The following is a near‑verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.
Good afternoon, everyone. I have the following statement, attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary‑General on the Iraqi repatriation of Kuwaiti property to Kuwait. The Secretary-General welcomes the repatriation by the Government of Iraq of a consignment of Kuwaiti property to Kuwait on 13 November. This marks an important step towards the full normalization of relations between the two countries. The Secretary‑General commends the efforts of the Governments of Iraq and Kuwait towards resolving outstanding issues between them and calls for their continued constructive engagement to closing the file of missing Kuwaiti and third‑country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives, pursuant to Security Council resolution 2107 (2013). The Secretary‑General reiterates that the United Nations will remain fully committed to the resolution of all outstanding issues between Iraq and Kuwait.
Our humanitarian colleagues are deeply concerned by reports of hostilities throughout northwest Syria, including in areas believed to be in or near the demilitarized zone. Clashes between Government of Syria forces and non‑State armed groups have reportedly resulted in several civilian casualties, as well as temporary displacement. This includes reports of fighting in southern rural Aleppo Governorate, as well as reports of mortar shelling in northern Aleppo, eastern Idlib and northern Hama Governorate. Three million women, children and men in Idlib and surrounding areas are at risk, should fighting escalate further. The United Nations continues to reiterate that a full‑scale escalation of hostilities must be averted at all costs, and that failure to do so will bring about humanitarian suffering at a scale not yet seen in the conflict. The United Nations continues to urge all parties to respect their obligations under International Humanitarian Law, to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to exercise restraint.
In Washington, D.C., last night, the Secretary‑General spoke at the ceremony in which the 2018 Templeton Prize was awarded to King Abdullah of Jordan. The Secretary‑General said that King Abdullah’s promotion of peace within Islam, and between Muslims and people of other beliefs, has contributed to global peace and progress in many ways in our world. He added that King Abdullah calls on us to do far more than tolerate each other; his message is one of respect, solidarity and love. The Secretary‑General expressed his hope that the Templeton award will help to spread that message of respect, solidarity and love even more widely. The Secretary‑General also met separately with King Abdullah, with whom he discussed the situation in the Middle East, including the importance of maintaining support for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The Secretary-General will be back in New York this afternoon.
This morning, the Security Council adopted a resolution on Eritrea and Somalia. It lifted the arms embargoes, travel bans, asset freezes and targeted sanctions imposed on Eritrea in resolutions 1907 (2009), 2023 (2011), 2060 (2012) and 2111 (2013). The Council also held an open meeting on Kosovo, in which it was briefed by the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative, Zahir Tanin. He told the Council that, during the political talks that took place last week in Brussels, the Presidents of Serbia and Kosovo confirmed their mutual intention to continue the dialogue and to work towards a settlement within the European Union‑facilitated process. But, Mr. Tanin also noted that these talks took place against a backdrop of frequent adversarial actions on the ground, many of which carry real consequences for the populations. He stressed that any process of political negotiation, if it is to succeed, requires the full engagement and buy‑in from societies, as well as from leaders and political representatives. His full remarks are available in our office.
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that more than 1,000 families have been displaced in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan and Ghazni provinces following an escalation in conflict there since 10 November. Due to access constraints, there is a lack of precise information on the impact on the affected districts and civilian casualties cannot be verified. Reports indicate that homes have been burned and civilian vehicles stolen or confiscated. Roads connecting Jaghuri and Malistan to Ghazni city have also reportedly been blocked, preventing the safe passage of civilians attempting to leave the area, and leaving people in siege‑like conditions with no access to health facilities and limited availability of food, fuel and medicine. All parties to the conflict should respect their obligations under International Humanitarian Law to protect the civilian population and facilitate the provision of assistance by neutral and impartial humanitarian agencies. This includes ensuring safe passage for civilians attempting to leave conflict‑affected areas. Civilian objects, including schools and health facilities, must be not be used for military purposes.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that UN and business leaders in Nigeria will tomorrow launch a joint initiative that will see a number of private companies join the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund, a country‑based pooled fund. The Nigeria Humanitarian Fund‑Private Sector Initiative will seek to harness the financial resources and expertise of Nigeria’s private sector to contribute to a more effective and timely humanitarian response in Nigeria. The initiative aims to allow humanitarian actors to step up their response in north‑east Nigeria, where a major crisis has affected millions of families and has spilled into neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger. More information is available online.
**Economic and Social Council
Ambassador Inga King, the President of the Economic and Social Council, has issued a statement today on the meeting held yesterday on “Pathways to resilience in climate‑affected SIDS, A Forward-Looking Resilience Building Agenda: Promises, results and next steps”. Among other things, the statement says that climate change is an existential threat to Small Island Developing States, jeopardizing the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The recent special report on Global Warming of 1.5°C approved by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has sounded the alarm for urgently needed climate action. There are copies of that statement available near the door.
In Sharm El‑Sheikh, Egypt, the High‑Level Segment of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP‑14) began today. Some 80 ministers of environment, infrastructure, energy, industry and other sectors are there to discuss how to incorporate biodiversity protection into their respective fields of work. They will also renew and scale up their effort to make progress on 20 biodiversity goals — known as the Aichi Targets — by the year 2020. And new initiatives are also expected to be announced later in the week including a new coral reef coalition, and we will keep you posted on these.
Today is World Diabetes Day. This year’s theme is “Diabetes concerns every family” and highlights the impact that diabetes has on families and the role of family members in supporting prevention, early diagnosis and good management of this disease. More than 400 million people live with diabetes worldwide, and the prevalence is predicted to continue rising if current trends prevail. Diabetes is also a major cause of premature dying, blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and lower limb amputation. You can find more information on the Day on the World Health Organization’s website.
**World Antibiotic Awareness Week
Marking World Antibiotic Awareness Week, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have this week highlighted the dangers that antimicrobial resistance pose to human, animal and plant health. In a tweet, WHO Director‑General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said antibiotic resistance poses a big threat to global health, adding that the proper use of antibiotics is key to stopping drug resistance. In a statement, FAO said farmers can contribute to stemming the spread of antimicrobial resistance simply by adopting good hygiene practices during their day‑to‑day operations. Each November, World Antibiotic Awareness Week aims to increase global awareness of antibiotic resistance. More information is available online.
And tomorrow, the guest will be Nihal Saad, Spokesperson for the High Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. She will be here to brief you ahead of the eighth UN Alliance of Civilizations Global Forum, which will be held here at Headquarters on 19 and 20 November. This year’s theme is: #Commit2Dialogue: Partnerships for Prevention and Sustaining Peace. That is it for me. Yes, Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Farhan, thank you very much. I wanted to know, as… as for the reporting, it was in response Israel's botched‑up spy operation that all these… the action happened in Gaza, killing at least some three or five Palestinians. Since March, they've over 195 Palestinians. Is there going to be an investigation into this incident as well as other incidents where other incidents also… there is no final outcome of any… any… any such report, if there was any?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, regarding that, the priority at this stage is simply to make sure that the fighting is halted. Obviously, we are welcoming the recent signs that the fighting now seems to be easing. We continue to urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint, and we underscore the need to undertake all efforts to avoid another war in Gaza, and our priorities there continue.
Question: Sir, the thing is, there was always this thing that, in response to… to ‑‑ what do you call? ‑‑ rockets fired, how many rockets were fired? And how many air strikes? Some say there were over 100 air strikes by Israel. How many rockets were fired? And how many people were killed in ‑‑ what do you call? ‑‑ Israel as against in Gaza, Palestinians because they're not human beings?
Deputy Spokesman: We do not see the point in trying to privilege one type of violence or one type of damage over any other type, in terms of things that we're concerned about. We want all of the violence to be halted. Ultimately, that will be of benefit to all the citizens of the area, whether Israeli or Palestinian. Yes, Mr. Sato?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Follow‑up question about Gaza. Can you tell us what can UN do for the… the Gaza after the tentative ceasefire? Especially now, you are talking about every effort you have been done and you are making and you will be doing. So, what specifically effort can you do for the lasting peace for Gaza?
Deputy Spokesman: For the short term, the United Nations, including our Special Coordinator on the ground, Nickolay Mladenov, have been working, including with the Egyptian authorities, to ensure there's a return to the ceasefire arrangements of 2014. And we hope that that can be put in place. Our longer‑term priorities include the continuing efforts to improve the humanitarian situation of Palestinians in Gaza and the need to support the return of the legitimate Palestinian Government to Gaza. And, of course, above and beyond that, the one thing that will help prevent any such situations from arising is if the Israelis and the Palestinians can once more engage in talks to resolve all their outstanding issues. Yes, Evelyn?
Correspondent: Thank you, Steph. Oh, Steph. Sorry. You aren’t Steph.
Deputy Spokesman: Tomorrow it will be Steph [Dujarric].
Question: You are Farhan. Do you have an update on Cameroon? The Government says 30… they killed 30 in a two‑day… of Anglophones in a two‑day battle. Also, mayors in Anglophone regions have been targeted, and maybe a few hundred have been dead since this conflict began.
Deputy Spokesman: Yes. We've been concerned about the latest reports of violence in Cameroon. The continuing concerns that we have been saying about the situation in… particularly in the Anglophone part of Cameroon continue, and we would need to get further information on exactly what is happening. But, of course, as you know, we have asked in the past and continue to ask for restraint on the part of the security forces there.
Question: Is anybody on the scene from the UN?
Deputy Spokesman: As you know, our envoy, François Louncény Fall, has been dealing with this primarily. But, yes, throughout, the various arms of the UN system, including our human rights bodies, are also watching the situation.
Correspondent: And one brief thing. No, it's not a question. I want to thank correspondents and spokesmen from missions who came to the Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists' reception last night. It was a big success, and I just wanted to thank people.
Deputy Spokesman: Noted. Yes?
Question: Farhan, about the situation in DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], North Korea, that they are rebuilding… what do you call… the facilities, and they're preparing to conduct more… what do you call… tests… missile tests and so forth. Do you have any update on that at all, as they're doing it? Because it seems that President [Donald] Trump has given his [inaudible], but there are reports, innumerable reports, that they continue to rebuild all their nuclear facilities and are preparing to fire some rockets and so forth.
Deputy Spokesman: On that, I would just refer you to the periodic reports that have been made about the situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This has been their file.
Question: Does the Secretary‑General has an… if given an opportunity, to appoint a Special Envoy for DPRK?
Deputy Spokesman: There's no such envoy appointed, and there's nothing to announce on that at this point. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Yesterday, the committee of the General Assembly discussed the issue of death penalty. How does the Secretary‑General look at the death penalty in the context of sovereignty of state?
Deputy Spokesman: As you know, the Secretary‑General has, as a point of principle, been against the imposition of the death penalty anywhere in the world. He believes that all capital punishment in all countries needs to be avoided. Ultimately, in the countries that still have it on the books, as you know, the General Assembly itself has pledged for moratoria on its application, and we hold with that. But, of course, his firm position is that it needs to be removed from all States. And with that, have a good afternoon.