The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thanks, Steph. Following your Note to Correspondents yesterday on the Middle East, this news headline: “UN Rejects Deal of the Century”, is that an accurate reflection of your position?
Spokesman: Listen, I’m not in the business of analysing headlines. I think the words that we used in the Note to Correspondents was very clear, that we’d seen the announcement, and the position of the UN on the two‑State solution has been defined throughout the years by relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, by which the Secretariat is bound.
Question: So, there are calls from the likes of organizations like Human Rights Watch for a rethink of the peace process. Does the United States enjoy the full confidence of the Secretary‑General as the chief lead mediator in this conflict?
Spokesman: Look, the United States remains a critical actor in the Middle East peace process. Our work is defined and led by the Security Council. We have been given mandates, and there are resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council, and we are bound by them.
Question: Can I just make a final point? For years, UN officials, Steph, have talked about this window of opportunity closing for a two‑State solution. How does this plan produced by the White House yesterday affect the trajectory and the speed of that closing window?
Spokesman: I would leave that to your… that analysis to you. Maria?
Question: Thank you. Follow‑up on the resolutions you just mentioned. They are mentioned, as well, in this presented-yesterday peace plan and in very detailed analysis of United Nations’ efforts in two paragraphs. It says that General Assembly and Security Council resolutions only stop at… are… have not and will not resolve the conflict. Have you… do you have any comments particular on this part?
Spokesman: I am going to, I think, disappoint all… most of you and just say that this… António Guterres is the Secretary‑General of the United Nations. Right? The work of the Secretariat, his work is bound by those resolutions passed by Member States.
Question: So, back to your Note to Correspondents with regard to the US plan. There seems to be something missing from the statement. The Secretary‑General has seen the plan, and then the Secretary‑General lays out the UN’s previous position, which he says is defined by relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. Does the Secretary‑General believe that the plan unveiled by President [Donald] Trump is consistent with relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions?
Spokesman: Look, we’ve seen the announcement of the plan. I’m not going to get into that which will be left to others to decide, notably Member States themselves. For us, there are parameters that bind us, and we need to keep within those parameters.
Correspondent: But, surely, if he doesn’t answer that absolutely central issue, then his words become weak, in fact, pretty pointless.
Spokesman: No, I don’t think they are pointless. They are a reminder of his position.
Question: One final question on this. Does the Secretary‑General… now he’s read it and absorbed it. Does he think this is a peace plan or an annexation plan?
Spokesman: I’m not going to characterize it. The Secretary‑General did, in fact, receive a call from Mr. [Jared] Kushner yesterday afternoon, who briefed him on the plan, but I’m not going to go further than what I’ve said. Joe. I’ll get to you.
Question: Yes. I don’t want to get into the characterization of the plan either, but one of the principles, I believe, the Secretary‑General has repeatedly enunciated — and it’s in the Security Council resolutions, as well — is the importance of direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. So, however you want to characterize this plan, it lays out one marker, one perspective, on resolving the conflict, contiguous boundaries, freeze on settlements for four years, recognizing a Palestinian capital in a portion of eastern Jerusalem, et cetera. Would the Secretary‑General at least be open to direct negotiations based on the Palestinians’ definition of what the appropriate border should be and this plan, even if you don’t…?
Spokesman: I think we’re diving into weeds in which I have no interest in going into…
Correspondent: Well, it’s a question…
Spokesman: Let me finish my answer… let me finish my answer. I think if you look at and reread the voluminous number of briefings we have provided to the Security Council on this issue, you will find one thing that comes up again and again is the call for direct talks with the parties. We… as I said yesterday, we continue to be committed to supporting Palestinians and Israelis to resolve the conflict on the basis of the resolutions.
Question: I’m sorry. But, would… let me follow up. Would the Secretary‑General see this enunciated position, however you want to characterize it, plan, put out and endorsed by Israel, with some compromises by Israel, as one pole in direct negotiations and encouraging the Palestinians at least to enter into negotiations, not accept it, but enter into negotiations with their own position and try to find a middle ground?
Spokesman: We have… I don’t want to have to repeat what I’ve just said, so I won’t. Evelyn?
Question: Further, on the same issue, the Secretary‑General’s for the two‑State solution. The new plan does have two States. I won’t characterise what kind of States they are, but would that… is that something…?
Spokesman: We have laid out, in our words yesterday, our position. You can all do a compare‑and‑contrast exercise.
Correspondent: During the… while he is the Secretary‑General.
Spokesman: Sorry. Let me refocus here. Listen, again, I sound like a broken record… I don’t know that records exist anymore. We have expressed our position over and over again in the Security Council. We have a Special Coordinator on the ground who is doing whatever he can, and we’ve expressed our concern at the appearance of moving away from a two‑State solution. I mean, Mr. Mladenov and others have said it in the Security Council. So, I would just refer you back to what we’ve already said. I’ve outlined what our basic and, I think, firm principles are.
Question: So, given the fact that you keep on saying that it’s going to be… it’s a broken record, but the fact, I mean, this situation is such that it will keep on happening again and again. And now, I mean, I suspect or I fear that there will be massive protests, protests especially in Gaza and West Bank. What is it… and the Secretary‑General… what is it that the Secretary‑General can do to avoid them or to bring about some sort of…?
Spokesman: The Secretary‑General and Secretariat have voiced their position and are… will never rest in working with the Israelis and Palestinians in supporting them in trying to find a solution based on the relevant resolutions.
Question: But in the…?
Spokesman: I… you know, I’m… Masood, with all due respect, I’m happy to moderate a discussion between you and Joe in looking at the situation on the ground, but I think I’ve run out of words here. Yes, sir, and then we’ll go…
For information media. Not an official record.
Document Source: Secretary-General, United Nations Department of Global Communications
Source Country: United States of America
Subject: Peace proposals and efforts
Publication Date: 29/01/2020
URL source: https://www.un.org/press/en/2020/db200129.doc.htm