22 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.

**International Atomic Energy Agency

First off, I have some sad news.  The Secretariat of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that it regretted to inform with deepest sadness of the passing away of Director General Yukiya Amano.  The IAEA shared Mr. Amano’s most recent reflection, which he intended to include in his letter to the Board of Governors announcing his decision to step down:  “During the past decade, the Agency delivered concrete results to achieve the objective of Atoms for Peace and Development, thanks to the support of Member States and the dedication of Agency staff.”  Mr. Amano said:  “I am very proud of our achievements, and grateful to Member States and Agency staff.”  We expect a statement from the Secretary-General shortly.


In response to questions we received over the weekend, I can say that the Secretary-General is extremely concerned about the recent reported seizures of vessels, including in the Strait of Hormuz.  The Secretary-General stresses the need to respect the rights and duties relating to navigation through the Strait and its adjacent waters in accordance with international law.  The Secretary-General urges all concerned to exercise maximum restraint and to refrain from actions that will escalate tensions further.


The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, has completed a visit to Afghanistan this weekend.  She led an all-women delegation of top UN officials, who travelled for a two-day solidarity mission with a focus on issues linked to women, peace and security.  She was joined by the chief of UN Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo; the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Natalia Kanem; and the head of UN‑Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.  The Deputy Secretary-General said they went to Afghanistan ahead of the presidential election, scheduled at the end of September.  They were also there to lend their support for a peace process “which is integral to the future, and the sustainability of all the efforts and aspirations the Government and people of Afghanistan have.”  The UN delegation met with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Saturday.  They also met a diverse group of women hosted by Afghanistan’s First Lady, Rula Ghani, and religious leaders.

Yesterday, the delegation travelled to the province of Bamyan, where UNFPA is running support programmes and services for families and women of reproductive age, as well as tackling gender-based violence.  They also visited a UN demining site, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site of the Buddhas of Bamyan, destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001.  The Deputy Secretary-General said that at the end of two days, they have been impressed with the leadership at all levels of government from Kabul out to the local areas, where they could see an investment in people, in particular in women’s empowerment.  She concluded her visit with a plea for all Afghans to reconcile with the past and put “women at the centre” of all efforts to forge a durable peace and an inclusive political process where women’s voices are truly heard.

Also on Afghanistan, the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, has denounced the killing of local radio journalist Nadershah Sahibzada.  UNESCO’s Director-General said today she hopes the investigation underway will lead to the arrest of the perpetrators of this crime and help stem future attacks on freedom of expression and on the media.  According to the Observatory of Killed Journalists, 29 reporters were killed since the beginning of the year, including five from Afghanistan.

**East Jerusalem

Jamie McGoldrick, the Humanitarian Coordinator in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and other senior UN officials in the region expressed sadness today at the Israeli authorities’ destruction of homes in the Palestinian community of Sur Bahir.  Initial information emerging from the community indicates that hundreds of Israeli forces entered the community this morning and demolished a number of residential buildings on the East Jerusalem side of the barrier.  The officials said that among those forcibly displaced or otherwise affected are Palestine refugees, some of whom today are facing the reality of a second displacement in living memory.  They said that Israel’s policy of destroying Palestinian property is not compatible with its obligations under international humanitarian law.  Among other things, the destruction of private property in occupied territory is only permissible where rendered absolutely necessary for military operations, which is not applicable.  Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said of the Palestinians’ displacement that no amount of humanitarian aid can compensate their suffering.  He added that Israel must stop this policy.  And I can add that the Secretary-General fully supports the statement issued today.


The humanitarian situation in north-west and south-west regions in Cameroon continues to deteriorate and 1.3 million people are now in need of assistance.  In these two regions, 530,000 people are internally displaced and nearly 40,000 more people were forced to flee to Nigeria.  The situation continues to be characterized by human rights and protection abuses and violations.  Over 2,800 protection incidents have been reported in the first six months of this year.  House destruction and child protection violations are those reported in greatest numbers.  Meanwhile, in the far north of Cameroon, attacks by non-State armed groups against villages have intensified since the beginning of the year, leading to new displacements.  Around 1,300 people were reportedly being displaced last week alone.  Attacks also resulted in dozens of civilian deaths, hundreds of houses set ablaze, and widespread looting of civilian goods.  Despite increased humanitarian needs, the Humanitarian Response in Cameroon remains one of the most critically underfunded humanitarian responses globally.  This year, the humanitarian community has requested $300 million, but only 20 per cent of the appeal has been received.


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, wrapped up a visit to Somalia last week.  She visited Baidoa and Mogadishu, holding meetings with Government officials and civil society organizations.  Her mission concluded with the Government committing to work with her office and the United Nations to develop a new National Action Plan to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.  You can read more about her visit online.

**Security Council

Ján Kubiš, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Lebanon, and Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, are briefing the Security Council this morning in closed consultations on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006), concerning Lebanon.  Mr. Kubiš will speak to reporters at the stakeout once those consultations have ended.  And this afternoon, the Council will hold consultations on Haiti.


Our humanitarian colleagues say that the threat of explosive hazards remains a major concern in Syria, with more than 10 million people estimated to live in contaminated areas.  Yesterday, a landmine explosion killed a 20-year-old man in Hatla town in Deir ez-Zor Governorate.  On the same day, a five-year-old girl died from her injuries after another landmine exploded in a field outside of Al-Jafra town.  The UN calls on all parties to the conflict to allow clearance of explosive remnants of war and to safely conduct risk education activities and ensure the respect and safety for humanitarian staff conducting clearance activities.

**Press Briefings

After I’m done here, you will hear from Monica Villela-Grayley.  And tomorrow, my guest will be Joint United Nations Programme against HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Executive Director ad interim, Gunilla Carlsson.  She will brief on the UNAIDS Global AIDS Update and the report on Implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.  Are there any questions?  Yes, Ibtisam?

**Questions and Answers 

Question:  Farhan, on the demolition of the passing in houses, so in the statement of OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs], they talk about, the one you read, they talk about and express their sadness; but I didn't hear any condemnation for the Israeli acts.  So, do you or does the Secretary‑General condemn the demolition of Palestinian houses?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, you're aware that the International Court of Justice has also pronounced itself on the issues having to do with the barrier in a ruling in 2004.  And the General Assembly has also pronounced itself on this matter.  And we expect Israeli authorities to respect all of those rulings.  Again, the basic point, as Mr. Mladenov made clear in his tweet, is that this policy must stop.  Yes, oh, yes?

Question:  A follow-up:  But, even the statement of Mr. Mladenov doesn't have any condemnation, and it reads like, if the issue was on the opposite side, like, he immediately will go and start condemning any acts that Palestinians will do, and it will hurt an Israelis.  But, in this case, we are talking about 100 apartments, 16 buildings, hundreds of people are being, again, as you said, again and again displaced, and yet there is not even one word about condemning the Israeli actions and not by your office, not by Mr. Mladenov — by Mr. Mladenov?

Deputy Spokesman:  I think the words were very strong and made clear the case that their sympathies lie with those who are being displaced — in some cases, as I mentioned, twice in their lifetime.  And, again, we refer you to the relevant international laws and the need by all countries, including Israel, to abide by them.  Yes, Maggie?

Question:  Farhan, can you confirm for us exactly what day Mr. Amano died, because there are reports now that he died five days ago?

Deputy Spokesman:  All I have is the information that was provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency.  They had made this information available earlier this morning, and so that's the best data that I have.  Yes, Mr. Sato?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Two questions.  One is related to Mr. Amano's passing away.  So, does the Secretary‑General have any comment on his passing away?  I'm sorry that I missed it, being over here.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  Fairly shortly, hopefully within this hour, we should have a statement by the Secretary‑General.  He is very saddened by this loss and we are going to put out a statement out in his name fairly soon.

Question:  One more question is about Iran.  So how does the Secretary‑General respond to the UK's claim of illegal… Iran's seizing the UK's tanker?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  Before you came into the room, I said the Secretary‑General is extremely concerned about the recent reported seizures of vessels, including in the Strait of Hormuz.  The Secretary‑General stresses the need to respect the rights and duties relating to navigation through the Strait and its adjacent waters in accordance with international law.  The Secretary‑General urges all concerned to exercise maximum restraint and to refrain from actions that will escalate tensions further.  Yes, please?

Question:  Good afternoon.  Thank you, sir.  I have a question regarding Haiti, lots been going on with Haiti, sort of in the background because of Venezuela.  A journalist has been shot, protesters are calling for the resignation of the President, there is a $4 billion scandal involving oil, massive poverty.  What is the Secretary‑General's position regarding Haiti?

Deputy Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General has reported regularly to the Security Council in Haiti.  One of those reports about the UN mission, MINUJUSTH, is going to be presented formally to the Security Council this afternoon at 3 p.m., and then the Security Council is expected to discuss the matter further then.  And with that, Monica.

For information media. Not an official record.