The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Happy… I was going to say happy Friday because it feels like a Friday. Just to let you know that the building will be closed tomorrow due to the Thanksgiving holiday here in our host country in the United States. The office and the building will be open on Friday; however, we will not have a briefing on Friday unless there is breaking news. The office will be staffed so if you have any questions, come in, email or call and we will post highlights up on the Internet for all of you to see.
And on Monday, our guest will be Jorge Chediek, the Secretary‑General’s Envoy on South-South Cooperation and Director of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, who will be here to brief you in the upcoming South-South event next week.
The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, is in China where today she spoke to students at Tsinghua University on climate change. She told them that young people’s ideas and innovations are key to ensure a more sustainable future and urged them to help accelerate climate action.
She said the Paris Agreement was a great start for countries to commit to lower their emissions but added that the Agreement’s full potential has yet to be fully unleashed and this can only be done if countries raise their ambitions and implement their own national contributions.
“I am counting on young people like yourselves,” she said, “to hold leaders and decision-makers accountable to ensure a secure future for yourselves and future generations.”
Martin Griffiths, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Yemen, is in Sana’a today and he will be in Hodeidah tomorrow.
He seeks to finalise the arrangements in the lead-up to the talks in Sweden, to revisit a UN supervisory role for the port, and to draw attention to the continuing need for a pause in the fighting.
I know we’ve talked about a possible briefing by him and Lise Grande — we’re working on that. If that happens, it will be tomorrow, but it will be done through your colleagues in Geneva as they will be working and not celebrating Thanksgiving.
Turning to Syria, our humanitarian colleagues remain deeply concerned by reports of hostilities throughout the northwest, including in areas believed to be in or near the demilitarized zone, that are affecting the protection and safety of civilians.
Clashes in several areas between Syrian Government 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, and shelling in northern Aleppo, in eastern and Southern Idlib, as well as in northern Hama governorate.
With three million women, children and men in Idlib and surrounding areas at risk, an escalation of hostilities in northwest Syria must be averted at all costs. 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 maximum restraint.
The Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, Maria Ribeiro, has expressed regret over the turn of events in the port of Misrata, where 79 refugees and migrants who had remained onboard a commercial vessel since 10 November were yesterday forced to disembark.
In a statement, she said since the onset of the impasse, the humanitarian community has provided assistance daily to alleviate the suffering of the people onboard and has strongly advocated for a peaceful solution to the situation, including with refugees and migrants themselves.
The Humanitarian Coordinator called for alternatives to detention to be implemented in Libya, for the transfer of individuals from disembarkation points to appropriate reception facilities for assistance and screening, and for continued humanitarian access to all individuals forcibly disembarked.
Our colleagues at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report that urgent humanitarian concerns remain in Cameroon, with at least 437,000 people currently displaced in the south-west, north-west and in neighbouring departments due to hostilities between armed groups and security forces.
The humanitarian presence and response is slowly increasing in the impacted areas, with priority given to the south-west region, with [246,000] internally displaced people. OCHA has strengthened its capacity in Cameroon, while other UN humanitarian agencies are establishing a presence in the two regions.
Our colleagues say insecurity is impacting the access to populations in these areas, adding that the response is also limited due to a shortage of funding.
You saw that yesterday, we issued a statement from the Secretary‑General condemning the attack targeting Afghans gathered in Kabul to celebrate a day of special religious significance.
The Secretary-General said that the deliberate targeting of civilians is a clear violation of international humanitarian law and that every effort should be made to bring perpetrators to justice.
Today is World Television Day, which celebrates not the tool, but the philosophy it represents. Television represents a symbol for communication and globalization in the contemporary world. TV also has an important impact on the process of decision-making and is a major tool in informing, channelling and affecting public opinion. And I sometimes feel I’m on a TV reality show here, but you’re part of the cast, as well, so, you get to ask questions.
**Questions and Answers
Spokesman: Edie Lederer?
Question: Thank you, Steph. A question about Martin Griffiths’ visit. Is one of his aims to try to reinstate the ceasefire that had been somewhat in effect before this week? And will he also be talking to the Saudi-led Coalition?
Spokesman: Martin is in contact with all the parties. Obviously, he has specific interlocutors on his trip to Sana’a. And he is, as I said, drawing attention to the continuing need for a pause in the fighting. We would want to see the fighting stop. And then he will be going on to Hodeidah to focus his attentions there. Yes, ma’am?
Question: Yeah, I saw US just right now about [J.M.] Mattis saying that there will be consultations on Yemen in very beginning of December. Do you have this information?
Spokesman: Who said there will be consultations?
Correspondent: Pentagon’s… head of Pentagon.
Spokesman: I don’t know. I can… consultations here?
Correspondent: In Sweden.
Spokesman: Oh, in Sweden. I… we’ve seen… no, oh, sorry. We’ve seen the various reports. Obviously, the situation remains delicate, to say the least. So, when we have something to announce on these diplomatic talks, we will. Yes, go ahead.
Question: Yeah, Steph. Can you please share a little bit more light with yesterday’s… when was the talk with the Secretary-General and Mr. [Mevlut] Çavusoglu, Foreign Minister of Turkey, especially in the light of Mr. [Jamal] Khashoggi’s murder? What does the Secretary-General knows more than he knew before, and what is his newest position on that?
Spokesman: No, I mean, I think we had an extensive discussion on this on Monday. His position has not changed since then.
Question: What about… what about… what about his talks regarding that with Mr. Çavusoglu?
Spokesman: No, I said we had an extensive discussion in this briefing room on Monday about that meeting, and nothing has changed since then.
Correspondent: Okay. All right.
Question: Two questions, Stéphane. One follow up on the Khashoggi case. When the Secretary-General had a meeting with the Turkish Foreign Minister, there was a call by Turkey, an international call, but they did not ask or send an official request. Did the SG ask the Foreign Minister whether they would request an international investigation? And is the UN concerned that, if there was an investigation by the UN, the Saudis would withhold hundreds of millions of dollars, one? And a second question on Yemen. The Save the Children came out with an estimate that 85,000 children may have died because of acute malnutrition. What does the UN have to say that? Because the data is based on the UN data.
Spokesman: You know, I think, again, as if we needed another reminder as to why we needed peace in Yemen, it’s exactly that. I think David Beasley gave a very vivid description of his interaction with starving children when he was here in this briefing room. The suffering of the Yemeni people is clear and for all to see. What we need is the political will from all parties to not only stop the fighting but to engage in talks with Mr. Griffiths to try to solve… find a political solution to the issue. On the international investigation, I think, again, as I told Erol, we’ve said what we’ve had to say. We have not received an official request. It’s up to a Member State to submit an official request. No official request has been given. I’m not going to speculate on the Saudi bit, but what is clear, in any international investigation, if it is to be effective, it needs the cooperation of all Member States. Benny and then Abdelhamid. Sorry…
Correspondent: [Off mic, inaudible]
Spokesman: She took your question… No, he yields to you, Benny.
Correspondent: [Off mic] He yields to me?
Spokesman: He yields to you. It is a day of Thanksgiving after all. Right? [Laughter] Yes, go ahead.
Correspondent: I’m giving thanks.
Spokesman: Everybody thanks each other. We’re all thankful of being here.
Question: I… thank you. So, Steph, two questions. One is about the INTERPOL. Do you have anything about that?
Spokesman: No. INTERPOL, as you know, is not part of the UN system. It’s an important inter-governmental body, but it is not part of the UN system.
Question: But does the Secretary-General… because, usually, he congratulates things that happen outside of the UN realm or… or notes or takes note, so whatever?
Spokesman: We work with INTERPOL, and we’re, obviously, delighted that INTERPOL has a new president. But, as I said, the process which the members of INTERPOL arrived at their decision is not one that involves the United Nations in any way.
Question: Yes. Okay. So, secondly, I understand that a pending resolution of the Security Council was asked for by [Mark] Lowcock, which is a… a humanitarian resolution on… on Yemen. And the question is, does it make sense to have a humanitarian resolution pending a political resolution, meaning, you know, are we putting the horse before the cart here… the cart before the horse? Sorry.
Spokesman: It’s up to the Member States to make sense of what they want to do. What is important for us is to have the Security Council speak in one voice in support of the UN’s action, both political and humanitarian.
Question: But, as far as the UN, I mean, you have Griffiths; you have Lowcock. Does it make sense for Lowcock to have a resolution before Griffiths is…
Spokesman: It’s not… the resolution is not a resolution of a particular senior UN official. It’s a resolution of the Security Council. Pam? And on Mr. Abbadi. Sorry.
Question: Thanks. Just, on that front, all three briefers last Friday, Lowcock, Griffiths, Beasley, called for some kind of truce, whether it’s the resolution or not. And, in fact, Beasley specifically said it’s up to the states to come up with a resolution, but it has been delayed. Is there… and, since the Secretary-General has said so much about time is of the essence and the clock is ticking, and this is the worst humanitarian disaster ever, is there any call by the SG to come up with a truce so that the aid can get in?
Spokesman: Well, the Secretary General obvi…
Question: Any updates since the last thing…?
Spokesman: All three senior officials reflect also the views of the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General continues to want to see a halt in the fighting as soon as possible.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Spokesman: Mr. Abbadi.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. As you indicated, it’s Thanksgiving Day tomorrow. The United Nations will be closed. And, for the sake of transparency, can you tell us how the Secretary-General will spend his day? [Laughter]
Spokesman: He will spend his day probably glued to his email. Yes, Erol?
Question: Just a short follow up on Betul’s question actually. And, regarding the new voice from Washington saying from President [Donald] Trump that he’s not going to go with the request for punishing Saudi Arabia, since it’s very important for United States, their deals, hundreds of mil… billions of dollars, if I remember good, last March, Crown Prince [Mohammed bin] Salman came here with a check of $930 million. Is Secretary-General, to be more blunt, afraid that he’s losing that kind of financial support while pushing forward with the investigation…?
Spokesman: No. No.
Question: Okay. If not, why he’s not more responsive to the calls to be the only moral authority champion of human rights and go forward?
Spokesman: I think, if you look at the statement that we put out soon after the death, you will see the clear condemnation of this murder. The issue around the investigation is one that we need to receive an official request from someone. That’s… it’s pretty clear. Now, we’ve seen reports. We’ve seen rumours, but we have yet to receive anything.
On that note, if we see each other tomorrow or Friday, it will not be good news. So, I look forward to seeing you all on Monday. Enjoy the holiday.