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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

26 June 2015

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

I wish you a happy UN Charter Day.  Today I will be joined at the Noon Briefing by Jean-Luc Lemahieu, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Director of the Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, Thomas Pietschmann from UNODC Vienna, and Simone Monasebian, the Director of the UNODC New York Office. They will brief on the launch of the new 2015 World Drug Report. And that should be in just a little while.  Like I said, happy Charter Day.

**Secretary-General's Travels

The Secretary-General arrived in San Francisco late last night and will take part in the Charter Day commemorations in the city.  He is currently meeting with a group of tech entrepreneurs for a round table on how the private sector, and especially the tech industry, can be an active partner in implementing the post-2015 development agenda.  The Secretary-General will stress to these business leaders that they have an extraordinary opportunity to contribute to this effort.

Following that meeting, the Secretary-General will hold a separate meeting with climate leaders, including representatives of business, politics, civil society and others.  He will highlight the importance of US leadership in achieving an ambitious global climate agreement in Paris.  The Secretary-General will then join [United States] Minority Leader Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and California Governor Jerry Brown in the rotunda of San Francisco's City Hall for an official ceremony to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Charter.

The Charter Day event in San Francisco will be shown live during a special event here in Conference Room 2 starting at 2:30 p.m.  The Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, United States Permanent Representative Samantha Power and General Assembly Vice-President Greta Gunnarsdottir are expected to attend.  The anniversary edition of the Charter will be launched during the event.

Back in San Francisco, following the Charter ceremony, the Secretary-General will participate in a lunch at City Hall with LGBTQ leaders.  The Secretary-General is expected to receive the Harvey Milk prize to honour his commitment to the LGBTQ human rights movement.  Upon receiving the award, the Secretary-General is expected to say he stands with the millions of people, around the world, who are forced to live in hiding, in fear of violence, just because of who they are or whom they love.  Later that afternoon, the Secretary-General will go to Palo Alto for a conversation with Stanford University students on the UN at 70. He will close out the day's programme with an official dinner with civic leaders.  The Secretary-General will return to New York on Saturday afternoon.


By the way, I have been asked by many of you earlier this morning about the Secretary-General's response to the decision reached by the [United States] Supreme Court today, and we have the following response:

The Secretary-General welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court that paves the way for gay and lesbian Americans to have their relationships legally recognized, no matter what part of the country they live in.  In an interview just now, he called it a great step forward for human rights.  He is a strong believer in equality and in the equal worth and dignity of LGBTQ people.  Denying couples legal recognition of their relationship opens the door to widespread discrimination.  This ruling will help close that door and marks a great step forward for human rights in the United States.  He joins the LGBTQ community and its millions of allies in celebrating this historic decision.


I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on terrorist attacks in several countries around the world today.  The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks in Tunisia, Kuwait and France today.  Those responsible for these appalling acts of violence must be swiftly brought to justice.

The Secretary-General affirms that, far from weakening the international community's resolve to fight the scourge of terrorism, these heinous attacks will only strengthen the commitment of the United Nations to help defeat those bent on murder, destruction and the annihilation of human development and culture.  The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the families of those killed and injured in today's attacks and expresses his solidarity with the peoples and Governments of Tunisia, Kuwait and France.


Earlier today, we issued the following statement attributable to the Spokesman on Burundi:  The Secretary-General continues to follow closely developments in Burundi.  He commends the efforts of the Joint International Facilitation Team, comprising the East African Community, the African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the United Nations to assist the Burundian parties to reach consensus on the way forward to ensure peaceful and credible elections in their country.

The Secretary-General, deeply concerned over the prevailing political and security environment in Burundi, appeals to the Burundian authorities to seriously consider the proposal put forward by the Joint International Facilitation Team to postpone the elections further in order to create a conducive environment for inclusive, peaceful and transparent elections, in line with the recent decisions of the African Union Peace and Security Council and the Summit of the East African Community. 

The Secretary-General reiterates his appeal to all Burundian political leaders to address the current political crisis through dialogue in the larger interest of the people of Burundi, in order to consolidate peace and security and further strengthen national reconciliation.  And the Security Council will meet on Burundi at 3 p.m. today.

Also on Burundi, the UN refugee agency says it continues to note a steady increase in arrivals of Burundian refugees in neighbouring countries.  According to UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees], Burundi's political turmoil has so far seen nearly 127,000 Burundians registering as refugees in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia.  Many more Burundians are thought to have left the country but have not registered as refugees – their number is unknown.  The Regional Refugee Response Plan launched last month to protect and assist up to 200,000 Burundian refugees is only 13 per cent funded.  UNHCR says this leaves crucial activities such as shelter, water, health, sanitation and education seriously underfunded. 


Yesterday afternoon, we issued a statement on Colombia, in which the Secretary-General was concerned by the current upsurge in fighting in Colombia following a welcome period of de-escalation in the armed conflict.  He encourages the parties to the Havana talks and the Colombian people to remain hopeful and to persist in the search for peace.  The full statement is online. 


The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, has strongly condemned today's attack by Al-Shabaab militants on an African Union Mission (AMISOM) base in Leego, manned by troops from the Burundian contingent.  Mr. Kay reiterated that this will not lessen the international community's support for the Somali people, and its solidarity with the African Union Mission, and Somali security forces in efforts to defeat al-Shabaab, and build peace and stability in the country.  His full statement is available online.


The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Libya, Bernardino León, yesterday convened a new round of talks with Libyan parties in Morocco.  Speaking to the press there, Mr. León said that he was very encouraged by the fact that all participants have accepted the fourth draft of the proposed agreement.  More discussions are expected to continue in the coming days.


In a press statement issued yesterday, the members of the Security Council recognized and welcomed the extraordinary efforts of the United Nations, in particular the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy for Yemen, to convene the consultations for Yemen in Geneva and expressed their continued support for the efforts of the Special Envoy.  The members of the Security Council positively took note of the Special Envoy's briefing to the Security Council on the principles to advance the UN-brokered consultations.  The members of the Security Council strongly encouraged the parties to further discuss and consider these proposals in their engagement with the UN and the Special Envoy.

Meanwhile, the Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, will travel to Kuwait this weekend, followed by visits to Riyadh and Sana'a.  He intends to spend more time in the two capitals to discuss the draft principles paper until preliminary agreement is reached.


Within the framework of the Geneva Consultations, the Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, met with leaders of the Syrian tribes yesterday.  They briefed Mr. de Mistura on their assessments of the situation on the ground and concerns of their respective communities. They also discussed perspectives for a political solution to the Syrian conflict.  Today, Deputy Special Envoy for Syria Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy met with Ms. Rajaa Altalli and Mr. Renas Sino of the Centre for Civil Society and Democracy in Syria.  They briefed Mr. Ramzy on the escalating conflict and deteriorating situation on the ground, as well as on the work of the Centre.  They also shared their perspectives for a political solution in Syria and for ways that civil society organizations could contribute to efforts for ending the Syrian conflict.

Yesterday, Da'esh advances inside Al-Hasakeh city in Syria resulted in the displacement of an estimated 60,000 people, including 50,000 within the city and another 10,000 towards Amuda, according to local humanitarian partners.  There are concerns that others may try to flee the city to northern areas of the governorate.  According to 2011 estimates, some 300,000 people live in the city and there are additional displaced people in the area.  Al-Hasakeh has a mixed Arab, Kurdish and Christian population.

Fierce fighting and shelling from both parties is reportedly ongoing in the city, as well as aerial bombardments.  Humanitarian partners and UN agencies in Qamishli are preparing in case of the arrival of displaced people.  The World Food Programme (WFP) has 25,000 food parcels available, the UN refugee agency has 5,000 kits of household items available, and UNICEF [United Nations Children's Fund] has 5,000 full hygiene kits.

**South Sudan

On South Sudan, our humanitarian colleagues say that according to the latest report from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, the severity of food insecurity is likely to be worse than previously anticipated.  An increasing number of households are at risk of "catastrophic" levels of food insecurity – the highest level in the classification index, or level 5.  More than 3.5 million people, nearly one third of the population, are currently either experiencing crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity.

Many of the worst affected areas of southern Unity and Upper Nile State have not received any food assistance for up to two months.  Without access to food assistance, vulnerable families in conflict-affected areas will experience increasing food deficits, and levels of global acute malnutrition and mortality will likely rise further.


On the crisis in the Mediterranean, the UN Refugee Agency noted last night's decision of the European Council to relocate 40,000 people in need of international protection and to resettle 20,000 refugees.  UNHCR says this is an important step along the way to finding answers to this crisis, but clearly much more will have to be done, including addressing root causes.  It stresses that amid the largest global forced displacement crisis of modern times, it is essential that States work together to find answers, and that Europe shows leadership and vision.  More is available on UNHCR's website.

**Press Events

In a few minutes, at 12:30 p.m., in the Security Council Stakeout, François Delattre, the Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, Román Oyárzun, the Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations, Nadim Houry, Human Rights Watch Deputy Director for Middle East and North Africa, Bassam Alahmad, Violations Documentation Center in Syria, Spokesperson and Head of research, will brief the press.  Again, that's at the stakeout, at 12:30 p.m.

Correspondents are also invited to attend the Rhythms of One World International Choral Festival this evening at 6:30 p.m. and tomorrow, Saturday, 27 June at 2 p.m. in the General Assembly Hall.  Organized by the Permanent Mission of Romania to the United Nations and the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation with the support of the Department of Public Information, the concert will feature UNRocks Music Group, Participating Choirs and Ulsan Philharmonic Orchestra.

On Monday, at 10:30 a.m., the President of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General, Laurent Fabius, Foreign Minister of France and Ana María Sanchez de Rios, Foreign Minister of Peru, will address the press at the Stakeout located on the 2nd Floor of the General Assembly, in the area known as the East Foyer.  They will brief you on President of the General Assembly's High-Level Meeting on Climate Change.

And still on Monday, at 11:30 a.m., in this room, there will be a press conference, in this room, for the opening of "We the Peoples:  Norman Rockwell's United Nations" exhibition.  Speakers include Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, President and CEO of United Nations Foundation Cathy Calvin, and Director and CEO of the Norman Rockwell Museum Laurie Norton Moffatt.  The opening of the exhibit will take place on Monday, 29 June, also in the Visitors Lobby.

At 12:30 p.m., in this room, Jean-Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly will brief you on the General Assembly's High-Level Meeting on Climate Change.  At 2 p.m., Amina Mohammed, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning and Janos Pasztor, Assistant Secretary-General on Climate Change, will speak to you about the General Assembly's High-level Meeting on Climate Change.  And finally, at 4:45 p.m, in this room, the actor Robert Redford will brief you on his participation at the High-level Climate Change meeting.  Are there any questions for me before we go to our guests?  Yes.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes.  Is the Secretary‑General aware that the Supreme Court has just ruled in favour of gay marriage?  He's at the right place at the right time.

Deputy Spokesman:  I spoke on this at the start of the briefing.  You might have missed it.

Correspondent:  I'm sorry.  Yeah.

Deputy Spokesman:  Again, to repeat what I said at the top, the Secretary‑General welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court that paves the way for gay and lesbian Americans to have the relationships legally recognized, no matter what part of the country they live in.  He did speak to a reporter in interview just recently in San Francisco and said that this was a great step forward for human rights.  And beyond that, he made clear that he joins the LGBT community and its millions of allies in celebrating this historic decision.

Question:  Also, a real question.  Is there any evidence that the flipped‑out jihadists planned it, simultaneously… simultaneous attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait?

Deputy Spokesman:  We're not aware of any such coordination.  What is clear is that there are violent elements in all these various societies that are trying to sow confusion and discord among peoples of various religions and people of various nationality and this needs to be halted.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Farhan, now more and more it seems that, from Syria to Iraq to Kuwait, it is becoming… and to Yemen, it is becoming more and more sectarian war, it seems.  How does the Secretary‑General going to tell the international community as to how to meet this challenge, which is foreboding, to say the least?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, it is foreboding.  You're quite right.  And the Secretary‑General has been alerting the Governments of the world about this for many months now.  As you're aware, just a few months back, he tried to organize a meeting of leaders of different faith groups so that we can stress the importance of tolerance across communities and come to a common front against the forces of sectarianism and hatred, and he will continue to do that.  This is something he's brought up in his meetings with leaders of the world's religious faiths in different parts of the world, including, as you will recall, Pope Francis when he met with him in April.

Question:  But, has he stressed on urgency?  Because it's going, the way it's going…

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  Masood, you'll have seen that he's talked about the urgent need for all countries to come forward on this and he is bringing that up.  Matthew and then Richard.

Question:  Sure.  Thanks a lot.  I have two questions about Burundi.  But, I want to ask you first something that just happened.  In the, in conference… the Arria Formula meeting you referred to, or that the stakeout is supposed to follow, was declared open.  It was declared an open meeting, and so, along with a number of other members of the press, I was there.  I was ordered by a member of the Secretariat, Secretariat staff member to not film, and so it seems strange to me.  If a meeting is open, can't it be filmed?  And there were also diplomats filming it.  It just seems like a strange… what did it mean for a meeting to he opened but it can't be seen by people outside the building?

Deputy Spokesman:  We don't handle the rules for meetings that take place under the Arria Formula.  As you're aware, those are not organized by the Secretariat.  They are organized by the Member States involved.  And so, you would have to ask the Member States responsible for organizing the meeting what the rules are.  I can't speak to those rules.

Question:  I'm asking you because the Secretariat member said not only stop filming but said: can you delete the footage?  So, it seemed like a strange request from the UN…

Deputy Spokesman:  I have no idea what whether that person was aware of the rules or whether this was an Arria Formula meeting.  In any case, for Arria Formula meetings, the rules are set by the countries that are organizing it.  So, you would turn to them for what the relevant rules would be.  Yes, Richard?

Question:  Apologies if this was asked yesterday.  Do we have an update on the Dag Hammarskjöld panel report that the Secretary‑General was going to turn over?

Deputy Spokesman:  It's being studied.  At some point we'll be able to tell you what the Secretary‑General's own recommendations are, because what he's trying to do is come up with his set of recommendations on the way forward.  And once that happens, we'll be able to share the Secretary‑General's recommendations and the document that he received with you.  Hopefully, it won't be very long till then.  Majeed?

Question:  Yes, Farhan, you mentioned Syria and Hasakeh.  As I mentioned yesterday, there's another attack by ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham], continued attack on the city of Kobane.  Do you have any updates about that?  And my second question is, some Kurdish forces… groups, they're accusing Turkey of helping ISIS actually cross the border and attack from the north side of the city.  What is the UN, does the UN have any comments about that?

Deputy Spokesman:  We have no direct presence in Kobane, so we couldn't conform…

Correspondent:  That's on the border.

Deputy Spokesman:  We couldn't confirm the reports of any such activity.  We are, of course, trying to assist people who do cross the border into Turkey, and we'll continue to do that.  But, there is, as I just mentioned, a considerable flow of refugees that we're trying to deal with their particular needs, and we're very worried about the situation in Kobane, as indeed we have been in the past.

Question:  Do you have any updates from the humanitarian situation in that particular part of Syria?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I gave the humanitarian report for the nearby zone and Al‑Hasakeh, but as for Kobane itself, we'll need to continue monitoring the situation and seeing what data we can get about people fleeing from there.  Joe?

Question:  Yeah.  A number of days ago, I know you got a series of questions on the Children and Armed Conflict report, particularly about the estimate in there of the number of children killed in Syria, which was, I think, 300‑some‑odd, which was stated in the report.  In light of today's briefings at the Arria session, some very specific data on civilian casualties by NGO [non-governmental organization] groups, including the Violations Documentation Center in Syria, I'd just like to know in terms of methodology whether the preparers of that Children and Armed Conflict report consulted groups like this and because the 300‑some‑odd number seems way out of whack with estimates of civilian casualties that these briefers were reporting.

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe they do reach out to some non-governmental organizations.  It may not necessarily be the same ones.  And like I said…

Question:  Could you tell us…?

Deputy Spokesman:  Like I said a week ago, the numbers that came out with for that, because of the lack of first-hand information, was a conservative estimate and was in all likelihood an undercount.

Question:  Well, except these NGOs in particular these civil defence briefers and this Violations Documentation Center have very rigorous methodology, including firsthand reports.  So, could you confirm whether or not the groups that reported today were consulted in the preparation of that? I'd like to know specifically…

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we can check which groups they consulted for the numbers.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Given that the training is going ahead in Turkey and Jordan and other countries in the region to the so‑called moderate fighters who are attacking Syria, after what happened in Kobane and other areas, does the United Nations believe there should be a change of this strategy because those moderates could not be… could turn out not to be so moderate as expected?  Also the help they are getting in Israel… from Israel in the Golan area… and their siege to some Druze towns in that area, does the United Nations appeal to these countries to stop such helping to the terrorists?

Deputy Spokesman:  I wouldn't comment on the various implications and insinuations you're making in your question.  The basic point is that what the United Nations is hoping for is that all of the countries and all the Governments in the region will be united in the fight against groups like Da'esh and other prohibited groups that are creating such a wave of bloodshed in the region.

Question:  Another question is regarding Yemen.  Today one of the delegates of Sana'a was returning from Muscat after consultations there about peace.  The plane which was carrying them was intercepted by the Saudi fighters, and they were prevented from landing in Sana'a for… I don't know if they have landed.  As I came to the briefing, they were still, I mean, going around being… and the landing was prevented.  Did the United Nations coordinate the return to Sana'a and preventing handling in Sana'a?  Is that part of the coordination happening between the United Nations and the coalition?

Deputy Spokesman:  Certainly, if anyone is participating in talks aimed at easing the situation, we want them to be free to travel back and forth without any hindrance.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  During the launch of the report on drugs today, the Secretary‑General in his message, he said that… he talked about rebalancing drug policies in the world.  Could this be interpreted as a call to revise the Conventions of the UN on drugs?  Or as a call for Governments to contemplate one day regulating at least some drugs?

Deputy Spokesman:  I think you take the Secretary‑General's statement as it is and very soon we'll have our guests from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and they can talk to you further about this issue, just once we're past this particular phase of questions.  Yes, Richard?

Question:  Internal matter.  And I am sorry if this came up.  Are we now under what was known as a "Cool UN" programme?  My clothing would like to know.

Deputy Spokesman:  Oh, if only.  As you can see, we who are the spokespeople never get to be part of the Cool UN.  We have to wear our suits and things.  But, at some point, hopefully fairly soon, we'll get to that area.  Actually, you'll know when Cool UN comes in because the building itself will be a little bit warmer because the air‑conditioning will be turned down slightly.  And at that point, you can feel free to…

Question:  Well, I feel it's warmer already.  And I know this has come up.  Will the Secretary‑General live up to his commitment and put the visiting dignitaries, such as last year's climate change and maybe Monday, match those conditions that he's trying to make a point instead of drying up the staff and other people who have to work?

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe the decision on Cool UN is made by the Department of Management, and it comes around this time, and it should have been coming fairly soon.  But, I don't know whether it will happen as soon as Monday. [He later said that Cool UN had come into effect one week earlier.]  Yeah, Oleg and then in the back?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Anything on the hunger striker?  The Palestinian inmate in Israel who's being held in detention without charge or trial?  The Red Cross today warned about his condition.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  On that, what I can say is that the Secretary‑General is deeply concerned about reports of the grave deterioration of the health of Khadr Adnan, a Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike since 5 May to protest his administrative detention.  He urges the Israeli authorities to immediately charge or release him, as well as all other prisoners under administrative detention, including members of the Palestinian legislative Council.  The Secretary‑General's longstanding position is that all prisoners under administrative detention should be charged and face trial with judicial guarantees in accordance with international standards or be promptly released.  Yes, in the back?

Question:  Thank you.  Farhan, according to credible reports, Chinese Government has banned the [inaudible] fasting.

Deputy Spokesman:  Had banned what?

Question:  Fasting.  For Ramadan.  Okay?  And there was some clashes two days ago and more than 15 people has killed by the Chinese authorities, and what does the Secretary‑General's reaction on this?

Deputy Spokesman:  First of all, I don't know whether that particular report is true.  We'll have to check that out.  So, I'll check and see what the facts are on that.  Linda and then Matthew?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Farhan, is there any update regarding UN's role or UN efforts in dealing with the flow of migrants to Italy?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  Well, I just mentioned the fact that the UN refugee agency noted the decision by the European Council regarding the relocation of 40,000 people in need of international protection and the resettlement of 20,000 refugees and what the refugee agency said was that this was an important step along the way to finding an answer to this crisis but much more would have to be done, including addressing root causes.  And there's more on the website.

Question:  I wanted to ask two things on Burundi.  There was this case of students fleeing the police seeking refuge in embassy, in this case, the [United States] Embassy.  There's some controversy about them actually being asked to leave and leaving.  And the question becomes under sort of international law did they have… are there any duty on embassies to which people seek refuge in that way in terms of how they treat them?  And what has the UN done to find out what's happened to them since?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, since this is about the [United States] Embassy, it's really a question for the United States authorities.  So, I'd refer you to them first.

Question:  The other question I have is, there's a local leader that was running, who said he was going to run in the now probably boycotted parliamentary elections called Jean‑Paul [inaudible], and he basically this week has been hacked to death by a youth wing of an unidentified ruling party.  And I wanted it know, is this the kind of thing that the UN, Mr. [Abdoulaye] Bathily, or who… is there a human rights presence of the UN there?  Who's keeping track as the violence increases of political figures being killed in this way?

Deputy Spokesman:  We are keeping track of all of the relevant developments, including the violence, and you'll have seen the statement that we put out this morning, which is the result of the consultations we've had both our monitoring of the situation on the ground and our consultations with our parties… with our partners in the African Union and the East African Community.

Question:  When's the last time either Mr. Bathily or Mr. [Said] Djinnit before him or the Secretary‑General have spoken to the current President of Burundi?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the Secretary‑General's last conversation with him was by telephone in March, and you'll have seen the readout we have on that, which is still online.  Since then, Mr. Djinnit has been in touch with the President and his representatives and I believe Mr. Bathily is also trying to continue his contacts with the Government and with officials in the CNDD‑FDD.

Question:  Is that ruling party participating in the talks?  In the last couple of days you've said that the Government was, but the CNDD‑FDD has not.  Has that changed? 

Deputy Spokesman:  That has not changed.  And now let's bring our guests.  Have a great weekend, those of you who don't stick around, but please stick around because we have some guests.  Thanks.

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