Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
21 MARCH 2016
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
First of all, we were asked over the weekend about reports that some of our civilian personnel have been withdrawn from Laayoune, where the headquarters of the UN Mission in Western Sahara, MINURSO, is located.
I can confirm that yesterday all of the affected 73 international civilian personnel, along with their dependents, were temporarily reassigned aside from those who were already outside of the mission area. They are now working remotely from Las Palmas or are on leave in their respective home countries. This includes 55 MINURSO international staff, seven United Nations Volunteers, six personnel working for the United Nations Mine Action Service and two international individual contractors, in addition to three African Union personnel. Thirty-three of the MINURSO staff members are in Las Palmas while one remains in Laayoune on exceptional basis for medical reasons. Of the initial list of names submitted by Morocco, 11 of the personnel identified in the note verbale are no longer working in MINURSO.
Members of the Security Council and senior United Nations officials are in contact with Moroccan authorities to reach a mutually acceptable solution. We are also in touch with representatives of the Frente Polisario to keep them informed about the situation.
The United Nations and MINURSO are committed to ensure that the safety, the security and the well-being of its military and civilian personnel will not be compromised.
The Secretary-General addressed the Security Council today on the Great Lakes region, saying that the last several years had seen some progress in stabilizing the security situation in eastern Congo.
Nonetheless, major peace and security challenges persist and require our continued attention, he warned.
He said that sustained efforts are required to neutralize all negative forces, and that there is no doubt that this will be more challenging if these forces continue to harvest and trade in natural resources from the region.
The Secretary-General also said that the past months have seen a sharp increase in intercommunal and inter-ethnic conflicts, and that humanitarian needs remained high.
As the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] enters a delicate electoral period, we are concerned about the risk of election-related violence, he said, also stressing the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Burundi.
The Secretary-General told the Council that he was very pleased with the success of the Great Lakes Private Sector Investment Conference in Kinshasa that he attended in February.
Today’s meeting marks the official launch of the United Nations Regional Strategic Framework, and the Secretary-General called on the Security Council, the states of the Great Lakes region and the donor community to endorse this Framework and extend their full support to its implementation.
His remarks have been shared with you as well as remarks by his Special Envoy, Said Djinnit.
**International Criminal Court
Also on the Congo, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, welcomed the decision delivered today by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the case of Jean-Pierre Bemba.
Mr Bemba, a Congolese national, was found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including rape, murder and pillage, committed in 2002-03 in the Central African Republic (CAR).
While recognizing that the judgement delivered today in Jean-Pierre Bemba’s case may be subject to appeal, the High Commissioner said that it sends an important message across the world that international justice will finally prevail, even in cases where civilians with supervisory, or command, responsibility are accused of crimes committed in a country other than their own.
His full statement is online.
On South Sudan, the UN Mission there, UNMISS, says that calm has returned to the Juba protection of civilian site after fighting broke out between individuals of two different internally displaced communities (IDP) on Saturday.
The Mission says it took immediate measures, including deploying additional security elements within the site.
The Mission is now working with community watch group leaders to ascertain the reasons for the altercation and to mediate between the parties. It has also been in constant contact with community leaders at the site.
One internally displaced person died following the altercations on Saturday. And the clinic within the site has reported treating approximately 110 internally displaced persons suffering from various injuries.
In addition, approximately 200 displaced people sought shelter at the western gate of the UN headquarters compound, and through coordination efforts between UNMISS and the leadership of the displaced people, they have moved back to the protection of civilians site.
The Mission continues to reinforce its cooperation, sharing of information and efforts with the leadership of the IDPs in order to mitigate any further possible incidents.
The Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, concluded today a three-day visit to Sana’a, the Yemeni capital. The Special Envoy met with Representatives of Ansarallah and the General People’s Congress and UN Representatives in Yemen.
The Special Envoy is on his way to Riyadh to finalize preparations for the next round of peace talks.
An inter-agency humanitarian convoy is on its way to Big Orem in Syria’s Aleppo Governorate to deliver much-needed humanitarian assistance to some 50,000 people. The convoy includes water, sanitation and hygiene items, as well as nutrition and health supplies and basic household items.
Big Orem was last reached by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in January 2016 with medical supplies.
While recent convoys to besieged and hard-to-reach areas are welcome, many more are needed. The United Nations continues to call for unconditional, unimpeded and sustained access to all the 4.6 million people living in besieged and hard-to-reach locations across the country.
The United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance and Development Aid in the occupied Palestinian territory, Robert Piper, strongly condemned the arson attack yesterday by suspected Jewish extremists on the home of Palestinian Ibrahim Dawabsheh in the occupied West Bank village of Duma. Mr. Dawabsheh and his wife were at home during the attack and sustained light injuries as a result of smoke inhalation.
Mr. Piper noted that Mr. Dawabsheh is the sole witness to the deadly arson attack which resulted in the death of 18-month-old Ali and his parents, and injuries to his five-year-old brother Ahmad.
He called upon Israel, as the occupying Power, to investigate this incident promptly and fully, to bring the perpetrators to justice and to take all possible steps to ensure that vulnerable Palestinian communities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are protected.
The Food and Agriculture Organization launched today a new programme aimed to enhance the critical role of forests in improving water quality and water supplies — that is on the occasion of the UN’s International Day of Forests.
The programme, focused specifically on the close relationship between forests and water, will start off by looking at ways to improve water security in eight West African countries: Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Sierra-Leone.
The agency will work with local communities to raise awareness of the interactions between forests and water and help them to integrate forest management in their agricultural practices to improve water supplies.
We also have a message by the Secretary-General for this day.
And on the eve of World Water Day, the UN’s Children Fund (UNICEF) said the push to bring safe water to millions around the world is going to be even more challenging due to climate change, which threatens both water supply and water safety for millions of children living in drought- or flood-prone areas.
Data from newly available testing technology show that an estimated 1.8 billion people may be drinking water contaminated by e-coli — meaning that there is faecal material in their water, even from some improved sources.
More details on this are available online.
**Senior Personnel Appointment
I have an appointment to announce.
The Secretary-General is announcing today the designation of Jorge Chediek of Argentina as his Envoy on South-South Cooperation.
Since October 2015, Mr. Chediek has been the Director of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) leading system-wide promotion and coordination of South-South cooperation for development.
Prior to this, Mr. Chediek served as the Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Brazil (2010-2015).
We have more biographical details in my office.
**UNESCO — Biosphere Reserves
From UNESCO, 20 new sites were added over the week to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The newly adopted sites include 18 national sites and one transboundary site shared between Spain and Portugal.
Following the withdrawal of two sites at the request of Austria, this brings the total number of biosphere reserves to 669 sites in 120 countries, including 16 transboundary sites.
There is more information available on UNESCO’s website.
**Down Syndrome Conference
Last, an international conference commemorating the World Down Syndrome Day is taking place today here in Conference Room 1.
The theme of this year’s conference is “My Friends, My Community — The benefits of inclusive environments for today’s children and tomorrow’s adults.”
We also have a message by the Secretary-General for this day.
**Questions and Answers
That is it for me. Are there any questions? Yes, Edie.
Question: Thank you, Farhan. On MONUCO… MINURSO, sorry, could you tell us what happened? You said that 11 people were no longer working in MINURSO. Were these civilians who left in recent days or are they still with the UN and then I have another?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, many of them may still be with the UN but they left the mission. Sometimes, some of them left not even just in recent days but in recent months. The lists that were provided by the Government of Morocco included some out of date names. Consequently some of the people had already left for other assignments or other employment.
Question: Okay, and could you update us with now the departure of all of these people, what are the prospects for actually keeping MINURSO open and carrying out its mandate, and does the Secretary‑General have any reaction to the comments from Polisario Front saying that the withdraw is tantamount to restarting the war?
Deputy Spokesman: I believe that the members of the Frente Polisario have since qualified some of the comments that they made. Those were initial ones. But this is a worry that we ourselves have been expressing to the Security Council in recent days. What we have made clear to them in briefings on Thursday and Friday was that many of the core functions of the mission would not be able to be performed with the small number of staff we have there. Right now the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General, Kim Bolduc, is still in Laayoune, as is the Force Commander, and we do have, I believe, 27 other international civilian staff supporting her. But that is a small number compared to what we had before. And, as a result, the mission is only able to perform a small portion of its mandate. For example, one of the mandated tasks the mission has is to reduce the threats of mines and unexploded ordinance. However, all civilian mine action personnel have been asked to leave. UN military observers continue to monitor the ceasefire but at the same time they are lacking logistic and support staff. And that will be a serious problem in the coming weeks in terms of resources and supplies. Even in the next week or so this will be a problem when it comes to making sure that the military observers have the food and water they need. We have made it clear to the Security Council that this cannot be allowed because otherwise in the long‑term, or even in the medium-term, the mission cannot function in the way that it is meant to do. Even right now quite a few of the things — roughly 15 of the core functions of the mission — are not being performed for one reason or another because of the departures that have happened already. Those departures needed to happen for valid security concerns and valid logistical concerns. But we did this under duress and we do not accept the reasons for any of this. Morocco, as we have made clear, is in violation of the status of mission agreement and the Secretary‑General will bring this up again to the Security Council at his monthly luncheon with them, taking place in the next couple of hours, to make clear the need for the Security Council to take action on this. Yes, yes, first Lou and then you, yes.
Question: The Secretary‑General spoke with the French Foreign Minister on Friday and the French are offering to mediate. Has the Secretary‑General accepted this offer? Has it done any good and how would you characterize the discussions between the Secretary‑General and the Moroccan side, is there any room for deescalating things at this point?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, certainly, our discussions do continue with the Moroccans, with various other concerned countries to make sure that the tensions can be de-escalated. It’s our clear worry — and the comments that Edie just pointed to from the Frente Polisario are one of the reasons for the worry — that without the peacekeeping force performing its tasks in the way that it’s meant to do, the way that it is mandated to do, there would be a real risk of return to heightened tensions and possibly even conflict. The Secretary‑General has made that very clear. We have reached out to various intermediaries and we hope that Morocco gets the message this kind of behaviour cannot be tolerated. We have also made it clear to the Council about the implications this has not just for this mission but for missions as a whole. At the end of the day the response of the Security Council will have implications beyond Western Sahara and will affect current and future peacekeeping interventions. As the Council was told on Friday, if the MINURSO mission can be rendered ineffective and inoperative by one Member State’s recalcitrance and if the people of the region can be threatened by a possible renewal of hostilities because a Government took offense to a single word, how can we guaranty the stability of any UN peacekeeping mission? That is something for the Council to bear in mind and we are waiting to see how they respond. Yes.
Deputy Spokesman: Yes.
Question: The French issue?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, like I said, we reached out to a number of intermediaries and we are hoping that various concerned nations will talk to the Moroccans, to the Government in Rabat, and will convince them of the need to deescalate this crisis. Yes.
Question: Sure, I wanted to ask you, some people wondered in terms of the pulling out of the MINURSO staff, if the note verbale says to pull them out of the territory of the Kingdom of Morocco and you pulled them out, is this an implicit acknowledge that Western Sahara somehow is? And my second question is there was a meeting of permanent representative held this morning at 8:30…
Deputy Spokesman: Can I answer that before we get to the next one?
Deputy Spokesman: The answer to that is no. We are not making any evaluation of the status of the Territory. We did this for relevant logistical and security considerations.
Question: Meaning under threat of violence?
Deputy Spokesman: We did this because ultimately we were worried about ensuring both the safety and security of staff and the variability to provide for their basic needs, including things like food and water.
Question: Sure. And my other question is there was a meeting this morning at 8:30 and most of the permanent representatives of the Council went in and I wondered if you could explain. I was unable to cover it. The door was locked to the Council. It was definitely a meeting. I saw them going in. There were ambassadors of the P-5 and others that went in. Why didn’t your office announce this meeting and why was the door for non‑resident correspondents locked to go to the stakeout and speak to people?
Deputy Spokesman: We ourselves were not privy to the meeting. It was a meeting for ambassadors only. As far as I’m aware there was no Secretariat staff, including interpreters. Yes?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Maybe I missed this in the beginning, but I heard today that a liaison office was also shut down in Dakhla, one of MINURSO’S liaison offices, I think three officers were evacuated from the office, can you confirm that and is this part of the military component or the civilian component?
Deputy Spokesman: What I can say about this is that MINURSO, the UN mission in Western Sahara, has received a request to close its military liaison office in Dakhla in the coming days, which would be the first request directly targeting the military component. Yes. Like I said, we received that request. We are seeing how to go about this, but this is also an issue on which the Security Council is being appraised. Yes.
Question: Thank you, Farhan. I have two questions. The first one is the Secretary‑General’s reaction to the US Mission’s comment this weekend saying that they consider Morocco autonomy plan serious, realistic and credible. The second question is about what you just said, we are not making evaluation of the status of the territory and I just want to ask again about the word “occupation” and if you consider it as being an evaluation of the status of the Territory? Thank you.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, I think we have made a number of explanations about what the Secretary‑General meant. And I would just refer you back to the note to correspondents we issued last week about this. The Secretary‑General used the word occupation at a very specific time and under very specific circumstances and he continues to uphold that. Ultimately his point is that the Sahrawi refugees deserve a better future and he referred to occupation as related to the inability of Sahrawi refugees to return home under conditions that include satisfactory governance arrangements under which all Sahrawis can freely express their desires. Yeah, hold on. Your first question was about the US, I mean, that is really a question for the United States. Regarding where we stand, of course, we have a mandate to fulfil that was given to us by the Security Council. What we are trying to do is to continue to fulfil that mandate. How different States view different proposals is up to them. That has to do with how they regard individually the situation of Western Sahara. We have mandated tasks. As you know, it’s a Non-Self-Governing Territory and we have, what we are trying to do is see what can be done working with all sides to resolve the situation. Yes, Jonathan.
Question: Farhan, I actually have two questions but I want to stick to the Western Sahara for now, and if you want to come back later after you take other questions about Western Sahara that is fine. To Lou’s questions about the French proposal, how does the UN foresee things? Would it be individual countries campaigning with the UN and with the Moroccans on an individual basis or might they sit in the room with a UN official and the Moroccan Government and others? This situation can spiral out of control very quickly, so presumably you’re trying to figure out what the best mechanism is at this point.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, yes, we are trying to figure out what the best mechanism is. It’s important for all parties who have influence with the Government of Morocco to exercise it, to convince them against this particular course of action. There is no reason, none for this escalation. The mission has been going about its work for more than a quarter of a century. It’s been there to ensure a degree of stability. And even though the situation on the ground has not been one that is satisfactory to the Sahrawi people, as long as the mission has been there, there has been a lessening of tensions. Right now that system is in peril and we cannot allow that to happen and we cannot allow the principle to be upheld that Member States arbitrarily go against their status of mission agreements and their commissions under the United Nations Charter, including under Article 25 of the United Nations Charter, to abide by Security Council resolutions. And this is a very serious challenge. And ultimately while we appreciate the efforts of mediating States, it’s also a question for the Security Council to handle in terms of making sure that their mandates are respected. Yes, Stefano and then Oleg.
Question: Thank you, Farhan. This is an another part of the world, is in Myanmar and last week the Secretary‑General congratulated a new President, but there is a situation that we know first-hand because we had the photographer that was inside and we are talking about the minority, the Muslim minority there, that is in camps as you know and there is a situation where in particularly one camp the photographer was able to see a situation where the people were left without any medical attention, no medicine, they say that the UN personnel was not coming so this photographer, the name is [inaudible], tried to send an e‑mail to the UN or [inaudible] office, no response. And the person she was witnessing at the moment that she needed help actually died after four days of tremendous agony. So the question is, you know, just because same days there was this good news about Myanmar where the new President, you know, looks like there is a hope and future for this country, if in the conversation that there was any conversation with the Secretary‑General, if the Secretary‑General is concerned and is addressing the situation of the Muslim minority in this moment in Myanmar?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, as you know, we continue to deal with the situation in Rakhine State and the conditions of the Rohingya community. And we are continuing to make sure that their basic rights are upheld. So those concerns will remain. And, as you know, our Special Adviser dealing with this, Mr. Nambiar, has dealt with this situation as well as with the overall situation of the democratic transfer in the country. Yes, you are right that the situation regarding the transition has made some progress, and we’ve been very pleased about that and you’ve seen what we had to say. But we will continue to pursue the concerns we have about not just the Rohingya but of many of the other minority communities in the country.
Question: Well, the reason being any way to check here from the headquarters how is it going to situation with the providing medicine and medical attention? Because apparently, and again our publication had the fortune to have a person and the testimony and these people were left for days without medical attention and they complaining, which is published today with pictures, so I will show it to you, the link. The problem is people left without medical attention.
Deputy Spokesman: Yeah, and we raised concerns about different communities having problems getting access to basic life‑saving aid and we’ve done that in the past too. But we will try to check about this latest incident, certainly. Yes, Oleg.
Question: Thank you, Farhan. You said that Ban Ki‑moon wants action from the Security Council on the Western Sahara issue. What action does he want, a statement in support of his words on occupation? What does he need?
Deputy Spokesman: Certainly we want the Security Council’s strong and unified support behind a peacekeeping mission that is mandated. What we are doing is trying to carry out the task given to us by the Security Council. We are doing this faithfully and now we are doing this under extremely adverse conditions. If you can imagine the situation facing some of our colleagues who are there in a place, in the desert, where they will lack, where they potentially will face a lack of drinking water and air conditioning in the Sahara, so this is — this is a serious problem. They are bearing up as best they can and we will carry out as much of our functions as we can but we need support and we cannot do it under the conditions that are prevailing if this continues. Hold on. There are plenty of people who need to ask for the first time. Masood.
Question: Farhan, the situation in Yemen which is suddenly going off the radar, have the Saudis relented in attacking the Houthi rebels over there or what is happening over there? Do you have any update on the situation?
Deputy Spokesman: I provided an update at the start of the briefing, you might have missed this, but the Special Envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, just concluded a trip for the last three days to Sana’a and he is traveling to Riyadh. And he has been talking back and forth with the various parties and he is trying to finalize preparations to get to face‑to‑face talks. He is hopeful about the talks that he has had but will have to see whether results in something concrete, yes.
Question: So Saudi‑led coalition is willing to talk to the Houthis so to speak?
Deputy Spokesman: We will have to see. We are getting closer to the point where we think that there can be talks, but we really have to see whether this can be locked down before we can make any sort of announcement like that. Yes, Carmen.
Question: Thank you. Upon President Obama’s arrival yesterday in Havana their reports are at least six dissidents have disappeared and there are pictures of harassment and beatings of people who were doing peaceful protests. What is the SG’s reaction and what would the SG like to see after President Obama leaves? Thank you.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, there are two things. Of course the Secretary‑General welcomes a warming of relations between the two countries. You will have seen the yearly resolutions that passed by the General Assembly on Cuba and the concerns that the General Assembly had had about the situation between Cuba and the United States, so any sense that the two countries can move together towards normalizing the relations is a welcome one. At the same time, we would have any concerns if the rights of people to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are not respected, so we certainly would hope that those basic rights will be respected and observed. All right, now the second round. Lou first and then Jonathan.
Question: Thanks, Farhan. I wanted to go back to the discussion about the use of the word occupation and I had looked at the readout and since we are still going over this issue now, I mean, the fact is that, as you know, and the Secretary‑General knows, the word occupation has a very specific legal meaning in this house, and your readout indicated that he was using the word not in line with this meaning, that he actually was referring to something else, that has been referred to as an emotional comment or a personal observation about the situation of the Houthis, and using a legal term in that context does seem a bit sort of puzzling from our perspective, I wondered if you could explain that? I mean, did he make a mistake in using that word?
Deputy Spokesman: No, not at all. And although we are well aware of the political sensitivities about this, the use of the word is not without legal foundation. I would just refer you back to the relevant General Assembly resolutions that were adopted in 1989 and 1990 on Western Sahara. Yes.
Question: My second question was in connection with — you read out a statement about condemning the arson attack against a Palestinian witness of the previous arson attack that ended in tragedy of the death of a family?
Deputy Spokesman: Yes.
Question: I’ve been watching the agenda seven debate in Geneva and one of the speakers was an Israeli fellow whose father, Richard Lakin, had been murdered on a bus and other passengers were attacked on this bus and the… what is interesting about this case is not that the fellow who was attacked and ultimately died of his injuries was an American and Israeli citizen who believed in peace and was a peace activist, he happened to have been an educator of coexistence in which he founded a school that enrolled students of Muslim, Christian and Jewish faith in an attempt to bring about reconciliation. And this very fellow was then murdered and the Palestinian leadership including Abbas actually called one of the perpetrator of the attack a martyr, a noble martyr. And Ban ended up visiting this fellow, Richard Lakin, when he was in the hospital and visiting him and paying respect and giving condolences to his family but never publically said anything about the case, never condemned the murder. And my question is: If we have any hope of coexistence and peace in that region, should not the Secretary‑General have come out and said something? Does he intend to say something to condemn this type of attack of killing a voice of coexistence, and what hope can we have for coexistence if nothing is done about this?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, certainly the Secretary‑General hopes for coexistence and he condemns the murders of any of the innocent civilians over this, although either side has criticized us for not issuing enough statements. If you look back over the track record, over the past year, you will have seen that we have issued many, many statements, both from the Secretary‑General and from his Special Coordinator, Nickolay Mladenov, condemning this sort of violence. He has spoken out repeatedly of the cost this has for everyone, Israeli and Palestinian alike, and the need for the communities both to be able to live without, not just without attack, but without fear of attack, because there is now a mood of fear among each community and he does not want that to be the prevailing attitude throughout this society. So, yes, he would condemn any such violence that has hurt any innocent person notably, including those who advocated for peaceful coexistence. Okay, so Oleg, Matthew and Stefano and then you.
Question: Farhan, on Syria, the Russian military announced that on 22nd of March they can start unilaterally use of force in case of violations of the ceasefire in Syria, sorry, cessation of hostilities that is the way you call it. And this is after apparently that the United States did not respond to some Russian ideas on modalities of controlling the cessation of hostilities, this could be seen as possible breaking of the whole deal. I mean, are you following the situation? What is the case in this?
Deputy Spokesman: We are aware of reports. Obviously we don’t want to speculate on what might happen in the future, but our hope and our efforts are geared towards making sure that the cessation of hostilities continues and, last, this has been a very welcome respite for a lot of the people of Syria. You have seen that for many, many communities this is the first signs of peace that they have known in five years. So we want to encourage everyone to work together, whether they are the parties on the ground, the guarantors, or anyone else, to make sure that the cessation of hostilities will continue and will last as long as we can possibly keep it going.
Question: As a quick, another question on Syria, are there any updates on the air drops? And it has been a while since the first operation took place.
Deputy Spokesman: No. There is nothing new to say. And, obviously, we have been studying what didn’t go well last time around so that we can do it better next time. Yes, Matthew.
Question: I want to ask about South South News, Burundi and Sri Lanka, but definitely the other two. On the South South News and the indictment of Friday, as I’m sure you know, Vivian Wang, now indicted, has appeared in photographs with the Secretary‑General Ban Ki‑moon and the head of DPI, Cristina Gallach, and I’m just wondering, it seems it’s described in the initial indictment of John Ashe as having received $12 million from Ng Lap Seng saying largely to pay bribes, some not UN, some in UN, and I’m wondering, can you now say, now having seen the indictment of Vivian Wang, whether the UN, OIOS audit is limited to Global Sustainability Foundation and Sun Kian Ip, or will include the entity that had $12 million and spent some significant portion of it in this building?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we are certainly aware of the latest indictment and we will try to evaluate what that means. Regarding OIOS, ultimately they are coming close to finishing up their work and we will be able to show you directly what the audit has come up with.
Question: I’m asking it, I guess, because the Secretary‑General seems to have set the terms of the audit, he is the one who named the two NGOs, so I’m asking you as his Spokesman, does the new indictment give rise to a need to request either a second audit or to expand this first audit?
Deputy Spokesman: Ultimately, OIOS is proceeding with its audit and we will evaluate once they have been able to do their work. We are letting do their work as they see fit.
Question: And the UNDP promotion of the individual in charge of the South South Office, since that office itself is supposedly subject to an audit that has not been released, doesn’t formalizing the individual in his position essentially giving him a promotion or formalizing his current position prejudge the contents of the audit?
Deputy Spokesman: I don’t, I wouldn’t call that prejudging anything. Remember a lot of this happened prior to Mr. Chediek taking up his responsibilities. He took it up just last October after the allegations.
Question: Has he held a press conference in this?
Deputy Spokesman: But beyond that, yes, we have followed up with his office, they are close to completing their work, and they will present it over to you and at that point I’ve been informed that Mr. Chediek will talk to the press. Yes, Stefano.
Question: The refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, I asked this question before and about the deal that was reached last Friday between Turkey and the EU, and I think maybe there was the weekend to read it or to go over the reaction of the Secretary‑General on the deal, is this breaking international law or not?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, what is clear is that we need to seek solutions that are based on shared responsibility and that are based on international human rights law and humanitarian law. Now the Secretary‑General has been calling for countries to work together in a spirit of shared responsibility and solidarity. The key to the agreement will be how it’s implemented and this needs to be in line with the safeguards set out in the agreement. Some of the safeguards are not in place right now. For example, it’s urgent to strengthen Greece’s reception conditions and its asylum system. People determined to be needing international protection must be granted asylum in line with international and European law without discrimination in accordance with accepted international standards. And the response must be about addressing the compelling needs of individuals fleeing war and persecution; refugees have the right to protection and not rejection. So that’s basically where we stand on that. Yes, Jonathan.
Question: The Secretary‑General has a little over half a year left in his term and as a Korean national I’m trying to understand what he intends to do about the Korean Peninsula given that he actually speaks the language of both sides in the conflict and given that the situation has actually gotten worse rather than better over the course of last month and tensions are escalating further with these latest rocket launches and the exercises north is aggravated about, what do you foresee him doing, does he intend to actually get and to insert himself into that conflict to try to resolve it?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, you’ve heard what we had to say about the Secretary‑General and his desire to help de-escalate the tensions on the Korean Peninsula. He will continue with this work but, ultimately, as a diplomat, what he does is senses where the opportunity lies. There are times when it’s opportune to make an intervention and times when it’s less so, and you can evaluate for yourself what the climate of the last couple of months has been regarding that. But if there is an opportune time to make an intervention he will try to do so. Yes, Masood.
Question: Yes, on follow‑up on this question, Palestine, Secretary‑General has been asking, I mean, this is a general question, he has been asking Israelis that their occupation is wrong, that it should be ended especially settlements but has anything ever been done about it? Because the statements going back and forth between the Secretary‑General and the Israeli Government, nothing has been done?
Deputy Spokesman: No, I wouldn’t say nothing has been done. It’s one of the world’s most intractable problems, but that doesn’t mean that we have not been making efforts, and made it through many different ways including through interaction with the Security Council, including through interaction as part of the Quartet, dealing with not just the Israelis and the Palestinians but with the various countries and other parties who support them. So we have dealt with the situation through a variety of angles. Whether that is able to get us to the end result, which is the two‑State solution we have been pushing for for all these years, that is a very hard thing to do. But the effort remains, and we will continue with it because we believe that that is the one way that the Israeli people and the Palestinian people can actually live in peace. Yes, Oleg.
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Again, this time on something else. In this room we have been talking about the situation with human rights in Turkey a couple of times and recently in terms of freedom of the press. Now, there is an initiative, I believe the RT started it, calling for some attention to the situation in the Kurdish regions of Turkey after this counter terrorist, so-called counter terrorist operation over there, and the situation to be referred to the Human Rights Council. What is Ban Ki‑moon’s personal view on this? Is he concerned of these outcomes of this separation of violation of Kurds rights?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, in any security operations we want such operations to be conducted in conformity with international humanitarian law and international human rights law and so we would do so in this case as well. Regarding our human rights concerns, I believe the High Commissioner for Human Rights has already articulated his position on this, so I would refer you to what he has been saying.
Question: But what is Ban Ki‑moon’s position?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, the Secretary‑General supports the High Commissioner of Human Rights. Yes.
Question: Burundi, Sri Lanka and use of this room. On Burundi, I asked Staffan ten days ago about the IDP camp called Mutaho and people were saying that people who have been living there since ’93 have now been getting harassed by the police and told they are part of the anti-third-term movement. I’m still waiting for an answer, but now there is a report over the weekend from Burundi that there are two others camps that are facing the same thing. One is [inaudible], one is [inaudible], and he said he was going to check with UNHCR, but what is the UN’s role with these camps which now Burundian civil society are saying are essentially being targeted by the Government for usually unjustly for having been part of the opposition?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we would be concerned at any efforts to target civilians who are in camps, so that would be a matter of concern regardless of which of the camps that is. Regarding details, you would need to check with UN refugee agency what role it has in any of these camps, yes.
Question: Thanks, Farhan. Before Edie leaves, does the Secretary‑General have any comment to make on an achievement of our colleague Edie Lederer today who is celebrating 50 years with the AP?
Deputy Spokesman: I had almost forgotten about this. And I forget today was the day and, Edie, congratulations. I have been informed this, so today is the great day you have been a correspondent for 50 years. Wow. That is amazing.
Question: Always remember I joined the AP when I was 14 years old.
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, well it would have to be three because I know how to do the math, right. That’s really amazing. It’s awesome. Take a bow.
Question: Thank you.
Deputy Spokesman: Yes.
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you on Sri Lanka, the President is quoted on Friday, this is a direct quote at a legal conference in Sri Lanka, that even if there proves to be a need for a judicial process after investigating human rights, I will not agree to invite foreign judges to come to Sri Lanka to be part of it, end quote, and given what the Secretary‑General has said about transitional justice and the need for the international component, now that President has outright said he will not, what is the Secretary‑General’s response as the Human Rights Council meetings on Sri Lanka are set to begin?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, the Human Rights Council can evaluate for themselves how it’s going, but we want to make sure there is a credible investigation into this. And we have made clear what our guidelines are for what a credible investigation will entail and so we will continue to be in dialog to make sure it happens.
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask, and do this very fast, there is a newspaper in Sri Lanka called the Sunday Times that has written an article over I guess on Sunday about various letters from Tamil groups that were addressed to Cristina Gallach of DPI and cc’d to Ban Ki‑moon, as well as to Mr. Dujarric, asking why for covering an event in this room… will there be a response?
Deputy Spokesman: Nothing new on your case.
Question: Here is a related question.
Deputy Spokesman: Which is about you.
Question: No, about this room and your office. Today I noticed as I covered the Security Council when they finally opened the door that in this room there were a number of people came in, the door was closed, one of your colleagues came in and so I would like to know was this an open briefing or a closed meeting, what was it?
Deputy Spokesman: It was a briefing to high school students.
Question: So it closed? Would a journalist be thrown out of the UN for seeking to cover it? I just want to know since that happened to me on January 29th. Was it open or not? What would be the ramifications for coming into the room, I’m asking you?
Deputy Spokesman: Matthew.