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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

2 March 2015

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Happy Monday — if there's ever such a thing.  Good afternoon.

**Secretary-General's Activities

We will start off with the Secretary-General who has just returned to New York this morning from his visit to Santiago in Chile.

Over ?the weekend, he met with civil society representatives at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights and was made a citizen of honour of the city of Santiago by its mayor, Carolina Toha.

He also addressed the closing ceremony of the high-level event on "Women in Power and Decision-Making".  He joined the high-level participants, including Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, and called for action in achieving gender equality.

On Sunday, he visited the Pablo Neruda Museum.  He called Pablo Neruda not only a great poet and a Nobel Prize winner but also a great friend of the United Nations and a global inspiration.

This evening, the Secretary-General will deliver remarks at the "Stop Ebola and Build for the Future" concert, to note progress and urge solidarity in the final push to defeat Ebola.

The concert, which starts at 6:30 p.m. in the General Assembly Hall, is organized by the Governments of São Tomé and Principe, as well as the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, the United African Congress and the Give them a Hand Foundation.  It will feature performances by musicians like Estelle and Artists with One Voice.  

Those of you are interested should contact MALU as they have some tickets.


From Iraq, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Nickolay Mladenov, today urged all armed forces in Tikrit to do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties, and fully respect fundamental human rights principles and humanitarian law.

He also called on the Government and the international community to take urgent action to ensure that desperately needed humanitarian aid is provided to and to ensure that people who fled from ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) can safely return to their homes.

Meanwhile, our humanitarian colleagues say that aid organizations are monitoring the humanitarian situation in Tikrit and other areas in Salah Al-Din Governorate.  They are in contact with local NGOs on the ground in Samarra and other areas where civilians are reported to be fleeing and are providing assistance as needed.

The UN Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) reports that more than 1,100 Iraqis have been killed and another 2,280 people have been wounded in acts of terrorism and violence in February.  

In its casualty figures for February, the Mission says that Baghdad was the worst affected of all the Governorates in Iraq.

And more information is available online.

**Sri Lanka

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman is continuing his visit to Sri Lanka today.

On Saturday, he met with President [Maithripala] Sirisena, Acting Minister of External Affairs Ajith Perera, and the leadership of the opposition parties, including the Tamil National Alliance.

Yesterday, Mr. Feltman visited Jaffna, the capital of the Northern Province, where he met with the Governor, the Chief Minister, members of the Northern Provincial Council and a group of civil society leaders.

And we will have more details tomorrow as Mr. Feltman is planning an end of trip press briefing in Colombo.

**Human Rights Council

In a video message to the opening of the new Human Rights Council session in Geneva, the Secretary-General emphasized how the protection and realization of human rights is intrinsic to the entire agenda of the United Nations.

He said that the world faces serious violations of human rights, from discrimination and inequality to oppression and violent extremism, and that our shared challenge is to do far more to keep these and other abuses from occurring in the first place.

Also speaking at the opening was the High Commissioner, who noted that violent extremists continue to perpetrate horrors daily and that we condemn their merciless conduct daily.  

Yet, he cautioned that if we are not careful, if we are not completely principled and cunning in our collective attempt to defang them, we will, unwittingly and inexcusably, be advancing their interests.  

The High Commissioner also said that in recent months, he had been deeply disturbed by the contempt and disregard shown by several States towards the Human Rights Council's independent experts, appealing once again for the focus to be on the substance of the complaint rather than lashing out at the critic.


And the number of people killed in eastern Ukraine since last April has now topped 6,000, despite successive ceasefires, according to the latest report from the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which was issued today.

The High Commissioner said that it is imperative that all sides comply with the provisions of the Minsk Agreements and halt the indiscriminate shelling and other hostilities that have created a dreadful situation for civilians, [in] stark disregard of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

And the full report, as you know, is available online.


Moving to the Middle East, the Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Sigrid Kaag, met yesterday in Cairo with the League of Arab States Secretary-General as well as with senior Egyptian officials.

Her meetings focused on the situation in Lebanon and developments in the region, including the need for the full implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).

Other topics included the importance of Lebanon's stability, security and the need for stabilization in the complex and very difficult regional environment.  Stability in Lebanon also includes the urgent need to resolve the presidential vacuum, and the Special Coordinator noted that in 83 days Lebanon will have gone for one year without a president.

Ms. Kaag stressed the importance of the upcoming International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, that's to take place in Kuwait, as an opportunity for Lebanon and its international partners to secure sustained international assistance for the country.


And the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) reports that today some 100 armed Misseriya attacked the village of Marialachak in the southern part of the Abyei resulting in three [Ngok] Dinka killed, three wounded and eight children abducted.  The Mission also says 24 houses were burnt in the operation.

The Mission has launched patrols to engage the attackers, which they encountered near the town of Shegag.

In the ensuing firefight, four Misseriya were captured and three killed.  A UNISFA patrol also apprehended four unarmed Misseriya men moving from the general direction of the incident.

The operation is still ongoing.  The Mission notes that this is the fourth serious incident between Misseriya and [Ngok] Dinka communities in the past two months, which signals a worrying trend towards deterioration of the security environment in the area.


**South Sudan/UNICEF

And from South Sudan, the UN's Children Fund (UNICEF) says that the children seized by armed men from a village in northern South Sudan two weeks ago remain forcibly recruited as child soldiers, despite intensive efforts to locate and free them.

UNICEF says that it now believes that the number of children might be in the hundreds — rather than 89 as first reported.  In addition, adult males were also forcibly recruited during the February 15th and 16th raid.

UNICEF and UN Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism partners have tried to piece together what happened during and after the raid and to discover the location of the children.  A formal [UN] Monitoring Report of a grave violation of child rights is being prepared.

One of the challenges hampering evidence gathering has been the heavy militia presence remaining in Wau Shilluk, thus making it impossible to receive first-hand information.

And there's more available on the UNICEF website.


And from Mali, the UN Mission there (MINUSMA) congratulated the parties on the draft agreement on peace and reconciliation which was initialled in Algiers yesterday by the Government of Mali, one of the coalition of armed groups "Platform" and all members of the Mediation.

The Mission notes that the "Coordination" of coalition of armed groups has not yet initialled the document and has requested additional time to consult with its constituencies in Mali.

The Mission says the draft peace accord is "the most viable compromise to meet the multiple challenges facing Mali".  It also notes that sustained and united international support is required to assist the parties in finalising and then implementing an inclusive and sustainable peace agreement.  The ownership and commitment of the Malian parties is crucial for success.

And the mission calls on all Malian parties to continue to engage constructively and in good faith towards a final settlement.

**Wildlife Day

Tomorrow will mark the second World Wildlife Day which will focus on the increasing threat of organized crime.

The Secretary-General, in a message, will stress how such crimes not only affect conservation efforts, but also sustainable development, and peace and security in troubled regions where conflicts are fuelled by these illegal activities.

Estimates from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners show that the monetary value of all environmental crimes, including logging, poaching and trafficking, are between $70 and $213 billion annually.

And a General Assembly event to commemorate the Day will be held on Wednesday in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.  

**Department of Field Support

And just to note that today is the first day in office of the new Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Atul Khare.  As you know, he succeeded Ms. Ameerah Haq as the head of the Department of Field Support.


I will not read them, but you know that we released over the weekend a note to correspondents on Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura's activities, and statements on the murder of Boris Nemtsov in Moscow as well as the elections in Lesotho.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

And press conference tomorrow:  President of the Security Council for the month of March, François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France, will brief you on the programme of work.

**Honour Roll

And our honour roll today:  we thank Tunisia for having paid in full its dues to the United Nations, which brings the numbers up to…? [50] Somebody is paying attention… 50, thank you!  There we go.  Who said 50 first?  All right.  You have a question, Matthew?  No, okay.  Masood, you said 50 too.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  This United Nations Security Council resolution on ISIL selling the oil and everything that it should not be able to sell oil to any entities.  How will it be… Is there a mechanism in place where you can monitor the, that this resolution is being adhered to and how would you enforce that in case of ISIL and so forth?

Spokesman:  It's up to Member States to enforce the Council's, the resolutions passed by the Security Council.  The illegal financing of activities by ISIL through sale of oil, the sale of artefacts is indeed very serious and it's up to Member States and all those concerned to ensure that the resolution is adhered to.

Question:  What is the mechanism in place?

Spokesman:  We have to check the resolution to see if it puts in place a mechanism, but obviously, it is up to Member States to enforce the resolution.  Let's move down here.

Question:  Two questions on ICC (International Criminal Court), please.  First, we saw the videos of the destruction of the Mosul Museum, and the Director General of the UNESCO called for an ICC trial for those people.  Does the Secretary-General support this idea and is he going to do anything?  On ICC also, when does the Palestinian application take effect?  And I heard that the Palestinian Authorities are going to sue some Israelis regarding the situation in Gaza.  Thank you.

Spokesman:  On your first question, obviously, the horrific crimes that we've seen, I think, have left us speechless in Iraq.  As to the ICC, obviously, there are mechanisms through which cases can be brought to the ICC, and if I have more on that, I will share that with you.  As far as the Palestinian status within the ICC, I have to get back to you on that and check the dates for myself.  And on your third question, we have no comment on when Member States decide to take each other — Member States or other entities — decide to take each other to the court.  Carole?

Question:  On Syria, Stéphane, our understanding is that the rebels have said, have rejected the truce plan for Aleppo.  Where does that leave Staffan de Mistura's mission?

Spokesman:  I think our efforts, our efforts on this end will continue.  Our contacts with the various groups that are in opposition to the Government will continue.  I think we're, you know, the efforts to find a way to reduce the violence have to start somewhere.  We'd like them to start in Aleppo.  The discussions will continue.  Mr. de Mistura is now back in Geneva.  He will be meeting a number of senior Government officials.  I think he met Mr. Lavrov today.  He'll meet other foreign ministers as far as I'm aware tomorrow.  In the next days, he will also be going to Paris on Wednesday.

Question:  Isn't it time to throw in the towel on this Aleppo thing?  Is it time to look…  

Spokesman:  You know, I think we will continue steadfast our efforts to bring peace to Syria, to halt the violence and to improve the lives of the civilians who have suffered tremendously for the last five years in Syria.  Mr. Lee.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask about DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and also Bangladesh.  On the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the… the… Raymond Tshibanda has been interviewed in France and has said that he's puzzled by MONUSCO not participating in the offensive against the FDLR (Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda) because he says MONUSCO had previously worked with these same two generals in other military operations.  Can you… If so, is that true?  And if so, I mean, can you find out if that's true?  And also, how would that explain… 

Spokesman:  I'm not able to confirm it.  You can check with the Mission, and if I get anything here, I will let you know.  But the position on the non-support of the current operations, while it remains under the leadership of the two generals, continues.

Question:  And do you have any update on the effectiveness of the FARDC (Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo) operation?

Spokesman:  No, I mean, obviously, we're not with them.  Our humanitarian colleagues are continuing to express their concerns about the protection of civilians in the east.  And both in terms of civilians caught in the crossfire and those who are seeking safety.  And it's vital that all the military components of this operation respect international human rights and international humanitarian law.

Question:  Thanks a lot.  On Bangladesh, I want to ask you something that I tried to ask you over the weekend, which is, our colleagues who have been here several weeks asking questions has expressed a concern that both the media Just News BD was blocked within Bangladesh and also that his family was approached and in some sense threatened there.  And I wanted to know what your office or others in the UN system have done given the sort of nexus to asking questions in this room.

Spokesman:  He's spoken to me about it, and I think as I've said anyone who is accredited should feel free to ask whatever question they want.   

Question:  The reason I am asking… I definitely appreciated that, but it seems like if someone is in fact… Given than the mission, the Bangladesh mission contacted the UN, etc., if somebody is in trouble in their own country for asking questions in this room…

Spokesman:  I've spoken to him about it and I don't have anything else to share at this point.  Masood.

Question:  On Gaza, on the stranglehold in Gaza, the Palestinians are asking the Egyptian Government to at least open up the Rafah crossings which are again blocked.  So has the United Nations approached the Egyptian authorities?   

Spokesman:  The fact that the Rafah crossings should be open to let aid in and to allow people to go out for medical treatment is very important indeed for the well-being of Gazans — that Egypt crossing is very important, indeed.  Mr. Serry is in Gaza today.  This was his last visit, and we expect a press statement to be issued so we should have more details on that.  Matthew?

Question:  Hi, Stéphane.  You said in Iraq during the offensive, aid organisations are monitoring the situation.  Are they just monitoring the situation or how active is the UN involved in the field during the…   


Spokesman:  Obviously, as I said, they're working with their local partners.  It's often challenging for either ourselves or local humanitarian partners to get in as the fighting is under way.  But they're monitoring the needs of the local humanitarian partners and will respond accordingly.  Mr. Lee.

Question:  I wanted… I wanted… I saw this announcement by UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur) about the elimination of posts, some 700 posts.  I just wanted, and I understand… I think you are going to say it's all the Security Council's business.  But my question is, given the reports that have come out not only of the Tabit rapes but also of other attacks on civilians there, some Council Members have said that this drawdown is supposed to be tied to certain benchmarks in the reduction of violence.  I guess I wanted to know, what would you say to those who say it's a strange time for the UN to be shrinking its presence in Darfur?

Spokesman:  I'm not going to say it's a Security Council matter.  I think the two are somewhat related but not completely related.  The drawdown — not the drawdown, excuse me — the elimination of posts that we're seeing today, about 770 posts out of 4,120 as of the end of January, is part of a Strategic Review, which was submitted last year to the Security Council.  We're talking about national staff, international staff, UN volunteers.  And this is part of the Strategic Review, which took place with the African Union and was endorsed by both the AU and the Security Council.  And it's about UNAMID realigning its resources and staffing to best serve the achievement of the mission's revised strategic priorities.  The drawdown is a separate process which will be presented a bit later on to the Council.

Question:  Sure.  I want to ask if I can… 

Spokesman:  The exit strategy, rather, excuse me.

Question:  Thanks, I'll go over that.  About Sri Lanka and also about the Korean peninsula.  On Sri Lanka, I understood… I mean, I was sort of hoping for slightly more detailed readouts.  But I wanted to ask you directly something.  After a meeting with Mr. Feltman, this minister Pereira there said that following these discussions he said that the commitment, the calls for an international inquiry into Sri Lanka are weakening.  This was his statement after the meeting.  So I wanted to know, is this what Mr. Feltman is conveying there or is it something…

Spokesman:  Mr. Feltman, as I said, will brief the press locally so we'll get his report back.  But I think he's continuing his meetings and I'll wait for him to report back himself.

Question:  And have you seen in South Korea, there's this person who's the head of the National Assembly foreign affairs and unification committee has come out with this plan of having a UN regional centre either in the DMZ or in Seoul.  And the reporting on it says that the Secretary-General is somehow involved in it.

Spokesman:  I haven't seen it, but I'll take a look.  Yes, Edie.

Question:  Stéphane, can we get Mr. Feltman to give us a briefing here?  Because I'm not sure that our Sri Lankan colleagues are going to ask the same questions we will.

Spokesman:  Well noted.  Yes, Masood.

Question:  Talking about Egypt.  Has the United Nations continued talks with the Egyptian Government for the release of so many prisoners who are now also waiting death sentences?

Spokesman:  Obviously, this continues to be a concern for the UN.  Thank you very much.  We'll see you tomorrow.  Why not?  Unless I have better things to do.

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