The following is a near‑verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.
**Secretary‑General in Thailand
Good afternoon, everyone. Yesterday in Bangkok, the Secretary‑General attended the tenth Summit of the UN and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and, in his opening remarks to that summit, he underscored that, at a time of great turbulence, he fully appreciates ASEAN’s steadfast support for multilateralism and a rules‑based international order. He reviewed a number of challenges facing the region, including climate change and the continuing construction of coal plants, as well as the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the ongoing crisis facing the Rohingya people. On the last point, he said that it remains Myanmar’s responsibility to ensure a conducive environment for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees to Rakhine State, in accordance with international norms and standards.
Afterwards, the Secretary‑General spoke to journalists and repeated his call for the region’s economies to move towards renewable energy. He said he appealed for an emphasis to be put on renewables and to be able to stop the construction of new coal power plants. Later in the day, the Secretary‑General met with Li Keqiang, Premier of the People’s Republic of China. The Secretary‑General thanked China for its contribution to the United Nations and for its strong commitment to multilateralism. Their discussion focused for the most part on climate change. On Saturday, the Secretary‑General met with the Prime Ministers of Thailand and Viet Nam and the President of Indonesia. In those meetings, he discussed sustainable development, climate action and regional issues. The Secretary‑General has returned to New York this morning.
This morning, the Deputy Secretary‑General, Amina Mohammed, briefed the Security Council on her joint mission with the African Union in the Horn of Africa. The chance for peace in this region is real, Ms. Mohammed told Council Members. The international community, together with Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti, can find lasting solutions to the complex challenges of the region. She added that women are playing a critical leadership role in social cohesion, economic revival and peace.
Immediately after this mission, the Deputy Secretary‑General travelled to Sudan, where she met authorities and women’s civil society activists. Responding to the opportunity in Sudan will require putting aside our usual way of working, she told the Council. She urged the Security Council, and the international community, to assist in identifying concrete actions to be delivered over the next three months, while addressing the mid‑ and long‑term opportunities necessary for lasting peace. And this afternoon, the Security Council will resume last week’s suspended debate on women, peace and security.
Geir Pedersen, the Special Envoy for Syria, is pleased to confirm that the Constitutional Committee is continuing its work in Geneva this week, as a Small Body of 45 members begins its first working sessions today at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The names of the members of the Small Body were released over the weekend. You’ll recall that the Constitutional Committee’s Large Body of 150 members met last Thursday and Friday in working sessions under the chairmanship of the two Co‑Chairs. The Committee adopted by consensus a Code of Conduct for Members of the Constitutional Committee and Initial Procedural Practices of the Co‑Chairs of the Constitutional Committee. The Special Envoy thanks the two Co‑Chairs for working professionally with him and for their effective chairing of the first meetings. There are more details in documents that we shared with you in recent days. And we remain deeply concerned for the safety and protection of hundreds of thousands of civilians in north‑east Syria following reports of sporadic fighting and violence.
With fighting ongoing, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that people continue to flee. Between 30 and 31 October, at least 11,340 people were forced to leave villages in Tal Tamer sub‑district. Some 108,500 people, including over 47,000 children, are currently displaced from fighting since 9 October. The majority are staying with host communities or relatives in Al‑Hasakeh, Raqqa and Deir Ezzour governorates. Nearly 17,000 people are accommodated in 79 active collective shelters.
The latest violence compounds an already dire humanitarian situation in the north‑east. Of the three million people there, 1.8 million were already in need of humanitarian assistance, including over 900,000 in acute need, before 9 October. More than 710,000 of those living in the area were already internally displaced. The UN urges all parties, and those with influence over them, to ensure safe, sustained and unhindered access by all humanitarian workers to provide life‑saving assistance to all people in need. The UN also reminds all parties of their obligation to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure as required by international humanitarian and human rights law.
Our humanitarian colleagues say that heavy rains and flooding have affected at least 2.5 million people in eastern African, including South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Uganda. This has also caused people to flee their homes and resulted in the loss of property, crops and livestock. Higher‑than‑usual rainfall is expected to continue in eastern African this month and next, with the risk of even more flooding.
We are outraged by Friday’s attack against the Malian army camp in Indelimane, in Mali’s Ménaka region. According to information received on the ground, dozens of Malian soldiers were killed, three were injured and two remain missing. In addition, one civilian was reportedly killed and another one injured. The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, sent a quick reaction force to help the Malians safeguard the area. The peacekeepers are currently supporting search and rescue operations. MINUSMA also reports that an improvised explosive device killed one soldier from the French Operation Barkhane on 2 November in the vicinity of Indelimane. We convey our condolences to the families of the victims and the Governments of Mali and France and wish the injured a speedy recovery.
The World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Emergency Ebola Response Operations, along with the Congolese Ministry of Health have condemned the violence that took place last night in Lwemba, in the Ituri Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The violence caused the death of an Ebola response community health worker and left his spouse critically injured. The victim was also a reporter for a community radio station in Lwemba and was involved in raising the awareness of his community regarding the country’s Ebola outbreak. The organizations reiterated that any act of violence against individuals involved with the response is unacceptable and compromises the ability of health workers to provide assistance to communities impacted by the devastating effects of Ebola. As of today, there have been 3,274 cases of Ebola in the country, with close to 2,200 deaths and over 1,000 survivors. That’s it for me. Yes, Michelle?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thanks, Farhan. As of today, countries can begin to withdraw from the Paris climate deal, if they choose. Has the United Nations received any notifications from any countries, particularly the United States?
Deputy Spokesman: As of right now, we did check with both our offices here and the offices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and neither office has received anything so far. Yes, Edie?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Wondering, first, if the Secretary‑General has any comment on Iran increasing the number of centrifuges that it’s been using; and whether the UN Mission in Mali can do anything to help thwart the latest attacks against Malian soldiers but also, presumably, could be UN peacekeepers by Islamic State extremists.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, regarding your latter question, it’s clear that we do need to be prepared for the threat posed by Da’esh. And, as you know, our Mission in Mali, MINUSMA, has itself suffered a very high rate of casualties from different types of attacks, and we are certainly trying to make sure that the troops are well protected. Regarding protection of other forces, like the Malian forces that were attacked in the last few days, like I mentioned, we did try to use our quick reaction force from the UN Mission in Mali to help support them. Of course, this happened after the attack had taken place, but we are working both with Operation Barkhane and with the Malian armed forces to try to make sure that all of us can deal with the threat posed by Da’esh. Regarding your first question, the Secretary‑General has repeatedly made clear his concerns that all parties need to continue to implement the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It was a very significant diplomatic achievement. He regrets any steps away from that agreement by any of the parties, and so he calls on all of them to abide by its principles. Yes, Erol?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. I know what the Secretary‑General is saying in general regarding the armament… the threat of armament, etc., but I would like to see his comment or views on whether countries, like some countries from… emerging from the bloody conflict in Balkans are trying to arm themselves very much so, and, for example, the State Department threatened to Serbia, if they continue to buy the Russia armaments including S… famous S‑400 rockets, they’re going to impose the sanctions. What is the view of Secretary‑General of countries coming of the Balkan wars getting more arms?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, our general view on this is, as you know, that our preference is that countries deal with each other through diplomatic means and having a large amount of arms go into any region is, therefore, not always a helpful step. At the same time, of course, we do respect the sovereign rights of countries to ensure their own defence. Yes, please?
Question: Is the… is the… just follow up, if I can. Since we know the recent history, is the Secretary‑General, I would say, concerned regarding, in particular, Serbia getting very sophisticated arms — the only country in the neighbourhood actually that is doing so, so far?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, I’d just refer you back to what I just said. Our preference for all regions is that they, first and foremost, ensure their defence through good relations with their neighbours, through diplomacy, through discussions. But, of course, we don’t have any particular comment on different countries’ defence policies. Yes, please?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. On Michelle’s question about the 2015 climate deal, what is the process after the submission of paperwork to yourselves or the UNFCCC? Is it as simple as, once they’ve submitted that paperwork, that’s it; they’re out of the deal?
Deputy Spokesman: No, no. It starts the clock for basically a one‑year process, which could be reversed during that time, but it starts the clock for a one‑year process under which they would, at the end of that year, be withdrawn.
Question: Thanks so much. Can I touch a different subject?
Deputy Spokesman: Sure.
Question: Tomorrow, there’s a… in Saudi Arabia, there’s meant to be a deal being struck between the southern separatists, the secessionists, in Yemen’s war with the central government. Is Mr. [Martin] Griffiths going to be taking part in that? And does the UN have anything to say about this power‑sharing deal?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, first, we’ll have to see what happens tomorrow. Once that’s happened, we’ll comment on it, but I’ll check and see what sort of role Mr. Griffiths plays in that. Have a good afternoon, everyone.