30 October 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.

Good afternoon, I want to welcome a group of young journalists who are here taking part in Department of Public Information’s Training for Palestinian Journalists who will be here until the end of November, I understand, so welcome!

**Security Council

I just want to flag that the Security Council is meeting in closed consultations right now.  Council members are being briefed on Cyprus by Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo in consultations.  And, earlier this morning, Council Members adopted [a resolution] on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Security Council is also scheduled to meet on Ukraine this afternoon.

And also on related notes, in terms of press encounters with the Security Council, at 2:45 p.m., there will be a press encounter by the EU8 representatives at the Security Council Stakeout, ahead of the Council’s meeting on Ukraine.  And at 5 p.m., after the Ukraine meeting, Ambassador [François] Delattre of France and Ambassador [Christoph] Heusgen of Germany will brief you at the Council stakeout.

**Jamal Khashoggi

Turning to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a press release issued today, she said that the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi must be investigated in an independent and impartial manner to ensure a full examination of, and accountability for, the human rights violations committed in the course of what she called a “shockingly brazen crime”.  She welcomed steps taken by Turkish and Saudi authorities to investigate and prosecute the alleged perpetrators of Mr. Khashoggi’s murder, but she added that the bar must be set very high to ensure meaningful accountability and justice for such a crime against a journalist and Government critic.  The High Commissioner called on the authorities in Turkey and Saudi Arabia to cooperate in ensuring that the full truth is revealed about the murder and that the rights to the truth and justice of his family — and the public at large — are fully realised.  There is more information in a press release online.


And the Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has been continuing intensive consultations on the early establishment of a constitutional committee.  That included consultations he hosted yesterday in London within the context of the Geneva process with senior officials of the Small Group, comprising Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom and the United States.  This was a useful interaction based on the seriousness and urgency of moving ahead with the constitutional committee.  The Special Envoy also met in London with Nasr Hariri, the General Coordinator of the Syrian Negotiation Commission.  And on Sunday, Mr. de Mistura, as you know, was present at the Istanbul summit hosted by Turkey and including the Presidents of France and the Russian Federation, as well as the Chancellor of Germany.  The Special Envoy took particular note of the clear call at the highest level from these four important countries for “establishing and early convening, considering the circumstances, by the end of the year of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva”.  Mr. de Mistura looks forward to hosting consultations, within the context of the Geneva process, with senior officials of the Astana guarantors and Sochi conveners — that is Iran, the Russian Federation and Turkey.


Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, in Indonesia, [one month after] the earthquake in Central Sulawesi, significant progress has been made in meeting the needs of people [who were] impacted, and the Government and its national and international partners continue to provide assistance to those in need.  The Government is intensifying its focus on the transition to recovery while continuing to meet immediate [humanitarian] needs.  International partners, including the UN, stand ready to continue supporting national Government and civil society leadership.


And our friends at UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, tell us, that in a report launched today… shows that living in a rich country does not guarantee equal access to quality education.  The report ranks 41 countries on the extent of educational inequalities at preschool, primary and secondary school levels.  It uses the latest data to examine the link between children’s achievements, such as reading scores, and factors such as parents’ occupation, migration background, gender and school characteristics.  The report calls on rich countries to do much more for children from disadvantaged families as they are the most likely to fall behind.  You can find the full report on UNICEF’s website.


And just to flag that, yesterday evening, we did issue a statement on behalf of the Secretary‑General on the plane crash in Indonesia in which the Secretary‑General expressed his deep sadness at the crash, which looks like it took the lives of all those on board, and he conveyed his sincere condolences and deepest sympathies to the families and to the Government and people of Indonesia.  Mademoiselle?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thanks, Stéphane.  On the Saudi journalist and this call by the Human Rights Commissioner, was that a call on Turkey to ask the Secretary‑General to launch an independent investigation, or was that a call on the Secretary‑General for an independent international investigation?

Spokesman:  No.  It was not… I would encourage you to read the press release in detail.  She stressed that the murder of Khashoggi must be investigated in an independent and impartial manner to ensure full examination of an accountability for the human rights violations committed in the course of this crime.  And she did say, for an investigation to be carried out free of any appearance of political considerations, the involvement of international experts with full access to evidence and witnesses would be highly desirable.  But it was not a call for an international investigation.  She also underscored the need for forensic examination and for the Saudi authorities to reveal the whereabouts of the body of Mr. Khashoggi.

Correspondent:  And on Cyprus, the Security Council is meeting discussing the SG's report on Cyprus and if you could tell me when the SG's Special Adviser is going to the island and any other updates if you have.

Spokesman:  My understanding is that she will be on the island at least tomorrow.  We'll try to get you more details.  And Ms. DiCarlo is basically briefing the Council on the report, which is already out in publication.  Evelyn?

Question:  Right.  The… the Syrians in a desert camp near the Jordanian border are at risk of starvation because supplies can't get through.  Do you know who's keeping the aid deliveries from reaching these people?

Spokesman:  Well, the… at this point, the convoy has left.  It's stopped because of various security considerations.  We've seen this happen at different times in the Syrian conflict where, because the sit… whereby the situation on the ground… the security situation on the ground was not… did not allow for the convoy to go through.  There was a… the reason they were stopped in this case was that there was a real security threat against a convoy.  Our colleague, Mr. Ali Al‑Za'tari, who heads the UN office in Damascus, confirmed that discussions are ongoing to identify means to deliver the humanitarian assistance while ensuring the safety of humanitarian workers.

Question:  Where was the security threat coming from?

Spokesman:  I'm not going to get into that detail.

Question:  One more?  Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin by November the repatriation of the Rohingyas.  Is that at all possible, since they seem to be… the refugees seem to be weary… wary of…

Spokesman:  Right.  To be clear, we've seen the reports of the agreement between… the decisions reached by the joint Working Group between Bangladesh and Myanmar.  UNHCR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), which is in lead on the issues of refugees, was not consulted on this matter.  I think we can't stress enough that returns cannot be rushed or premature, and the decision on whether or not for a refugee to return should be determined by the refugees themselves when they feel the time and the circumstances are right.  For UNHCR, the conditions in Rakhine State are not yet conducive for a return to Myanmar.  And, at the same time, we're seeing Rohingya refugees continue to arrive from Rakhine State into [Bangladesh], which should give you an indication of the situation on the ground.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Regarding the murder of the Saudi journalist, did I understand the High Commissioner on Human Right is calling for setting the bar high?

Spokesman:  That is.  I would… I would encourage you… we have the press release in my office.  I would…

Question:  And I just wanted to ask, what does that mean?

Spokesman:  I would… listen, I would refer you to basically what she said.  The bar must be set very high to ensure meaningful accountability and justice for such a shockingly brazen crime against a journalist.  Thank you, all.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.  One more.

Question:  I just wanted to ask you if you have the latest programme of the Security Council for tomorrow?

Spokesman:  No, not yet.  I think even the details of this afternoon's meeting on Ukraine are still being worked out.  So, hour by hour.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.