15 JANUARY 2018

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.


Question:  Stéph, does the Secretary‑General have any comment on reports that the United States is planning to dramatically cut the budget for UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) for Palestinian refugees?

Spokesman:  You know, we’ve… we haven’t been advised of anything officially.  We’re obviously aware and we’ve seen the press reports.  I think it’s… it’s very important to understand a few things.  One, UNRWA’s mandate is given to it by the General Assembly to support humanitarian human development work.  UNRWA serves, I think, some of the most marginalized population in the Middle East.  And I think its presence through its activities and its presence through health, education, and humanitarian help is a force for stabilization in a very volatile… a very volatile area.

Question:  Can I follow up?

Spokesman:  Yes.

Question:  It’s just… just to follow up, it looks like it’s going to be 60 million that’s going to be cut instead of 125.  Is that a gap, for instance, that other countries could cover?

Spokesman:  I keep in my head what the Secretary‑General tells me to say, which is never to comment on things that have not happened.  So, our position on UNRWA, I’ve just stated.  We’ll obviously wait to see what the actual number is.  The United States is a major funder of UNRWA.  We’ve always appreciated its… its contributions.  The fact is that UNRWA’s work will… is critical, and if any donor severely cuts its contributions, we will have to find other… other sources.  Sir?


Question:  Hi, Stéph.  What is the UN’s position on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ statement on Sunday that he would only accept a broad international panel to broker any peace deal, basically undercutting the US’s role as… as chief mediator?

Spokesman:  Look, I have no particular comment on… on what President Abbas said except to say that, for us, what is critical is that there be negotiations between the parties leading to a… to a two‑State solution based on all relevant Security Council resolutions.  Yes, sir?


Question:  Another question on the Middle East.  There was a statement from Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs.  He said that he expects that the Middle East Quartet might meet very soon.  Any indications from the UN that such meeting can take place and when?

Spokesman:  We’ve checked.  We’ll try to get back to you if we have an update.  Mr. Lee?