11 September 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.


As a reminder, the Secretary-General is traveling to Ghana this evening, where he will attend the memorial service for the late former Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, which takes place on Thursday in the Ghanaian capital.  As the Secretary-General said at the wreath-laying ceremony for the former Secretary-General, Kofi Annan was “a man who embodied United Nations values and made us all proud to call ourselves his colleagues.”  He was a true voice for the voiceless, who did not shy away from the most challenging issues but worked creatively to bridge differences and protect the most vulnerable.

**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels

The Deputy Secretary-General will be heading off to Washington, D.C., to engage in discussions with senior management of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on financing for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  She will also participate in an open dialogue at the IMF with the Managing Director, Christine Lagarde.  She will be back in New York later this evening.


The UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has condemned the series of bombings that took place today in Nangarhar province which killed at least 21 civilians and injured 60 other people.  The Mission also voiced its mounting concern at the pattern of attacks targeting civilians and schools.  The majority of civilian casualties occurred in the Mohmandara district of Nangarhar when a suicide attacker detonated his explosives among a crowd demonstrating against a local Afghan police commander.  That area and its capital, Jalalabad, have recently witnessed multiple attacks by anti-Government elements specifically targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, in particular schools.  Within a 15-minute period this morning, no fewer than three schools were targeted in the Bihsud district of Nangarhar and in Jalalabad.  The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Tadamichi Yamamoto, said he feels profound indignation at this latest wave of attacks deliberately targeting civilians, and he stressed that the bombings of schools and the killing of children are among the most egregious and repulsive acts of terrorism which violate international humanitarian law.


Panos Moumtzis, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, said today he is deeply worried about the recent escalation of hostilities in northwest Syria, resulting in the new displacement during the past few days of over 30,000 women, children and men and scores of civilian deaths.  Currently there are some 6.2 million internally displaced people inside Syria.  He said that our fear as humanitarians is the worst may be ahead of us.  The safety and protection of some 2.9 million civilians residing in Idlib and surrounding areas is at risk.  This includes some 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), the majority of whom are women and children, who came to the region from other areas.  A further escalation of military operations in Idlib and surrounding areas will not only endanger civilian lives in this densely populated area but will severely impact humanitarian partners’ ability to deliver life-saving assistance, he warned.  The Security Council is meeting on Idlib right now, and it is scheduled to discuss Yemen this afternoon.


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, has visited Sulaymaniyah and Erbil.  He met with leaders of political parties, and, in Erbil, he met with Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) President Masoud Barzani and met separately with the Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani.  The Special Representative urged political leaders and forces both at the federal level and in the Kurdistan Region to unite and work together for a speedy establishment of a pro-reform, non-sectarian, patriotic national government with partnership participation of all components and segments of Iraq, in full respect for and implementation of the Iraqi Constitution.  He warned about the destabilizing impact of any procrastination that will only exacerbate the dangerous divisions and polarization across the country.


On Friday, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, will be in Oslo.  This will be his first visit to Norway in his role.  He is scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide.  He will also sign a multi-year agreement between Norway and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, and he will deliver remarks on the occasion of Norway’s new humanitarian strategy.


For the third year in a row, there has been a rise in world hunger, according to a new UN report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World.  The report is a joint project of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).  These agencies report that 821 million people — the vast majority in Africa and Asia — faced chronic food deprivation in 2017, compared to 804 million in 2016.  Nearly 151 million children aged under five were stunted due to malnutrition in 2017, compared to 165 million in 2012.

In addition to conflict in many parts of the world, the gains made in ending hunger and malnutrition are being eroded by climate variability and exposure to more complex, frequent and intense climate extremes.  The agencies warn that there is considerable work to be done to make sure we ‘leave no one behind’ on the road towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on food security and improved nutrition.  The report urges increased interventions to guarantee access to nutritious foods and break the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition.

**Press Briefings

Tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., there will be a briefing here on the commemoration of the UN Day for South-South Cooperation which is 12 September, and that will be done with the Director of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, Jorge Chediek, and other guests.

**Honour Roll

Today we say thank you to Sudan, for paying its dues in full, bringing us up to…?  [131]  Easy‑peasy for you.  You should maybe go on Jeopardy!.  Go ahead.  And paying attention.  Being here yesterday doesn't always imply that you are actually paying attention.  But you are.  Yes, go ahead.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Okay.  Thank you.  As you know, John Bolton, who is formerly a US Ambassador to the UN, now National Security Adviser, sharply criticized the International Criminal Court  (ICC), called it illegitimate, said the US will not cooperate, etc.  But, during the course of his remarks, he said that the Trump Administration regards the US Constitution as the supreme law governing the United States, not making any exceptions for the UN Charter, etc.  So, I'd like to know your comment on behalf of the Secretary‑General to that remark.

Spokesman:  I'm not going to get into an analysis of the speech given by the National Security Adviser.  The Secretary‑General's own position on a lot of the issues he raised are clear and unchanged.

Question:  Well, just more generally, how does the Secretary‑General view the position of the UN Charter vis‑à‑vis the Constitution of any particular sovereign state, including the United States?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General deeply values the relationship he has with the United States, a founding member and major contributor… and main contributor to the United Nations.  And he is in his… he stands in his role as defender of the UN Charter.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Thank you… thank you, Stéphane.  One… one thing, can you confirm whether the Secretary‑General will be visiting India in the second week of October? Is that…

Spokesman:  I'm not in a position to confirm.  When we have an official travel to announce, we shall.

Question:  Is that visit on?

Spokesman:  As I've just said, I'm not in a position to confirm it.  When we have official travel to announce, we shall.

Question:  [Inaudible] my question would be, if he's visiting, will he be talking to the Indian Prime Minister about the human rights violations reported by his High Commissioner recently?

Spokesman:  Well, it's hard for me to answer that question when I'm not able to confirm the actual trip.  Signorina?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I was wondering if the SG has any comments on the announcement from UN High Commissioner [Michelle] Bachelet that she would send investigators to Italy to check the reports about racism violence against migrants and if the SG is planning to raise the issue with the Prime Minister [Silvio] Conte if and when they meet at UNGA [United Nations General Assembly]?

Spokesman:  The High Commissioner gave a very detailed inaugural speech at the Human Rights Council talking on a number of issues, and I think all the measures that she announced and plans she said she was going to implement are within her mandate.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Thank you.  As a follow‑up to Mr. Klein's question, there is a threat here to international law, I mean, and there is news circulating that the SG stood with the ICC.  I haven't heard from you that the SG issued any statement in support…

Spokesman:  I… you may not… I don't know if you were here yesterday, but if you looked at the transcript, I think I gave a very strong answer on the Secretary‑General's position on the International Criminal Court, which is his position today, and it was yesterday and the day before, and it's been his position for some time, which he believes that the International Criminal Court, which is independent from the Secretary‑General, has a very important role to play in the international justice system, including on the issues of accountability.  That's his consistent position.

Question:  Thank you.  And regarding the closure of the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] office in Washington, is there any position of the SG?

Spokesman:  No, I've no particular comment at this point on that.

Question:  Another question.  Israeli court threatened to abolish that village of al‑Khan al‑Ahmar, and there is now… as we speak, there are some confrontations that might escalate, and there is warning that might be a number of deaths in the next… next few hours or few days.  Is there any position of any UN official…?

Spokesman:  As always, we would appeal for calm.  And I think this issue of the village is one we'd raised… we'd spoken to before and answered.  Yes, Majeed?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  On Saturday, Iran launched six missile… ballistic missiles targeting a group of Iranian political asylees in the city of Koya in Iraq and killing more than dozen of them, including children.  This is the first attack of such a scale from Iran to a target inside Iraq since the eight‑year‑old war between Iraq and Iran.  Does the SG have any comment about this?

Spokesman:  I think it's very important, as a matter of principle, that all countries respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq.

Question:  And any updates from the… your offices in Iraq about the attack…?

Spokesman:  No, I have not; not that I've received.

Question:  Sorry.  My second question, is does the Secretary‑General plan to talk with our Prime Minister Conte…

Spokesman:  I don't have the list of bilaterals as of yet.  As soon as I have it, I will…  Yeah?

Question:  [Inaudible] an idea of the [inaudible] in Idlib right now?

Spokesman:  Well, what the UN has… you know, what the UN has been doing, UN and its… important to stress, its partners, its humanitarian partners, its… on the ground is delivering aid to where it can through cross‑border deliveries from Turkey and prepositioning aid in as many possible in areas around Idlib.  But, as far as I know, we don't have any… the UN has no physical personnel in Idlib itself.  Okay.  Masood?

Question:  Thank you, sir.  Sir, Farhan… Stéphane, do you have any opinion on…?

Spokesman:  We've all… people often confuse us.  People often confuse Farhan and myself.

Question:  I'm sorry.  Stéphane, do you have any opinion about Iran and Russia meeting on… on the situation in Syria and Idlib, in particular, and that they are also working towards resolution of that crisis?  Does the Secretary‑General of the United Nations have any opinion on that?

Spokesman:  No, I think as far… there have been discussions going on in Geneva as part of the constitutional committee discussions, which Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura is hosting.  I think it's important that all those who have influence on the parties, all the parties involved, and especially the guarantors in Astana do whatever they can to avoid conflict.  Thank you. 

For information media. Not an official record.