The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Noon Briefing Guest
In a short while, I will be joined by the Chair of the Advisory Group of Experts on the Review of the Peacebuilding Architecture, Ambassador Gert Rosenthal of Guatemala, who will be my guest.
Staffan de Mistura, as you know, just completed two days of discussions in Damascus with the Syrian Government, including a meeting this morning with Syrian President Bashar alâAssad. In speaking to reporters just after the meeting, Mr. de Mistura said that the focus of the meeting had been on reducing the violence and increasing humanitarian access to all Syrians. He discussed the issue of the United Nations proposal for a freeze in the city of Aleppo.
The Special Envoy added that he will now travel to New York to report back to the Secretary-General and the Security Council. He said he would speak to the Council during a meeting on Syria on 17 February. That is Tuesday, and we have already asked for him to speak to you afterwards, which I’m sure Mr. de Mistura will be happy to do.
On Libya, the UNâfacilitated dialogue reconvened today in the Libyan town of Ghadames. The dialogue, as you know, is aimed at ending the country’s political and security crisis. The UN Support Mission in the country (UNSMIL) has said that all main Libyan parties are participating in the dialogue. We should have more details on the meeting later today.
On a related note, the UN refugee agency today expressed its shock at reports that some 300 people are confirmed missing after rescue attempts by the Italian Coast Guard off the coast of Italy’s Lampedusa. Those who are missing or have perished include migrants and refugees, mainly from subâSaharan African, who had left Libya in four dinghies. More than 110 survivors have landed in Lampedusa, and they confirmed to UNHCR that they had left on Saturday from Libya on rubber dinghies and had been at sea for days, without food and water.
The agency once again expressed its concern about the lack of a strong searchâandârescue operation in the Mediterranean. Europe’s Triton operation, which is run by the Frontex European border protection agency, is not focused on searchâandârescue and is not providing the necessary tools to cope with the scale of the crises. Nearly 220,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean in 2014 and this trend is expected to continue, according to UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees].
**Central African Republic
From the Central African Republic, the UN [Integrated Stabilization] Mission in the country, MINUSCA, welcomes the release yesterday of the Minister for Youth and Sports, who had been kidnapped almost three weeks ago. The Head of MINUSCA, Babacar Gaye, reiterated his call on all parties, including armed groups, to join immediately the current momentum for national reconciliation and social cohesion for the return of lasting peace in the Central African Republic.
And also on the [Central African Republic], the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kyungâwha Kang, today visited Bambari in the [Central African Republic] and met displaced people and representatives of both Muslim and Christian communities there. She praised community leaders for their continued efforts to reach out across sectarian divides and pushed them to empower their leaders to bring about peace through interâcommunal dialogue.
Ms. Kang reiterated that aid is delivered on the basis of needs alone, regardless of religious, political or ethnic affiliations. She stressed that humanitarian workers are taking great risks to deliver aid. She warned that in the current worldwide context of multiple crises, the biggest threat to the people of Central African Republic is that this crisis becomes forgotten.
A number of you have been asking us a number of times on the status of Christopher Ross, the Personal Envoy of the SecretaryâGeneral for Western Sahara. I can report that he arrived in Rabat today. Mr. Ross will hold discussions with Morocco and the Frente Polisario and with the neighbouring States during this mission. We will provide more information on the visit as it comes in to us.
From Burundi, the Special Envoy of the SecretaryâGeneral and Chief of the UN electoral mission in that country called today for reinforced dialogue and trust between all political actors, ahead of the elections planned in three months. Cassam Uteem met this week with heads of political parties, youth groups, civil society, as well as media organizations. He stressed that the situation in Burundi demands constant consultation between the authorities and other parties. His full statement, if you are interested, is in my office.
The Head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark, is starting today a oneâweek visit in the three countries most affected by the Ebola crisis: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Her visit aims at affirming the UN’s continued commitment to addressing the ongoing crisis, and support for the recovery process.
The SecretaryâGeneral has tasked UNDP with leading the UN system on Ebolaârelated recovery. As part of the overall response, recovery programmes are focused on four pillars: economic opportunities and jobs; recovery of the health system; resilient governance for recovery, peace and stability; and risk management to deal with any future outbreaks.
From South Sudan, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and partners are overseeing the release of another 300 children from an armed group in South Sudan, in Pibor, Jonglei State. The children surrendered their weapons and will spend their first night in an interim care centre where they will be provided with food, water and clothing. They will also have access to health and psychosocial services. This follows the release two weeks ago of 249 children aged between 11 and 17 in the village of Gumuruk.
In the two weeks since their release, 179 children have returned home to their families, while 70 are remaining with UNICEFâsupported interim care centre, as we try to locate their families. UNICEF says that the cost for the release and reintegration of each child is approximately $2,330 for 24 months, and it is appealing for $13 million to fund immediate needs.
I have an announcement on senior managers’ compact signing: The SecretaryâGeneral will sign his senior managers’ compacts for the year 2015 at a signing ceremony this Friday at 10 a.m. in his conference room. There will be a photoâop and you will be invited to attend. Senior managers at Headquarters will be physically present, while those away from Headquarters will participate via videoconference.
Lastly, tomorrow, at 11 a.m., a briefing here by Carlos Mesa, former President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. And then at noon, I will be joined by Robert Piper, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, and David Gressly, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Mali. They will brief on the Sahel Humanitarian Strategic Response Plan. Mr. Reuters?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thanks, Stéphane. Mr. UN. The organization Human Rights Watch just released a report a little over an hour ago about the mass rape in Darfur. They criticized the UN or UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur], specifically, and the UN for not doing its own investigation, suggesting that lack of access, as UNAMID has experienced, was not an excuse not to do investigation. They did theirs remotely. So, I’m just wondering if the UN considers that to be a fair criticism. Is it possible to do a remote investigation and will there be any sort of follow-up on this? They also criticized UNAMID for its initial press release and said that the SecretaryâGeneral had tried to correct the record. I wonder if you could comment on that.
Spokesman: Sure. I think, in general terms, we welcome the release of this report by Human Rights Watch. I think whether it’s the UN or Human Rights Watch, we’re all working towards the same goals, which is the protection of human rights in [Darfur]. I think whether it’s Human Rights Watch or the UN, people employ different methodologies to go about getting to that goal. And we have different mandates. Obviously, they’re an NGO [non-governmental organization], we’re not. We operate under different circumstances.
You know, as to your question regarding the specific incident, as you know, we have repeatedly asked to go and to be granted access. That access has not been forthcoming. We need that access in order to conduct a full, an independent investigation of the situation. We would like to have that access as much… as quickly as possible in order to shed light on the very grave allegations of rape… mass rape that took place in the town of Thabit. You know, as for… as I said, in terms of the remote access, I think we’re working on… with different methodologies, different groups use different methodologies. I think we feel that it’s very important for us to have that direct access. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. I guess two things. One, I mean, you didn’t answer on the 9 November  press release that was put out by UNAMID and remains online. Is that retracted? I also wanted to ask: the SecretaryâGeneral is scheduled to meet with Ibrahim Ghandour of the Sudanese Government today at 3:55 p.m. Can we expect him to raise the issue of access to Thabit? And, finally, yesterday a Sudanese diplomat here in New York told me that he had meet with Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous earlier this week and described the meeting as very nice. So, I’d like to get a statement, either now or later today, on whether Mr. Ladsous even raised the issue of Thabit or access to Thabit at this “very nice meeting?”
Spokesman: I hear the description from the Sudanese side of the meeting. We’ll see if I can get anything on it. We’ll try to get a readout of the meeting this afternoon with the SecretaryâGeneral with Professor Ghandour. You know, what happened, I mean, I think, as we all know, UNAMID did visit Thabit on the ninth, following the initial allegations of rape. As we said, however, due to a heavy security presence, the result of the fact-finding mission was inconclusive. I mean, I think for us, safe, unhindered access to the town is critical. We need to be able to talk to the victims in a way where they feel safe and they feel unpressured from authorities.
Question: Just one thing. When you say it’s inconclusive, the reason I ask this is they put out a press release that remains online that said village leaders coexist peacefully with local military authorities in the area. So, it really wasn’t inconclusive. And it seemed like… does that stand? What happens when… does this get approved by DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] before it went out? What’s the status of the document?
Spokesman: I’m speaking from Headquarters on behalf of the SecretaryâGeneral. I think I’ve stated our view of the situation. You’re always free to call and pick up the phone and talk to UNAMID. Anna?
Correspondent: Thank you, Stéphane. I wanted to ask about one of the biggest elephants in the room, about Ukraine. Especially since the negotiations in Minsk have started or are about to start. According to UN official statistics, from 31 January to 5 February, and I’m not going to say “around” and then people because these are people we’re talking about, 263 people, all of them civilians, were killed. And this is UN official statistics. Just to get the scope of the tragedy, if we take the horrible tragedy in France, more people have died…
Spokesman: We’ve been reiterating the scope of the tragedy. I would like to hear your question.
Question: France’s tragedy multiplied 20 times just for five short days. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of France, Laurent Fabius, actually said, I’m quoting him, that the negotiations in Minsk are the last effort… last chance to have normal negotiations and peace. So, how does UN view these negotiations? And what kind of results will be desirable and acceptable for the United Nations?
Spokesman: We, obviously, welcome the discussions that are going on in Minsk. I think there are very intense diplomatic discussions going on right now and we don’t know what the results will be. We very much hope it will be positive results. It’s not up to us to accept or not to accept the results. What we want to see is a cessation of hostilities and an agreement that all parties will abide to. We’ve seen agreements signed before, but what’s important is that people sign and abide by those agreements. And as you have stated, the human toll on this, of this crisis is growing every day. We’ve seen the last 24 hours, with civilians being killed in and around bus stops. I mean, we’ve talked about here the fact that there have been, I think, more than 600,000 internally displaced people in Ukraine within the last year when there were zero a year ago. So, the need to find an agreement, to reach an agreement and to uphold an agreement is clear. And we see that need every day when civilians are dying.
Correspondnet: God forbid this doesn’t happen.
Spokesman: I promise I will come back to you. Masood, then Sangwon? One second. Go ahead. Then we’ll go.
Question: On the ferry disaster and people being killed, now, I’m sure you must have briefed at the top of the briefing. Is the United Nations or UN, I mean, the refugee agency going to do a comprehensive reasoning as to why these refugees have been killed again and again the same area? And they keep on reporting… and they are being rescued by the Italians and so forth. But, there has been no comprehensive analysis as to why this is happening again and again, and people are coming back again and again.
Spokesman: Well, I’m not sure I know how to answer your question. I mean, people are driven, obviously, by all sorts of reasons to put their lives at risk to cross the Mediterranean in search of a better life, in search of reunification with their families. They may be fleeing all sorts of things. We’re seeing the conflict go on in Libya, in other parts of Africa. It is driving people to take drastic measures, often in the hands of criminal elements who help with the crossings. It’s wintertime. The seas are very rough in the Mediterranean. And their ships are not seaworthy.
Question: Basically, I mean, is the criminal element and the other sinister, I mean, ideas being floated around, it can be done, but this reason or that reason? Is that basically the reason?
Spokesman: Well, I don’t know what more I can add, Masood. The reasons for people fleeing and putting their lives at risk in search of a better life are numerous. Obviously, we need to address the root causes of why they’re fleeing in order to stop this human tragedy that we see on a scale every day. Yes, sir? And then we’ll go to you, Sangwon.
Question: This is Mushfiqul Fazal. I would like to draw your attention to Bangladesh. As you know, Bangladesh is facing very crucial time. People are suffering a lot. And vehicles are burning in the street and the extra-judicial killing crossed the limit. And people are fighting for democracy and their voting rights. And I want to know what exactly [what the] United Nations [is] doing to restore democracy in Bangladesh to build a peaceful Bangladesh and to stability, because the last election was held in 2014, 5 January, and there was a oneâsided poll, and before the election the Assistant SecretaryâGeneral Mr. [Oscar] Fernández-Taranco visited Bangladesh; but after any conclusion, he went back and there was a one-sided poll and 154 seats the Government won without any election. So, I want to know, the United Nations expressed concern… do you think is it sufficient to just express the concern or United Nations should do more to restoring democracy in Bangladesh and to hold free and fair and credible elections? Thank you very much.
Spokesman: Sure. As you rightly put it, the [former] Assistant SecretaryâGeneral in charge of [Political Affairs] Oscar Fernández-Taranco has been tasked by the SecretaryâGeneral to liaise with the Government and he’s doing just that. The SecretaryâGeneral is personally committed to the stability and positive development of Bangladesh. Bangladesh, as you know, is a critical partner of the United Nations in many areas. And obviously, I think, as we’ve said here a number of times, we are very much concerned about the violence and the loss of life that’s occurred in Bangladesh since the beginning of last year. Sangwon?
Question: Thanks, Stéphane. Last year, the SecretaryâGeneral said… this was in April 2014… that “this moment does not seem very practical to send troops”, referring to the possible UN peacekeeping role in Ukraine. What’s the status of his view on that now? Have things changed? Does he support that? And I say this because the Russian ambassador has been talking about the possibility of this.
Spokesman: I think, as you know, the decision to initiate and send troops… UN peacekeeping troops, is up to the Security Council. I don’t think I want to go any further at this point, as the talks in Minsk are currently ongoing. Ms. Fasulo and then we’ll move to the front.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Also following up on the Ukraine issue, regarding the civilians that have been killed, does the UN or its partners have a sense of what portion of those civilians have been killed by separatists and what portion by the Ukrainian Government? Secondly, there were reports several weeks ago about the Ukrainian Government withholding or planning to withhold pensions from those living in the pro-separatist areas. And finally, there also were reports that the Ukrainian Government was restricting the travel of those living in the east. I’d welcome any response.
Spokesman: I haven’t seen any more updates on those last two issues you’ve seen. As to who is responsible for the killing of civilians, I think our human rights colleagues have done some preliminary work in a report there on a monthly basis, but it’s obviously very difficult to say with any… to have any conclusive conclusions at this point, as we don’t have any observers on the ground. You know, at a certain point, what we are really focusing on is just saving lives. I think people are struggling. They are trying to go about their daily lives in the middle of an urban war zone. And I think the suffering that we see just in the last 24 hours underscores the need to reach an agreement in Minsk that the parties can live up to. Front row and then we’ll go to the back?
Correspondent: Thank you, Stéphane. Going to ask a question about Middle East. There are certain questions that are almost forbidden to ask in regard of Middle East. One of them is this one that I think I’m going to ask from you.
Spokesman: I don’t think I’ve ever forbidden a question.
Correspondent: But, answering is another thing.
Spokesman: Well, that’s a different issue.
Question: Does UN know who’s providing guns and money to IS? And can UN name the names? Just rather than nodding the head.
Spokesman: We don’t have any conclusive… we don’t have any investigatory capacity to answer that, to answer the question. With the message… the constant message has been from this podium is that all those who are supplying arms should stop doing so and that increasing the flow of arms is probably not the best solution to the crisis. Nisar? Microphone, please. I can’t hear your question. Maybe that’s a good thing.
Question: There’s a very intensive escalation of fighting between Quneitra, Daraa and at the Golan area in Syria. Have you received any reports from the UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force] there? And whether that escalation can affect the front at that area?
Spokesman: I don’t have an update from UNDOF today. I’ll come back to you. All the way in the back? Then Stefano and then Erol. Yes, go ahead.
Question: Thank you. I just want to know: Does the SecretaryâGeneral have any comment on the concept paper for Security Council open debate on 23 February? Thank you.
Spokesman: Which open debate?
Correspondent: Concept paper for Security Council open debate on 23 February.
Spokesman: I think the SecretaryâGeneral, as far as I know…
Question: Does he have any comments on this?
Spokesman: He will deliver remarks, if I’m not mistaken. We’ll have to wait till he delivers the remarks.
Correspondent: Great, thank you.
Spokesman: Stefano then Erol and then Carla.
Question: A follow-up on what Masood was asking. I, personally, think that, actually, the UN should do more, because UN knows exactly what is going on in the Mediterranean this moment, because we were here in this room, and you and the UN addressed the problem… is that if you have there a programme like there was Mare Nostrum that is there to save lives, you save lives; if you don’t have the programme, then a lot more people die. So, we know that Europe change the programme. Now Italy is not doing any Mare Nostrum and Italy is not… the question is this: What the UN can do, for tomorrow… Italy, again, implementing Mare Nostrum, if it’s a problem of money to practically, I will not say the word oblige, but at least demand the Europe implement a programme, an effective programme where is there to save lives. Can the UN do that?
Spokesman: Stefano, you walked into the briefing maybe a few minutes later than I, but in what I read out from UNHCR, I think it’s pretty clear that UNHCR, the UN’s lead on refugee issues, once again expressed its concern about the lack of a strong search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean, said that the Triton operation run by Frontex is not focused enough on search and rescue and is not providing the necessary tools to cope with the scale of the crisis. So, what we do need is better search and rescue assets in the Mediterranean to prevent deaths.
Correspondent: I’m sorry, Stéphane, I heard that, because I heard what you said. I’m very happy with what you said. Just saying, what the UN can do to, you know, to make Europe do it. Because you have been saying that for months. You have been saying that for months.
Spokesman: This is an issue that we have raised, whether it’s the SecretaryâGeneral, or the High Commissioner for Refugees… have raised it, all sorts of levels, including the highest levels in Europe. And obviously, we also… the important thing to keep in mind is the issue of burden sharing. As I think you know, Italy, Greece, Malta, among others, are carrying a very heavy burden of these operations, and they need help. Thank you. Let’s still go to the first round. Erol then Carla, and then Joe. Joe, raise your hand higher so I can hear you… see you, rather. Go ahead, Erol.
Correspondent: I may also come a little later than you, Mr. Dujarric.
Spokesman: I must be quite late. But, go ahead.
Question: But, still, I would like to ask you this question of the Security Council reform of the General Assembly. In what fashion the UN SecretaryâGeneral is involved in it, number one? And, number two, does the SecretaryâGeneral think that something substantial will happen until the end of his mandate on this field?
Spokesman: The SecretaryâGeneral has often underscored the need for Security Council reform, but I think, as you well know, this is an issue firmly in the hands of Member States. The President of the General Assembly is also taking the lead in this issue as it is a Member State issue. We hope that agreement comes soon, but we’re not going to put a time frame on that hope. Mr. Klein?
Question: I want to say what Stefano is saying: What would be the answer of the SecretaryâGeneral to those who are unhappy with these answers that are all the same?
Spokesman: I don’t think I understand your question. Please maybe turn on your microphone. That may help me understand your question.
Question: What would be the answer of the SecretaryâGeneral to those who are saying that they’re unhappy with these kinds of answers on the Security Council reform?
Spokesman: At the risk of continuing a perpetual cycle of unhappy answers, the reform of the Security Council is important. The SecretaryâGeneral has talked about it for quite some time. But, it is an issue that is firmly in the hands of the Member States. And they are discussing it and they’re discussing it intensively. Mr. Klein?
Question: Yes. Concerning the SecretaryâGeneral’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, just as a couple follow-ups on that: He said he didn’t have enough time, I think, in response to a reporter’s question, to talk about specific human rights abuses, including the lashing sentence that was partially carried out. He also said in that press conference that he welcomed Saudi Arabia’s support of interfaith dialogue. So, my question is, number one, since the SecretaryâGeneral has spoken out on many occasions about very specific human rights abuses in other countries, why he didn’t use that opportunity when he was in Saudi Arabia? And, secondly, what does he mean in terms of praising the dialogue, interfaith dialogue in a country where public worship of any religion other than Islam is prohibited? There’s certain places, holy sites that non-Muslims can’t even visit in Saudi Arabia, blasphemy laws, apostasy laws, et cetera. What was he trying to say in that context?
Spokesman: He was referring to Saudi Arabia’s support for the interfaith dialogue centre that is based in Vienna, in cooperation with other countries. I think if you look at the transcript of his press conference, which, you know, by the way, it was carried live on Saudi television, the SecretaryâGeneral was very clear in a very public call for Saudi Arabia’s commitments… for the need for Saudi Arabia to commit to human rights, including freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and the rights of migrant workers, among others. And I think he did so, he raised it in a very public and direct way. No, one second. Carla?
Question: Does the SecretaryâGeneral have any comment upon the fact that the US Congress has approved sending lethal aid to the Government of Ukraine? And is there any comment upon the fact… about the fact that Henry Kissinger has said the US committed a fatal mistake getting involved in Ukraine? And Mikhail Gorbachev has said that the US dragged Russia into a cold war that could lead to a hot war?
Spokesman: I think the SecretaryâGeneral’s view on the situation in Ukraine has been clear from the start, is that there is a need for peaceful and political agreement to resolve the outstanding issues and to stop the suffering of the civilians as we see it, as we see it every day. I’ve answered your question, I think. Mr. Lee?
Question: Follow-up on Bangladesh and also something on the Western Sahara thing you announced. You said that Mr. Taranco is still involved in this issue. I notice that he’s meeting this afternoon with Nisha Biswal, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia. Is it fair to assume that that’s what that meeting is about? And how would you characterize it?
Spokesman: I think it’s not fair to assume anything. I’ll now see if I can actually get you some facts, as opposed to assumptions.
Question: On Mr. Ross’ visit, I wanted to know whether he in fact will go to Laayoune, the main city in Western Sahara. Maybe I missed when you read it out.
Spokesman: I will get you… as I said, as we get details, we’ll get them to you.
Question: If he’s not, can we find out why he’s not?
Spokesman: Sure. The lone voice in the back?
Question: I apologize. I only have a question. On the eve of the Council action tomorrow on Yemen and ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham], can you tell us what senior UN leadership feels regarding these developments, paying of ransoms, Yemen, what’s at stake? I know there have been print statements from the SecretaryâGeneral. I haven’t seen him publicly lately.
Spokesman: You know, obviously, we’re all following the situation in Yemen very closely. The SecretaryâGeneral’s Special Adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, is on the ground talking to the parties. We’re seeing the security situation deteriorate, which really leads us to redouble our efforts to find a diplomatic solution that would also have to involve the Security Council and the support of the Gulf Cooperation Council. This is an issue the SecretaryâGeneral has been focusing on personally for quite some time, especially during his recent travels to Saudi Arabia and to the UAE [United Arab Emirates]. Yes, sir?
Question: Thank you. Today is the anniversary of Iranian revolution, and the Mission of Iran is celebrating it here at the UN this afternoon. We are seeing that more people perished because of the human right abuse in Iran after revolution than before revolution. Is UN still pushing the human rights strongly on Iran? Or because of the negotiation right now with nuclear, it’s kind of everything gone soft?
Spokesman: I think, on human rights, there have been reports to the General Assembly in Iran, and whether in any country the human rights situation remains up front and we continue to report on them, not just on Iran, but throughout the world. Nisar, then Masood?
Question: Yeah, on the interfaith centre on Vienna, I remember that the Chancellor of Austria asked this question: What is this interfaith doing? Which is sponsored by Saudi Arabia. Another thing, if/when the SecretaryâGeneral was there, senior called Nimr al-Nimr, who is an Ayatollah, was sentenced to death. And he’s been there after he had been shot several times. Was this issue raised, among others?
Spokesman: I am not aware of the particular case. Masood?
Question: How about the interfaith centre?
Spokesman: As I said, when the SecretaryâGeneral was referring to the issue of Saudi leadership on interfaith dialogue, that’s what he was referring to. Masood?
Question: Stéphane, do you have any idea when is the United Nations Human Rights Office [is] going to issue a report on the Israel’s human rights abuses in the occupied territory?
Spokesman: I think as we said from here, the work on that report is ongoing. Mr. Lee and then we have to go to our guest.
Question: Ask quickly on the Central African Republic and DRC. On the Central African Republic, there are different reports about helicopters used to fire at exâSéléka. It’s unclear from the reports, at least to me, whether these are UN mission helicopters or French forces helicopters. Some say France attacked the rebels, some say the UN did. Who did the firing?
Spokesman: The UN does not have any air capacity in the Central African… you’re talking about Central African Republic?
Correspondent: Yes, I am.
Spokesman: Does not have any air capacity in the Central African Republic. These were not UN helicopters.
Question: But, was it a UN operation to attack the exâSéléka?
Spokesman: There were both UN forces and Sangaris forces who launched a successful operation that expelled exâSéléka elements from all administrative buildings in Bria. But, the fact that it was reported that it was UN helicopters was an error. On the part of the UN, I must say.
Question: Thanks. I just wanted, I saw these reports that the UN’s support to the FARDC’s [Congolese Armed Forces] action against the FDLR [Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda] has been “paused”. And I was wondering what the support actually was, since you… I think you said from here there’s yet to be any military action by the Congolese Army. So, what support is being paused? And then Mr. [Martin] Kobler has since tweeted that there is some support to FARDC. So, it’s a little unclear. I know you’re going to say it’s operational. But, it’s becoming, there’s a lot un-clarity about it. Can you cut through the fog?
Spokesman: I don’t cut through the fog. That’s not my job description.
Spokesman: Sorry. Let’s try it again. You know, as we said, in general terms, the support that MINUSCA will provide is broad logistics, operational and strategic support to the FARDC in the operation against the FDLR. As to what actual support had been given prior to the pause, I think you would have to ask the mission. Thank you. I’ll come right back.
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.