17 July 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 Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Security Council

The Security Council held an open meeting this morning on the International Residual Mechanisms for Criminal Tribunals.  Council members were briefed by Justice Carmel Agius and Serge Brammertz, respectively the President and Prosecutor of the Mechanism.  In the afternoon, the Council will hold an open meeting on the implementation of the youth, peace and security agenda.


Concerning that, today, at 3 p.m., the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, will brief the UN Security-Council on youth, peace and security.  During this briefing, she will launch the policy paper called “We Are Here:  An Integrated Approach to Youth-Inclusive Peace Processes”, which explores the roles that young people can play in peacebuilding processes.  “We Are Here” is the first global policy paper on youth participation in peace processes and aims to document, assess and highlight where, how, and in what forms young people have participated in — and influenced — peace processes over the last 20 years.


In a statement we issued yesterday evening, the Secretary-General expressed his sadness following an attack at a market in Abyei, during which two UN peacekeepers serving with the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) came under attack by unknown assailants.  One of the peacekeepers was killed and the other was wounded.  Five civilians were also killed in the incident.  The Secretary-General conveyed his deepest condolences to the family of the deceased and to the Government and people of Ethiopia.  He also wished the injured peacekeeper a speedy recovery and extended his sympathies to the families of the civilians killed.  The UN Mission has deployed peacekeepers to the area to enhance security and determine the circumstances behind yesterday’s attack.


The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Emergency Committee on Ebola met today in Geneva to determine whether the current outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.  The Committee’s recommendations are expected to be announced in about an hour, during a virtual press conference that will be broadcast on Twitter @WHO.  Journalists who wish to dial in can also do so.  I have the number in my office.


The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today calls for improved humanitarian access and protection of the children living in Al-Hol Camp, located in Syria’s north-east.  UNICEF estimates that more than 90 per cent of the camp’s 70,000 people are children and women.  Nearly 20,000 of the children are from Syria.  The rest, 29,000, come from 62 different countries, including 9,000 from Iraq.  Most are under the age of 12.  These children face a dire humanitarian situation, further compounded by the trauma of conflict.  UNICEF is calling on all Member States involved to take full responsibility for the reintegration of children into their local communities, and the safe repatriation of children back to their countries.


In Venezuela, a mass polio vaccination campaign for more than 3.1 million children under the age of five started today, led by the Ministry of Health, with support from UNICEF and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).  More than 7,000 immunization points will be set up across the country to vaccinate all children under five years.  In advance of the campaign, UNICEF procured and delivered more than 3.8 million doses of oral polio vaccine and nearly 125,000 doses of inactivated polio vaccine.  The children’s agency also helped to produce radio and TV spots to disseminate life‑saving messages on immunization.  According to UN estimates, about 3.2 million children need assistance inside the country.

**Economic and Social Council

This morning the High-Level Political Forum of the Economic and Social Council heard presentations of Voluntary National Reviews from the Central African Republic, Eswatini, Iraq, Saint Lucia, Serbia, Tonga, South Africa, Rwanda, Kuwait, and New Zealand.  In the afternoon, presentations of national reviews will be given by Chad, Ghana, Israel, Timor Leste, Tanzania, and Vanuatu.

**Noon Briefing Guest

And you will soon hear from Monica Villela Graylay.  Tomorrow, my guest will be Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).  On the side‑lines of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and ahead of the Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in September, she will brief on biodiversity and nature-based solutions for climate action.  That’s it for me.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Follow-up on what I asked about yesterday, which is the restrictions on… in Iran's mission.  We were talking yesterday about restrictions on Foreign Minister [Javad] Zarif.  It's now clear that the restrictions apply to all of the diplomats at Iran's Permanent Mission.  So, can we be clear what do you make of these restrictions?  The Foreign Minister of Iran, in the last hour, has said they are "inhumane conditions".

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, on that, I can say that the Organization's long‑held views have been to avoid steps that are not consistent with the UN Charter, the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN and the UN-US Headquarters Agreement.

Question:  So, can… I… I don't really understand your statement.  Do you believe that this is the… the new restrictions are consistent with the Host Country Agreement?  Yes or no?

Deputy Spokesman:  On that what I will say is… as I made clear a couple of days ago, we had concerns about this, and we have raised our concerns with the Permanent Missions of the United States and Iran.

Question:  And what further interaction will there be with… with the US on this issue?

Deputy Spokesman:  We'll continue to take up the matter as needed.

Question:  And final question on this.  In terms of the history of the UN, to your knowledge, have there ever been restrictions as tight as this placed on any diplomats?  Because, as far as I can see, it's tighter than the restrictions placed on diplomats from the Soviet Union, from North Korea, from Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.  It seems they're the tightest ever.  Would you agree?

Deputy Spokesman:  I would refrain from making historical comparisons, and I'll leave you to do the analysis.  Certainly, it's clear if you look at the historical record that there have been different types of restrictions imposed at different times, but, like I said, I'll leave it for you to do the analysis.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, I wanted to ask if you have any information on reports that IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] Director Mr. [Yukiya] Amano is going to step down?  And has the Secretary-General been briefed on these matters, especially because it will have also implications on issues like Iran and North Korea?

Deputy Spokesman:  On this, I'll leave any commenting on this basically to my colleagues at the International Atomic Energy Agency.  As far as I'm aware from them, there are discussions going on between the Director‑General and the members of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency concerning the future course of action, but they haven't made any announcements and I'll wait to see what they have to say.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, as you know, yesterday, US House of Representatives voted to condemn the remarks of the sitting US president, qualifying them as "racist" remarks.  Does the Secretary-General think that the sitting President… what did he say regarding four Congresswomen, fall within the scope of his hate speech?  Or what he would say on that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I'll refer you to the Secretary-General's remarks which were fairly extensive about the need… not by any particular individuals, but by all individuals, everywhere, including all leaders everywhere, to avoid hate speech and any remarks that give rise to racism or xenophobia.  And he's spoken quite extensively, and I'll leave it at that.  We don't have any comment on the domestic workings of the US Government on this.  And with that, Monica, come on up.

For information media. Not an official record.