Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
6 January 2016
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
As you heard this morning, the Secretary-General called the underground test announced by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) deeply troubling.
He said this test once again violates numerous Security Council resolutions despite the united call by the international community to cease such activities. It also is a grave contravention of the international norm against nuclear testing.
The Secretary-General said that this act is profoundly destabilizing to the regional security and seriously undermines international non-proliferation efforts. He condemned it unequivocally.
He demanded that the DPRK cease any further nuclear activities and meet its obligations for verifiable denuclearization.
The Secretary-General also said we are monitoring and assessing developments in close coordination with the concerned international organizations — including the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) — and interested parties.
As you know, the Security Council is currently meeting in closed consultations to discuss the issue and was also briefed by the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Miroslav Jenča.
On the same topic, I will be joined in a short while by phone by Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the CTBTO. And he will obviously be here to answer your questions on the test in the DPRK, and he will join us by phone from Burkina Faso.
**Central African Republic
Turning to the Central African Republic, the UN mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) reports that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, met today with 28 of the 30 presidential candidates in Bangui. He stressed the need for the electoral process to continue.
The candidates committed themselves to channelling election-related complaints through the Constitutional Court, as provided for in the Electoral Code, as well as the Code of Good Conduct.
As of yesterday, 98 per cent of the voting results of presidential elections and 96 per cent for the legislative elections were received at the Data Processing Centre in Bangui.
Regarding refugees' vote, tally sheets were received from Cameroon, Chad, the Republic of Congo and Sudan. The final provisional results are expected to be announced in the coming days.
The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, will begin a two-day visit to Nepal tomorrow. He is on his way right now.
While in Nepal, he is scheduled to meet with senior Government officials, political leaders and representatives of civil society. This will be Mr. Feltman’s third visit to Nepal since March of 2013.
He looks forward to engaging with Nepali leaders to encourage maximum flexibility to resolve the current political situation.
Mr. Feltman will be briefing the media in Kathmandu at the end of the visit. And we will also ask him to come and brief you when he gets back to New York.
From Afghanistan, the UN mission in that country (UNAMA) has condemned a spate of bombings in civilian areas of Kabul by the Taliban since the beginning of the New Year.
The Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, Mark Bowden, said that the use of highly explosive devices in civilian populated areas continues to cause extreme harm to Afghan women, children and men.
The mission stresses that international humanitarian law explicitly prohibits attacks against civilians and requires all parties to uphold their legal obligations at all times to avoid harm to civilians. More information on the mission’s website.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Martin Kobler, has also strongly condemned the attack by Da’esh on the Sidra and Ras Lanouf oil terminals.
He added that the attack serves as a strong reminder to all Libyans of the need to immediately implement the Libyan Political Agreement and form a Government of National Accord.
As you know, the Secretary-General has also stressed in the past that terrorism has no place in the new Libya and that only by working together can Libyans start building a State and institutions that can confront terrorism.
Just to flag a statement from the High Commissioner for Human Rights. His Office today urged the Thai Government to take decisive and sustained efforts to investigate the whereabouts of at least 82 people listed as disappeared.
He also called on the Government to criminalize enforced disappearance in its legislation, in line with international standards. More information on the High Commissioner’s website.
For the record, you will have seen that yesterday we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General expressed his concern over political developments in Haiti related to the ongoing electoral process.
He urged the Haitian authorities and all political actors to resolve outstanding issues and ensure that the [electoral] process is concluded as soon as possible in a transparent, inclusive and credible manner.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. On DPRK, so in light of what happened yesterday, the Secretary‑General has said that he's ready to play any role to stabilize… you know, for stabilization and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. What role now does the Secretary‑General, you know, is he planning to play?
Spokesman: I think, as always, the Secretary‑General has always expressed his readiness to spare no efforts to continue to help with the inter-Korean dialogue and his efforts to prevent new tensions on the Korean Peninsula, including, obviously, you know, bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula involves supporting the inter-Korean dialogue and the denuclearization, as well.
Question: Would this affect the… I'm sure that he was, you know, negotiating with the best timing to visit Pyongyang and, you know, does this affect…
Spokesman: I mean, as you know, with trips, we announce them from here when they're confirmed. I think you can draw your own conclusions as to the impact of what's happened today on any planning for a trip. Mr. Lee and then…
Question: Sure. Thanks a lot. I wanted to ask you, on Burundi, I thought yesterday you seemed to have said that the Government refusing to attend the Arusha talks was a press report. Now is the 6th. They have officially issued a statement. They are not there. What does the UN or its Special Adviser's response?
Spokesman: We would obviously encourage the Government to participate in the political dialogue. Obviously, a dialogue to move the country forward can only happen when all the parties are present, including the Government.
Question: And I'd asked you a couple… couple days ago about this roundup of young men in a particular neighbourhood and about the killing of the singer. Do you have… I mean, I know that the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights has an office there. What do they…
Spokesman: No, they have obviously continued to be extremely worried by the spate of killings and extrajudicial killings we've seen in Burundi recently. And I think the violence that we've seen should only serve to [encourage] all the parties to redouble their efforts to work on a political dialogue.
Question: Just one last thing. Is it… is it… on the same exact topic, is there some schedule for them to report? I mean, that's what I mean. I'm sure that they are working, but what do they do with the information they collect?
Spokesman: There's a reporting back. I'll check if there's a report scheduled.
Question: I wanted to follow up on Iran‑Saudi and see what's the update from Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura and whether he's planning to go to Tehran.
Spokesman: As we said, Mr. de Mistura will be going to Tehran later this week as part of his regional tour. He's still in Riyadh tonight. He will leave… I think he's leaving Riyadh tomorrow for other places in the region. We'll… as soon as he lands in the next stop, we'll be able to confirm it. I think he feels he concluded some very useful meetings in Riyadh over the past two days with Saudi authorities, with the High Negotiating Commissions of the Revolutionary Forces, and the Syrian opposition. As we've said, the… the aim of all these discussions is really to maintain the Vienna momentum and to ensure that the tensions that currently exist between Saudi Arabia and Iran really have no negative impact on the Syrian political process and on the preparations of the intra-Syrian dialogue.
Spokesman: My business is not to be sure. My business is to move forward. Speaking of moving forward, Matthew?
Question: Sure. I wanted to… and maybe it would be UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) that would do it, but there seems to be this trend of closing of borders between… or ID checks, let's put it that way, between Sweden and Denmark and now between Denmark and Germany. I wonder, does the Secretary‑General… given what he said about the rights of migrants and refugees, what does he think of this trend, and has he made any calls? What does he… it seems to be going in only one direction.
Spokesman: I think we have repeatedly and will continue to call for the rights of refugees to be respected, for migrants to be treated with dignity and with their respecting of their human rights. Obviously, there is a very… there is an intense dialogue, I think, going on within Europe currently, within the European Union, on how to deal with the flow of migrants and refugees. This is something the Secretary‑General is very much focused on. As we mentioned yesterday, you know, he named Karen AbuZayd as his Special Envoy for the preparation of the summit meeting we'll have in September. There will be other meetings on the way, and obviously, the flow of people is something that needs to be tackled in a holistic manner. Evelyn?
Question: Thank you, Steph. Is there any update on Yemen? The coalitions have been accused of bombing a centre for the blind facility there.
Spokesman: No. Nothing from what we've said yesterday. The violence continues to be of concern to us. You know, the millions and millions of people who are currently suffering, I believe there's something akin to 3.5 million children… and we'll check the exact figures… that are not currently in school right now in Yemen, and it doesn't take much imagination to see what happens to children and how vulnerable they become in a conflict zone when they're not able to attend school, whether it's for their own safety or how they become prey to abuse or to recruitment by extremist groups. Matthew, and then we'll go to our guest.
Question: Wanted to just to check to see if you have a statement on… in Bangladesh, a… the… the leader of the largest Islamist party had his death sentence upheld by the Supreme Court. And, given, I guess you can say, what… what… what previous executions in other regions have set off, is there any concern on the UN's part about the carrying out of this execution?
Spokesman: Obviously, we've always spoken out against the death penalty. I don't have any particular information on that.
Question: And just on the sexual abuse issue that you just read out yesterday from the podium, Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous didn't do a stakeout, but two… at least two ambassadors on the Council, including the president of the Council, both said that it was touched on in the CAR discussion but that they expect more. I wanted to know, from the Secretariat side, would the Secretary‑General welcome a consideration of that report and of the issue, the ongoing issue, by the Council and so…
Spokesman: I think… [cross talk] From the Secretary‑General's point of view, the fight against sexual abuse by… whether it's by international peacekeeping troops or by UN peacekeeping troops, involves the Security Council, involves all the countries that contribute troops. It's not a fight that the Secretariat can handle alone, especially on the issue of impunity, on the issue of following up and ensuring that those who are found guilty of abusing vulnerable people are… face justice.
Question: And on the cases that Diane Corner described to us while she was here some time ago, have there been any progress? Has there been any… like, you haven't named which countries' peacekeepers are involved in this case…
Spokesman: There are three countries involved in the latest… three troop-contributing countries involved in the latest allegations. And as we've said, the Secretary‑General's next report on abuses on peacekeeping… abuses by peacekeepers, which comes out in the next couple of weeks, now early February, will name the countries. And from then on, we will move forward in that direction. Abdelhamid, and then we'll see if our guest is on the phone.
Question: The Secretary‑General has called both Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran on Sunday and Monday. However, the crisis is escalating. I mean, more countries are now cutting off their relation with Iran. Rafsanjani has threatened that… kind of civil war will be seen in Saudi Arabia. So why the Secretary‑General's not stepping in to play a more proactive and mediation role?
Spokesman: I think the Secretary‑General is playing quite an active role. As you mentioned, he was on the phone quickly with the Foreign Ministers of both countries. His Special Envoy, who represents him, is in the region, will continue those discussions. The Secretary‑General has also had contacts… him and others have had contacts with various ambassadors, and there will be more phone calls made. We've also noted some of the statements coming out of Tehran, which, I think, move in the right direction in ensuring that those who are responsible for attacking the embassy are brought to justice, and we very much hope that both Saudi Arabia and Iran will find a way to reconnect and to resume a dialogue. As we've said here, their relationship is so crucial to stability of the immediate region and beyond.
Okay? Let me get Mr. Zerbo on the phone, and don't go away.
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