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The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. The Secretary-General arrived in Beijing, in China, this morning.
Tomorrow, he will speak at the opening of the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and also meet with top Chinese officials, as well as hold bilaterals with a number of world leaders who are attending the Forum. And I think we have put out embargoed copies of his remarks to you.
Turning to Cyclone Kenneth, our humanitarian colleagues report that Tropical Cyclone Kenneth passed north of the Comoros yesterday as a category 1 cyclone; the Government, the Red Crescent Society and the UN are assessing the impact. Due to the remoteness of the three islands hit by the cyclone, assessing that damage is a challenge.
Initial, unconfirmed reports from the Comoros include extensive damage to houses and flooded villages due to sea surges and broken dykes. Roads have also been cut off by fallen trees.
In Mozambique, in anticipation of Tropical Cyclone Kenneth's landfall there, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has been working towards putting search-and-rescue teams on alert for possible deployment if required. Humanitarian organizations are pre-positioning supplies and have teams on standby to deploy to the area. Possible needs will include shelter, water, food and non-food items, power generators, as well as telecommunications equipment.
This is the first time in history that Mozambique is hit by two cyclones in one season.
And turning to Libya, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, Ghassan Salame, is travelling to Paris today, where he will meet with French officials as part of his advocacy with the international community.
While in Rome yesterday, Mr. Salame said that the UN continues its efforts to bring the various parties together in the hope that they can recognize, before Ramadan, that it is better to stick to the political process than further fighting where there is no winner while the country and its people are losing.
Mr. Salame reaffirmed that the UN continues its role in Libya, providing assistance to thousands of families affected by the fighting to be relocated to other areas. We are also working with the refugees and the migrants who are currently in Libya.
And OCHA reports that the transfer of all the remaining migrants and refugees from the Qasr Bin Ghashir detention centre in Tripoli to safer areas is under way today. Yesterday, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) transferred 328 refugees and migrants from the detention centre amid deteriorating security and escalating violence. The relocation follows the violence at the centre on Tuesday, and the relocation was carried out with support from the Libyan authorities and the United Nations. A humanitarian pause was coordinated and facilitated with all parties to allow for the safe passage of the migrants and refugees.
Current conditions in Libya continue to underline the fact that it is a dangerous and unsuitable place for refugees and migrants. UNHCR reiterates that no effort should be spared to prevent those rescued at sea from being returned to Libya.
More information online.
In a statement issued today, the Regional Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, Panos Moumtzis said the United Nations is deeply concerned by the continued reports of hostilities in the north-west, with at least 36 civilians reportedly having been killed in the last week, and over 200 civilians reportedly killed in the last three months.
The United Nations continues to call on all parties to the conflict to cease all violence and reminds them of their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure at all times, and of course to exercise restraint.
In Moscow, the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, today spoke at the eighth Conference on International Security. He underlined that positive impact that peacekeeping operations have on the lives of millions of people across the globe and stressed the challenges that peacekeepers face daily, including complex threats, difficult mandates, daunting protection tasks and a lack of progress in political processes.
Mr. Lacroix also stressed the importance of the Secretary-General's Action for Peacekeeping initiative and added that we must continue to work in partnership with Member States to achieve concrete results.
And we have a few days to mark today. Today is the International Girl in ICT Day. This year, the International Telecommunications Union is hosting a day of celebration in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in addition to events held worldwide.
In a tweet, the Secretary-General recalled his meeting, also in Addis Ababa, with young women taking part in the African Girls Can Code initiative and he said that programmes like that not only help girls and women develop skills, but they challenge stereotypes that limit their ambitions and dreams.
**World Malaria Day
Today is also World Malaria Day. This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) joins the Roll Back Malaria Partnership to End Malaria, the African Union Commission and other partners in promoting Zero malaria starts with me, a grass-roots campaign that aims to keep malaria high on the political agenda, mobilize resources and empower communities to take ownership of malaria prevention and care.
Since 2000, malaria-affected countries have made remarkable progress in reducing the number of cases and deaths. However, malaria's toll remains unacceptably high � according to WHO, every two minutes, a child dies of this preventable and treatable disease. And each year, more than 200 million new cases of the disease are reported.
In a tweet earlier today, the Director General of WHO called on everyone to join the global fight against malaria.
And as we've been telling you this week is World Immunization Week. And today, UNICEF is highlighting the particular danger posed by the global rise in measles cases.
UNICEF reports that widening pockets of unvaccinated children have created a pathway to the measles outbreaks hitting several countries around the world today. In the first three months of 2019, more than 110,000 measles cases were reported worldwide � that's a 300 per cent hike from last year. And up to 110,000 people, most of them children, died from measles in 2017, up 22 per cent from the previous year.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement today: If we are serious about averting the spread of this dangerous but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child, in rich and poor countries alike.
**Press Encounters Today
A couple of things to flag for your attention, in chronological order: At 1:15 p.m., as a part of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, there will be a briefing here by the Conservation and Human Rights. The speakers will discuss the challenges and good practices related to conservation of indigenous peoples' lands and territories.
At 2:45 p.m., there will be a stakeout at the Security Council stakeout by the members of the EU8 group ahead of the Council's meeting on Ukraine, which starts at 3 p.m. Among the briefers will be Rosemary DiCarlo, the head of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.
And at the same time in this very room at 3 p.m., Jorge Arreaza, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, will be here to brief you and I shall now be delighted to take some queries. James and then Edie.
***Questions and Answers
Question: The Secretary General's trip to China, on this occasion he will get a chance to speak to some of the most senior members of the Chinese leadership including President Xi [Jinping]. Will he be definitely raising the issue of treatment of the Uighur community while he has this interaction?
Spokesman: The Secretary General will raise all relevant issues in his discussions with the Chinese leadership.
Question: And does he believe this is one of the relevant issues given it's one of the worst violations of human rights on Earth?
Spokesman: I think you answered your own question. Edie.
Question: Thank you, Steph. The Taliban say that Mullah Baradar met the Head of UNAMA, Mr. [Tadamichi] Yamamoto in Doha. Can you confirm that meeting and give us some details on what they talked about?
Spokesman: No. At this point I can't confirm, but I will check. I'm not answering the question because it's the first I've heard of it, but I will get back to you. Mr. Kline, then we will move around so everybody will get a chance.
Question: First of all, I just want to confirm the Secretary General yesterday had bilateral meetings with the Foreign Minister of Venezuela and the Foreign Minister of Iran; is that correct?
Spokesman: That is correct.
Question: Did I miss any the readouts of those or are there no readouts?
Spokesman: With the Foreign Minister of Venezuela, they spoke about the humanitarian situation in Venezuela, and with the Foreign Minister of Iran they had a wide ranging discussion on regional issues.
Question: What was the current status of the JCPAO, the nuclear deal, one of the topics of discussion?
Spokesman: I think that would fall under regional issues.
Question: And what about the Trump Administration's decision to end all the waivers on the purchase of oil?
Spokesman: I think I think you would have to ask the Iranian Foreign Minister what issues he particularly wanted to speak about. Masood.
Question: So, on the question about Afghanistan that was asked earlier, that it is said that the ISIS and the Taliban have a full-fledged they are in a full fledged fight in Afghanistan. Can you do you have a United Nations [inaudible]?
Spokesman: We've, I think, flagged regularly the increase in violence and civilian deaths that we have seen in Afghanistan recently.
Question: So, but the thing is, what I'm asking is does the representative has anything to do or say about that, if the fighting is full-fledged?
Spokesman: Well, I think we have, and I would refer you to what has come out of the Mission.
Question: Thank you, Stephane. Do you have an update on UN humanitarian supplies going to Venezuela?
Spokesman: No. I had Not to throw my humanitarian colleagues under the bus, but I had asked for one and I'd been promised one and I hoped to have it today, but I live in eternal hope to have it tomorrow. Erol and then Mr. Abbadi.
Question: Thank you, Steph. Before I move to my main question.
Spokesman: What is that?
Question: The follow up, among the most relevant issue, what is the priority for the Secretary General about being in China? You can give me a couple.
Spokesman: Well, he is there to attend the Belt and Road Summit, and that will be, obviously, the focus of his public interaction. I think he will underscore how United Nations' country teams will work with the various Member States who are involved in the Belt and Road initiative in achieving harmonious and sustainable integration of Belt and Road projects with their own economies and societies and also how the importance of aligning the Belt and Road initiatives with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Your second question, sir?
Question: Thank you. And the main question is, as you know, the Security Council adopted the resolution on using rape as a tool of war and many said that it was a watered down resolution because of various reasons, but how the Secretary General sees it, and does he think that it is enough of a tool to combat that terrible
Spokesman: I think that the Secretary General expressed his own views very directly in his statements. I think we can never do enough to fight the scourge of sexual violence, gender based sexual violence against women, and also, I think as it was said by a number of UN briefers, an increasingly number of boys and men as well. Mr. Abbadi, you have been very patient.
Question: Thank you, Steph.
Spokesman: As always.
Question: Thank you. You answered partially my question. Regarding the Belt and Road initiative, the Secretary General attended the forum as you say on the issue. What specific role does the UN play in this multilateral project in addition to the role of the resident coordinator?
Spokesman: You know, Belt and Road is not a UN initiative. Our focus will be to see our country teams do, the UN country teams can work with the countries that are involved in the projects to ensure the sustainability of the projects and to help those countries ensure their own economies and societies mesh with the Belt and Road projects.
Question: As you know, countries have been joining this project, does the UN intend at some stage to join?
Spokesman: You know, it's not for the UN to join. I think, the Secretary General will outline in more detail how the UN will work with Member States who are involved in the Belt and Road initiative, but it's not for the UN to join or not join the Belt and Road initiative. Yes, sir.
Question: Thank you, Stephane. Yesterday you announced a condemnation of 37 men in Saudi Arabia � the decapitation of 37 men � and the same situation is happening in Venezuela and now social media is publishing really disturbing videos of opposition men being decapitated, so do you have any
Spokesman: I don't have any specific information. I haven't seen those specific reports, but it is clear that as a matter of principle we condemn all extrajudicial violence. And the Secretary General himself has stood very firmly against the death penalty and the need for national authorities to ensure that people are able to express themselves freely and in peace.
Question: Yes. And those videos have been forwarded to Michelle Bachelet as well in that situation itself.
Spokesman: I think then you should ask the question to her office. Yes, Masood.
Question: Yes, sir. Yes, Stephane, on this situation in Sri Lanka where now more than 350 people have been killed and the so called, the Muslim population living in Sri Lanka are now in hiding for the fear that they will be killed. And do you have a station head over there who can brief us about this at all, what is happening in Sri Lanka?
Spokesman: Obviously, we have a Country Team there. We are working, assisting the Government in every way we can. The issue, of course, of tolerance and acceptance is a very strong one; but it is not for us to brief you on what is what is going on in Sri Lanka. Thank you.
I was going to try to wish you a great weekend, but we still have one more day together, so I apologize.
Source: United Nations