The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
This morning in Moscow, the Secretary-General held a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, at which he stressed the need for multilateralism to address the dramatic challenges that we face today, such as climate change and terrorism. He also said that the United Nations and Russia will continue to work closely together on a number of issues, including towards conflict resolution in Syria, where he said the objective is to achieve a Syria in which territorial integrity is preserved, which can run its own destiny and where all groups can feel included. After the briefing, the Secretary-General gave a speech at the Valdai discussion club, where he talked about how the UN is responding to conflict in the world today. We can provide a link to his speech if you’d like to watch it.
In the afternoon, the Secretary-General met with the heads of UN agencies in Russia to commemorate 70 years of UN presence in the country. He also met with hockey legend Vyacheslav Fetisov, who was recently designated as UN Environment Patron for Polar Regions and who presented the Secretary-General with a pair of skates and his own hockey stick. Next spring, Mr. Fetisov is heading what is called the “last ice hockey game” for the Arctic and North Pole to highlight the urgency to take climate action, as climate models project that the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free by 2040. And yesterday, the Secretary-General and President Vladimir Putin met and discussed the state of international relations and multilateral institutions, as well as the situation in the Middle East, including Syria. The Secretary-General should be on his way back to New York now.
Earlier today, we issued the following statement: The Secretary-General welcomes the positive steps taken recently by Ethiopia and Eritrea to resolve the outstanding issues regarding the normalization of relations between the two countries. The Secretary-General commends the efforts of the leaders of both countries to achieve sustainable peace and good neighbourly relations which, in turn, will have positive repercussions in the entire Horn of Africa region. The Secretary-General stands ready to provide all support that may contribute to advancing and consolidating the process of engagement between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, wrapped up her first official visit to Myanmar. She met, among many others, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, as well as conflict-affected communities and families in Rakhine state, the United Nations country team, the diplomatic community and international NGOs. In all meetings, she stressed the need for inclusive solutions that integrate the views and important voices of women. In this first visit, the Special Envoy focused on listening to all sides to better understand their diverse perspectives with a view to building trust and confidence, and establishing positive relations while promoting the key principles of the United Nations. In all discussions, Ms. Schraner Burgener underlined the importance of accountability, which she highlighted was essential for genuine reconciliation. She urged the need for credible fact-finding measures, and highlighted the readiness on the part of the United Nations and the international community to cooperate in this regard. There are more details in a note to correspondents we put out this morning.
And I have an option for you to add to your Monday evening calendars: a concert to benefit Rohingya Refugees will be performed at the Baruch Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. The Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, Ambassador Masud Bin Momen, will attend. You will recall that Bangladesh hosts the more than 671,000 Rohingya children, women and men who have fled Myanmar. Also, there will be Ninette Kelley, Director of the High Commissioner for Refugees’ office in New York. And there will be a message from the Secretary‑General. There is more in a press release in my office.
**Central African Republic
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Central African Republic, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, briefed the Security Council this morning. He said that since February, there have been outbreaks of violence across the country and that armed groups continue to exert a negative influence over vast stretches of the territory, adding that the volatile security situation is negatively impacting the political process. Mr. Onanga-Anyanga warned that the humanitarian situation remains dire: more than 688,000 people are internally displaced, and another 568,000 are refugees in neighbouring countries. Attacks against humanitarian workers make the Central African Republic the deadliest humanitarian context in the world. Meanwhile, only 4 per cent of the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan has been funded. Mr. Onanga-Anyanga told Council members that the risk of escalating violence and the unnecessary suffering inflicted on the population demand our full attention and support. The country cannot afford more clashes among armed groups seeking the opportunity to pillage and exploit natural resources, he said. He added that as long as the hands of the State will not be stronger than the illegitimate groups and criminal organizations, our efforts to establish lasting peace and stability in the Central African Republic will continue to be seriously challenged. Mr. Onanga-Anyanga will speak to you at the stakeout after the Council meeting.
Our humanitarian colleagues report that fighting in Yemen continues mainly in districts south of Hodeidah City, while the situation in the city was somewhat calmer over the last 24 hours. If fighting reaches more urban areas, civilians will be at greater risk. Emergency response continues across Hodeidah Governorate. As of yesterday, partners had provided nearly 1,000 emergency kits to displaced people. Altogether, over 7,000 people have benefited from different emergency assistance programmes. The risk of a cholera outbreak remains an immediate threat. Hodeidah was one of the centres of the recent epidemic, and even before the recent violence, several districts had been identified to be at highest risk of a renewed outbreak. As part of their obligations under international humanitarian law, parties to the conflict must take care not to damage water and sanitation infrastructure. This is especially important in the current environment.
The United Nations is deeply concerned for the safety and protection of an estimated 750,000 people in southern Syria, where hostilities are endangering civilians and causing displacement. Today, fighting and shelling continued to be reported in many towns on the eastern and western side of Dara’a Governorate. Yesterday, on 20 June, shelling and fighting in several areas of Dara’a Governorate reportedly resulted in the deaths of 20 people, including 11 in Dara’a City; many others were injured. The fighting has led to the displacement of people from northern Dara'a Governorate to rural Quneitra Governorate, as well as towards the border with Jordan. There are reports of restrictions on movement due to the increase in hostilities. The United Nations and its partners continue to deliver assistance despite the increase in hostilities, reaching hundreds of thousands of people in need each month from across the border in Jordan. The United Nations calls on all parties to take all necessary measures to safeguard civilian lives, allow freedom of movement, and to protect civilian infrastructure, as required by international humanitarian and human rights law.
Regarding Western Sahara, in response to questions, I can confirm that Horst Köhler, the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, will travel to the region again from 23 June to 1 July. He will visit Algiers, Nouakchott, Tindouf, Rabouni, Rabat, Laayoune, Smara and Dakhla. The purpose of the visit is two-fold: to further increase his understanding of the reality on the ground and discuss the way forward on the United Nations-led political process, in accordance with Security Council resolution 2414 (2018).
After I am done, you will hear from Brenden Varma, the Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly. And tomorrow, at 11:15 a.m., there will be a briefing here by the Permanent Mission of Monaco to the United Nations entitled "SDGs Youth World Cup". And that is it for me. Are there any questions? Yeah, Benny?
**Questions and Answers
Question: I didn’t realise you would start with me. So, anything on… last night, there were quite a few rockets from Gaza towards Israel. Anything on that?
Deputy Spokesman: As you know, we are opposed to any of the rocket attacks that have intermittently been coming from Gaza towards southern Israel. Our Special Envoy… our Special Coordinator, Nickolay Mladenov, has made clear for the need for all such attacks to cease, and he condemns any efforts that place civilians' lives at risk.
Question: And, on another topic, that redacted Sy… report on Syria, do you have anything on that, any language?
Deputy Spokesman: Which report on Syria?
Question: The report of the… well, it's not the UN report, but it's the Committee… you know, the… but does… since the Secretary‑General is going to issue a same report…?
Deputy Spokesman: I'm aware of the… in the media, of leaks concerning the report by the Commission of Inquiry. I would refer you to the Commission of Inquiry and to my colleagues who deal with human rights in Geneva.
Question: Has the Secretary‑General seen the report and the original draft?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, regarding the drafting process, that's a question, again, for the authors of the report, the members of the Commission of Inquiry. As far as that goes, we would have no comment on leaked reports, but, as a general rule, as you know, all reports go through a drafting process, and we would urge you to look towards the final version. Yes?
Question: Sure. Thanks for the reading of the… readout of the new… the Myanmar envoy. I wanted to ask you to confirm that the Secretary‑General will be in Bangladesh in Cox's Bazar in early July. The min… Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh has announced that, that he'll be there with Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank. They've talked about the specifics of World Bank funding. So, given that they've said that, will you confirm it?
Deputy Spokesman: At this stage, as you know, with all trips, once we have an announcement ready, we'll announce it. We don't have anything to announce at this stage.
Question: And I also wanted to ask you, relate… in the same… in Cox's Bazar, a well‑known Rohingya spokesperson/representative, Arifullah, was hacked to death. And I wanted to know, is there any… I mean, given that the UN is present in these camps, who's responsible for it? What will be done about it? What's your comment on it?
Deputy Spokesman: We are aware of these latest reports, which are disturbing. Obviously, we would hope that the local law enforcement authorities in Cox's Bazar investigate this thoroughly. Yes, please?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. I was wondering if you have an update on the humanitarian situation in Idleb because at least five civilians were reportedly killed and at least 35 people were wounded in recent attacks [inaudible].
Deputy Spokesman: We are aware of recent attacks in Idleb, and earlier this week, we had an update on that. If we get anything further from our humanitarian colleagues, we'll announce it at that point. Yes?
Question: Yeah, is… has the United Nations and its many migrant and refugee agencies offered any help to New York to the mayor or the governor since the [Donald] Trump Administration, apparently, plopped some Latin American refugees in strange places in this city?
Deputy Spokesman: We haven't been contacted by the authorities in New York City about this, if that's what you're asking. Yes?
Question: Sure. I'd asked Stéphane [Dujarric] a couple days ago about the fighting in the Oil Crescent in… in Libya and the oil tanks or large tanks that were on fire. He said he didn't have anything for Libya that day, but a number of Governments have now spoken about it. What's… what does Mr. [Ghassan] Salamé say about this… there are air strikes. There's quite a bit going on there. What is Mr. Salamé's position on it? Has he spoken with Mr.… General [Khalifa] Haftar, any of the parties attacking the Oil Crescent?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, regarding that, I mean, we're concerned about all of the fighting that's been happening throughout Libya. Mr. Salamé, as you know, has been in touch with the various parties. But, we are concerned about the recent reports of violence and we certainly are hoping that the parties will exercise restraint.
Question: And I wanted to also ask you, yesterday, there were two announcements in Cameroon. One is that the central Government is announcing they… they say a $220 million plan to try to address the Anglophone areas. They also accuse diaspora and using social media of stirring up people. Many people that live there say that it's kind of a… it's… you know, the whole arsonist fireman scenario. But, I'm wondering, is the UN involved in this humanitarian appeal by the Paul Biya Government for the Anglophone areas?
Deputy Spokesman: I'm not aware of any UN involvement in that, no.
Question: So, will they not be contribu… I mean, where is the money coming from? They seem to say this was an appeal, so I guess you're saying it's not through the UN system?
Deputy Spokesman: I'll check with our colleagues and the Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs, but I'm not aware that we're involved in this.
Question: And is UN involved in any way in the talks between [Riek] Machar and Kiir in… and Salva Kiir in Ethiopia?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, these are talks that are being held under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, IGAD, and we're very pleased at IGAD's role in bringing these parties together. I do expect that the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) will, at some point, have a response to this development. But, certainly, we have been urging that the parties get together and resolve their issues. Come on up, Brenden.
Question: Just one more. Can I ask one more question?
Deputy Spokesman: Hold on. Yeah, Olga.
Question: Thank you, Farhan. You've just updated us on the situation in Syria in Dara'a. Does it mean that regional team finally visited Dara'a City? I mean, where is information coming from?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we, as you know, have humanitarian partners on the ground. And we get updates from our partners, so that's where we're getting the information. Yes?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Is there any indication at all that the Coalition has entered into Syria's political talks on Yemen?
Deputy Spokesman: This is something that our Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, has been working on, and he has been in touch with the parties. As you know, he was recently in Sana'a, and then he was in Jeddah. And so, he is in touch with them, and he's trying to make as much progress as he can. Of course, what is essential for that is for the fighting in Hodeidah to be stopped.
Correspondent: Exactly. And it's not stopping.
Deputy Spokesman: We are working to do what we can to bring a halt to that. Howard?
Question: Yeah, hi. Thank you, Farhan. Yeah, going back to the Commission of Inquiry on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, when you say, we would urge you to look toward the final version, are you saying anything there about draft versions?
Deputy Spokesman: This is a report, again, that is being prepared by a Commission of Inquiry, so I'd urge you to talk to the Commission of Inquiry for the particulars of how they prepared this. But, with the UN, of course, we come out with a final text. There's many drafts that every report goes through, and the final text is… of the report is the final say that we have on this. Yes?
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask… the… the… seemed, at least on paper, the Fifth Committee ends tomorrow. And there is this global service delivery mechanism reform plan about the Secretary‑General that got criticised by ACABQ [Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions] and JIU [Joint Inspection Unit], and I'm just wondering, does the Secretary‑General expect the Fifth Committee to keep meeting past tomorrow? And how would he… how would he respond or how would you respond on his behalf; today, Prince Zeid criticized Hungary for a new law passed that makes it illegal to help migrants. At the same time, it's his proposal to be moving a number of UN jobs from at least Geneva, maybe New York, as well, to Budapest. Was this… was the current political situation as regards migrants taken into account by him in making this proposal?
Deputy Spokesman: No, well, those are unrelated issues. The issue regarding movement of services has to do with how we provide services efficiently. It's not about the political or human rights context in different societies. So, those are separate and apart. And we'll continue our dialogue with the members of the Fifth Committee. And, of course, on that, I would return to our colleague Brenden Varma, who can talk better about the General Assembly. Yeah, one more. Benny?
Question: When do you expect the 2231… the Secretary‑General's 2231 report to be issued?
Deputy Spokesman: It should go out to the members of the Council fairly soon.
Question: And… and one more question about that. Since this is the first report since the US has withdrawn from the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], do we have… does that have any effect over the drafting, over the writing?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, you can look at the report when it comes out and see for yourself.