Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
25 June 2014
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
We will start off with the Secretary-General and his travels. Just a few hours ago, he arrived in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, to participate in the African Union Summit. Prior to that, he wrapped up his visit to Windhoek, Namibia. He laid a wreath at Heroes Acre and visited the Independence Memorial Museum. In Equatorial Guinea, the Secretary-General is scheduled to meet with a number of African Heads of State, and we will make readouts of those meetings available as they come in.
Back here in the Security Council, Ján Kubiš, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, briefed the Security Council this morning on the elections in that country. He said that the way the two presidential candidates and the country's leadership manage the events that are unfolding will be vital to Afghanistan's unity and stability. He appealed for calm among both candidates' supporters and said that the candidates must decisively and actively engage in finding solutions to end the current impasse. Mr. Kubiš said that the need now is for statesmanship, not brinksmanship. Council members also heard from the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Yury Fedotov, who said that an estimated 80 per cent of the world's opium and heroin are produced in Afghanistan.
And earlier, the Security Council had extended the mandate of the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) until the end of June 2015. It also decided on a reduction in the size of the force, so that by that date, UNOCI's uniformed personnel shall consist of up to 5,437 military personnel.
This afternoon, the Council has scheduled meetings on the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and the UN peacekeeping Mission in Mali.
From Libya, as you know, parliamentary elections kicked off in that country today. While visiting a polling station, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Tarek Mitri, commended the efforts of the Libyan High National Elections Commission for carrying out a well-organized election.
He said that the election offers an opportunity for interaction, dialogue and diversity in choices for Libyans. He added that Libya needs political institutions that reflect the diversity of the Libyan society. He urged all Libyans to exercise their right to vote and shape their country's future in a peaceful manner. The UN, through an integrated team from the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), continues to provide technical expertise, advice and capacity-building support to the Libyan electoral authorities. And more information on that issue is available in my office.
You heard a lengthy briefing this morning from Nickolay Mladenov, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, so I won't repeat what he has already told you, but I will add a few humanitarian updates.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns that Iraq is facing serious food security concerns following the conflict that is currently ongoing. Over 1 million people have fled their homes since the beginning of 2014, abandoning farmlands and jobs. The governorates most affected by the conflict, Nineveh and Salah ad-Din, on average contribute about a third of Iraq's wheat and barley production. But, grain reserves in these areas are being depleted and levels of available food via the public distribution system are also fast deteriorating.
Also on Iraq, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, today ended a two-day visit to Iraq where she met displaced families who had fled the fighting in Mosul. She also visited the Kalak transit camp located between Mosul and Erbil, where many people had arrived in recent weeks with only the clothes on their backs. Regarding overall funding for the humanitarian community, Iraq has revised its funding appeal — increasing its requirements for this year from $103 million to $312 million. The funding is urgently needed to help 1 million people affected by the conflict, including in Mosul and Anbar. The appeal remains one of the least funded appeals of 2014, with only 6 per cent of the funding having been received so far.
And turning to South Sudan, the Secretary-General's Special Representative in that country, Hilde Johnson, was in Bentiu yesterday, where she met with displaced persons at the UN Mission [in South Sudan's] (UNMISS) protection of civilians' sites, which currently holds close to 45,000 people. And individuals are still arriving on a daily basis. Ms. Johnson said that people did not feel safe but were coming to the UNMISS base for food, since one of the consequences of the fighting was food insecurity. The Head of the UN Mission also met with the Deputy Governor of Unity State to discuss the crisis and deteriorating humanitarian situation. And close to 100,000 civilians, as I will remind you, are currently being housed in UNMISS compounds nationwide, with the largest number of displaced persons being in Bentiu state.
** Central African Republic
And from the Central African Republic, Senior Humanitarian Coordinator in that country, Claire Bourgeois, strongly condemned today the upsurge in intercommunity violence in and around the town of Bambari during the last few days and called on all sides to break the cycle of perpetual violence.
And as you'll recall, Babacar Gaye, the Special Representative for the Secretary-General in the Central African Republic, briefed the Security Council via video in an open briefing yesterday, and that text was made available to you. Our humanitarian colleagues add that the violence has reportedly displaced several thousand residents from their homes.
UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) found around 7,000 newly displaced persons yesterday at the Eveche St. Joseph site, adding to the 1,000 [internally displaced persons] that were already living there. Other areas that continue to register arrivals include the Bambari MISCA [African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic] base — around 500 — areas next to Sangaris' base — around 1,800 — and Notre Dame des Victoires, which has about 2,500 displaced people. UN agencies and NGOs are assessing current food stocks and preparing to improve water and sanitation facilities in those areas.
And as you know, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonović, is starting his visit to Burundi today to assess the human rights situation in the country. During his three-day visit, Mr. Šimonović is scheduled to meet with the President of the Republic of Burundi, with senior members of the Government, including several ministers. And he's also expected to meet with the President of the Independent National Human Rights Commission and with representatives of civil society organizations. And Mr. Šimonović will brief the press in Bujumbura on 27 June as he wraps up his visit. And we will ask him to do the same here for you.
** Sri Lanka
From Sri Lanka, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, announced today that three distinguished experts have agreed to advise and support the team to set up to conduct a comprehensive investigation of alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka. That team, you will recall, was mandated by the Human Rights Council. The investigation will look into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka during the last years of the armed conflict.
The experts are Martti Ahtisaari of Finland, Silvia Cartwright of New Zealand and Asma Jahangir of Pakistan. The experts will play a supportive and advisory role and provide advice and guidance as well as independent verification throughout the investigation. And more information is available on the UN High Commissioner's website.
Another humanitarian update, this one from Gaza: The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that the Gaza fuel crisis has affected public hospitals, which consume 8,000 litres of diesel a day, with only 20 per cent left in reserve. As a result, elective surgical operations will be cancelled and ambulance travel will have to be reduced by 50 per cent.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is procuring drugs for chronic diseases, worth $1.5 million, but it will take several weeks to start the delivery of those items. Hospitals are suffering from the shortages and have appealed for support from international organizations.
And lastly, the UN's lead report on the world's major drug developments will be launched by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna tomorrow. There will be a press briefing at 10 a.m. New York time. And you can follow that briefing via webcast, by going to the UN Information Service in Vienna's web page. And journalists can also receive embargoed material in advance. And contacts to receive those materials are on the same Vienna UN web page.
Today, at 6 p.m., there will be a press conference here by the Minister for Economy of Argentina, Axel Kicillof, on the meeting of the G-77 entitled 'Sovereign Debt Restructuring: The Case of Argentina'.
Tomorrow, my guest at the noon briefing will be the Executive Director of UN-Women [United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women], Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. She will be here to brief you on the upcoming twentieth anniversary of the fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. That's it. Matthew?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Sure, thanks. I wanted to ask on… in his trip to the African Union Summit in Malabo, will the Secretary-General be meeting with President [Abdel Fatah] al-Sisi of Egypt, who's scheduled to be there? And in that case, will… does he intend and can you say that, now that he will be bringing up the issue of the condemned journalists of Al Jazeera and other journalists, including Coptic and others, condemned in Egypt?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General's meetings, obviously, have a bilateral schedule, having accompanied… having attended as an accompanier a number of these summits, the bilaterals are very fluid — some scheduled, some not scheduled. So, what we will do is we will announce them after they happen. My colleague Matias [Gillmann] is there. As soon as something is confirmed, we will be able to confirm it. Obviously, the Secretary-General has in the past spoken out and raised the issue of mass trials, including the conviction of the journalists, with Egyptian authorities. And it is always best to issue a readout after meeting.
Question: But, has he sought a meeting with President al-Sisi?
Spokesman: As I said, you know, once the bilateral happen… these things are truly very fluid, and we will give you a readout as soon as the meetings happen. Yes, sir? And then Mr. Abbadi.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I have a few questions, actually. One is on Syria. The Secretary-General delivered the speech at Asia Society. And I was wondering if his office or your office had any reaction or opinions from the Member States? How it was received? And what the way forward is going to be on specifically that speech, because it was a strong speech? And related to that — what's going to happen next on the removal of the chemical weapons from Syria? The [ United States] says, you know, they don't trust Mr. [Bashar al-]Assad. And the OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] says that declared weapons have been destroyed or removed. What's next there? Is the team going to stay there?
Spokesman: As we mentioned earlier this week, we've completed the 100 per cent removal of everything that was declared. It was then loaded up on ships. So, we now start the second phase, where they will be taken by sea to Italy and then dispatched to various facilities to be destroyed. There were a number of outstanding issues, which the Joint Mission will be dealing with now, including a number of facilities — empty facilities — that need to be destroyed. But, the Mission will continue for a further few weeks to deal with the remaining facilities. But, I would encourage you to take a look at what the OPCW, what the Joint Mission put out earlier this week, which is fairly detailed. On your other question, you know, what I think we're looking for is for start of a real discussion amongst Member States and between Member States and ourselves. In terms of the Secretary-General's speech, as you said, he put forward some strong points and some strong ideas. Obviously, these things will take some time to develop, and we hope that these things will move in a positive way. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. The Secretary-General, the United States, the European Union and others have called on [Prime Minister Nuri Kamel al-]Maliki to form a National Unity Government in order to stabilize the country. Now Maliki has categorically rejected this recommendation and sees in it a plot. Is the Secretary-General disappointed? And does he contemplate taking further initiative?
Spokesman: Well, I think, you know, I don't know if you were there for the briefing by Mr. Mladenov, but he talked about this at length. Obviously, the politics of Iraq are in the hands of the Iraqi people. The UN's message is that the Government should be inclusive and that all Iraqis — from different faiths, different groups, different ethnicities — should feel they have a voice in their Government. Iftikhar? Mr. Iftikhar, please?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Any humanitarian update from Pakistan? And also, any comments on the reprisals by Taliban, such as the attack on Peshawar civilian airport today?
Spokesman: Well, I think, you know, we have condemned attacks on civilian facilities and continue to do so in what we've seen in Peshawar. On the humanitarian update, nothing from yesterday. Obviously, our… as I mentioned, our colleagues for the Office of Humanitarian Affairs and our humanitarians colleagues are on the ground trying to assist in any way they can. But, we are seeing a mass movement of people within Pakistan and some movement of people going from North Waziristan into Afghanistan to seek safety. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure, I wanted to… this is… you've been asked about Robert Serry in the last few days, and I wanted to… now Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has said that there's a pending request in Israel to have him PNG'd [rendered persona non grata], but that they might not go forward, he says, Mr. Liberman, because Mr. Serry's tenure ends at the end of the year, and they might just wait out the string. And I wanted to know: is that an accurate description of the length of the mandate of Mr. Serry? And there is any response to these comments?
Spokesman: No, I think the… I don't have the exact dates of… I don't have information on the exact dates of the end of Mr. Serry's tenure. You know, our reaction remains the same: the Secretary-General has full confidence in Mr. Serry and the way he's been conducting business in a very, frankly, very open and transparent way with his Israeli colleagues. Now, obviously, there will be, you know, press remarks here and there, but the point is that he remains the Secretary-General's Special Representative on the ground.
Question: Can we find out the length of his mandate?
Spokesman: If we find out, we will share with you. Yes, sir?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. In a related matter, in Gaza, what is the UN system doing to kind of help the situation? Is anyone in the UN system, including Mr. Serry's office, involved in at least trying to find the kidnapped Israelis and in return, maybe, you know, providing fuel to Gazans that are in dire need?
Spokesman: I think you may be mixing different things here. I think on Gaza, on the humanitarian situation, as I just said, we are keenly aware of fuel shortages and drug shortages, and working with the Palestinian Ministry of Health to see how we can help. Obviously, we have quite a large humanitarian presence in Gaza, most notably through UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East], but other UN agencies. On the abducted Israeli youths, we have, obviously, we have no operational role in any search for them. The Secretary-General has condemned their abductions in no uncertain terms, and he's also called on the Israelis in their operations to try to find them to ensure that international human rights and humanitarian law is respected. Yes, Linda?
Question: Thanks, Stéphane. I have a couple of questions. The first is we know the [Secretary-General] is on the road this week. What are his plans for next week? Will he be here at Headquarters?
Spokesman: He should be here at Headquarters, yes.
Question: And apropos of that, will there be any kind of role for the [Secretary-General] in terms of the Ukrainian discussions?
Spokesman: Well, I think, you know, the role of the UN has been on, obviously, on the human rights observers, also on humanitarian issues. We're in discussions with our Ukrainian partners. And I think the Secretary-General has played up to now a very important role in keeping lines of communications, with both President [Vladimir] Putin and President [Petro] Poroshenko and his predecessor, and encouraging them to have direct dialogue and encouraging them to act on a ceasefire. And I think what we're… the ceasefire that we're seeing, despite some of the violence we've seen in the last 24 hours, the fact that it seems to be holding is encouraging. Yes?
Question: I know it's been almost a month since [Lakhdar] Brahimi has left. And we know it's been said that the situation would be fruitless to have another representative. But, is there any movement or are there some names in the hopper?
Spokesman: Nice try. [laughter] There are, you know, hopper… depends on what your definition of a hopper is. There is… the discussions are continuing with a lot of activity, I shall put it. Carla and then Mr. Abbadi and then Matthew. Use your microphone, please, so I can hear you.
Question: There were reports a couple of days ago about more abductions by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Do you have any information about that? And did the Secretary-General have anything to say about it?
Spokesman: Obviously, we've been watching the situation. We're very concerned about these reports of new abductions of schoolboys and of schoolgirls in villages in Borno State. And, as the Secretary-General has stated before, he condemns in very clear language these abductions and of course the abductions of the girls that took place quite some time ago. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. The Secretary-General has been travelling around the world, understandably, during the last few years in his second term. We know he has been given press briefings at the stakeout, but when will he travel the short distance from his office to this room to give a comprehensive press briefing, press conference?
Spokesman: All right. Well, we will… I hear you, and we will see what we can do. Matthew and then Mr. Ali?
Question: There's a protest scheduled for today at 1 p.m. on 47th Street of mostly… well, people from Sri Lanka and elsewhere about the violence there. And they've said that they intend to hand a letter to the Secretariat, seeking action against the action there. I wanted to know: is this going to be possible? Is Mr. [Oscar Fernandez-]Taranco… I wanted to get… I guess ask… it's great that Mr. Šimonović will brief on Burundi. Is there… it seems like it's a relative… kind of a similar situation. And is the UN aware of this? And what has been the reaction to the upswing in violence in the…?
Spokesman: I think we've spoken about this from this podium. We've condemned the violence that we've seen recently. And obviously, the Secretary-General fully backs the efforts of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. As for the demonstration, I was unaware of it. If I have any information, I will let you know.
Question: I guess, because I just… like that panel was about, you know, war crimes at the end of the conflict on both sides, whereas this is something that's actually taking place currently. That's why I'm sort of asking, like, did Mr. Taranco deal with this issue while he was there?
Spokesman: As I said, I shared with you what I had on Mr. Taranco's visit. Mr. Ali?
Correspondent: [phone rings] Oh, I'm so sorry.
Spokesman: If that's for me, I'm not taking it.
Question: Sorry. I'm sure, Stéphane, you have seen reports that of one presidential candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, has withdrawn his objections and is now engaging with the Electoral Commission. Is there any comment on that?
Spokesman: Well, I think, you know, I would refer you to, on Afghanistan, to what Mr. Kubiš said. And notably, what he said was that this was a time for statesmanship and not brinksmanship on behalf of the two leading candidates. There is a process in place, it's an Afghan-led process, and we will call on both candidates to respect it.
Correspondent: Well, I read the speech, it seems like he has not mentioned this development.
Spokesman: Well, I… you know, I haven't seen that particular report, but anything, you know, showing that both candidates are really working with the system would be most welcome. Matthew?
Question: Sure, it seems like on South Sudan, there had been this expectation that the talks would continue in Addis Ababa, and they have not. And because the Riek Machar side says that they didn't agree to the attendees and that they're people from rebel-held areas or SPLA [Sudan People's Liberation Army] in opposition-held areas are not included. And so, I wanted to know is… you said Hilde Johnson went to Bentiu and that's all to the good, but is there anyone in the UN system sort of involved in trying to get the actual talks in Addis between the two sides going?
Spokesman: Well, you know, the talks are being led by IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority for Development], and we're fully supporting their efforts. Thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.
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For information media • not an official record
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