8 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, everyone.  This morning, in Tokyo, the Secretary‑General met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.  Speaking to the press afterwards, the Secretary‑General said that his visit has a very special meaning, as he is in Japan to express his deep solidarity with the Japanese people, who had to experience the dropping of two atomic bombs.  He also called Japan one of the United Nations most important partners and commended its efforts to promote peace and security, sustainable development and human rights.

The Secretary‑General then travelled to Nagasaki, where he held a meeting with the Mayors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, as well as other local officials.  The Secretary‑General also met with several Hibakusha, or survivors of the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  He said afterwards in a tweet that this was an unforgettable experience, adding that he will do everything in his power to support their message that there can be no more Hiroshimas and no more Nagasakis.  We must make sure that nuclear weapons are never used again, he said.  Tomorrow, the Secretary‑General will take part in the seventy‑third Nagasaki Peace Ceremony.


Two months since the signing of the tripartite memorandum of understanding between the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the Government of Myanmar, UNHCR and UNDP are both urging the Myanmar authorities to make tangible progress to improve conditions in Rakhine State.  The Myanmar Government’s willingness to take the lead in the implementation of this agreement is critical to creating conditions conducive for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees.

The Government has taken some encouraging steps since the memorandum of understanding was signed on 6 June, but substantial progress is urgently needed in three areas covered by that document:  granting effective access in Rakhine State; ensuring freedom of movement for all communities; and addressing the root causes of the crisis.  Confidence‑building measures need to take root, starting with facilitating access for UNHCR and UNDP to commence needs assessment visits to identify quick‑impact projects in priority village tracts that have been agreed with the Government.  UNHCR and UNDP remain prepared to support Myanmar in improving conditions in Rakhine State and operationalizing the memorandum of understanding.


Ján Kubiš, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for Iraq, briefed the Security Council this morning, and he urged Iraq’s political leaders to listen to the voice of the people, seize the opportunity and accelerate the process of formation of a patriotic, inclusive and non‑sectarian national government that will put all the rich resources of Iraq at the disposal [of] and for the benefit of its people, and will ensure full sovereignty and real independence of Iraq, free from foreign interference.

He said that, following the parliamentary elections on 12 May 2018, complaints and allegations of electoral fraud and mismanagement resulted in the decision to conduct a partial manual ballot recount, thereby delaying establishment of a new government.  Mr. Kubiš said he welcomed the orderly, transparent, credible and well‑organized conduct of the recount.  He also provided details of the public demonstrations that started on 8 July, in Basra Governorate, which subsequently escalated and spread to other southern governorates.  Although the scale of protest has now decreased, he added, demonstrations are far from over, including around major oil installations in Basra.

The Council has gone into consultations, first on Iraq and then, under other matters, on Georgia.  UK Ambassador Karen Pierce, the Council President, will talk to the press following the conclusion of those consultations.


Also on Georgia, on the tenth anniversary of the 2008 conflict in Georgia, the Secretary‑General recalls that it is a reminder of the need to resolve this and other protracted conflicts in Europe.  This requires increased commitment by the relevant actors, backed by strong political will and a reinvigoration of mediation processes.  We have a full statement online with more details.


The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, [convened] a consultative meeting of 22 public Yemeni figures and women activists in the United Kingdom yesterday.  The two‑day meeting, which discussed the resumption of the political process, comes within the continuous efforts of the UN Envoy to engage in consultations with all Yemeni parties.  He said that the main purpose of the meeting is to have the opportunity to consult with Yemeni social and political figures who possess a unique knowledge of Yemeni society.  Mr. Griffiths underscored that a negotiated political settlement through inclusive intra‑Yemeni dialogue is the only way to end the Yemeni conflict and address the ongoing humanitarian crisis.


You will have seen that we sent you a note on the visit by United Nations Assistant Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, Miroslav Jenča, to Afghanistan.  During his visit, which concluded today, Mr. Jenča met with representatives of the Government, political leaders and the diplomatic community.  He conveyed the United Nations strong support for the Government’s efforts to hold transparent, inclusive and credible elections in October this year and the presidential elections in April, and reiterated that the UN is ready to assist if requested.


Our humanitarian colleagues inform us that emergency fuel stocks at a number of critical health, water and sanitation facilities in Gaza have almost run out, creating enormous risks for the population.  These facilities depend on emergency fuel to power backup generators that are required due to Gaza’s energy crisis, which leaves the population with no more than four hours of electricity per day.  Humanitarian partners estimate that at least 60,000 litres of emergency fuel should be swiftly delivered to 47 critical health and water sanitation and hygiene facilities across Gaza to ensure minimum service provision over the coming four days.

The immediate lack of fuel is due to Israeli restrictions on fuel imports into Gaza.  These restrictions were imposed last week in response to continued launches of incendiary kites from Gaza into Israel, which have caused extensive property damage.  Fuel restrictions also apply to UN‑procured emergency fuel for Gaza.  By mid‑August, funding for UN‑supported emergency fuel programmes will run out.  To avoid a major crisis, restrictions on the entry of fuel need to be lifted, and donors are urged to provide $4.5 million to cover emergency fuel support in Gaza through the end of the year.


I was asked yesterday about the UN’s work in Cameroon.  I can say that Special Representative François Louncény Fall is currently visiting Cameroon, having arrived on 5 August.  He is there to hold consultations with the Government on the situation in the country in the lead‑up to the 7 October presidential election, as well as coordination of humanitarian assistance to those in urgent need.  He has met the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Territorial Administration and the President of the National Commission for the Promotion of Multiculturalism and Bilingualism.  He is scheduled to meet the Director General of Cameroon’s electoral management body (ELECAM), as well as the Chief of Staff of the Presidency of the Republic of Cameroon, among others.

**Press Briefings

Brendan Varma, the spokesman for the President of the General Assembly, will speak after me and I mentioned that the President of the Security Council, Ambassador Karen Pierce, will be at the stakeout sometime shortly.

And on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, which is tomorrow, there will be a press conference here at 1 o’clock.  The speakers will include Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine, Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; Prasert Trakansuphakon of Thailand and Amy Juan from the United States of America.  That’s it for me.  Yes, Sherwin?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Farhan, is there any reaction from the Secretary‑General to news that Joseph Kabila [Kabange] will not be standing for re‑election in the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] elections in December?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, what I can say is we can take… we do take note of the Government’s announcement that Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the Permanent Secretary of the Parti du Peuple pour la Reconstruction et la Démocratie, has been designated as the Front Commun pour le Congo candidate for the upcoming presidential elections.  We welcome the continued progress towards the holding of free, fair and peaceful elections on 23 December, in accordance with the Constitution and the 31 December 2016 agreement.

Question:  Is there… are there any plans for the SG still to visit, for the AU [African Union] Commission chair?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I don’t have anything to announce just yet.  Whenever the next time he is visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we’ll make an announcement.  Yes, Joe?

Question:  Yes.  Regarding Cameroon, did the visit you just announce include a visit with the President of Cameroon?  If not, why not?  And I… I understand from what you said, this… the focus is on humanitarian relief, or was it a broader set of matters that were discussed, including human rights abuses in Cameroon?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, it’s two things.  As I just said, it was about consultations about the situation in the country in the lead‑up to the elections, as well as coordination of humanitarian assistance to those in urgent need.  He met with the Prime Minister and other officials.  He has not met with the President.  His visit is still ongoing.  If there’s any further meetings to disclose in the coming days, I’ll let you know.

Question:  Well, when you say “situation” leading up to the elections, that’s very general.  Did the subject of alleged human rights abuses in Cameroon, both by the Government security forces and allegedly by armed forces, come up for discussion?  If not, why not?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, what I can point out is among the people he met with is the President of the National Commission for the Promotion of Multiculturalism and Bilingualism [National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism], who is one of the officials who deals with concerns having to do with the Anglophone community.  Regarding the details of the meetings, this is as much detail as I can give at this point.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Reports coming from the south‑west Syria, the Yarmouk Basin area, which has been liberated by the Syrian army, shows that some of the fighters of… ISIS fighters have managed to flee through the occupied Golan into Israeli‑controlled territory.  How does the United Nations view such action?  Is this a violation of United Nations resolutions or not?

Deputy Spokesman:  We have no first‑hand presence in that area, so we would have no way of verifying that information.

Question:  Is there anyone, I mean, inspecting the weapons left behind by them?  Many of them come from Western countries and Israel itself.  Is there any way that… to investigate these allegations?

Deputy Spokesman:  Again, I would point out that we don’t have any first‑hand presence there.  Yes, Edie?

Question:  Well, how about the UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force]?

Deputy Spokesman:  Your colleague is asking a question.  Edie?

Question:  Yeah, but how about the UNDOF?

Deputy Spokesman:  I’m sorry.  We’ve turned to another person.  Edie?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Diplomats say that the UN Deputy Secretary‑General, Amina Mohammed, told a number of ambassadors yesterday that Michelle Bachelet has been selected by Secretary‑General António Guterres as the new human rights chief, the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Can you confirm this?

Deputy Spokesman:  At this point, I don’t have any name to confirm or announce for the position of High Commissioner for Human Rights.  What I can say is that the process is nearing its conclusion.  As part of that process, what the Secretariat would do is send a name to the President of the General Assembly for the General Assembly’s consideration.  So, we’re in the midst of that process, but we do not have a name to confirm just yet.

Question:  Is a name being sent?

Deputy Spokesman:  I expect a name will be sent fairly soon.  And…

Question:  Can you tell us that name?

Deputy Spokesman:  I cannot tell you whose name it is.  [Laughter]  That was a very good try, though.  [Laughter]  Yes, back to you, Nizar.

Question:  Yeah.  I asked about the role of UNDOF in monitoring such events, I mean, people crossing the separation zone, which is under their mandate and observation, of course.  Why can’t they verify what I’m talking about here?

Deputy Spokesman:  The UN Disengagement Observer Force is capable of monitoring activities within its own area of operations.  Things outside of its area of operations, we would not be able to do.  Yes?

Question:  But this is under… this is under their area of operation.

Deputy Spokesman:  The fighting in the border is away from where the troops have been present.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, can you confirm receipt of a formal complaint that has been submitted to the Secretary‑General by Inner City Press on prohibited conduct?  Did you… have you received…?

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe that has been received and is being reviewed.

Question:  What action will be taken into… in regards to that?  And will that hold up a decision that has been ongoing on the status of Inner City Press?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don’t believe it will hold up any decision.  I think, once a decision is made, we will convey it to Matthew, and then I will let you guys know.  And with that, Brenden Varma, come on up.

For information media. Not an official record.