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The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
As you will hear more from the [Oceans] Conference Spokesman, Damian Cardona, the Conference has gone under way this morning with a traditional Fijian ceremony in the General Assembly. In his remarks, the Secretary-General said that the relationship we have with the oceans is under threat like never before due to pollution, overfishing and the effects of climate change, and stressed that countries must put aside short-term national gains, to prevent a long-term global catastrophe. You will get more on the Conference from Damian; the Secretary-General’s remarks are up online.
I do have a statement to read out on the occasion of the anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and the 50 years of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory. Today marks 50 years since the start of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, which resulted in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and Syrians. This occupation has imposed a heavy humanitarian and development burden on the Palestinian people. Among them are generation after generation of Palestinians who have been compelled to grow-up and live in ever more crowded refugee camps, many in abject poverty, and with little or no prospect of a better life for their children.
The occupation has shaped the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis. It has fueled recurring cycles of violence and retribution. Its perpetuation is sending an unmistakable message to generations of Palestinians that their dream of statehood is destined to remain that, just a dream; and to Israelis that their desire for peace, security and regional recognition remains unattainable. Ending the occupation that began in 1967 and achieving a negotiated two-State outcome is the only way to lay the foundations for enduring peace that meets Israeli security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty. It is the only way to achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
Now is not the time to give up on this goal. Continued settlement construction and expansion; violence and incitement; and the illicit arms build-up and militant activity in Gaza risk creating a one-State reality that is incompatible with realizing the legitimate national and historic aspirations of both peoples. Now is the time to return to direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues on the basis of relevant UN resolutions, agreements and international law. Now is the time to end the conflict by establishing an independent Palestinian State, living side by side in peace and security with the State of Israel.
Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will remove a driver of violent extremism and terrorism in the Middle East and open the doors to cooperation, security, prosperity and human rights for all. In 1947, on the basis of UN General Assembly resolution 181, the world recognized the two-State solution and called for the emergence of “independent Arab and Jewish States”. On 14 May 1948, the State of Israel was born. Almost seven decades later, the world still awaits the birth of an independent Palestinian State. The Secretary-General reiterates his offer to work with all relevant stakeholders to support a genuine peace process.
I have a statement from the Secretary-General on the death of Dr. Babatunde [Osotimehin], the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). The Secretary-General said he was profoundly saddened by the sudden passing of his good colleague and friend. He offered sincere condolences to his family, to the staff of UNFPA, to the Government and people of Nigeria, and to all those around the world touched by this loss. In the statement, the Secretary-General said that the world has lost a great champion of health and well-being for all.
Dr. Babatunde was admired globally for his leadership of the UN Population Fund and for his forceful advocacy for the world’s women and girls in particular. Sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights are among the most important, and often most sensitive, on the international agenda; his calm yet ardent efforts helped families get the sexual and reproductive health services they need, and helped the world advance the landmark 1994 Cairo Programme of Action on Population and Development.
Our colleagues at UNFPA also issued a statement, saying the death was a devastating loss for them. UNFPA is dedicated to continuing his grand vision for women and young people and will continue to stand up for the human rights and dignity of everyone, particularly the most vulnerable adolescent girls.
**World Environment Day
Today is World Environment Day. The theme this year is “Connecting People to Nature” and highlights the vast benefits that clean environments provide to humanity including food security, improved health and climatic stability. The theme also encourages people to simply get back outdoors.
After we are done here, we have the press conference at 12:30 p.m., as I told you about. Then 1 p.m.: the President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson; Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo; the Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji and the Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden will speak to you at the General Assembly stakeout.
At 2:30 p.m., there will be a press briefing on the launch of the first Global Integrated Marine Assessment. Speakers will include the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed and the President of the General Assembly. I think that is happening here in this room.
At 3:30 p.m., there will be a press briefing on the Global Marine Protected Area Target with [Dr.] Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity and Her Excellency Karolina Skog, the Environment Minister of Sweden. We have much more items, but we will put them in our highlights, on the web. Yes, sir?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you Stéphane. Last night, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, UAE [United Arab Emirates], as well as Libya, Yemen, Mauritius and Maldives cut all diplomatic relations with the state of Qatar; in addition, that they have requested all Qatari citizens on their territory to leave their territory within 14 days, locking airspace, water, land borders. What is the Secretary‑General action with this? Did he call… talk, namely to the Amir of Qatar and the King Salman of Saudi Arabia? And what will be the situation… the humanitarian situation for this small country since they have…?
Spokesman: Well, obviously, we are aware of the situation. We’re watching it closely. I have no contacts to report at this point between the Secretary‑General and local leaders. And at this point, we’re not going to comment any further on the situation, but we’ll continue to watch. Abdelhamid?
Question: Yeah. I have a question on the development at the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] and ask if Qatar had been historically accused of any incident or act of sponsoring terrorism in… on the UN record, had it been…?
Spokesman: You know, as I told you earlier on other issues, the UN record is an open book. There have been lots of debates on lots of issues, but that’s not for me to speculate on the motivation behind what happened.
Question: The second question about the statement on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 war, I commend the Secretary‑General for his statement, but what is next? I mean, how could he take an initiative to make this dream of Palestinian, which has not been attained so far, to make it attainable, to make it reality?
Spokesman: I think, as the Secretary‑General said and his envoys have said on numerous occasions, it is really… the solution is for the parties themselves to return to direct negotiations, and we will continue to do whatever we can to encourage that. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. Some other things, but I wanted to ask you about what Espen Barth Eide says. It sounds like he’s working quite a lot in terms of a “when actually employed”. So, I wanted to know, how does it work? For example, my understanding is that the Yemen envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has had a number of, like, month‑long vacations, may end up working fewer days than Mr. Espen Barth Eide. How is it determined by the UN…?
Spokesman: Look, listen…
Correspondent: I’m ser… I’m being serious.
Spokesman: No, I know you’re being serious. I don’t…
Correspondent: There’s legal differences…
Spokesman: I don’t think either of us have the breakdown of staff; any staff, whether an envoy or somebody just starting out, is entitled to a certain amount of leave. And it’s their right to take it or not to take it. So, that’s point one. Mr. Eide was hired on a “when-actually-employed” basis. Obviously, I think, as we’ve seen, especially in these last months, there’s been a deep intensification of the discussions. And he’s working the amount of days he’s telling you he’s working.
Question: Right. But, my question is, I’m asking because there… there are differences. For example, “when actually employed” don’t have to file conflict‑of‑interest forms. It’s not directed to him. I’m saying, for the UN to decide… for example, Michel Kafando, will you… will you say how many days he’s working? And I’m saying again because public money shouldn’t require coming here…
Spokesman: It will be clear when Mr. Kafando will work, and the Secretary‑General expects all his envoys to live up to the highest ethical standards.
Question: Do you have anything on Morocco and Rif?
Spokesman: No, I do not. Go ahead.
Question: Hi, Simon Tate from Al Jazeera. Is the Secretary‑General actually involved in active and diplomatic moves with the other GCC countries to try to resolve this?
Spokesman: No, not that I’m aware of. Yes, sir?
Question: Thank you. Last week, I asked Farhan [Haq] about the number of people or the population which is living in Tindouf that was following a statement by… by him on the situation in these camps in Algeria. And he said… he referred me to the WFP [World Food Programme] website, but I went there, and the numbers actually don’t add up. They’re mentioning 90,000 rations, and they’re asking for an urgent need of 7.9… $7.1 million. So, my question is, how do the WFP know how many people they are feeding in these camps, while… while there was no census of the people living there?
Spokesman: Well, WFP… Well, I think there’s a difference between official census. That’s one thing. And, obviously, WFP is on the ground, and they know… they’re aware of the number of people they need to feed. And as… I think, as the Secretary‑General made clear in the statement, the rations and the resources available to the people… to WFP in order to feed people, to give them the basic food that people need and are entitled to is running very low.
Question: Yeah, but on what basis did they come up with the number $7.9 million?
Spokesman: You can follow up directly with them. They’re obviously on the ground aware of the number of people they need to feed. Evelyn?
Question: I was watching the Ocean Conference this morning and watching President [Robert] Mugabe of Zimbabwe. And I’m wondering if you can check why UNTV made a decision not to show him leaving the podium, because that’s common, and we know his health is a question. And did he… could you check? Could he ask for it?
Spokesman: I’m not aware but we’ll check if…
Correspondent: Whether that was self‑censorship or his request.
Spokesman: Yes. Abdelhamid.
Question: Yesterday, a young girl called Nawal Erekat from the village of Abu Dis, Eastern Jerusalem, she had a mild heart attack. Emergency vehicle came and took her to the hospital three miles away. She was stopped at the checkpoint for 90 minutes, and the driver was begging the Israeli checkpoint to let the vehicle pass. Yet, he did… he refused, and she died at the checkpoint. Would you kindly convey this to the… or if [Nickolay] Mladenov knows about this incident…?
Spokesman: I’ll check with them. Okay. Yes, one more.
Question: Back to the situation in Tindouf, so, given, that the lack of census in these… in this region is one of the main factors why there has been embezzlement of humanitarian aid for the last four… four decades, and that was documented by WFP, OLAF and by UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee ]. So, can you update us… update us on the SG’s efforts to satisfy this request by the Security… Security Council to register the people of Tindouf?
Spokesman: I think the… these issues are issues that need to be dealt with in the long term. The point of the Secretary‑General’s message was a humanitarian one that people who need to be fed should be fed. Thank you.