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

30 May 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.

**Mali

The Secretary‑General is in Mopti today, in central Mali, where he visited the G5 Sahel camp and met with religious and community leaders.  The Secretary‑General stressed the great suffering that the people of Mali have been through over the past few years.  He said that peace in Mali was in the interest not only of the Malian people but of the region and the world as a whole.  The Secretary‑General stressed the threat of an expansion of the instability to other countries in Africa, as well as to Europe.  He therefore called for intensified assistance and support to Mali at the global level.

The Secretary‑General is now on his way back to Bamako where he is expected to meet with opposition representatives before participating in an iftar dinner with the parties to the peace agreement.  Sorry?

Question:  Is he still fasting?

Spokesman:  Yes he is, but you can ask your questions after I’m done.  He will give a press conference in Bamako to wrap up his visit before heading back to New York, where he is expected tomorrow.

**Secretary‑General Briefings

Tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m., the Secretary‑General will address the General Assembly plenary as Member States formally adopt his reform plan for the UN Development System, and at 5 p.m., the Secretary‑General and the President of the General Assembly will be at the stakeout just outside the Trusteeship Council where they will make a few remarks on the development reform and they will take a few questions.  Accordingly, since our boss will be speaking, we will not have a briefing tomorrow.  And for those of you who have asked about the Secretary‑General’s next press conference, he will be holding [one] on 26 June in this very room.

**Iraq

Ján Kubiš, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for Iraq, briefed the Security Council this morning on the recent Iraqi elections, and he said that the decision by more than half of the voting population not to exercise their democratic right sends a strong signal to the elites ruling the country since 2003.  He urged the Iraqi political elites to draw the necessary conclusions on the need for improved representation, justice for all, democratic accountability and good governance void of corruption, sectarian quota system, nepotism and patronage.  He also urged the independent electoral management bodies to adjudicate all appeals properly, fully and in time, to enable corrections of the problems, justice and the timely certification of the final election results.

And the Under‑Secretary‑General [for the United Nations Counter‑Terrorism Office] Vladimir Voronkov briefed the Council on his recent travels to Iraq, saying that the military setback of Da'esh clearly demonstrates the long‑term resolve of the Iraqi authorities in their fight against terrorism.  He noted that the Iraqis he had met with stressed that national reconciliation and reconstruction, owned and driven by the Iraqi people, are essential to prevent the resurgence of violent extremism and terrorism in Iraq.  And Michèle Coninsx, the Executive Director of the Counter‑Terrorism Executive Directorate, also briefed on her recent travels to Iraq.

**Middle East

This afternoon, Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, will brief the Security Council at its formal meeting on the recent developments there.  You will recall that yesterday, Mr. Mladenov issued a statement in which he said all parties must exercise restraint, avoid escalation and prevent incidents that jeopardize the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.

**Press Encounter Today

This afternoon at 2:45 p.m., Ambassador Danny Danon, the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, will brief you at the Security Council Stakeout.

**Syria

Turning to Syria, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is delivering UN humanitarian assistance to Talbiseh in northern rural Homs and Tlul Elhomor in southern Hama.  This is the first convoy to northern rural Homs since a convoy reached Dar al‑Kabira and surrounding areas on 4 March.  The convoy is delivering assistance for more than 92,000 people in the two locations.  The convoy is also delivering food assistance for 12,000 others in nearby Al‑Jabriya village.  United Nations personnel were not permitted to participate in the convoy, due to security approval not being received from the authorities.  The United Nations continues to call on all parties to facilitate safe, sustained and unhindered access to all those in need in Syria, including the 2 million people in hard‑to‑reach areas, in line with their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

An update on the response to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC):  our peacekeeping colleagues tell us that the UN Mission in the country is providing an air bridge, with the deployment of an aircraft transporting personnel between Kinshasa and Mbandaka, and another one conducting cargo and passenger flights from Mbandaka to Iboko, Itipo and Bikoro.  Other aircraft are also doing cargo delivery from Goma and Kinshasa to Mbandaka.  So far, the Mission’s aircraft have conducted 23 flights in support of the Ebola response.  The Mission is also helping to operationalize the Emergency Operations Centre in Mbandaka and has set up a camp for 20 doctors in Iboko.  It has improved Internet connectivity in key locations, enabling partners to share critical data.  Meanwhile, the UN’s radio, Radio Okapi, is using its networks to disseminate messages and the latest updated information in local languages.

Also in the DRC, our colleagues at the World Food Programme (WFP) tell us that a Cessna Caravan airplane operated by the WFP‑run UN Humanitarian Air Service was involved in an accident today on take off from a remote airstrip in Kamonia in the Kasai region.  Two crew members and three passengers sustained minor injuries, and were taken to a local medical facility.  A helicopter from the UN peacekeeping Mission was mobilized to evacuate them from Kamonia to Kananga, where another plane was waiting to transfer them to Kinshasa for further treatment.  The cause of the crash is under investigation.

**Cameroon

I have been asked about the violence in the Anglophone region of Cameroon in recent days, and I can say that we are aware of the clashes between the Cameroonian armed forces and unidentified armed men in the town of Menka, in the north‑west Anglophone region of Cameroon, on 24 May.  We express our condolences to the families of the victims.  The United Nations country team is in contact with the authorities to clarify the circumstances of the incident.  We call for an end to acts of violence in the Anglophone regions of the country and urge all Cameroonians to work together on an open and inclusive dialogue to address the concerns of the population in those regions.  We also call on the Government to use restraint in the use [of] force and follow due process for those who are arrested.  In this regard, we are aware of the sentencing on 28 May of seven Anglophone activists for up to 15 years by a military court in Yaoundé for rebellion and acts of terrorism.

**Ukraine

Yesterday in the Security Council you will have seen that Rosemary DiCarlo, the Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, and Ursula Mueller, the Assistant Secretary‑General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefed Council members in an open meeting on the situation in Ukraine.

**Belgium

Late last night we also issued a statement in which the Secretary‑General condemned the attack that killed two police officers and a civilian in Liège, in Belgium.

**Libya

And we also issued a statement yesterday afternoon following the meeting in Paris on Libya.  All those were shared with you.

**Hungary

Our colleagues at UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] today urged Hungary to withdraw draft laws that would significantly restrict the ability of NGOs [non‑governmental organizations] and regular citizens from supporting asylum seekers and refugees.

**Honour Roll

Today we say thank you to our friends in Tashkent, as Uzbekistan has paid its regular budget dues in full for 2018, bringing us up to the nice number of 101.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

Lastly, tomorrow at 10:30 a.m., right here in this room, there will be a briefing by Chantal Line Carpentier, Chief of the UNCTAD [United Nations Conference on Trade and Development] New York office, on the 2018 Economic Development in Africa Report entitled “Migration and Structural Transformation in Africa”.  Halas.  Mr. Abbadi.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  The parties to the Paris meeting on Libya issued this declaration you mentioned, and they decided to hold an inclusive conference subsequent to the meeting for the implementation of the declaration.  Does “inclusive” mean that the four parties will be in that conference or there will be other parties?  And would… was the venue of the conference discussed?

Spokesman:  I don't have any more information than the statement we issued yesterday.  Obviously, I think, as always, we would like to see meetings to be as inclusive as possible.  Yes, sir.

Question:  Sure, thanks a lot.  I have some other things, but I wanted to ask you about what you just read out on Cameroon.  It seems like the statement says that these sentences… the 15‑year sentences to Mancho Bibixy and others were two days ago, but that was actually six days ago, so I'm just wondering is this… was this statement in preparation sometime?  Is it a typo in the statement?  And in terms of who's actually communicating with the Government, given that there's footage of bodies being put into a mass grave, is Mr. François [Lounceny] Fall involved?  Is it the Resident Coordinator?

Spokesman:  As I said, it's the country team in contact with authorities.

Question:  And… and is the UN going to make public what the response to the Government to footage of them pushing bodies into a hole is?

Spokesman:  We will share updates as we're able to.

Question:  So is Mr. Fall no longer involved in this…?

Spokesman:  Mr. Fall, obviously, as the regional representative is involved, but the country team is the country team and they are the primary point of contact, but it doesn't diminish at all Mr. Fall's role.  Eric.

Question:  Thank you.  A question about what's happening… a question about this afternoon.  Does the Secretary‑General support the US call for the emergency meeting that condemns Hamas and the other militant groups?

Spokesman:  You know, it's not for the Secretary‑General to support or not support any request for meeting by the Security Council.  The Special Coordinator will brief representing the UN's views and the Secretary‑General's views.  I think it's been clear that we have condemned the launching of rockets by Hamas or any other militants into Israel as we've seen recently.  We have also called for all parties to show restraint including on the Israeli authorities and to ensure that civilians are not targeted.

Question:  Do you think the Secretary‑General will have any further statements?

Spokesman:  Well, we may have something later to say this afternoon, but Mr. Mladenov will brief and be representing as his representative in the region he represents the Secretary‑General's views.

Question:  Are there any plans for the Secretary‑General to meet with the North Korean diplomat who is visiting the US?  Is he involved in that at all?

Spokesman:  No, I'm not aware of any plans.  Abdelhamid.

Question:  Thank you.  Yesterday, Mr. Mladenov was quick to issue a statement condemning the firing of rockets into Israel, but he wasn't quick also to observe and see that three Palestinians were killed the day before, which inspired, probably, this barrage of rockets into Israel.  Why he only sees one side of the story and not the other?

Spokesman:  I think if you take a look back at everything that Mr. Mladenov has said in the past, you will see that he, as [does] the Secretary‑General, continuously appeal for peace, continuously condemn the ongoing deaths of civilians and that we need to see calm and we need to see a restart to the peace process.

Question:  But the killing is on one side.  One hundred and eighteen Palestinians already killed since June 30.  No Israelis were killed.  That does not… doesn't that…?

Spokesman:  I think Mr. Mladenov's repeated briefings to the Security Council have been very clear and clearly represent…

Question:  [Inaudible] … occupied people.  Do they… should throw just flowers on their occupiers?

Spokesman:  The point is that we need to see restraint.  We need to see an improved situation for the Palestinians in Gaza that involves Israel, that involves Egypt, and that involves the Palestinian leadership themselves.  Nizar.

Question:  Yes.  Today in Saudi Arabia, they sentenced the writer Mohammad al-Haldib [phonetic] for five years just for a tweet.  Do you have any statement about human rights in Saudi Arabia?

Spokesman:  I haven't seen that particular report, but I know our human rights colleagues have issued a statement expressing concern at some of the recent waves of detentions that we have seen in Saudi Arabia.  Matthew.

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask about the UN and child sexual abuse past and present.  I'm sure you've seen the report in The Independent and maybe elsewhere all the UNHCR report that in OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services], in fact, which had the names, apparently, of NGOs whose staff members were involved in child sexual abuse, but chose not to make it… make them public, allegedly to defend or to protect child witnesses.  Is that something that António Guterres, as a long‑time head of UNHCR, supports?  Does he believe that the OIOS report should, even at this late stage, be released?  What's the purpose of withholding the names?

Spokesman:  First of all, I think the case that's referred to occurred under the leadership of the High Commissioner before him, right.

Correspondent:  Sure.

Spokesman:  So I think any questions you should have addressed to UNHCR, but from my understanding that the report was newt published, a summary of the draft assessment report was published as a note for partners and made available.  It can be found both on UNHCR and Save the Children's website.  I think if you've looked at the progression of how the UN deals with this issue, since then and since the Secretary‑General has taken office, I think we've seen great progress in terms of transparency, in terms of creating a climate where people can go and move forward.  Obviously, we're not where we want to be yet, but I think great progress has been made.

Question:  My… I'm just… I have one more, because you had said… it's true, it's a 2002 report, but I'm assuming that it was known to him during his 10‑year… 10‑year tenure there, so although the report is available, it doesn't name the groups.  That seems to be the key issue.  Does he believe it should now be released?

Spokesman:  As I've said, this is an issue for UNHCR to deal with and I've given you a part of the answer.  Yes, sir.

Question:  Ms. Michèle Coninsx from Counter‑Terrorism Committee visited Iraq and spoke to officials there, and she has been addressed on the dismantle of ISIS and the terrorist groups over there.  Any idea how the Iraqi Government is handling thousands of detainees of ISIS or Da’esh members in Iraq?  Will they prosecute them in Iraq, or will they try to send them to their native land?  How the Iraqi Government…?

Spokesman:  You know, I think…

Question:  … thousands of terrorists who have been arrested there?

Spokesman:  I think she addressed the Council, so I don't have much more to say than what she addressed. Obviously, the issue of the justice system in Iraq is one that we have raised concerns with in the past and that the UN Mission has been following.  We're also there to support the Iraqi authorities to ensure that there is a justice system that is fair and equitable where people's rights are respected.  Nizar.

Question:  Yeah.  Regarding Yemen.  This recent attack on the neighbourhood of Hodeidah has resulted in a lot of civilian casualties.  Do you have any update on the aid and on the situation there?

Spokesman:  We had an update yesterday.  We're obviously concerned, I would say increasingly concerned, by the reports of fighting around Hodeidah and the increased humanitarian needs that that would create.  Eric.

Question:  Thanks.  A question, if I can get back to North Korea just for a moment.  Is the Secretary‑General hopeful that a meeting between the North Korean delegation and the US can lead to easing of tensions?

Spokesman:  You know, we've been watching the developments around the summit very closely, the back and forth.  The Secretary‑General has been very clear that he's very supportive of the summit, of the meeting that we hope will happen between President Trump and Kim Jong Un.  We will do whatever we can to help that process along, but I think we've seen… looking back over the last few days, I said yesterday, we all need nerves of steel in hoping that this summit happens and happens in the right circumstances.  Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  On that same subject, has the Secretary‑General spoken to any other signatories of the Armistice Treaty of '53, or have they spoken to him about the issue?

Spokesman:  I'm not aware of any contact at the Secretary‑General's level.  Yes, Abdelhamid.

Question:  Thank you.  You know, a peace vessel left Gaza's yester… Gaza's shore yesterday and it was intercepted by the Israeli navy.  It was carrying 17 sick people.  They were… I mean, they want to break the siege of Gaza.  Did anybody take note of that, what happened?

Spokesman:  I've seen those reports.  I don't have anything to share with you on that at this point.

Question:  Sure.  I want to ask about Mali, DRC and Portugal, but on Mali, this was the second sexual abuse case I wanted to ask you about.   It's current. It was just released, I guess, last week by the UN that a contractor, a UN contractor in Mali, is alleged to have engaged in… in child rape, so I wanted to know, particularly since the Secretary‑General was just there.  It was unclear to me last week from Farhan [Haq]'s answer whether this individual can be, and will be, prosecuted by the Malian authorities, and I guess my question would be is this a case in which the UN would waive immunity that… that may or may not apply to the contractor or, if none applies, has the person been… been apprehended?

Spokesman:  The investigation I think is ongoing from what I have.  And they're being investigated by the OIOS.  As a matter of principle, the Secretary‑General has always said he would waive immunity in cases of sexual abuse.

Question:  Did he look into this case while… during the two days he's been there?

Spokesman:  I don't have any update.

Question:  And I wanted to ask you on the DRC.  The… in Kinshasa, there've gone up posters essentially depicting Joseph Kabila [Kabange] as… as a candidate, seemingly contrary to various agreements, the Constitution.  Is the country team there… have they seen these posters?  And what do they make of them in terms of the…?

Spokesman:  I think everybody has seen the posters.  I don't have any analysis at this point.  And your last question?

Question:  Okay, great.  Yesterday, you had said that the… you know, for whatever reason, maybe inadvertently, non‑disclosed stopover in Portugal by the Secretary‑General.  It wasn't in his…

Spokesman:  I understand.

Question:  So my question was you had said it was an official thing, and just in reading the reports in Lisbon about it, it seems to… it was kind of like… basically like he briefed this council of state… so and you said that's official UN business, so I wanted to just to understand it better.  Is this something he does with any other country, i.e., a briefing or said otherwise, can his statement that he made in the meeting be made public?

Spokesman:  He went to Washington and he briefed the Foreign Relations Committee.  He goes to different countries and he meets with people, the legislators and the executive and so it's nothing abnormal.

Correspondent:  The difference it seems to me is that when he met with [Government officials in Washington] D.C., it was called a meeting, and there were some readouts on each side.  This was described… the way it's described…

Spokesman:  If I have any more information, I will share it with you.  Yes.

Question:  Yeah, given the amassment of troops near Dura and the potential of a major battle happens there, for liberation of the area, what effort is the United Nations doing to prevent a bloodshed there?

Spokesman:  So which area, sorry?

Question:  Governorate of Dura in south‑east Syria.  There are negotiations between Jordanians, Americans, Russians, etc.  What is the role of United Nations at this stage and…?

Spokesman:  The role of the UN continues to be the same, is that we're… we're in touch with as many parties as possible and encourage a returning to a political solution.  Thank you.

Correspondent:  One more question.

Spokesman:  No.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.