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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

7 August 2018

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


Good afternoon.  The Secretary-General has arrived in Tokyo.  Tomorrow, he will hold talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before traveling to Nagasaki, where he will meet with the city's Mayor and also with some Hibakusha, or survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  On Thursday, he will take part in the seventy-third Nagasaki Peace Ceremony.


The Secretary-General spoke by telephone yesterday with Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and with Nelson Chamisa, President of the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance.  In his two calls, the Secretary-General made clear that he counted on the President of Zimbabwe to ensure that the security forces show maximum restraint.  He also encouraged the opposition to pursue their electoral grievances through legal channels.  He added that any legal decision taken by the court on the election results would need to be independent.  In his conversations, the Secretary-General stressed the UN's continued support for Zimbabwe in the post-electoral period and his hope that all Zimbabweans will move forward in unity.

**South Sudan

In a statement we issued yesterday, the Secretary-General welcomed the signing of the Agreement of Outstanding Issues on Governance and Responsibility Sharing by the South Sudanese parties in Khartoum, Sudan, on 5 August, as an important step in the revitalization of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan.  The Secretary-General urged all parties to work in good faith and demonstrate their commitment to fully implement and to finalize the revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict as soon as possible.  The full statement is online.

**Central African Republic

Our peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA, reports that as part of continued efforts to restore peace in the volatile PK5 neighbourhood of the capital, Bangui, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Parfait Anyanga Onanga, met with 18 community leaders from that neighbourhood and surrounding areas.

Elsewhere in the country, the Mission reports that it increased its patrols in Kouango, in the central prefecture of Ouaka, after receiving information that anti-Balaka fighters had clashed with Union for Peace combatants in recent days.  Also in Ouaka, over the weekend, UN peacekeepers exchanged fire with anti-Balaka fighters close to Grimari after encountering two roadblocks erected by the group; no casualties were reported.  Further west in Nana-Gribizi, peacekeepers were recently deployed to protect the population in Dere village after clashes between anti-Balaka combatants and members of the Fulani community prompted displacement of the local population to a nearby village.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that the number of confirmed Ebola cases stands at 16, with a probable 27 additional cases – so that's a total of 43 cases, including 34 deaths.  WHO also says there are 31 suspected cases being currently observed.  WHO has 30 staff on the ground and a mobile lab has been deployed as of 2 August.  Contact tracing has started and so far over 900 contacts have been registered in the town of Mangina that was the epicentre of this outbreak, some 30 kilometres from Beni.  A WHO vaccination team will also be deployed soon.And the WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, and WHO Deputy Director General, Dr. Peter Salama, will be travelling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Thursday to see first-hand the response being put in place.


The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today said that more than 2,000 Somali refugees have returned to their home country from Yemen since 2017.  The returns are part of an assistance programme carried out jointly with the UN Migration Agency (IOM) and authorities in Yemen and Somalia.  Yemen currently hosts over 270,000 refugees, the vast majority of whom are Somali.  The ongoing conflict in Yemen has affected not just Yemenis but also refugees, and this has added to the urgent need to increase humanitarian support and find lasting solutions for these people.  Through the programme, UNHCR provides a cash grant to procure basic necessities for the journey back, while IOM assists with transportation and medical care.  UNHCR also facilitates exit permits and travel documentation in cooperation with the Yemeni and Somali authorities.  More information on this programme can be found on UNHCR's website.


The UN Refugee Agency today welcomed the decision by the Brazilian Supreme Court to overturn a decision by a federal judge to close the border with Venezuela and suspend admission of people fleeing that country.  The border was briefly closed yesterday and UNHCR reported that some 200 Venezuelans were not able to finalize their immigration procedures.  UNHCR has been supporting the Government as it keeps the borders open and allows people to enter the country to find a safe place to restart their lives.  UNHCR has a team present at the border and will continue to monitor the situation.  That's it for me.  Are there any questions?  Yes, Carole?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Farhan, on Zimbabwe, did the Secretary-General offer any kind of other assistance?  Is there a UN envoy who might go and meet with them?  And did he suggest, perhaps, an investigation into the violence and accountability?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I think I've said the basic content of the two calls.  Part of the point is that he does stress that the UN will continue to support Zimbabwe in the post-electoral period.  If there's something that the parties want the UN to do, of course, we're willing to consider that, but he, essentially, was making sure that all of the various sides, all of the participants in the election, will abide by the results and channel any grievances through the appropriate electoral process.  Yes, Edie?

Question:  As a follow-up to that, what was the response of Emmerson Mnangagwa and Mr. Chamisa?

Deputy Spokesman:  You know, obviously, we don't speak for what the other parties to a phone call say, but, at the same time, I believe that the calls were constructive.  And certainly, our hope is that the reassurances provided by the leaders will be borne out also by their supporters.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, there is, as you know, a dispute about the result.  Does the United Nations believe this was a fair and credible election?

Deputy Spokesman:  On this, I mean, the basic point, as I stressed, was that, you know, of course, we are aware that there are grievances with the elections.  But, at the same time, we want to make sure that all of the grievances are expressed through the electoral process.  And, of course, we want the political leaders and the population as a whole to exercise restraint and to reject any form of violence.  And, regarding the UN's own role about this, though, I do want to clarify that, prior to this, the UN through UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] in Zimbabwe provided technical assistance to key independent commissions, including the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.  Yes, Iftikhar?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Any comments on this morning's tweet by President [Donald] Trump warning the nations of the world not to trade with Iran?

Deputy Spokesman:  I'm sure that you'll recall that the Secretary-General has, himself, repeatedly discussed the importance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as one of the key diplomatic achievements of recent years.  He believes that it deserves continued support and that all of the parties to that agreement need to abide by its terms.

Question:  If I may follow up, I mean, essentially, what the United States is doing is it's using its economic might to bully other countries into toeing the line.  Is that an appropriate course of action for the United States to take?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I wouldn't comment on your characterization of what the United States is doing.

Question:  What would you call it?

Deputy Spokesman:  Regarding bilateral relations between countries, obviously, that is up to the Governments of the countries.  At the same time, there was an agreement put in place, and the Secretary-General's views on that agreement are well known.  We will continue as far as we can to support the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which, as you know, also involves the activity of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  But, regarding how the nations… the Governments deal with this issue, obviously, we don't speak to the… you know, the national domestic policies of each country.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, forgive me if you addressed this earlier.  Do you have any update on Cameroon crisis and what the UN is doing to intervene?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, I'm trying to get an update, but I believe that our envoy, Mr. François Louncény Fall, is travelling to that country this week.  And so I'll try to get some language about what he's doing there.  Yes, please?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Mr. Lowcock has talked about the humanitarian crisis in North Korea where 10 million people need humanitarian aid.  Why is the Security Council still holding on to the sanctions when they are making it almost impossible for humanitarian agencies to do their work in North Korea?

Deputy Spokesman:  As you know, it's up to the members of the Security Council themselves to spoke for the actions of the Security Council.  I don't speak for those.  You're quite right that Mark Lowcock has made clear our humanitarian concerns about the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and we'll continue to emphasize his comments.  Yes, please?

Question:  Farhan, I wanted to raise concerns among journalists about the plans to house the media centre far from all of the media events during the UN General Assembly next month.  Do you have any information about why this is… why this is the plan and why journalists are being kept at bay, basically?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we are actually trying as best as we can to get suitable working accommodations for the large numbers of journalists who come here to cover the General Assembly.  As you know, every year, we have a challenge trying to find such accommodation, but over time, it works out that we get good space… working space for all the travelling journalists.  This year, the complication is that some of the Member States have made clear that Conference Room 1, which sometimes has been used, will be used for their own meetings involving their visiting Heads of State and Government.  So, we're trying to get an alternative space, but we're well aware that some of the options that have been bandied about are not workable because they would entail tremendous logistical difficulties for reporters to cover events.  So, we're working hard, including with the various other departments who deal with arrangements for the General Assembly session.  And we'll try to get the best available working space that we can get.  Yes?

Question:  I'd like to echo what Carole said and also to ask, whose decision is it that the Member States' demands for Conference Room 1, for example, should override the media who are coming from all over the world and are the ones who are actually going to be reporting on what's going on?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, it's clear that we don't… we, for example, the Department of Public Information (DPI), do not believe that any demands from Member States should override the demands from the journalists who are coming in.  Your demands are just as legitimate as theirs, and we're pushing for that.  But we are working with our colleagues, including the ones dealing with General Assembly affairs, trying to make sure that we can have an arrangement that's acceptable to all.

Question:  When will a decision be taken?  Do you know?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't know. My colleagues are hard at work on this right now.  Maria?

Question:  Thank you.  Actually, following up on the same issue and… is there any particular State which demanded the use of conference room, which seems to be especially for journalists, or there are several States?

Deputy Spokesman:  There are several States, partly because there are several different events on the key days at the start of the week that will require a large number of seats, and so there's only a certain number of conference rooms that will accommodate those.  Yes?

Question:  Hi.  EZTV is not working again.  You sound like you're speaking in a submarine so… I'm… please, can someone do something?  Because this is going to be a problem in September.  I'm the voice of the EZTV, and I take it on, but please, can you pass it on?  Something has to be done.

Deputy Spokesman:  I will bring it up with our TV and information technology colleagues right after this meeting, and I'm very sorry.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  All right.  And have a good morning, aside from the technical glitches.

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