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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

27 March 2019

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

All right, good afternoon.

**Deputy Secretary-General's Travels

The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, is in Bangkok, today, where she spoke at the opening of the sixth Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development.  In her keynote address, she said that the Governments in the region have taken [on] the challenge of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with decisive leadership.  But, the Deputy Secretary-General cautioned that rising inequalities in the Asia-Pacific region have become a major obstacle to accelerating progress.  The annual Forum brings together senior Government officials, the UN, the private sector and civil society.  The Deputy Secretary-General will be returning to New York on Friday.

**Cyclone Idai

And I want to just update you on the UN's efforts to respond to Cyclone Idai.  The first of three planes carrying relief items from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) landed early this morning in the Mozambican capital, Maputo.  The supplies – including tents, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and solar lanterns – will be distributed to 30,000 people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.  UNHCR's emergency teams are being deployed to all three countries to support the response.  For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) is providing supplies to treat diarrhoeal diseases and cholera, and it is helping to set up three cholera treatment centres.  WHO is also putting together a surge team to send to Mozambique of more than 40 people with expertise in logistics, epidemiology and outbreak prevention and response.

**Syria

Back here, Rosemary DiCarlo, the head of the Political and Peacebuilding Department, briefed the Security Council on Syria this morning, saying that, after eight long years, horrendous years of suffering by the Syrian people, the conflict seems far from over.  She said the Secretary-General has watched, with great concern, the situation in Idlib deteriorate in recent weeks amid escalating violence, which has caused civilian casualties and the further displacement of tens of thousands of people.  In the north-east, she added, the UN is strongly encouraging international diplomatic efforts to ensure that military escalation is avoided at all costs.  Any escalation in the northeast could lead to devastating consequences for civilians and could create conditions conducive to the re-emergence of Da'esh.  And Ramesh Rajasingham from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told Council members that UN assessments indicate that 11.7 million people require humanitarian assistance and protection inside Syria in 2019.  More than 5.6 million Syrians live as refugees across the region, and he added that the scale of humanitarian needs in Syria remains staggering by any measure.

**Security Council

Earlier this morning, the Security Council members also heard a briefing on the Council's visit that took them to Mali and Burkina Faso.  In the afternoon, the Security Council will discuss Somalia and Lebanon.  Ján Kubiš will brief the Security Council on Lebanon in closed consultations, and he is expected to speak to you at the stakeout afterwards.

**Yemen

Turning to Yemen, the Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, took part this morning in the first day of the Yemeni Women's Conference entitled "Mediators for Peace," which was organized by UN Women in Amman in Jordan.  Addressing the opening of the conference, Mr.  Griffiths stressed the important role of Yemeni women in reaching an inclusive peace.  He highlighted the contribution of the Women Technical Advisory Group, which worked closely with him during the Sweden Consultations, and will continue to work in the upcoming rounds of consultations.  The Special Envoy expressed his hope to see increased women's representation at the formal level in future consultations.  "We have to walk uphill, with regard to women's inclusion as well as other issues," he said.

Meanwhile, at least seven civilians were killed and eight injured following an airstrike yesterday on a hospital in Kitaf District in Sa'ada Governorate.  Reports from the area confirm the insecurity is making rescue efforts difficult.  And three days ago, one of the main public hospitals in Taizz City was forced to close down due to significant damage from intensified fighting.  Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, said today that parties which resort to arms are required to do everything possible to protect hospitals and health facilities.  This is not a voluntary commitment, she said – it is a fundamental responsibility.

**Press Briefings

And tomorrow at 12.30 p.m., the Secretary-General, along with the President of the General Assembly (PGA), and the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Dr.  Petteri Taalas, will be here to brief you on the launch of WMO's State of the Global Climate 2018 and an update on Extreme Weather in 2019.  This will replace our noon briefing.  And the Secretary-General and the PGA will take a few questions before letting Dr.  Taalas keep the room.

**Peacekeeping

Also wanted to flag that, this Friday, on 29 March, there will be a peacekeeping ministerial meeting here in the General Assembly.  Government ministers from around the world are expected to reaffirm their commitment to UN Peacekeeping and discuss concrete ways to work towards strengthening performance and protecting civilians in the coming year.  The Secretary-General will deliver remarks at the opening of the meeting [and], as we told you yesterday, he will confer the UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award to Lieutenant Commander Marcia Andrade Braga of Brazil.  This meeting will be open for you to follow.  I'm done.  Excellent.  All right.  Ah, damn.  Go ahead.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I have a question on Venezuela.  Yesterday, it was reported an alleged attack by colectivos against some of the assemblymen that were going in their vehicles.  Within that group was Juan Guaidó.  Is any reaction by the Secretary-General in terms of the rising tensions there?  And the second part is, President [Donald] Trump met today with the first lady, the wife of Guaidó, and he sent a clear message to the Russians in terms of that they should be leaving Venezuela after reports of airplanes arriving and also the confirmation by Venezuelan Government that they are assisting them bringing humanitarian aid, according to the [Nicolás] Maduro Government.  What is the reaction?  I understand…

Spokesman:  Sure.  Sure.  We have… we continue to express our concern at the situation in Venezuela.  I think, yesterday or two days ago, we expressed the Secretary-General's position on the attacks that were seen on the opposition.  I think it is important that we see a lessening of the violence and that both… that political actors, both inside Venezuela and those who work outside and have an influence, should also do whatever they can to calm the situation and to push for a dialogue.  Thank you.  James?

Question:  Just a follow-up on something you were asked about yesterday, and I accept your answer to the specific question about a tribunal for those that have been captured, the ISIL fighters.  But, there is a problem here in what to do with those prisoners that the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) are holding and say they can't cope with, and there are literally thousands of them.  Is this something where the UN really should get involved or… in trying to find some sort of solution, given that the countries of origin won't take them, and they can't cope with them, and these seem to be people who may have all sorts of information, as well as could be very dangerous?

Spokesman:  Sure.  A couple of things.  One is that there is an existing Security Council resolution that focuses on foreign fighters, and we would encourage Member States to use that as guidance.  The issue of… also, issues of the families of foreign fighters needs to be dealt with within a human rights framework.  And of course, I think every country is entitled to do whatever they can to ensure their own… their security.  But… and there will need to be accountability for those who have committed the most horrendous crimes.  But, again, we would encourage Security Council members… Member States to use the existing Security Council resolutions as a guide.  Yes, sir?

Question:  The question is about Colombia, Stéphane, and is there any concern from Secretary-General about the Minga mobilization… the indigenous mobilization in the State of Cauca in Colombia?

Spokesman:  I do not have anything for you on that particular issue today, but let me see if I can get something.  Thank you.  And I will get you that Security Council resolution, which, as you know, I was trying to find the number as I was answering.



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