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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

25 March 2015

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


Today is the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  In his message for the Day, the Secretary-General calls for a renewal of our commitment to end modern slavery, so that our children will live in a world free of racism and prejudice with equal opportunity and rights for all.  The Secretary-General reminds everyone that, tragically, slavery still persists in many parts of the world, in the form of forced labour, trafficking, sexual exploitation or captivity in conditions that resemble slavery. 

Later today, at 2 p.m. the Secretary-General, together with the President of the General Assembly, will unveil the Permanent Memorial to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade at the UN Visitor's Plaza.  After that he will address the General's Assembly Commemorative meeting at 3 p.m.  In a very short while, the Foreign Minister of Jamaica, the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the architect of the Permanent Memorial and others will be here to brief on that day.

**Security Council

The Secretary-General spoke at the open debate in the Security Council this morning on children and armed conflict and said that the world's children are increasingly under threat in theatres of war.  He said that last year was considered one of the worst ever for children in areas affected by conflict, with up to 15 million children directly affected by the violence. 

The Secretary-General said that children have the right to be protected in their schools, in their homes, in their communities.  But, increasingly, he warned, children are snatched from a normal life of school and family, abducted by armed groups and thrown into a life of violence and horror – in places ranging from Nigeria and South Sudan to Iraq and Syria.  He emphasized that the children of the world should be students, not soldiers. 

The Security Council also heard from Junior Nzita Nsuami, a former child soldier from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  As the Secretary-General noted, Junior now dedicates his life to helping underprivileged children in Kinshasa, and his goal is to build a better future for them, and a better future for his country.  We have the Secretary-General's remarks available in our office, as well as those of Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.


A new report by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN Human Rights Office, related today, documents violent attacks and threats against Libyan rights defenders in the country.  The report, which lists attacks since the escalation of fighting in May 2014, says that armed groups across the country have targeted human rights defenders who are seeking to shed light on and address human rights violations and abuses.  It adds that those committing these crimes are criminally liable, including before the International Criminal Court.  More information is available online. 

**Detained Staff

Today is the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members.  In a message, the Secretary-General said that the disturbing and widespread violence and turmoil of the past year took a toll on United Nations and associated personnel, with 33 UN and associated personnel detained by State authorities in 15 countries.  One staff member is missing and two contractors remain in the custody of abductors. 

The Secretary-General called on Member States to immediately release all staff members and associated personnel who are being unlawfully detained.  In addition, he appealed to those non-State actors that are holding staff members to immediately release them.  The Secretary-General said that he was especially concerned about the situations in South Sudan and Syria. 

And the United Nations Staff Union's Standing Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service also called today on State authorities and armed groups for the immediate release of UN personnel who are unlawfully arrested and detained.


The Department of Public Information is pleased to unveil www.un.org/un70, a web portal in all six official languages.  The website presents a gateway to the rich history of the UN – its founding, its eight Secretaries-General, and its many milestones over the decades.  The organization of information will allow the public to easily find information, activities and products related to the seventieth Anniversary of the Organization.  We have a press release in the office which provides more information and contact details. 

**Press Conference

Like I said at the start, at 12:15 p.m., in just about 10 minutes from now, we will have a number of guests here at the briefing.  Then, tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., there will be a briefing here by the outgoing UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry.  That's it for me.  Yes, Iftikhar?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  I'm sure you've seen President [Barack] Obama's statements that… that Mr. [Benjamin] Netanyahu's statements that there will be no Palestinian State while he's Prime Minister have destroyed the prospects of peace in the region and there will be no deal – and the prospect for a deal are very dim.  Does the Secretary‑General have any comment or does he endorse these views? 

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we wouldn't have any comment about the remarks that have been made by different leaders.  You'll have seen what the Secretary‑General said in his own phone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu last week.  We had issued a readout of that at the time.  And as the Secretary‑General made clear, he, of course, wants to make sure that the parties continue to support the two‑State solution, as we have done, and we will continue our work in that regard.  Beyond that, as you know, we have had some concern about the state of the peace process, but we want both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides to do more to get back on track.  Yes?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  With regard to the situation in Yemen, the Yemeni Foreign Minister has requested the United Nations intervention under Chapter VII.  How does the Secretary‑General feels about invoking Chapter VII, which authorize military action, in the light of the deteriorating situation and the path of the negotiations that the special envoy [Jamal] Benomar is carrying out, with no avail so far?

Deputy Spokesman:  Regarding that, as you know, requests… that request that you were referring to was made to the members of the Security Council, and it's up to them to determine how they want to treat that.  Of course, any decisions on mandates given to forces, let alone the invocation of Chapter VII, are really for the members of the Security Council to decide upon.  This is not something on which the Secretary‑General has made a recommendation.  Regarding the situation of the unrest, what I can say is that Jamal Benomar, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Yemen, condemns the worsening violence and reiterates his call on all sides to de-escalate the situation and cease all hostilities.  He emphasizes that only a political solution can prevent a scenario resembling the situations we have witnessed elsewhere in the larger region.  Mr. Benomar continues to be in contact with the parties and regional actors and is evaluating the situation.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Hi, there are reports that Saudi Arabia is moving troops to the Yemenis border.  Does the Secretary‑General's office have a comment on that?

Deputy Spokesman:  The basic point we have made repeatedly is that we do not believe there can be a military solution to the conflict.  As you know, Mr. Benomar has said that all parties need to de‑escalate and need to refrain from any use of force.  And that applies, as well, to countries in the region:  that we want to make sure that whatever influence they have on the situation on the ground is used positively to bring about a halt in the hostilities rather than to increase the militarization of Yemen.  Yes, Ali?

Question:  A follow‑up on that:  Has Mr. Benomar or anybody from the UN… any UN official spoken with President [Abdo Rabbo Mansour] Hadi in the past few hours?

Deputy Spokesman:  I'm not aware of any direct communications with President Hadi.  Mr. Benomar has been in touch with President Hadi and his side, as well as with the other parties, including the Houthis, in recent days, and we've been keeping you posted on his various talks with the parties.  But, in terms of the last few hours, no, I don't have anything to confirm.  Yes?

Question:  If the Houthis are moving on Aden and are about to attack the city and there was intervention by the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] without Security Council authorization, based on a request from the President under Article 51, would your statement that you just read still hold – that you would be opposed to military intervention?Deputy Spokesman:  I don't think I'd engage in a hypothetical set of circumstances.  We have already made clear our concerns and our condemnation of the worsening violence.  But, in any case, where we stand on the use of force is, as Mr. Benomar in particular has been putting it in recent days, the unhelpfulness of the increased militarization in the area.  How the situation plays out in the hours and days to come, we'll see and we'll comment as it unfolds; but I wouldn't comment on any one of these hypothetical situations.  Our ultimate hope is that the fighting ceases.  Sanghwon?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  Sorry if somebody already asked this, but are the dates set for the Doha talks on Yemen?  Is that happening at all?  Or what's…?

Deputy Spokesman:  There's nothing to announce on that just yet.  Mr. Benomar, like I said, continues to be in touch with the various parties, and he's trying to see what he can do together for talks, but there's nothing to announce on that.

Question:  But, there are talks scheduled to happen in Doha, whenever that may be.  That's still in place?

Deputy Spokesman:  That is still an idea that's being brought to the parties.  As you know, the situation on the ground has changed materially, particularly over past couple of days.  And we need to do what we can to get this process back on track.  But, like I said, I don't have any talks to announce at this point.  Yes, Iftikhar?

Question:  Farhan, next week, 27 March, there is going to be a conference of defence chiefs.  Is this the first time such a conference is being held?  Do you have any details?  I mean, how many defence chiefs are coming to this conference?

Deputy Spokesman:  In fact, there's a very large number of defence chiefs coming.  And by the way, 27 March isn't next week.  It's this Friday, the day after tomorrow.  And our colleagues in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations are getting this arranged.  There will be some events where a number of these defence ministers and other officials will be out in public and we'll try to give you a roundup of that tomorrow.  I don't believe that they have any individual press conferences scheduled so far, but if that changes, we'll let you know.

Question:  Is this the first such conference ever?

Deputy Spokesman:  I think it's the first time it's being held.  To have so many people… obviously, you have defence ministers come to the UN sometimes for different events, but to have this large-scale an event, that's unique.

Question:  Is it defence ministers or defence chiefs of staff?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah, a lot of it is chiefs of army staffs.  But, it's senior defence officials from a variety of countries.  And with that, I wish you guys all a good afternoon, and in the next few minutes, you'll be treated to Irina Bokova from UNESCO, the Foreign Minister of Jamaica and various other officials who are coming here for the International Day in remembrance of the victims of slavery.  Thanks.

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