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21 May 2021

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Happy Friday to all of us. 

**Middle East

As you saw, speaking of yesterday, the Secretary-General last night welcomed the ceasefire that took place in Gaza and Israel, after 11 days of deadly hostilities.  He extended his deepest condolences to the victims of the violence and their loved ones. 

Mr. [António] Guterres commended Egypt and Qatar for the efforts carried out, in close coordination with the UN, to help restore calm in Gaza and Israel.  He called on all sides to observe the ceasefire. 

The Secretary-General appealed to the international community to work with the United Nations on developing an integrated, robust package of support for a swift, sustainable reconstruction and recovery that supports the Palestinian people and strengthens their institutions. 

He also stressed that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have a responsibility beyond the restoration of calm to start a serious dialogue to address the root causes of the conflict.  Gaza is an integral part of the future Palestinian state and no effort should be spared to bring about a real national reconciliation that ends the division. 

And speaking of those humanitarian needs, our colleague, Mark Lowcock, the Emergency Relief Coordinator today allocated $4.5 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), towards the rising humanitarian needs in Gaza.  This is in addition to the $14.1 million, which he announced earlier this week for the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), which comes from the central Pooled Funds for the OPT.  So that total amount as of today, of money we have disbursed, is $18.6 million. 

We also expect to have a three-month inter-agency Flash Appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory issued next week.  As soon as we have a firm date, we will let you know.  That will probably be in the middle of the week.  Strong financial support is, of course, crucial to meet needs especially in Gaza, and also the West Bank.  It is also critical that the Occupied Palestinian Territory Humanitarian Fund is replenished.  This is a flexible tool to quickly respond to urgent needs. 

Today, 13 humanitarian trucks with food, COVID-19 vaccines, medical disposables, and drugs, including emergency medicines and first aid kits, for multiple UN agencies and NGO (non-governmental organization) partners, crossed into Gaza following the partial reopening of the Kerem Shalom Crossing. 

The Erez crossing was also opened temporarily for senior humanitarian officials.  Two of our most senior officials, Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner-General for UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees), and Lynn Hastings, the head of the humanitarian operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Both travelled to Gaza this morning.  Both Mr. Lazzarini and Ms. Hastings have been spending some time not only visiting with Gazans and examining what has happened.  But they also, of course, thanked all the UN colleagues who have worked so hard to help the traumatized civilians under very, very difficult and dangerous circumstances.

And following the ceasefire announcement, the number of people seeking protection in UNRWA schools has now decreased to less than 1,000.  As you may recall, the peak was about 66,000.

**Senior Personnel Appointment

Just a senior personnel announcement I have to share with you today:  The Secretary-General is appointing Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee of Ghana as Assistant Secretary-General for Africa.  And that is a post that is both in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations (DPPA-DPO). 

She succeeds, as you may recall, Bintou Keita of Guinea, who took up a new role as Head of the UN operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Mr. Guterres is, of course, deeply grateful to Ms. Keita’s service and contributions as the first Assistant Secretary-General for Africa for the peacekeeping and political departments. 

For her part, Ms. Pobee brings more than 30 years of experience in international affairs and diplomacy with the Ghanaian Foreign Ministry.  Currently, she is the Chief Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration; she was previously Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Ghana to the UN from 2015 to 2020.  Much more on her career can be found in an email being sent out. 

**Global Health Summit

This morning, the Secretary-General spoke virtually at the Global Health Summit, which was co-hosted by the European Commission and Italy, as Chair of the G20. 

The Secretary-General said that, from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was deeply concerned about the possibility of what he called a “dangerous two-speed response”.

Sadly, he said, that concern was justified, with grossly unequal access to vaccines, tests, medicines and supplies having left poorer countries at the mercy of the virus. 

Vaccinating quickly and thoroughly around the world, together with continued public health measures, are the only ways to end the pandemic and prevent more dangerous variants from gaining a foothold, the Secretary-General said. 

He also repeated his call to the G20 to set up a Task Force that brings together all countries with vaccine production capacities, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the ACT-Accelerator partners and international financial institutions, able to deal with the pharmaceutical companies and other key stakeholders. 

Let’s be clear, he stressed, we are at war with the virus.  And if you are at war with the virus, we need to deal with our weapons with rules of a war economy.  We are not there yet.  And this is true for vaccines, and it is true for other components in the fight against the virus. 

His remarks were shared with you.

And a programming note that, on Monday, he will address, by pre-recorded video message, the World Health Assembly.  We will share both the video and the text under embargo on Sunday morning with you. 

**COVID-19

Staying on COVID, a couple of updates from our country teams. 

In South Sudan, the UN team is working closely with the authorities to accelerate vaccine efforts due to the low turnout for the campaign.  More than 6,400 doses have been administered to date, with more than 126,000 still pending. 

The UN team is helping to transport more than 62,000 doses of the vaccine to sites around the country.  The UN peacekeeping mission (UNMISS) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are helping to airlift the shots. 

From Namibia, further south, today, they received their second shipment of vaccines from COVAX. 

Our folks in Namibia are continuing to help the country with its vaccination campaign to ensure that all Namibians are vaccinated as a crucial step for a better recovery. 

**COVID-19 — South Asia

And from South Asia, UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) says it urgently in need of $164 million to help save lives as a deadly-wave of COVID-19 sweeps across the region. 

The funds will be used to procure oxygen and testing supplies, medical equipment, and personal protective equipment, among other supplies. 

South Asia, which is home to nearly 2 billion people, accounts for half of known new infections globally.  More than three new COVID-19 infections are being recorded every second and more than three people are dying of COVID-19 every minute. 

**Nepal 

In Nepal, we, along with our partners, have launched a COVID-19 Response Plan seeking nearly $84 million to help 750,000 of the most vulnerable people impacted by the pandemic over the next three months. 

Millions of people in Nepal are struggling with the direct health impact of the pandemic.  In addition, hunger, malnutrition, devastating economic losses, and other health needs are being overlooked.  The poorest and most marginalized people are the hardest hit. 

Nepal is in the middle of its worst COVID-19 outbreak and is experiencing roughly the same number of daily cases per capita as neighbouring India.  However, the country’s health system has much less capacity to treat COVID patients. 

After several months of relatively low cases, the numbers began increasing rapidly in mid-April.  Since 5 May, there have been over 8,000 cases registered every day. 

Over 44 per cent of COVID-19 tests in Nepal are coming back positive, suggesting that case numbers are in fact much higher than reported.   

Our Response Plan calls for swift action and international solidarity to save lives and prevent unnecessary suffering today and in the difficult weeks to come. 

**Myanmar

From Myanmar, the UN team there said today that it is alarmed by the humanitarian impact of the violence in the town of Mindat in Chin State. 

There have been reports of indiscriminate attacks by the security forces against civilians, resulting in civilian casualties and in people being displaced from their homes. 

Nearly 4,000 people have reportedly been forced to flee since fighting escalated in Mindat on 12 May, with thousands of people believed to be hiding in nearby forests and mountains. 

Many civilians have reportedly not been allowed to leave the town during the height of the hostilities. 

Our team on the ground in Myanmar is also concerned by reports that security forces used civilians as human shields and incidents of sexual assault perpetrated against women and girls. 

Many people urgently need food, water, shelter, and access to health care, among other needs.  While the UN and our partners are trying to assess and address these needs, their efforts are complicated by continued fighting and road blockages. 

The UN country team calls on security forces to urgently take all necessary measures and precautions to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure.   

And asks all involved to ensure safe and unhindered humanitarian access so that we can all help people in need. 

And I may have slightly buried the lead.  Our colleague Christine Schraner Burgener will be briefing you, here, at 11:00 on Monday, by video link from Bangkok.  Eleven o’clock.  We will send out the links. 

**Mozambique

Moving on to Africa and Mozambique, where the World Health Organization today said that more than 1.2 million people urgently need health assistance in Cabo Delgado Province, where recent armed attacks sparked further population displacement and deepened a protracted humanitarian crisis. 

According to WHO, violence and insecurity have damaged or forced shut nearly a third of the province’s 132 health facilities.  This has deprived communities of basic health services and sparked emergency needs for HIV, malaria and TB treatment, as well as vaccination and safe delivery among internally displaced persons and host communities.  Cholera prevention, COVID-19 response and provision of mental and psychosocial health services are also critically needed. 

WHO is revising its response plan and will deploy additional human and material resources to Cabo Delgado and other health emergency hotspots in the country as soon as they get additional resources.  WHO has already mobilized $1.77 million to support the Government and its partner organizations. 

**Libya

Ján Kubiš, our Envoy for Libya, spoke at the Security Council this morning and discussed preparations to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 December.  He said that in recent months, a state of political paralysis has been replaced by developments that have created renewed hope for Libya’s reunification and its stability. 

The ceasefire continues to hold, Mr. Kubiš said, adding that the security situation has significantly improved, although clashes between armed militia groups competing for influence, access to and control of territory and resources still occur from time to time. 

Mr. Kubiš warned that the continued use, presence, and activities of thousands of mercenaries, foreign fighters, and armed groups is a significant threat not only to Libya’s security but to the region as a whole.  The recent disturbing events in Chad remind us of the interrelated nature and links between the security situation in Libya and the security and stability of the region as a whole. 

His text was shared with you. 

**Climate

And a couple of climate and biodiversity notes. 

This morning, the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, spoke at the G7 Climate and Environment Ministerial Meeting. 

She said that this year is a make-or-break year in the global effort to restore our relationship with the planet, tackle the climate emergency and get ahead of the pollution crisis. 

Despite positive signs on reducing emissions, she said that our main concern is the public finance gap and the lack of concrete support for adaptation. 

The G7 Summit, coming up in June, will be a key moment for progress on finance, she said.  She added that we need G7 leaders, and other developed countries following suit, to announce enhanced climate finance commitments for the period of 2021-2025, explicitly indicating the share of public climate finance that they pledge. 

When it comes to adaptation, Ms. Mohammed said we need to see an increase of climate finance to get to at least 50 per cent allocated to adaptation and that this should be easily accessible for small island developing countries and least developed countries. 

Those remarks were shared with you. 

**Biodiversity

Tomorrow is the International Day for Biological Diversity.  The theme this year is “We’re part of the solution.” 

In his message, the Secretary-General said we need to protect nature, restore ecosystems and establish a balance in our relationship with the planet. 

And this morning he spoke at a webinar on the Road to the Biodiversity COP (Conference of Parties), which is coming up in Kunming, in China, in October. 

He said the pandemic has reminded us of the intimate relationship between people and nature and it provides an opportunity to recover better; adding that the solutions to the current crisis must expand opportunity, reduce stark inequalities and respect planetary boundaries. 

Nature-positive investments and actions can ensure that we all benefit from the dividends of biological diversity. 

**International Tea Day

A couple of other days to flag.  Today is also International Tea Day.  Tea day — T-E-A.  Yes.  Tea production and processing are a main source of livelihood for millions of families, particularly in developing countries. 

The Day’s celebration promotes and fosters collective action to implement activities in favour of the sustainable production and consumption of tea.  It also raises awareness of its importance in fighting hunger and poverty. 

**World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

Today is also World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.  There is a nice message from the Secretary-General on that.

**International Day to End Obstetric Fistula

And Sunday, is the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula.  The theme for this year is “Women’s rights are human rights!  End fistula now!” 

**Questions and Answers

Célhia?

Question:  Stéphane, it’s about Mali.  The French journalist Olivier Dubois was kidnapped.  Do we have an update on him?  And is the UN Mission (MINUSMA) helping in any way?

Spokesman:  We very much hope that he will be released unharmed and safe and sound.  I mean, as we’ve always said, journalists need to be able to do their work freely, free of any threat, especially in these very difficult condition…  situations. 

The UN Mission…  I’m not going to go into any details, obviously, given his status, but we are, of course, ready to help in any way we can.

Ms. Saloomey and then Edie.

Question:  Steph, I noticed that the Secretary‑General was one of many speakers to call for reviving negotiations through the Middle East Quartet for a two‑State solution in the Middle East, and I also noticed that the US Ambassador to the UN said that the US would work with the international community for a lasting peace, but she didn’t mention the Quartet.  So, I’m wondering if you’ve had any indication from the United States if they’re willing to engage in that forum.

Spokesman:  We continue to push to engage in that forum.  Obviously, there are four parts to a Quartet.  We represent one leg of that Quartet.  Others have expressed support.  We continue to be in touch with the Quartet envoys, and we do hope to be able to engage in that framework.

Question:  So nothing yet from them…

Spokesman:  Nothing to announce, no.

Question:  Can I just follow‑up…?

Spokesman:  Yes.

Question:  Also, you saw so much diplomacy happening here in the last week, and yesterday you mentioned it when you came in, culminating with the ceasefire agreement in the middle of this in‑person General Assembly meeting.  Can you just give us some colour, maybe, in terms of the mood in the past week and the level of engagement and how…  I don’t…  just what it felt like being behind the scenes here?

Spokesman:  Look, I think you were all as behind the scenes as I was in a sense.  I think there was certainly a buzz in the building yesterday, and I think the fact that we had both General Assembly meeting on the Middle East, we had a large number of Foreign Ministers who came, held bilaterals with the Secretary‑General.  In parallel, we had these discussions going on in Doha.  We had phone calls going on all over the world.  Everything seemed to come together in a positive way. 

It also, I think, reinforces the UN in New York as a meeting platform, right, where these conversations that are both public and private can take place.

Edie?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Today, there were clashes in Jerusalem between Israeli police and Palestinians celebrating the ceasefire and worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  The largest Islamic Muslim organization in the United States has called for condemnation.  What is the Secretary‑General’s reaction to these clashes less than 24 hours after a ceasefire?

Spokesman:  I mean, we’re, obviously, very concerned about the continuing tensions that we’ve seen today in occupied East Jerusalem, particularly in and around the Old City.  It’s very important that, I think, everyone honour the sanctity of the Holy Sites in the Old City, refrain from any provocation that could escalate tensions. 

As you mentioned, this comes just a few hours after the ceasefire.  So, it’s important for everyone to show restraint and that the status quo at the Holy Sites must be respected. 

And I think…  in these situations, I think both political leaders, religious leaders have a responsibility to speak out against anyone who disrupts peace, and we should all stand firmly against incitement and violence, especially in such a tense environment.

Question:  Can I ask, on a completely different subject, on Myanmar, the head of the military‑installed Electoral Commission said that they are considering outlawing Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, which ruled Myanmar before the coup.  What is the Secretary‑General’s reaction to that possibility?

Spokesman:  I mean, should that happen, that would be a clear step in the wrong direction.  What we have all been working for, what the Security Council, the international community has been working for is a restoration of democracy and a restoration of the voice of the people of Myanmar.

Celia Español, and then we’ll go to Betul.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Yesterday, the High Commissioner for Refugees sent a message to the United States, appealing for the Government of Joe Biden to remove the Title 42, which prevents migrants coming into the United States at the border, and he says that it is preventing people with legitimate asylum claims to be able to enter and then is putting pressure in the towns of northern Mexico. 

What’s the position of the Secretary‑General?  Especially because it’s over a year with the Title 42.  Thousands of people have been returned.  A lot of them are in terrible conditions at the border.

Spokesman:  I mean, we have nothing to add and support, obviously, the voice of the High Commissioner for Refugees.  That’s…  he speaks to Member States in that regard.  It’s his…  and so, we fully…  there’s no light in a sense, and it’s his responsibility. 

For our part, as you know, the UN system has been present for some time in northern Mexico through various agencies in trying to support those people who are stuck on the Mexican side of the border.

Betul?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  I would like to direct you to the SG’s report on Children and Armed Conflict in Syria.  I did my work.  I read the report.  The UN signed an agreement with the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] in Syria two years ago to make sure that they stopped recruiting children as fighters, but despite that agreement, they kept recruiting.  And according to the report, there are more than 400 children still being recruited by SDF.  What do you have to say on that?

Spokesman:  Well, I mean, the report is exactly for that; it is to bring light to all the violations that we continue to see.  It is important that, whether in Syria or any other places, Governments, armed groups or any other entities work to stop recruiting children, to stop putting children in harm’s way. 

The mechanism of Children and Armed Conflict is one to, obviously, bring light to it but is…  we also…  and the office offers assistance to those groups and entities and Governments on how to go about that, and we would want everyone to engage with Ms. [Virginia] Gamba’s office.

All right.  We’ll go to the screen.  I think Michelle has a question. 

Question:  Yeah, thanks, Steph.

Spokesman:  Dance card is… Yes, go ahead.

Question:  Just a bit of a follow‑up to Kristen’s question about the Quartet, does the Secretary‑General view the Quartet as sort of the best avenue to try and revive these talks?

Spokesman:  Look, I think there are a lot of avenues.  There are a lot of different tools.  I don’t want to…  I’m not a ranking person.  There are other…  there are different formats.  The Quartet, I think, is a critical entity in that it brings together these four important parties who have been involved in the process for a long time.  It represents, in a sense, the large part of the international community.  It has served…  I think it has served a positive purpose in the past, and it can continue to do that.

Question:  And the Russian Foreign Minister was, last week, pushing for a ministerial meeting of the Quartet.  Are there any dates under discussion?

Spokesman:  Not that…  I mean, I’m not aware…  I’m not in a position to confirm any dates.  Mr. Barada?

Question:  And just one…  One more quick one?

Spokesman:  Go…  yeah. 

Question:  It’s Friday.  One more quick one.  The US Ambassador, yesterday, in her statement, made a point of saying any aid that is given to help Gaza should go to the Palestinian people and not Hamas.  Could you just sort of remind us of the UN’s involvement, I guess, with Hamas and how they ensure that aid finds the right people?

Spokesman:  Well, our aid is distributed by the UN entities who are working directly on the ground.  Our main…  our interlocutor, for anything official, is, obviously, the Palestinian Authority, but we distribute aid, for the most part, directly.  And I think what’s important to note is that all the aid that goes out…  the monies and aid that goes out through the UN is clearly tracked and audited throughout the process.

Abdelhamid?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I have a couple of questions, as well, and one of the questions Edie took it from me, as always.

Okay.  In the past, Stéphane, in the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008‑2009, the US did…  sorry.  The UN did an internal investigation of attacks on new UNRWA schools.  Similar happened in 2014 when the UN also conducted an internal investigation of the damage that [was] endured by new UNRWA schools.  Is the UN doing similar investigation of the damage that could be inflicted on UN properties and UN schools this time?

Spokesman:  I mean, obviously, now that the dust has settled, as I told you, our senior officials are on the ground in…  [cell phone interruption]

Correspondent:  Sorry.

Spokesman:  It’s okay.  Now that the dust has settled, as I mentioned, our…  two of our senior‑most officials in the region are on the ground.  We’re, obviously, looking at what has happened, what has been…  what is damaged.  When there is anything more official to share, and if there is, I will flag that to you. 

You had a second question?

Question:  Yes, I do.  During the Israeli aggression in Gaza, which lasted for 11 days, 30 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank.  These 30 Palestinian killed had not been mentioned in any statement, or there was no separate focus on those civilians killed in the West Bank, including a young woman in Hebron.  Why is that?

Spokesman:  I think we did…  first of all, I think we did refer to events in the West Bank, and I think we were very clear on condemning the loss of life of all civilians.

Question:  And my last question…  The Europeans now are talking about maybe — that’s what they said — dealing directly with Hamas in order to achieve maybe some comprehensive peace.  Does the Secretary‑General share this view?

Spokesman:  Well, I mean, we were very clear and we announced, I think, yesterday — I can’t remember what day we are — I think, yesterday morning, I mentioned that Mr. [Tor] Wennesland had been in Doha and had been speaking to Hamas representatives, and that’s part of his job in trying to be part of that group that help settle this…  the cessation of hostilities, the ceasefire.  You need to talk to the people who are involved in the firing if you’re going to get a ceasefire. 

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Ali, I think I passed you over, Mr. Barada, and then we’ll go to Mr. Sato. 

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  So, there are a lot of calls now for cooperation with the United Nations to provide aid to the Palestinians and to provide the construction assistance.  Should that happen, as the Secretary‑General believes, through the Security Council?  Is there a need for a product from the Security Council?

And I have a question, if you have any UN‑verified information about how many children were killed on both sides.

Spokesman:  For your last question, I think I would refer you to our human rights colleagues, who may have some updated figures.  I don’t have…  sorry.  I don’t have that right in front of me, but I know our human rights colleagues have produced updates, as I think our humanitarian affairs colleagues have.

On your first question, I think I need to kind of separate the two.  We would always welcome a strong voice from the Security Council to help cement what has been achieved, which is a ceasefire and lay a vision for the road ahead, for renewed political dialogue, leading to a two‑state solution. 

On the humanitarian end, the ball is moving.  As you saw, we released today some more funds, have a flash appeal in the middle of next week.  Obviously, our OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) colleagues, UNRWA and all the others will be speaking to donors.  So, that’s part of our ongoing existing mandate.

Question:  Just if you…  if I may follow up, so, there are a lot of civilians who were killed in this conflict, and I wonder whether the SG would call for any kind of accountability, since he was always warning that there should be a respect…  full respect for international humanitarian law.  And I want to ask specifically about that building which was housing our colleagues in AP and Al Jazeera and other media outlets.  It was targeted and whether anything should be done regarding that building.

Spokesman:  When…  I mean, on that building, I think the Secretary‑General expressed his opinion even yesterday, again, in the General Assembly.  Whenever civilians are killed, whenever civilian infrastructure is destroyed, there needs to be accountability.

Mr. Sato?

Question:  I…  I…  I may ask on COVID, please?

Spokesman:  Yes, you may.

Question:  So, we saw that relatively large meeting happening yesterday in the General Assembly, and I wonder whether you have any plans for the high‑level meetings to…  in person in September. 

And also a question on whether…  I understand that you want to respect the freedom of every person to declare…  or not to declare whether they have the vaccine, but is it Secretariat’s right to tell people, you are not allowed to go to the UN building if you’re not vaccinated, even if they are UN personnel?

Spokesman:  Look, as you will recall…  oh, you may not recall.  On Wednesday, we presented a non‑paper to the President of the General Assembly and Member States, outlining different scenarios on how we can increase conference support for the Member States as of 1 June. 

We are standing by to implement whatever decision Member States may wish to take on this matter.  Our ultimate goal and I think everyone’s ultimate goal is a return to normal as quickly and as safely as possible.  As part of that, we will, obviously, look at requirements in terms of tests and vaccines.

Question:  Do you have any numbers…  do you have any numbers…  I know…  I know, but you have to bear with me.  This is a very critical issue.  Do you have any numbers within the UN personnel?  How many were vaccinated?

Spokesman:  UN personnel are encouraged to self‑report their vaccination status.  As you…  we all have…  well, we all have rights in…  if you are in the US, through HIPAA, if I’m not mistaken, about nobody forcing you to share medical information, so we ask people to self‑report.  We are encouraging people to self‑report. 

Given that we all live in either, I assume, New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, I think…  and we’re all…  all people who come into this building or work here are over the age of 12, everyone should have been able…  should they physically be able to receive it, should have gotten the vaccine.  So, we encourage people to be vaccinated, whether at the UN or around the world, but UN staff are self‑reporting.

Okay.  Mr. Sato…  no, I’ll come back to you a bit later, Ali.  Let’s go to Mr. Sato.  He’s been very patient.

Correspondent:  Steph, thank you.  I am not giving an opinion.  I have no opinion on that.  I was almost a victim because of the UN… 

Spokesman:  Ali, Ali, Ali, Ali, Ali, Ali… 

Question:  Now this is a…

Spokesman:  This is the General Assembly.  It’s not a place to opine. 

Mr. Sato?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Good to see you again.  So, my question about Palestine and also Myanmar, which you just mentioned.  So, first of all, as for the ceasefire, even though the ceasefire has just announced, but even in New York, there are some conflict between the Israel supporters and Palestinian supporters last night, and there was some conflict.  And also, there supposed to be some protests in…  scheduled in the…  this weekend.  What can Secretary‑General say about these hostilities still going on between the two parties?

Spokesman:  Well, we’ve seen some reports of demonstrations in New York.  I think, first of all, people have a right to express themselves freely, but it is very important that there be no violence and extremely important that there be no hate speech in any way, shape or form, anything that would just make the situation worse.

Question:  The second question is about Myanmar, just you…  it is good opportunity for media to hear from Ms. Burgener next Monday.  Can you share any…  the latest information about situation in Myanmar?

Spokesman:  I mean, nothing more than what I shared earlier from the country team, but she will have the latest.  And we’ll see…  so, at 11:00…  it will be before the briefing given that she’s in Bangkok, so it will be 11:00 a.m.  here, and she’ll be piped in by video. 

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Célhia, yes?

Question:  Thanks, Stéphane.  Does the Secretary‑General or the United Nations are involved in the possibility of restarting talks between the [Nicolás] Maduro Government of Venezuela and the opposition?  Last week, [Juan] Guaidó spoke about the possibility, and the Government of Maduro had said that they are open to that possibility.  Is anything that they…  you…

Spokesman:  I mean, I’ve seen the press reports even this morning.  We, obviously, as always, are available to parties should they need our assistance in any way, shape or form, but I’m not aware that we’ve received any specific request in that format.

Stefano, and then we’ll go to Brenden [Varma]. 

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Yes, going back to the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict.  Well, we all know this is the oldest actually of the UN, you know? The partition resolutions, all this one.  We are here looking at deja vu, deja vu, deja vu

So, my question is, after this, we all happy a ceasefire, but what…  does the Secretary‑General that is looking for his second mandate, does he has…  does he have a plan, something, to change the history of this conflict that we having every three, four, five years?

Spokesman:  If he had a magical rabbit out of his hat, I don’t think he would have waited for the second mandate to pull it out, should he even get it.  I don’t want to prejudge anything.  But I think what’s important — and it’s what the Secretary‑General himself said yesterday — is that we use this opportunity, yet again, to actually address the fundamental political issues that need to be addressed. 

You’re right.  We’ve been dealing with this issue for quite some time.  The end goal is laid out in various Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions. 

The international community needs to do whatever it can to support the parties in getting to that goal, to support the parties in getting in political discussions.  The international community should do that and avoid any action or speech that would move us away from that goal.

Okay.  Mr. Varma?

Question:  Sorry.  And…  sorry, but…  can I do just a quick…  just a quick follow‑up?

Spokesman:  Yes.

Question:  I’m just saying that…  what I was trying to say is, isn’t it time for bold — bold — action by the Secretary‑General of the United Nations?

Spokesman:  At the end of the day, the bold action will have to come from the parties themselves. 

That’s fine.  That’s fine.  Have a great weekend.  See you Friday…  see you Monday.  Yeah.

For information media. Not an official record.