SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
TUESDAY, 19 NOVEMBER 2019
In response to questions on the announcement made yesterday by the Secretary of State of the US regarding the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, the UN position remains unchanged.
**Questions and Answers
Spokesman: Mr. Bays?
Question: Can I start by asking you about some basics… going back to some basics? And so a very clear basic question to you: Are UN Security Council resolutions binding on all Member States?
Spokesman: It depends on… under which charter… under which chapter they’re adopted. I’m going to get into the legal issues. If you… I assume you’re asking in the context of…
Correspondent: Resolution 2334, but other resolutions, as well.
Spokesman: Right, yeah. We…
Correspondent: Resolution 2334 says that the establishment by Israel of settlements has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law; says Israel must immediately and completely cease all settlement activities. That is the last settled position of the UN Security Council.
Spokesman: That is our… that remains our guidance.
Question: And given that is a UN Security Council resolution, is Secretary [Mike] Pompeo and what he’s now saying a contravention of that resolution, of the UN Charter and of international law?
Spokesman: I’m not going to get into legal interpretation from here. What I can tell you, as far as we’re concerned, we remain guided by relevant Security Council resolutions. We remain committed to supporting the Palestinians and Israelis to achieve lasting and durable peace based on those resolutions.
The Secretary-General regularly reports… periodically reports on Resolution 2334. That also remains our guiding light. And the resolution states that Israeli settlement activities are flagrant violations under international law, a major obstacle to the achievement of the two‑state solution and a just and lasting comprehensive peace. And that remains the Secretary‑General’s position.
Question: Is the Secretary‑General concerned that a permanent member of the Security Council is ignoring some resolutions and treating international law as though it was an a la carte menu?
Spokesman: We regret the decision and the announcement made by the United States. Mr. Klein, and then Edie.
Question: Just a follow‑up on that and a couple of… a couple of elements. Would you extend that regret to another permanent member, Russia and its invasion of Crimea? That’s the first question.
Second question, you’re saying the Secretary‑General has reaffirmed, as his own opinion, the Security Council’s statement on the legality of settlements.
Spokesman: No, no. That’s not what I said, James. I said we… “James”? Sorry.
Correspondent: I’m not James. Two J’s, I know.
Spokesman: Ever since… the two of you just look so much alike. James, if only you were as handsome.
Correspondent: I shaved this morning, so…
Spokesman: Joe. Sorry. It’s a serious issue.
There [are] Security Council resolutions. There are General Assembly resolutions. Those remain the basis for the Secretary‑General’s position. I would refer you to the number of speeches he has given on the issue. And what I am saying today is that the position that the Secretary‑General expressed in the latest report on Resolution 2334 remains our position. If it was our position yesterday, it’s our position today, and it will remain our position.
Correspondent: But what I’m trying to follow up on is number 1, whether he has the same regret of Russia, another permanent member of the Security Council, and its invasion of Crimea against international law…
Question: Wait. And secondly, applying the standard of illegality of settlements in quote “occupied territory,” does the Secretary‑General have an opinion regarding Turkey’s continued settlements of Turks in Northern Cyprus with its own troops stationed in Northern Cyprus, occupying in effect land there? Does he see any comparability?
Spokesman: Let’s deal things one [by] one. I think on the issue of Crimea and the Ukraine, our position is based on the territorial integrity of the Ukraine, as expressed in relevant General Assembly resolutions, and I would refer you to what the UN… what the Secretariat had said at the time.
On Cyprus, the Secretary‑General has been very clear in his position. There was a report on his Good Offices just recently, and he is also working with the parties to try to find a settlement on Cyprus.
Mr. Abbadi and then… Sorry. And then Edie.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. You initially, at the beginning, you stated that regarding the settlement in the West Bank, that the Secretary‑General maintains his position. Does he think the situation warrants repetition of that position?
Spokesman: Yes. I repeated his position.
Question: Thank you. Again, I want to ask about the lexicon. Using the word “regret,” it describes the speaker. It doesn’t extend to the action taken by a Member State that violating international law. Why there is not one word addressed to that new position which troubles, which violates international law? Why there is nothing like “to reject” or “to condemn” or to something like that?
Spokesman: We very much regret the announcement made, and obviously, not only the announcement, but obviously, the substance of the announcement. But for us, our own position, the way we view it, remains unchanged.
Question: So do you think the four Geneva Conventions’ applicability is still valid?
Spokesman: I don’t know… I mean, we want to talk about lexicon, I don’t know what “unchanged” means more than “not changed.” Evelyn, and then Sherwin.
Question: Thank you, Steph. Does the action of Secretary of State Pompeo have an impact on the two‑state solution? And does the SG have a position on that particular point?
Spokesman: I mean, I think I’ve expressed our position on that particular point. We remain committed to a two‑state solution based on the relevant UN resolutions. Sherwin?
Question: Just sticking with the subject, Steph. You talked about the position not changing, that the work continues on finding a solution, a two-state solution, finding a lasting peace. Pompeo yesterday said that he believes the policy reversal brings the parties closer to a resolution. Is that a view the UN can back up? Or does it undermine the work you’re trying to achieve in the region?
Spokesman: That’s his analysis and I would let all of you do your own analyses. Mario, and then Ibtisam.
Question: I want to go to James’ question regarding the… whether it’s legally binding for Member States or not, and you said that you don’t have a position, but this is not the first time or your… I mean, this is not the first time that the Americans are taking a step, whether before regarding moving the embassy to Jerusalem, and your lawyers, or the lawyers working with the Secretary‑General, must have some legal opinion about it.
Spokesman: Whatever legal opinion and legal advice the Secretary‑General seeks is an advice he gets from his lawyers. We obviously… as a matter of principle, we would expect all Member States to abide by all resolutions. Does that happen? James?
Correspondent: No, I was thinking of wielding Article 25 at you, but I’m not going to.
Spokesman: Is that an article that calls for the removal of the spokesman?
Question: I… I have one follow‑up question on the Middle East and then on the Middle East peace, and then another… another question if I can. First, on… connected question to settlements. Does the Secretary‑General have any evidence that the Jared Kushner peace plan actually exists?
Spokesman: There has been… as far as I know, there has not been an official announcement that the peace… of this peace plan. I have no indication that it does not exist. It’s a bit of an existential question, which is beyond my French abilities.
Question: My question is about the statement issued by Mr. [Pierre] Krähenbühl addressed to his former colleagues in UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees). It’s a long letter. I hope you read it. In fact, he stopped short… I mean, he said that I was asked to step aside, and he explained it, politically, why he was asked to step aside, before the end of the investigation. Do you share these views? I mean, that he was mostly expelled rather than resigned?
Spokesman: I’m not going to comment on his letter to staff. Mr. Krähenbühl sent his resolution to the Secretary‑General; the Secretary‑General accepted it. Mr. [Christian] Saunders is now the officer in charge, and his only aim is to see how to better serve the Palestinian refugees under its mandate.
Question: Any comment on that statement?
Spokesman: No, no. No.
For information media. Not an official record.
Document Sources: Secretary-General, United Nations Department of Global Communications, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
Country: Israel, United States of America
Publication Date: 19/11/2019
URL source: https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/noon-briefing-highlight