The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
All right, good afternoon, everyone, and happy United Nations Day!
Today is UN Day, which marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter. In his message, the Secretary-General said that, every day, the women and men of the United Nations work to give practical meaning to the Charter. Despite the odds and the obstacles, we never give up, he said, and called on UN staff to reaffirm their commitment to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality, protect human rights and work for peace in all parts of the world.
And this evening at 7 p.m., the UN Day Concert will take place in the General Assembly Hall and will feature sarod virtuoso Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, who will be accompanied by his sons, Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash, and the Refugee Orchestra Project. The theme of this year's concert is Traditions of Peace and Non-violence, and it is sponsored by the Permanent Mission of India.
In response to questions on the Secretary-General's travel to Washington, D.C., yesterday, I can say the following: The Secretary-General met with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Tuesday and they continued their discussions on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the path towards denuclearization, the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and Syria.
Speaking of Syria, the Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, visited Damascus today and met Walid Al-Moualem, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. They had a frank and intense exchange of views in a cordial atmosphere.
The meeting took place following that between the Secretary-General and Deputy Prime Minister Moualem in New York on 28 September and against the backdrop of continuing consultations of the Special Envoy on the launch of a constitutional committee giving effect to the Sochi Final Statement. The Special Envoy will report to the Secretary-General. He also looks forward to briefing the Security Council.
He will be engaging in intensive further consultations in the period ahead as he continues the task of verifying the possibilities for convening a credible and balanced UN-facilitated, Syrian-owned and Syrian-led constitutional committee. In this context, he will continue to fully discharge his mandate for the remainder of his tenure.
The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, briefed the Security Council yesterday afternoon and told the members that there is now a clear and present danger of an imminent and great big famine engulfing Yemen � much bigger than anything any professional in this field has seen during their working lives.
He warned that an additional 3.5 million people are likely to become severely food insecure in the months ahead, added to the 8 million Yemenis that are already being reached each month through the UN-coordinated response effort.
Meanwhile, he said, the immune systems of millions of people on survival support for years on end are now collapsing, making them � especially children and the elderly � more likely to succumb to malnutrition, cholera and other diseases. He called on all stakeholders to do everything possible to avert catastrophe.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that recent insecurity in several areas in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has forced tens of thousands of people to flee for safety and caused many humanitarian organizations to suspend or limit their activities.
In Beni, North Kivu, the epicentre of the new Ebola outbreak, following the most recent attack on 20 October when at least 12 civilians were killed, all humanitarian activities were suspended, including the Ebola Treatment Centre, which had no medical staff in place for about three hours. Activities had already been suspended before in September for several days due to direct threats against humanitarian actors.
There have also been serious concerns about infiltrations by armed groups in the Ruzizi Plain and the regions along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, also in eastern DRC, including armed confrontations, which led to the suspension of humanitarian operations on 20 October in the areas between Kamanyola and Uvira.
Insecurity and displacement are putting serious pressure on an already stretched humanitarian response in the country, where the number of people in need of humanitarian protection and assistance has nearly doubled over the last year to an estimated 13.1 million people � one out of every seven Congolese.
This morning, the Security Council was briefed by the President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf. In the afternoon, the Council is scheduled to have a meeting on Myanmar.
The UN World Data Forum wrapped up today in Dubai, with the launch of a Dubai Declaration to increase financing for better data and statistics for sustainable development. The Declaration calls for the establishment of an innovative funding mechanism that will aim to mobilize both domestic and international funds, and to activate partnerships to strengthen national data and statistical systems. It was announced that Switzerland will host the next UN World Data Forum in Bern in October 2020. More information is available online.
**World Development Information Day
And today is World Development Information Day, which seeks to draw attention to development problems and the need to strengthen international cooperation to solve them.
Today, we thank Cameroon, which has paid its regular budget dues in full. The total on the Honour Roll is now 146.
And you will hear, after I'm done, from Monica Grayley, the Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly.
Today at 1:15 p.m. in the Press Briefing Room, there will be a press briefing by Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories. Also, today at 1:45 p.m., there will be a press briefing by Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran.
Then, tomorrow morning, at 11 a.m., there will be a press briefing by Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur on the human rights implications of hazardous waste. At 1:15 p.m. tomorrow, there will be a press briefing by Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And at 1:45 p.m. tomorrow, there will be a press briefing by Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
**Questions and Answers
And that is it for me. Are there any questions before we go to Monica? Yes, Joe?
Question: Yes, you referred to the Security Council briefing this morning by the President of the International Court of Justice. At the last minute, it seems a decision was made or at least it was announced to us that it was closed. Number one, I'm wondering if you have any knowledge of why that was the case, because I believe it was an annual briefing. And secondly, is there any summary I'm talking now about the regular annual briefing, not what they might have discussed on specific cases more sensitively. Is there any summary of the briefing that we can obtain?
Spokesman: We cannot provide a summary of his briefing because the meeting was closed. It was closed as a result of a decision by the members of the Security Council on the agenda for the day. Yes, Masood?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. I want to know about the human rights of children, especially, particularly, to places especially in Israel, incarceration of children in jail, and there is no updates being issued by the Israeli Government again and again. That's one. And that similar situation seems to be now existing on incarceration of children in China. Can you please comment on these two things?
Spokesman: Well, regarding the question of the incarceration of Palestinian children in Israeli detention, as you know, we've had periodic updates using information from the Israeli authorities and human rights groups. And, so, the number tends to fluctuate around 200 to 300 at any given time, and we've expressed our concerns that all of those detained be tried either charged and tried or otherwise let go. Regarding China, I don't have any figures to give you about the situation from the authorities there.
Question: There are reports about the hundreds of schools being open for the Chinese Muslim. Is there any truth to these reports?
Spokesman: I would refer you to the work of the human rights rapporteurs who have periodically come out with information about the situation of the Uighurs. Yes, James?
Question: Yes, Farhan. About the Secretary General's visit to Washington, D.C., you gave us a brief readout of his meeting with Secretary Pompeo, which was about 30 minutes of the day. You told us that there were other meetings, the Appropriations Committee you mentioned yesterday. Can you give us a full list of who he met? Did he meet anyone from the White House? And then I have a question on substance after that.
Spokesman: I do believe he met with some individual representatives, but I was not able to get the names from my colleagues in Washington on that [alarm sounding]
Correspondent: This is the alert that goes off. Suspicious package.
Spokesman: Somewhere else presumably, right? Okay.
Correspondent: Anyone else have their phones on, they're going to be getting alerts.
Spokesman: So and I believe he had a dinner event with a foundation, but aside from that, he didn't have any meetings with US officials, with White House officials, beyond the Secretary of State.
Question: But he did meet people from Congress, Senators and Congressmen?
Spokesman: I believe he met a few individual members of congress.
Question: Okay. In terms of those meetings then, at the State Department and Congress, is the Secretary General any clearer given this administration has already pulled out of key international agreements and stopped funding in various parts of the UN, whether there are any other parts of the UN that are currently at risk? We have the Universal Postal Union just a matter of days ago. Is there was he told if there were any other areas that are under consideration by this administration for cuts? And, in terms of meeting members of the Appropriations Committee, was he given any idea whether there's any further threats to the UN budget and any idea of the US and its payment of arrears, particularly on peacekeeping?
Spokesman: Well, first of all, the although we tend, for our honour roll purposes, to flag full contributions, although we haven't had a full contribution from the United States in recent weeks, we have had significant amounts of money that the US has contributed to regular budget and peacekeeping operations. So, we do get money from the United States Government, and I would like to express our appreciation for that. I'm not aware of any particular problems regarding US funding. Obviously, when we get those announcements, we'll let you know about that, but there's nothing to say on this at this stage.
Question: I have one more D.C. question if it's possible, which is, in addition to the Secretary General, Martin Griffiths was also in D.C. meeting the Deputy Secretary of State. Have you any update from that meeting and any update on how Mr. Griffiths' overall mission is going and how likely he thinks it is to be able to reconvene talks, maybe in Geneva, or there is also talk of Vienna or Kuwait now.
Spokesman: He is proceeding with efforts to try to get the parties together for talks. I don't have an announcement on when the next round of talks would be, but, yes, he did brief officials, including, recently, Secretary of State Pompeo, about the progress he's making. And he continues to be hopeful that we're moving ahead and can move to a round of negotiations. Yes?
Question: A timeline on that?
Question: A timeline on that?
Spokesman: Not at this stage, no. Yes?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Couple of questions. Number one, does the Secretary General has anything to add when it comes to the investigation on Mr. [Jamal] Khashoggi's death? Does he have does he want to appeal to somebody to ask for something to speed up the investigation? And does he think that this was a cover up, as President [Donald] Trump said, from Saudis?
Spokesman: Regarding the case, you'll have seen what the Secretary General has said about the death of Jamal Khashoggi. We issued a statement last Friday. He called for a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation, and we continue to hold to that. We wouldn't characterise any of the recent information beyond noting that all of the accounts in recent days point, again, to the need for this to be fully investigated.
Question: But, yesterday, we did have a major development with President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan asking for Saudis to proposing, actually, for Saudis to deliver those who were arrested and to be charged and to be put on trial in in Istanbul. What does the Secretary General thinks on delivering the justice on that? Because this is obviously very important.
Spokesman: Well, obviously, we want justice to be done and for people to be held accountable. And, in that regard, the statement that we issued on Friday and the sentiments in those are unchanged. Yeah?
Question: Does the Secretary General just one more, please. Does the Secretary General mean thinks that the fair justice process will be deliver for those individuals in Riyadh or elsewhere in Saudia?
Spokesman: We'll have to see what is on offer. Yes?
Question: Question two questions regarding the Cyprus issue. In his report, the Secretary General says nothing about Turkey. The question is simple. According to the Secretary General and the United Nations, Turkey did not invade and occupy illegally part of Cyprus land?
Spokesman: As you know, we have had many reports on Cyprus over the years as from the 1970s through to now. So, I just refer you to all of the reports, which are self explanatory, and which describe the situation.
Question: Okay. Let's take the recent one. In his conclusions, the Secretary General says that the solution to the Cyprus issue is up to the Cypriots to decide. How can the Cypriots decide, as long as the Turkish troops are on the Cyprus land?
Spokesman: Without getting into the history of the conflict, we have always held firmly to the position that any solution is up to the Cypriot communities, and we continue to push for that, as we have done consistently for the past decades.
Question: May I may I ask another question, regarding
Spokesman: Sure. Everyone's asking three questions in a row anyway. Why not you? [laughter]
Question: Thank you very much. I appreciate that. Okay. The question is regarding the 2,038 journalists, the huge majority in Cyprus, who rejected the glossary as a way against freedom of speech. In his report, the Secretary General seems to agree with OSCE, the Organisation for Security and Co operation in Europe, and the glossary by using the words to encourage, to promote, and to help. At the same time, the Secretary General says nothing about Turkey's threats and their so called accusations against a Turkish Cypriot editor, Sener Leven, who did not did nothing but being a Cypriot who speaks freely. How would you respond to that? Is that a fair treatment?
Spokesman: What I would respond is that the language of the Secretary General's reports on Cyprus are self explanatory and are independent and separate, apart from the views of the Organisation for Security and Co operation in Europe, which is an independent which works independently of us.
Question: But working the same way?
Spokesman: No, their views are theirs, and we don't speak for their views. Michelle?
Question: Thanks, Farhan. Stop me if someone has already asked this, because I was running down here and missed a couple of questions. Secretary Pompeo's readout of his meeting with the SG mentioned that he spoke to the SG about this US meeting last week which was disrupted by the Cubans and Bolivians. They were talking about monetary val putting monetary value on damage done. You said that you weren't aware of any cost of any damage that would cost anything. Is there any update to that? Do we know if there was
Spokesman: At this stage, no. Basically, we did receive a letter on this from the US Mission and are considering that letter. At this point, we're simply at the stage of considering a response.
Question: But there's no I mean, they're accusing the Cubans and the Bolivians of causing damage that is going to cost the UN to fix. Does the is the UN aware of that damage, and how much do you think it would cost to fix?
Spokesman: Like I said, at this point, we're simply at the stage of reviewing the letter and considering our response to it. Yes?
Question: Thank you. [Indiscernible name]. I wanted to know what you can tell us about the Secretary General's discussion with Mr. Pompeo regarding Saudi Arabia and Khashoggi?
Spokesman: Well, I've I mentioned a brief readout of that meeting at the start of this particular briefing, and I don't have anything really to add to it. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. At the beginning, you mentioned that this is United Nations Day. What does the Secretary General think of the state of the staff of the organization?
Spokesman: Well, on today, certainly, he renews his appreciation for the work that UN staff do, and I'd refer you to the remarks and messages that he puts out for this day. But it is a day in which he once again expresses appreciation for all of the work done throughout the UN system. Yes, Joe?
Question: Yeah. Actually, these are two follow ups on two different matters. On the Khashoggi matter, has the Secretary General considered reaching out directly to the King and/or Prince Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia as well as President Erdogan using his moral authority to accelerate what he characterises as an independent, transparent and thorough investigation? Is there any plan to have direct communication between the Secretary General and those leaders?
Spokesman: Well, if he does have any direct communications with them, I'll let I'll certainly let you know at that point.
Question: Okay. Well all right. On Cyprus the Secretary General, the UN institutionally, has spoken out against settlements in the West Bank as being illegal. So, on Cyprus, there are settlements by Turks who have gone over to Cyprus, settled there, established settlements, under the protection of the Turkish army. Would the Secretary General regard those settlements as illegal, as has been characterised about the Israeli settlements?
Spokesman: Well, first of all, regarding questions of international law and settlements, I'd refer you to the relevant UN resolutions, including Security Council resolutions in each of the cases, that is to say, in the Palestinian matter and the Cyprus matter, and the language in each case is what you should refer to in that. And, as you will have seen, and as I informed Nicos just seconds ago, we have a range of Secretary General's reports, and I can refer you to that language there. Carla?
Question: Thank you. Has the UN anything to say about the fact that the United States has forbidden all humanitarian aid to North Korea? This was reported in The New York Times last week.
Spokesman: We are continuing our efforts to ensure that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has sufficient humanitarian aid. In recent weeks, we'd been pointing to the fact that only about 11 per cent of the funding needs that we've specified for humanitarian assistance to the DPRK has been provided. I believe that number's gone up recently to about 14 or so per cent with recent contributions, including from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), but there still is a need for all Member States to provide the necessary funding for this effort.
Question: Well, who who provides, for the most part, the if there's only 11 per cent funding aid available, who would provide for the other 89 per cent?
Spokesman: Well, this these are voluntary funds. So, we need states all states, to the extent that they can, to provide. Yes, in the back. You had your hand up?
Question: I'm from La Voce di New York, Italian media. A second migrant caravan is forming at the Honduras border and is expected to follow the largest one. Is the Secretary General concerned about all the situation and how President Trump is managing this issue?
Spokesman: We've talked in recent days about the situation on the ground. Regarding the caravan that had already been on the move, we have our colleagues in Mexico, including the various UN agencies, most particularly, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), who are involved in dealing with the local authorities to try to provide assistance to their efforts in dealing with the approximately 7,000 or so people who have been on the move there. And we'd do that for any other people who are on the move. Yes, Masood?
Question: Two follow ups, Farhan. One is about this ongoing Khashoggi saga, his killing at the hands of the Saudi agents. Is there, at any point in time I mean, this question has been asked of you again and again. At any point in time, can the Secretary General will he appoint a sort of an inquiry commission at all? I know you've answered this question, is that Member States have to ask for it. When does he expect the Member States how does he expect the Member State to ask for it?
Spokesman: I don't have anything really to add to what I've been saying about this. Obviously, if requests come in, we'll consider them once you know, if and when we receive those. Yes?
Question: And another follow up that I wanted to ask you was about the in Yemen, situation in Yemen. I mean, has there been any movement on the side of some Saudis to give further aid or to stop bombing the Yemeni children?
Spokesman: Well, we've tried to make sure that the hostilities are lessened on the ground, but I would just refer you to Mark Lowcock's very sober and very alarming briefing to the Security Council from yesterday for the information, because the amount of humanitarian need on the ground has grown very large in recent weeks. Yes?
Question: Yes, Farhan. I have a new question on what on the meetings in Damascus, but can I just ask a follow up to Michelle's question about the Bolivia/Cuba protest at the meeting, because I'm not aware; maybe you can help us. What's what are the regulations, the procedures? Are they Secretariat procedures? Are they General Assembly procedures for the conduct of meetings and use of rooms? Under what procedure could there be disciplinary action taken?
Spokesman: I think we're getting ahead of ourselves in terms of describing what potential action might be taken.
Question: Well, is it a Secretariat or GA (General Assembly) matter?
Spokesman: We're considering a response, and then we'll share that response. I'll let you know once that's happened.
Question: Okay. On Damascus, you talked about frank and intense meeting between the Special Envoy and the Deputy Prime Minister of Syria. You haven't really told us what the outcome was. Clearly, he went there to solve a very specific problem, which was the Constitutional Committee and that civil society element. Was there any progress, any breakthrough on that issue? And a part of that question I want to ask as well because I've never heard the answer to this. Diplomats tell me that the Special Envoy could just name that civil society group. He doesn't have to get Syrian buy in. Why doesn't he just name those members?
Spokesman: Well, regarding that, Mr. de Mistura, in his own remarks to reporters following today's meeting, made clear that, at this stage, the results of that meeting, he will share that with the Secretary General and the Security Council. So, we are will wait to hear from him on that once he gives those briefings. Yes?
Question: Yeah. Farhan, just in answer of your last question, when I ask you about the judicial process in Saudi Arabia, you said you have to see what is the offer. So, what does it mean, what is the offer?
Spokesman: What is on offer is what I said.
Question: What is on offer and also
Spokesman: Ultimately, the point I'm making is we'll have to see what is being proposed.
Question: Proposed from whom?
Spokesman: From the various parties who are dealing with this issue.
Question: And, also, we all mentioning that there is a moral authority of the Secretary General in the case of Mr. Khashoggi, but how do you see obviously, I think it's time to ask the question. How do you see the role of the Secretary General in these investigation?
Spokesman: Like I said, the Secretary General has expressed his views on this in the statement that we put out recently, and we're continuing to follow up. We'll have to see what happens down the line. Obviously, the UN, in all matters, offers to be helpful to Member States as needed, but let's see what that entails in this case.
Question: But personal role of the Secretary General, what is the personal role of the secretary of the Secretary General?
Spokesman: I think it is still in early stage to talk about what precisely the role is. I've said in more general terms what that normally constitutes, but how it plays out in this case, we'll have to see.
Question: Can I just ask a follow up directly to that?
Spokesman: No, hold on. He's first. Yes. Yes, you.
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Does the Secretary General consider that the killing of journalists all over the world touches on questions of peace and security?
Spokesman: He believes that this is a major problem and a major human rights issue that all the countries of the world need to take seriously. The importance of having a free media means that journalists around the world need to feel safe, and that, clearly, is not what is happening right now. Yes?
Question: All right. Then, actually, this follow up is to both of these questions, because the next logical question would be, I believe, if I'm citing the correct article in the charter, I think it's article or Chapter 99 or Article 99, that the Secretary General has the authority to make recommendations to the Security Council, be proactive. And, so, if he would deem the killing of journalists, such as in this most recent incident involving Mr. Khashoggi, a threat potential threat to peace and security, would he be inclined to consider being proactive in making a recommendation to the Security Council that it be this matter be placed on his agenda and action be taken accordingly?
Spokesman: At this stage, we're looking at how the developments on the ground unfold and what is to be requested of us, and we will respond depending upon how that develops. Yes?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. I wanted to know what the Secretary General's view is on the matter of press being oppressed, especially in states like Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, and why aren't we taking tougher stance as the UN, and why isn't your office taking a tougher stance on this issue? Because, as I see that several of my colleagues have raised this concern, and we just keep getting these diplomatic answers. And I have to say that, honestly, I am not satisfied with these responses.
Spokesman: Well, I note your dissatisfaction, but, at the same time, you need to be aware of the fact that we do repeatedly talk, both in public and in private, about the rights of journalists. The Secretary General has himself directly intervened in efforts to make sure that reporters, including many of the colleagues of people I see in this room, are freed from detention or otherwise freed from different forms of official harassment. And he continues to speak out against the mistreatment of journalists, most recently, in the case of Mr. Khashoggi. But we do this constantly, and we do this also through the other key officials of the system, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). What's needed is not necessarily more words from the United Nations but more actions from governments to make sure that reporters' rights are respected everywhere in the world, and we are pressing governments to do just that. Yes?
Question: Just a follow up on that. As you know, there have been calls from various bodies for a UN Special Representative to deal with these issues, journalists' safety and press freedom. Where are we on that? What is the Secretary General's thinking on that?
Spokesman: Well, no one has been named to that, basically because there are, as I've pointed out, two organizations, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNESCO, that deal precisely with these matters. And we don't want to have too much of a duplication of effort. But, of course, we'll always try to consider whatever steps can be taken to ensure greater security for journalists. Yes?
Question: Thank you. The UN is holding the World Data Forum in Dubai. Does anybody from the UN has going to give the a sign that it's not okay � what's happened with Khashoggi? And it's not okay or does anybody thought we are not going in Dubai because we have to give a sign that, like a lot of other international organization there, decided not to go to Dubai as long the Khashoggi case is not clear.
Spokesman: I don't mean to correct you or anything, but Dubai is not part of Saudi Arabia. It's a separate country entirely. It's part of the United Arab Emirates.
Question: Probably I am wrong, but still my question is, is anybody there going to give a sign that what's happened to Khashoggi is not okay?
Spokesman: I'm aware from colleagues who went to the World Data Forum that some of these issues were, in fact, discussed there. Yes?
Question: Farhan, you told me before to go to the resolutions, the international resolutions. And actually because of the many questions here, I have had the opportunity to do so. Could you please confirm the resolution?
Correspondent: Take the microphone.
Spokesman: Yeah, use the microphone, please.
Question: Could you please I don't think it's working. Okay. Could you please confirm resolution 186, which says about subsec calls on all states to respect the sovereignty, independence and territory integrity of Cyprus, calls all parties to cease fire, demands an immediate end to the foreign military intervention in the Republic of Cyprus, that is contravention of para 1 above, and request the withdrawal of military personnel, etc., etc. This is resolution 186. Could you, please?
Spokesman: Yes, I can confirm that that's part of the text of resolution 186. There's nothing to add to that. There have been many resolutions on Cyprus and many reports, and we stand by those. And with that, please come on up.
Question: One more please?
Spokesman: One more.
Question: Okay. Here is one. After everything that has been said that you had offered as answers, do you think that UN is really not doing enough on Mr. Khashoggi's investigation and could and can and should do more on that? Very moral question.
Spokesman: That's really a question of opinion, and you're entitled to your opinions about this. What I'm telling you is that this is a situation that is still developing. It's a little bit early to say
Correspondent: We know he's dead.
Spokesman: It's a little bit
Question: What is developing?
Spokesman: Please stop yelling over me. It is a situation that's still developing, and it's a little bit early to tell what role, in the end, the UN or other organizations will play. All right. Come on up.
Source: United Nation