior officials.
Mr. Jenča strongly underscored the importance of ensuring that the impressive gains made over the last two decades are not lost at this critical juncture. Viable compromises are urgently needed to ensure peaceful and democratic elections in October this year.
He emphasized the need for all stakeholders in Bosnia and Herzegovina to redouble their efforts around genuine reconciliation and building bridges across a divided past, together, with a view towards a shared and peaceful future.
The joint UN–presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina peacebuilding initiative, Dialogue for the Future, has created an important framework in this respect and should be further built upon including through regional activities. We have a note to correspondents with more detail.
The UN Special Committee on Decolonization, otherwise known as the C-24, will undertake an official visiting mission to New Caledonia and Paris from 12 to 19 March of this year.
The objective of the visiting mission to New Caledonia is to gather first-hand information on the situation in the New Caledonia concerning the implementation of the Nouméa Accord and to support New Caledonia in its preparation for the referendum to be held in 2018.
The visiting mission will consist of 4 members of the Committee: Cuba (which is chairing), Indonesia, Iraq and Papua New Guinea.
The Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, Alain Noudehou, today called for urgent action to avert a worsening food crisis in the country. Over 7 million people — almost two thirds of the population — could become severely food insecure between May and July without sustained humanitarian assistance and access. Mr. Noudehou said funding is needed now to reach millions of people with assistance during the dry season through road transport and prepositioning of life-saving aid supplies. The same activities will be many times costlier if done by air transport during the rainy season.
The Humanitarian Coordinator led a high-level delegation of donors, heads of humanitarian agencies and partners to the area of Leer, in South Sudan’s Unity region, to see first-hand the plight of the 90,000 people living in the area. Although the famine there was stopped due to intensive humanitarian intervention, the situation remains fragile, with about 85 per cent of the population predicted to reach crisis and emergency food insecurity conditions by the end of next month.
In Nigeria, our colleagues tell us that humanitarian operations are still temporarily suspended in Rann, in the north-east of the country, following the recent killing of three aid workers in the town by a non-State armed group.
The Humanitarian Coordinator, Edward Kallon, is meeting with high-level Government officials in Abuja, and in Maiduguri, where he will travel next week.
I want to flag that the second round of the intergovernmental negotiations on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration will take place on Monday through Thursday next week here at Headquarters. The main focus of this second round will be on addressing issues that the co-facilitators of the process believe require further discussion, including: differentiation between irregular and regular migration, differentiation between migrants and refugees, implementation and capacity-building, as well as follow-up and review.
The first round of negotiations took place on 20 February and was marked by strong engagement from all regions. As many of you are aware, the Global Compact for Migration will be the first intergovernmentally negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner. More information on the UN’s website on refugees and migrants.
Staying on topic, the UN migration agency (IOM) today said that lack of data makes it difficult to keep track of the deaths of women migrants. Only 31 per cent of incidents recorded by the agency through its Missing Migrants Project have any information on the sex of those who died or went missing.
Worldwide, 525 women died during migration last year. The available data indicates that crossing the Mediterranean is particularly deadly for women, with 238 deaths recorded there. That is followed by 141 fatalities in Africa, 90 deaths in South-East Asia and 20 while trying to cross the US-Mexico border.
The agency said it is critical to seek better information on all those who go missing during migration to understand why people risked their lives and help prevent more deaths. More information on the IOM’s website.
Our friends and colleagues at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today that over 4,700 veterinary health professionals in 25 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East were trained in just 12 months through a partnership with USAID (United States Agency for International Development). These professionals will be on the front line of the effort to stop new diseases at their source.
According to the FAO, some 75 of new infectious diseases that have emerged in recent decades originated in animals before jumping to humans. This is why improving adequately discovering and tackling animal disease threats at source represents a strategic high-ground in pre-empting future pandemics. If you are interested in that kind of stuff, go to the FAO’s website.
**Questions and Answers
Halas. I will take questions. Ms. Lederer?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I wonder whether the Secretary-General has any comment on the South Sudan Government's decision to suspend the UN radio station there?
Spokesman: Our colleagues at the mission in South Sudan are in touch with the South Sudanese authorities to clarify the situation. At this point, the UN radio station is still broadcasting. Yes, sir?
Question: Any comments on the prospective meeting between the North Korean leader and President [Donald] Trump?
Spokesman: I think… I started off with reading a statement on that. The Secretary-General very much welcomes the announcement and is encouraged by it. Yes, sir?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. In East Ghouta, you mentioned Douma and they have big problem in Hamoria. You never heard about that? About Hamoria? They need a lot of help.
Spokesman: We're aware that there are many other places where humanitarian aid is very much needed, and that's why we have repeated appeal for full implementation of resolution 2401, a full cessation of hostilities. I mean, as you saw today, our colleagues… our Syrian colleagues, whether working for the UN, the ICRC, or the Red Crescent and also our international colleagues went in there, delivered the balance of what was not… we were not able to deliver a few days ago under fire, so we are… you know, every aid delivery needs permission from the Syrian Government in the area, but we also need to ensure that the guns fall silent and the risks are minimum for our colleagues. Yes, madame?
Question: Stéphane, on Syria. When the Secretary-General speaks to the Security Council on Monday, is he going to present any ideas or proposals to enforce the ceasefire? Because I think in terms of a report, we… we know it's not working.
Spokesman: I mean, he is mandated by the resolution to report on the implementation. I think, as you said, it's pretty clear what the result of the implementation of the resolution is, and it's all clear to see. This will also come… his remarks will come at a time where we are entering into yet another year of the seven-year conflict, and I think he will reflect on that and will make appeals on the way forward.
Question: Will he have any ideas or proposals?
Spokesman: I think we'll have to be slightly patient and wait until Monday. Farnaz?
Question: I'm wondering what role the UN or Secretary-General will play in the meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim [Jong-Un], and whether you think that… how much of this is because of the visit by Jeff Feltman and the messages that he took?
Spokesman: It's… you know, we do feel that Mr. Feltman's visit was an important element in the way forward. We are not in any way taking credit or trying to take credit for what is happening, but I think Mr. Feltman's visit in December, I think, was a very much… was a move in a positive direction which has led us to where we are today. The Secretary-General has always said that he was available and will do whatever he can to help facilitate the process, and he remains at the disposal of all the parties involved. Mr. Lee?
Question: First, I just wanted to ask if… if on… on other… other talks if you have… if the UN has any comment or reaction to President [Uhuru] Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. They… they had a meeting, they had a press conference. They've said their various things. What is… what's the UN think about that?
Spokesman: I think anything that will help ease the political tensions in Kenya is to be welcomed.
Question: Do you think that… that the visit by Mr. [Olusegun] Obasanjo, in the same way, had some role in this?
Spokesman: I think the role of the Secretary-General's high-level mediators is an important one and, as I said, I think there are… for any case, we have a role to play, and we hope that our role played a bit part even in anything that moves in the right direction.
Question: And I wanted to ask you a follow-up on yesterday. Yesterday, I had asked you about what happened during the visit of Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and… and Officer Matthew Sullivan. You had said that he was cast into a light that he hadn't expected, and that was fine. It… the… the… since found that in a… in a meeting with his Cabinet in September 2016, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, this is a quote from his Facebook page, translated into English from Hebrew, "I met there with Matthew Sullivan, an American security man, a former New York City policeman and he waits for me every time at the exit. He always gives me his opinion about the speech and he told me it was an excellent speech, but I had given him a better one. I asked him which one was better. He said the bomb speech was better." So it was exactly what was said downstairs yesterday, like almost verbatim, so I guess I want to ask you, it doesn’t seem like it was as spontaneous as…
Spokesman: I don't speak for the Prime Minister of Israel, nor do I write his remarks that he shares with his Cabinet. As I said, again, Inspector Sullivan is a distinguished supervisor in our security service, and I think I answered your question.
Question: I guess my question is, and I say this because many staff members have reached out and said they've been told not to speak in exactly this way, so I just want to be clear whether they can or they can't. If the UN was aware of these comments…
Spokesman: I think he was… Inspector Sullivan has been put in a very difficult position that he did not… that was not of his own making.
Question: Was he aware of the statement in 2016, that he was being quoted?
Spokesman: I don't know. Yes, Carole?
Question: Can I ask about… You've asked five questions. Can I ask about Central African Republic? Gabon announced today that they are pulling out their troops. Well, they're leaving MINUSCA (United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic). And I was wondering information on that, and also where does that leave the Mission, given that the 900 additional troops, as far as I know, are not there yet, from the resolution?
Spokesman: I have to check on the exact troop level as it is now, but the decision by Gabon not to send new troops at the end of their rotation in the peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic was made after extensive consultations with the UN's peacekeeping department. The decision not to continue deployment… any deployment is ultimately a decision made by a sovereign State. It's a national sovereign decision. As you know, Gabon has been engaged in the Central African Republic since 2014, and we are grateful for the Gabonese for their service with the peacekeeping mission, their contribution to peace and stability in the Central African Republic. Yes, sir?
Question: About Yemen. The new guy, he left to Yemen, or not yet? The new person, you know, after Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.
Spokesman: He will be here in New York next week to meet with the Secretary-General. Yes, in the back?
Question: Thank you, Steph. Unfortunately, every day, many civilians are killed in Foah and Kefraya in Syria, and we didn't heard any voice of UN about these. What's your position?
Spokesman: I think we have spoken out repeatedly against the indiscriminate violence that the Syrian people are suffering from, in every part of the country, and it remains of great concern to us and it is one of the many reasons the Secretary-General and all his officials have been repeatedly calling for a cessation of hostilities, which is now, in fact, backed by Security Council resolution, which… whose implementation, I think, is clear to all, or lack of implementation is clear to all. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure, I wanted to ask you. Was… and… and maybe you don't… maybe you don't know, but you could find out. Was either the Department of Safety and Security (DSS) or Inspector Sullivan aware back in September 2016, when the Prime Minister made the comments and put them online, saying that this high inspector, as you've called him, in the UN praised my… my Iran bomb speech. And if he had been…
Spokesman: I'm not aware that anyone was aware of those comments.
Question: Now that you are aware, does what happened yesterday seem as spontaneous as you portrayed it yesterday?
Spokesman: It is not for me to say whether or not the things that were done or said by a visiting Head of Government in this organization is spontaneous or not spontaneous. What I do know is that Mr. Sullivan, Inspector Sullivan, was there to supervise the security arrangements of a high-level guest. He was sought out by the Prime Minister and in no way sought to find himself in front of the camera.
Correspondent: But if… if the UN were aware that a person at his level of the UN had been quoted in this way, as he was in 2016…
Spokesman: You know, people… I'm not going to go into hypotheticals. I'm just stating what I know as facts.
Question: And I wanted to ask you about the Foreign Policy piece, which I’m sure you’ve seen, by Lauren Wolfe concerning the Luiz Loures exoneration. Basically, with the documents they've gotten, they're showing an investigation which was entirely on the side of the alleged, now… now retired I guess, perpetrator and… and the questions that were asked seemed to be… to many people who looked at it, seemed to be extremely kind of sexist and leading and saying like, "the woman was emotional, she was drinking"… Are you comfortable with that investigation as described?
Spokesman: I don't know about the veracity of those documents. I know an investigation was done by the WHO (World Health Organization). If you have questions to… on the investigation itself, you should address it to them. And Mr. Loures has now left the organization. I'm going to go get our guest. Thank you.