Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

11 December 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 Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.  Let’s get started.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General left Marrakech this morning to go to Rabat.  There, he had an audience with His Majesty the King of Morocco.  The Secretary-General expressed deep gratitude to His Majesty and the Kingdom of Morocco for hosting the conference for the adoption of the Global Compact for [Safe, Orderly and Regular] Migration.  He also commended the Kingdom for its contributions to UN peace operations and for its continued support to his initiatives on UN reform.  They also exchanged views on issues of mutual interest.

And right now, the Secretary-General is on his way to Katowice, in Poland, where the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP24, is taking place.  As you know, the Conference of Parties is in its second week and has resumed the high-level segment of the conference.

The Secretary-General is scheduled to hold a series of bilateral meetings tomorrow and to speak at the Talanoa Dialogue, which is a process designed to help countries implement and enhance their nationally determined contributions on climate change by 2020.


Meanwhile, at the COP24 in Katowice, members of the sports industry and the UN today launched the Sports for Climate Action Framework to drive emission reductions of sports operations and engage millions of fans in the efforts.

Among the founding signatories are the International Olympic Committee, FIFA [Fédération Internationale de Football Association], the International Sailing Federation, the World Surfing League, the Forest Green Rovers Football Club, and the French Tennis Federation (Roland Garros).

The Framework has two overarching objectives:  achieving a clear trajectory for the global sports community to combat climate change and using sports as a unifying tool to drive climate awareness and action among global citizens.  You can find more about it on the UN’s climate change website.


The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, spoke to reporters in Sweden yesterday, updating them on progress made during the intra-Yemeni consultations.

Mr. Griffiths said that the two parties have been discussing the details of re-opening of the airport in Sana’a, the de-escalation measures in both Taiz and Hodeidah, and the implementation of the agreement on the exchange of prisoners, as well as the economic situation.

He noted that tangible agreements will be announced by the end of this round.

The Special Envoy also clarified that the exact date and venue of the next round of consultations are being discussed with the two parties, with early next year being the target date.

He reiterated his encouragement of the positive and serious spirit that the two parties have demonstrated in this round, stressing that he remains ambitious about the outcome of this round.


Lt. General Stefano Del Col, the Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon [UNIFIL], met today with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri in Beirut and briefed them on developments in connection with tunnels along the Blue Line.

He said in a statement afterwards that this is a serious matter and UNIFIL is working in close coordination with the parties, both at the technical level as well as at the leadership level, to ensure that all related facts are objectively determined and diligently addressed in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

He briefed the President and the Speaker on his recent visit to a location near Metulla, where technical experts from UNIFIL carried out a site inspection to confirm the existence of a tunnel.  Yesterday, a UNIFIL technical team led by the Deputy Force Commander verified the existence of a second tunnel north of the previous one in the same general area.  UNIFIL is continuing to follow up on this issue in close coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Most importantly, he said, the calm and stability along the Blue Line must be preserved.  He is encouraged to hear from both parties that they have no intention to escalate the situation along the Blue Line and they are keen to continue working with UNIFIL to this end.  The situation in UNIFIL’s area of operations south of the Litani River remains calm.


Assistant Secretaries-General for Peacekeeping Operations and Peacebuilding Support Bintou Keita and Oscar Fernandez-Taranco are continuing their visit to Mali.

Following their meeting with signatory groups on Sunday, they met today with the country’s Prime Minister, Government ministers, and the Speaker of the National Assembly, as well as with opposition members.  In their meetings, Ms. Keita and Mr. Fernandez-Taranco reiterated the UN’s deep commitment to supporting the signatory parties and the Malian people in advancing the implementation of the peace agreement.

They were in Mopti and Gao yesterday, where they met the UN Country Team, visited projects supported by the Peacebuilding Fund, and met with women and youth leaders.

**South Sudan

In South Sudan, a series of special projects funded by the United Nations Mission there are improving the lives of communities across the country by providing access to clean water, education and health care, safe houses for vulnerable women, and strengthening the justice system to hold perpetrators of sexual violence to account.  There’s a press release with more details.

**Security Council

In a presidential statement issued this morning, the Security Council recalled its request in its resolution 2429 (2018) for the Secretary-General to provide a detailed and clearly benchmarked exit strategy for the UN-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur, UNAMID.  The Security Council took note of the Secretary-General's report from October on that topic, including the proposed benchmarks and indicators of achievement.  The Security Council acknowledges that progress towards achieving the benchmarks and indicators will contribute towards the successful transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding in Darfur.

That Council meeting was followed by the periodic debate on the International Residual Mechanism on Criminal Tribunals.  Judge Theodor Meron, the President of the Mechanism, and Prosecutor Serge Brammertz briefed the Security Council.


Today is International Mountain Day.  This year’s theme is “Mountains Matter” and highlights the crucial role they play in providing key ecosystem goods and services to the planet and their vulnerability in the face of climate change.  You can find more about the Day online.

**Questions and Answers

That is it for me.  Yes, Edie?

Question:  Two questions, Farhan.  First, on Yemen, there's been the announcement of a prisoner exchange involving 15,000 prisoners by 20 January.  Does the Secretary‑General have any reaction to this?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the details of this remain to be worked out.  Like I'd mentioned, this… the idea of the implementation of an agreement on the exchange of prisoners was one of the topics being discussed, and we're hopeful that the details will be worked out.  We want to make sure that the parties can restore their trust in each other, and any measures that involve increasing the amount of trust and confidence that's built up can, we believe, help to achieve a lasting resolution to this conflict.

Question:  So… so, obviously, the Secretary‑General would see this as a positive sign in the ongoing efforts to restore peace to Yemen.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  Like I said, we're still working out the details, but if this can be achieved, that certainly is a positive step forwards.  And it's certainly a good sign that the parties have been talking seriously and in detail about this and other topics in recent days.

Question:  My second question is on the Secretary‑General's return trip to Katowice.  There are serious differences among the parties on a final agreement.  Can we expect that the Secretary‑General will be working to try to reach an agreement on a final outcome?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, you could certainly expect that the Secretary‑General will do all that he can to encourage the Member States in Katowice to move towards a positive outcome.  As the Secretary‑General made very clear in his earlier visit to Katowice last week, what we really need to do is accelerate the progress in dealing with climate change, because we have been moving too slowly, as far as the data and the events all around us show.  So, he is going to try to help encourage a greater degree of cooperation and seriousness, and we hope and expect that the Member States and the Presidency of COP24 will be able to move ahead.  Yes, Evelyn?

Question:  Just to follow up on Edie's comments, 15,000 prisoners are a lot.  Are they all in one place?  Can that really be achieved?

Deputy Spokesman:  As I pointed out, this is something on which Martin Griffiths is working out the details with the parties.  Obviously, if the willingness is there among the parties to deal with this sort of agreement, we can handle the logistics, including with the help of the various parties that we've dealt with regarding these sorts of humanitarian measures in the past.  As you're aware, prior to the start of the talks in Sweden, there had been some people, including wounded prisoners, who had been transferred to different locations, and that was a positive first step.  So, the willingness among the parties has already been indicated just in recent days.  And, if they can continue with that, yes, it can be achieved, and we certainly hope it will be.

Question:  And on climate change, it seems all the fossil‑producing countries are trying to wreck the agreement or at least not even say that… not even praise the UN report.  Can the Secretary‑General somehow move against that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, that's roughly the same as Edie's question.  We believe that the parties who have come to Katowice have come with the willingness to move forward and deal with the issue of climate change.  Obviously, we wouldn't be in the sort of problem we're in if there were not already different sorts of interests among different sorts of countries, but our collective interest remains in making sure that the sort of catastrophes that would be caused by a warming earth can be avoided.  And, so, we are trying to get ourselves to move ahead.  As you know, the nations of the world signed up to the Paris Agreement.  They've tried… many of them have already tried to develop national disclosures determining how they will follow up on that agreement.  And we're hoping that in Katowice they will continue to commit themselves to an even greater sense of initiative and an urgency in dealing with this problem.  Yes, Erol?

Question:  Oops.  Okay.  The OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] conducted an investigation on sexual harassment charges against the head of the New… of the New York‑based International Civil Service Commission.  So, there is a report submitted by OIOS… sorry for pronouncing like that, but I have to be precise.  So whether the UN will release its report or how it will addressing the name of transparency.

Deputy Spokesman:  As you know, the International Civil Service Commission is outside of the United Nations itself.  The report has been submitted to them, and it's up to them to respond.  Ultimately, I don't speak for them; so, I can't answer questions about what they may do.

Question:  One more if I can.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.

Question:  When it comes to the Marrakech agreement or compact, how the Secretary‑General assess that?  And what is the most relevant message or undertaking that the Secretary‑General will focus on from that agreement?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we're certainly very pleased by the large number of Member States that signed up for this.  You'll have seen that the Secretary‑General spoke to the press in Marrakech and evaluated what had been achieved, and I would refer you to his press remarks from yesterday.  Yes?

Question:  The Turkish Foreign Minister reportedly said today he's discussed with the SG about an international investigation into [Jamal] Khashoggi.  Do you… could you tell us when that took place and if you have a comment or readout on that?

Deputy Spokesman:  We actually provided some details of his meeting with the Turkish Foreign Minister from a few weeks ago and mentioned that the question of Jamal Khashoggi had been brought up.  I would like to point out that, as we mentioned at the time and as I can repeat today, no formal request has been received from any party for a UN role concerning this.

Question:  So, you understand his comments to be in reference to a meeting that happened weeks ago?

Deputy Spokesman:  I… that's how I understand it, yes.  Yes, Linda?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  This is in regard to the review of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action].  I believe it's tomorrow by the Security Council.  I was wondering if you can go over again in terms of what the SG's view is in terms of the full implementation of the agreement by Iran and if he thinks that… I guess… I think it was last week in which there were various ballistic missile activities by Iran, and there's been a controversy of whether that was a violation or not.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the Secretary‑General has repeatedly affirmed that he believes that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is an important diplomatic achievement, and its gains need to be preserved.  He has called repeatedly for all parties, including Iran and, of course, the other signatories, to abide by the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  Regarding the question of missiles, ultimately, that's an issue that's been brought before the Security Council, and we'll see what the members of the Security Council say about that.  As you know, the UN is not a party to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  It was signed by different Member States.  But the Security Council has affirmed the importance of that agreement, and it's up to the Council to determine about anything that is… any information that is brought before it.  Have a good afternoon… oh, yes, Iftikhar.

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  How does the Secretary‑General view President [Donald] Trump's tweets to French President citing Paris Agreement as the source of all problems in France?

Deputy Spokesman:  It's not for me to comment about tweets, but, certainly, as I've just told your colleagues, this is something… the issue of climate change is something on which we need greater progress and more accelerated action, not less.  Have a good afternoon, everyone.

For information media. Not an official record.