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.
You will have seen that the Secretary-General this morning welcomed the signing of a ceasefire agreement by the Libyan parties. That was signed in Geneva today under the auspices of the United Nations. He said this is a fundamental step towards peace and stability in Libya, and he congratulated the parties for putting the interest of their nation ahead of their differences.
Earlier in the day, in Geneva, the Acting Special Representative, Stephanie Williams, said that the parties agreed that all military units and armed groups on the frontlines shall return to their camps. This shall be accompanied by the departure of all mercenaries and foreign fighters from all Libyan territories — land, air and sea — within a maximum period of three months from today.
Her remarks, the SG’s remarks and everybody else’s remarks and videos have been distributed.
Tomorrow is UN Day. I know, such enthusiasm! Our 75th UN day, in fact, which marks the entry into force of the UN Charter in 1945. In his message for the Day, Antonio Guterres noted that the 75th anniversary of the UN falls in the middle of a global pandemic and that our founding mission is more critical than ever. He points out that when the pandemic hit, he called for a global ceasefire. He adds that in our world today, we have one common enemy: COVID-19.
Mr. Guterres stresses that we must also make peace with our planet, and that the climate emergency threatens life itself, adding that around the world, we must do more to end human suffering from poverty, inequality, hunger, hatred, and fight discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender or any other distinction.
On this UN anniversary, he asked people everywhere to join together, and stresses that the UN not only stands with you, it belongs to you and is you: “We the peoples.”
That message was distributed.
**75 Years of Love Concert
Also tomorrow, in marking the anniversary, at noon, the UN Chamber Music Society will premiere the “75 Years of Love” virtual concert. The programme will be musically representative at the regional level, as a repertoire from all five official regional groups of the UN will be featured. The songs chosen will be linked to the message of the UN’s 75th anniversary.
Opening remarks will be delivered by Fabrizio Hochschild, who has been leading our efforts to marks the 75th anniversary of the UN, as well as Filippo Grandi, the High Commissioner for Refugees; and Melissa Fleming, the Head of the Global Communications.
The concert will be launched on the Official YouTube Channel for UN75, as well as other UN and UNHCR (United Nations refugee agency) platforms.
The Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, will join the African Union’s Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smaїl Chergui, on a visit to Sudan together starting tomorrow.
Their three-day visit will seek to further strengthen the important partnership between the UN and the African Union (AU) and will focus on the Joint AU-UN operations in Darfur, known as UNAMID, and its drawdown.
In Sudan, Mr. Lacroix and Mr. Chergui will meet with the Chair of the Sovereign Council and the Prime Minister, among others, to discuss the overall situation in Darfur and UNAMID’s mandate. They will also take part in the twenty-eighth meeting of the Tripartite Coordination Mechanism on UNAMID on 25 October.
They will also travel to El Fasher in Darfur to meet with local government representatives. They will hold a virtual town hall with UNAMID staff to thank them for their work in protecting civilians, including in light of additional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and supporting the recently signed Juba Peace Agreement.
Also, on Sudan, our good friends at OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) tell us that, following the unprecedented rains and floods affecting 875,000 people, a secondary health emergency is looming with more than 4.5 million people at risk of vector-borne diseases. Stagnant water pools are providing breeding sites for mosquitoes, which are vectors for viral haemorrhagic fever, chikungunya and malaria.
Malaria, for instance, reached an epidemic levels in 15 out of 18 states by the end of September, with more than 1 million cases reported.
We, along with our humanitarian partners, have procured and distributed 266 emergency health kits to support malaria treatment and other health needs to help up to 2.7 million people for three months. However, there are significant shortages in malaria supplies to address the current levels of infection, with difficulties in distributing supplies to some areas due to the flooding.
The health sector component of the Humanitarian Response Plan for Sudan has only received 19 per cent of funding requirements so far.
And south of the border, in South Sudan, the Humanitarian Coordinator there, Mohamed Ag Ayoya, today condemned the intimidation of aid workers in Renk in Upper Nile state.
On 12 October, a youth group demanded that humanitarian organizations re-assign jobs to local people. When those demands were not met, the youth then insisted that all humanitarian activities be suspended and aid workers leave the area immediately.
Following an increase in threats and attacks, 30 people were relocated to the closest UN base for their safety.
Mr. Ayoya said that intimidating aid workers delays the delivery of much-needed assistance to the most vulnerable and is unacceptable.
In Somalia, as the country prepares to hold elections, James Swan, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, stressed the need to keep the political space open and allow for a diversity of voices and views to be expressed as part of the democratic process.
To achieve this, Mr. Swan said that freedom of expression, opinion, and assembly must be protected.
You can read that online.
**COVID-19 — Kenya
Quick update on what our UN colleagues around the world are doing to help Member States beat back the pandemic, today from Kenya:
The UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Siddharth Chatterjee, is working closely with local partners to address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women and girls.
UN-Women, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) have helped to set up a national toll-free helpline to assist in providing health care, security and legal assistance to an increasing number of women and children impacted by female genital mutilation, gender-based violence, child neglect, and child marriage. The helpline offers counselling 24 hours a day in English, Swahili and other local languages, processing more than 1,000 cases per month.
One in five women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 in Kenya have undergone female genital mutilation.
The UN team there is concerned that the pandemic has set back progress to end female genital mutilation. Girls are disproportionately impacted by school closures, leading to an increase in child marriage, teenage pregnancy and sexual violence.
The UN team has increased its efforts to address these problems, including to ensure funding and community engagement.
From Lebanon, we are told that a detachment of UN peacekeepers returned to the Mission’s area of operations in south Lebanon after completing more than three weeks of engineering work in Beirut in support of the Lebanese Armed Forces.
Nearly 150 peacekeepers from 13 contingents from UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) facilitated the resumption of operations at the Beirut Port by clearing 11,500 tons of debris and carried out construction work as well. In the process, they also dismantled four of the damaged warehouses in the port.
In addition, UNIFIL peacekeepers assisted in the restoration of damaged heritage sites from further devastation by clearing 500 tons of rubble and separating and storing about 150 tons of stones, facades and wood ornaments for future use.
**Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: Just to let you know that today, Jamaica and Nauru deposited their instruments of ratification to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
As of now, 49 States have ratified the Treaty. One more is needed for the Treaty to enter into force.
We will be sure to let you know as soon as this important milestone is reached.
And just to note that yesterday we issued a statement on Guinea, in which the Secretary-General condemned the violence that occurred following the elections on Sunday.
He calls on all sides to immediately take action to end the violence, and encourages all actors to await the announcement of the official results by the Independent National Electoral Commission and to resolve any potential disputes through established legal mechanisms.
And on Côte d’Ivoire, which is about to hold an election, the Secretary-General said he is concerned about the tense situation, and he condemned the violence that we saw in Bonoua and Dabou, which caused several fatalities.
And he calls on everyone, opinion leaders, political leaders to reject the use of hate speech and the incitement of violence along ethnopolitical lines.
Those full statements have been shared with you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: So, the last half‑hour, news out of the White House, President [Donald] Trump describing a very special deal between Israel and Sudan. Can I have your reaction to that? First part, and then your reaction to the second part, which is that the US is lifting the status of… State sponsor of terror after 30 years on Sudan.
Spokesman: We… I’ll be honest with you. I just saw the flash before I came in. I hope to have some reaction to you shortly. We just need to look at exactly what was announced.
Question: Okay. On that State sponsor of terrorism, what will that mean for Sudan as it tries to rebuild…?
Spokesman: It’s a bilateral issue between the US and Sudan. We do hope that it’s a move in the right direction for Sudan’s standing amongst Member States.
Question: Could I ask you another question on what we discussed with the Secretary‑General this morning, because we didn’t have time to get… to go further? Peace talks are now supposed to take place in Tunis. Do we have a proposed date for those peace talks?
And then the second part of my question, the idea of those peace talks is to arrange elections in 2021. Again, is there a proposed target date? And given that that is only a few months away, 2021, what sort of planning work is going on in the UN about UN‑backed elections in Libya, which one assumes to be quite difficult to organize, and security arrangements for such elections?
And has someone actually… given it’s quite close, has someone in the UN actually been put in charge of this process?
Spokesman: That’s a lot to unpack with… I’ll check on a date. For some reason, I thought we had announced a date for Tunis, but I will check on that for you.
Question: I think you just said early November.
Spokesman: Yeah. So, I’ll double‑check. Obviously, it’s as soon as practicable. I think we all want to move on the very positive momentum that has been laid out with what was agreed to in Geneva.
Dates… from listening to Stephanie Williams this morning, dates, all those things, will have to be issued… will have to be settled by the parties. I think her message was that the transition period should not be a long one so that those who are leading the country during the transition period don’t get too settled into their seats.
Obviously, I have no doubt that Ms. Williams and her team are planning for all sorts of different scenarios and how we can… and how the UN can help the Libyan people move forward. A critical underpinning of that will be the ceasefire and to ensure that there is no violence on the ground.
Ms. Lederer and then…
Question: Thank you, Steph. On one of the other conflicts that the Secretary‑General’s very concerned about, Yemen, is there any update on what Martin Griffiths is doing, possible additional prisoner exchanges, work on the joint declaration?
Spokesman: All I can tell you is that Mr… I was about to say Mr. Yemen. He kind of is Mr. Yemen. [Laughter] Mr. Griffiths and his team are continuing their contacts by phone and other means with the parties, and as soon as he has something concrete to announce, he will.
Carla, and then we’ll go to the screen.
Question: Thank you. When — and I hope it will be soon — the fiftieth country ratifies the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), how will that impact countries, such as the US, UK and France, who said they have not joined; they will not join ever? Will the entry into force have any impact upon the nuclear weapons dates?
Spokesman: Well, I mean, that’s a legal question. I think people have to look at the treaty. What is clear for the Secretary‑General is that the initiative of nuclear… a complete ban on nuclear weapons is something that he’s always pushed for and welcome, and he wants to see a world free of the threat of nuclear weapons.
All right. Toby and then we’ll go to Mr. Klein. So, Toby, go ahead.
Question: Thanks, Steph. It’s just a follow‑up to the question on the TPNW. Can you comment about pressure being put on signatories and ratifiers of the TPNW by nuclear Powers? What do you think about that kind of diplomatic pressure?
Spokesman: It’s not for me to comment. The Secretary‑General’s not a signatory, so I couldn’t tell you about what pressure may or may not be had.
Mr. Klein. Nice to see you again.
Question: Yes. Can you hear me?
Spokesman: Yeah, go ahead.
Question: Yeah. Okay. Actually, James took the primary question I was going to ask about Sudan. That’s okay.
On Libya, do you have any more details you can share about specific commitments given by the leadership in Turkey, the UAE, Libya, France, Russia in abiding by the arms embargo? And how… what mechanisms did the UN contemplate in monitoring the arms embargo?
Spokesman: Well, the monitoring of the arms embargo is being done and the reporting on it by the Sanctions Committee. I would encourage you to read fully what Ms. Williams said in Geneva and also what the Secretary‑General added.
What is clear is that not only the parties on the ground but all of those Member States who are involved one way or another should work together in the same goal, and that is the goal of bringing peace to Libya and not of bringing more weapons or more mercenaries or more soldiers to Libya.
Question: Well, that’s all fine and well, but I’m asking whether there are any specific commitments, orally or in writing, to the leaders of the countries I mentioned and the Secretary‑General regarding the abiding by… [Cross talk]
Spokesman: We very much hope that the Member States will abide by the commitments they’ve already made in Berlin and by the commitments they are subject to through Security Council resolutions.
Okay? Any other questions? No? Unless somebody waves their hands, I will leave you in the hands of Mr. [Brenden] Varma, who will speak to you on behalf of the President of the General Assembly.
Have a great weekend. See you Monday, and happy UN Day. Hope you all tune in to the Concert of Love.