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.
In a statement issued today, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that it is closely following developments related to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). As requested by the UN Security Council and authorised by the IAEA Board of Governors in 2015, the IAEA is verifying and monitoring Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA. Iran is subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime under the JCPOA, which is a significant verification gain. As of today, the IAEA can confirm that the nuclear-related commitments are being implemented by Iran.
And yesterday, as you will have seen, we issued a statement on the Secretary-General’s concern at the announcement that the United States will be withdrawing from the JCPOA and will be reinstating US sanctions.
The Secretary-General has consistently reiterated that the JCPOA represents a major achievement in nuclear non-proliferation and diplomacy. And he feels it has also contributed to regional and international peace and security.
It is essential that all concerns regarding the implementation of the Plan be addressed through the mechanisms established [in] the JCPOA. Issues not directly related to the JCPOA should be addressed without prejudice to preserving the agreement and its accomplishments.
The Secretary-General calls on other JCPOA participants to fully abide by their respective commitments under the Plan and on all other Member States to support this agreement.
In a statement we issued late last night, the Secretary-General congratulated Lebanon on the holding of parliamentary elections on 6 May, the first since 2009. The elections represent a vital step in strengthening Lebanon’s State institutions and consolidating its democratic tradition.
The Secretary-General looks forward to the formation of the new Government. He calls on Lebanon’s political leaders to work in a spirit of unity and with a view to furthering the ambitious agenda set out by Lebanon and its international partners.
The UN continues to support Lebanon and its sovereignty, stability, and political independence in accordance with the Taif [Accord] and relevant Security Council resolutions.
The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) declared a new outbreak of Ebola in Bikoro in Equateur Province yesterday. The outbreak declaration occurred after lab results confirmed two cases of Ebola.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is working closely with the Government of the DRC to rapidly scale up its operations and mobilize health partners using the model of a successful response to a similar outbreak in 2017.
WHO plans to deploy epidemiologists, logisticians, clinicians, infection prevention and control experts, communications experts and other vaccination support teams in the coming days. It released $1 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies to support response activities for the next three months with the goal of stopping the spread of Ebola to surrounding areas and countries.
The Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping operations [Jean-Pierre Lacroix] briefed the Security Council on South Sudan.
He said that heading into the next round of peace talks at the High-Level Revitalization Forum in Addis Ababa, the parties remain far apart, and that the holding of elections in the current political, security and humanitarian environment is unrealistic and would be counter-productive.
Finally, he urged the Security Council to use its voice to dispel the unhealthy narrative of regime change that some of South Sudan's leaders would like to use against the UN and the international community in a bid to win popular support. This narrative serves no one and only sows seeds of hate and paranoia, Mr. Lacroix warned.
**Central African Republic
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, expressed today his deep alarm at the volatile situation in the Central African Republic, particularly given the worrying hate speech and incitement to violence on the basis of religion, as well as the recent killings and attacks in Bangui.
The High Commissioner called on the Government of the Central African Republic and the international community to be extremely vigilant and to take serious measures to curb the incitement to violence on communal grounds.
He stressed that this recent violence must not be allowed to undermine the peace process facilitated by the African Union.
The Special Adviser on Madagascar, Abdoulaye Bathily, arrived in the country on Sunday, 6 May. He will be there for one week to assess the situation on the ground and to assist the Malagasy in addressing their political challenges through peaceful dialogue, together with regional and international partners.
Mr. Bathily has met with different stakeholders, including the President [Hery Rajaonarimampianina] and the principal political leaders.
Mr. Bathily also met the Special Envoy of the African Union, Mr. [Ramtane] Lamamra, and with the high-level delegation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), led by its Special Envoy for Madagascar, former President [Joaquim] Chissano of Mozambique, and SADC Executive Secretary Lawrence Tax.
**Greece/The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
We issued also a Note to Correspondents that you will have seen to inform you of a meeting that will take place in Greece on 12 May. Matthew Nimetz, the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, will meet jointly with Nikos Kotzias, Foreign Minister of Greece, and Nikola Dimitrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The meeting is part of ongoing UN efforts to assist the sides in finding a mutually acceptable solution to the “name” issue.
Our colleagues at the World Food Programme (WFP) told us that poor rainfall in parts of Africa has triggered the largest insurance pay-out to date for vulnerable farmers.
These farmers participate in an innovative climate risk management scheme known as the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative (R4), launched by WFP and Oxfam America in 2011. Insurance is a central component of R4, providing smallholders with protection against extreme weather shocks linked to climate change.
They will receive insurance pay-outs totalling $1.5 million to compensate for weather-related crop losses in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Senegal and Zambia.
I want to flag an activity for all of you this Sunday, if you happen to be in the city and looking for something to do. You may want to attend the benefit concert of The Heartbeat Project, which provides music and math education for Navajo students living on the Reservation. I am flagging this to you because a performance will be by the UN Staff Recreation Council’s Chamber Music Orchestra, and there will be opening remarks by an official of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Office. It’s at All Saints Episcopal Church [at 7 p.m.].
And we say a big thank you to our friends in Andorra and San Marino, as both have paid their regular budget dues in full, bringing us up to? Ninety.
**Questions and Answers
I'll take the first question. Go ahead. Edie?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. The South Sudanese Government has responded to a United States threat to dramatically cut hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the country. The US is the largest donor to South Sudan. Does the Secretary‑General have any comment on this potential cut?
Spokesman: Well, you know, we try to avoid commenting on things that may or may not happen. What is clear to us is that the UN is present and very actively so present in South Sudan, based on a Security Council resolution. We have made our concerns known publicly, as Mr. Lacroix did yesterday in the Security Council. As to the lack of political movement in South Sudan, we feel the lack of responsibility often of some of its leaders towards the well‑being of their own people, but we are continuing to support the people of South Sudan through protection afforded to them by the peacekeeping mission and through, obviously, a very active humanitarian progress. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. As you indicated, the Secretary‑General expressed concern regarding the decision of the [Donald] Trump Administration to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan. Does he have any concrete suggestion to avoid potential crisis in the region?
Spokesman: Well, I think, for the Secretary‑General, it's important that others continue to abide and participate in the JCPOA and that issues that are not directly covered by the JCPOA are also addressed without any prejudice to the agreement. I think the Secretary‑General has often made his concerns known as to the volatility that we see in the Middle East region and his concern at the lack of political progress on a number of files in the region. Masood?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Just one on this… on this Iran deal in which the United States has reneged. What about the… do you have any understanding about the assets…
Spokesman: That's a question you don't ever want to ask me.
Question: What's that?
Spokesman: That's a question you never want to ask me, if I have any understanding, but go ahead. Sorry. I was making a joke.
Question: I really want to ask you, what about the ass… Iranian assets which is going to be transferred back to Iran? Now they're frozen or are they…
Spokesman: I think that's a question to be addressed to those Member States that are parties to the agreement. Mr. Klein and then Mr. Lee. I'll come back to you, Masood.
Question: Yes. You read off a statement by the IAEA as to their conclusion of Iran's continuing compliance with the JCPOA, but the IAEA does not have access to all of the sites, particularly military sites, which Iran has said is off‑limits. So, to what extent is the Secretary‑General concerned with… with… with the fact that the IAEA cannot really give a total clean bill of health on what's going on in Iran…?
Spokesman: The IAEA is reporting on what it is mandated to report.
Question: Well, there's some question because some folks who have seen some of these side protocols, members of the [Barack] Obama Administration, has said… have represented that there's 24 by 7 access to any sites, and that's not been the case. Iran is on record…
Spokesman: As I said, the IAEA…
Question: Wait. Let me just finish. Iran is on record; their leaders are saying no access to military sites.
Spokesman: Mr. Klein, the IAEA is reporting on what it's mandated to report. Matthew?
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask about North Korea and then a change, I guess, made by your office in terms of access to covering the Secretary‑General. On North Korea, the… the… it's reported that the three US hostages, you know, jumped… got on a plane and have been freed. And I wanted to know, do you have any comment? And has the UN… did the UN play any role at all in the version…
Spokesman: I'm not aware of us playing any role into that. We've seen the reports. Obviously, if it's confirmed, we would welcome the release of anyone who have been held against their will.
Question: Okay. I wanted to ask you, this morning, Rosemary DiCarlo was sworn in as the new Head of Department of Political Affairs (DPA). And, in the media alert, I didn't realize you were this closely in… in… in charge of it, but it says, "photo agencies only". So, apparently… I guess I'm wondering, this is a change, and you've described this as "photo agencies are entities whose main purpose is photo coverage".
Spokesman: That would seem logical.
Question: I guess so. So, does this mean that, for example… I see it as… it seems like you would want more coverage rather than less up there, but my question is, by that definition, it seems like wire services are not… their primary purpose is not photo coverage. So, is this… I'm asking you… That's why I need…
Spokesman: Okay. I think the question was to me. I'm trying to bring some rationale in the way photo ops are organized. I think entities who do photo coverage on a regular basis, whose primary goal is to do photo coverage, like the photo services of the wires, will be covered by it. There are other photo ops where there will be comments and speaking will be open to a wider range.
Question: But my question… you said entities, number one, so the primary purpose… you're now saying that entities can have different components. Is this directed at a smaller media I just would like to know… It's kind of tumbleweeds up there. There's nobody there.
Spokesman: It's directed at rationalizing the process, as I see it. Thank you.
Question: Did you consult with anyone before you did this? Because there's people that take photographs… there are a number of photographers at the UN, including some that double with UN Photo, as you may know. Just a unilateral…
Spokesman: Everything was consulted. Yes, go ahead.
Question: Thanks. I would like to know, what's the SG's position on the Iranian ballistic activities? Does the SG believe that the ballistic activities in Iran destabilize the region or escalate the tension, or should it be addressed by… by Iran and maybe neighbours…?
Spokesman: I think issues outside of the JCPOA should be addressed without any prejudice to the JCPOA [inaudible] the SG is. Our principled position is one of more disarmament rather than one of more armament. Benny?
Question: Follow‑up on that. Isn't that part of a Security Council resolution that Iran…
Spokesman: There are relevant Security Council resolutions that need to be abided by.
Question: Is it the Secretary‑General's assessment that the Security Council resolution… because there is controversy inside the Security Council between… some say that it's half permitted and some say it’s only a recommendation…
Spokesman: We, obviously, as a matter of principle support Security Council resolutions.
Question: I have one more question about the… does the Secretary‑General believe that the Sunday election in Lebanon were free, fair and according to democratic…
Spokesman: We issued a statement…
Question: I've seen the statement.
Spokesman: …expressing our opinion on it. We were not involved in the monitoring of the elections.
Question: Thanks, Steph. I wanted to know what the SG thinks the impact of the withdrawal from the Iran deal will be on the North Korea negotiations.
Spokesman: Listen, I think that's a question best answered by analysts that work for your various news organizations. I think he will…
Question: [inaudible]. He has a position on the nuclear deal [inaudible] staying committed. Is he concerned that it might damage the talks with North Korea in any way?
Spokesman: He is supportive of the efforts of the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and he was supportive of the JCPOA. Sir?
Question: Thank you. The letter by the Nigerian opposition political party to the UN Secretary‑General against the Nigerian Government is one issue that has been generating a lot of controversies in Nigeria. I wanted to know if the Secretary‑General has received the petition and if you are also aware of the petition. Thank you.
Spokesman: I need to check. I haven't been able to get an answer on that. Yes, and then Olga.
Question: Okay. Thank you. Does the Secretary‑General has any comment about his visit in Cuba, his impression about the meeting with the Cuban President?
Spokesman: I think he was very pleased by his visit to Cuba. He was very pleased by the discussion he had with the President of Cuba. It was the first time that they met. And I think he was very impressed as well by the ECLAC (Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean) summit, the support that the Member States of ECLAC were giving to the organization. And he seemed to be smiling this morning when he came back, so… Olga?
Question: Thanks, Steph. Also on JCPOA, as US President is talking about new more comprehensive international deal with Iran, I wonder if UN is interested to be a part of it and, more important, if UN can provide… can take these new possible talks under its auspices.
Spokesman: I think we're jumping the gun here a little bit, so I'm not going to have a specific comment on that. Masood?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I just want to know one question… two questions. One was discussion which I had asked earlier Farhan [Haq], and he said that he didn't know. But I know for a fact that a World Food Programme delegation is going to North Korea.
Spokesman: They are in North Korea. We announced that yesterday.
Question: And he said… at that time, he said he didn't know. So what is it that they are going to do? Are they now since the thing… the normalization of relationship between…
Spokesman: WFP has a humanitarian programme in North Korea focused on nutrition, especially of women and children. And David Beasley is there, obviously, to look at the programme and for discussions with North Korean officials. Matthew…?
Question: And also a follow‑up on the question. Maybe you'll say the same thing. Follow‑up is about the murder of Razia Begum in Kashmir, in which dozens of Indians raped her and then took her body and put it away, and that has enraged the Kashmiri Muslims in particular. Does the Secretary‑General have any reaction…
Spokesman: This question was raised. I answered it. We expressed our concern and horror, first of all, horror at the rape and murder of a young child, and we hope that the perpetrators will be brought to justice. Matthew and then Michelle.
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you, I have a follow‑up on what you said before, but I want to be sure to be able to ask you about in Cameroon. Cameroon has reported that the Government has told churches that it is prohibited to provide humanitarian assistance to those fleeing the Anglophone areas, whether across the border into Nigeria or generally. And I wanted to know, since the Secretary‑General is Mr. Refugee, does he have any view of this, of a banning of humanitarian assistance to people fly… fleeing from their homes?
Spokesman: I haven't seen those particular reports, but we do… welcome. Sorry. We haven't seen…
Correspondent: What's going on?
Spokesman: I don't know. You tell me. Sorry. I haven't seen those particular reports, but, as a matter of principle, we, obviously, want to see whoever needs humanitarian help receiving it.
Question: And my follow‑up on what you said is I was… number one, again, I think, like, if you're going to change who has access to the 38th Floor, you need to define "photo agency". But I was told today that MALU (Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit) has been charged with creating a list of individuals who were allowed to go upstairs. So, I wanted to know… If that's the case, I wanted to know what your stance is…
Spokesman: Matthew, Matthew, Matthew… you're…
Question: No, seriously. I take photographs and publish them in a service, and so I want to know…
Spokesman: Matthew, Matthew, Matthew, besides me, you're probably one of the most self‑centred people I've ever met. This is not about you. This is a decision we've taken to rationalize the process…
Question: So is the list going to be made public? I'm asking you.
Spokesman: Thank you. Michelle, sorry, Michelle, did you have a question?
Question: Yeah, just on… on…
Spokesman: I'm sorry?
Spokesman: Okay all right. Thank you. Excellent. I've been called worse. Go ahead.
Question: A follow‑up on Iran after the announcement yesterday, what sort of diplomacy has the SG been undertaking? Has he spoken…
Spokesman: Contacts have been had at various levels, and I will leave it at that for the time being. Mr. Klein?
Question: Yes. Going back to the SG statement that you read on the JCPOA, he said that issues not directly related to JCPOA should be handled outside of that framework. Would the Secretary‑General consider ongoing work on technology to integrate nuclear warheads with ballistic missiles since it does involve both nuclear technology and the delivery of nuclear weapons within the scope of the JCPOA?
Spokesman: You're throwing out a lot of hypotheticals.
Question: No, no, it's not a hypothetical. It's not a hypothetical.
Spokesman: “Would,” but… okay. There are responsibilities in the JCPOA. The Secretary‑General is supportive of that. As he has said before, that is also something that can be built on. Countries have responsibilities under existing Security Council resolutions and other treaties, and those should be followed. Thank you.