The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Over the weekend and today, the Secretary-General is continuing to meet with leaders taking part in the General Assembly’s high-level debate, which actually closes today. On Saturday, he spoke at the Ministerial Meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, otherwise known as ASEAN, and the United Nations. The Secretary-General said at the meeting that, since its inception in the height of the Cold War, ASEAN has shown the value of regional integration and shared approaches to local and global challenges. He noted that, under the ASEAN-UN Comprehensive Partnership, our close engagement continues across a broad range of areas and joint initiatives, and that, in this turbulent global climate, close cooperation between regional organizations and the United Nations remains more critical than ever. This afternoon, the Secretary-General will sign a book of condolences at the Permanent Mission of France, on the occasion of the passing of former French President Jacques Chirac.
And back here, the Security Council is meeting on Syria. Briefing Council members was the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Geir Pedersen. He said that, in one month, on 30 October, he intends to convene 150 Syrian men and women for the launch of the Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, credible, balanced and inclusive Constitutional Committee facilitated by the United Nations. And that meeting will take place in Geneva. He said that he believes this should be a sign of hope for the long-suffering Syrian people. Mr. Pedersen noted that this is the first concrete political agreement between the Government and the opposition to begin to implement a key aspect of Security Council resolution 2254 (2015) — and this to set a schedule and process for a new constitution. He added that it implies a clear acceptance of the other as an interlocutor and commits their nominees to sit together in face-to-face dialogue and negotiations, while at the same time opening the space for civil society at the table.
The Special Envoy underscored that the future constitution of Syria belongs to the Syrian people and to them alone. The United Nations will jealously guard the Syrian-owned and Syrian-led nature of the process, adding that Syrians — and not outsiders — will draft the constitution and the Syrian people must popularly approve it. Mr. Pedersen’s full remarks are in my office and, as we mentioned to you, he will speak to you at the stakeout following the consultations.
Also on Syria, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, from the 26 to 29 September, the United Nations as well as the Syrian Arab Red Crescent successfully completed a convoy to Rukban, along the Jordanian border, to provide humanitarian aid and to support voluntary departures from the camp. The entire operation was conducted in line with humanitarian principles and minimum protection standards. The distribution of food and nutrition supplies wrapped up the delivery, which began earlier in September to help some 15,000 people for one month. More than 600 people were given legal and protection counselling. More than 100 medical consultations were also carried out.
The UN and the Red Crescent also helped the first group of 329 people to voluntarily leave Rukban for collective shelters in Government-controlled Homs. These people have received clearance from Syrian authorities and will then continue to their areas of origin or destination of their choice. As needs assessment carried out last month found that, out of Rukban’s estimated population of 15,000, some 37 per cent wanted to leave and 40 per cent wanted to stay, while the remaining 16 per cent were undecided. The United Nations calls for continuing access to those in need in Rukban. The third phase of the humanitarian operations there includes supporting people who want to leave with finding durable solutions.
And the Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, today welcomed the initiative by Ansar Allah to unilaterally release detainees and called for all parties to ensure the safe return of the released detainees to their homes. He said that he hopes this step will lead to further initiatives that will facilitate the exchange of all conflict-related detainees as per the Stockholm Agreement. He also welcomed previous steps taken by the Government of Yemen and the Arab Coalition that led to the release of Yemeni minors and supported their reintegration with their families. The Special Envoy called on the parties to work together to expedite the release, transfer and repatriation of conflict‑related detainees and invited the parties to meet at the nearest opportunity, so as to resume discussions on future exchange as per their commitments in the Stockholm Agreement. He also thanked the International Committee for the Red Cross for its valuable role in the release of the detainees.
Following several days of protests in Haiti, the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) says it’s closely following recent developments. We are concerned by reports of violence and arson that have been taking place over the past few days throughout the country. The UN Mission calls on everyone to refrain from the use of violence. We praise the work of the Haitian National Police, which has done its utmost to provide security to the Haitian people, State institutions and private property. Meanwhile, the Mission and international partners are in discussions with local stakeholders to find a peaceful way out of the crisis and alleviate the suffering of the population who has been bearing the brunt of this crisis.
And, as you saw, we issued a statement over the weekend, in which the Secretary-General welcomed the conduct of the Afghan elections. He commended all Afghans who exercised their democratic voice and upheld their right to vote, braving security concerns. He also encouraged all stakeholders to enable the electoral institutions to exercise their responsibilities in full, including by addressing any complaints through the appropriate channels and procedures.
**International Translation Day
Today, we mark the International Translation Day with a tribute to language professionals. Their work plays an essential role in facilitating dialogue and understanding cooperation. The date was chosen to coincide with the feast of Saint Jerome, who translated the Bible and is considered the patron saint of translators. The day is marked by celebrations in several UN offices.
**Press Briefings Tomorrow
Tomorrow, at 11 a.m., there will be a press briefing in this very room by Tijjani Muhammad-Bande (Nigeria), the President of the General Assembly. And at 12:30 p.m., there will be a briefing by Ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila, the Permanent Representative of South Africa, who is lucky enough to preside over the Security Council for the month of October. He will brief you on the programme of work. Mr. Bays?
**Questions and Answers
Question: I wonder if you… sorry. I wonder if you have an update for us on the two UN teams that went to Saudi Arabia to look at the oil installations after the drone attack on, one, what they might have found out on their reporting. I know they report in different directions, but will they stick to their normal reporting schedule, or are we expecting something sooner than that?
Spokesman: Their work continues in terms of the analysis for the, for what they saw and what they were able to examine on the ground. They will both, as you mention, they have two different channels of reporting. They have a mandate, at least, if I'm not mistaken, for the Secretary‑General's own… the 2231… I think, by December. I'm trying to get an update to see if there will be any reporting done before that.
Question: And can I raise something different, which is more of an internal matter? But we've had UNGA. We've also… I've done UNGA, but it was much more difficult for us to plan this year for a very simple reason. The UN has always been excellent at putting out speakers lists very regularly throughout the process and updating us and changing them. And this year, for some… you either changed the system or the person in charge of the system, but you put out speakers lists ridiculously late, made it really hard for us to plan. It's a very complicated undertaking for all of the media that are covering this and for the delegations. It affected our coverage, our planning for coverage. It also… trying to fix interviews with people who didn't know when they were speaking. The system worked perfectly every time I've covered UNGA before. It worked really badly this year. Can we go back to the previous system?
Spokesman: I… as some politicians said, I hear you. Madame.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I just wanted to know if the Secretary‑General had any statement for the recent fire and rising tension in Moria, Greece, at the refugee camp, where there's about… well, there's a lot of people from Syria, Afghanistan and Africa there, but it's overpopulated and…?
Spokesman: No, not particularly. I would ask you to check with our UNHCR colleagues. Señor?
Question: Yes. Thank you, Stéphane. Do you have any reaction from the Secretary‑General or any comments of the United Nations Human Rights Council in… authorized an investigation in Venezuela for human rights violations including, including executions and tortures? That was recently…
Spokesman: It's not for, you know, it's not for us to comment. The Human Rights Council voted and created this mechanism. The Human Rights Council is a very critical part of the UN's human rights architecture, and we would hope that all concerned cooperate with it. Yeah, in the back and then… sorry.
Question: Colombia gave a report on, like, their proofs of how the Government of Venezuela was protecting the guerrillas of Colombia. There were two pictures that had some issues because they were old, and some of them were not part of the intelligence of military forces. So, what is the opinion of the Secretary‑General on this matter?
Spokesman: Listen, you're right. The, there was a report handed over to the Secretary‑General by the Colombian authorities. I think it's, any question having to do with the content of that report should be best raised with them. Yes, sir?
Question: Good afternoon, Stéphane. Back to the West Africa, Sahel. My area of concern today is biometric data‑sharing. INTERPOL Secretary‑General Jürgen Stock, earlier this month, he called for the need for more active use of biometric data‑sharing in the fight against terror in the African Sahel, because he said that biometric data‑information‑gathering and ‑sharing has resulted in matches of suspected terrorists, and they find and locate and apprehend these extremist fighters before they commit these terrorist acts. And I noticed in the past, that he… Mr. Stock has spoken before the UN, and there seems to be a role for the United Nations in the biometric data‑sharing. So, the question is, has the Secretary‑General made any overtures or meeting with Mr. Stock to be more active in this biometric data‑sharing?
Spokesman: I think, as usual, I learn more from you during these briefings than you learn from me. So, I will check. I hadn't heard this issue, I mean, as you know, INTERPOL is an agency that is outside of the UN system, but let me check. It's a very valid question. Thank you very much.
Question: Sorry. Do we not get a PGA briefing?
Spokesman: I think the PGA president will brief tomorrow and then we'll see what the…
Question: There are no plans to…?
Spokesman: I… as I said, I have trouble enough speaking for the Secretary‑General that I will not speak for the PGA. Yes, sir. Sorry.
Question: I'm from Nepal, and Secretary‑General had meeting with Nepal's Foreign Minister this morning, and I want to know the what were the issues they discussed? And Nepal has invited him on the several matter dialogue that is the climate change, that will discuss on climate change issue. How likely he will join in the event?
Spokesman: That, we'll have to see. We're waiting to get a readout of the meeting, but we are fully aware that Nepal is one of these countries that is on the front lines of dealing with climate change and one of these countries that is probably least responsible but some, impacted probably one of the most. Thank you.