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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 November 2019

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

**Secretary-General's Travels

Good afternoon.  The Secretary-General concluded his travels to Germany today with a visit to what remains of the Berlin Wall.  He noted that, 30 years ago, he had watched with deep emotion the fall of the Berlin Wall.  And he said that, as he stopped by the Berlin Wall Memorial this week, he was reminded that while the divisions no longer exist within the city of Berlin, physical and virtual walls to separate people continue to be built in too many places.

On Saturday, the Secretary-General will be arriving in Madrid, Spain, to attend the UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP25.  He will speak at the opening ceremony on Monday and will call on world leaders to ramp up their ambition to achieve the targets set by the Paris Agreement.  He will also urge them to ensure the Paris Agreement rulebook is finalized.

The Secretary-General is expected to meet with young climate activists, and he will also hold bilateral meetings with world leaders.  He will be back in New York on Tuesday.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

Turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN Peacekeeping Mission there (MONUSCO) reported that 19 people were killed in a new attack by suspected ADF [Allied Democratic Forces] elements early this morning in Maliki, north-west of the village of Oicha.  The UN's Force Intervention Brigade sent a quick reaction team on the ground in liaison with the Congolese Armed Forces.  The UN Mission has continued to strengthen cooperation with authorities on the ground, including the army.  The UN Peacekeeping Mission has also deployed additional peacekeepers to Beni.

The situation in Beni and Butembo remained relatively calm. The UN Mission's Deputy Special Representative and Acting Force Commander were in Beni today, where they met with the Congolese military leadership to discuss further cooperation between the UN peacekeeping forces and the Congolese Army.  Limited and mostly peaceful protests have also taken place in Goma.

Staying in the DRC, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that torrential rains since October along the Ubangi River have caused flooding, impacting nearly 430,000 people.  Yesterday alone, heavy rains and landslides in the capital Kinshasa reportedly killed at least 41 people.  Assessments across the country are ongoing to assess the scale of the floods and the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance.  A response plan is being developed by the Government with the support from the UN and our partners, prioritizing shelter, water and sanitation and non-food items.  We obviously offer our condolences to the families of the victims and stand ready to assist further the Government of the DRC.

**World Meteorological Organization

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) today said that it is concerned that the outcome of a major radiocommunication conference may have an adverse impact on future Earth observation satellite systems.  The World Radiocommunication Conference, which was attended by more than 160 nations, agreed to protect the microwave bands that support life-saving severe weather early warning systems, but with time-limited provisions, which leaves the future of these systems uncertain.

The risk, WMO said, is that 5G networks could roll out more quickly than initially anticipated, creating an unregulated increase in interference in the meteorological satellite observation frequency radio spectrum band.  Potential effects of this roll-out could also be felt across multiple areas including aviation and shipping.


Turning to Albania, today, two UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination experts arrived in Tirana to join the European Union Civil Protection team to assist the Government in the coordination of search and rescue, as well as relief efforts.  The death toll in the country has reportedly risen to 25 following yesterday's earthquake, while some 650 people were injured.  Forty-five people have so far been rescued.  Search-and-rescue operations [are] continuing, supported by international teams from neighbouring countries and the region.  The UN offers its condolences to the families of the victims and we of course stand ready to further assist the Government of Albania.


Back here, the Chef de Cabinet, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, read a message on behalf of the Secretary-General at today's ceremony observing the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which formally takes place on Friday.  In the message, the Secretary-General says that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains one of the most intractable challenges facing the international community.  Regrettably, he adds, over the past year, there have been no positive developments, and the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate.  He says the intensification of illegal settlements, demolitions of Palestinian homes and the pervasive suffering in Gaza must stop.  At the same time, the indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars towards Israeli civilian populations must cease.

The Chef de Cabinet, after reading the Secretary-General's message, added that the two-State solution is the only viable resolution to this conflict, remains as distant as ever.  She joined the Secretary-General in stressing for the need for bold action.


The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today welcomed Somalia's ratification of the Kampala Convention to protect internally displaced people in Africa, calling it a "landmark achievement for the country and the African continent".  The Kampala Convention is the world's first and only [regional] legally binding instrument for the protection and assistance of internally displaced people.  Somalia is the 30th African Union member State to ratify the convention since 2009.  We join UNHCR in calling this a significant milestone for Somalia, which has the fourth largest population of internally displaced people in the world, estimated at 2.6 million.


In Geneva, the UN Migration Agency (IOM) today launched its World Migration Report 2020.  The report, which comes out every two years, provides the latest data and information on migration as well as analysis of complex and emerging migration issues.  Topics covered in the report include human mobility and environmental change, migrants' contributions in an era of disinformation, children and unsafe migration, as well as migration and health.  The full report is available to you.

**Briefing Schedule

After you're done with me, you will have Reem [Abaza] to deal with, and she will brief you on behalf of the PGA (President of the General Assembly).

And as yet another reminder, tomorrow everybody stays home.  On Friday, you are welcome here.  Farhan [Haq] will be manning the office.  We will not have a briefing, but we will be available to answer questions should you have any.  Mr. Bays?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes.  We had a briefing by SRSG [Special Representative Leila] Zerrougui yesterday afternoon.  And during that, she seemed to question the resources and troop numbers at her disposal.  Does the Secretary-General believe that MONUSCO has the right resources, particularly given the current problems that we're seeing, or will he approach the Security Council to say that he needs more?

Spokesman:  Well, I mean, the mandate given to MONUSCO was given by the Security Council with a troop ceiling…

Correspondent:  But the SG makes the recommendations.

Spokesman:  Right, but I think any peacekeeping mission could use… obviously, use more resources, and we have full confidence that Ms. Zerrougui is managing the situation very well currently.  Michelle?

Question:  Thanks, Stéph.  A press freedom question in relation to Egypt.  There were some reports that there were some arrests late last night, which included three journalists.  One of them was a woman called Solafa Magdy, who I believe was recently here at the UN on a fellowship.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to comment about this?

Spokesman:  Sure. I mean, we saw this morning some press reports that Solafa Magdy, along with her husband and another person, were reportedly detained by security forces in Cairo.  I think I very much recall Ms. Magdy's active participation in the UN-sponsored Reham Al-Farra Fellowship.  I think she was here at the briefing often, and we are, obviously, concerned about her whereabouts.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  Thank you.  I'll ask this question for the sixth time, six years in a row.  Why you did not announce the… today's International Solidarity with the Palestinian People ceremony?

Spokesman:  It's… unless I'm wrong, it's in The Week Ahead.  It's also in the Journal

Correspondent:  No, I know that.  I mean in your briefing yesterday, you didn't say that tomorrow is the… we will celebrate the International… and there will be a ceremony at the art exhibit…

Spokesman:  I don't think you should read anything into this.  I mean, there are a lot of events that happen.  We don't flag every event.  We don't even flag every event which the Secretary-General participates in.  It doesn't take away from the importance of the event.

Question:  Do you normally announce the World Toilet Day, World Bee Day?  You do announce it.

Spokesman:  Well, we announce on the day of, we mention it, and this is… in fact, we announce… I mentioned it today in advance of the day that's taking place on Friday.  Yes, sir?

Correspondent:  There's a ceremony today at 1:00.  That's what I'm asking.  There is an opening of an exhibit.

Spokesman:  Okay.

Correspondent:  That's what I'm asking.  Thank you.

Question:  Stéph, does the Secretary-General have any comment on the new report by the Panel of Experts on South Sudan, which says that Salva Kiir's Government is recruiting a force of 10,000 fighters in his ethnic stronghold, which appears to be a breach of the terms of the country's peace deal?

Spokesman:  Look, I don't have access to that…

Correspondent:  The report came out yes… it was…

Spokesman:  I mean, I didn't see it.  We're, obviously, concerned about any actions that would move us away from a much-needed peace and reconciliation in South Sudan.  Betul and then Majeed and then Ben.

Question:  Thank you, Stéph.  I've seen some media reports – the tech giant Apple now complies with the Russian rules and sees Crimea as part of Russian territory.  I was wondering if the UN would have any remarks on that, anything to say?

Spokesman:  From our standpoint, our situation hasn't changed, which we recognise the territorial integrity of Ukraine as outlined in the relevant General Assembly resolution.  So, our position has not changed.  Apple is a private company.  Majeed and then Ben.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I'm asking about an email leaked by the WikiLeaks.  It's about a member of the OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] that's… that's alleging that… accusing his superior of inserting bias and language that misrepresent facts about the findings, investigative findings on the Douma chemical weapons.  Have you seen that… reports about that… Do you have any reaction?

Spokesman:  OPCW does critical work in the area of chemical weapons, but that's really a question to ask them.  Ben and then…

Question:  Is the SG concerned at the level of anti-Semitism in Britain at the moment, especially the tol… being tolerated by the Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn?  And what would his message be to Mr. Corbyn and his party about this?

Spokesman:  I'm not going to get dragged into the election ongoing… campaign going in the UK.  I think the Secretary-General's own position, speaking loudly and clearly against anti-Semitism throughout the world, is clear for everyone and is completely unchanged.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  Yes, sir.  This morning, the Israeli Defence Minister, Naftali Bennett, decided not to release the corpse of Palestinians killed by Israel and kept in Israel, and that will go indefinitely.  He decided completely not to release these corpse.  Do you have any opinion on that?

Spokesman:  I haven't seen that particular report, so let me look into it, and I will get back to you.  Majeed, and then Reem is dying to come up here.

Question:  Stéphane, I want to ask about the Human Rights Watch report, recent report, about north-east Syria.  It says, contrary to Turkey's narrative that their operation will establish a safe zone, the groups they are using to administer the territory are themself committing abuses against civilians and discrimination on ethnic grounds.  Does the UN think that north-east Syria's safe zone… Turkey safe zone is safe, as Turkey alleges right now?

Spokesman:  The issue of safe zones is one we've spoken about in the past, and, obviously, the UN has a history in dealing with safe zones. And our concerns continue, which is that the establishment of safe zones should have no impact on people's ability to seek asylum, should have no impact on refugees' rights to return home voluntarily in safety and in dignity, and UNHCR continues to study the plan that was given to them by the Turkish authorities.

Question:  But one follow-up.  My question is, do you think the so-called safe zone is safe for civilians?  Yes or no?  

Spokesman:  Edie's giving me a bit of time.  [Laughter.] The… [laughs] there we go.  The determination as to whether someplace is safe for a refugee to return is up to those refugees.  It is not up for us to say, yes, go back.  So, it's a determination that refugees themselves have to make.  Thank you.

Correspondent:  [Inaudible.]

Spokesman:  Yes?

Correspondent:  This is not a serious question.  For your future fashion choices, 5 December is World Soil Day, and 11 December is International Mountain Day.  There's a challenge.  [Laughter]

Spokesman:  Thank you, Maria.  Okay.  [Laughter.]  Reem, all yours.  Thank you.  Have a great Thanksgiving.  We'll see you all on Monday.

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