20 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.

**Security Council

Good afternoon.  The Security Council, as you know, held an open debate and then consultations this morning on Yemen.  Briefing Council members via videoconference, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, said that the situation on the ground in Yemen is changing with great pace and that we need to seize the opportunities for progress.  He provided an update on the implementation of the Stockholm and Hodeidah Agreements.  Regarding the situation in Aden and Abyan, the Special Envoy said that a continuation of this current situation is simply untenable, warning of grave risk of further damage to Yemen’s social fabric and the spread of violence to other southern governorates.  He stressed that the UN remains committed to inclusive dialogue to resolve differences and address the legitimate concerns of all Yemenis.  Also briefing the Council was Ursula Mueller, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.  She said that we urgently need de-escalation across Yemen — ideally through a nationwide ceasefire that will end the violence.  But, a ceasefire or not, she stressed, all parties must uphold international humanitarian law.  All feasible steps must be taken to avoid harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure.  This includes verifying targets, taking precautions in the choice of weapons and cancelling an attack if it is expected to cause disproportionate civilian harm.

This afternoon, at 3 p.m., the Polish Presidency has organized an open debate on the situation in the Middle East in the Security Council.  The Chef de Cabinet, Maria Luiza Viotti, will be representing the Secretary-General and delivering her remarks.  The Permanent Representative of Israel, Danny Danon, has advised us that he will be at the stakeout at 2:50 p.m. just before the start of the meeting at 3 p.m., and we’ve also been told that the US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, who will be accompanied by the Polish Foreign Minister, will speak to you at the stakeout at approximately 6:10 p.m. And as a reminder, the Secretary-General is expected to meet with the Secretary of State at approximately 6:50 p.m. tonight.


On Libya, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that at least 90 civilians have been killed and more than 200 injured since hostilities escalated earlier this month in and around the town of Murzuq in the country’s south-west.  This figure includes some 45 people killed in an air strike on 4 August and the death or injury of six children on 8 August after a mortar landed on a house hosting internally displaced people.  Casualties on all sides of the fighting have continued as a result of air strikes by planes and drones, indiscriminate rocket attacks and shelling, and direct fighting on the ground.  Although nearly 10,000 people have been displaced by violence in the area since the start of August, some families are reluctant to leave the affected areas because they are afraid of reprisals.

The UN and humanitarian organizations are responding with emergency health care, food distribution, shelter and non-food items, but access remains difficult due to the active fighting.  We call on all parties to the fighting to urgently ensure the conditions for safe and unimpeded access to people in need and to make sure civilians can leave if they wish.  We also remind the parties of their obligations to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure at all times.  The Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya has called for $202 million, but it has only been funded by 30 per cent so far.


From Geneva, the Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, has had a productive meeting with the Chinese Envoy for Syria, Mr. Xi.  They shared similar concerns about the humanitarian issues and the situation on the ground.  They had reviewed the progress on the constitutional committee, in line with Security Council resolution 2254 (2015).  Mr. Pedersen said he was grateful for the support of China.  He also noted that moving forward with the composition and rules of procedures were among his priorities and hoped that the work could be completed soon.  The Special Envoy is also very concerned about the continuing fighting in Idlib and stressed that there was no military solution to the conflict.


The Director General for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), António Vitorino, is in Mozambique today to meet with authorities to support the humanitarian response to cyclones Idai and Kenneth.  He was also in Beira, where the Secretary-General went earlier this summer and he said there were still urgent humanitarian needs to be met, especially with regards to food, shelter and livelihoods.  As 500,000 people continue to live in destroyed or damaged homes in the country, Vitorino reiterated IOM’s commitment to support the people of Mozambique.

**Green Ticket

Today in a video message, the Secretary-General congratulated the young people that have won a green ticket to attend the Youth Climate Summit on 21 September here at Headquarters.  The Youth Summit is a platform for young leaders who are driving climate action to showcase their solutions at the UN, and to meaningfully engage with decision-makers on the defining issue of our time.  The Secretary-General also appealed to youth around the world to follow the Summit online and to be drivers of climate action in their own countries.  One hundred Green Tickets were given out.  They consist of fully funded, carbon‑neutral travel to New York to enable youth from all walks of life to attend the Summit.  More than 7,000 applications were received.  More information can be found on the UN Youth’s Envoy website.

**Budget Dues

After a long dry spell, I’m very happy to be able to thank Japan for its full contribution to the 2019 budget.  Japan’s payment takes us to a total of 111 fully paid Member States.  Arigatō-gozaimashita.  How's that?  Ask in English, not in Japanese, please.  Go ahead, Majeed.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  About Yemen, Stéphane, we all hear Mr. Griffiths' report.  The situation is changing on the ground dramatically, especially around Aden.  Given the Secretary‑General's role in Stockholm Agreement, does he think there should be a broader agreement in Yemen that includes, nationwide, all these party coming together?  And my second question with regard to that is, will he discuss the situation in Yemen with Secretary Pompeo tonight?

Spokesman:  Listen, I, we'll have to see what issues the Secretary of State brings up, as they've asked for the meeting.  We're ready to discuss a wide range of issues, including Yemen, of course.  You know, Mr. Griffiths, with the full support and backing of the Secretary‑General, is in the driver's seat on Yemen, on trying to reach a political agreement.  There were small steps that have [been] taken, as you mentioned, Hodeidah being one of them.  I think what is important is that all the parties directly involved and those who have influence over the parties involved put the interests of the Yemeni people first and foremost, and that means a cessation to the fighting, a halt to the violence, a halt to the suffering of the Yemeni people, so we can at least, at a bare minimum, quickly access the humanitarian aid that's needed.  Yes, Evelyn.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  On Yemen, the Yemenis’ ambassador spent as much time condemning the UAE [United Arab Emirates] in Aden as it did the Houthis for their general position.  Is that the new UN line, too, of criticism…?

Spokesman:  No, listen, I speak, or at least try to speak, for the Secretary‑General.  I cannot speak for the Member States who are themselves delivering statements…

Correspondent:  No, they are…

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General's views are clearly reflected in what Mr. Griffiths said.

Question:  But, they are "the legitimate Government," no?  And secondly, Cameroon, the leader of the Anglophone in the north has been sentenced to life.  Do you have anything further on that?

Spokesman:  No, I should have something, but I don't have anything today for you.  Yes, sir.  Go ahead.

Question:  Thank you.  Stéphane, as we talk, actually, in about 15 minutes, Mr. Pompeo, Secretary of the State, will meet Mr. Vučić, President of Serbia.  And the expectations are that they're going to talk about Kosovo.  Now, I'm not going to ask you to… for the Secretary‑General to comment that bilateral meeting, but since the Secretary‑General is always report on Kosovo for continuation of dialogue and since there is a stalemate of the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, would the Secretary‑General like, at this very moment, to address that issue of dialogue and what he has to say?

Spokesman:  Well, we, obviously, stand firmly for dialogue as a way to move, to move the process forward.  You know, I've, what I know about the bilateral meeting is what you know.  I read it in their press advisory, but, obviously, I think any dialogue amongst the parties or the parties that have influence over others is important.

Question:  Is that a recommendation?

Spokesman:  It's a fact, that dialogue is good.

Question:  Will the Secretary‑General meet President Vučić?

Spokesman:  I do not see him on his schedule for this week.  Mr. Abbadi, and then we'll go…

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Is the Secretary‑General concerned about the territorial integrity of Yemen?

Spokesman:  I think the Secretary‑General stands firmly for the territorial integrity and I think, of Yemen, and I think we've expressed our concerns about the developments in Aden very clearly.  Yes, ma'am.

Question:  [Inaudible] that it was asked… just asked.  The US Representative to the UN, Ambassador Cohen, recommended in the Security Council… Security Council meeting last time in June that the Secretariat had to carry out a review on UNMIK [United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] and with the perspective to exit from Kosovo.  Is anything in this… this regard in… I mean, has Secretariat done everything in the issue?

Spokesman:  I will check.  My understanding is that there may be a strategic review being done of the Mission, but I will, let me check and get back to you.

Question:  With the perspective towards… to carry…?

Spokesman:  The mandate of the Mission is one given to it by the Security Council, so that would be up to the Security Council.  Yes.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  There has been a nuclear accident in Russia, as you may have read the reports.  And we've seen a spike in radiation levels.  Now we see that four monitoring stations in Russia are switched off, probably to cover up what's going on.  Does the UN know what happened there, and is the SG concerned about it?

Spokesman:  No, we don't, we don't have any information from the Secretariat's standpoint.  I mean, the part of the UN system that deals with this is the CTBTO, and I think it's important that all Member States cooperate with them as much as possible.  Maria Carmen.

Question:  Is he aware of the reports?

Spokesman:  Yes, we've all seen the reports and the press reports.  Yeah.

Question:  Thank you.  Is the Secretary‑General aware of the fire in Gran Canaria?  It's ravaging the island and also the ecosystem.  Has Spain asked for any help, do you know?

Spokesman:  No, I'm not aware that Spain has asked for any help from the UN.  I think the Spanish national emergency authorities are very well equipped to… in these issues.  They have long experience.  We're obviously aware of the fire and are concerned for, obviously, the degradation of their natural habitat and the threat that it may cause to peoples and property.  Go ahead if you have a second one.

Question:  And another fire question has to do with Hizbullah is now using fire to attack Israel from the north, sending incendiary devices into the north of Israel.  Is the SG aware of this?

Spokesman:  Let me check with our colleagues at UNIFIL to see if we have any reports on that.  Yes, ma'am.

Question:  I have a question.  I'll come back to Kosovo.  It seems that the UN is working on Kosovo with UNMIK and a country team… one country team.  What's the difference between two of them?

Spokesman:  Well, in most places, there is, obviously, there is a mission with the mandate from the Security Council.  Right?  And then the… a country team is there to look more at the development, the development issues, but they all work very much as one.  Erol, staying in the Balkans today?

Correspondent:  No, no, no.  Just wondering…

Spokesman:  I'm happy to travel anywhere, but go ahead.

Question:  We'll go soon.  Just regarding these hundred Green Tickets, you said that it's fully funded carbon‑free travel to New York.  What I know it's carbon‑free travel, it's €400 more than the regular air travel from Europe.

Spokesman:  Sorry?

Question:  What I know from carbon free is that it's more expensive, like €400, travelling from Europe.  Now, what does it mean in few details if you can explain…?

Spokesman:  Right.  Well, my understanding is that there will be some carbon offsets purchased as part of the package.

Question:  So, it's not like you're saying only to say that it's carbon‑free because it's sounds very fashionable and in trend, but it's really like…?

Spokesman:  If there's one thing I try to be is fashionable and trendy.

Question:  No, no, I'm very serious.  Because it's more expensive, it's…?

Spokesman:  Yeah, it is more expensive, and that's, which is very much unfortunate, which is part of the broader problem.  And that's why it, one of the many reasons we're having this summit is also to find, you know, to ensure that there can be a scale‑up of less expensive technological green solutions.

Correspondent:  And indeed, you look very fashionable without tie.

Spokesman:  Thank you.  You are my fashion icon, Erol.

Question:  It's a bit of a historical question again.  Yesterday was the sixty-sixth anniversary of the coup of Mohammed Mossadegh, and I just asked the US Special Representative for Iran about this.  He denied the CIA's involvement.  Has the Secretary‑General ever spoken about this?  Does he have a position…?

Spokesman:  This current Secretary‑General, no.  I have difficulty enough dealing with issues of the day that I try not to go back more than 10 years.  But, we can, you know, you can look through the archives to see what was said or done, if anything was done at the time here.  Thank you, all.  Enjoy the day.  See you tomorrow, and Monica will be back tomorrow.

For information media. Not an official record.