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

21 January 2019

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.

**Mali

Starting on Mali, I wanted to let you know that the Secretary-General spoke to President Idriss Deby of Chad yesterday afternoon to personally convey his condolences.  As you know, ten peacekeepers from Chad serving in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) were killed and at least 25 injured yesterday following an attack against the Mission’s camp in Aguelhok, in Kidal.  The UN Mission says that the wounded peacekeepers are receiving medical attention, including seven who have been evacuated to Dakar for further treatment.  The Secretary-General strongly condemned the attack.  He called on the Malian authorities, as well as the signatory armed groups to the peace agreement, to spare no effort in identifying the perpetrators of this attack so that they can be brought to justice as swiftly as possible.  He added that such acts will not diminish the resolve of the UN to continue supporting the people and Government of Mali in their efforts to build peace and stability in the country.  The Secretary-General also paid tribute to the dedication and courage of the men and women serving in MINUSMA often at great personal risk and sacrifice.

**Syria

On Syria, we are gravely concerned by continued reports of civilian casualties due to ongoing hostilities and security incidents in several parts of the country.  Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that scores of civilians, including women and children, were reportedly killed and injured due to airstrikes in the Baghouz Fokani area, south-east of Deir ez-Zor.  Also airstrikes and shelling reportedly resulted in civilian casualties in western Idleb and in northern Hama Governorates in recent days.  Explosions in Idleb and close to Afrin city over the weekend also reportedly resulted in civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.  We continue to strongly call upon all the parties to the conflict, and those with influence over them, to take all measures to ensure that civilians and civilian infrastructures are protected in line with obligations under international law.

**Somalia

Our humanitarian colleagues in Somalia report that today, the Federal Government of Somalia and aid agencies launched the 2019 Somalia Humanitarian Response Plan, which seeks more than a billion dollars to provide life-saving assistance and livelihood [support] to 3.4 million Somalis who are impacted by conflict, climatic shocks and displacement.  Overall, an estimated 4.2 million people — one third of the total population of Somalia — require humanitarian assistance and protection.  The Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq, urged the international community to continue to provide early and sufficient humanitarian funding and called for a substantial investment in resilience-building and development solutions, critical to ultimately end need and to allow people to fend for themselves with dignity.

**Gaza/World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) said today that it is concerned over the potential impact that the fuel crisis in Gaza might have on the lives and health of patients whose treatment requires uninterrupted supply of power.  Gaza’s 14 public hospitals are increasingly jeopardized by electricity shortages and rapidly declining UN coordinated fuel reserves required to run emergency generators during prolonged electricity cuts from the main grid.  Current fuel reserves are expected to sustain critical hospital services for only a few more days, depending on the number of hours the electricity is available.

**Refugees and Migrants

Over the weekend, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that some 170 people either died or went missing in two separate shipwrecks on the Mediterranean Sea.  Some 53 people [died] on the Alborán Sea, western Mediterranean, according [to] information from NGO sources, while the Italian Navy reported an additional shipwreck on the central Mediterranean, in which 117 out of 120 people who departed Libya were reported dead or missing.  “We cannot turn a blind eye to the high numbers of people dying on Europe’s doorstep,” said the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.  The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is also calling for better protection for refugee and migrant children arriving in Europe.  In a statement issued today, they urged European Governments to agree on a region-wide approach to better protect these children, who continue to face grave dangers and violations of their basic human rights.

**Department of Peacekeeping Operations Gender Parity

Back here in New York, the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, presented the gender parity strategy for uniformed personnel.  He did so to Member States.  The strategy outlines common approaches for creating an enabling environment, as well as initiatives to improve communications and outreach.  Mr. Lacroix also outlined the targets for the deployment of military, police, justice and corrections female personnel for this year.  He said that, despite efforts which led to a slight increase in deployed women over the last year, currently, the overall number of [uniformed] women deployed to peace operations stands at a critically low figure of 5 per cent.  He appealed to Member States to continue to strive to meet the targets outlined in the strategy not only through pledges, but more importantly through sustained recruitment, training and deployment of qualified women within national services.

**United Nations Population Fund

The Government of Kenya and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) have announced today an upcoming high-level conference on population and Development; the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25:  Accelerating the Promise, will be held in Kenya from 13‑15 November.  2019 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the ground-breaking International Conference on Population and Development – that was held in Egypt, in Cairo.

**Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

You will have seen over the weekend, we issued a note to correspondents on behalf of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Matthew Nimetz.  He said that, on 16 January, the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia formally delivered to the Government of Greece a note verbale which states that it “has completed the necessary internal legal procedures for the entry into force of the Agreement, in accordance with its Constitution”.  Upon the notification by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia of the completion of the related constitutional amendments and its internal legal procedures for the entry into force of the Agreement, consideration and subsequently proceeding with the ratification of the Agreement by Greece, through its national processes, would be in conformity with the relevant provisions of the Agreement.

**Mexico

And we also issued a statement on Saturday in which the Secretary-General expressed his condolences and solidarity with the people and Government of Mexico following the deadly explosion of an oil pipeline on Friday in Hidalgo State.  The UN system in Mexico stands ready to offer assistance to national authorities.

**Honour Roll

We are now at 18 countries on our Honour Roll for 2019.  The three new inductees are Armenia, Luxembourg and Switzerland.  And we thank them.  Khalas.  Edie.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Do you have any details on Martin Griffiths' current visit to Sana’a?

Spokesman:  No.  What I can tell you is that his efforts are continuing, and our colleagues on the ground in Hodeidah are working to convene the next Redeployment Coordination Committee meeting as a face‑to‑face encounter.  Their efforts will also take them to Sana’a and Riyadh in the coming days, and we hope to have more resulting — including regarding the situation with the Red Sea Mills, which are so critical to our efforts, humanitarian efforts.  Why not?

Question:  Stéphane, has the Secretary‑General congratulated Felix Tshisekedi on his victory being confirmed by the Constitutional Coord…?

Spokesman:  No, there's been no contact.  I think, as per past practice, there will likely be a letter that will go out after the inauguration.  Thank you. 

Question: [Inaudible]?

Spokesman:  After the inauguration.

Question: [Inaudible]?

Spokesman:  Well, then, you know, we've got most of the afternoon.

Question:  Okay.  On Myanmar, the Security Council met last week and discussed the situation, and the agreement was to wait until the Special Envoy returns from her visit.  Do you have details of when that might take place and who she'll be meeting, or has that happened already?

Spokesman:  No.  I need to get you an update on that.  Yep?

Question:  Thank you.  What's your position about Israel attack to Syria recently?

Spokesman:  What I can tell you from our colleagues in the Golan Heights and UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force], first of all, is that we're obviously aware of the recent reports of the increased air activity over the area… UNDOF's area of operation.  The head of mission and force commander of UNDOF has been liaising with both the Israeli Defense Forces and Syrian authorities to de‑escalate the situation.  Such events demonstrate the volatility of the area and risk jeopardizing the long-standing ceasefire between the two countries.  It is critical that both parties to the 1974 Disengagement Agreement respect the agreement at all times to prevent escalation across the ceasefire line and actions that undermine progress towards stability in the area.  All right?  Monica, all yours.

For information media. Not an official record.