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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General is now flying back from Sweden. We expect him back in New York in just a few hours. This morning, before leaving he had a meeting with the Prime Minister of Sweden, Stefan Löfven. In a press conference following that, the Secretary-General said that the Security Council had had two days of very constructive discussions in Sweden, which helped to cool matters down and help Council members to move forward in relation to key objectives. That includes, in the case of Syria, fully supporting a political solution and working to achieve the success of the Geneva intra-Syrian talks. Over the weekend, the Secretary-General held his retreat with the Security Council members in the estate of former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, in southern Sweden. He expressed his deep gratitude to the Swedish Government for organizing the event, saying the venue was highly symbolic. The Secretary-General also gave the Dag Hammarskjöld’s lecture in Uppsala yesterday afternoon, during which he described the former Secretary-General as his reference and inspiration: a man of action, an extremely sophisticated diplomat and a man of culture. He also spoke about the new challenges facing our time: including global terrorism, climate change, inequalities, cyberwarfare and the need to re-establish the integrity of the refugee protection system.
**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
The Secretary-General, in comments that he made in Sweden today, said that the Security Council’s unity on Korea had helped put us on track a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. He said the unity of the Security Council, which was able to come together and to have a strong and meaningful set of sanctions, to a certain extent made the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea realize that it was necessary to come forward and to enter into dialogue with the international community, and especially with both the Republic of Korea and the United States of America. Over the weekend, as you are aware, the Secretary-General in a statement welcomed the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s decision to suspend nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles. He said that this positive step forward contributes to building public trust and the longer process leading to the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The Secretary-General reiterated the commitment and support of the United Nations system in this endeavour. The full statement is online.
Meanwhile, Staffan de Mistura, the Special Envoy for Syria, briefed the Security Council members at their retreat in Sweden over the weekend, following his travels earlier to Moscow and Tehran. We provided the transcripts of his press remarks during those two visits, in which he said that the past week was a dangerous one and we need to bring down the temperature internationally and regionally. Meanwhile, the fact-finding mission team of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) visited one of the sites in Douma, on Saturday to collect samples for analysis in connection with allegations of chemical weapons having been used on 7 April. The OPCW will evaluate the situation and consider future steps including another possible visit to Douma. The samples collected were transported to the OPCW lab in the Netherlands and then dispatched for analysis to the OPCW’s designated labs. Based on the analysis of the sample results as well other information and materials collected by the team, the fact-finding mission will compile their report for submission to the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention for consideration.
**Financing for Development
Back here this morning, the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, spoke at the opening session of the Financing for Development Forum, where over the next four days, Member States will be reviewing how resources can be mobilized more effectively to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Ms. Mohammed said that, even though the global economy is growing, weaknesses in the economic system are putting the development prospects of hundreds of millions of people in jeopardy. She said that a systemic response is needed which involves countries mobilizing domestic resources to achieve the 2030 Agenda, enabling a global environment that supports long-term investments, and an increase in partnerships between Governments and the private sector to address financing challenges. She added that the United Nations is committed to supporting countries in their efforts to finance and implement the Sustainable Development Goals. I also want to flag that this afternoon at 3 p.m., Ms. Mohammed will be speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General at the High-Level Round Table on Security Sector Reform and Sustaining Peace.
And in the Security Council this morning, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, spoke to members of the Security Council on the findings of the independent Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security. She said the report points to two key issues that need immediate attention: the growing mistrust from young generations towards formal political institutions, and the exclusion of young people from political, civic and economic life. The study also shows that only a small minority of youth ever engages in violence, and many are actively engaging in their own local initiatives to bring peace to their communities. “I believe we can all agree that my generation represents promise — not peril. We should be seen as an asset — not a problem,” she told Council members, adding that the report’s findings and recommendations are an opportunity for the Council to redress the mistrust among young people, their Governments, and the multilateral system by opening up new paths for meaningful participation and contribution.
And Izumi Nakamitsu, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, addressed the second session of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee. That was in Geneva today. She said that the Secretary-General is currently developing his agenda for disarmament, which is aimed at re-energizing the international discourse. On the matter of nuclear weapons, she added, the Secretary‑General is exploring how he can use his moral authority to support our common norms against nuclear weapons, including against any proliferation, testing or use. He also intends to seek new ways of facilitating the resumption of dialogue on strategic arms control and disarmament, as well as the promotion of practical measures to prepare for a world free of nuclear weapons.
**Central African Republic
Turning to the Central African Republic, United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) intervened on Sunday in the prefecture of Mambéré Kadeï, in the western part of the country, to stop the movement by armed fighters from the Siriri group near the locality of Gamboula, where they intended to occupy a local gendarmerie outpost. Upon arrival at the village of Nassolé, where members of the Siriri group had erected a barricade, the peacekeepers were the target of enemy fire. The peacekeepers fired back, causing casualties among the attackers. A dozen motorcycles, as well as weapons were recovered by peacekeeping forces. There is a release from the Mission available on that.
As you will have seen, we issued a statement yesterday in which the Secretary-General strongly condemned the attack on a voter registration centre in Kabul, which claimed the lives of many civilians. There is a statement online from him, and from the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Mr. [Tadimichi] Yamamoto.
And also yesterday, the United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Action, Michael Bloomberg, announced a contribution of $4.5 million to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat. In a tweet, the Secretary-General said he was “very grateful to Michael Bloomberg, not only for his generous support to the United Nations, but also for his global leadership on climate action”. The contribution will go towards general operations, including assisting countries to meet targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.
**Greece-The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Also, I want to flag to you a meeting that will take place in Vienna this Wednesday. Matthew Nimetz, the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, will meet jointly with Nikos Kotzias, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece, and Nikola Dimitrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. That will be at the United Nations Office at Vienna. The meeting is part of United Nations’ ongoing efforts to assist the sides in finding a mutually acceptable solution to the “name” issue.
**United Nations Days
And today we celebrate two languages — today is both English and Spanish Language Day. At 3 p.m. in Conference Room 6, there will be a forum discussion on “Gender-inclusive communication in Spanish, challenges and opportunities” organized by the Mission of Paraguay, which you are all welcome to attend. Today is also World Book and Copyright Day, and coincidentally, 23 April is the date in which Cervantes, Shakespeare and [Inca Garcilaso de] la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors, such as Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.
Tomorrow at 10 a.m. in the General Assembly Hall, the President of the General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák, will convene a meeting, but I will let Brenden [Varma] talk to you about that, because he is his Spokesman and not I. And there will be a press encounter with the President of Colombia [Juan Manuel Santos], the Secretary-General’s Youth Envoy, Jayathma Wickramanayake, and the President of the General Assembly, but, again, Brenden will talk about that.
And we wanted to thank Antigua and Barbuda, which paid its budget dues in full for 2018, bringing us up to? You're all pathetic… 84. There you go. At least you tried. Go ahead.
**Questions and Answers
Correspondent: Sure. I wanted to ask you about sexual abuse and exploitation. On Friday, at 5 p.m. or past 5 p.m., which now two Fridays in a row, it was a… what some see now as kind of a data dump in terms of the timing of it, the disclosure…
Spokesman: It's not Friday everywhere at 5 p.m., all right?
Question: I understand so… Okay. At Friday at 6 p.m. in New York in UN Headquarters… they've disclosed child rape, alleged child rape, by a Nepali peacekeeper in South Sudan, as well as in MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo], more South African allegations, in this case an adult. And I'm just wondering, it seems like… one, does… does the UN treat these allegations where it's a child more seriously and what… all… all it says is… in each of these disclosures, is pending, pending, pending, pending. What's the status of the Nepali accused in this case?
Spokesman: The [United Nations] Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) received an allegation of sexual abuse involving unidentified members of the Nepalese contingent. The UN has informed, obviously, Nepal of the allegation. We've requested a full investigation be conducted by the troop‑contributing country within the expedited timeframe of 90 days, jointly with a team of… from OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services]. In this respect, the member… Nepal's response whether it will investigate the matter is expected by 25 April or on. UNMISS, as you know, has a zero… like all of us, have a zero‑tolerance [policy] and no excuse and no second chance approach to child sexual exploitation and abuse. The Mission reiterates that such acts should be properly investigated, and where applicable, criminal prosecution be pursued under the law of the contributing country. I mean, obviously, any act of sexual abuse is horrendous; one involving a child, I think, is especially heinous, if one needs to qualify these things.
Question: And just one other South Sudan question. There was a press conference here at 11 a.m. by the group Watchlist. Among other things, they… they… because I hadn't heard this before, the idea of a sitting fee, that… that Government officials are charging money simply to sit down with them to discuss humanitarian access to areas under their control. And I'm just… I haven't heard that from UNMISS. So, I'm wondering, is the UN… was the UN aware of that? And, if so, why haven't they…?
Spokesman: I heard and had not… I had heard those things as you have. I'm not aware of any that we are aware of these things. Sir?
Question: There was a massacre today in Hajjah Governorate. More than 30 people were killed in a wedding, targeted by the Saudi‑led coalition. Do you have any statement on that?
Spokesman: Yes, we've seen these reports. I expect a statement of more information. We're looking into it. Obviously, any deaths of civilians, attack on civilian infrastructure is to be condemned, but, again, we're waiting to get a bit more information. I expect something a bit later on. Yes, sir? [He later issued the following statement: The Secretary-General strongly condemns the air strikes on a wedding party in Hajjah and on civilian vehicles in Taizz, where at least 50 civilians, including children, were reportedly killed and scores of others injured. The Secretary-General expresses his deepest condolences to the families and friends of those killed. The Secretary-General reminds all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law concerning the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure during armed conflicts. He calls for a prompt, effective and transparent investigation.]
Question: Thank you. Tomorrow, Secretary‑General going to meet Iranian Foreign Minister. Human rights going to be one of the subjects, hopefully?
Spokesman: We will see what kind of readout we can give you after the meeting. Linda?
Question: Thank you, Steph. You mentioned that the OPCW has collected the samples. I was wondering if there's some kind of timeframe in which an assessment evaluation process would take place… you know, in general, how long it would take place?
Spokesman: Right. I don't want to fob you off, but I think that's a question for the OPCW. Obviously, especially when you're dealing with samples, I'm sure there are scientific timeframes, but that's a question you'd have to ask the OPCW. Mr. Barada and then Evelyn.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. After Backåkra in Sweden… so, is the SG going to take some decisions regarding the establishment of the independent investigative mechanism, as delegated to him by the press elements from the Security Council? Thank you.
Spokesman: I would refer you to the rather extensive press briefing he gave with Swedish Prime Minister today, in which, I think, he said there were still issues to be dealt with but there was… he felt that, from the Council's point of view, all agreed that there should be some type of mechanism. But, obviously, there's still discussions to be had. When I have something a bit more to share with you from the SG's side, I will. Evelyn?
Question: Thank you, Steph. On Syria, aside from the fact that they… they got along with each other, was anything else resolved there at the weekend Sweden conference?
Spokesman: Again, I think it was an important moment to get everybody around the table, and I think the Secretary‑General spoke extensively at his press remarks this morning, so I would refer you to what he's already said. Yes, sir?
Question: And they all said yes or what?
Spokesman: Again, I would refer you to what the Secretary‑General said. He’s more up to date than I am.
Question: Do you have an update about the returnees to eastern Ghouta, Douma and the restoration of services in the area?
Spokesman: No, nothing that I've received so far. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. Wanted to ask you, there's been… it seems like there… there's… in Mogadishu, where there's, obviously, this, you know, support… if nothing else, a support office and Mr. [Michael] Keating, there's been some… some fighting within the army for a base that… where the UAE [United Arab Emirates] have been providing military training. They pulled out. The army is fighting. it seems to go back to this base that the UAE is building in Somaliland. So, I'd asked you once before, and you said it was bi… or Farhan [Haq] said it was bilateral. What is the UN doing? There's also a dispute about airspace of Somaliland, which seems to have been grabbed back by Somalia. What's the UN's role in trying to calm this down?
Spokesman: I think the UN's effort have been to help the Somali authorities regain their authority over the country in many ways, and that's where our support is focused.
Question: So… meaning… meaning that… that… that the UAE… you're against the idea of the UAE building a base in Somaliland, without…?
Spokesman: That's… I think I will stick to the answer I just gave you. Yes, sir?
Question: Did the issue of the nuclear deal with Iran come up in the meeting in the… in Sweden with the Secretary‑General? Did they discuss it?
Spokesman: Again, I think the Secretary‑General gave the readout he wanted to give in his press conference. It's rather… that he gave today. It's rather extensive. I would refer you to that. Obviously, there were 15 other principals around the table, and I'm sure they would be delighted to take your questions.
Correspondent: I just wanted… because the… the ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization], which, I guess, is a UN body, they had… had committed to… to not transferring the airspace. At least that's what people say, that it had been agreed to in Ankara, Turkey.
Spokesman: Well, I think, instead of saying what people said, I think you should feel free to reach out to ICAO and see exactly what they're saying. Thank you.
Question: And do you have anything on Madagascar…?