The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Secretary-General – Turkey
The Secretary-General is, as you know, in Istanbul today for the first World Humanitarian Summit. In his opening remarks, he recalled that he proposed this Summit four years ago out of concern for rising humanitarian needs and declining political will, and that today, the urgency had only grown with a record number of people – 130 million – needing aid to survive.
In a meeting with participating leaders, the Secretary-General urged them to make a commitment today and to support and take forward the Agenda for Humanity, and to use it to measure progress. He also had two high-level events – one on political leadership to prevent and end conflict and another on humanitarian financing. His remarks have been shared with you.
And during a bilateral meeting, the Secretary-General and President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an of Turkey discussed the situation in Syria, including on the root causes of the refugee crisis, enhancing international efforts to combat the threat posed by Da’esh. The Secretary-General also stressed the need for improved humanitarian access, as well as actions against persistent violators of the cessation of hostilities, in the hope that the next round of talks in Geneva could take place soon and focus on transitional arrangements.
The Secretary-General also condemned the recent terrorist attacks in Turkey, urging due diligence with regard to civilians and adherence to international human rights principles during the course of any counter-terrorism operations.
**Secretary-General – Qatar
You will have seen that before Istanbul, he was in Qatar for the Doha Forum, where he stressed that in the Middle East and Gulf region, millions of people are suffering the consequences of conflict, terrorism, inequality, regional rivalries and severe deficits in basic freedoms. He said that as we set our sights on the year 2030, we must do far more to end conflict and suffering in 2016. He also said he was profoundly concerned about new laws and attacks that infringe on the rights of NGOs, human rights defenders and the media. In the Middle East and elsewhere, excessively broad definitions of security end up undermining security, he warned.
**Secretary-General – Syria
I have a statement on the situation in Syria.
The Secretary-General condemns the terrorist attacks today that claimed the lives of dozens of civilians in the Syrian coastal towns of Jableh and Tartus. The Secretary-General takes note with great concern of the escalating military activity in many parts in and around Damascus. The violence, particularly in Daraya, Aleppo and Idlib, and in the northern countryside of Homs, especially Al Houla, is causing mounting civilian casualties.
The Secretary-General reiterates his call on all parties to the Syrian conflict to refrain from attacks on the civilian population. Those perpetrating such attacks must be held accountable for their crimes.
The Secretary-General reminds all parties to the cessation of hostilities of their duty to abide by its terms, in accordance with Security Council resolution 2268 (2016). He calls upon all member states to take immediate, collective and decisive action to bring the tragedy unfolding in Syria to an end, in line with their commitments in accordance with Security Council resolutions 2254 (2015) and 2268 (2016).
That statement will be shared with you shortly.
**Syria – Humanitarian Assistance
On a related note, on 22 May, yesterday, a joint UN/International Committee of the Red Cross/Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy delivered much-needed humanitarian assistance to Qudsaya and Hameh in Rural Damascus. This is the first time the UN has reached East Harasta since July of last year.
Food, nutrition, hygiene and medical items were delivered to 25,000 people in need in Qudsaya, while medical supplies were delivered to 15,000 people in Hameh. Technical teams also conducted initial rapid needs assessments.
The Government of Syria did not permit the inclusion of some medical items and medicines in the planned convoy. This practice continues to lead to unnecessary suffering and loss of life and the United Nations continues to press the Syrian Government to allow the inclusion of all necessary medical supplies and medicines in any convoy.
**Deputy Secretary – General Travels
Just to flag that the Deputy Secretary-General, as you would have seen, is also in Istanbul to attend the World Humanitarian Summit. He gave a press conference yesterday, which is now on the UN Web TV.
And on 25 May 2016, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Nairobi, Kenya, to participate in the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2). He will also have bilateral meetings with representatives of the Kenyan government. And he will return to New York next weekend.
And in Kuwait today, the Government of Yemen delegation returned to the negotiating table. The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, held a plenary this morning with both delegations.
You will recall that, while in Qatar this weekend, the Secretary-General had a trilateral meeting with the Amir of Qatar [Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani] and President [Abdrabuh Mansour] Hadi of Yemen, which the Special Envoy also attended.
To President Hadi, the Secretary-General underlined that peace negotiations are rarely smooth but that there was a need for commitment and perseverance by all sides. He added that, in parallel to the peace talks, all parties needed to redouble their efforts to provide and facilitate humanitarian and other supplies, including fuel, to alleviate the appalling living conditions of millions of Yemeni citizens. And that report is online.
Nickolay Mladenov, the [UN] Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, today welcomed the Israeli decision to resume the private import of cement into Gaza after nearly 45 days of suspension. This has become possible because of the efforts by both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities. He said that all sides need to ensure that cement deliveries reach their intended beneficiaries and are used solely for civilian purposes.
The United Nations continues to call for the full lifting of all closures on Gaza, as envisioned in Security Council Resolution 1860 (2009).
Mr. Mladenov said that a permanent end to the suffering of the Palestinian people can only be achieved through reuniting Gaza and the West Bank under a single, legitimate, democratic Palestinian national authority and the realization of a two-state solution.
You would have seen that over the weekend our colleagues in Sudan, especially the Humanitarian Country Team there, expressed shock and disappointment yesterday at the de facto expulsion by the Government of Sudan of a senior UN official, the Head of Office of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Ivo Freijsen.
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the UN in Sudan that Mr. Freijsen’s annual stay permit will not be renewed when it expires on 6 June , but has provided no official explanation in writing for this decision.
The members of the Humanitarian Country Team expressed deep concern about the impact of the decision on the operating environment for all humanitarian organizations in the country.
In 2015 the Humanitarian Country Team and partners coordinated implementation of delivery of over $600 million worth of aid to hundreds of thousands of people across the country.
The Country Team remains committed to supporting the Government and the people of Sudan in providing humanitarian assistance. The Country Team calls upon the Government of Sudan to ensure a fully conducive environment for delivery of timely and quality humanitarian assistance.
And today is the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula and in his message for the day, the Secretary-General called for an end to fistula within a generation.
Today, an estimated two million women and girls around the world continue to live with fistula, and there are between 50,000 and 100,000 new cases every year. Most of them can die without ever receiving treatment, mostly due to very poor access to quality maternal health services.
The Secretary-General expressed concern that such a preventable and treatable condition still exists in our world, mainly affecting the poorest and most marginalized women and girls, causing them even greater suffering and isolation.
His statement is online.
**Food Insecurity Network
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the European Union (EU) launched today a joint network to respond to food crises.
At present 240 million people in 70 countries are in a food stress situation, including 80 million people in food crisis. Nearly half of those people are in countries affected by the El NiAo phenomenon.
You would have seen that late on Friday we also announced the appointment of two envoys for El NiAo, Mary Robinson of Ireland and Macharia Kamau of Kenya, as Special Envoys on El NiAo and Climate.
**UNEP – Environmental Degradation
UNEP [The UN Environment Agency] released today a new report highlighting the impact of the environmental degradation on humans. According to the report, environmental degradation and pollution is estimated to cause up to 234 times as many premature deaths as occur in conflicts annually.
Environmental impacts are also responsible for the deaths of more than one quarter of all children under the age of five, the report says.
The 25th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) opened at the UN in Vienna today. Running until 27 May, it will examine how criminal justice response can prevent and counter terrorism.
On the margins of the Crime Commission, Yury Fedotov, the head of UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and John Scanlon, the Secretary General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, otherwise known as CITES, will launch the first UNODC World Wildlife Crime Report and hold a press briefing at 3 p.m. in Vienna.
Late on Friday we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General said that he continued to follow the situation in Venezuela and was encouraged by the ongoing initiatives of former heads of state and government to promote a dialogue between the government and the opposition under the auspices of the Union of South American Nations.
Two more things:
Just to flag that the new UN Learning Centre for Multilingualism and Career Development has been officially opened today by the Under-Secretary-General for Management, Mr. [Yukio] Takasu.
The centre is located in the basement under the former North Lawn Building and serves as the home of the Language and Communications Programme and the Career Resource Centre, both managed by the Department of Management’s Office of Human Resources.
More than 2,000 people from within the global Secretariat and the Permanent Missions will use the facility each trimester as they participate in language and communication training in the official languages of the UN.
How many? Six, Okay. I am just making sure you are still paying attention.
**Press Conferences Today
And speaking of six, at 6 p.m. today, following consultations between the Security Council and members of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, the Ambassador of Egypt, the Ambassador [Amr Abdellatif] Aboulatta – President of the Security Council for the month of May, will be briefing the press – that will be you at the Security Council Stakeout.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Okay. I’ll start from where… close to where you end about the multilingualism and the UN. The new centre, my understanding, as a resident journalist, I don’t have any access to this centre, although many of my colleagues have expressed that they would like to take advantage of improving their other language skills. Is there any chance this can be reviewed?
Spokesman: Sounds like a housekeeping question which I will check upon.
Correspondent: Okay. Thank you.
Spokesman: Edie, then Mr. Lee.
Question: Two things, Stephane. On the Sudan expulsion of the Humanitarian Coordinator, is the United Nations making high level representations and asking that the expulsion be reversed?
And is there any comment on this spate of bombings claimed by the Islamic State in Syria and also the spate in Iraq?
Spokesman: On… on Syria, I think that was addressed by the statement that I read out. Maybe you… as you were coming in. So we’ve issued a statement on that. We’ll refer you to that.
On Sudan, obviously, it’s of concern to us. I think the first… as we say, it’s a de facto expulsion, because it’s not as if… he was not declared persona non grata but rather his visa was not renewed, his stay visa. Mr. Freijsen is currently in Sudan, and our colleagues there are trying to… are obviously in contact with the government to try to get explanations and hopefully the decision reversed.
On…on Iraq, I think we and… from here and as well as the deputy…the Secretary General’s Special Representative in Iraq have continued to express their concern about the continued violence and the terrorist attacks that we have seen in and around Baghdad.
Question: Follow up on Edie’s question about Sudan. Why hasn’t the Secretary General’s Office directly made some sort of… sent a communication to Sudan either through the PR [Permanent Representative] here or some other channel?
Spokesman: Various contacts are being… are being had. Obviously, we’re doing our best to get the situation reversed, but I… as soon as I can share a bit more information, I will.
Question: And on an unrelated but similar issue, the question of Kenya and the UN protests about the closure of the refugee camps – is there any update on whether the UN is getting the Kenyan government to back down?
Spokesman: No further progress than what we’ve said recently. You know, the Secretary General had a conversation with President [Uhuru] Kenyatta. The High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Filippo Grandi, and the Deputy Secretary General will be in Nairobi as soon as the World Humanitarian Summit has ended and will follow up with the President and other Kenyan officials.
Question: Sure. I want to ask about Yemen and Burundi. I heard what you said about the…the talks in Kuwait. You said that yesterday actually the Saudi led coalition dropped bombs on Sana’a for the first time in some time. And there’s also an Amnesty International report out, basically very detailed, talking about the use of U.K. PL755 cluster bombs around Sa’ada. So I’m wondering, is the envoy…was he unaware of those… those… what does he think of airstrikes on the capital where people marking…
Spokesman: We obviously condemn all the continued violence we’ve seen in Yemen, whether it’s airstrikes, whether it is attacks, terror attacks that we’ve seen even over the weekend.
The message is clear is that the focus needs to be on the political…on the political talks. We need to see a lowering of…of the violence. We’re obviously very much aware of these issues.
On the use of cluster… you know, the reported use of cluster munition, I think the Secretary General and others have reminded that those countries who sell weapons and munitions to a… to a third country have also responsibility on how those weapons are used.
Question: Okay. And on… I guess…on Burundi, I wanted to…obviously, the talks have started again. I’ve seen pictures of Mr. [Jamal] Benomar there, but there are a lot of… you know, the… the… many people in the opposition including the CNA Red Coalition, Mr. Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, who’ve spoken in this room, none of them were invited. So does the UN think the invitations made… turns out the Secretary General of the East African community is a Burundian ambassador? So people are looking at the process and saying it’s not an open one. Is the UN giving its blessing by Mr. Benomar being there or is he protesting the limitations?
Spokesman: I think it’s not about blessings or not blessings. These talks are an important first step in trying to deal with the current tensions in… in Burundi. It’s obviously important that any dialogue, any talks be inclusive and fully representative and that the Burundians have a prime responsibility in finding a way forward for a peaceful and stable future in which human rights are respected.
Question: Just one follow up. I want to ask specifically about Mr. Mbonimpa, because he’s a guy that’s won human rights awards. He’s clearly a nonviolent opposition figure. Has the UN asked…
Spokesman: I think… as I said, talks need to be fully inclusive.
Question: Stephane, on Iraq, the Iraqi offensive on Fallujah, I was wondering if you had any information on the humanitarian side whether you’re bracing for anything, have any preparations or…?
Spokesman: No, indeed. I think what we’re seeing now is of great concern to us, especially our… our humanitarian colleagues. We’re very concerned about the fate of the civilians that remain in Fallujah as the military operations take… are undertaken. Our estimate is that there are about 50,000 civilians in Fallujah. The humanitarian situation obviously remains very fluid as the… as the fighting is… is ongoing. We’re working with our local humanitarian partners to assess population movement and obviously what the needs of that… those population is once the… the… they’ve either left the combat zone or trying to get to them after the combats are over.
I think one of the problem is that civilians are under great danger as they try… as they try to flee. And it’s important that… you know, that they have some safe corridors that they could use. For those who have made it out, the UN and its partners are providing emergency assistance, including water and shelter and food, shelter particularly critically needed due to the rising temperatures we’re seeing in Iraq and the threat of dehydration.
Question: How many people?
Spokesman: I don’t have the number of people they’re actually treating, but there… the authorities are transporting a lot of displaced women and children to Ameriyat al Fallujah, which is about 30 kilometres south, with families staying with relatives in town or other… or the community. Men and boys are reportedly being transported by the authorities to central Anbar for security screening.
So as… I mean, basically, the message that the situation is very fluid, and as the fighting continues, there’s a great risk to civilians.
Olga, then Mr. Klein and then Linda. Sorry.
Question: Thanks, Stephane. First question, do you have any information or confirmation of the killing of Taliban leader Mansour on Afghan Pakistan border?
And the second, not question, just observation, you just read the readout after SG meeting with Turkish Erdogan. I hope I’m not the only one who didn’t get the readout in the mail. Will you…
Spokesman: Okay. I will… we had some computer problems over the weekend. If you didn’t get it, we’ll be happy to resend it.
Question: Yeah. And…
Question: I hope we all will be happy if you can send all these readouts of SG…
Spokesman: All the time. That’s my goal in life.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Spokesman: No, I don’t have a comment because I don’t have any particular… we obviously have no confirmation on our end at… at these kinds of things.
Question: I’m sorry. Just to follow up, but did you contact the U.S. part because it was President [Barack] Obama who announced that he’s…
Spokesman: I have no information on that.
Question: Yes, yesterday there was a rather lengthy article in The New York Timesconcerning the transformation of the Muslim community in Kosovo from what was considered to be a fairly moderate, tolerant one to a more extremist ideology influenced by the importing of Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia funded through Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States.
So my question is, to what extent has the UN mission in Kosovo dealt with this… this transformation? Since we’re taking… you’re dealing with an area that was allegedly tolerant and moderate and, because of the importing of this extremist ideology [off mic/ inaudible]… potentially a sanctuary for jihadists right under the UN’s nose, so could you comment on that?
Spokesman: I don’t have any particular information on how the mission is handling the issues related to preventing violent extremism, which obviously, the Secretary General put out a report, and the overall message is for countries to develop their… their own plans to counter violent extremism.
I’m happy to look into and contact the mission to see what they’ve done or what they’re doing at the local level with the local authorities.
Question: This is beyond just a… a typical Member State or country. This is an area that’s supposedly under UN administration…
Spokesman: I don’t… I don’t…
Question: And… and… and using the term “violent extremism” still avoids the reference to the underlying Islamic jihad ideology, part coming from a country that the UN claims to be cooperating with on antiterrorism, Saudi Arabia. So I’m just wondering if we can pierce through some of the euphemisms and really, you know, get to the end of the line issue.
Spokesman: Well, as I said, I think the issue of preventing violent extremism is one that’s high on the Secretary General’s agenda, as you know, and I’m happy to look with… with the mission to see how they’re dealing with it and the local authorities.
Question: Thank you, Steph. This is regarding refugees. I was wondering if you can give us an update in terms of UN efforts to recruit additional countries to take in refugees, whether they be Gulf States or countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America.
Spokesman: The efforts continue. I… I don’t have any hard… hard updates. Obviously, the issue of global solidarity and commitments is something that we hope Member States will recommit to during the meeting in Istanbul. But there are no… I can’t tell you there have been any great breakthroughs in helping the resettlement of the millions of… of Syrian refugees and others who are in… who are in camps or in communities, in Lebanon, in Turkey, in Jordan, and Iraq and Egypt. I wish we had some breakthrough to… to report.
Question: Yes. This is about the summit in Turkey, in Istanbul today. Turkey, for sure, is a… is a country that is doing a lot for humanitarian help especially the Syrian crisis. But there is a thin line between humanitarian issues and human rights most [inaudible] but respect the human rights. And, as we know, freedom of the press is Article 19 of Universal Declaration here of Human Rights. And Turkey, in the last years, has been one of the countries that is jailing more journalists than anybody else, and still also this month there’ve been examples of this.
In the meeting that the Secretary General now with President Erdogan, were those issues on respect of human rights, especially in relation to freedom of the press has been touched…
Spokesman: I would refer you to the readout that we issued which unfortunately some of you did not get but the Secretary-General made it very clear that any counter-terrorism action needs to be done with due respect for international human rights [law] which would include freedom of the press.
I would say these are the issues the Secretary-General did touch upon.
Question: On the follow-up to the killing of the Taliban leader, he was in Pakistan as was Osama Bin Laden. Is the Secretary-General feel that the country isn’t doing enough to ensure that its soil is not used as sanctuary by terrorist leaders and obviously terror groups?
Spokesman: We know that Pakistan is actively involved in the fight against global terrorism.
Question: Did the Syrian government give any explanation for why they did not allow those drugs to go in and what kind of drugs were they?
Spokesman: No. They did not. As far as I know, explanation is not routinely provided for these things. There are certain types of drugs. I can get you the list. A lot of the times, they’re either surgical or parasurgical items that are removed. And obviously, as we’ve said time and time again, we need to see that practise stop.
Sherwin Bryce Peace.
Question: Thanks, Steph. My question is about the announcement of these climate and El NiAo envoys.
Spokesman: Uh huh.
Question: I’m trying to understand what exactly will their role be outside or inside the current climate change infrastructure that the UN has. What will their role be? Are they going to be raising just awareness? Are they going to be raising funds? I’m trying to understand…
Spokesman: It’s about… it’s both. It’s about raising awareness. It’s about raising funds. It’s not so much in terms of climate negotiations. But it’s trying to raise funds and awareness for those populations in Southern and Eastern Africa who have been extremely hard hit by a double whammy of continuing climate change and El NiAo, which has put already precarious communities on the brink of disaster. And I think in… in a world where there are so many humanitarian needs, we sometimes need these types of envoys to ensure these cases are not forgotten.
Question: Cameroon and Myanmar. I don’t know if you have anything on. There at least two separate reports of a foreign police unit from Ghana that was supposed to be flying to UNMISS [UN Support Mission] in South Sudan being turned back by Cameroon for having wrong paperwork. Is there… do you… how could that take place? And what is the outcome?
Spokesman: I haven’t seen anything.
Question: Okay. And I’m sure you have seen and I thought you’d be asked about this VICE News expose about the UN’s reaction to the killing of the Rohingya in Myanmar. Seems like… there are a number of leaked documents they’ve obtained showing some of the… the, I guess, proceedings of this senior action group of the Rights Up Front, including Mr. [Jan] Eliasson, and basically they conclude that the UN has… has learned and improved little since the Sri Lanka incidents that gave rise to that. They’re taking about the SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] Renata Lok Dessallien basically having meetings when the human rights staff couldn’t attend so she wouldn’t have to hear their views. I mean, have you seen all this? And what’s your response to basically…
Spokesman: I think… as you know we don’t…
Question: …what’s gone wrong?
Spokesman: …really comment on leaked documents. I think the UN, for quite some time now, has made… done its best to shine a light on the human rights issues we have seen in Rakhine State. There are also… there are also development… development needs, but this is an issue that the Human Rights Office has been focused on. This is an issue that the office as a whole has been focused on and one that we’ve talked about quite a bit from here.
Question: Right, but do you… I mean, I guess, just specifically, totally outside the leaked documents, do you deny the resident representative, Renata Lok Dessallien, essentially tried to work around the human rights warnings. You’re saying that the Human Rights Office is giving warnings. This says that she tried to specifically set up meetings…
Spokesman: That I’ve no way of knowing what her personal time agenda is. I’m talking about what the views of the UN are from here.
Question: Is the UN comfortable with this response?
Spokesman: I’m telling what you the views are from here.
Yes, Linda and then Carole.
Question: Thanks, Steph. Regarding the issue of freedom of religion, I was wondering if there have been any comments or statements made regarding the… regarding reports that China has removed dozens and dozens of crosses from atop Christ… of Christian churches?
Spokesman: Nothing particularly on those reports, which I had not seen, but obviously, the Secretary General has defended the freedom of religion whenever and wherever he can.
Carole and then Olga.
Question: Stephane, do you know when the quartet report is coming out?
Spokesman: No. I have asked, and I don’t know.
Question: That actually was my question. Thanks, Carole. But just the follow up. This Middle East conference in Paris on 3 June , is there going to be the quartet meeting? Do you prepare any agenda?
Spokesman: Discussions are being had. We hope to have something for you probably midweek on a bit more detail in the UN’s participation in that meeting.
Question: Wanted to ask you, I mean, the… I know that Mr. Kim [Won-soo] did a briefing for South Korean media, I guess, last week trying to say that the upcoming trip has… you know, is in no way indicative of a desire to run for President by the Secretary General, but there have been other stories including one… I don’t know if it’s today or yesterday… in the Korea Times saying that several of the Secretary General’s former associates still in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs intend to create a foundation in his name saying that Mr. Yoon Yeocheol is now the protocol officer of the President and very much saying it’s a six day trip that it’s hard to conclude that it isn’t in some way related to the upcoming campaign. Is… what’s your… first of all, is Mr. Hyun now the protocol officer of President Park [Geun-Hye]?
Spokesman: This may come as a shock to you, but I speak for the Secretary General and for the United Nations. I have no… I have a tough enough time keeping tabs on what people do in this organization that I don’t know what people do for the Foreign Ministry.
Spokesman: I think your question assumes a lot of things. The Secretary General has made it clear that his focus remains and will remain on his job as Secretary General.
Question: It seems fair to ask, is there… is he aware or are you on his behalf aware of attempts to set up a foundation in his name?
Spokesman: I’m not aware.
Question: Then why is it six days?
Spokesman: Why is it six days?
Spokesman: He’s not going there… he’s going there for one day in Jeju Island, and then he’s going to the G7. He has one personal day as he’s allowed to take to see his family, because he does have family there. And then the next days are spent speaking at the DPI/NGO conference.
Spokesman: And the Rotary International as well.
Question: Any update on when the quartet report will be sort of…?
Spokesman: You know, it’s interesting – I think two people have already asked that question in the last ten minutes.
Okay. And on that note, thank you very much.
Source: United Nations