The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General was in Beijing over the weekend, where he spoke at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. He said that China and Africa can unite their combined potential for peaceful, durable, equitable progress and said that the Forum embodies two major priorities of the United Nations: to pursue a fair globalization and to promote development that leaves no one behind. He also stressed that stronger cooperation between China and Africa should lead to sustainable, environmentally-friendly and resilient development in Africa, reaching first those people that are furthest behind.
The Secretary-General added that we all need to work together to guarantee the financial sustainability of African development. He also warned that a sustainable future for Africa needs to take into account climate change, and he called on China to share the advances with Africa to enable the continent to leapfrog traditional polluting development in favour of green growth. You can find his full remarks online.
During his visit to the Chinese capital, the Secretary-General met with President Xi Jinping, with whom he discussed the importance of multilateralism, climate action, and China's support for development in the African continent. He also met with China's Foreign Minister, the Presidents of CAte d'Ivoire and Angola, and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission. The Secretary-General landed back in New York a few hours ago.
In a statement we issued yesterday, the Secretary-General noted with concern the conviction and sentencing today in Myanmar of journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo to seven years of imprisonment. He urged the authorities to review this decision.
The Secretary-General stressed that the right to freedom of expression and information is a cornerstone of any democracy. It is unacceptable that these journalists were prosecuted for reporting on major human rights violations against the Rohingya in Rakhine State.
The Secretary-General will continue to advocate for the release of the journalists. He calls for full respect of freedom of the press and all human rights in Myanmar.
Meanwhile, the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, urged the immediate and unconditional release of the journalists. She said their coverage of the Inn Din massacre by the military � for which the military subsequently admitted responsibility � was clearly in the public interest, as it may otherwise never have come to light.
Ms. Bachelet said that their conviction follows a legal process that clearly breached international standards and sends a message to all journalists in Myanmar that they cannot operate fearlessly, but they must make a choice to either self-censor or risk [prosecution].
And 1 September was the first day in office for the new High Commissioner, Ms. Bachelet. She assumed her function, succeeding Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. Ms. Bachelet will be sworn in by the Secretary-General tomorrow morning in a ceremony on the 38th floor. A press conference for that event will be announced later this afternoon.
Turning to Syria, today our humanitarian colleagues have received reports from various sources that multiple airstrikes reportedly hit a number of areas in western rural Idlib and northern rural Hama in Syria, causing the death and injury of several people and damages to civilian infrastructure, including schools and a market.
The United Nations reiterates its deep concern about the humanitarian situation in Idlib and about the potentially catastrophic humanitarian consequences of further military escalation in the area.
Close to 3 million people are estimated to be in the Idlib de-escalation zone. The UN and its humanitarian partners continue to respond to needs in Idlib and across the north-west of Syria, drawing on cross-border assistance deliveries from Turkey, which provide a critical lifeline for hundreds of thousands of civilians who cannot be reached through other means.
More funding is urgently needed to respond to a potential military escalation in the north-west of the country. The UN and humanitarian partners estimate the cost of responding to further escalation in the north-west to be $311 million.
Meanwhile, the Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, was in Geneva today; he spoke to reporters to say that he expects to meet in on 10 and 11 September with senior officials from Russia, Turkey and Iran, in talks which build on earlier consultations this summer in Geneva and in Sochi. He said the talks over the coming days will be an important moment of truth. His remarks are online, and a video should be up on webcast. He also spoke after that with Jan Egeland on the humanitarian situation; a transcript should be ready shortly with a video.
Meanwhile on South Sudan, our colleagues at the peacekeeping mission there (UNMISS) report that almost 3,500 internally displaced people have been successfully relocated from the UN protection of civilians site in Juba to a new site within the community in a joint effort between the Mission and humanitarian agencies. This was the first movement of displaced people of this magnitude out of the UN Juba protection site.
The combined effort to relocate the families to an existing site at Mangateen in the central city followed an UNMISS-negotiated end to sporadic fighting between various groups within the UN protection camp over the past few weeks that threatened vulnerable civilians inside. A statement is available on the UNMISS website.
UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, announced today that it is bringing South Sudan refugee representatives face-to-face with the parties involved in key peace negotiations in Khartoum. This dialogue will help ensure that refugee voices continue to play a pivotal role in the revitalized peace effort to end the country's devastating civil war. More information is available online.
Also on South Sudan, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba, will be conducting her first-ever mission in South Sudan between 4 and 8 September 2018.
Her work on the ground aims to take stock of the progress and challenges in the implementation of the Action Plans to end and prevent grave violations against children. She will also engage on pending commitments and identify opportunities for parties to strengthen the protection of children, including on reintegration efforts.
**Lake Chad Basin
Today, in Berlin, a two-day conference on Africa's Lake Chad Region concluded with the participation of more than 70 countries, international organizations and civil society groups, and donors announced $2.17 billion to support activities in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.
The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, said that more than 10 million people in the Lake Chad region still need life-saving humanitarian aid and protection. Violence, hunger, displacement and fear remain the harsh realities of their daily lives but today, he said, we have better access to many communities than we had a year ago. Mr. Lowcock thanked the donors for their profoundly generous announcements of support to humanitarian operations.
You will have seen, in a statement issued over the weekend, that the Secretary-General condemned the continued escalation of violence in and around Libya's capital, in particular the use by armed groups of indiscriminate shelling leading to the death and injury of civilians, including children.
He reminded all parties that the indiscriminate use of force is a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. He also urged all parties to grant humanitarian relief for those in need, particularly those who are trapped by the fighting.
For its part, the UNHCR and the UN human rights office also appealed to the parties to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure.
The UN human rights office said that, since the outbreak of violence in Tripoli on 26 August, at least 21 civilians have been killed, including two women and two children, with a further 16 injured. The UN Human Rights Office emphasized the need for the facilitation of immediate, unimpeded and safe access to humanitarian aid to those who need it.
And yesterday, the Secretary-General welcomed the recommendation by consensus of a set of possible guiding principles on emerging technologies in the areas of lethal autonomous weapons systems by the Group of Governmental Experts within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.
He is particularly encouraged by the recommendation for the High Contracting Parties to continue the work of the Group in 2019. The Secretary-General hopes the High Contracting Parties can build upon this achievement.
In this connection he recalls his commitment, as articulated in his agenda for disarmament, to support the efforts of Member States to elaborate new measures to ensure that humans remain at all times in control over the use of force.
Late last week, we announced the Secretary-General's appointment of Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert of the Netherlands as his Special Representative for Iraq and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). She will succeed Jan Kubis, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his service.
Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert has served as Minister of Defence of the Netherlands, becoming the first woman to be appointed in that role. She also served as a member of the House of Representatives of the Netherlands and a member of the European Parliament.
I will just leave you with the reminder that at 3:00 p.m. in this very room, the President of the Security Council for September, Ambassador Nikki Haley of the United States, will be briefing you on the programme of work. I now work.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you. Thank you, Stephane. Two questions. One is about this, finally, United States has cut off all aid to any Palestinian bodies. Has is there sec any contingency plan that the Secretary General planned to plead to the Member States to compensate for the loss that has been incurred by the UN agencies?
Spokesman: Well, as you know, UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees), which is the main actor in terms of humanitarian aid in that area, has been facing a financial shortfall for the last few months. The Secretary General has, in various pledging conferences which he's attended personally, whether in Rome or in New York, made a full-court press for Member States to come up with the critical funding that's needed. That has continued in various contacts that he's had with senior levels senior officials all over the world in trying to get them to support the critical work of UNRWA, which he which the Secretary General has been a big supporter of. Mr. [Pierre] KrA�henbuhl, the Commissioner General of UNRWA, has also been trying to work the phones. As you know, UNRWA took the very courageous decision of opening up the schools not long ago for those Palestinians who have a right to use their schools, but they do not have funding until the end of the year for work until the end of the year. And we're grateful to those donors who have stepped up, but UNRWA still faces a rather large financial shortfall.
Question: The other thing I was going to ask the other questions I was going to ask you is about incarceration of the journalists by the Myanmar Government and and these final the appeal of the Secretary General on calling upon them to release them, saying that the journalists have to be perform their duties. But is there any sec is there any Secretary General's representative or anybody else from the United Nations going to go and visit the authorities in Myanmar to see
Spokesman: The Secretary General's message has been echoed by the Resident Coordinator in Myanmar and all the other UN officials present there. Yes, sir?
Question: Thank you, Stephane. Since it's been a long weekend, I have three questions.
Spokesman: One per day during the weekend It's good.
Question: Yeah. Well, the first one is about a colleague of mine, Rudaw journalist Omar Kalo, has been arrested by Syrian intelligence agents in Syria. Wonder if you have any comment or if you heard any reports about from your colleagues any chance about his whereabouts because we don't know where he is now.
Spokesman: I have not, but I'd be happy to speak to you after the briefing.
Question: And the second one is about Iran. According to Reuters, Iran had provided missile to Shiite proxies in Iraq. And Secretary of State of, US Secretary of State, expressed concern. If these reports found to be true, is moving missile to neighbouring countries a violation to [resolution] 2231, according to your interpretation?
Spokesman: I'm not going to get into hypotheticals. What we do know is that and, again, I have no independent confirmation of those reports, as a matter of principle. We do know that it's not an issue of bringing more weapons into Iraq. What we need is for political for the Iraqi political leaders to find consensus to build a new Government, and we need reconstruction and reconciliation in Iraq. That's what Iraq is in need of.
Question: This is about Iran moving missiles into Iraq. Is it a violation?
Spokesman: No, I understand I understand. I'm just not I can't address a hypothetical. Yes, what's the third question?
Question: And the third one is about Idleb. You there are reports of shelling, bombing. Has the according to United Nations assessment, has the operation already started, or you have any information where
Spokesman: What we can report our humanitarian colleagues have received reports of bombings and shelling in the area that I just mentioned, Idleb and other areas. It's we're not in a position to say whether an official operation has started or not. We can only report on things as information that we get. Yep?
Question: Thank you, Stephane thank you, Stephane. Please allow me two questions on the Cyprus issue. The first one is, last week, in an interview, the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Mr. [Mevlut] Cavusoglu, he threatened Cyprus once again as regards the island's exclusive right to handle their economic zone. At the same time, he suggested an official meeting between the parties to discuss under no conditions. This shows that Turkey does not consider [Antonio] Guterres' framework as the basis for a new round of negotiations. How does the Secretary General respond to that?
Spokesman: Look, I will leave the analysis of comments to analysts and journalists. As you know, consultations are under way to determine the future of the negotiations. So, at this point, I'm not going to comment any further. Your second question?
Question: Yes. Also last week, 238 Greek Cypriot members of the media, the huge majority protested against the so called glossary that reflects the personal views of four individuals of which only one is a journalist. Among other international organizations, a protest letter was sent to the United Nations. How does the UN respond to that? Would you consider such glossary in the UN working? Thank you.
Spokesman: I think my understanding is that this glossary concerns the work of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), so I would refer you to them. Yes, sir?
Question: Thank you, Steph. I have two questions. First, on Venezuela, currently, in Quito, Ecuador, there is a meeting by a group of at least 12 countries who are trying to find common ground in how to deal with refugee crisis. So, I wonder if they have reached out to the UN, seeking for further cooperation, or if the UN has already had a role in these talks that are under way in Quito. And, second, on the Nicaragua, there is an NGO [non-governmental organization] that today raised the number of people that have died on the time of unrest. Now there is 481 people that have died. So, can you remind us which is the SG view on the fact that the death toll keeps climbing and now especially that Nicaragua's Government has kicked out the UN from the
Spokesman: On your first question, I need to check if there was any UN involvement in those meetings. [He later said that the UN refugee agency and International Organization for Migration were involved.] As far as Nicaragua is concerned, you know, the Secretary General has always insisted on the need for full respect for the Nicaraguan people's human rights and the importance of a truly inclusive national dialogue. This was the message he's been delivering publicly and also privately when he met with the Foreign Minister of Nicaragua last week. As you know as you mentioned, Nicaraguan authorities took the decision to persona non grata our Human Rights Office colleagues. Our four colleagues left Nicaragua on 1 September. They will continue to monitor the situation remotely, as they're entitled to through their global mandate.
Question: Thank you. Thank you, Stephane. Do you have any update concerning the mediation effort in Libya announced for today by the UN Mission in Tripoli?
Spokesman: No, I do not have any update on that, but I'll let me see what I can get. Yes, sir?
Question: Did the Secretary General discuss the Rohingyas' crisis with the Chinese leaders, or did he press them to step their efforts to ease the Rohingya suffering in Myanmar?
Spokesman: I don't know if it particularly came up. I know the conversation focussed on issues of trade and issues of Africa and China. Yes, ma'am?
Question: Steph, do you have any details on the Kofi Annan memorial? I hear it's around the 22nd.
Spokesman: I believe it's that Friday, the Friday if it's 21st or 22nd, and I will I hope to have a bit more updates later today. I think some meeting's taking place today to find to finalize it.
Question: Yeah. So, was the Secretary General surprised by Jimmy Morales' decision to end CICIG (International Commission against Impunity) in Guatemala?
Spokesman: Yes, the Secretary General was surprised. I think, in the statement we issued over the weekend, I think for the Secretary General, he underscored the important contribution that CICIG has had in the fight against impunity in Guatemala under the leadership of the commissioner.
Question: Can I ask, what so will he try to get Morales to reinstate the commission or negotiate this
Spokesman: The mandate ends on the mandate ends in one year, on 3 September 2019. So I have no doubt discussions will be had.
Question: Thank you, Steph. I think I asked you now about an update in Yemen in Geneva this 6 September.
Question: How update in Geneva in Yemen.
Spokesman: Oh, Geneva, no, I have no updates. I mean, the discussions are I think the schedule hasn't changed. Obviously, we have to wait for the things the discussions to get under way.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Spokesman: Nice suit, Yassein.
Question: Thank you. I wasn't here. Anybody ask about a question what's update in Idleb, what's going on?
Spokesman: I started the briefing with that, so I can give you what I said later. Yes, sir?
Question: Thank you. Yeah, just a follow up on Yemen. I mean, we know that the Saudi Arabians' Coalition has apologized that it did that killing of the Yemeni children by mistake and that of course, they also admitted not they didn't admit, but there were American bombs used. The United States itself has said Saudi Arabia should be given pass. Does the Secretary General has anything to say about this?
Spokesman: Look, we've seen the decision taken by the findings of the investigation that the Coalition issued regarding those airstrikes on 9 August of this year, which, as you know, killed civilians and especially children. I think the pictures that we saw were heart-breaking, to say the least. I think we welcome the decision by the announcement by the Coalition to enhance its Rules of Engagement on how to protect civilians and stress the need for all parties to take effective measures to ensure accountability for past violations and to prevent potential future violations of international humanitarian law.
Question: But but the thing is, if you if you remember, like a year ago, it was determined there were crimes against crime against humanity was being committed in this case of Yemen, especially in the killing of children. But that thing has they gave a pass to Saudi Arabia at that time.
Spokesman: Who gave a pass?
Question: The Sec the previous administration, Mr. Ban Ki-moon.
Spokesman: I think I would refer you to the most recent report on Children and Armed Conflict, which I think speaks for itself.
Question: Stephane, can we have any up do we have any update regarding the future of the negotiations regarding Cyprus as
Spokesman: No, I mean, you know, the consultations are continuing. I think we've we have flagged Ms. Jane Holl Lute's discussions when they happen and the when we have something to announce a bit more concrete, we shall. Yes, and then we'll go to Brenden.
Question: Mr. de Mistura is holding another round of talks in Geneva right now, as you mentioned. Do you think this might lead to defusing an attack on Idleb, or the attack seems imminent and it's a big more than 3 million civilians live in Idleb.
Spokesman: Everything is connected one way or another. The talks that he's holding are a follow up on the constitutional committees as he has described the upcoming talks as a moment of truth. I think Mr. de Mistura and Jan Egeland, his adviser on humanitarian issues, I think, gave a very impassioned briefing to the press a few hours ago. As you know, the situation is critical. The potential of major humanitarian catastrophe is very great. His appeal was for the Russian and the Turkish leaders to speak directly. His appeal was for all those who have influence on armed groups, armed opposition groups, in Syria to use that influence in order to avoid fighting, to avoid civilians being used as human shields, to avoid civilians being targeted, to avoid civilians being in the crosshairs. We are on high alert. Our humanitarian colleagues are on high alert. Mr. de Mistura is working the phones in whatever way he can, but, ultimately, the responsibility is to the parties who are involved in this conflict and all those who have influence to the parties who are involved in the conflict. Ultimate responsibility is on those who have the finger on the trigger to ensure that civilians are spared. Okay, Evelyn, and then we will go to Brenden [Varma].
Question: Yeah, in Idleb, has there been any sign that chemical weapons are being used? I know they've been warned not to do it.
Spokesman: We have nothing we have no reports on that end. Mr. Varma, happy Tuesday.
Source: United Nation