13 December 2019

The following is a near‑verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.

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Questions and Answers

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Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Today the new mandate of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) adopted at the General Assembly, subsequent to the committee last month, but still that the UNRWA is facing… there’s some issue of lack of the budget and also governance.  So, is there any comment from the Secretary‑General to today’s… the adoption of the UNRWA mandate?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  We, of course, are encouraged by any of the support that the Member States have been providing to the UN Relief and Works Agency.  We want to make sure that UNRWA continues both to be supported in its mandate and fully funded in its operations.

As you know, in recent years, we have had to struggle a bit to make sure that UNRWA can meet its commitments to ensure the quality of the assistance it provides, including education, health and other services for Palestine refugees throughout the region.  And, as a result, we do need continued strong funding from the Member States, and we’re thankful for the support we’ve received that has allowed UNRWA to carry out its activities over these recent years.

Yes, Abdelhamid?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Israel recently decided to build a new settlement enclave in the heart of the Palestinian city of Hebron.  Other than the traditional position of the UN about the illegality of settlement, anything to comment on this very… on this act?  Because it’s like… it’s a challenge to about 350,000 Palestinian living in the city of Hebron.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, from our standpoint, of course, all settlement activities are unhelpful to the process that’s on the ground and especially towards the prospects of a two‑state solution.  We want to make sure that any settlement activity is forestalled in order to allow the peace process to move forward.  And in a place like Hebron, it is particularly crucial, given the population there.

Question:  But there is no peace process anyhow.  I mean…

Deputy Spokesman:  We continue…

Question:  Why there’s no clear position from [Nickolay] Mladenov about this decision recently taken by Israel?

Deputy Spokesman:  Mr. Mladenov has been very clear about where he stands on the question of settlements, and he has expressed it both in what he says on the ground and in his regular briefings to the Security Council.  And as you know, I believe he will have another one of those briefings in the coming week or so.

The bottom line is we want to make sure that we can bring the parties together, and any steps like this are unhelpful to those efforts.

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For information media. Not an official record.