The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General arrived in Geneva over the weekend. A short while ago, the Secretary-General spoke to journalists in Geneva. In his opening remarks, he said that he would have hoped for a different result to yesterday's plebiscite in Colombia, but added that he was encouraged by the commitment expressed by President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army) Commander Timoleon Jimenez.
To support them, the Secretary-General has urgently dispatched his Special Representative, Jean Arnault, to Havana to continue his consultations.
Speaking about Aleppo, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the deliberate campaign against civilians and health workers and humanitarian personnel trying to save them.
Earlier in the day, the Secretary-General spoke to the Executive Committee of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. He highlighted the fact that we are living in a world where the global displacement and refugee crisis has dramatically deteriorated. The Secretary-General told the members of the Executive Committee that the pledge to leave no one behind, which is the basis of the 2030 Agenda, cannot be achieved until millions of refugees and displaced people are lifted out of poverty and misery. He pledged that the United Nations is doing everything possible to mobilize countries in a spirit of solidarity.
In a short while, he will be speaking to students at Geneva's Graduate School of International Studies.
Late tonight he will travel to Bern, where tomorrow he will meet with the President of Switzerland, Johann Schneider-Ammann. He will then move on to Strasbourg to attend a climate-related event at the European Parliament. From there, the Secretary-General will go on to Brussels to attend the EU (European Union) hosted Afghan conference.
Also from Colombia, the UN Mission in the country verified this weekend, on Saturday, the destruction of 620 kg of explosives, detonators, gunpowder, grenades, mines, and bomb-making components by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP).
The destruction was carried out in the Yari plains, Meta department, under the observation of experts and international observers from the UN Mission, according to international safety standards. More details are available in a press release from the UN Mission.
In a statement we issued yesterday, the Secretary-General warmly congratulated India for ratifying and formally joining the Paris Agreement. India's leadership builds on the continued strong political momentum from Paris for urgent global action on climate change.
India now joins the 61 other parties that have deposited their instruments of ratification, which, including India, together account for close to 52 per cent of total global greenhouse emissions. India's leadership moves the world an important step closer toward the 55 per cent threshold needed for the historic agreement's entry into force this year.
After India turned in its instrument of ratification for the Paris Agreement yesterday, the Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, said that there is no better way to commemorate the great Mahatma Gandhi and his legacy of peace for people and planet. The Deputy Secretary-General warmly congratulated India for its seminal decision and for its climate leadership and thanked India for building on and strengthening the momentum that we now see from all corners of the globe.
Stephen O'Brien, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, said yesterday that he was deeply alarmed by the ferocious pummeling of eastern Aleppo city, where an estimated 275,000 people are besieged. He said that indiscriminate bombing and shelling continues in a shocking and unrelenting manner, killing and maiming civilians, subjecting them to a level of savagery that no human should have to endure.
Mr. O'Brien warned that the health care system in eastern Aleppo is all but obliterated and medical facilities are being hit one by one. The health system is on the verge of total collapse with patients being turned away and no medicines available to treat even the most common ailments.
The Emergency Relief Coordinator reiterated the demand that the parties and those who support them immediately bring about a cessation of all actions that can result in loss of civilian life or damage to essential civilian infrastructure. He also called for a medical evacuation system for eastern Aleppo so that the hundreds of critical cases can receive proper medical care, and for safe, full, regular and unimpeded humanitarian access to eastern Aleppo, as obliged under international humanitarian law.
Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien arrived in Yemen on Sunday to begin his second visit to the country.
Today, he visited the damaged port in Hudaydah and said that parties to the conflict must ensure the rehabilitation of the port, which is a lifeline to people in Yemen.
He also met with people in Hudaydah to listen to their concerns and said that the UN and partners must do more to deliver aid in this protracted emergency.
The UN Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, has condemned the detonation of two improvised explosive devices (IED) on civilian vehicles in recent days that killed 19 civilians in Helmand and Badghis provinces.
Both devices used victim-activated pressure plate triggers, which are illegal and indiscriminate.
In the first incident, on 29 September, ten members of a family were killed while returning from lunch after their vehicle hit an IED placed in a culvert.
In the second incident, on 30 September, a group of civilians traveling on a tractor hit an IED, killing nine people, eight of whom were women and small children.
Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, has said that the terrible loss of civilian life is intolerable and the use of such IEDs may constitute a war crime.
The Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, arrived today in Madagascar for a three-day visit, as the country comes to grips with the devastating impact of three years of drought.
She will visit affected communities and Government officials, including Madagascar's President.
Some 1.2 million people are food insecure in the south of Madagascar - half of them severely so.
Our humanitarian colleagues continue to monitor hurricane Matthew closely.
As you know, Matthew - now classified as a Category 4 hurricane - is expected to reach Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas today.
In Haiti, the national authorities expect 20 per cent of the population - some 2 million people - to be affected. A United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team has arrived in the country.
And in Jamaica, some 150,000 people could be displaced due to the impact of the hurricane.
Pre-positioning of relief supplies and emergency resources has started, and a UN team has also arrived to support the national preparedness efforts.
I have one senior personnel appointment to announce:
The Secretary-General is appointing Hubert Price of the United States as Head of the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS).
Mr. Price brings to this new position more than twenty years of experience in United Nations peacekeeping operations, most recently as Director of Mission Support in the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) from 2010 until 2015, and later as Acting Assistant Secretary-General for the Department of Field Support until June 2016. More information on this appointment is available in our office.
At 1 p.m., there will be a press stakeout by Kristalina Georgieva; this will take place on the 2nd floor GA (General Assembly) stakeout area.
At 5 p.m., Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of the Russian Federation, in his capacity as President of the Security Council for the month of October, will brief the press in this room on the Council's work programme.
**Questions and Answers
And that is it for me. Are there any questions? Yes, please?
Question: Thanks, Farhan. On Colombia, did the Secretary General call President [Jose Eduardo dos] Santos or has any plan to do that?
Deputy Spokesman: He does intend to continue to be in contact. I do expect that we will have a statement, hopefully in the coming hours, about where we're going next with this process. In the short term, the person who is going to be engaged in communication with the Government and the FARC EP is Jean Arnault, who, like I said, will be travelling to Havana to continue his contacts with the parties. Yes?
Question: Sure. Thanks a lot. You gave a I guess a readout of Mr. O'Brien on Yemen, but I wanted to know if the UN system has any comment or knowledge of this sinking reported sinking of a UAE (United Arab Emirates) warship. Some are saying it was an aid convoy. The Houthis' side is saying it was a warship enforcing a blockade on them. Since it's a pretty high profile incident that has the potential to result in in in in reprisals, what's the UN's understanding of what the ship was? Was it an aid ship, or was it part of the military operations of the Saudi led coalition?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we're aware of the latest reports, but we'll need to get some further information about the nature of this vessel before we make any particular comment.
Question: And just, if you could, just to understand it, the the the given that the UN's role in the humanitarian operation in Yemen, what does does do do countries like the UAE coordinate with UN if they're, as they say, moving medical supplies from one place to another, or is it just a everyone goes it alone?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, as you know, we do have a verification and inspection mechanism that's designed to help expedite the process by which aid gets into Yemen, and so we do expect that countries will use that mechanism. Yes?
Correspondent: I have another question.
Deputy Spokesman: First first Abdelhamid and then you.
Question: Thank you. I have two questions. First is about India and Pakistan. In her speech, the Indian Foreign Minister, addressing the GA, said addressing talking to Pakistan, said, "Forget it. Kashmir will remain an integral part of India." What is the UN position? And why the UN did not issue a statement regarding this violation of international law?
Deputy Spokesman: We have issued a statement on the situation between India and Pakistan. That was on last Friday, and I would refer you back to that.
Question: That is I saw that. That's on the tensions.
Deputy Spokesman: Yes.
Question: But when she said that, "forget it", she was addressing Pakistan. Forget about Kashmir. "It's an integral part of India." Why you didn't I mean the UN did not say anything?
Deputy Spokesman: We don't comment on every speech made in the General Assembly, but we have been commenting on the situation on Kashmir, and like I said, we issued a statement on that just last Friday.
Question: My second question sorry, Farhan.
Deputy Spokesman: Okay. And then Nisar after that.
Question: Does the UN stand with its report regardless of the passage of time? I mean, if there is a report issued 10, 15, 20 years ago, would the UN remain committed to that report and the finding of that report?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, what report are we talking about?
Question: I'm talking about the report on Qana massacre in 1996, where the UN found some guilt addressed to some Member State. Does the UN stand with that?
Deputy Spokesman: We stand by the documents that we've put out. Obviously, as time proceeds, if there's additional information that we need to take account of, we would do that, but we stand by the work that we've done. Yes?
Question: Yeah. On the sinking of the swift warship, opposite to Yemeni coast, Asiri, the Spokesman for the Saudi army, yesterday threatened that all fishermen are at risk of being hit by Saudi led coalition, and they made their threats real today. Some of the fishers small boats were sunk. They were hit directly, they received direct hits, according to Yemeni reports. How does the United Nations view that? Also, do you have any update about this meeting in Moscow today of some GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) leaders regarding the Yemeni war? Are you involved in that?
Deputy Spokesman: Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed continues to be in touch with all the various parties, including those the authorities in Oman as he tries to proceed to reinvigorate the peace process there. Regarding the question of vessels, civilian vessels, of course, we have made clear our concerns about any attacks on civilian facilities, including civilian vessels, in the course of this war, and we have urged all parties to avoid such indiscriminate attacks.
Question: According to Arab news media, these were mainly delivering aid. Now, the reports about how many casualties how many perished during that attack on the vessel were between 22 and 62. Do you have any idea about the people who died on this vessel? Are they really aid workers, or are they just military personnel?
Deputy Spokesman: As I just informed your colleague, we would await further information about the nature of the vessel before we comment on that situation.
Question: But there was no rescue operation to try to salvage anything or rescue people who survived that attack?
Deputy Spokesman: As I said, at this stage, we would require some further information about the nature of the vessel before we make any further comment. Yes?
Question: Sorry. You cut me off, Farhan. So I have to read this statement, and I will ask you directly the question. The report says, "It is unlikely that the shelling of the United Nations compound was the result of a gross technical and/or procedural error." So it was intentional. Somebody was culprit to that. Somebody committed that massacre. How could he be treated as a peacemaker? I want explanation from the United Nations. Thank you.
Deputy Spokesman: The statement we made about the late Shimon Peres expresses fully our appreciation for the work that Mr. Peres did over the course of his lifetime. We're well aware that, in the course of anyone's life, there are other there are many different things, and a complex picture emerges of people's historical record. We will leave that judgment to the historians, but we stand by what we said. Yes?
Question: Sure. I wanted to Western Sahara, Burundi and then something else. I asked last week a couple of times about this letter that was distributed in the Fourth Committee from the from the Polisario Front to the Secretary General, dated 26 September, and I just wanted twice I guess Stephane [Dujarric] said he hadn't seen it, but I just want to make sure, if it's being given out in the Committee, did it, in fact, reach the Secretariat about this upcoming legislative elections on 7 October? And also, I'd asked him and may have asked you before, just to be maybe you'd said 25 is the number. Is it still the number of only 25 of the 83 have been returned?
Deputy Spokesman: Yeah, that's where we stand. We continue to discuss, like I said, different ways of making sure that the functions of the mission are restored, but as I pointed out last week, we're not at full functionality.
Question: Sure, and what about this letter? Is there some problem with was it not received? Because I asked him twice. It was handed out. It says it asks the Secretary General to get involved in the inclusion of Western Sahara in the Moroccan legislative elections on 7 October. So since we're now 3 October, I'm just wondering, not if he'll do it, but at least, has he gotten the letter, or will he do something?
Deputy Spokesman: I'll check whether we have it and what sort of response there is. Yeah?
Question: Sure. And I wanted I'll do this fast. I just wanted to ask, on Burundi, I'm sorry, in the past, I've had to ask a number of times, so I wanted to ask again about Mr. [Claver] Nahimana, this Burundian figure, have you checked with UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur) whether he's, in fact, as civil society in the country says, being deployed as an observer?
Deputy Spokesman: I've been told that any deployment of Mr. Nahimana is on hold while we evaluate his record.
Correspondent: Okay. Perfect.
Deputy Spokesman: Yes?
Question: How does the United Nations view the destruction of bridges around Deir Ezzour? At least four bridges so far have been destroyed by the US led Coalition in Syria.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we certainly want to make sure that there is that civilian infrastructure is not harmed. This is a concern we've raised. Regardless of what the activities are, we want to make sure that civilian infrastructure will be spared, given the tremendous amount of damage that's happened.
Question: How is this incident different from the attacks by Russian warplanes in areas like Aleppo?
Deputy Spokesman: All attacks on civilian infrastructure are to be avoided, and we've asked all the parties to do that. And if I may, I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary General on Colombia: Following the result of the plebiscite, the Secretary General welcomes the public commitment from the Government of Colombia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia People's Army, or FARC EP, and all of the country's political forces to continue working to end the armed conflict and build a lasting peace. After more than five decades of war, the Colombian people deserve no less. While political efforts are undertaken to assess the way forward, the Secretary General believes all must be done to maintain calm and prevent a return to violence. He commends the parties for their commitment, as expressed by President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC EP Commander Timoleon Jimenez, to maintain the bilateral ceasefire declared on the 29th of August. The Secretary General has also instructed his Special Representative, Jean Arnault, to travel to Havana today to continue his consultations with the parties. The Secretary General acknowledges the tremendous efforts undertaken to overcome the conflict and calls on all concerned to build on that foundation. He believes strongly that peace can still be achieved and that the many Colombians who have committed themselves to this goal should not be discouraged. The United Nations reiterates its firm support to peace efforts in Colombia. Yes, Joe?
Question: Yeah, I just want to drill down on that, if I may.
Deputy Spokesman: Since I just had that, that's what I have. I'm not going to be able to answer a follow up immediately based on that.
Question: Well, I know, but it kind of reflects a bit what you said earlier. And there's some tension here between the idea of of a democratic vote, plebiscite, will of the people, which the Secretary General rightfully always speaks in favour of, and, of course, the goal that, as you said, Colombian people have and people in the world have for peace and resolution of this long conflict. But is the implication there that the results of the plebiscite should be set aside or ignored?
Deputy Spokesman: No, no. No, not at all.
Question: So what I mean, I didn't hear anything in terms of the Secretary General's opinion about the outcome of the plebiscite. Is he talking about the possibility of having a revote or or how does he suggest or how would you suggest that be dealt with?
Deputy Spokesman: No, that is a question really for the people of Colombia. They have spoken through the plebiscite, and they will be part of the process as it goes forward. The parties themselves have made clear their commitment, their continuing commitment to work to end the armed conflict, and we appreciate the fact that they are continuing with that. Regardless of the plebiscite, it's very clear that the leadership wants to continue on the path of peace. How that will happen has to be done in a way that is approved, of course, by the people of Colombia, and they will have to take them into account as they proceed. We will support them in that effort. Yeah?
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you, there's been a decision and sentencing in a case in South Korea of the nephew of the Secretary General, Bahn Joo hyun. And the reason I'm asking you is not only is he was accused or not accused. He's now been sentenced for arranging fraudulently arranging the sale of a building in Vietnam to a South Korean farm. And the allegation in the case is that he used the name of the Secretary General and said that the Secretary General could get Qatar and its investment firm to buy the building. And it's been found that this was fraudulent, and he's been fined $590,000. So I wanted to know, what is the Secretary do you have a comment on this case that involved the name of the Secretary General? Does he believe that his nephew used his name in this way as the court has found?
Deputy Spokesman: Regarding that, we wouldn't have any comment on the court proceedings, which speak for themselves. The Secretary General has had no contact with this person, and, therefore, there's no real connection to the Secretary General on this.
Question: I mean, it's the son of his brother. So he has not during this whole time, he's not had any contact with him?
Deputy Spokesman: He has not had any contact with him, no. Have a good afternoon, everyone.
Source: United Nations