The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
In a statement we issued late yesterday evening, the Secretary-General said that, as Afghanistan prepares for parliamentary elections on 20 October, he encourages all eligible Afghan voters to exercise their right to vote and thus to contribute to the development of sustainable democratic institutions and create conditions conducive for a more stable and peaceful Afghanistan. The Secretary‑General called on all political leaders to work together to ensure full respect for the electoral process, in which every voter, particularly women and minority groups, will be able to cast their ballot. Against the backdrop of existing security challenges, the Secretary-General encouraged relevant authorities and all political stakeholders to take the necessary measures to do their utmost to prevent any form of electoral violence.
And also on Afghanistan, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) today condemned yesterday’s attack against Government officials in Kandahar, in a statement that was issued a bit earlier this morning. The Mission said that the timing of the attack, which was fewer than 48 hours before the elections, had contributed to a feeling of uncertainty and insecurity at a moment when many Afghan citizens are preparing to exercise their constitutional right to elect representatives. The Mission said it is encouraged by the steps taken by the Government to ensure continued stability and functions of the Government in Kandahar under such tragic and difficult circumstances.
And I just wanted to give you an update on what the UN system is doing in Indonesia following the recent earthquake and tsunami. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today it delivered the first of more than 1,300 emergency tents for families who have been made homeless. Additional supplies, such as sleeping mats, mosquito nets and solar lamps, will be delivered in the coming weeks. The Government estimates that some 68,000 houses have been damaged and 80,000 people have been displaced. For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) is helping the Government to expedite, manage, store, and distribute aid supplies in Sulawesi. WFP is working on logistics, transport and storage of relief supplies in Palu and the airport hub of Balikpapan on the neighbouring island of Borneo. The agency is due to have 40 trucks in operation in and around Palu by tomorrow, 20 October. These trucks will be available to all aid partners to transport and distribute aid.
Also this morning, back here, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, briefed the Security Council on the latest developments in Mali. Mr. Lacroix noted that the presidential elections in July were held under a largely peaceful climate, demonstrating political maturity. However, he said, the elections should have been underpinned by more progress in the implementation of key reforms. He urged the Government and opposition to engage in constructive political dialogue ahead of impending parliamentary elections. Mr. Lacroix also conveyed to the Council his concern about the security situation in the country. Today’s briefing took place as five UN peacekeepers were wounded by an improvised explosive device in the Kidal region yesterday. He added that, following an intensification in violent extremist attacks in neighbouring Burkina Faso, the G‑5 Sahel joint force remains as relevant as ever and must be complemented by initiatives aimed at improving governance, resilience and development.
And also, I wanted to give you an update following questions we had received in the past concerning the commander of the Sri Lankan contingent in Mali, and I can tell you that, following a review of the human rights background of the commander of the Sri Lankan contingent deployed to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the Secretariat has requested that the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to immediately repatriate him to Sri Lanka. This will be done at their cost, as per normal procedures. This decision to repatriate the commander was made by the UN following a review, based on recently received information. The Secretariat remains engaged with the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka.
**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels
I also wanted to flag that the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, will be traveling to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to give a keynote speech at the United Nations World Data Forum 2018. That meeting is organized by the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority of the United Arab Emirates, together with the Statistics Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and it will be held in Dubai from 22 to 24 October. She will also have bilateral meetings with senior Government officials and the UN country team during her visit. And she will be back with us in New York on Tuesday. Voilà. Mademoiselle?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thanks, Stéphane. I was wondering if you have anything on this Syria summit, which will be held between Turkey, Russia, France and Germany on 27 October? And if the SG has a message to the leaders of these four countries ahead of the summit?
Spokesman: No first of all, I'm checking to see if any… there will be any UN representation. I mean, we learnt about it this morning. We obviously very much hope that the summit leads to help the people of Syria find a more peaceful future. Carla?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Does the UN have any comment about the fact that the United States is cutting off all humanitarian aid to North Korea?
Spokesman: I think we've spoken on this issue before. The… I mean, the UN system continues to work in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to alleviate the humanitarian situation there. We're obviously concerned about the underfunding of our own work. Yassein and then… no, I'll leave it at that. Yassein?
Question: Do you have any… what's the latest about Jamal Khashoggi? What's going on with that case right now? They make a lot of noise and coming to politics and all that stuff between Arab leaders and all.
Spokesman: Probably, we know as much as you do. The Secretary-General continues to follow this case very, very closely, and we do hope that more clarity will be found on the fate of Mr. Khashoggi and obviously, that those responsible will be held to account. Evelyn?
Question: Theoretically… hypothetically, which I know you hate, but I'm asking it anyway, if, by some chance, the Secretary-General does get involved in setting up an investigation into the Khashoggi killing, how long do these things usually take? Because quite often, when the UN sets… organizes an investigation that's complicated, it takes quite a while. Do any…?
Spokesman: I think it would be reckless to try to define a time frame for an investigation that we've not been asked to do. You can look back, historically, at some of the investigations we have been involved in, in the past, whether it's Benazir Bhutto or Rafiq Hariri, but obviously, something has to start before you even try to… so it remains all very hypothetical. Ms. Landry, welcome.
Question: Could I get more details on the Sri Lankan who will be sent home? What exactly were the findings of the review? And are you… is the UN looking at Sri Lankan military officials in other peacekeeping missions?
Spokesman: You know, every… all peacekeepers go through vetting. There were some extra procedures done with the Sri Lankan contingents that have gone through this. This decision follows information… new information that was received by the UN, and so we acted on that information, and we've now asked the Sri Lankan authorities to find a replacement for the commander of their contingent.
Question: Is he still there?
Spokesman: He will be leaving immediately, so I mean, whether… we'll find out exactly if he's physically there, but it won't be long if he still is. Yes, Carla?
Question: Thank you. Does the UN have any comment about the fact that the US met with the Taliban in Qatar, completely undercutting the President and the Government of Afghanistan?
Spokesman: No, I have no specific information on those meetings. Ms. Monica. Happy Friday.
Spokesman: Khalas, exactly.