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9 November 2021

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.

All right.  Good afternoon.

**Security Council

Speaking to a high-level meeting of the Security Council on exclusion, inequality and conflicts, the Secretary-General first reminded all Council members that for the poorest and most vulnerable people, the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified misery and inequalities.

Exclusion and inequalities of all kinds, he added, come with a devastating toll to security.

The Secretary-General said that as we face the highest number of violent conflicts since 1945, a dangerous sense of impunity is taking hold — seen in the recent seizures of power by force, including military coups.

Peace has never been more urgent, Mr. [António] Guterres said, but humanitarian funding, assistance and conflict management tools — the very kind that the UN provides around the world — are all under tremendous strain.

In his remarks, he also outlined a road map to promote inclusion, built around four key pathways:  people, prevention, gender and institutions.

In every society, diversity of culture, religion and ethnicity should be viewed as a powerful benefit, rather than a threat.  [Without] full inclusion and equality, he concluded, peace is a job half done.

And was you know, the meeting was held under the presidency, the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whom the Secretary-General also met prior to the meeting.

During the meeting, the Secretary-General thanked Mexico for its support to the work of the Organization, including as an elected member of the Security Council.  The Secretary-General and the President discussed the impact of economic inequality and corruption on development and peace, as well as efforts to address climate change and the ongoing global economic recovery from COVID.

**Ethiopia

Turning to Ethiopia:  The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, wrapped up a four-day visit to the country yesterday.

He met with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Demeke Mekonnen.

Mr. Griffiths also met with the African Union’s High Representative for the Horn of Africa, former President Olusegun Obasanjo.  Mr. Griffiths also held talks with representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), UN agencies, donors and Member States.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator also made a one-day visit to Mekelle, as you know.

While in Ethiopia, Mr. Griffiths addressed challenges related to the suspension of the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) flights; the availability of fuel, cash and supplies; the bureaucratic impediments, including visas for humanitarian staff; and the treatment of humanitarian personnel.

He stressed that [the United Nations], along with its partners, will continue to work with the Government of Ethiopia and with local and international partners to support millions of people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance across the country.

The funding gap for the humanitarian response plan for Ethiopia in 2021 stands at more than $1.3 billion.

And, as you saw yesterday, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, told the Security Council in the afternoon that there must be an immediate cessation of hostilities in Ethiopia.

And we have been getting quite a few questions about detained UN staff in Ethiopia, and I just got off the phone with our security colleagues, and I can tell you that the current numbers are that 16 national staff have been detained, while six have been released.  We, of course, are actively working with the Government to secure their immediate release.

**Venezuela

On Venezuela, today, a three-member Panel of Electoral Experts began deploying in Venezuela.  The Panel, which was announced here a few weeks ago, will undertake an independent technical assessment of the electoral system in the context of the 21 November regional and municipal elections, which will take place in Venezuela.  The Panel will remain in the country until shortly after polling day.  Panel members will meet with a wide range of political and civil society actors, as well as electoral authorities and experts.

This type of electoral assistance has been provided by the UN in the past to other countries upon their request.  Unlike UN electoral observation missions, which require a specific mandate by the Security Council or the General Assembly, the Panels of Electoral Experts do not issue evaluative public statements on the overall conduct of the electoral process or their results.

The Panel will, however, provide an internal report to the Secretary-General with recommendations to strengthen future election processes.  At the discretion of the Secretary-General, recommendations formulated by the Panel may be transmitted back to national authorities.

The members of the Panel of Experts all have extensive electoral experience working for the United Nations in other contexts.

**Niger

On Niger, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mahamat Annadif, expressed his solidarity with the families of the victims, the Government and the people of Niger following the horrendous fire that took place in a school in Maradi, where more than 20 children died.

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) also expressed its sadness, noting it will continue to work with the national authorities and partners across the country to ensure that children can attend school and learn in safe environments.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

Friends at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) are telling us that since Sunday night, at least 11,000 people have fled fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and sought refuge across the border into Uganda.

This is the largest refugee influx of people in a single day in more than one year.  The vast majority of those who crossed the border are women and children.

Working in coordination with local authorities, UNHCR has already relocated about 500 asylum seekers to the nearby Nyakabande transit centre, which can accommodate up to 1,500 people.

The agency is also concerned that local capacity and services may be soon overwhelmed, and they are requesting urgent resources to address the needs of the new arrivals.

**Belarus-Poland Border

We have been asked about the situation along the Polish and Belarus border, and to give you a quick update on what various UN agencies are doing.  The UN Refugee Agency, along with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), today said that they are alarmed by the latest reports from the Belarus-Poland border.  The two agencies said that yesterday reports surfaced of a large group of migrants and refugees, among them women and children, on the Belarusian side of the border moving towards the international border crossing with Poland — named “Bruzgi”.  They allegedly settled in a makeshift camp in the vicinity of the border overnight.

The two agencies have been in contact with both Governments and are calling for an urgent resolution of the situation and immediate and unhindered access to the group of people seeking help.

With several tragic deaths recorded in the border area in recent weeks, UNHCR and IOM remind States of the imperative to prevent further loss of life and ensure the humane treatment of migrants and refugees as the highest priority.

For its part, the UN Children’s Fund said that it is deeply concerned about the dire situation by the asylum-seeking children in Europe and at its borders.  UNICEF said that reports of children living in appalling conditions, being pushed back or detained at the eastern borders of the European Union are shocking and a direct violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

**Woman Police Officer of the Year

In a few minutes, the eleventh UN Woman Police Officer of the Year will be awarded to Superintendent Sangya Malla of Nepal.  She currently serves with our peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Secretary-General will address the ceremony by video message and will recall how Superintendent Malla helped establish — and now leads — the Mission’s Health and Environment Unit.  This unit promotes the safety and welfare of our peacekeepers by mitigating the risks from COVID-19 and other threats.

You can watch it on the UN Web TV.

**Hybrid Press Briefing

Tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a hybrid briefing in this room sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Spain entitled “Multilateralism must deliver:  Club de Madrid’s contributions to the OCA (Our Common Agenda)”.  I learned a new acronym today.  I have no clue what the OCA is.  Speakers will be Danilo Türk, who you will recall was an Assistant Secretary-General in the Department of Political Affairs, and more importantly, the former President of Slovenia.  And he will be joined by Yves Leterme, a Belgian politician and a member of the Club de Madrid.  They will brief both in person and hybrid.

And I will stop talking.

**Questions and Answers

Sherwin?

Question:  Thanks.  Are you able to flesh out a little bit more for us the staff in Ethiopia that have been detained?  The six you mentioned that have been released, is that from the 16, or are there still 16 detained?  Which agencies are they from?  And has the Ethiopian Government given you any explanation?

Spokesman:  There has been, as far as I know, no explanation given to us [about] why these staff members are detained.  There are 16 remaining in detention, and six have been released.  So, that’s the breakdown.

They come from various UN agencies.  They’re all national staff.

It is imperative that they be released.

Question:  It seems that the UN has… [cross talk]

Spokesman:  And we also had the occasion of some staff member… to visit some of the staff members in detention.

Question:  It seems that there is a pattern here where the UN is being targeted.  There’s been the expulsion of UN staff by Ethiopian authorities.  Before you’ve asked for proof.  I don’t believe you’ve received that proof.  How frustrated is the Secretary-General by these developments?

Spokesman:  Well, I think the Secretary-General is frustrated by the lack of our ability to help the millions of people that are in need.  Right?  That’s what it’s about.  It’s about helping millions of people, notably in northern Ethiopia but frankly throughout the country, that need life-saving help.

We’ve not been able to get into Tigray the aid that we need, the fuel that we need, the cash that we need.  So, the frustration is about that — our inability, really, to help the people that so desperately need our help.

Question:  Which parties are proving to be the greatest impediment to that work?

Spokesman:  There are impediments across the spectrum.

Maggie?

Question:  Steph, has the Secretary-General reached out to the Prime Minister or Foreign Minister directly about this?

And can you tell us… there were some reports from the region that said it was staff plus dependents.  So, can you tell us, is it just staff?  Is it dependents?  [cross talk]

Spokesman:  I don’t have… We are… there are also, we understand, a number of dependents that have been detained.  The numbers I gave you right now… that I’ve been given are for staff.  There are all sorts of communications challenges.  So, we’re trying to get the most detailed figures that we have.

Question:  SG?

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General has been on the phone with Prime Minister Abiy a number of times over the last… in the recent past.

Right now, as you know, Mr. Griffiths also met with delegations.  Our staff on the ground is also working with the national authorities.

Question:  So, what does this say in terms of timing?  Mr. Griffiths just wrapped his trip yesterday, and then it seems the Government has decided to detain UN staff today.  [cross talk]

Spokesman:  The staff… the detentions have been… [cross talk]

Question:  Was this trip a spectacular failure?

Spokesman:  The detentions are not today.  Some of them have been detained over the last few days.  You have to ask those who are doing the detention about the timing.

Question:  But does this mean his trip was a failure — if the Government is so displeased with the UN after his departure that they’re rounding up their staff?  [cross talk]

Spokesman:  Our effort… this is not a time-boxed issue.  Our efforts are [continuing] and will continue to try to get humanitarian aid in.

Betul, and then we’ll go…

Question:  Can you just clarify how many UN staff?  Is it 22 in total, and now six of them have been released, and there are 16 left remaining to be released?  [cross talk]

Spokesman:  Okay.  What I have right now is that 16 are detained.  Okay?  And six have been released.

Question:  So, it was 22… [cross talk]

Spokesman:  That’s the number.

Question:  And where… sorry.  Addis and elsewhere, or?

Spokesman:  This is, as I understand it, only Addis, I mean for these national staff.

Question:  But it seems there’s reason to believe there might be staff in other parts of Ethiopia that have been detained.  Is that correct?

Spokesman:  Not… I have no indication of that.  [cross talk]

Question:  Okay.

Spokesman:  Mr. Hanna?

Question:  There have been some reports for the region, as well, that this was part of a wider round-up of Tigrayans.  In other words, it may not necessarily be aimed at the UN itself.  Can you comment on that?

Spokesman:  Well, I can’t comment on why the Government is doing this, right?  What I can only comment on is that we have colleagues that are currently in detention that should not be in detention.

Question:  If I may just ask a follow-up.  [cross talk]

Spokesman:  You may.

Question:  Sorry.  Sudan, is it true the UN staff have been instructed not to interact with those claiming to be ministers installed by those presently controlling the country?

Spokesman:  Whenever there is a — how should I put it? — a change of leadership or a partial change of leadership that is done through means outside of the democratic process, we will continue to engage as necessary for the furtherance of our mandate, which is the political mandate and which is, of course, the humanitarian mandate.

Engagement with certain Government officials does not imply recognition, so to speak.  As far as I understand, there’s been no change in the Head of State, but in terms of ministers, it doesn’t… it’s not a recognition in any way.  It is just a fact that we have to engage with authorities in order to fulfil our mandate, and that’s what Mr. [Volker] Perthes and the UN team in Sudan is doing.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  Your mic… you need to get that red light on your microphone.  It should be… there’s a button on the microphone… there we go.  You got it.

Question:  Okay.  Last Sunday, there were elections in Nicaragua and widespread criticism from all over the world.  As far as I know, the Secretary-General hasn’t said anything about these elections.  Any comment?

Spokesman:  I would beg to differ, though.  I think we’ve been very outspoken in the run-up to the elections, expressed our concern about the detention of political leaders, of civic leaders, of journalists.

We’ve taken… we’ve seen the results of the elections.  We’ve taken note of the various views expressed by… and including the concerns by a number of Member States and international stakeholders.

For his part, the Secretary-General remains deeply concerned about the arbitrary detention of a number of… who were kind of candidates or pre-President… pre-candidates, so to speak, social leaders, human rights defenders, businesspeople, journalists, as I mentioned, and those [detentions] were done in conditions that do not meet the minimum international human rights norms and standards.

The Secretary-General urges the authorities in Nicaragua to release them immediately and to fully respect the country’s international human rights obligations, including in relation of the right of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and freedom of association.

He encourages the Government of Nicaragua to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council, and to grant access to the Office of the High… staff from the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to Nicaragua, so they can assist Nicaragua in complying with its international human rights commitments.

Question:  And on the elections?

Spokesman:  Well, I mean, I think I’ve used a lot of words, and hopefully, out of those words, you can see what the Secretary-General’s position is.  As I said, we expressed our concern in the weeks prior to the elections as we saw people being detained, people who were… had intimated they were going to be candidates, businesspeople, journalists, human rights defenders.  And at this point, we continue to be very worried about the plight of those who remain detained.

We did not… we were not involved in these elections, whether it’s through observers or technical assistance or whatever.  So, it’s not for us to give a stamp of approval or disapproval to the elections.  I’m just commenting on the general… on the situation.

Señora, and then I’ll…

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  So, following up on Nicaragua, yesterday, Daniel Ortega gave a very strong and defiant speech, calling the opposition members who are detained some of… very bad… bad words, and he was actually saying that he’s… that detention is because, according to him, they are spies to the United States and many other things that are not proven yet in court.

What is the position of the Secretary-General after listening to speeches like that from the President of Nicaragua, where he’s not listening to what you just said, which is the concerns and the call to try to get them?

And then is the Secretary-General in touch with the Government of Ortega, and we know that several countries have declined and rejected this election as legitimate.  So…

Spokesman:  Well, as I said, it’s not for us to say whether legitimate or not legitimate.  We’ll let Member States express their own opinions.  I would just stress, just to pick out from what I said, that we would encourage the Government to allow staff from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to enter Nicaragua, to help Nicaragua abide and comply with its international commitments.

The speech is the speech.  Our concern continues to be with people whose rights of assembly, right of expression are not being respected.

Question:  Thank you.  Does the Secretary-General think that this type of rhetoric, defiance definitely will show in the streets of Nicaragua and more prosecution and more persecution against those that are against the regime?  [cross talk]

Spokesman:  We have no crystal ball.  We would like to see the situation, in terms of human rights, in terms of these detentions, which do not meet the minimum human rights attention, we would like to see these go the other way.

Majeed and then Dulcie, and then we’ll go to the screen.

Question:  I have two questions about the migrant crisis on the Belarus and Polish border.  You mentioned that UNHCR asked for a resolution of the situation, but we all know that both Polish and Belarus Government have opposite views of how this should be resolved.  Does the United Nations have a view how this should be resolved, where the migrants should go?  Is there any plan, such as by UNHCR?

Spokesman:  Well, I mean, as I said, UNHCR and IOM are in touch with their counterparts in Minsk and in Warsaw.  What we want to see is the people who are on the move trying to seek a better life being treated with dignity, to have those who seek asylum have their rights as enshrined in the human… in the Refugee Convention respected, and we do not want to see men, women and children used as pawns as part of what could be differences on a different level.

Question:  And just on that, the spokesperson for the European Commission made a statement that characterized the situation as… as Belarusian Government using migrants as an attack basically on the European Union.  How concerned are you that these… about this rhetoric, when they talk about migrants as rockets and bullets from Belarus against European Union, not living and breathing human being… [cross talk]

Spokesman:  I don’t speak for the spokesperson for the European Union, but what I… I can only repeat what I’ve just said to you, is that people should not be used as pawns, especially the most vulnerable.

If there are political differences, they need to be resolved between countries or between groups of countries in a way that people’s dignity is respected.  I think none of us can’t be moved by the pictures that we’ve seen.

Dulcie and then Mr. Avni.

Question:  Yeah.  Back to Ethiopia, I was curious, given the constraints of the UN travelling in Ethiopia, how Martin Griffiths was able to… what was it like for him to travel to Mekelle and Addis?

Spokesman:  Well, I mean, he travelled by plane.  Obviously, they got all the necessary authorization from the Federal Government, from the local authorities, and we’re very grateful that he was able to go to Mekelle.  He had some very… I mean, the fact that… if you’ll recall, the Secretary-General spoke to Prime Minister Abiy, I think, last on — Wednesday? — yeah, on Wednesday also to get his… to inform him that Martin Griffiths would go, to make sure that the visit would be facilitated.  It was.  Mr. Griffiths was also able to go to Mekelle to speak to the de facto authorities there.

It’s part of ongoing discussions that we have and whose sole aim is to ensure that the millions of people who need aid actually get it.

Question:  Right.  So, will that happen?  I mean, if they’re…

Spokesman:  You know, we…

Question:  Because we only hear one side of the conversation.  We don’t hear what the Ethiopians are saying.

Spokesman:  Well, I mean, then you should ask them.  But I’m saying we don’t hold the levers here.  Right?  We don’t… there are authorities that need to work with us to ensure that we get the humanitarian access that we need.  That is currently not happening.

Question:  So, just technically, when you say “detained,” do you mean they’ve actually been put in prison, or are they in jail?  What does “detained” mean?

Spokesman:  I mean pris… I mean, they are being held in facilities against their will.  Whether you call them prison, jails, penitentiary, I don’t know, but they’re not being detained in their homes.

Mr. Avni?

Question:  Yes.  Does the Secretary-General have any view on whether a wall will help the situation in a Polish border, as is suggested by some Pole… in Poland and about the whole idea of walls in… in… [cross talk]

Spokesman:  It’s so nice to see you again, Benny.

Question:  Yes, it is.

Spokesman:  I know.  Listen, every country has the right and we say the responsibility to protect its borders.  That does not mean that it absolves them of the rights and responsibility to observe international law, especially when it comes to refugees, and to treat people with respect and dignity.

Let’s go… madame.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  I need your mic… I need your microphone, or you need your microphone.

Question:  Yes.  Hello.  Just to… I was late.  Sorry, and I don’t know exactly… you just said the detainees in Ethiopia were detained by the Government and on what… on what premises?  [cross talk]

Spokesman:  Well, that’s not clear to us.  We’re just trying to get their re… let me go to the screen.  Let me go to Rick and then James.

Question:  Yeah, Steph.  Couple of questions on Ethiopia.  Do we know the… whether the detained people working for the UN are Tigrayan, or do we know what their ethnicity is within Ethiopia’s mix of ethnicities?  And… that’s one question.

And my other question is, did… Mr. Griffiths’ statement about his trip to Ethiopia was con… it was a conspicuous omission of any reference to detained UN staffers, was that… did he know about this when he was there yesterday, or did he deliberately avoid addressing the issue in his statement?

Spokesman:  I don’t have the information to answer your second question directly.

On your first one, it’s a valid question, but for us, these are United Nations staff members.  They’re Ethiopians.  They are UN staff members, and we would like to see them released regardless of whatever ethnicity is listed on their identity cards.

James?

Question:  Hi.  Thanks, Stéphane.  It’s a question about the speech and meeting today involving the Mexican President Obrador.  At the Security Council, the Mexican President said he was going to advance a plan in the General Assembly in the coming days for a wealth tax, a 4 per cent tax on the world’s thousand richest people, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, those types.  Did the Secretary-General discuss this plan with the Mexican President in their meeting today?  And does he support it?

Spokesman:  I’m not aware they discussed the plan.  I’m not going to get into the details of global wealth tax.  What we’ve always believed is that people should pay their fair share in taxes.

Mr. Ali, Iftikhar.

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Last week, there were reports that TPLF (Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front) soldiers were marching towards Addis Ababa, and in response, the Ethiopian Government asked residents to take up arms to defend the capital.  What is the UN’s information?  Are they closing in on the capital?  And if so, has the UN taken steps to protect its staff?

Spokesman:  I have no information on military activity.  It is clear that the safety and staff… the safety and well-being of all our staff in Ethiopia is being assessed on a daily basis.

Okay.  Maggie?  [cross talk] I’m sorry.  Go ahead, Iftikhar.  Go ahead.

Question:  I said, haven’t you received any information whether they were marching towards the capital?

Spokesman:  I’ve seen the press reports.  I have no way to confirm that from here.

One last question from the screen.  I think Mr. Klein had a question a while back.  I apologize for passing you over, Joe.

Question:  That’s fine.  Thank you.  Also, back to the remarks that the Secretary-General made this morning to the Security Council, he talked about… extensively about upholding the rights of women, and he mentioned communication that taken with the Taliban to ensure the rights of women and girls are upheld.

But he also mentioned — and I quote — that “in every society, diversity of culture, religion and ethnicity should be viewed as a powerful benefit”, not a threat.

So, my question is, how does he reconcile that idea of recognizing the benefits of diversity of culture and religion with the fact that, in quite a number of Islam countries, in particular, governed by sharia law, women are not accorded the same rights as men?

Spokesman:  I’m not sure I see the exact link between the two, but anyway, the… first of all, the issue of women not having the rights that they not only… that are enshrined in international treaties and covenants is not, I would say, the specific preserve of certain countries which have… that are a majority of one religion.  This is something that we see at different levels across the board.

The Secretary-General will continue to advocate, as he has done, to ensure that women have the same rights and are not the victims of discrimination or violence or anything else the world over.  And he raises this throughout his… he’s been raising this throughout his tenure.  And within his own specific purview, as you very well know, he has worked towards and got gender equality within the senior leadership at the UN.

Question:  Well, but has he taken it up specifically in discussions with either leaders of countries such as Saudi Arabia and other countries that he alluded specifically to those countries that do not accord the same rights to women because of what they claim to be the tenets of their religion or their culture?

Spokesman:  He’s taken up… whether it’s the Secretary-General, his representatives, every UN agency is pushing for this in every country in the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.  Whew.  How about that?

Okay.  Margaret?

Question:  Steph… [cross talk]

Correspondent:  Steph, I have a question…

Correspondent:  Hold your horses, Michelle.  [laughter] [cross talk]

Correspondent:  But it’s my turn!

Spokesman:  Go… Just…

Correspondent:  You said yesterday, Mr. Griffiths… you were going to try to get him to brief us.

Spokesman:  Yes.

Question:  What’s going on with that?

Spokesman:  As soon as I have something to announce, I will.

Question:  Okay.  And is there a reason the Secretary-General hasn’t picked up the phone today to call the Prime Minister when his… 22 of his staff are detained…  [cross talk]

Spokesman:  We are working through different escalation modes.

Michelle Nichols at Reuters, it seems you have a question.  [laughter]

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Couple of quick questions on Ethiopia, as well.  Are you… is the UN aware of any UN contractors being detained?

Spokesman:  Seen some reports of UN contractors being detained, but I’m not — and I repeat — not in a… in any position to confirm it, but it is information we are pursuing.  [cross talk]

Question:  Okay.  Grateful if you could keep us updated on any confirmation of the number of contractors detained.

And are you… is the UN moving any staff out of Ethiopia?

Spokesman:  I have nothing to share with you on that point at this very point.

Question:  And are any of… any UN staff having trouble leaving or boarding planes at Addis Ababa airport?

Spokesman:  None… that has not been reported to me.

Question:  Okay.  And then final one, can you just remind us again how many national and international staff you have in Ethiopia?

Spokesman:  Yes, James.  [laughter] Hold on.

Question:  Thank you.  [laughter]

Spokesman:  All right.  The actual number of staff we have, as of 8 November, is 2,398 national staff, 1,077 international staff, and some 4,957 dependents.

Question:  Thank you.  And, really, this is properly the last one.  Is the UN considering moving any staff out of Ethiopia?

Spokesman:  As I said, we monitor the situation on a… more than a daily basis, and we will take whatever action we need to keep staff, national and international, safe.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Ms. Falk?

Question:  I… yes, thanks [inaudible] question into overdrive.  I… is there… has there been any contact with those who remain detained, and is there contact… [cross talk]

Spokesman:  Yes.  There’s been some contact.

Question:  And I apologize if you answered this.

Spokesman:  No, no, it’s okay.

Question:  And is there any contact with those who have been released?  And where are they?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Well, I mean, if they’ve been released, I assume they went back to their homes.  They’ve been released.  We’ve had… we’ve been able to have some contact with some of the people who have been detained.

Question:  But there’ve been… they continue their work.

Spokesman:  Yeah, I mean, they’re released… [cross talk]

Question:  The ones who were released.

Spokesman:  I mean, I don’t…

Question:  It’s a moving target.

Spokesman:  The short answer is I don’t know.  Once they’ve been released, I mean, if I were released, I would want to take some time off.  [laughter]

But, I mean, the point is they’ve been released.

Correspondent:  Okay.  Thank you.

Question:  Great.  Welcome to Round 2.

Spokesman:  Not by my count.  [laughter]

Question:  Just to wrap Ethiopia, if the accusation from the Ethiopian authorities is that the staff have been meddling in the internal affairs of the country, what is your response?

Spokesman:  I’m not going to go into hypotheticals.  The point is that the staff have… [cross talk]

Question:  It’s been an allegation made before.

Spokesman:  I understand.  I understand.  These staff have been detained.  As far as I know, we have not received… they’ve not been charged.  They have… we have not received any clear indication as to why they’re being detained.  So, we would like to them to be released.

Question:  One more question on coal… [cross talk]

Spokesman:  Of course.

Question:  Today’s South Africa’s Energy Minister told a conference in Capetown, in fact, he criticized what he called the global preoccupation with Africa having to move away from fossil fuels that are rich in… Africa that is rich in oil and gas resources, yet the continent is one of the least polluting.  He said, cutting financing for coal, oil and even gas was a mistake while arguing that Africa should not be coerced to take missteps.

Given that the Secretary-General has warned that fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink, I wonder if… how… [cross talk]

Spokesman:  They are… they are… we do believe they are pushing humanity to the brink.  We also believe that everyone needs to… we need to find a pathway to a just transition.  It is important that, as we know, everyone has a responsibility but differentiated responsibilities.  No one… no country should ever… should be coerced.  However, every country should understand that we are in this together, to put it bluntly, and it is important that everyone move together at the same time so we can keep that 1.5-degree goal alive.

Okay.  I wish I could tell you I’m going… what?

Question:  [inaudible].  [laughter]

Spokesman:  I have to go see my boss, and I’m already 20 minutes late so whatever.  With some luck, he’ll fire me.

For information media. Not an official record.