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24 November 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.

**Secretary‑General — Global Economy

All right.  Good afternoon.  Brenden, if you guys can hear me, wave.  All right.  So, just flagging a couple of SG interventions today.  The Secretary‑General spoke by video conference to the Third round table of renowned economists on the topic of “Rebirthing the Global Economy”, and the Secretary‑General told them that we face not only an unprecedented crisis — but also the opportunity to make real, foundational and necessary changes.

He noted that many more than 1 million people have died from the COVID‑19 pandemic and more than 100 million people are being pushed into extreme poverty.  At the same time, he added, we face an urgent need for climate action while recognizing that developing countries, in particular, are on the precipice of financial ruin — so we need global solidarity and global coordination.

The Secretary‑General said that he has been pushing for a New Social Contract at the national level with a strong emphasis on education as the main equalizer, access to the new digital economy and a new generation of social protection measures and of measures related to fair labour markets.  We also need a New Global Deal at the international level, he said.

**Secretary‑General — Afghanistan

Also, earlier this morning, in a pre-recorded video message to the 2020 Afghanistan Conference, which is taking place in Geneva, António Guterres stressed that the people of Afghanistan face serious challenges, including conflict, poverty and the uneven application of the rule of law.  The Secretary‑General noted that the COVID‑19 pandemic has intensified humanitarian and development challenges in the country.  He said that he is also deeply concerned about continued high levels of violence and that the Afghan people have suffered for far too long.

The Secretary‑General urged a redoubling of efforts towards an immediate, unconditional ceasefire, in order to save lives and prevent the further spread of COVID‑19.  He added that this will create a conducive environment for the Afghan peace negotiations in Doha, and he also underscored that the Afghan women have paid a high price in the conflict, while still playing a central role in creating peaceful, inclusive communities with more opportunities for all.

Also speaking at the conference was Deborah Lyons, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.  She said that she is encouraged by the resolve shown by the negotiation teams in Doha to remain at the table and engaged in talks.

**Ethiopia

Turning to Ethiopia, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, today urged the parties to the conflict to give clear orders to their forces to spare and protect the civilian population from the effect of the hostilities.  She added that the highly aggressive rhetoric on both sides regarding the fight for the city of Mekelle is dangerously provocative and risks placing already vulnerable and frightened civilians in grave danger.

Ms. Bachelet said she was also deeply disturbed at the continuing communication blackout in Tigray, making it very difficult for civilians to communicate with families, and for the UN to monitor the human rights and humanitarian situation.  Her full statement is online.

And our humanitarian colleagues are telling us that more than 40,000 Ethiopians have now crossed into Sudan since violence broke out in Tigray.  UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] and its partners have been able to deliver and distribute life-saving aid, including food, to more people.  But the humanitarian response continues to face logistical challenges and remains overstretched, as there is not enough shelter capacity to meet growing needs.  UNHCR is also moving refugees away from the border — with logistics and distances limiting the number of people that can be transferred.  Inside Ethiopia, UNHCR remains concerned about civilians, including displaced populations and aid workers in Tigray.  We along with our partners are urgently seeking $76 million until January to help 2 million people in Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions of Ethiopia.

**Yemen

And turning to Yemen, and the issue of the FSO Safer oil tanker, which we have been talking about for some time now.  And I can tell you that we have now received an official letter from the de facto Ansar Allah authorities on Saturday indicating their approval for the UN proposal for the planned expert mission to the tanker.  This, as you know, has followed several weeks of constructive technical exchanges on the activities that will be undertaken by the expert team; it represents an important step forward in this critical work.  The objective of the UN-led expert mission is to assess the vessel and undertake initial light maintenance, as well as to formulate recommendations on what further action is required to neutralize the risk of an oil spill.

Now that the UN proposal for the expert mission has been agreed, mission planning will immediately pivot towards deployment preparations.  This includes procurement of necessary equipment, entry permits for all [mission] staff, agreement of a work-order system onboard and logistical planning.  The de facto authorities have assured us that they will provide all the necessary facilitation to ensure that the expert team can deploy as quickly as possible.

We want to express our appreciation for the support and cooperation received to date from all parties, including the de facto authorities in Sana’a and the Government of Yemen.  We look forward to working with all stakeholders to make this critical mission a success and to start work as soon as possible.

**Iraq

Back here in New York, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the Special Representative for the UN in Iraq, briefed the Security Council by videoconference.  She warned that several distinct, yet interlinked and mutually reinforcing, crises — on the political, security, financial, social and sanitary fronts — continue to force the hand of the Iraqi Government, pressing it into a reactive, crisis-management mode.

She said that the economy is projected to contract by nearly 10 per cent this year, and that the impact of the pandemic has wreaked further havoc on already extremely weak private sector activity.  At the same time, she said, any effort to reform Iraq’s economy must be accompanied by improved governance and transparency.  The Special Representative also added that, one year after the start of protests in Iraq, the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly must be defended at every turn and throughout Iraq.

**UN Relief and Works Agency

Turning to UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East]:  Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, has told the Agency’s Advisory Board that the agency still desperately needs $70 million in contributions to avoid painful measures in the coming weeks and to limit the amount of liabilities carried over into 2021.  He said that, if it does not secure the funds for November and December salaries, the Agency will continue to lack the cash needed to operate in January, according to the currently available information on 2021 contributions.

UNRWA this year faces a shortfall of $115 million — including the $70 million which is needed to cover November and December salaries of over 28,000 staff.  The Commissioner‑General was compelled last week to secure an additional $20 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to help with cash flow and cover part of the November payroll.  Based on funds available, he will decide later this week if UNRWA proceeds with partial payment of salaries at the end of the month or delays full payment.  With decreased contributions by several donors, UNRWA’s shortfall in 2020 is the lowest the Agency has had since 2012, while the needs of refugees are huge, especially, obviously, with the socioeconomic impact of COVID‑19.

**Central African Republic

Turning to the Central African Republic, where the members of the G5 [Group of Five], which includes the United Nations, Member States and international institutions that are partners of the country, have welcomed the measures taken by the country to advance preparations for the 27 December election.  The measures they welcomed include the establishment of the Consultation Framework, the adoption of a code of conduct for the media and the ongoing work on a code of conduct for political parties.

They also… in a statement, they condemned all forms of violence, and called on the signatories of the peace agreement to publicly affirm their support for holding of elections, and to facilitate all electoral operations without conditions or reservations.  Finally, the G5 reaffirmed its commitment to stand alongside the Central African people and institutions to ensure the success of this electoral process.

**Zimbabwe - COVID‑19

And an update from Zimbabwe, where our UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Maria Ribeiro, continues to boost the COVID‑19 national health and socioeconomic response.  Last week alone, the World Health Organization (WHO) delivered personal protective equipment, lab supplies, stationery and information-technology equipment worth $100,000 to the National Institute of Health Research.  WHO and UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) also led a five-day cholera vaccination campaign, targeting children [1 year old and older].

In the country, hunger has become a major driver of urban poverty, compounded by successive droughts and the pandemic.  The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and other UN entities are exploring ways to advance urban farming.

And our friends at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have conducted surveys to evaluate the vulnerabilities and needs of those who returned to Zimbabwe as a result of the COVID‑19 pandemic.  Returnees highlighted the need for support packages that help them reintegrate, and increased access to health care services.  The survey is helping put together an upcoming national support scheme for returnees.

**COVID‑19 – United Nations Peacekeeping

As part of ongoing efforts to support host communities in their fight against COVID‑19, our colleagues at the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) donated protective equipment and medical supplies to social development centres of the south-eastern towns of Frun and Rachaya al Foukhar.  These are expected to benefit 17 villages in the area.  In addition, psychologists from one of the UNIFIL contingents recently organized stress management courses in south-western Lebanon for Lebanese doctors and other medical personnel who have been at the forefront of fighting the virus.

And our friends at the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) are supporting the construction of a new outpatient unit at Bor Hospital, the referral facility that is serving all of Jonglei State.  The new infrastructure, which includes an emergency room and a pharmacy, will be operational in January of next year.  Current facilities are obviously currently overwhelmed with the arrival of additional displaced people in need of medical attention due to floods.  Most primary health care centres in Jonglei and the neighbouring Greater Pibor Administrative Area have also been flooded.

**Climate

A couple of scheduling notes, stand with… I want to flag that next Wednesday — that is 2 December, at 8:45 in the morning — the Secretary‑General will be speaking at Columbia University’s World Leaders Forum and he will deliver remarks on the state of our planet.  His speech will be followed by a virtual question-and-answer session with Columbia University students, and you’ll be able to watch it live on UN WebTV.

**Briefings

Tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a virtual briefing on the forthcoming Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which takes place starting 30 November.

And tomorrow, Farhan [Haq] will be in the hot seat, he will be briefing you virtually, from his undisclosed location.  And we will have two guests — Natalia Kanem, the Executive Director of the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), and she will be joined by journalist and writer Isha Sesay, who will be introduced as UNFPA’s newest Goodwill Ambassador.  In this new role, she will help raise awareness about the global scourge of violence against women and girls and harmful practices such as FGM — female genital mutilation.

As a reminder, tomorrow is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.  And obviously, Thursday is Thanksgiving, no one will be briefing.  On Friday we will not have a briefing but we will be available to answer your questions.  And we will be back in the briefing room on Monday.

So, if you have any questions, go ahead and ask them.  Let me put [on] my glasses.  I think I see James and whoever… who’s behind James?  I don’t know.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [Inaudible] as well.  There are two of us in the room.  So, Ethiopia, please, if I can, a couple of questions.

Spokesman:  Right.

Question:  One, the Security Council is finally going to discuss the conflict in Ethiopia.  What is the Secretary‑General hoping the Security Council might do?

Spokesman:  Well, I can tell you, first of all, that we have seen and we’re following the reports of a possible military action around Mekelle with great alarm.  The Secretary‑General is very, very concerned about the impact that will have on civilian population, on our ability to deliver humanitarian aid in an area where it is almost impossible to do so.  And I must add that we have been in touch… we’ve been fully supportive of the African Union’s leading role in trying to defuse this situation.  So, from the Council, we would hope to see a clear message calling for de‑escalation, calling for protection of civilians and also support for the African Union.

Question:  Couple of follow‑ups, if I can.  And if we could perhaps get an update on the Secretary‑General’s diplomacy on this issue, who he’s been speaking to, because it’s pretty clear from his High Commissioner for Human Rights that she is concerned about this highly aggressive rhetoric, and she says that the… that all parties need to give clear and unambiguous orders to spare civilians.  Who in the UN… I mean, is it the Secretary‑General?  Is he having these calls?  Who is passing these messages to the people of the highest level on both sides?

Spokesman:  Well, first of all, I would underscore that we fully back and echo the words used by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The Secretary‑General, for the last 10 days or so, as you know, has been in touch with various leaders.  He had spoken to Prime Minister Abiy [Ahmed].  We have our envoy on the ground, Mr. Parfait Onanga‑Anyanga, who has also been on the phone, and I would add the Secretary‑General has also been in touch with President [Cyril] Ramaphosa and is fully backing his efforts.  I think it’s very important that, as you know, the African Union has been in the lead and that we support their efforts.

Question:  My last question on this is:  Human Rights Watch have put out a statement saying there needs to be an investigation now about discrimination against ethnic Tigrayans and also into the reported purge of ethnic Tigrayan peacekeepers in UN Missions.  This is something — credit where credit is due — was first reported by Foreign Policy.  Can you tell us, have you confirmed that that is taking place?  And how concerned are you about it?

Spokesman:  Well, I would tell you that we can confirm that a number of members… three members of the Ethiopian contingent [of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan] were repatriated from Ethiopia… by Ethiopia back to Addis Ababa from Juba.  This was not coordinated with the Mission.  Our colleagues at the Mission are very, very concerned about the situation.  Our human rights division is… locally is following up.  There have been strict instructions that have been issued, including that all leaves or returns to home country be cleared by the UN’s… by the Mission’s human rights division.  Broadly, we’re, obviously, very worried and concerned about this situation, and we’re taking it extremely seriously.  We’re trying to ascertain all the relevant facts, and we’ve been in touch with the Ethiopian Government, including the Permanent Mission here in New York.  I mean, it’s important to underscore that all troop-contributing countries have obligations when they are part of UN peacekeeping, and those need to be respected.  All right.  Let’s spread the love.  Is that Benno behind the mask?

Question:  Can you hear me?

Spokesman:  Yeah.  You can take off your mask, because I think we’re at a safe distance, you and I.

Question:  I think so, yes.  What an honour.  I have two questions.  The first one is, the Secretary‑General sent a letter to the Security Council that he plans to appoint Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov as Libya envoy.  And if I’m not mistaken, by yesterday, Monday afternoon, there should be any return objections, if there were any, to the Secretariat.  So, was there any?  And is the appointment now imminent or not?

Spokesman:  We’ve been talking about this appointment for quite some time, so I’m loath to use qualifiers as to when we will see it.  We… I do not expect to have… to see an appointment today.  As soon as we have something to announce officially, we will.

Question:  And my second question’s actually about vaccination.  I don’t know if anybody asked that question in the last weeks before, but can you tell me what the plans are for the staff at the United Nations building here in New York being vaccinated or not?  Is there like a cooperation with the City of New York, or are you in contact with the facilitators themselves, with Moderna and Pfizer, or how does that work?  When do you think staff will be vaccinated?  [Cross talk]

Spokesman:  I do not have any information on when such a programme will start.  We will, obviously, remain in touch with the city in terms of New York.  I think what is important, too, is that those who need the vaccine the most, the most vulnerable and those who are on the front lines of giving health care, get the vaccine first.  But we are, obviously, looking at different options to vaccinate UN staff.  All right.  Ibtisam?

Question:  Hi, Steph.  I have two question… two subjects.  The first one is a follow‑up on your UNRWA statement and $70 million that are still needed.  My question is, why don’t you call on Israel, as the occupation Power, to fill this gap and pay this money?

Spokesman:  Look, UNRWA, obviously, operates in a limited area, but it remains as a UN agency that operates partly on an assessed contribution but broadly on voluntary contributions, and we call on all Member States to help fund UNRWA.

Question:  But… I mean, I understand that.  The thing is that, according to the UN resolutions and Geneva Conventions, the occupying Power is responsible for the people who are under occupation, and isn’t it very normal to ask the party and the country who is responsible for this to finance the refugees and solve this problem that you constantly have?

Spokesman:  International… I mean, obviously, international law is what it is, but there are funding mechanisms for UN agencies.  This has worked for quite some time with UNRWA, although it’s always been and especially in the last few years in a more precarious financial situation.  And we hope that those who have always given to UNRWA will continue to do so in even greater amounts.  Your second question?

Question:  I have a question on Egypt, if I may.  So, the Egyptian authorities as of last week have arrested three staff members of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, including Gasser Abdelrazek, the Executive Director; Karim Ennarah, Criminal Justice Unit Chief; and Mohamed Basheer, Human Resources Director.  Do you have any statement on that?

Spokesman:  Look, we’re very concerned about these reports of arrests and treatment of these human rights defenders, including the three members of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.  The Secretary… I would also refer you to what the High Commissioner has said, which… on this issue, which the Secretary‑General fully backs.  And as the Secretary‑General has often said, there should be no prisoners of conscience in the twenty‑first century.  No one should be arrested for having a political opinion.

Question:  Can I push back a little bit here?  Because, I mean, we… is… from your office, we don’t hear… or let me put it this way.  What’s your message to President [Abdelfattah al] Sisi and the fact that Egypt is… not only these three people but also other political prisoners?  Which message do you have to his… to President Sisi in this regard?

Spokesman:  Well, I mean, the message that we have, we have always, which I’ve just said, which is that people should not be arrested or detained for expressing themselves and for their political views.

Question:  But are you calling on their release?

Spokesman:  Listen, we’re very concerned about those arrests.  We’re very concerned about the reports of their treatment.  There has been, in a number of countries, a shrinking of the political space, of the civic space, and this is what we’re seeing.  These people should not have been arrested.  Okay.  James?

Question:  Hi, Stéphane.  You gave us a readout of the Houthis’ green‑lighting UN access to the Safer oil tanker.  Am I right in thinking that the Houthis have given a similar green light in the past and it didn’t materialize?  And if that is the case, what’s different this time around?

Spokesman:  No.  This is a significant step forward; right?  We’ve had, in the past, a kind of an intention of saying yes, but there have been different steps.  This was… these were technical talks about how this is going to work.  It was… if I recall correctly, it had been a broad permission… broad statement of saying, yes, you can come and do what you need to do on the tanker, but we need to figure out the technical modalities; right?  And, so, this is a further step in the right direction.  Now, obviously, we still have to work out the exact deployment timeline, because it’s going to depend on the market availability of the required equipment, the required staff, which now needs to be procured, the shipping times and… because some of the material will have to come by sea.  Others can be shipped in.  Technicians are going to have to be hired.  Now, our colleagues at UNOPS [United Nations Office for Project Services] have under their belt the market analysis already, so they know where to get the material.  They know where to get the people, but these timelines need to be worked out.  I think if everything comes together, we would expect the Mission staff and the equipment to arrive on site by late January or early February.  Okay?  Philippe Rater.

Question:  Hello, Stéphane.  Can you give us an update on the Western Sahara, still fire?  Do you have any numbers of casualties?  Is MINURSO [United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara] still in Guerguerat?

Spokesman:  Yes, MINURSO is still present throughout the territory, including in Guerguerat.  They’re, obviously, continuing to monitor the situation.  We also continue to receive reports of sporadic shots being fired, and that’s along the northern and eastern portions of the Berm.  These incidents have taken place mostly at night.  The Mission is, obviously, continuing to be in contact with all the relevant stakeholders, and our message continues to be clear — that the parties need to take all necessary steps to defuse tensions, to remove all obstacles to the resumption of the political process.  So, that’s the update that I have.  Okay.  Let me go back to the screen.  Evelyn, and then Maggie.

Question:  Yes, hello.  Hello, Steph.  Thank you.  I want to ask about a different aspect of violence against women.  Is there any approach to the new [Joseph] Biden team to stop opposition to reproductive health programmes, to abstinence‑only programmes, and other wide‑ranging restrictions on women’s health?

Spokesman:  Sorry.  Can you repeat the first part of the question?

Question:  I just asked, a different aspect of violence against women:  Is there any approach to the new Biden team to stop opposition to reproductive health programmes, abstinence‑only programmes and a pile of other restrictions on women's health that…

Spokesman:  No, I think that… it’s a very valid question, and I would encourage you to save it for Natalia Kanem of UNFPA tomorrow, who would be able to tell you if that is actually the case.

Question:  It’s not just UNFPA…

Spokesman:  No, I know, but she would be in the lead on that.  So, I’m not aware of any contacts with the Biden campaign… excuse me, the President‑elect team on those particular issues, but it doesn’t mean… you should ask Natalia.  She would probably know.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesman:  Maggie, have you withdrawn your question, or do you still want to take the floor?

Correspondent:  No, I have a new question.

Spokesman:  Good for you.  You’re so committed.  [Laughter]

Question:  Just a quick follow‑up to Benno’s.  Whatever happened with the Russian offer to vaccinate all the UN staff?  Have you pursued that?

Spokesman:  Yes, we’re continuing to be in discussion and looking at that offer.  Okay.  Abdelhamid, I see you scratching your head or waving your hand.

Question:  I was waving my hand.  Thank you.  Today, there was a crisis in the Mediterranean.  I think there is a German ship, intercepted a Turkish vessel, and there was some tension.  And Turkey is summoning members of the European Council for a meeting.  Are you aware of this incident?  And do you have anything to say?

Spokesman:  All I’ve seen is I’ve… I mean, I’ve seen the press reports of issues involving a German Navy ship and a Turkish flag tanker… I mean, cargo ship, rather.  We have no particular information on that except I would use this opportunity to reiterate the fact that it is critical that all Member States fully respect the embargo on… arms embargo on Libya.

Question:  My second question, Stéphane, do you have any update on the Constitutional Committee of the Syrian… intra‑Syrian dialogue?  Are they doing any progress?

Spokesman:  Not at this point, but there may be some updates later this week, but I have nothing to share with you.

Question:  And my last question would be answered as ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  There was an incident in a mosque in northern Nigeria.  There was an attack, and a couple of people were killed.  I wasn’t here last week, so I just want to inquire if there was a statement on that.

Spokesman:  I didn’t see that particular report, but I’m happy to look into it.  Hussein Ibrahim.  Hussein?

Correspondent:  Can you hear me, Steph?

Spokesman:  Yes, I can hear you.  I can’t see you, but I can hear you.

Question:  Good afternoon.  So, regarding the Iranian‑backed Houthi militia attacks on oil facilities in the city of Jeddah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia two days ago, what is the Secretary‑General’s position on these attacks?  Is there a clear condemnation of what the Houthis are doing, especially when it comes to threatening global oil supplies?

Spokesman:  Yes.  I think, as you may have seen, the Secretary‑General expressed his concern over that missile attack that you referred to on the Aramco facility in Saudi Arabia, and we saw the clear claim of responsibility.  It bears recalling that attacks targeting civilian targets and infrastructure violate international humanitarian law.  Once again, the Secretary‑General calls upon all actors to exercise maximum restraint, to demonstrate a serious commitment to engage in the UN‑facilitated talks, the political process, and all of that to reach a negotiated political settlement to end the conflict and, most importantly, to end the long suffering of the people of Yemen.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  All right.  I think that’s it from me.  I will turn it over to Brenden [Varma].  Brenden, it’s all yours.

Correspondent:  I have a question, Steph.

Brenden Varma:  Steph, I think James Bays has a question.

Spokesman:  Yes.  Sorry, James.  I was trying to escape.

Question:  I know.  [Laughter]  It’s not Thanksgiving yet.  I know you’re not here tomorrow.  Anyway, some follow‑up questions, if I can.

Spokesman:  Yeah.

Question:  The first one on… as we were there just now, on that attack on Saudi Arabia, you’ll remember before, when we had a similar incident, there was an investigation by experts.  Is there any similar investigation planned?  The Saudi ambassador has now written a letter, which I think is copied to the Secretary‑General, to the President of the Security Council.  Do you think something will be arranged like that?

Spokesman:  I’m not aware of it, but let me take a look at the letter.

Question:  Okay.  Staying with the Houthis and the Safer tanker, I am a little amazed that we’ve been told for years that this was an imminent environmental disaster.  And now, after all of this hard work and diplomacy by Martin Griffiths and others to get access, it’s going to take until the end of January to procure the right equipment and the right personnel.  Surely, the UN had all of this arranged, everything on tap, ready, the people, all ready to go, because as we were told this was an imminent environmental disaster.

Spokesman:  Well, on that, a couple of points that need to be made.  We cannot spend the donor money until there was a plan that was approved, which is now.  We have a market feasibility study, so we know where everything is, but we cannot spend a penny on getting the equipment and the personnel, which you can imagine is very technical.  The kind of equipment you need is not stuff you can pick up at Home Depot or your local DIY store.  So, the time frame was always that, that we have the market study.  We know where to get things.  Some of these parts are going to have to be shipped by sea.  That takes some time.  Tugboats are going to have to be leased.  We were not able… and we cannot spend donor money on… for example, on leasing a tugboat for eight months or six months while we waited for the permissions.  That’s just not how the process works in terms of how we are able to work and to spend the money.  So, we are… everything was, indeed, lined up, and we’re working as fast as possible.

Question:  This has to do with Mr. Mladenov.  You weren’t particularly forthcoming when Benno asked his question.  We are well aware that the Security Council had a silence procedure, and it was Russia that broke silence and said that Mr. Mladenov… they didn’t want him appointed until his appointment was also… his replacement was also chosen.  So, the question… to… the question’s to you, how close is the Secretary‑General to finding that other job, Mr. Mladenov’s replacement?  Will he announce the two now together?  And then, overall, another Security Council member putting a spanner in the works, how frustrated is the Secretary‑General by this whole process?

Spokesman:  I mean, to say that we would have wanted to see permanent leadership in that Mission quite some time ago would be an understatement.  We are very fortunate to have Stephanie Williams, who is… you have seen by what she’s been able to accomplish, has not been a caretaker.  She has been firmly in charge and doing really fantastic work.  We are working within the system that we have, with the Member States that we have.  We listen to Member States, and we try to meet their requirements and their needs.  And the Secretary‑General is working full steam on trying to meet all of the requests of the Member States.  I’m trying to be diplomatic, and I hope I was.  Okay.  All right.  Any other questions?  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

For information media. Not an official record.