Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon, happy Friday. I’m going to read this statement into the record — you all saw it about an hour ago — on the removal of oil from the FSO Safer.
The Secretary-General welcomes the news that the ship-to-ship transfer of oil from the FSO Safer to the Yemen replacement vessel has been safely concluded today, avoiding what could have been a monumental environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.
The Secretary-General reaffirms the UN’s commitment to successfully complete this project, including through the delivery of a specialized buoy to which the replacement vessel will be safely and securely tethered. He expresses his gratitude to the Yemeni authorities whose support has been critical to its success. Additional funding will be needed to finish the project and remove any remaining environmental threat to the Red Sea.
The Secretary-General thanks the many countries, corporate and philanthropic donors as well as ordinary citizens who contributed funding for the project.
The Secretary-General urges donors to contribute funds at this crucial time to conclude this operation.
And as you can see, after I’m finished, we will be joined once again by Achim Steiner, who is the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and David Gressly, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen.
They are joining us virtually — Mr. Steiner is joining from Europe and Mr. Gressly from Aden to speak to you about the removal of oil from FSO Safer.
This morning, you will have seen that we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General was delighted to learn of the release of Akm Sufiul Anam, Mazen Bawazir, Bakeel Al-Mahdi, Mohammed Al-Mulaiki and Khaled Mokhtar Sheikh, the five personnel of the UN’s Department of Safety and Security (DSS) who had been kidnapped in Yemen on 11 February 2022. Finally, their ordeal and the anxiety of their families and friends have come to an end.
The Secretary-General reiterates that kidnapping is an inhumane and unjustifiable crime and calls for the perpetrators to be held accountable.
He also expresses his solidarity with other people still held against their will in Yemen.
For his part, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, David Gressly, who you will be able to talk to in just a few minutes, said that he saw that the four Yemeni colleagues were in good health when he flew with them to Aden from Mukalla today. He thanked the Government of Yemen and all others that helped to secure their release.
And in another statement that we issued last night, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the assassination of presidential candidate of Ecuador Fernando Villavicencio. Attacks of this nature represent a grave threat to democracy, and those responsible must be brought to justice.
The United Nations stands ready to continue to support the Ecuadorian authorities with a view to addressing the violence in keeping with international human rights norms and standards.
In Ukraine, the UN is very concerned about the pattern of attacks in populated areas that result in civilian harm.
In the Kherson region, an aid distribution point of the NGO (non-governmental organization) ADRA was hit this morning. None of the staff was injured, but the strike damaged their vehicles and forced them to suspend lifesaving support to people in the area.
In Zaporizhzhia, an attack damaged a hotel yesterday where a civilian was reportedly killed and others injured. It is a hotel frequently used by UN staff and by other humanitarian organizations.
We recall that indiscriminate attacks are strictly prohibited and constant care must be taken to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure.
Needs in Ukraine are once again increasing and will soon outpace our capacity to respond if more funding is not received. This year’s Humanitarian Response Plan, which calls for $3.9 billion, is only 30 per cent funded.
Turning to Sudan, we have an update on our efforts to get humanitarian assistance into Khartoum State, which remains extremely challenging due to the conflict.
This morning, trucks carrying some 460 tons of supplies from the World Food Programme (WFP) reached Jabal Awlia in greater Khartoum, one of the areas hardest hit by the fighting.
The convoy was facilitated by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which engaged with the parties to the conflict to ensure that the trucks could safely reach their destination.
Since late May, WFP has assisted more than 150,000 people in the greater Khartoum area.
The agency continues to scale up assistance to people who are fleeing Sudan's capital to neighbouring states such as Aj Jazirah, Northern and River Nile. And to recall, last week WFP delivered food assistance in West Darfur State for around 15,400 people.
Once again, we appeal to all parties to provide safe and unconditional humanitarian access to all parts of Sudan, including other hard-to-reach areas such as South Kordofan, and to all parts of Darfur, in particular North Darfur.
Further to what the Secretary-General has said about his concerns about President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger, Volker Türk, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, today said that he is extremely concerned about the rapidly deteriorating conditions in which President Bazoum, his wife and his son have been arbitrarily detained.
He said that he has received credible reports that the conditions of detention could amount to inhuman and degrading treatment, in violation of international human rights law. And he added that those responsible for the detention of the President must ensure the full respect and protection of his human rights and of all others being held.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
Our peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO, reports that on 9 August, peacekeepers intervened during an attack by CODECO elements on Jissa village, close to Djugu, in Ituri Province. The assailants, who earlier burned homes and made civilians flee, fled upon the arrival of the peacekeepers.
Peacekeepers deployed again to the area on Thursday morning and continued to patrol, in response to alerts from the community of sightings of the same group.
This is the second attack in the area this past week. As you will recall, on Monday, CODECO raided another village in Largu. Djugu territory, and peacekeepers rapidly responded and saved lives, in addition to protecting some 1,000 civilians, who had fled to a nearby UN base for safety.
Today is World Steelpan Day. The steelpan is a musical instrument originating in Trinidad and Tobago. It correlates to cultural, social and economic development.
And tomorrow we mark International Youth Day with the theme “Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable World”. In his message, the Secretary-General says that humanity depends on the boundless energy, ideas and contributions of youth everywhere. He calls to support and stand with young people in shaping a just and sustainable world, for the people and our planet.
And we end the day with thanks to our friends in Victoria, capital city of the beautiful Seychelles. They’ve paid their regular budget dues in full for 2023.
This payment takes us to 128 fully paid-up Member States.
**Questions and Answers
Deputy Spokesman: And that is it from me. Are there any questions before we turn to our guests? Yes, Edie?
Question: I'll save my questions on the tanker and, since David Gressly is there, also about the release of the five UN staffers for them. Is there any update on cross-border deliveries through Bab al-Hawa?
Deputy Spokesman: Why, yes, there is. In fact, it was handed to me just seconds before you spoke. The UN and our humanitarian partners continue to deliver urgently needed aid through the Bab al-Salam and Al-Ra'ee border crossings. Today, 13 trucks carrying humanitarian shelter items, medicines, medical equipment and other assistance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the World Health Organization (WHO) crossed into Syria via Bab al-Salam.
Question: Nothing through Bab al-Hawa yet?
Deputy Spokesman: Nothing to report so far.
Question: Farhan, I'd like to know why it took so long for those people from the UN to be free. Did we do anything before?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, certainly I wish it had happened earlier, and you'll hear shortly from Mr. Gressly. But, certainly, it took a lot of effort and we certainly appreciate the supporting roles that have been played by several Member States in these discussions, including Iraq [sic]… Oh, sorry. Sorry. Wrong situation. Including the support of Oman and other Member States in these efforts. And, sorry, I have several different situations in front of me. But we thank the role that Oman helped to play, but it did take a lot of patience and a lot of negotiation. We're very sorry to the families of those concerned that it's taken such a long time, but we're very grateful that all of our people are safe and sound.
Yes. Yes, please?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Next week, the Security Council will be meeting to talk about the humanitarian situation in the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). And, as you know, many people are concerned with the absence of UN and international aid workers in that country. Have you seen any move or signs from its Government to accept the return of those workers?
Deputy Spokesman: We remain in touch with the relevant authorities. We are always prepared to provide assistance once we have the ability to do so.
Question: But so far, there's nothing?
Deputy Spokesman: There's no change to report.
Question: Thank you.
Deputy Spokesman: Margaret Besheer, you have a question? Maggie, are you there?
Deputy Spokesman: Okay. Got you. Yeah.
Question: Oh, okay. Thanks. On the hotel in the Ukraine, that was damaged, that you said UN staff and other NGOs used. Did you reach out to… First of all, who shelled it? Was it the Ukrainians or the Russians? And have you reached out to them? And is there any sort of deconfliction mechanism employed in this sort of situation, like, for when you tell them coordinates and such?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we inform all relevant people of where our personnel are. So that is part of the point. But, in general, even if we were not there, the entire point is all civilian infrastructure needs to be spared, and it's imperative that international humanitarian law is [respected].
Yes, in the back.
Question: Sorry. And do you know who did it? Sorry. Do you know from which side the shelling came?
Deputy Spokesman: We don't have the forensic capability to determine exactly who is responsible for this.
Yes, in the back.
Question: Okay. On the release of the five UNDSS personnel, again. I just wanted to ask, the statement doesn't mention who was responsible of the kidnapping. Do we know?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, you'll hear also from Mr. Gressly after this. But I believe the responsible party was Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And with that, that's as good as segue as any to get to our guests. So we're very pleased to have with us today Achim Steiner, the Administrator of UNDP, and David Gressly, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen.