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

6 August 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.

**Hiroshima

I will start off with a note on the anniversary of Hiroshima.  Izumi Nakamitsu, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, spoke on the Secretary-General’s behalf at the commemoration that took place today in Hiroshima of the dropping of the nuclear bomb which took place on 6 August 1945.

In a message delivered by Mr. Nakamitsu, the Secretary-General said that we must recall the core message that the hibakusha, the survivors of the bombs, have travelled the world to spread:  the only guarantee against the use of nuclear weapons is the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

Inspired by the resilient spirit of the people of Hiroshima, the Secretary-General added that he is fully committed to working with the hibakusha and all others to realize our shared goal:  a world free of nuclear weapons.

**Egypt

In a statement we issued last night, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the terrorist attack that took place on 5 August in Cairo.  He extends his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the people and Government of Egypt and wishes a speedy recovery to those who were injured.

**Syria

And our humanitarian colleagues report that, after three days of reduced hostilities in the north-western Syria following the ceasefire that came into effect on Friday, fighting has flared up again, including with airstrikes, across northern Hama, southern Idlib and western Aleppo governorates.  We reiterate our deep concern for the civilians in Idlib and all surrounding areas.

Since the upsurge in violence end of April, more than 500 civilians have been killed, and over 400,000 people were displaced in the area. 

And again, we remind all parties to the conflict, and those who have influence over them, of their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.

**Colombia/Venezuela

A note on Venezuelan refugees in Colombia.  And I can tell you that we join the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the UN migration agency (IOM) today in welcoming the decision by the Government of Colombia to grant nationality to children born in the country to Venezuelan parents. 

The measure will benefit more than 24,000 children born since August 2015 who were at risk of statelessness.  It will also prevent children from becoming stateless in the future.

UNHCR, IOM and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said they will financially support the Colombian Government in implementing this measure to provide these children with documents to prove their nationality.  More is online.

**Cameroon

And I’ve been asked about Cameroon and I can say that we continue to follow the situation in Cameroon closely, including the aftermath of the violent riots in the Yaoundé and Buea prisons that took place late last month and the decision of a number of prisoners to start a hunger strike.

We call on the Cameroonian authorities to ensure that the fundamental rights of all detainees are respected and recall the importance to follow due process. 

The National Commission on Human Rights and Freedom is reportedly engaging with relevant authorities in order to meet with the detainees.  We hope that this request will be considered favourably.

**Press Briefing

Just to mention that this afternoon at 2 p.m., there will be a briefing here by Ambassador Samuel Moncada, the Permanent Representative of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United Nations.

Edie?

CorrespondentKhalas?

SpokesmanKhalas.  At least for me, but not for you.  Yes, go ahead, Edie.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  The Pakistani Foreign Minister has sent the Secretary‑General a letter in which he urges the United Nations to halt any actions that could bring about a material change in the situation on the ground in Kashmir in violation of Security Council resolutions and to take some other actions.  Has the Secretary‑General received the letter?  And what is his response?

Spokesman:  Yeah, we're aware of the press reports the letter's been sent.  As of a short while ago, we were not able to confirm that the letter had actually been received.  Obviously, once it is, it will be looked at and studied and acknowledged.  Sidi rais, welcome back.

Question:  Thank you.  Stéphane, yesterday, there was a press statement from the Security Council about Libya, but I noticed no one mentioned the attack on Murzuq.  Murzuq is a southern… south-west town that had been attacked by pilotless plane, and 43 people were killed; 60 people were injured, and yet there was no statement, neither from the Secretary‑General nor from the Security Council, about this attack.  Is there any…

Spokesman:  There was a statement from the Mission, issued from the statement, and of course, the Mission speaks for the Secretary‑General.  Yes, Iftikhar, and then Maria.

Question:  Thank you.  A follow‑up to the question on Kashmir.  Stéphane, does the Secretary‑General believe that the Indian action is scrapping the special status of Jammu and Kashmir is a violation of the UN resolutions?

Spokesman:  Look, I think we've expressed our… we said very clearly that we are following the developments in the region with concern.  We… the Secretary‑General's position at this point is to urge all parties to exercise restraint.  Maria…

Question:  I asked…

Spokesman:  No, no, I understand what you asked, but unfortunately, at this point, you'll have to settle for that as my answer.  Maria?

Question:  Thanks, Stéphane.  So, last week, US imposed sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.  I wonder… I didn't see any particular reaction from UN on this, and I wonder if you have been in touch with American authorities or Iranian authorities about the possible upcoming visit of Mr. Zarif to UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) high‑level week, if it will create any problems for him or not?

Spokesman:  Well, the Secretary‑General was asked that question and answered, I think, on his stakeout he did on Thursday.  And, for him, he… I think he called on all parties to avoid anything that would increase tensions, and I think he answered that question.  Obviously, we'll have to wait and see what happens at the General Assembly.  I can't predict, but the US has obligations under the Host Country Agreement, as have other countries that host UN Headquarters or host UN conferences.  And, as a matter of principle, we hope that every country that is under such obligations lives up to those obligations, but we'll have to wait and see what happens.

Question:  So, this matter haven't been discussed, as far as you know, between Secretary‑General and the American…

Spokesman:  You know, as… the process… and I'm not talking about the case of the Foreign Minister particularly, but the process that, obviously, before the GA countries and make visa requests to the US, if it's… for the General Assembly and to other countries who attend UN conferences, there is that process, which involves the countries and then the host authorities.  So, we need to let that process play out, but obviously, there are obligations under the Host Country Agreement.  Ali?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  One on Syria.  There are… I wonder what are the latest in the developments of the Syrian Government sold on Idleb.  And also, the talks in Turkey about the need to do something in that part of Syria.  This is one question.  My other question, who would decide whether the missile tests in DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) are in violation to UN resolutions or not?  And what is the… because we have seen repeated tests now.  What's the Secretary‑General's reaction to that development also?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  You're covering a lot of geographical ground.  Let's start in your part of the world.  On Syria, I think I started off the briefing with mentioning our concern about the increased fighting and reporting that, after the ceasefire that had come into effect on Friday, we're seeing a flare‑up in fighting.  Obviously, we're very concerned about the civilian population in Idlib and in all the surrounding areas. 

As far as the talks in Turkey, I'm as informed or less informed than you are.  We've seen the press reports of, I think, US delegations in Turkey.  We'll have to wait and see what the outcome of the talks is.

On the DPRK, we're obviously very concerned with the recent launches that we've seen by the DPRK, and we reiterate our call for a swift resumption of working‑level talks between the US and DPRK, as agreed to by the two leaders last June.  Yep?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Does the SG have a comment on the latest decision by the US Government to impose a full economic embargo against Venezuela?  All of the Venezuelan State's assets here in the US were frozen.  I wonder if he's got any position or comment on that.

Spokesman:  Sure.  We've taken note of those latest announcement… that latest development.  We, as far as a UN system is concerned, will continue to cooperate with the Venezuelan authorities and other national and international actors to address the needs of the Venezuelan population.  I think there is an expectation that all stakeholders act in accordance with humanitarian principles, which… including allowing assistance to enter Venezuela.  It is very, very important to keep the humanitarian needs of the Venezuelan people first and foremost.  Yes, sir, then I'll come back to you, Edie.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  My question is to follow up yesterday's statement from Secretary‑General on the shooting massacres that happened last weekend in the US.  My question is, what is the statement from the Secretary‑General about the control of arm of civilians?  And since, like, the Americans has to live with this situation and even anyone here is exposed to that situation with the control of arms in the US.

Spokesman:  Look, there is a… you know, there is a responsibility for national Governments for the legislation that they have in place.  The issue of small arms as covered by the United Nations refers to the trade between Member States, and it is then up to those Member States to enact the proper national legislation.  Edie and…

Question:  As a follow‑up on Venezuela, is the Secretary‑General concerned that the measures taken by the [Donald] Trump Administration could affect humanitarian provisions to the people of Venezuela?

Spokesman:  Well, these were announced yesterday.  Again, there are some very clear humanitarian principles at the international level and that is… which means that humanitarian aid needs to be allowed to get in to those who need it the most.  Sir?

Question:  Hi.  Thanks.  Just a follow‑up on Oscar's question.  It's reported that there are more guns than people in the US.  Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit, reports that, as of Monday, there have been 255 mass shootings this year alone.  Does having the UN Headquarters in a country where mass shootings are so commonplace affect the safety of UN personnel?

Spokesman:  Look, I'm not going to start linking the two.  We rely on the host country authorities to protect United Nations premises and United Nations staff.  Our host country and our host city, whether at the federal, the state and at the NYPD (New York Police Department) level, do a tremendous job, and we are very much appreciative of that.  Yes, Carmen?

Question:  Thank you very much.  Also has to do with the humanitarian aid getting into Venezuela.  The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said that it had… it was able to deliver 34,000 tonnes… or 34 tonnes of food.  What other organisation right now do you know is getting aid into Venezuela?  And what is the UN… how is the UN also participating in that matter?

Spokesman:  Well, the UN has a development in humanitarian presence in Venezuela.  We're working according to international principles to make sure that aid is delivered properly along our requirements and our rules.  A lot of it is focused on children and maternal health, and I do hope to have a bit of an update on the humanitarian situation later on this week.  Alan?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Are there any updates on the inquiry board, I mean the staff, how many person are going to…

Spokesman:  No.  When there is an update, you will be the third to know.  The Secretary‑General will know.  I will be informed, and then I will let you be informed.  All right.  Yes, Mr. Iftikhar?

Question:  Stéphane, how does the Secretary‑General view this report by… UN report about Myanmar companies funding military operations in Myanmar?  They are asking for sanctions against this company.

Spokesman:  Listen, the Fact-Finding Mission, as you know, is independent of the Secretary‑General.  It works on a mandate from the Human Rights Council.  It is a very important piece of the mechanism, of the United Nations mechanism, around the issues of Myanmar.  And I think their recommendations, some are directed to Member States, and it will be up to the Member States to act upon them.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  Could you explain to us, Stéphane, the criteria in which the Secretary‑General sometimes issues statement and sometimes he doesn't?  I know he just issued a statement condemning the terrorist act in Cairo, but he didn't issue a statement on destroying hundred apartments with… leaving 500 Palestinians homeless in the city of Surbar.  So, could you just enlighten us of the criteria when he does issue a statement and when he doesn't?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  There is… it's not the first time you've asked the question and not the first time I've tried to answer your questions, but we'll go at it again.  There are numerous ways through which the Secretariat expresses itself or the Secretary‑General, through statements of the Secretary‑General, through the missions, through the SRSGs that represent the Secretary‑General, through his Special Envoys.  Those… all those voices are important and carry weight.  On the issue that you mention, the Secretariat reports back directly… regularly to the Security Council and other organs on developments, and we will continue to do so.  Madame?

Correspondent:  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  Oh, yes.  [laughter] Go ahead.

Correspondent:  Hi there.  Thanks so much.

Spokesman:  Sorry.

Question:  All the way at the back.  I just got caught in the rain.

Spokesman:  Is it raining?

Question:  Yeah.  It just started bucketing down.  I got soaking wet.  Have you taken a question yet on the AP story about Yemen by Maggie Michael?

Spokesman:  Yes, we're… have I taken an… a question… 

Question:  I've only just arrived.  Has anybody…

Spokesman:  No, you have not.  Would you like to ask that question?

Question:  I'll ask a question, please.  Have you seen the story…?  And do you… do you take issue with any of its content?  Have you asked for a correction?  Is it accurate as far as you understand?

Spokesman:  You mean the story on… on the allegations…

Question:  The really, really embarrassing story about UN workers in Yemen.

Spokesman:  Well, that's your framing of the story.  Listen, we… yes, we have… I've seen the story.  My understanding is that the World Health Organization (WHO) has mentioned the story, is taking these allegations extremely seriously.  I think all allegations of the misuse of aid need to be investigated.  My understanding is that an investigation is ongoing and that we have absolutely zero tolerance for any corruption.  Thank you.  Monica, let's try it again.  Take two.  See if this works, if I can get off this podium quickly enough.

For information media. Not an official record.