6 August 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 Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.  The Secretary-General will depart for Japan this evening.

As we told you last week, he will meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and with Foreign Minister Taro Kono.

The Secretary-General will also take part in the seventy-third Nagasaki Peace Ceremony on Thursday.

The High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, is in Hiroshima today, where she delivered a message on behalf of the Secretary-General at the Hiroshima Peace Ceremony.

In his message, the Secretary-General said that what occurred in Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 cannot and must not ever happen again.

He noted that tensions between nuclear-armed States are rising and stressed that world leaders must return to dialogue and diplomacy, to a common path towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons and a safer and more secure world for all.  His full message is available online.


Earlier today we issued the following statement on the earthquake in Lombok, Indonesia:  The Secretary-General is saddened by the devastating loss of life, injuries and damage caused by the earthquake on Sunday, 5 August, in Indonesia's East Lombok, just one week after another earthquake in the same region left more than a dozen people dead and over 150 people injured.

The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of Indonesia, and wishes the injured a quick recovery. 

The United Nations stands ready to support ongoing rescue and relief efforts, if required. 


The United Nations remains concerned over reports of continued violence in Syria’s Idleb governorate causing civilian deaths and destruction of civilian infrastructure.

The United Nations strongly condemns attacks against civilians, aid workers and civilian and humanitarian infrastructure.  The United Nations continues to call on all parties, and those with influence over them, to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law.

Meanwhile, an estimated 45,000 to 50,000 internally displaced people live under very difficult living conditions in Rukban camp, on the berm between Jordan and Syria.  Some 80 per cent are believed to be women and children.  They reportedly need water, hygiene, health, education aid and civil documentation.

The United Nations last delivered humanitarian assistance to the camp in January 2018.  The United Nations reiterates its call for a long-term durable solution for those stranded at the berm, given the volatile security situation and living conditions.


Alice Walpole, Deputy Special Representative for Iraq, said today after the end of the vote recount process there that we are very pleased that it's been concluded and we look forward to the next steps in this process towards formation of the new Government. 


Our humanitarian colleagues inform us that heavy clashes were reported in Hodeidah governorate over the last several days, mainly in Ad Durayhimi district south of Hodeidah city.  The situation is reportedly calmer today.

Since 1 June, escalating conflict in Hodeidah has displaced more than 350,000 people, most of whom have remained in nearby areas.  Humanitarian partners have provided emergency relief kits to more than 90 per cent of the people who have been recently displaced.  Regular humanitarian programmes are also continuing in parallel.

**Central African Republic

In the Central African Republic, the Humanitarian Coordinator there, Najat Rochdi, has condemned in the strongest terms the significant rise in the number of incidents against aid workers.  She called on all parties to respect and protect civilians and humanitarian workers.  She said humanitarian staff and goods are not a target.  She is appalled by the outbreak of violence against civilians in need of protection and against humanitarian workers whose only credo is to save lives. 

The number of incidents against aid workers has nearly doubled between the first and second quarter of 2018, from 63 to 118.

Some 2.5 million people, over half of the population of the country, are in need of humanitarian assistance in the Central African Republic.  Humanitarians remain committed to assisting the most vulnerable people and to strengthening the resilience of the most affected communities.


In Ethiopia, our colleagues tell us that violent protests in the Somali region have reportedly led to at least 29 deaths, with further reports of houses of worship, homes and businesses being attacked and destroyed.  Flights to Jijiga have been suspended and road travel is restricted.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), some 22,000 households were already provided with emergency supplies, but over 150,000 households still need assistance.  Movements of humanitarian workers have also been restricted for safety reasons.  More information is available online.


In Colombia, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that at least 14,108 people have been left homeless due to heavy rainfall since July across Colombia’s Orinoquia region.  The flooding of various rivers has worsened humanitarian needs and the number of affected people is likely to rise as rain will continue this month.

According to the Government, 60 per cent of those affected are from rural areas and most of them are children and women.  Our colleagues are supporting the Government’s efforts to respond with food rations, hygiene kits and blankets, among other supplies.  At the national level, the humanitarian country team will continue to monitor the emergency to provide further aid as required.

And Brendan Varma the Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly will speak after me.  Any questions before we go to him?  Yes, Nizar?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yeah.  Thank you, Farhan.  These new sanctions imposed by the United States against Iran today, do they fall under international legitimacy, or how does the United Nations view them?

Deputy Spokesman:  As you know, when these sanctions were being contemplated, we offered the Secretary‑General's views at the time.  As you know, the Secretary‑General continues to view the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as a diplomatic achievement and continues to encourage support for all Governments for that, and we will continue to do so. 

Question:  Is there anything the United Nations can do at this stage to prevent any escalations after these sanctions?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, like I said, we've encouraged all countries to support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  We don't have any role in bilateral relations between countries.  Yes, Mario?

Question:  Farhan, do you… Does the UN have any information regarding this attack that took place in Venezuela on Saturday and any reaction to… to what's happening in the country?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  What I can say on that is that the Secretary‑General is concerned about the latest developments in Venezuela and rejects any act of violence.  The Secretary‑General once again urges national actors to make all efforts to seek consensus to address the country's many challenges, upholding the human rights of all Venezuelans and within the framework of the rule of law.  Yes?

Question:  Can I just have a follow‑up?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  Yes, please.

Question:  The Venezuelan Government has blamed the Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, for this attack.  Is the SG concerned about what can happen in the region?

Deputy Spokesman:  We have no first‑hand information on that.  Of course, we would encourage all of the neighbouring countries to work cooperatively with each other.  Yes, please, Mushfiqul?

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Farhan.  I think you are aware of the horrible situation going on in Bangladesh.  Students are in the… the school‑going students, they are in the street, and they're protesting.  They're demanding road safety, but police and law enforcement agencies are attacking the students.  Not only the police, the student wing of the ruling governing party, they're attacking the students.  They're shooting, and students are abused, sexually abused the girls, and horrific situation is going on in Bangladesh, as I said.  What is your observation, and how is the UN looking?  And, secondly, the… one of the renowned photojournalists, he was picked up by the law enforcement agency.  More than 21 hours he was disappeared, so now they produced him in the court and he's… the police remand.  Just, he appeared in the Al Jazeera, he discussed as far as going on in Bangladesh.  So what is your observation on these issues? And I have another follow‑up I'll ask next.

Deputy Spokesman:  On this, what I can say, I would draw your attention to what the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, Mia Seppo, has said.  What she had made clear is that "We are deeply concerned about the reports of violence and call on all for calm.  The concerns expressed by youth about road safety are legitimate and a solution is needed for a mega city like Dhaka."  She also said that "a functioning transport system should ensure the safety of all, including children, young girls and women".  And the UN urgently calls upon all parties to keep everyone — including children and young people — safe from any kind of violence.  And regarding your question about the journalist, of course, we would encourage the Government of Bangladesh, as well as all Governments, to respect the rights of the media.

Question:  Another follow‑up, Farhan.  In… one of our colleague UNHCR [United Nations refugee agency] representative who is working in the Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar, his name is Solomon.  His dead body is found in the river; police rescued.  And this is the common phenomenon of Bangladesh.  Same day, one of the… another student's dead body was found.  He was involved in the students' movement.  So, what is your… does Secretary‑General aware of that issues, this UNHCR official dead body found in the Cox's Bazar?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding that, we would be concerned about any deaths of aid workers, and we hope that this will be promptly and thoroughly investigated.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah.  Why… what is preventing the delivery of aid to the people who are stranded near the Jordanian border in the Rukban refugee camp?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as I mentioned just now… hold on one second.  You know, of course, we've had different problems in access to the area because of the fighting in the area, but what we're trying to do is see what we can do to get water, hygiene, health and education aid to the people in need.  As you know, there have been a great number of people stranded at the berm, and there's been a very volatile security situation there for some time, and we want that to be resolved so that all these people can get the assistance that they deserve.

Question:  Yeah, but you have the cross‑border agreement or the resolution that allows that.  Why don't… don't they deliver the aid through Jordan?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as you know, part of the problem is simply the security situation in the area.  Whenever it allows us to make aid deliveries, we will try to do so, but, as you know, it's been difficult there, particularly in recent weeks.

Question:  Sorry.  When you talked about violence in Idleb, you mean violence between the armed groups?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  You're aware of the recent violence in Idleb.  Yes?

Question:  Just a follow‑up on… on Iran.  Independently from the JCPOA, is there any concern about the development and humanitarian impact that the sanctions could have?  Have you studied the sanctions?

Deputy Spokesman:  We will have to see what the effect of these measures are.  Obviously, for us, what is important is that, regardless of the steps that are being taken, that Iran and the other parties comply with the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  That is our best way of resolving this particular situation.  And so we would encourage all countries to do what they can to support the agreement.  And with that, Brenden, come on up.

For information media. Not an official record.