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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

10 July 2015

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

Good afternoon.  And welcome to our visitors from the Days of Russia Foundation.

**Ebola Conference

This morning, as you know, the Secretary-General addressed the International Ebola Recovery Conference together with the Presidents of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Chair of the African Union.

Stressing the need to forge a partnership for a future free of Ebola, the Secretary-General called on the international community to be part of the historic push to end the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  He urged them to support the leaders and the people of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in returning to a path of sustainable development.

The Secretary-General asked donors to continue to give generously to help impacted countries carry out their plans for recovery over the next two years.  The Secretary-General also applauded the African Union and its plan to convene an International Conference on Africa's Fight against Ebola later this month in Malabo, in Equatorial Guinea.

The pledging segment of the conference is expected to start later this afternoon.  And the UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark, and the Special Envoy for Ebola, David Nabarro, will be at stakeout outside of the Trusteeship Council at the conclusion of the conference to give you some updates and that we expect late in the afternoon.  And we also expect a couple of press releases with updates on where we are on the numbers.   

And all the speeches and relevant information are up on the Ebola response website.


Meanwhile, the humanitarian community is preparing for a humanitarian pause in Yemen, which is expected to start at one minute before midnight, local time today.  Planning for the humanitarian pause foresees the distribution of food to over 1.1 million people; the treatment of more than 126,000 malnourished children; support for 13,000 pregnant and lactating women; and the distribution of emergency shelter and essential household items to 55,000 people; the distribution of hygiene or dignity kits to more than 45,000 people; and the provision of Dengue fever surveillance and health promotion activities to over 650,000 people; and the reaching of previously inaccessible communities through 29 mobile health and nutrition units.

And as a reminder, to give you some context, there are over 21 million Yemenis, about 4/5 of the population that are in need of humanitarian aid.  The World Food Programme (WFP) meanwhile says it is ready to scale up its operations in Yemen, provided that the agreed humanitarian pause takes effect.  WFP has already prepared supplies to ship to Aden.  And at the same time, WFP requires an additional $103 million for emergency food distributions until August of 2015.

Sufficient funds need to be secured now to ensure the timely arrival of relief commodities in Yemen in the coming months.

**Saudi Arabia

And just to let you know that the Secretary-General will be writing to King Salman of Saudi Arabia to say that it was with deep sadness that he learned of the passing of His Royal Highness Prince Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, who, as you know, the long-time Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the world's longest serving Foreign Minister when he stepped down.   

The Secretary-General will say that Prince Saud was a friend of the United Nations, and the Secretary-General will remember with fond appreciation his meetings and interactions with the Prince.


Meanwhile from Libya, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Libya, Bernardino León, has strongly condemned the escalating fighting in Benghazi and the heavy toll it is having on civilian lives.  He called for an immediate ceasefire and deplored the shelling of residential areas in Benghazi.

The Mission said that hospitals in the city report that there have been at least 10 civilian fatalities, including children, this week alone.

The Special Representative reiterated that a political agreement through dialogue is the best hope for achieving peace across Libya.

Next Wednesday, Mr. León is expected to brief the Security Council.  And we will be able to confirm early next week whether he is here in person or by video conference.  And if he is here, we will put him forward to the stakeout.   


Meanwhile from Geneva, the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has welcomed the indictment issued earlier this week against the former President of the Republic of Guinea, Moussa Dadis Camara, in the context of an ongoing investigation into the 2009 killings at a stadium in the capital Conakry.

As you'll remember, on 28 September 2009, tens of thousands of opposition protestors were attacked with live ammunition and tear gas by Guinean security forces.  At least 156 people were killed, some 109 women were raped, and more than 1,000 were injured.

The human rights office says that this is an important step in the fight against impunity, and follows the indictment of at least 15 other individuals, including high ranking military officers, over the past few years.

There's more on the human rights website.


And also from the Human Rights Office:  they had welcomed the release and dropping of charges against of two bloggers and three journalists in Ethiopia, who were being tried on terrorism charges and had been in detention for more than a year.  It further welcomed the release of Reeyot Alemu, an award-winning journalist who had been arrested in 2011.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urges the Ethiopian authorities to take similar steps to release other journalists and bloggers from the blogging collective Zone 9 who remain in detention and other activists who have been detained for exercising their rights to free expression and opinion in carrying out their legitimate work.   

More information on the High Commissioner's website.


And the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) tells us that the situation in Ukraine is deteriorating with 5 million people — nearly one in nine Ukrainians — in need of aid.  Nearly 1.4 million people have been internally displaced, primarily in the east.   

Civilians living close to the so-called contact line which separates Government- and the non-Government-controlled areas are among the most vulnerable.  Aid agencies have already provided assistance — such as food, emergency shelter, cash grants, and psychosocial support for children — to more than 450,000 people this year.

To sustain and further scale up the humanitarian response, aid agencies need to access the displaced communities, for example through crossing points into non-government areas.

Funding continues to be a major concern, with only 35 per cent of the $316 million requested having been received, including pledges.


And from Cyprus, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, said that the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities held their sixth meeting today.  Mr. Eide said since their last meeting, they have had the most intense period of negotiations to date.  At today's meeting, he said that the leaders focused on issues including governance and power-sharing; property; and economic matters.  Mr. Eide said that the leaders recognize the importance of having the principles and values upon which the European [Union] is founded upheld and embedded in the comprehensive settlement, while respecting its bizonal and bicommunal character.   

He added that the leaders reaffirmed their unwavering commitment to a settlement and look forward to their next meeting scheduled for Monday, July 27th.


And another statement I wanted to flag from the Human Rights Office in Geneva — they said today that they are gravely concerned by the deportation by Thai authorities to China yesterday of 109 people understood to be ethnic Uighurs, including some 20 women.

These people were part of a larger group of more than 350 who had been detained in very poor conditions at various immigration detention facilities across Thailand since March of last year, when they were apprehended after leaving China on their way to Turkey.

Despite Turkey's reported willingness to admit them, only 172 of the 350 were eventually allowed to go to Turkey in late June.  Sixty remain in detention in Thailand.

The Office strongly urges the Thai authorities to ensure the protection of the 60 people who are still detained.


And I wanted to flag a new report by the FAO, the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (WFP), which says that eradicating world hunger sustainably by 2030 will require greater investments in rural and urban areas as well as in social protection.

The report, called "Achieving Zero Hunger: Combining social protection with pro-poor investments", which was launched in Rome today, adds that an additional $267 billion a year on average is needed to help poor people to have better access to food and improved livelihoods.

More information online.


Just to reiterate that there will be a press briefing here at 5 p.m. by Ernesto Samper Pizano, the Secretary-General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and former President of Colombia, following his meeting with the Secretary-General.

The SG meanwhile is having a number of bi-laterals today, including with the Foreign Minister of Venezuela and the President of Guinea and the President of Sierra Leone — we will try to issue readouts of these meetings as we can.


And we have been asked I think by you Mathew a number of times whether the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) had ever investigated Hassan Bubacar Jallow of the ICTR [International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda], who is now a member of the CAR panel.  Any allegations that OIOS may have dealt with led to the conclusion that no misconduct had occurred and no investigation was warranted.

On that note I'll be delighted to take questions if you have any.

**Questions and Answers

Yes, sir.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  With regard to the humanitarian pause in Yemen, what kind of guarantees or assurances did the Special Envoy, Ould Cheikh Ahmed, have received from the Houthis that they're going to respect the pause and not like what happened last time when he raided convoys of humanitarian aid, et cetera.

Spokesman:  The Special Envoy has received assurances from the Houthis, from the General People's Congress when he was in Sana'a that they would abide by the humanitarian pause.  He's also received assurances from President Hadi and we understand that President Hadi has also conveyed his acceptance to the coalition.  We very much look forward to a pause starting at one minute before midnight local time in Yemen.  Nizar, and then we'll go to the back row and then Matthew.

Question:  As I understand, according to the letter sent by Hadi, he put… set out conditions for the truce, for the pause.  How is it observed, these conditions?  Are they applicable given that Al-Qaida is active in many parts of Yemen?

Spokesman:  I think the critical word in what we announced yesterday is unconditional.  President Hadi, the Houthis, the General People's Congress and other parties have given us assurances that they will observe this pause without any condition.  There are obviously discussions that need to be had in the longer term, and the Envoy will engage with all the Yemeni stakeholders for them to take the confidence‑building measures they need to take that will lead to a durable ceasefire.  That involves developing mechanisms to withdraw forces, release of political prisoners and, of course, the resumption of a political dialogue.  But I think we have the assurances that we need to have announced this yesterday, that all the parties that we've been talking to will observe this humanitarian pause.  Now, clearly, the proof will be in the pudding, so to speak, and I think, as I've said today and as we've talked about every day, when four fifths of a country is in need of humanitarian aid, it's pretty clear that all the parties involved have a responsibility to allow us and our local partners to deliver the aid that's needed.

Question:  [inaudible].

Spokesman:  Your microphone, please, sir.

Question:  Sorry.  Did you find out about the stranded people trying to…

Spokesman:  No, I'm trying to get a little bit more detail on that.

Question:  …on the border of Saudi Arabia?

Spokesman:  I will get something for you.  Yes, please.

Question:  India and Pakistan met in Russia on the sidelines of the Shanghai summit, and while they discussed terrorism and to take the dialogue process forward, Kashmir was not mentioned in the joint statement that was issued after the talks.  What does the SG have to say about the whole…


Spokesman:  It's not for us to dictate what the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan discussed.  We're obviously very pleased that the dialogue took place and the positive development in Indian‑Pakistan relations is important to both countries and to the subregion as well.  Mr. Lee and then Olga.

Question:  Sure.  Some questions on Burundi.  But on Yemen, I wanted to ask this follow‑up, which — the way you described the parties that you say have committed or would be the Houthis, the general party, President Hadi, and the coalition, but it seems like a lot of the groups that are actually fighting the Houthis in the south, they're not necessarily pro‑Hadi and they're not necessarily under his control.  What outreach has been made to these…

Spokesman:  You know, the Special Envoy has spoken to the main parties and others — I think we've listed over his past visit the kinds of people he's spoken to.  You know, he can speak to as many people as he can.  It's a matter of getting to a point where we feel comfortable enough and confident enough to announce it.  Has he spoken to every person that holds a weapon in Yemen?  Clearly not.  But he has spoken to the main parties involved, and we very, very much hope that all the parties involved and even those we may not have spoken to, if there's some that we've not spoken to, will also abide by the cessation.

Question:  But if such groups that are fighting the Houthis but are not necessarily either in support of or in contact with President Hadi.  And some of them have said they don't agree to this.  If they fire at the Houthis and the Houthis fire back, is it your position that the ceasefire's been broken if a party that never agreed to it…

Spokesman:  Well, I think what we're looking for — it's not a ceasefire.  We're looking for the humanitarian pause, for the violence to stop.  And I think every party involved in Yemen has a responsibility to support their people — the Yemeni people — by abiding by this pause.  Olga.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I have actually two questions.  First, also about Yemen, the follow‑up about humanitarian pause.  How… I mean what evidence will you have that the humanitarian pause really started?  Is Ismail's Special Envoy in Sana'a?  Will he witness this…

Spokesman:  You know, there is UN staff obviously in Yemen, in Sana'a, and other places.  They will be able to report back to us.  We do not have military observers on the ground.  We don't have staff in every corner.  But obviously, working with our humanitarian partners, we will assess the situation and ensure that it is safe for us to be able to distribute this pause — the aid.  The idea of a humanitarian pause is to create a climate in which humanitarian workers, whether it's UN or local partners — and the bulk of the work as it is in Syria and other places is done by very brave local humanitarian partners — that they feel it's safe enough to reach the population in need.  Civilians need to feel that it's safe enough to leave their homes, start… you know, go to a market, get essential goods.  None of this can happen if the fighting continues.

Question:  So Special Envoy is in Yemen…

Spokesman:  No, he's on his way… if I'm not mistaken, he was in Djibouti yesterday.  He was on his way to Addis.  But I will…

Question:  You're not expecting special statement from him that…

Spokesman:  Well, obviously, we will update… You can look forward to updates over the weekend.  But we look forward to the humanitarian pause beginning one minute before midnight local time.

Question:  What is he doing in Addis?  What's he…

Spokesman:  I believe he will see the Secretary‑General, who's there.  Yeah.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  I know.  You had a second question.  I'm looking forward to it.

Question:  It's not about Yemen now.  It's about BRICS, Jeffrey Feltman visited BRICS summit in Russia.  What's the result of the summit?

Spokesman:  I don't have a readout from him.  He was there to represent the United Nations, to represent the Secretary‑General.  If there's anything — I will get in touch with them and see if there's anything to report back.  Mr. Lee.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you in Burundi, they're now, you know, in the last hours, there's reports of heavy gunfire on border with Rwanda.  There's been grenade attacks in the capital, and some are saying that people seeking to flee are not being allowed to by the ruling party's militia.  So what's the status of the UN both observing these things?  Does the UN acknowledge that things have actually gotten heated up since even yesterday's Security Council meeting?

Spokesman:  No, clearly.  I think we very much strongly condemn any type of violent action, any action that is meant to destabilize the already tense and fragile situation in Burundi.  We've taken note, as you mentioned, very recently there have been clashes, reported clashes between Burundi's national defence forces and unidentified armed groups in the country's north on the Rwandan border, and we're following the situation closely.  And we're trying to verify the authenticity of these reports.

Question:  Given that… I mean it seems like there's no real public accounting or reporting about the Museveni facilitation and there obviously… there's some issues in Uganda at present, so maybe these occupied by those.  But what's the UN doing in terms of…

Spokesman:  I think we're there to support this facilitation, which is organized by the East African Community under the blessing of the African Union.  So you should also address your questions to them.  Nizar.

Question:  Today's the International Day for Jerusalem.  Is there a statement or anything the United Nations…

Spokesman:  No, not that I'm aware of.  Okay.  Just in time.

Question:  Thank you very much.  Stéphane, in today's… in the interview that was given to the newspaper in Sarajevo daily Dnevni Avaz and I thank you for that and was published today, Secretary‑General said that the visiting to Potocari in Srebrenica by the Serb President of smaller Bosnian entity, Mr. Dodik, was move in right direction.  Ever since that actually Mr. Dodik made many inflammatory statements including denying the genocide and Ambassador Power called him one of the biggest deniers of genocide in Srebrenica.  What does the Secretary‑General think on that?  And also, does he think that those kind of moves are really hindering the process of…

Spokesman:  I haven't seen the remarks you're referring to, but clearly, as a matter of principle, we would discourage anyone from — well, we would rather encourage people from making remarks that are positive and help with the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina in dealing with its past and its future.  As far as the Secretary‑General is concerned and the issue of genocide, I would refer you back to what the Deputy Secretary‑General said in the Security Council… yesterday?  Two…

Question:  No.

Spokesman:  Two days ago.  And clearly acknowledged the genocide that took place in Srebrenica.  Mr. Lee.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you about what you announced yesterday, which is this repatriation of peacekeepers from MINUSCA in CAR.  First of all, are you saying… are you going to say what country they're from?

Spokesman:  That's all I have.  I'm not… Not from this podium at this point.

Question:  And I guess if the idea is they've been repatriated for use of excessive force resulting the in death of two people, I know that in Mali where peacekeepers shooting at a crowd resulted in three deaths, the UN has committed to pay compensation.  I wanted to know if that's under consideration in this case where it seems like there's at least enough evidence to send the guys home.

Spokesman:  Sure.  I think those details are being looked at by the Mission.

Question:  Okay.  And did you… the Haiti letter I've asked but yesterday, I've now seen it.  It's called an open letter…

Spokesman:  Yes, we very much received the letter.  I saw it this morning.  We've read it through.  It will be answered, it will be answered accordingly.

Thank you, all.  Have a great weekend.  And please don't forget 5:00 p.m. here former President of Colombia and then Helen Clark and Dr. Nabarro afterwards, probably at the stakeout. 

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