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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

20 June 2016

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

**Refugees

Today is very sombre World Refugee Day.  The UN refugee agency today reports that wars and persecution have driven more people from their homes than at any time since the aftermath of the Second World War.  A study found that a total of 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, compared to 59.5 million 12 months earlier.  The total is greater than the population of the United Kingdom, or to put it another way: one out of every 113 persons on Earth is displaced. 

In a message marking the day, the Secretary-General said that "with anti-refugee rhetoric so loud, it is sometimes difficult to hear the voices of welcome.  But, these do exist," he continues.  He commended the countries that have shown "an extraordinary outpouring of compassion and solidarity".  He said there is "an urgent need to build on and amplify these positive examples."

Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that 2016 "must be a year to take collective responsibility and action to end the conflicts which force people to flee and also to help the millions of people whose lives have been destroyed by this violence."  The report is on the UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] website, and the Secretary-General's message is on ours.

**Greece

You will have seen that the Secretary-General was in Greece over the weekend, where he met with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and other officials, and visited the island of Lesvos.  With the Prime Minister, he stressed that Greece deserves greater support and should not be left to address the challenge of the refugee crisis on its own.  And following his visit to Lesvos, he called on the countries of Europe to respond with a humane and human rights-based approach. Detention is not the answer and should end immediately, the Secretary-General said.

**Health Crises

The Secretary-General briefed the General Assembly this morning on the work of the High-level Panel that he commissioned last year to make recommendations on how to strengthen national and international systems to prevent and manage future health crises.  He said that the Panel has provided concrete and sensible recommendations that chart a clear path forward for how communities, nations and the international system can better prepare for and respond to health crises in the future.

In response, the Secretary-General said that he has established a Global Health Crises Task Force, led by the Deputy Secretary-General, to monitor, coordinate and support the follow-up and implementation of the Panel's recommendations.  He noted that the High-Level Panel had recommended that the World Health Organization's (WHO) capacity to respond to health emergencies must be consolidated and strengthened.  In the past year, he added, WHO has been working to change how it works in health crises.  His full remarks are online.

**Syria

Yesterday, an inter-agency humanitarian convoy delivered food, nutrition and health assistance for 25,000 people to two besieged locations and three hard-to-reach communities in Kafr Batna Sub-district in Syria.  The last convoys to Kafr Batna were in mid-April.  Since the beginning of 2016, nearly 850,000 people in hard-to-reach areas, including more than 330,000 people in besieged locations have received multi-sectorial assistance through UN inter-agency operations.

Since the beginning of January, a total of 86 inter-agency convoys to besieged and hard-to-reach locations have been undertaken, against a total of 50 in 2014 and 34 in 2015.  While this is welcome, much more progress is required.  The UN continues to call for unconditional, unimpeded and sustained access to the millions of people in besieged and hard-to-reach locations across Syria.

**Afghanistan

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has condemned today's attacks in Kabul and Badakhshan.  The attacks took place in civilian-populated areas, killing and maiming several people.  The mission has reiterated its call for anti-Government elements, including the Taliban, to immediately cease all attacks in civilian-populated areas and any attacks deliberately targeting civilians, including attacks against diplomatic facilities and personnel.  The full statement is available online.

**Myanmar

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, has urged the new Government in Myanmar to take concrete steps to put an end to the systemic discrimination and ongoing human rights violations against minorities.  A new report released by his office today on the situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar documents a wide range of human rights violations and abuses, including arbitrary deprivation of nationality, severe restrictions on freedom of movement, threats to life and security, and denial of rights to health and education.

The High Commissioner added that although the new Government has inherited a situation where laws and policies have been designed to deny fundamental rights to minorities, top priority must be given to halt ongoing violations and prevent further ones taking place against Myanmar's ethnic and religious minorities.  He added that he is encouraged by the ongoing constructive dialogue with the Government and looks forward to helping the authorities implement some of the recommendations in the report.

**Mali

In a letter signed this morning at the Norwegian Permanent Mission, Norway, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden and Belgium marked their intent to establish a Transport Aviation Unit sustainment capacity for the United Nations [Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization] Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) until the end of 2018.  All five countries committed to providing a C-130 aircraft on a six-month rotational basis for strategic and tactical airlift.  Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous and Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Atul Khare welcomed the materialization of this pledge, which was made at last year's peacekeeping summit, and noted that this capability has a crucial role to play in Mali.

**Press Conferences

For press conferences tomorrow, Stéphane [Dujarric] will be joined at the Noon Briefing by Lise Kingo, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact. She will brief on the Global Compact Leaders' Summit to be held in New York on 22 and 23 June.  And that is it for me.  Yes, Masood.  Yes.  Yeah, I called on you.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Okay.  Oh, sorry.  Yeah, Farhan, this is about the Rohingya Muslim, the tragedy going on over there at the… the report of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner stops short of calling it a genocide.  Why hasn't United Nations… I mean… person who is in charge of this gone to… I mean… Myanmar recently?  It used to be… maybe he still is, Mr.…?

Deputy Spokesman:  Mr. Nambiar.  Yeah, Vijay Nambiar is still dealing that file, and he has visited repeatedly, including fairly recently, so he is dealing with that issue and, of course, has also brought forward some of the concerns that have been expressed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Yes. Tarik?

Question:  But, this… yeah.  I was just saying this report is very damning of the situation that exists over there.  I mean, they are being persecuted every day, and it is… so is he going to make a visit soon?

Deputy Spokesman:  This particular report is from the High Commissioner's office, and the High Commissioner himself has been part of an ongoing dialogue, which, as I mentioned right now, is a constructive one, with the new authorities that have come in.  So, is he hoping we can make some progress and wants that dialogue to continue.   Yes, Fathi?

Question:  Thank you.  Farhan, there was a report that Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told UN officials that his country is going to move forward with the ratification of the NPT.  Any confirmation for this report or any statement from the SG [Secretary-General] on this matter?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as you're aware, this is something that the Comprehensive Test‑Ban Treaty Organization has been dealing with.  I believe you're referring to remarks that were made by the head of the Comprehensive Test‑Ban Treaty Organization, Lassina Zerbo.  So, I don't have anything to add to that.  Of course, if there are further ratifications of the Comprehensive Test‑Ban Treaty, that would be very welcome news.  The Secretary‑General has implored all of the countries who have yet to ratify the treaty to do so, so that it can finally enter into effect.  Yes, Lou?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  Bahrain has stripped a top Shiite cleric of his citizenship.  This has caused… sparked protests.  Is the Secretary‑General concerned about it?  Does he have a view?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, you'll have seen that last week, just a few days ago, we put out a statement expressing the Secretary‑General's concerns.  I want to read out a part of that again, because it's relevant to what the latest news reports are for today, that… we said on 16 June, which is four days ago:  "The Secretary‑General is also dismayed about reports that suggest that human rights defenders and activists in Bahrain have been intimidated and even stripped of their citizenship for peacefully carrying out activities to promote human rights, as well as for legitimately exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association."  And so, we had made clear our concerns about that, as well as the idea that these actions could undermine the reforms that have been undertaken in Bahrain.  And so we continue to hold by what we have said.

Question:  Just a quick follow‑up on that.  I mean, are… are you saying that this is being extended to include top religious leaders, top religious personalities?  Shiites are a majority in Bahrain.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we… I would just refer you to the full statement that we issued at the time.  We had concerns including about human rights defenders, about activists and about members of the opposition.  And that applies across the board.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Yeah, this, of course, Sheik Isa is not only Bahrain; he is regional.  He is Ayatollah, and he has a very special status.  And, of course, this may have ramifications on a regional basis.  Are we expecting other statements, especially specific about him?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, like I said, you saw that we had a very specific, very lengthy statement a few days ago.  If we have anything further, you'll see it then.

Question:  I have another question regarding, on the West Bank, Rabbi Shlomo Mlmad… he is the Chairman of the Council of Rabbis in the West Bank… called for poisoning the water of the Palestinian towns so that they leave the area altogether and be… and establish more settlements.  This was not renounced by the Israeli government.  What is the position of the United Nations on such calls?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we have always, with all sides, in this particular situation, we have implored all sides to avoid any rhetoric targeting any of the other groups.  We want to make sure that the Israeli… that the Israelis and Palestinians deal with each other in an atmosphere of peace and cooperation and that all the sort of rhetoric and violence that have marked recent weeks and months are put to a halt.

Correspondent:  This is a straightforward call…

Deputy Spokesman:  Please, there are other questions.

Correspondent:  This is straightforward call for genocide, in fact, and real.

Deputy Spokesman:  Please.  There are other questions.  Yes, Olga?

Correspondent:  Anna.

Deputy Spokesman:  Sorry, Anna.  Sorry.  Wrong row.

Question:  It's okay.  Thank you, Farhan.  I have two questions.  My first question is about the situation on Julian Assange.  What is UN's official reaction to this?  Because, according to UN official report, he was considered as arbitrarily detained, right, so it's arbitrary detention.  So, basically, he would be able to… to go free from the Ecuador embassy that he is still in for four years in London.  But UK completely dismissed UN report, and actually, the Foreign Secretary went as far – Philip Hammond – as to say that it is ridiculous.  So, what is UN's official reaction to this whole situation?  Are you going to take some steps to enforce this report?  And don't you think that this sets a very dangerous precedent?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the Special Rapporteurs who are involved with this issue have come out with their own recommendations.  As you know, they report to the Human Rights Council, and it would be up for the Human Rights Council to consider any follow‑up.

Question:  And my second question:  What is the UN's official criteria on recognizing an atrocity, mass killing, a genocide?  The issue was raised with Yazidi genocide and, for example, Armenian genocide, first genocide of the twentieth century.  It was recognized by another progressive nation like Germany and France and many other countries, but somehow UN remains silent and a little bit passive on this issue.  So, what's going on with this direction?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as Stéphane has repeatedly explained before, for the purposes of international law, genocide would need to be determined by a competent judicial body, a competent judicial body in the international sphere, and so that is what we would have to wait for.

 

Question:  Could you please specify… because it's so mysterious, this legal body that has to define it.  I mean, if progressive nations accept this genocide, why UN stands aside?  Wouldn't UN be the first to acknowledge it?

Deputy Spokesman:  The way the UN handles it is by going by the standards of international law, which would involve ultimately a judicial ruling, not simply a determination made by a commission.  Yes, Oleg and then Matthew.

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  The Ukrainian Foreign Minister, I believe it was on Friday, he joined other Ukrainian officials criticizing what Ban Ki‑moon said at the forum in Saint Petersburg.  And he also said that he's going to raise this issue when he will meet Ban Ki‑moon.  Do you know when this meeting is going to take place?  Was there any consultations, prior consultations, to that?  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I don't have any meeting to announce at this point.  What I can tell you is that the Secretary‑General has consistently underscored the role and responsibility of all UN Member States, including Russia, which is a permanent member of the Security Council, in addressing global challenges.  And his statements made in Saint Petersburg reflected that consistent position.   Yes, Matthew and then Abdelhamid and then Tarik.  Sorry.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you, you'd mentioned that peacekeeping summit last September, and issues had risen in this room on Friday, the Spain's ambassador said, even though they made a pledge to supply helicopters and troops and various things to UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon], he said it was clear to the UN that this was entirely conditional and contingent on getting the force commander spot.  And he said everyone knew this.  So, I wanted to know, as… from the UN perspective, was this the understanding of the UN as to Spain's pledge to UNIFIL?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't have anything to add to what the ambassador said at that point.  What we try to do as the UN is to get offers from troop-contributing countries.  We are aware from time to time different countries have other things they would like to see, but what we try to do is make sure that we have offers that will be solid offers and that they're not conditioned upon other things.  As you know, appointments are made on their own merits and are not subject to other criteria.

Question:  So, I mean, I guess… just because he said it so openly, I wanted to know, can you say that, in the last… I don't know… 12 months that the UN has not given out force commander posts as a condition or in connection with the pledging of troops?

Deputy Spokesman:  What I can say is what I just said.  When we make a decision on any appointments, whether they're force commanders, whether they're heads of mission or whether they're internal posts at the UN, they're made on merits.  They're not made in exchange for anything else, but in order to find out who is the best qualified.

Question:  What about USGs [Under-Secretaries-General]?

Deputy Spokesman:  And that is true of Under‑Secretaries‑General.  We are aware, when we fill positions, that there's a need to make sure that there's a broad geographic representation, that there's a fair distribution, including a fair distribution by gender, as well as by region.  And so, we take that into consideration.  But, the ultimate objective is to have the best qualified candidate for the post.

Question:  One last one on USGs, I wanted… since it's right on the cusp of this.  I wanted to ask you some in OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] are saying there's a functional review memo.  Many heads of office have written opposing it, and some are saying the current USG is trying to position himself to remain under the next SG.   Is it Ban Ki‑moon's understanding or expectation that his current crop of USGs would be stepping down prior to a successor coming in?

Deputy Spokesman:  Ultimately, I mean, different people have different terms.  Once a term ends, it is the responsibility of whoever is in charge at that point to make the next appointment.  Some people's terms will end at the end of this year or early next year, and then it's, presumably, the case of the next Secretary‑General at that point to decide upon who fills those posts.

Question:  But, are these binding?  I mean, if they go into, like, one year into the next SG, you expect them to remain on, the next SG to accept this team?

Deputy Spokesman:  That is a call to be made by the Secretary‑General.  I don't speak for whoever the next Secretary‑General is, at this point, at least.  Yeah.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Two questions.  First, on the convoys, have all of the… I believe it's 17 besieged areas now been reached, or are there still some that have not?

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe the… right now it is 16 so far that have been reached, and we still need a couple more to go.

Question:  Could you… could you actually get us the list of what hasn't been reached?

Deputy Spokesman:  The list of… I mean, I know from examples the names of the areas that were reached this time around – that they were Ein Terma and Hamouria among the besieged locations and Hazeh, Beit Sawa and Eftreis among the hard‑to‑reach communities.  So, those are the ones that have been reached most recently, in what I was just reading out now.  There are, I believe, two locations that have yet to be reached, and I'll try to get those names.  [He later added that the two areas yet to be reached are Arbeen and Zamalka.]

Question:  And I would assume that if those aren't reached then the possibility of airdrops would still be a possibility?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  Airdrops or, alternately, airlifts involving helicopters, depending upon urban settings.

Question:  One… one last question.  Is there any date yet for the meeting between the Secretary‑General and the Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, there is, and that date is Wednesday.  Yes, Abdelhamid?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  I have two questions.  First, on the exhibit tonight about refugees.  First, why you didn't announce it in your Noon Briefing there is an art exhibit… or photo exhibit on refugees?  And second, related to that question, why Palestinian refugees are not included in the photo exhibit when they still con… are the largest number of refugees in the world, 5.6 million official number issued by UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East].  That's one question.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah.  I'm sorry if I neglected to mention the events tonight.  Sorry.  There was a lengthy enough note that we didn't mention this, but thank you for bringing that up.  Yes, there is an exhibit, and the Secretary‑General will speak at that exhibition.  I believe it will include a virtual reality component where you can actually see some of the experiences that are gone through.  And so, it's a worthwhile thing to watch, and we'll have the Secretary‑General's remarks on that later.  Regarding the Palestinians, they are, you're quite right, a very large refugee contingent.  As you know, we have a separate responsibility for the Palestinian refugees through the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees [in the Near East], UNRWA.  And so that is why, within the UN system, they are sometimes treated differently.  But, as you know, we take immense care about how they are to be treated and treated fairly in the countries where they have sought refuge.  And as you know, we also have had in the past different exhibitions about the work of UNRWA.

Question:  Thank you.  My second question, the Israeli Knesset has recently passed a law which is called anti-terrorism law, and I hope that the Secretary‑General and his Special Envoy, Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov, look into that new law, which makes it almost like double the time of sentencing children, including now death sentence.  It makes it almost… if you read it closely, it makes al… almost every Palestinian is a prospect terrorist.  Have you seen that?

Deputy Spokesman:  We're aware of the legislation, and we are studying that.  As you know, we have concerns about different laws in different countries, in different parts of the world that could have impacts on different basic rights.  But, that would need to be studied further.

Question:  I… can I just make…?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah.  There's other questions.  I'll come back to you.  Emoke?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  The French Foreign Minister said today that he hopes the Quartet report will be released before the end of June or by the beginning of July.  Do you have any indication that this will be the case, and do you have a date by any chance?

Deputy Spokesman:  I do not have a date.  I am aware that it is being finalised, although the words "being finalized" can mean a lot of things when it comes to actually setting a time, so I wouldn't venture to predict when it's going to be ready.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  Since this is Refugee Day, I cannot but ask about eight refugees that were shot dead by Turkish guards this very Sunday when they were trying to cross from Northern Syria, cross the border.  And according only to official information, over 60 people have been shot dead, many of whom were children and women.  For example, from this eight, three were little children, four women, one man.  Is UN going to react somehow to this?  You know, is there an official comment?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we would need further information about the particulars of this.  I'm aware that the Turkish authorities had said that this was in line with security procedures, but at the same time, we would need information about what precisely happened there.

Question:  But, these are, like, little kids, right?

Deputy Spokesman:  We have, of course, our concerns to make sure all refugees are treated with respect and their rights are respected.  And of course, in line with that, we need to make sure that they have security as they cross borders.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Thank you.  Farhan, it's a follow‑up question on Palestinians that they… in the… report says that minor… Palestinian minors are being detained in large numbers.  Do you have a record as to what… how many minors are in Israeli jail, detained or otherwise?

Deputy Spokesman:  We've had those figures provided in the periodic reports that have been given to the Security Council, so the numbers of people in detention are… have been made available, and that's what I'd just refer you to the periodic reports to the Council that we've had.  Yes?

Question:  I'd like to ask you something about Haiti and then about the South Korean mission.  On Haiti, the current… Mr. [Jocelyme] Privert is no longer legally the President, so the question has arisen to some countries that have missions there but mostly… to the UN, I wanted to know, who's the leader of Haiti?  And who do you recognize and who do you deal with?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding that, we, of course, deal, as you're aware, with the Permanent Mission of Haiti, and we'll continue our dealings with them.  As it is, we continue to closely monitor the situation, and we expect the Haitian authorities to quickly complete their decision‑making process to determine a viable arrangement for provisional governance that can ensure the completion of the interrupted elections and a return to full constitutional order without further delays.

Correspondent:  Okay.  And I wanted to ask… I'd asked Stéphane on… on Friday about a note that was put out by the South Korean mission, and he'd ended the exchange by saying:  "Ask them."  So, I did.  And one of the things I asked them is… is how this note was prepared or… or how it was that what Stéphane read here was almost identical to the note from the mission.  And they've responded.  Their Deputy Spokesman had said that the note was provided to the SG's office and the UN's Deputy Spokesman's office at their request.  I guess I'm just wondering, since the attempt was made to sort of say, this is totally separate; we don't coordinate speeches, remarks…

Deputy Spokesman:  And we don't.

Question:  So what was the purp-… in what context did your office request this note from the South Korean mission and…?

Deputy Spokesman:  We… it's because you asked at these briefings, so you asked Stéphane.  And as a result of you asking Stéphane, he asked the mission what they were saying.  We wanted to know because…

Correspondent:  The reason I ask, what he read out, before I'd asked, before I had any chance to ask the question was identical to the note so it seems like…

Deputy Spokesman:  No, I would doubt that, because, ultimately, what Stéphane wanted to do is know what they were telling you.  You know, obviously, once they gave us what they told you, we took note of that, and so we have that now.  But, it was in response to the fact that you were asking about it.

Correspondent:  So, it was after Friday's Noon Briefing.

Deputy Spokesman:  It was after whenever you asked.  I mean, you've asked a couple times about this.

Correspondent:  No, I asked about the note on Friday.  Okay.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah, Olga?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Russian Ministry of Defence yesterday announced that a Russian serviceman was killed in Syria, in Homs, while the bombing attack in the location of the distribution of humanitarian assistance.  Do you have any information about what happened?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, they didn't provide that information over to us.  I'm aware from the media accounts of the report of this serviceman who died, but aside from that, that's something they shared with the media.  It's not something they informed us directly.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan, again.  Three journalists were sentenced to death in Egypt during the weekend.  And of course, the former elected President was also sentenced to life.  Any comments, any statement from the Secretary‑General?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I think we made clear our concerns about these particular situations in previous statements, and those concerns still apply, including, as you're aware, our concerns about the application of the death penalty and about the process by which this verdict was reached.  Yes.  Oh, wait.  Sorry.  Go, you hadn't asked.

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Regarding this visit of Prince of Saudi [Arabia], can we expect any joint photo op or even joint stakeout or anything?

Deputy Spokesman:  I think that's too early to say just yet.  Sometimes between now and Wednesday, we'll figure out what the arrangements are and we'll let you know.

Question:  So, you still don't have any time?

Deputy Spokesman:  What?

Question:  Timeline?

Deputy Spokesman:  At this stage, what I know is sometime around noon, the two of them should… shall meet.  We haven't made any media arrangements for it just yet.  But, probably, by tomorrow, we'll have something.  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you, I… I… there was this Op‑Ed by Allan Rock, former UN official, in the Ottawa Citizen.  And I've now seen what your office or Stéphane wrote as a… as a response to it.  And it said as to… as to sexual abuse by peacekeepers that Ban Ki‑moon has… has made it clear that… the actions by these individuals are unacceptable and that managers, plural, will be held to account.  So, in reading it, other than Babacar Gaye, what managers have been held to account for the various sexual abuse and exploitation allegations in CAR [Central African Republic]?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, that process is ongoing.  I don't have any specific details to share on that, but, yes, he's been following up with different managers.  And, beyond that, I just have… I just echo what Stéphane said in that letter.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you again.  Regarding your answer about the Israeli new law of terrorism and there is no statement either from the SG or from his envoy, I just want to compare and contrast.  When Palestine Central Council issued a statement calling on the President to cut off the security relations with Israel, the Secretary‑General immediately, same day, issued a statement, not even waiting for [Mahmoud] Abbas to veto that resolution.  Why, in this case, which is far more reaching, far more devastating law, he is not… he's not saying anything?

Deputy Spokesman:  These are different circumstances.  You can try to make your comparisons and your contrasts, and you're free to do so.  But, in each case, ultimately, we have to look at what the diplomatic and political considerations are on the ground.  And you're aware throughout with many other cases, including those not in the region, that we also have to closely follow how we respond to actions taken by domestic legislative bodies.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  Speaking of journalists unlawfully detained, do you have any new information on the destiny of Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi, who was detained and he was, I think, subjected to public flogging, which is absolutely atrocious.  And they say his sister was also detained, and there was no way to get him out of the situation.  Does UN have any information what you're going to do, like, exactly about this?  

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we have spoken out on that matter, and I would refer you to our past comments on that.  We haven't said anything more recently.  As far as I'm aware, there hasn't been any change in the situation in recent weeks, but we made our concerns known at the time.

Question:  But, the doctors were saying that his life is actually in danger.  Isn't the UN going to do something to save him?

Deputy Spokesman:  And we've made our concerns about his life and his safety known at the time, and I would just refer you to what we've said before.

Correspondent:  Will this be brought up with the Crown Prince?

Deputy Spokesman:  We'll try provide a readout of that meeting once it happens.  Yes?

Question:  Yes, also, on the same subject, will… what's going to… the Secretary‑General going to discuss with Prince Mohammed bin Salman?  And will he raise the issue of continued bombardment of Yemen by airstrikes from the Saudi air force?

Deputy Spokesman:  Again, not to get ahead of the meeting before it's taken place, but we'll try to provide a readout of it once it's happened.  Yes?

Question:  Last week the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] said that they'd sent a letter to Ban Ki‑moon, which is interpreted by people as an invitation to visit, and I think as of that time you said you hadn't seen it.  Has it now… has this letter been received?  And what do you say to various commentators who say Ban Ki‑moon would benefit… this is a direct quote… "enhance his political position as a future Presidential candidate by making such a visit"?

Deputy Spokesman:  We don't have any visit to announce.

Question:  Do you have the letter?

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe the letter has been received.  Have a good afternoon, everyone.



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