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

18 June 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.

**Refugee and Migrant Children

I will start off with a statement on the issue of refugee and migrant children:  As a matter of principle, the Secretary-General believes that refugees and migrants should always be treated with respect and dignity, and in accordance with existing international law.  Children must not be traumatized by being separated from their parents.  Family unity must be preserved.  That statement is available online.

**Finland

The Secretary-General is today in Helsinki, where he attended the second meeting of his High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation.  He then took part in the Kultaranta talks, an annual debate on foreign and security policy.  He also met with the President of Finland.  The Secretary-General should be travelling off to Oslo from Helsinki very shortly.

**Secretary-General’s Statements

Over the weekend, we issued two statements.  One in which the Secretary-General welcomed the Afghan Government’s announcement of the extension of the unilateral ceasefire with the Taliban, and urged the Taliban to heed the call for peace from the Afghan people and also extend the ceasefire.  He urged the parties not to allow those who try to derail peace efforts to prevail and condemned the attack in the eastern province of Nangahar targeting Eid celebrations.

And on Nigeria, we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General condemned an attack by suspected Boko Haram insurgents targeting Eid celebrations in the Damboa Local Government area of Borno State.  The Secretary-General called for those responsible for this attack to be swiftly brought to justice.

**Greece-The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

And yesterday, in a tweet, the Secretary-General warmly commended Prime Ministers [Alex] Tsipras and [Zoran] Zaev for their role in the historic Agreement signed on the shores of Lake Prespa, bordering Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  The Secretary-General encouraged the two Governments to maintain their strong commitment to ratification and implementation.  He noted that the United Nations is committed to supporting these efforts.  The Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, took part in the signing ceremony.  “The resolution of this long-standing dispute gives us hope.  It reminds us that it is indeed possible to find solutions to the most intractable issues through dialogue and compromise,” she said.

**Small Arms

I also wanted to flag that here, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, the Chef de Cabinet, read out a message on the Secretary-General’s behalf to the third Review Conference on the Programme of Action on Small Arms, telling the delegates that every year, over half a million people are killed violently around the world, mostly through small arms fire.  She said that illicit small arms are also used against the United Nations peacekeeping forces.  In 2017, 56 peacekeepers died in violent attacks — the highest number in two decades.  Controlling and regulating small arms requires action that goes well beyond national security institutions, she said.  It also includes providing alternative livelihoods for former combatants, engaging with municipal governments and police, working with civil society, including grass-roots organizations and community violence reduction programmes, as well as local businesses.  That statement is available online.

**Yemen

An update on Yemen, where I can tell you that the Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, will brief the Security Council by video teleconference this afternoon to present elements that he has been discussing with his interlocutors in the past months, which, we hope, would allow for a resumption of the negotiations.  The Special Envoy was just in Sana’a to work out an agreement for Hodeidah.  He will discuss the results of his discussions with the Coalition in the next few days.  That briefing will be held in closed consultations and Mark Lowcock, the Humanitarian Coordinator, will also be briefing the Security Council in closed consultations.  On the ground, we can report that fierce fighting has continued in Hodeidah today.  About 5,200 families have fled the fighting to seek safety within their own districts or in other districts in Hodeidah Governorate.  That number is expected to increase as hostilities continue.  Agencies have pre‑positioned 63,000 metric tons of food, tens of thousands of emergency kits and nutrition supplies, and over 1 million litres of fuel.  Medical teams have been dispatched, and humanitarian service points established across Hodeidah, including in the city.  Distributions of emergency kits began last week and is continuing.

**Police

I also want to flag that the second United Nations Chiefs of Police Summit will take place here on 20 and 21 June.  It will bring together Ministers, Chiefs of Police, Gendarmerie and police representatives from up to 193 countries who will chart a vision for United Nations Police and elicit commitments to strengthen its ability to effectively prevent and address security threats before they transcend borders.  Building on ongoing reform and the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative, this summit takes stock of UN policing efforts, including what it takes for United Nations Police to perform effectively and realize the Secretary-General’s vision of “a transformed UN Police that is people-centred, mission-oriented, modern, agile and flexible, specialized and rights-based”.  On a related note, I will be joined after the briefing by Luis Carrillo, United Nations Police Adviser, along with the Police Commissioner of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Police Commissioner of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).  The three of them will be here to brief you ahead of the [Chiefs of] Police Summit.

**Human Rights

In Geneva, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, gave his last global update to the Human Rights Council in a regular session this morning.  He said that historically, the most destructive force to imperil the world has been chauvinistic nationalism – when raised to feral extremes by self-serving, callous leaders, and amplified by mass ideologies which themselves repress freedom.  As the attack on the multilateral system and its rules intensifies, he added, so will the risk increase of further mischief on a grander scale.  The High Commissioner appealed to the Council to do more, to speak louder and work harder for the common purpose and for universal human rights law, to better our chances for global peace.  When leaders undermine human rights, and human rights law, this is in no way an act of patriotism, he said.  They are eroding the structures which can ensure the safety of their people.  True patriotism consists in viewing every State, and humanity as a whole, as a community of mutual responsibility, with shared needs and goals, the High Commissioner said.  His full speech is available to you.

**Gender Parity

We want to congratulate our friends at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), who have received the EDGE Certification, becoming the first United Nations agency to earn the leading global assessment methodology and business certification standard for gender equality.  The Economic Dividends for Gender Equality — or EDGE — Certification process includes a comprehensive review of data policies and practices and an analysis of an Organization-wide survey of staff’s experience and perceptions of gender equality in the workplace.  UNICEF’s Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, stressed that children’s rights and well-being are achieved when women’s rights are upheld and preserved.  To be the leading organization for the rights of all children and young people, including young women and girls, we have to lead by example, she said.

**Press Briefings

Press briefings tomorrow:  There will be a briefing here by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs with Ambassador Jean-Claude Brunet, President of the third Review Conference on the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, also known as “RevCon3” in United Nations terms, and Izumi Nakamitsu, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.  They will be here to review progress made in the implementation of the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons and its International Tracing Instrument.  That’s at 11 a.m. here.  Tomorrow is the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.  And at noon, I will be joined by Pramila Patten, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.  She will brief you on that subject.  And then, at 1 p.m., there will be a briefing by Ninette Kelley, Director of the New York Office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  She will brief ahead of the launch of UNHCR’s Global Trends Report.  Khalas.  Yes, sir?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I have two questions.  First one is about Syria, about the humanitarian, particularly there are reports that nearly 200,000 IDPs [internally displaced persons] are besieged… reportedly besieged in the Sharhaban area in Afrin without food or medical assistance.  Do you have any updates about that?  I think I asked about this last week.

Spokesman:  I don't have any updates for that, because, as you know, we are not present in the area with the most humanitarian needs within Afrin district.  We're getting some updates from people who have moved out and have gone out, but I have no… we have no specific update on that.  Your second question?

Spokesman:  Can you ask your OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] colleagues to get us if they can… if they could send them any aids…?

Spokesman:  We do… we ask, and as soon as we have something, I'll let you know.

Question:  Okay.  Thank you.  And about… the second question is about Iraq.  Following the decision of the Iraqi Parliament to recount the votes manually of the… of the Iraqi latest parliamentary election that was held as successful by the UN and the members of the Security Council, things are really heating up in Iraq and… to the… to the point that there are threats of the use of force.  And what does the Secretary‑General thinks about all this?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General trusts that Iraq will complete the electoral process in accordance with the Constitution and the relevant laws and procedures stipulated by Iraq's sovereign institutions.  The UN continues to provide electoral advice and assistance to Iraq, in accordance with the mandate.  I mean, as any… you know, you can have elections.  There are… in most countries, there are procedures to appeal and to do recounts.  We just want to make sure that whatever procedure is followed is done in accordance with the Constitution and existing laws.

Question:  Thank you.  Did the Secretary‑General have the chance to speak to Ambassador [Nikki] Haley or to anybody in the American Administration about the zero‑tolerance policy, which have now resulted in the separation of at least 2,000 kids from their parents who crossed illegally into the US soil?  Or does he intend to do so any soon…?

Spokesman:  I have no contacts that I'm able to report.  I think the statement that I read out clearly outlines the Secretary‑General's position.  Nada?

Question:  On Yemen, does the Special Envoy want anything in particular from the Security Council?  It's been really since the beginning of this conflict that there's been a resolution.  Would he like more support from the Council?  Can you give us an update on what he may say today?

Spokesman:  The talks… he's involved in very intensive talks currently in Sana’a.  He will also be talking to various Coalition partners.  It will be important that whatever he comes up with be strongly backed by the Security Council.  It is important that the Security Council speaks with one voice when supporting the efforts of the Special Envoy to bring the parties back to a political settlement and to end the conflict in Yemen.

Question:  Just a follow‑up.  Will you have a [inaudible] of what's happening in [inaudible]?

Spokesman:  We'll see if the Council President comes out, and we'll see whatever we can share from our end.  Olga?

Question:  Thanks, Steph.  Do you have the understanding on the situation in Syria, in Manbij, after Turkish authorities said the Turkish army is now in there?

Spokesman:  No, I don't have a first‑hand update.  Matthew?

Question:  Some other things, but I wanted to ask you, first… two things.  One, will you provide a readout of the meeting of the Secretary‑General with Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt?  And also, will you confirm and, to some degree, read out or explain the lack of a readout of what appears to have been a… a… a… a contact, as you said, between Secretary‑General, Nikki Haley, and other P5 ambassadors on Thursday, 14 June?  What was the topic and what was…?

Spokesman:  I have no… the Secretary‑General regularly meets with the P5.  I have nothing further to say.  The meeting… there was a meeting that took place at the residence on [Friday] with Ambassador Haley and Mr. Greenblatt and Mr. Kushner.  They discussed situation… the Middle East peace process, the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and recent UN developments that took place here in connection with the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict.

Question:  So, the… like the G… the two… the two… that's what I was going to ask you about, because the White House did put out a readout.  And I guess I'm just wondering, what is the standard for you guys putting out a readout?  It seems like at least the second of those was not just with ambassadors.  It was a pretty high‑profile meeting.

Spokesman:  I understand.  We've… people asked us questions.  We responded to those questions.  Masood and then Joe.

Question:  Thank you.  Thank you, Stéphane.  Has the Secretary‑General managed to have any talks with the Indian Government or the Indian Prime Minister on the human rights violations reported by the United Nations… what do you call it…?

Spokesman:  No, there's been no contact that I'm aware of.

Question:  He's had no contact at all?

Spokesman:  There's no contact that I'm aware of.

Question:  And they are human rights violations; he doesn't bother to call them?

Spokesman:  I think the report put out by the High Commissioner for Human Rights speaks for itself.  Mr. Klein?

Question:  Yes.  I know you read out the brief statement at the outset about the Secretary‑General's views on separation of the parents and children.  Is he also concerned about the zero‑tolerance policy in general, in other words the prosecution of all individuals caught crossing the border illegally?  And, secondly, would he have any comment if the families intact, parent and children, were immediately deported upon… upon being apprehended?

Spokesman:  I'm not going to get into hypotheticals.  What the Secretary‑General would like to see at all borders is to see people being treated with dignity and respect for their rights, that people claiming asylum be given proper hearings.  This is not a position that he has vis‑à‑vis… specifically vis‑à‑vis the United States.  This is a principled position that he has for the way that migrants and refugees are treated the world over.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  My question is regarding the Secretary‑General's statement you read out about welcoming the ceasefire by the Afghan Government, but you know that the Taliban rejected any extension of a ceasefire.  Do you have anything to comment on that?

Spokesman:  No, we're obviously disappointed that there is… that they have not accepted the Government's offer of continued ceasefire.  We think the people of Afghanistan are deserving of peace and of reconciliation.  Madame? Sorry to keep you waiting.

Question:  Thanks.  Going back to the SG's meeting with the Americans on Saturday, was the issue of migrants brought up or any of the other concerns he has in America…?

Spokesman:  No, this meeting took place at the request of Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt, and it was focussed on the Middle East peace process.

Question:  Only?

Spokesman:  That's what it was focused on, yeah.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you, in Togo today, there's a ville mort stay‑home protest, and people are continuing to protest the 50‑year rule of a… one family and want two‑year term limits.  I'm wondering… I know Mr. [Mohamed ibn] Chambas had gone there at one point.  What is the UN's involvement?  And do they… do they think that the… the… the concerns raised by the opposition have been addressed by this 50‑year family?

Spokesman:  I'm not aware of any direct UN involvement, but I will check.  We believe that people have a right to demonstrate peacefully and freely to express their opinion.  Linda?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Regarding the meeting on Saturday, you mentioned a lot of it had to do with Middle East, but I was wondering, has the SG been in touch with the Americans, Chinese, South Koreans, North Koreans regarding the follow‑up to the summit?

Spokesman:  There's nothing I'm able to share with you at this point on that.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  In Libya, there's a lot of fighting in the Oil Crescent, and it seems that some large oil facilities are on fire in Ra's Lanuf.  So, I'm wondering, given Mr. [Ghassan] Salamé… seems like it's both an environmental as well as a political… pretty much of a crisis.  What's the UN system doing about these burning oil tanks…?

Spokesman:  I did not get an update from Libya today.

Question:  And on the election in Colombia of Mr. [Ivan] Duque, do you… are there any sort of plans… one, has the Secretary‑General reached out to congratulate him? And, two, are there any thoughts of the UN of how well this will impact either the… the… the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] peace deal or the UN Mission there?

Spokesman:  We, first of all, commend the people and the authorities of Colombia for the conclusion on Sunday of a cycle of legislative and presidential elections this year that were the most peaceful in decades in Colombia.  The ability of Colombians to vote through the country without restriction and in record numbers is a remarkable achievement of the peace process.  The Secretary‑General welcomes President‑elect Ivan Duque's early calls for healing the divisions among Colombians, and he wishes him success in this crucial task.  As the Government transition now gets under way, the Secretary‑General confirms the strong commitment of the United Nations to accompany Colombia's Government and people in consolidating the hard‑won gains of peace and in achieving reconciliation after so many years of conflict.  Joe, and then we'll go to the back.

Question:  Yeah.  Going back again to the statement you read out in the beginning of your briefing, you said in response to my previous question that the Secretary‑General wasn't singling out the United States in that statement, but what prompted him to issue that at this time?  I mean, the message is a general statement of principles…?

Spokesman:  It's a general statement… I think we've all been following what's going on at the border, and I think he is as concerned as anyone else.  But, it is a statement of principle.  Yep?

Question:  As you know, the Reuters released the news about the Secretary‑General's report on [resolution] 2231 (2015).  Could you…?

Spokesman:  Which… I'm sorry.  On which… on… yeah, sorry, yes, I know which one you're…?

Question:  2231.  Yeah.  Could you explain his view about the Trump decision about to veto the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] as part of this resolution?

Spokesman:  The report apparently was leaked.  I have no comment on the content of the report, which will be made public soon.  As far as the Secretary‑General's position on the JCPOA, he… his position is unchanged, that he believes that the JCPOA was a very important achievement, and everything should be done to try to preserve its gains.

Question:  Has he confirmed the veto of the JCPOA is a violation of [resolution] 2231 (2015)?

Spokesman:  I think I will encourage you to wait for the report if that is, in fact, covered in the report.  Yep?

Question:  Stéphane, UN Human Rights Commissioner on Trump border policy said the thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable.  Does the Secretary‑General have… agree with that statement?

Spokesman:  It's not up to the Secretary‑General to agree or disagree with the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The High Commissioner for Human Rights has a very important voice.  And the Secretary‑General supports him in using that voice.  I will go get our guests.

For information media. Not an official record.