Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

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

**CAte d'Ivoire

As I think we announced late last week, the Secretary-General will travel to CAte d'Ivoire this evening to attend the fifth African Union European Union summit in Abidjan. He is scheduled to deliver his keynote � not the keynote � to deliver his remarks on Wednesday. The theme of the summit is Investing in the youth for a sustainable future. The Secretary-General will also � is expected to have a number of bilats and meetings while there and he will be back in New York on Thursday afternoon.


Today, the Secretary-General is meeting for the first time with his High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation, which was established to advise him on mediation matters and to contribute to his efforts to build stronger partnerships towards prevention and resolving crisis. The Secretary-General in his remarks emphasized the critical role the Board members have, given their experience and knowledge and the role they can play in preventive diplomacy.


As you saw, Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Syria, briefed the Security Council by video teleconference today about the preparations for the round of talks on Syria that are set to begin in Geneva tomorrow. He said that he believes the moment of truth has arrived for the Syria talks. As Da'esh is being defeated, he said, neither side should turn to violence in the de escalation zones, and he expressed concern about the latest violence in eastern Ghouta. Regarding the situation there, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that today, a UN/Syrian Arab Red Crescent inter agency convoy was not able to enter Nashabieh in eastern Ghouta due to fighting in the area. The convoy contained food, health and nutrition items for over 7,000 people in need. While guarantees of safe passage had been granted before the humanitarian convoy moved, it was forced to turn back following shelling and explosions in the area.


Turning to Yemen, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the Saudi led Coalition has eased restrictions for humanitarian movements in Yemen's national airport in Sana'a and the Hodeida and Saleef ports. On Saturday, three humanitarian flights landed and took off from Sana'a International Airport, including two UN Humanitarian Air Service passenger flights and one humanitarian air cargo flight. One of those flights delivered 1.9 million doses of diphtheria vaccines � that is enough for 600,000 children � to protect them against whooping cough, tuberculosis, pneumonia and meningitis. These vaccines will help to contain the current outbreak of diphtheria � which since August has seen more than 170 suspected cases and at least 14 deaths recorded in Ibb Governorate.

Since the beginning of the blockade three weeks ago, the first commercial cargo vessel carrying 5,500 metric tons of wheat flour was able to berth in Hodaidah port yesterday, while a UN chartered vessel carrying 25,000 metric tons of bulk wheat berthed at Saleef port today. With rapidly dwindling fuel stocks in Yemen and the dire humanitarian situation pushing at least seven million people towards famine, it is important that there is unimpeded access for both humanitarian and commercial cargo to enter Hodeida and Saleef ports, including those carrying fuel. Fuel is urgently required to operate generators for hospitals, water well pumps and sanitation units, and to facilitate the trucking of drinking water and food to vulnerable people in need. Some 21 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance.


The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean Pierre Lacroix, is in Brazil on a two day visit. He is in Brasilia today where he will be delivering a lecture at the Ministry of Defence. In Rio de Janeiro tomorrow, he will visit the Brazilian Marine Corps Training Centre. During his visit, he will be meeting with Government and security officials, as well as members of Congress. He will also convey gratitude for Brazil's engagement and contributions to UN peacekeeping, including the pivotal role Brazilian peacekeepers played in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), towards bringing security and stability to the country.

**Central African Republic

You will have seen on the Central African Republic that we issued a statement yesterday evening, in which the Secretary-General strongly condemned the attack perpetrated by suspected anti Balaka elements against a convoy of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). As a result of the attack, one peacekeeper from Egypt was killed and three others were injured. The Secretary-General offers his deepest condolences and sympathy to the family of the victim and to the Government of Egypt and wishes a swift recovery to the wounded. With this latest attack, hostile acts have claimed the lives of 13 peacekeepers in the Central African Republic since the beginning of 2017. The Secretary-General also recalls that attacks against United Nations peacekeepers may constitute a war crime. He calls on the Central African authorities to investigate the attack in order to swiftly bring those responsible to justice.


A note from Bangladesh and Myanmar: our humanitarian colleagues say that the number of Rohingya refugees who have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh since 25 August has now reached 624,000. An average of 430 Rohingya refugees per day entered Bangladesh this past week � which is a decrease compared to the previous week.


Just to flag that the World Health Organization (WHO) warned today that Madagascar's unprecedented outbreak of pneumonic plague is slowing down but that the response must be sustained. According to data published by the Madagascar Ministry of Health, the number of infections has been in steady decline in recent weeks. But more infections of both bubonic and pneumonic plague are expected until the end of the plague season in April 2018. Between 1 [August] and 22 November, the Madagascar Ministry of Public Health reported more than 2,000 cases, including 202 deaths.

In response, WHO rapidly released $1.5 million in emergency funds, which enabled to deliver more than 1.2 million doses of antibiotics, and trained more than 4,400 people to work as 'contact tracers'. More than 135 WHO and Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network staff have been reassigned or deployed to Madagascar to respond to this outbreak. Ongoing support to sustain the response is required for comprehensive case finding, active contact identification and treatment, rodent and flea control, and ensuring safe and dignified burials for the victims. Khalas. Yep?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Thank you, Stephane. In Bahrain today, Sheikh Isa Qassim, the the Ayatollah is in dire need of medical aid. And, of course, he's been under siege by the Government forces for over a year now. Is there any mediation trying to help him in any way by the United Nations?

Spokesman: I'm not aware of any, but we do hope that he receives the medical treatment that he needs. Edie?

Question: Thank you, Steph. Mr. de Mistura said that the Syrian Government has not yet confirmed its attendance at the Geneva talks scheduled to begin on Tuesday. Does the Secretary General have a message to the Syrian Government about the importance of these talks?

Spokesman: Well, you know, I think, as Mr. de Mistura said, it's this is a moment of truth for the Syria talks. And we, obviously, think that the participation of the Syrian Government is very important. Abdelhamid?

Question: Thank you. Yeah, I will ask the same question I sent to you. Last Wednesday, Ms. [Pramila] Patten she gave a press 34 minute press conference on sexual violation of the Rohingya women. However, this important press conference has not been reported by DPI [Department of Public Information], neither by News Centre nor by radio, in all languages. Can they explain why they did is that negligence or intention?

Spokesman: First of all, I can assure you there's nothing intentional in it. Second of all, I think, when we have press briefings here, it's really for we do it for the media, public and private, the media that's represented here, to report. As for whether or not it was on on the UN News Centre, I can check. Evelyn and then Iftikhar and then Majeed.

Question: Thank you, Steph. Could you give an overview on Yemen? Is the crisis over? I don't mean the crisis of feeding everyone, but is the crisis of the logistics and the politics with Saudi Arabia over? Can the UN deliver goods anywhere? Saying 500 here and 500 there doesn't tell us if this you know, if this is if this is now over and

Spokesman: I don't think anything is over. The suffering of the people of Yemen is continuing.

Question: The suffering won't be over, but is the is the is the controversy with the Coalition with the Saudis over? Can the UN enter all over?

Spokesman: Well, I think we're obviously we're glad that the deliveries of goods were able to resume at Hodeida, at Saleef and at Sana'a Airport, but this is just a drop in the bucket. We need to make sure that there is unimpeded and open availability of deliveries of food, of fuel, whether by land, by sea, or by air. The needs in Yemen are tremendous. If

Question: Follow up on that.

Spokesman: No, I will come back to you. Iftikhar?

Question: Thank you, Stephane. Following up on Rohingya situation of Rohingya refugees, over the weekend, there were reports that Bangladesh has reached an agreement with the Government of Myanmar for the repatriation of all these people, and UN immediately responded that these conditions were not ripe for repatriation. Has the Bangladesh Government or the Myanmar Government shared the details of the agreement with the United Nations?

Spokesman: I'm not aware that the details of the agreement have been shared. I think we made our concerns known. UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] made its concerns known. It's important that people be able to return home and to the place they came from in a safe, dignified and protected manner. But I'm not aware the details have been shown. Matthew and then Majeed. Sorry.

Question: Sure. Thanks a lot. I wanted to ask you about about this indictment that became public last Monday of Senegal's former Foreign Minister and an ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] the head of an ECOSOC NGO [non governmental organization], the China Energy Fund Committee (CEFC). The reason I guess what I tried to figure this out last week and compare it to the UN's response when an indictment was announced of Ng Lap Seng and he was the head of Sun Kiang Ip. I wanted to It seems that, on 21 November, after the indictment was announced, after questions were asked in this room, that an event went forward using $1 million from C CEFC, and I wanted to know I did notice that that and I want you know, just Farhan [Haq] had said things get cancelled all the time. The photo op was cancelled with the group with the winners of the award. The DSG's [Deputy Secretary-General's] speech at the event was cancelled, but the event went forward. So, on what basis? Was there did you consult did the Secretariat, not you personally, consult OLA [Office of Legal Affairs] on the advisability of just following a detailed indictment about essentially this group's money being a bribery conduit going forward and handing the money out? Where does it stand?

Spokesman: I think you should contact the organizers of the meeting.

Correspondent: But, are you a UN decision was made, Mr. Liu [Zhenmin] of DESA [Department of Economic and Social Affairs] was there.

Spokesman: You should contact the organizers of the meeting.

Question: Who is meaning who?

Spokesman: The organizers of the meeting.

Question: Is that DESA or the NGO?

Spokesman: You should look into the meeting and see who the organizers were

Question: Do you speak for DESA? Because

Spokesman: That's it's my answer to you. Do you have another question?

Question: But let me ask you, has the UN done anything since last Monday, a full week both gentlemen are in jail. The former Foreign Minister of Senegal remains in jail. What has the UN done following a detailed indictment that describes bribery inside the UN building and involving UN, you know, structures, being?

Spokesman: I don't read the well, I don't read the indictment in the same way. As you know, the the consultative status of this organization was granted by Member States, and it's up to them to deal with the issues. And the other parts of the indictment, the way I read it does not involve anyone who was a staff member of this organization.

Question: One just one final question. Thanks a lot, because you're seem you're saying this NGO may have been accredited by to ECOSOC by Member States but a decision was made

Spokesman: I'm not saying may have. It was.

Correspondent: Okay. So but DESA's decision to go forward with the group's money makes it look worse than what happened under Ban Ki moon.

Spokesman: I think you should talk That's my answer to you. Majeed?

Correspondent: Thank you, Stephane. I have a question about Iraq, and it's going to be a little bit long, but I have to explain this to you.

Spokesman: Well, let's make the preamble the short and the question incisive.

Question: Well, last Wednesday, UN Special Envoy to Iraq told Security Council that the forces that took over the disputed territory in Kirkuk in Iraq, they are Federal forces. Well, just yesterday, we had my network, Rudaw Media Network, we got videos of of the fact that that's not just that's not true, that there are Shiite Iran backed Shiite militias in those areas, but they have also destroyed thousands of Kurdish houses. They are targeting Kurdish civilians in a town, Tuz Khurmatu. There's a systematic removal of anything that is Kurdish in those areas. These are the well documented. We have the videos. I'll be happy to share it with you. And plus, there are still, as you know, pending allegations of widespread violations that the UN in Iraq still call it, "We got reports of this allegation." They don't confirm it. Why not? Why they why the UN programme or UNAMI [United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq] can't confirm those allegations in those areas?

Spokesman: Well, I'm sure listen, I think it may be a question for you to ask UNAMI. I'm sure they could they're able to confirm things that they're only able to confirm, that they can see for themselves or are sure of the sources. That's not to disparage whatever reports may be out there. It is incumbent on security forces to respect the human rights of the civilian population, to ensure that there is no retribution, to ensure that there is no forced displacement, further displacement of people or that people aren't detained without any due process. We would expect that all forces respect the human rights of the civilian population.

Question: One follow up on that. Since the UNAMI is is and you have a Special Envoy that's directly linked to the Secretariat, it's really puzzling why the ISIS the crimes that are committed by ISIS are documented by the UN, confirmed by the UN so easily, but the crimes that are committed against Sunni Arab populations, against Kurds by certain forces they are just called, "We received the reports." They don't say it happened.

Spokesman: I don't particularly agree with the premise of your statement. We have in the past, where we've been able to confirm crimes against anyone, we have confirmed them, and I would encourage you to look at the monthly reports that UNAMI does. Yes, sir?

Question: Hi. Just a follow up question on the Senegalese diplomat Cheikh Gadio. Obviously, they're with the Ng Lap Seng case, it seems that the that US prosecutors are stepping up cases like these, and I was just wondering as a question of information, has there been with any other UN Member States where where the UN has property, has there ever been a case, for example, in Gen in where Swiss prosecutors brought a case involving an accusation of corruption in Geneva or where French prosecutors brought a case of alleged corruption?

Spokesman: Listen, I think that would be research we'd have to do together. The point is that the people named in this indictment are not UN officials. What we do know as a fact is that corruption is a global pandemic, and it strikes everywhere.

Question: So, I guess a kind of follow up question to that is, you know, if there were that kind of precedent, is there a way of dealing with that problem on an international basis? Has that been explored and what has

Spokesman: There are international conventions against corruption. So, yes, and there are a number of UN programmes that work with countries to combat corruption. To your question, Abdelhamid, I can tell you the News Centre reported on the Special Representative's press release on the Rohingya, which was issued a week prior to her press conference. So, I think we all need to do some research

Correspondent: I was asking about the press conference.

Spokesman: Right, but I'm saying it's the content I mean then you have to be fair because the content of her press conference was her press release, which was issued a week before, and that was fully reported on by UN DPI in all its vastness. Mr. Klein?

Question: Yes. Two questions. One is a follow up to the to this indictment and given given the connection of the UN, at least on the allegation that that some of the conduct alleged may have taken place on the UN premises, whether staff was involved or not and, secondly, to whatever extent DESA was benefiting financially from a group that also may be involved in this indictment, has there been any call for, I mean, you know, the UN's internal audit organization to look into that?

Spokesman: Look, I think the fact that these kinds of things may be happening, conversations may be happening on UN grounds is obviously of great concern to us. We cooperate as a matter of rule with home with our host country authorities as we would do anywhere. It obviously is incumbent, I think, on the Member States to look at the affiliation and the status given to this particular NGO.

Question: I had I had another question unrelated to that. And that is a stalemate regarding JIM [Joint Investigative Mechanism], and I asked this last week, but I wanted to see if there's anything updated, whether the Secretary General is going to is or will consider taking a more proactive role in making some recommendations for either enhancing JIM or coming up with an alternative mechanism and if to help prevent another chemical attack. Possibly with that mechanism in place, that could be viewed as a deterrent.

Spokesman: This is why we thought the work of the JIM was so important as a matter of accountability and also as a signal to those who may be thinking of launching these heinous attacks. Discussions are being had with Member States. We would like to see a mechanism be resuscitated to ensure accountability for these crimes. Yes, sir?

Question: Yeah, going back to Yemen, you spoke about that you welcome the opening of Hodeida and?

Spokesman: I don't think I used that word.

Question: But, I mean, not entirely, but you said still we need unimpeded access. Does it mean there are obstacles still present there and you are not free? Because what the requirements in Yemen are huge and one ship one drop does not make a rain.

Spokesman: I think that's exactly what I said.

Question: So so who who's really doing putting the obstacles? What kind of restrictions are they putting so that ships cannot go into Hodeida?

Spokesman: The main obstacle is the continued fighting. That's the main obstacle. So we need to see a stop to the fighting, and we need to make sure that all the parties have the best have in place the most streamlined procedures for us to be able to bring humanitarian aid into Yemen to help the millions of Yemenis who desperately need it.

Question: Are there is there any fighting in Hodeida itself in the seaport? Sorry.

Spokesman: I'm not aware of fighting directly in the seaport, but I'm aware of fighting in different parts of Yemen. Yes, sir?

Question: Another question on Saudi Arabia. There were of course, you've seen these reports that some of those who are detained like Prince Talal are being tortured, hung by their feet from the ceiling, what has been published in some UK newspapers. How does the United Nations view such practices?

Spokesman: We have no way of confirming those reports one way or another. As a matter of principle, we think that anyone who is detained needs to be detained through due process and their rights be respected. Yes, sir?

Question: But on the same subject?

Spokesman: I'll come I will come back to you. Nizar, I always come back to you. I've never failed to come back to you. Yes?

Question: Thank you, Steph. Back to Syria, what will what would be the next step if the Syrian regime sticks to its position of not taking part in the Geneva talks to take place tomorrow?

Spokesman: I'm not going to speculate on "what ifs". Matthew and then Abdelhamid.

Question: Sure. I have a follow up on that and then another related question. The follow up is just, you seem to be?

Spokesman: Evelyn, Evelyn, please.

Question: You seem to be saying in this case that China Energy Fund Committee has so little relationship to the UN; it's only Member States that no audit is needed. But, in fact, Sun Kiang Ip had far fewer connections to the UN. I guess I wanted you can you articulate is there a new standard being applied by the [Antonio] Guterres administration to the UN's need to investigate itself when a major indictment comes down? Because there's photographs of Mr. Patrick Ho, now in jail, with Ban Ki moon, Wong Wu Hongbo, with DESA, a Secretariat agency, in a much more extensive fashion than than

Spokesman: There's no watering down of standards. All issues of corruption directly involving the UN need to be investigated. And that is clear.

Correspondent: Right. So Patrick Ho giving money to DESA doesn't trigger?

Spokesman: I think I've just answered.

Question: Okay. My other question has to do with the CITES meeting that's begun today in Geneva, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. You've been say you've said for about two weeks now that the Deputy Secretary General's signatures on the rosewood should should be answered by Nigeria. And I want to the the compliance report prepared by CITES itself said says in paragraphs 21 and 22 that they believe that these were filed as retrospective permits after the wood was already in China and that they've asked questions to the Nigerian authority, none of which have been answered. So, if they're not answering CITES, I'm pretty sure they're not going to answer Inner City Press. So, I want to ask you, now that it's been more than two weeks and I know that the Deputy Secretary General is in town it's if the Nigerian authorities are not answering, is it her position just yes or no that, when she signed the certificates, 4,000 certificates, this wood was already in China given that that would be illegal under CITES?

Spokesman: Her position is that everything she did was within the bounds of the law. And next time she has a press appearance, I know she'll be delighted to answer those questions.

Question: When will that be?

Spokesman: Whenever there is. Majeed, yeah?

Question: Stephane, on Iraq again. There's legislation in parl Iraqi parliament. It's a draft, but it has a good chance to be passed, that allows the marriage of 9 year old girls, which is a major concern for the NGOs. Do you have any comments on that?

Spokesman: Look, as a rule, we're not going to comment on draft legislation. What is clear is that the Secretary General and the UN system stands clearly and firmly against child marriage, against girls being married before they reach adulthood. That's a clear point. Yes, sir?

Question: Thank you, Stephane. Does the Secretary General have any comments on the launching of Islamic counter terrorism force in Saudi Arabia con?

Spokesman: I we have seen the press reports. I haven't I don't think we've seen the details of what was agreed. We, obviously the fight against terrorism is an important one, and security the security aspect of it is an important one, but it's not the only one. I think the Secretary General was very clear in his speech in London about the need to respect human rights and the need to look at the root causes of terrorism as well. Yes, go ahead.

Question: Could you be more specific about the blockade in Hodeida and the airport in Sana'a? Because, you know, you say it's related to fighting, but are the Saudis or the Coalition are they actually blocking these entry ports and airport? I mean, because

Spokesman: What I said pretty clearly at the start of the briefing is that we had three flights that took that landed and took off from Sana'a on Saturday. We had a ship that was that docked a commercial ship that docked yesterday at Hodeida and a UN chartered I think WFP [World Food Programme] chartered vessel landed was docked at Saleef port today. What's important for us is that there be unimpeded access for both humanitarian and commercial cargo to enter Hodeida and Saleef ports, including those carrying fuel, and that's not the case currently.

Question: Who's blocking these entries?

Spokesman: There the I think there are challenges pegged to the Saudi led Coalition. Yes, Abdelhamid?

Question: Thank you. I have a question, but I just want to say that not covering a press conference of 34 minutes with audio and visual does not justify cannot be justified by covering a press release a week late earlier. Thank you. My question is that the PA [Palestinian Authority] conducting census in the occupied Palestinian territories. The staff of the PA in East Jerusalem were were arrested by Israel for conducted for conducting this census. Are you aware of that? And do you have any comment?

Spokesman: I don't have anything with me on that. Matthew?

Question: Sure. I wanted to human rights and freedom of the press. In Uganda, which is, obviously is figures prominently in the indictment you're being asked about, seven editors have been arrested in the past week, and I wanted for defaming President [Yoweri] Museveni. And I wanted to know whether the UN system is aware of that, what their comment on that is.

Spokesman: We stand for freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

Question: And also, in Cam you may have something maybe more direct on this. On Cambodia, I know that you had a statement against the the the disbanding of the CNPR opposition party, and now the Hun Sen Government has moved to just dissolve the centre Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, saying that it's connected to that party or has a co founder with it. What's the UN I know that the UN has had this role in Cambodia. What what does it think of this trend? And what does it intend to

Spokesman: I think we said it, and we'll say it again. This is a trend that raises a lot of concern. It's important that in the run up and during the elections next year that there is a democratic space and that there is space that is free of fear and free of intimidation to allow all Cambodians to express themselves. Fathi?

Question: Okay. With regard to the UN reform that came with the new Secretary General, is there any assessment of what's been achieved since he took office on 1 January this year? We are almost a year into his tenure and what what have been accomplished and if we can quantify it in terms of either savings or adding resources to the organization?

Spokesman: Well, you know, as you know, the bulk of of the reform proposals the Secretary General made is one that Member States have to act on. He has been spending quite lot of time briefing ambassadors, different regional groups, on the management reform, on the peace and security reform, on the reform of the development system. And we very much hope that the Member States of the General Assembly will act positively on those reforms.

Question: Can you put a dollar amount to what have been achieved so far?

Spokesman: No, I'm not able to put a dollar amount. I'm coming back to you.

Question: Going back to the story of arresting hundreds of people, Saudi Arabia, it seems, according to press reports, that deals are being done, fleecing the emirs from tens of billions of dollars. How does the United Nations view such practices? I mean, arresting people, putting them under arrest until they cough up their wealth and then they can be released. No due process whatsoever. Why the Human Rights Council is silent about that?

Spokesman: Well, that's a question for the Human Rights Council. As I said earlier, as a matter of principle, we believe that all those accused of any crime, including corruption, need to have their due process rights respected and that's a principled and a that's a principled position.

Question: The wanton arrest of emirs and all dignitaries or even financiers is prevailing in the area. For example, Sheikh Khalifa of the United Arab Emirates has been in unknown places for over a year now or over two years. Nobody knows last time

Spokesman: Nizar, what is the I'm always entertained by the observations, but I would like a question.

Question: Emirs, the rulers, disappear, and the United Nations doesn't even ask about them. Sheikh Khalifa has been [inaudible] for years.

Spokesman: I would refer you to my last answer. I will now leave you with Brenden.

Source: United Nations

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