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

14 March 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.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

Alright, speaking of speaking Spanish, next week, the Secretary-General will travel to Buenos Aires, in Argentina, to attend the Second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation and that will take place on 20 March.

The Secretary-General will deliver remarks at the Conference, which will focus on the theme of “Role of South-South cooperation and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: challenges and opportunities.”

The Conference will also commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the 1978 United Nations Conference on Technical Cooperation Among Developing Countries, which was also held in Buenos Aires.

The Secretary-General strongly believes in the importance of South-South Cooperation to generate both new ideas and concrete projects and also as a means to enable voices from the Global South to drive innovation and promote development.

While in the Argentine capital, the Secretary-General is also expected to meet with the country’s President, Mauricio Macri.  We expect the Secretary-General back at work on 22 March in New York.

Also on travels, this morning, the Secretary-General is continuing his meetings with US officials in Washington [D.C.], this time focusing on Capitol Hill.

He had an early meeting with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and he will also meet with other legislators from both parties throughout the day before heading back to New York later tonight.

With all his interlocutors, he discussed a wide range of issues.

And yesterday afternoon, as you saw, the Secretary-General met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  Among other things they discussed the need for strong cooperation between the United States and the United Nations and addressed several issues of concern, such as Yemen and Venezuela.  The Secretary-General also provided the status update on the ongoing UN reform efforts and encouraged continuing United States engagement with the United Nations.

**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels

The Deputy Secretary-General is in Nairobi and she spoke this morning at the UN Environment Assembly.  She first expressed her condolences to the relatives of those who lost their lives in the Ethiopian Airlines crash.  She noted that many of the UN staff who were on the flight were heading for the Assembly to pursue their life’s work: to ensure we can live in a safe and sustainable planet.  She went on to say that we can and must honour their lives by taking their work forward and bringing it to light.

Ms. Mohammed said it’s time to turn the tide towards ambitious policies that enable strong economies and protect our health and our planet.  She also commended the innovative solutions that were being showcased to tackle climate change, stop biodiversity loss and make our consumption patterns more sustainable.

“Inspiring actions by civil society, governments at all levels and corporations show us that we can in fact achieve greater economic benefits from innovative approaches to how we eat, purchase, travel, and discard waste,” she said.  She warned that we need greater ambition and speed.  Ms. Mohammed also spoke at the One Planet Summit and her remarks are online.


The Secretary-General is appointing today Khawla Matar of Bahrain as the Deputy Special Envoy for Syria.  The Secretary-General takes this opportunity to reiterate his gratitude to Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy of Egypt for his effort in the search for peace during his time as the Deputy Special Envoy.

Ms. Matar has profound knowledge of the region, the Syrian conflict, and the United Nations system.  Her experience includes her earlier assignments as the Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, otherwise known as ESCWA, and she has also been the Director of the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria in Damascus.


Keeping on the topic of Syria, the Secretary-General provided a video message to the Brussels conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region,” in which he says that, after eight years of war, the scale of suffering in Syria remains staggering.  More than 11 million people inside Syria need humanitarian aid and many face violence on a daily basis.

The Secretary-General urged donors to renew their financial and humanitarian and political commitments to the Syrian people and to the countries and communities hosting refugees.

He added that only a political solution based on Security Council resolution 2254 can bring sustainable peace to Syria.  As we work towards this goal, he said, we must continue to support the Syrian people and to give them hope of a better future.  His message is available to you on the web.

At a press event in Brussels on the side, related to the conference, Mark Lowcock, the head of the Humanitarians Affairs department, said the conference may raise at least $6.5 billion and possibly more than that, which he said would be a very significant result.


The Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, today is visiting the UN Truce Supervision Organization otherwise known as UNTSO, which is based in Jerusalem.

Yesterday, Mr. Lacroix concluded his five-day visit to Lebanon, where he held talks with top Lebanese officials in the capital and saw first-hand the crucial work that UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) peacekeepers are doing in the southern part of the country.

During the talks, including with the President and Prime Minister of Lebanon and other officials, Mr. Lacroix commended the Government’s continued cooperation with UNIFIL in maintaining calm in south Lebanon.  He also hailed Lebanon’s firm commitment to the UN Security Council resolution 1701, which forms the core of UNIFIL’s mandate.


Our humanitarian colleagues say the flooding caused by Tropical Cyclone Idai since early this month has affected more than a million people and caused at least 122 deaths in both Mozambique and Malawi.

The Cyclone has regained intensity and is expected to make landfall in central Mozambique this evening, and it is forecast to bring strong tropical winds, heavy rains and a storm surge to several areas over the next three days.

OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) says that close to 83,000 people are displaced in Malawi, more than 17,000 in Mozambique.  Rapid needs assessments continue in the hardest-hit areas, with Malawian and Mozambican Governments leading the humanitarian responses in their respective countries, supported by partners.


The Secretary-General, sorry, I wanted to flag a couple of sad notes for which the Secretary-General wanted to mention.  One is that he was very shocked and saddened to learn of the collapse of the building in Lagos, Nigeria, yesterday, which reportedly killed at least eight people, including school children, as it was housing a day-care centre.  The Secretary-General will be writing to the Government of Nigeria to express his condolences.


And also, the Secretary-General will be sending a condolence letter to the Government and people of Brazil to express his solidarity with the people of Brazil following the fatal shooting that took place in a school in Sao Paolo in Brazil yesterday.

**Honour Roll

Before I turn to you and I turn to Monica [Grayley], we thank Belgium for paying up on the Honour Roll.  And the number is?

Correspondent:  Seventy-two.

Spokesman:  Seventy-two!  Seventy-two!  Good job.  Thank you.  I couldn’t say it in Spanish if I tried but setenta y dos.

**Questions and Answer

Okay.  Let’s go, please.

Question:  Thank you.  Stéphane.  Yesterday, there were reports — and this is not yet confirmed — that the Government of Venezuela through the… their DA is looking to build a case to execute detention order against Juan Guaidó.  This is something that has been publicized by the former President of Colombia, Andrés Pastrana, and other activists in Venezuela.  It has not happened yet; however, the possibility of that happening will… from the United Nations, how would that be seen if… if Juan Guaidó is detained, as they still have a crisis in the country?  And then the second part on that… I’m sorry.

Spokesman:  Sure.  Never two without one… never one without two.  Yes.

Question:  Just the last part is, will this prompt the United Nations and the Secretary‑General to push a little stronger to try to get a dialogue?  Because then, in this case, we’ll be talking about a leader of the opposition, recognized by many countries as the leader, detained and with the possibility of maybe retaliation by the Government of [Nicolás] Maduro, which we don’t know, obviously.

Spokesman:  Okay.  First of all, I mean, I think, as you know, we’re not going to start commenting and hypothesizing on hypothetical questions.  We’ve seen the press reports, like you have.  We wouldn’t want to comment on anything that has not yet happened.  Since the beginning, the Secretary‑General’s position has been very clear, that he urges all national actors to make all efforts to lower tensions.  This has been his position and continues to be his position.  He also continues to have contacts with various actors and to reiterate his offer of good offices.  And when we have something to announce, we’ll share that with you.

Question:  Stéphane, has he spoke at all with Juan Guaidó and any representative of the interim presidency?

Spokesman:  The only direct contact the Secretary‑General has had with Mr. Guaidó is when he answered the letter.  You know, the… our… we continue to have contacts with people in the President’s circle and, as well, there are contacts had at different levels as well as the President of the National Assembly.  Arthur?

Question:  Stéphane, Martin Griffiths obviously spoke yesterday at the Security Council in consultations.  While he didn’t speak to the press, there was a report by the Security Council Report bulletin, which said that General [Mark] Lollesgaard, who, I believe, briefed the Council by video link, had… there had been some… I’m not sure if “disagreement” is the word, but there had been some contradictory reporting on who is committing the violations of the ceasefire in Hudaydah.  I was wondering, given that there has been correspondence to the Security Council on this, when we might get an update on what the latest situation is in regard of violations and where that leaves the ceasefire.

Spokesman:  Sure.  The… first of all, the ceasefire is still generally holding.  Both Martin Griffiths and General Lollesgaard continue to have contacts with various actors on this to try to push for the actual implementation of the agreement, which is what we’re all working for, which the parties have told us they are committed to.  We are not going… the Secretary‑General will report, as he is required by the Security Council resolution, to the Council members on a periodic basis to update them on the situation.  But we’re not, from here, going to go into a listing of who may be responsible for what.  Our focus right now is on continuing contacts and discussions with the parties to get the agreement implemented.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Has any figure emerged from this Syrian pledging conference?

Spokesman:  No.  We should, hopefully, have something maybe later today.  [OCHA later said that $6.97 billion in pledges had been received.]

Question:  And, secondly, there are a whole lot of investigations going on in the Ethiopian airliner crash.  Is ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) also involved…?

Spokesman:  No, I’m not aware that they have been requested to be involved.  I think, like you saw, the black boxes were to be taken to be analysed.  I think all the… all the relevant national civil aviation authorities are invested in the investigation.  And, like all of us, we await to see the results.  Yes, ma’am, and then we’ll go to Nabil.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Steve Biegun, who is the US Special Envoy to North Korea, is in this building today.  Do you know if he’s having any meetings at the Secretariat level?

Spokesman:  I will check.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Yep.

Question:  Just a follow‑up on the airplane crash.  Do you have any instructions to avoid… for the UN personnel to avoid using these Boeing…

Spokesman:  Yes, instructions have gone out to all our travel bureaus not to book any UN personnel on the type of aircraft that was… that crashed in Ethiopia.  It’s a standard safety procedure and follows basically, you know, I think, decisions taken by civil aviation authorities in many, many countries in the world.

Question:  And have you received any communication from Boeing?

Spokesman:  No, we’re not in communications with Boeing and not expected, as far as I’m aware.

Question:  And on the SG’s visit to Washington, I think he was supposed to meet Mr. John Bolton.  Has he met him?

Spokesman:  Yeah, he met him yesterday.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesman:  All right.  Thank you, all.  Monica, your turn.  You have to.  You have no choice.  Well, you have a… we all have choices.

For information media. Not an official record.