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

28 January 2020

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.

**Yemen

In closed consultations today, the Special Envoy for Yemen, Mr. Martin Griffiths, briefed the Security Council via videoconference about the recent alarming military escalation in Yemen.

Mr. Griffiths reiterated the importance of stopping the ongoing military escalation before it is too late.  He warned that recent developments jeopardize the progress the parties had made on de-escalation and confidence-building.

Meanwhile, UNICEF’s (United Nations Children’s Fund) representative in Yemen welcomed the release today in Sana’a by the Ansar Allah of 64 children allegedly captured during military operations.  UNICEF hopes that this step also leads to the signing by the Ansar Allah of the Action Plan to end the recruitment and use of children in the conflict in Yemen.

**Coronavirus

On the coronavirus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros [Adhanom Ghebreyesus], is in Beijing, as you know, where today he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.  They shared the latest information on the coronavirus and reiterated their commitment to bring it under control.

Dr. Tedros also met with the Foreign Minister and the Ministry of Health.

Talks with China’s National Health Commission focused on continued collaboration on containment measures in Wuhan, public health measures in other cities and provinces, conducting further studies on the severity and transmissibility of the virus, continuing to share data, and for China to share biological material with the WHO.

WHO will send international experts to visit China as soon as possible to work with their Chinese counterparts on increasing understanding of the outbreak to guide global response efforts.

Dr. Tedros stressed that WHO’s highest priority is stopping the spread of this virus both in China and globally.  He expressed his appreciation for how China is taking this outbreak, especially the commitment from top leadership, and the transparency they have demonstrated, including sharing data and genetic sequence of the virus.

Dr. Tedros noted that the World Health Organization is working closely with the Government on the measures to understand the virus and to limit transmission.  WHO will keep working side by side with China and all other countries to protect health and keep people safe.

**Lebanon

And Jan Kubiš, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, met today in Beirut with the Lebanese Foreign Minister, Nassif Hitti.

He said afterward that he brought to the Foreign Minister’s attention the Secretary-General’s statement following the announcement of the formation of the Government, including how important it is to listen to the voices of the people and to try to address their pressing needs.  Mr. Kubiš also stressed how important it is to follow on the basic obligation of Lebanon related to the respective resolutions of the Security Council, including with regards to the disassociation policy and related issues.

**Iraq

And a report published today by the United Nations in Iraq on the trials conducted under Iraq’s anti-terrorism law recognizes the considerable efforts taken to ensure accountability for the atrocities committed by Da’esh fighters and also raises serious concerns about unfair trials placing defendants at a serious disadvantage.

The joint report by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN Human Rights Office acknowledged that judicial proceedings against Da’esh defendants were generally conducted in an orderly manner, were well organized, and judges were routinely prepared with investigation files.

But it also found that violations of fair trial standards placed defendants at a serious disadvantage compared to the prosecution — with ineffective legal representation and limited possibilities to present or challenge evidence.

**Mali

The humanitarian situation in Mali continues to deteriorate due to increased violence.  Over 200,000 people are currently displaced — compared to 80,000 people a year ago.

During this year’s lean season — from June to August — 1.1 million people are expected to face severe food insecurity in the country.

Humanitarian access challenges have significantly increased.  However, access remains possible for humanitarian organizations who rely on community engagement, principled delivery of aid and the use of local implementing partners to reach people in need.

This year’s Humanitarian Response Plan for Mali will reach 20 per cent of the country’s population — 3.8 million people — and will require $390 million.

**Brazil

To flag that in Brazil, the UN is in touch with the Government and is ready to provide support in light of the intense rains over the past days.  The rains have caused floods and mudslides and the destruction of infrastructure in many cities.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that as of yesterday, 56 people have reportedly been killed and at least 29,000 people were evacuated to shelters or safe areas from the most affected states of Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais.

And the Secretary-General has also written to convey his condolences to the Government and the people.

**Americas

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) said today that at least 810 people died last year while crossing deserts, rivers and remote terrain on different migration routes across the Americas, making the year one of the deadliest on record.

This is the highest number of deaths documented in this region since the agency began keeping records six years ago.  Most deaths were recorded in the waters of the Río Bravo/Rio Grande, where 109 people lost their lives in 2019, a 26 per cent increase from the 86 deaths recorded in 2018.

**Honour Roll

And lastly, we welcome two new contributors, members of the Honour Roll, that is Hungary and Sweden, which brings us up to 29.  We hope to break the 30 mark before the end of the month.

**Questions and Answers

Madame?

Question:  So, on Libya, do you have any updates regarding any meetings of ceasefire or the 5 + 5 meeting?

Spokesman:  Yes, the preparations of those meetings are continuing, and we do hope that they will occur in the coming days.

Question:  You mean the preparation for the 5 + 5 or which exactly?

Spokesman:  Yeah, those… the political meetings.  We hope those will happen in the coming days.  Yes, Edie?

Question:  What about the 5 + 5 military meeting that was supposed to work on a ceasefire?

Spokesman:  As I said, those preparations are continuing, and we hope that that will happen in the coming days.

Correspondent:  That was supposed to happen today.

Spokesman:  I know.

Question:  And can you tell us tomorrow about Mr. [Ghassan] Salamé?  Is he coming here or is he briefing by…

Spokesman:  No, he will not be here.  I think he’ll be briefing by… he will not be… he’s… [cross talk]

Question:  Video?

Spokesman:  Yeah.  There are no immediate plans for him to come to New York.  Mr. Bays?

Question:  We are imminently waiting the White House’s release of its deal of the century Middle East peace plan.  Just an update on yesterday, in the time between yesterday’s briefing and now, given the importance of this and the Secretary‑General’s pivotal role, was an advance copy shared with the Secretary‑General?

Spokesman:  No, I’m not aware of an advance copy being… having been shared.  What I do know is that, over the past months, there have been various discussions with Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov and the Secretary‑General himself and people following the Middle East at different levels with the US Government, but I’m not aware of any advanced copy having been shared.

Question:  And with regard to settlements in the West Bank, Israeli media reporting that all settlements under this plan will be annexed by Israel.  I know you can’t comment on a plan that you haven’t seen yet, but you perhaps can reiterate for us the UN’s position on settlements.

Spokesman:  It’s reiterated regularly in the Security Council briefings… [cross talk]

Question:  If you could restate it at the podium.

Spokesman:  No, it’s all reiterated.  And we will have a… I’m sorry.  We will have a reaction to the peace plan in about… in a couple of hours.  We’re waiting, obviously, for the announcement… [cross talk]

Question:  So, will you do another briefing?

Spokesman:  We’ll see.  We’ll probably issue a statement.  Yes, Madame?

Question:  Thanks, Steph.  Just following up, President [Donald] Trump proposes to have a Palestinian State capital in the East Jerusalem.  Is the United States in the loop of any plans to try to broker any negotiations?  We know that the Palestinian Authority said that they were not included in this…

Spokesman:  Listen, we have to wait for… in order to react to the plan, we have to wait, but what is clear is that the UN’s position will continue to be bound and is bound by relevant Security Council/General Assembly resolutions, whether it’s on settlements, whether it’s on the final status of Jerusalem, which we have said in the past is an issue that needs to be… is a final status and needs to be negotiated between the parties.

Madame.

Question:  On the refugees, on the Palestinian refugees in the region, do you have any update on that?

Spokesman:  As I said, we have to wait to see what is announced, but I… our… the position of the Secretary‑General, as outlined in many Security Council briefings and other fora, remains unchanged and will not change in the… and continues to be bound by resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly.

All right.  That was fun.

For information media. Not an official record.