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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

30 June 2016

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


I'll start off with a statement on China joining the International Organization for Migration:  the Secretary-General welcomes China joining the International Organization for Migration (IOM).  He believes that China will make a valuable contribution to IOM.

China becoming a member of IOM is particularly important at this crucial time, when the issue of migrants and refugees needs more attention and action than ever before.


The Secretary-General went to the Turkish Permanent Mission to the United Nations earlier today and he offered on behalf of the United Nations his deepest condolences to the many victims who have been killed by the heinous terrorist attacks in Turkey.  He said that the international community must be united to defeat and counter terrorism.

The Secretary-General expressed his appreciation to the Turkish Government for its very generous support for millions of refugees.  He said that the UN stands firmly with the people and Government of Turkey in fighting terrorism and extremism. And besides making these comments, he also signed the official condolence book at the Mission.

**Middle East

As you know, Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the Security Council this morning, and he described the recent violence affecting the Israelis and the Palestinians, including today's stabbing attack of a 13-year-old Israeli girl in the West Bank by a Palestinian, the killing of four Israelis in an attack in Tel Aviv on 8 June and the recent killing of a Palestinian teenager by the Israeli Security Force.  He said the first two events were clearly acts of terror and the third was referred to as a "mistake" that cut short an innocent life.  He condemned all the tragic losses of life.

He thanks the Israelis and the Palestinians for their constructive engagement as the Quartet worked on producing a report, which is to focus on the major threats to achieving a negotiated peace.  He said that the Quartet outlined three trends that hurt the prospects for peace: continuing violence, terrorism and incitement; settlement expansion and related policies in the West Bank; and the situation in Gaza and the lack of control in Gaza by the Palestinian Authority.

He said the point of the report is not to assign blame but to chart a way forward, with recommendations made to both sides.  He believes that, based on the report, the two parties will engage with the Quartet, and he encouraged the Security Council to welcome the report once it is published and to support the Quartet's efforts.

Once the consultations have concluded, he will speak at the stakeout.


We issued a statement earlier day, in which the Secretary-General welcomed the Liberian Government's full assumption of its national security responsibilities from the UN Mission (UNMIL) in the country.

He added that the timely conclusion of the security transition is a major benchmark in the peace process and a testament to the hard work of the Liberian people to create a nation built on peace, stability, human rights, democracy and rule of law.

He urged all partners to stay engaged and to continue assisting the Government of Liberia to consolidate peace.  His full statement is available in my office.

**South Sudan

We have an update from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Wau.

A humanitarian delegation led by the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Humanitarian Coordinator, Eugene Owusu, today visited Wau to assess the situation.

He visited the catholic church, where more than 7,000 civilians are being sheltered and humanitarian agencies are providing medical services, as well as the area adjacent to the UN Mission base, where UN peacekeepers are currently protecting more than 12,000 displaced people.

While the overall security situation in the town remained calm, sporadic gunshots were heard yesterday south of the Mission's base.

Peacekeepers have been able to conduct some patrols, although they continue to face movement restrictions.


The UN in Afghanistan today condemned the attack in Kabul that targeted Afghan National Police cadets and their instructors, killing an estimated 33 people.

The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan [Tadamichi Yamamoto] said that there is simply no justification for such an attack and reminded all parties to the armed conflict in Afghanistan of their obligations under international humanitarian law.

For those of you who would rather be at the stakeout, I am giving you your freedom of movement because it is starting now.  But you are also welcome to stay.


Yesterday, a UN/International Committee of the Red Cross/Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy led by Yacoub El Hillo, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, delivered much needed humanitarian assistance for 20,000 people in need in the besieged towns of Arbin and Zamalka in Rural Damascus.

At approximately 21:30, while returning from Arbin and Zamalka, and while in East Ghouta, the convoy encountered gunfire, and a driver was shot in the chest.  He received immediate medical care and was admitted to a hospital in Damascus last night, where he is in stable condition.  A vehicle was also shot at in the incident.

It is obviously unacceptable that the guarantees for safe passage to deliver aid received by the UN and its partners were not respected, and that yet another humanitarian worker was injured.

This incident sheds further light on the risks taken by humanitarian workers in Syria – most of whom are Syrian – while serving those most in need.  It also is a reminder of the dangers faced by civilians caught in the middle of this long and brutal conflict.  Since 2011, 87 humanitarian workers have been killed while helping other Syrians in Syria, including 17 UN staff members.


From Iraq, some 3.6 million children in Iraq – one in five in the country – are at serious risk of death, injury, sexual violence, abduction and recruitment into armed groups.  That's according to a new UNICEF report.  The report says that the number of children in danger of these violations has increased by 1.3 million in 18 months.

The findings show that 4.7 million children need humanitarian aid – a third of all Iraqi children – while many families now face deteriorating conditions following military operations in Fallujah and around Mosul.

Among other things, the report shows that a total of 1,496 children have been abducted in the country over the past two and a half years.  That translates to 50 children abducted each month, with many forced into fighting or sexually abused.


The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, is in Colombia today where he is meeting with internally displaced communities the agency is assisting in and around Bogotá and around the Venezuelan border.

He will also visit Ecuador to meet with refugees who fled the conflict in Colombia, as well as families displaced by the April 2016 earthquake.

He will finish his mission in San José, Costa Rica, where he will open a round table on refugees and displaced people in the Northern Triangle of Central America.

**Health Crises

The Secretary-General yesterday announced the membership of his Global Health Crises Task Force. That Task Force was established by the Secretary-General to support and monitor implementation of recommendations developed by his High-Level Panel on the Global Response to Health Crises.  The Task Force will produce regular updates for the Secretary-General, describing progress on implementation of the Panel's recommendations.  It will also bring to the attention of the Secretary-General issues relating to emerging health crises and to gaps or weaknesses in the global health architecture.

The Task Force will be chaired by the Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson.  Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the WHO (World Health Organization), and Jim Yong Kim, the President of the World Bank Group, will serve as co-leads.  David Nabarro, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda, will support the Task Force Chair.  The bios of all the members are available in a press release.

**Press Encounters

At 1:00 p.m., there will be a briefing here in this room by the Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Joan Clos, on land use and urban expansion.

Tomorrow at 5:00 p.m., the President of the Security Council for July, Japan, will brief you on the Council's programme of work for the month.  That's 5:00 p.m., tomorrow Friday.

**Honour Roll

Today we say thank you to Colombia and the Solomon Islands, bringing the total number of Member States on the Honour Roll to 92.

**Questions and Answers

Close enough.  Who's counting?  I am.  I am.  [laughter]  I am counting, very much so.  All right.  Iftikhar?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I'm sure you have seen reports that Pakistan has extended the stay of Afghan refugees by six months.  But, in the meantime, will the United Nations encourage these refugees to return?  It is now more than 5… 35 years.

Spokesman:  You know, refugees should be allowed to make their own decisions on returning home.  What is important is for them to ensure that there is safety when they do go home and that all the applicable international law be applied when dealing with refugees returning home.  We're obviously… both the United Nations and the international community is thank… very much thankful for the generosity of Pakistan and the Pakistani people in hosting Afghan refugees for so long.  And, of course, I think everyone is mindful of the sacrifices that have been made.  Mr. Lee and then Masood…

Question:  Ask about Burundi, but just, on what you read about Wau, in your absence, I've been asking Farhan [Haq] for what the UN's estimate of the number of people killed in the violence that took place there, because the Government and the opposition have such different numbers.  If access was gotten by this deputy SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General], what's the UN's view of how many people died?

Spokesman:  We'll ask.  It's not… it's not numbers… if those numbers exist, have not percolated up to me or down to me but… 

Question:  Does the UN view it as part of its role given you have two sides…

Spokesman:  No, I'm not debating the basis of your question.  I'm just saying I don't have the information.

Question:  And I also wanted to ask you, yesterday, at the Human Rights Council, High Commissioner Zeid gave his presentation on Burundi, and he reported on… on several hundred extrajudicial executions, various things committed by the Government.  So I wanted to know, you previously said or it's been said that the continued deployment of the Burundian peacekeepers in CAR [Central African Republic] is going forward.  And I wanted to know, does this change anything, that the UN itself is reporting instances of torture, extrajudicial… you know, things done by Government forces…?

Spokesman:  I think all deployments are constantly under review.  If we have an update, I will share that with you.  Masood?

Question:  Thank you, [Stéphane].  Thanks.  I mean, follow‑up on question on Mr.… of my colleague.  Most of the… many of the refugees, rather, many of the refugees in Pakistan, have somehow assimilated themselves into the country.  And they do not want to return, and they want to stay there.  But they've not obtained a status.  What is the United Nations position of such refugees?

Spokesman:  I don't have the granular detail of the status of the Afghan refugees in Pakistan.  As I said, I think we're obviously grateful and thankful for everything that Pakistan has done for them.  The return of refugees to their homeland needs to follow some pretty strict rules of international law, and the last thing I think anybody would want to see is a forced repatriation, especially if the security situation is deemed unsafe.

Question:  Okay.  So they can't be forced to leave.  They can stay…?

Spokesman:  I think people's rights and dignities need to be respected.  Evelyn?

Question:  Does anyone know who shot the aid worker?

Spokesman:  We have no… I have no information, and I'm not sure it's something that's easy to assess.

Question:  And I assume that all 18 besieged areas have been reached now.

Spokesman:  Yes, I think as Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura said yesterday…

Question:  But they all have to be reached again.  Is that correct?

Spokesman:  It needs to be a constant… 

Question:  Constant flow.

Spokesman:  Yes.  

Question:  And they're surrounded by areas loyal to Damascus?

Spokesman:  I think different besieged and hard‑to‑reach areas have different military barriers that make them hard to reach or besieged.  The point is that the UN and its humanitarian partners need to have unfettered and constant access to these areas.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  How's the International Office of Migration going to change migrants' lives?  What is its mission for… for migrants?

Spokesman:  The IOM, which is an international organization, which is not a UN specialized agency, handles a lot of issues having to do with resettlement of migrants to third countries.  What is important, I think, and what the Secretary‑General wanted to salute is the involvement of China as a participant in the IOM.  Given China's role on the international stage, we think it's a very important development.   Majeed?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  There are reports of clash… military clash between Kurdish rebels and Iranian forces.  On the Iraqi border, Kurdish rebels in Iran are in the northern‑eastern Iran.  These clashes has not been happening for the last… for the past decade, but there are… dozens have been killed, including there are some reports of civilian and children that have been killed during these clashes.  Do you have any information about this or any comment?

Spokesman:  I have not seen those reports.  We can check, though, if we have anything.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesman:  Thank you.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  I'm sure you've seen this.  158 members of the US Congress have written to the State Department urging them to have the UN be accountable, including paying reparations for having brought cholera to Haiti.  It's a pretty large number of congresspeople, and I'm wondering what is the… what's the response to it?

Spokesman:  Obviously, we've seen… we… you know, we've seen those reports.  I think the UN's commitment to helping Haiti, helping the people of Haiti overcome the many challenges that they have remains the same, especially on issues of water and sanitation.  We have worked tirelessly in an effort to raise funds to address these issues, and we will continue to do so.

Question:  Right.  But the… they've obviously seen those presentations.  The word "reparation" is the one that they're using in terms of people who lost homes, education.  Is there any thinking by the UN to try to address that?

Spokesman:  We're trying to do as much as we can to address the very challenging sanitation situation in Haiti.

Question:  Okay.  And I just wanted to ask, there's a meeting in Conference Room 4 about the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) and resolution 2270, and it's weird.  It's on the webcast, but they said it's Chatham House Rule.  So I want to play by the rules even though anyone in the world can see who says what.  But a self‑described UN official with a UN e-mail address said in the session that…

Spokesman:  Self‑described?

Question:  I don't know.  His e-mail… I don't want to use his name because they said it's Chatham House Rule.  Seems like somebody made a mistake here.  But to play by the rules, an unnamed UN person with a UN e-mail address said DPRK has planted intelligence agencies in two UN agencies.  And so I'm asking you, as the UN Spokesperson… he said it…

Spokesman:  I don't… I don't dispute…

Question:  Given that he's saying it in a UN room and he's a UN person even though he's remaining unnamed, can you find out which agencies…

Spokesman:  I'll find out what the meeting is and try to see if I can get information on it.

Question:  One more for you. 

Spokesman:  Sure.

Question:  I've been meaning to ask you this.  In South Korea, you may have seen this or you may not have, in the Korean Times, it's a Ban Ki‑moon fan club, which I wouldn't normally ask you about except that it… the express goal of the club is to promote the Secretary… Ban Ki‑moon as President, and it's called the Fireflies.  They say they're going to do their main launch in October, and that it's committed to promoting Ban's achievements as UN Secretary‑General.  So I wanted to know, I bet you he's aware of it.  Is he going to stop it?  Does he like it?  What's his relationship to it?

Spokesman:  He has no relationship to this.  He found out about it when he saw the press reports.  The Secretary‑General's intentions for his future have… as he's often said, he will serve and focus on the work of the United Nations until 31 December at 11:59 p.m.  Then afterwards, he will make a decision on his future.

Question:  But, in the same way that he asked, I believe, in that Kwanhun session, journalists not to confuse matters between… is he going to ask these guys not to launch the Fireflies?

Spokesman:  You know…  People are free to express themselves.  As I said, he has absolutely no link to this group.  Thank you.  Have a great day.

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