16 November 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.

**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels

Great.  Just a few more minutes and we can all go have lunch.  Just a few travel announcements, the Deputy Secretary‑General will leave for Addis Ababa to meet with senior Government officials attending the African Union Summit, in advance of the Conference of Parties (COP 24) meeting that is scheduled for Poland from the 3 to 14 December.  This is part of efforts to build momentum for climate action.  She will also meet with the President, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and the UN Country team during her visit.  She will then proceed to Germany, France, China from 19 to 22 November, to engage with senior Government officials on supporting positive outcomes in Katowice as well as to talk about the Secretary‑General’s Climate Summit in 2019.  She will be back in New York on 22 November.

**Peacekeeping Operations

Our guest Jean‑Pierre Lacroix, will be in Cairo to take part in a regional conference on enhancing the performance of peacekeeping operations.  He will give the keynote speech at this two‑day high‑level event and, while in Cairo, he will also meet with Government officials; that’s starting tomorrow.  Then, from 20 to 23 November, he will be in Tokyo, to exchange views with senior Government officials on developments related to UN peacekeeping.  He will also give a speech on 22 November on the challenges and achievements of UN peacekeeping at the Sophia Institute of International Relations.

**Political Affairs

Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, is returning to New York after a short visit to Moscow.  While there, she met with senior Russian officials and discussed issues such as the reform of the UN’s peace and security architecture; cooperation between Russia and the Department of Political Affairs, as well as the situations in Syria, Libya, Ukraine and the Caucasus.  She also held talks with the leadership of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, known as CSTO.  And the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for Central Asia, Natalia Gherman, and the Assistant Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, Miroslav Jenča, took part in the eighth annual Meeting of the Deputy Foreign Ministers of Central Asia earlier today in Bishkek, in Kyrgyzstan.


I want to flag a new report by the Secretary‑General on Children and Armed Conflict that has found that boys and girls in Myanmar have suffered patterns of grave violations following the start of the crisis in northern Rakhine in August of last year.  These findings are in line with what other UN bodies have found, confirming killing, maiming, and rape, for which Myanmar’s armed forces have already been listed on the Secretary‑General’s Annual Report from last year.  During the 14‑month reporting period of the latest report released today, 669 children were reported killed, 39 maimed, and a large majority of whom were Rohingyas.

**Security Council

This morning, you saw Mr. Lacroix, joined by the Director of UN‑Women and the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, briefed the Security Council on their joint visit to South Sudan in October.  This afternoon as you all know there will be an open meeting on Yemen, where Council Members will be briefed by Martin Griffiths, the Special Envoy for Yemen, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock; as well as David Beasley, from whom you just heard.


And lastly, no, not lastly, almost lastly, today is the International Day of Tolerance.  And as I mentioned yesterday, this morning there was a screening of short films from YouTube’s 2018 Creators for Change and also today, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) awarded its UNESCO‑Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non‑Violence.  This prize is awarded every two years, and the winners were social [entrepreneur and filmmaker] Manon Barbeau of Canada and the Coexist Initiative, a non‑profit organization working to end violence against women in Kenya.

**Honour Roll

Lastly, there are only 45 members who are left to pay their full dues, which country just paid?  Lebanon.  We're trying to gin it up.  Yes, Masood‑ji?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  On this Rohingya crisis that you just… just spoke about earlier, it has been said again and again that now, conditions are really unsafe for the Rohingya… the Rohingyas to return back… refugees, especially refugees, to return.  So, all the efforts to get them back have fizzled out.  What is it that now can be done for them to either… now, what do you call… stay where they are, where they are obviously not wanted, like in Bangladesh and so forth?

Spokesman:  You know, obviously, we are continuing to provide as much humanitarian support as we can to them.  The Bangladeshis, I think, have been extremely generous in welcoming close to 1 million people since August of 2017, which is truly a herculean effort.  They have welcomed them in what is already an impoverished part of a country that is facing its own development challenges.  And obviously, our principled stance that refugees should not be forcibly returned and should only return in dignity to their place of choosing continues.

Question:  So as my question… is not… is there… I mean, things being contemplated by the Member States, that you know of that… some sort of International Criminal Court (ICC) should be proceeded against what's happening?

Spokesman:  I think there is… from our part, there is the fact‑finding mission put forward by the UN Human Rights Council, and as for the International Criminal Court, that's a question targeted to them.  Yes, ma'am?

Question:  Steph, Mr. Baquer Namazi, the retired UNICEF (United Nations Children’ Fund) staffer who's being held in Iran, there are reports that his health is rapidly deteriorating, he’s quite elderly.  Has the Secretary‑General reached out to the Government in Teheran recently?  Or does he have any plans to reach out to the Government to appeal for his release on medical or humanitarian…

Spokesman:  We continue to express our concern about his health and we would call for his… we continue to call for his release.  Yes, ma'am, as well.

Question:  Stéphane, they… the GA (General Assembly) voted on the Golan Heights Resolution, and the Israeli ambassador is quoted to say that Israel will not withdraw from Golan Heights… the occupied Golan Heights.  So, what's your comment on that?

Spokesman:  We're not going to comment on General Assembly votes.  We typically consider the Golan Heights occupied territory, and our position has not changed.

Correspondent:  No, but I'm asking to comment on not the vote, but the statement of the Israeli ambassador.  A… a member state is saying that they are not going to…

Spokesman:  Our position is unchanged, as has been stated in reports of the… by the Secretary‑General to the Security Council.  Señor?  Excellent.

Question:  Why is Golan Heights off the… that you are unable to talk about it at all?  Why?

Spokesman:  I just did, and the Secretary‑General reports about the Golan Heights regularly in his reports to the Security Council.  Yes, ma'am?  Last question.

Question:  Yeah.  Yesterday, you said or called for the UN to do an investigation… of [Jamal] Khashoggi would have to come through a "UN legislative body."  What… what are you talking about?  Which UN legislative body are you talking about?

Spokesman:  Well, there are a number of UN legislative bodies, whether it's the Security Council, the Human Rights Council.  The point is that the Secretary‑General does not have the authority to do it without a mandate given to him by a legislative body.

Question:  Is that the position of the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) then, that… he can't… he can't… he cannot do it, he couldn't do it on his own authority, because some legal experts say he can?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General told me just yesterday again to… that he cannot do this without a legal mandate.  If you look at the case of Benazir Bhutto, as I recall, there was a specific request from a Member State, which we have not received [in this case], and then there was, if I recall again properly, there was an exchange of letter with the Security Council, which gave him, I think, all the proper authority we felt we needed at the time.

Correspondent:  It's a follow‑up on that.

Correspondent:  I wasn't going to, but I have to.

Correspondent:  The Day of Tolerance.

Spokesman:  The Day of Tolerance, indeed.  I thought it was a one‑way street, but go ahead.

Question:  I promise it will be short.  Under, I believe, it's Article 99, the Secretary‑General has the authority to make a recommendation to the Security Council.  Is he considering recommending obtaining a legislative mandate from the Security Council to conduct an independent UN‑led investigation?

Spokesman:  When there is something to be said on that front, we will let you know, but it is not something I'm aware of.  Let's be tolerant, Dulcie.  Go ahead.

Correspondent:  So a letter from Turkey would not be enough, requesting investigation.

Spokesman:  I'm not going to go… I think I've gone as far as I can go in terms of hypotheticals.  We have not received any official letter from a Member State.  Once a letter will be received, we would obviously have to study the content of that letter.  Thank you all.  See you Monday?  Indeed.

For information media. Not an official record.