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15 December 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 Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Security Council

The Security Council met this morning on South Sudan.  Briefing Council members in person, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Nicholas Haysom, said there has been both progress and reduced momentum in advancing the Revitalized Peace Agreement in the country.  He pointed to positive developments, such as the fifth National Governors Forum late last month, which marked the first high-level meeting of all members of government since the signing of the peace agreement in 2014.  But, Mr. Haysom said that, while the steps taken so far in the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement are welcome, they are not sufficient if the peace process is to be sustained.  He stressed the need for progress to be made regarding next year’s elections and on the Constitution, and he expressed concern over the restrictions on civic space.  Also addressing Council members today was Wafaa Saeed, the Director of the Coordination Division in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  She said that the people of South Sudan have faced the highest levels of food insecurity since independence in 2011 and the renewed conflict, which began in 2013.  She said that, between April and July, 7.2 million people were estimated to be at a crisis phase, of which 2.4 million are at emergency phase.

**Iran

Rosemary DiCarlo, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, briefed the Security Council yesterday afternoon on Iran and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  She reiterated the Secretary-General’s point that there is simply no viable alternative to the full and effective implementation of that Plan of Action.  In this regard, together with the Secretary-General, Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo appealed to the United States to lift or waive its sanctions as outlined in the Plan and extend the waivers regarding the trade in oil with Iran.  She also called on Iran to reverse the steps it has taken that are not consistent with its nuclear-related commitments under the Plan.

**Syria

Turning to Syria, an estimated 3.4 million people need humanitarian assistance in the north-west.  Ongoing conflict in some areas, the economic crisis, COVID-19 and difficult winter conditions are increasing needs.  All response modalities are needed to assist people in need.  Aid must also be delivered in a more sustainable manner.  The UN has an operational plan to send regular and predictable deliveries of assistance from areas under Government of Syria control across conflict lines to reach the north-west.  Two convoys of 14 trucks each have already moved assistance cross-line to a warehouse in Idlib.  Distribution of the cross-line aid is expected to begin in the second half of December.  Cross-line convoys, even if deployed regularly, cannot replicate the size and scope of the cross-border operation.  They are, however, an important complement to the massive cross-border operation, offering another avenue for aid to be delivered to people in need in north-west Syria.

**Afghanistan

Moving to Afghanistan:  Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the World Food Programme (WFP) provided food to almost 150,000 people in Badakhshan, Takhar, Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan Provinces on Monday.  In Badakhshan, Kabul, Panjsher and Kunduz Provinces, close to 6,000 people also received cash assistance on the same day.  Our humanitarian colleagues also tell us that, yesterday, four civilians were reportedly injured after an unexploded ordnance detonated in Garmser district, Helmand Province.  Also, yesterday, an unconfirmed number of civilian casualties were reported when an improvised explosive device detonated inside a mosque in Shinwari district, Nangarhar Province.  On the liquidity crisis, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that 100 food shops and commercial businesses remain closed in Jalalabad city, Nangarhar Province, due to the devaluation of the local currency and high food and commodity prices.  In 2021, donors have provided nearly $1.5 billion for the two humanitarian appeals for Afghanistan.  Next year’s Humanitarian Response Plan seeks three times the funding required this year, $4.4 billion to reach 22 million people with support.

Continuing on Afghanistan, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today said that, as of 30 November, it has directly supported 2.23 million people in 2021 across 31 out of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.  More than 800,000 people were assisted in November alone.  Through the winter wheat campaign, FAO provided wheat seeds across 30 provinces of Afghanistan.  When completed by the end of December, the campaign will have assisted 1.3 million people, enabling farmers to produce enough wheat to cover the cereal needs of 1.7 million people for one year.  FAO warns that prices are soaring, and humanitarian needs keep growing and continue to be far greater than resources.  For the 2022 spring response, FAO urgently needs $115.3 million to deliver humanitarian assistance to farmers and herders.

**Haiti

Turning to Haiti, we can report that in response to yesterday’s deadly fuel truck explosion in Cap-Haitien, the UN Humanitarian Air Services (UNHAS), Haitian and other humanitarian air assets are working under the coordination of the country’s authorities to transport medical personnel and supplies.  Under the leadership of the health ministry and the civil protection agency, humanitarian partners are supporting local emergency care providers who report a need for medical personnel and supplies to treat severe burns.  Priority supplies include serums, gauze and other items.  National authorities are still assessing the number of people injured or killed in yesterday’s explosion, but numbers available now indicate that at least 61 people died, and about 50 people were injured in the blast.  Vehicles, motorcycles and 20 houses near the site of the explosion also caught fire, raising fears of a higher death toll.  The city’s hospitals are overwhelmed with injured people, most of whom are being treated in courtyards due to a lack of hospital beds.  Our humanitarian colleagues are supporting coordination by liaising between medical practitioners, air and logistics operators.  Haiti’s interim Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, has declared three days of national mourning.

**COVAX/Nicaragua

A have a COVID update for you today from Nicaragua, which received more than 800,000 vaccine doses through COVAX that had been donated by France to vaccinate pregnant women, postpartum women, and mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding.  This latest delivery brings the total number of doses that Nicaragua has received from COVAX to nearly 4 million.

**Hybrid Briefing Tomorrow

Tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a briefing by the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, David Gressly.  And that is it from me.  I’m going to have a little sip of water, and then I will take your questions.  All right.  First of all, please, if you can turn the cameras to the room so I can see whether there's any hands up in the room.  Oh, yes, Kristen… Kristen Saloomey?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Hi, Farhan.  Thank you.  I'm just wondering if there's any reaction from the Secretary‑General on the agreement between Iran and the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] regarding allowing the cameras to be turned back on again in their main nuclear facility.  Apparently… my understanding of the agreement is that the cameras will be recording again, but they're not going to share that footage with the IAEA until the United States comes back to the deal.  Is that good enough?  Do you have any reaction?  Is that helpful, useful?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  We were in touch with our colleagues at the International Atomic Energy Agency, and they are studying this response.  And we'll first wait to hear from them what their reaction is to this.  For our part, of course, we would welcome any efforts by Iran to deal constructively with International Atomic Energy Agency.  As I said, Ms. DiCarlo made clear that we want Iran to comply with all the nuclear‑related aspects of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and we certainly want them to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Okay.  Pam Falk, you have a question?

Question:  Sorry.  Yes.  On the Friday… thank you, Farhan.  On the Friday Ethiopia special meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, will the Secretary-General participate or someone from UN Headquarters?  And what do you expect to come out of it?  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we'll leave it to our colleagues in the Office of the [United Nations] High Commissioner for Human Rights to deal with what they want to come out of the Human Rights Council meeting.  Obviously, it's very important that the human rights situation in Ethiopia be examined and examined thoroughly.  I mean, I don't have any confirmation of any participation by the Secretary‑General on that.  And indeed, we may have announcements about his future programme in the coming days to announce a little bit farther down the line, but there's nothing to announce just yet on what he's doing.

Question:  And I'm sorry.  As a follow‑up on that, can you give any updates on the trucks and the fuel that had been confiscated and the fuel deliveries stopped to Tigray?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we've been in touch with our humanitarian colleagues.  There has been progress in terms of getting food in, but fuel remains a problem.  But, certain things, including food and medicines for malaria, have been coming in, but until we have a regular supply of fuel coming in, it's hard to distribute it to all the places it needs to go.  So, we're continuing to be in touch with authorities, and we're trying the best we can to make sure that we are able to deliver to all the places we need to go.  Thanks.  James Reinl?

Question:  Hi, Farhan.  Can you hear me?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah.

Question:  Great.  Thanks.  Yeah.  The US released information today about a $10 million deal between Mali welcoming the Wagner mercenary outfit into the country.  Is this something that the UN has any information on?  And also, is it something that [inaudible] part of your apparatus, for example, the human rights team in Geneva or the Panel of Experts, might be monitoring?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't have any comment on this latest development.  We've made clear what our concerns are about the presence of foreign mercenaries, and that position remains unchanged.  Joe Klein?

Question:  Yes.  Thank you.  You mentioned comments from [Under-Secretary-General] DiCarlo.  In light of the fact that the Iranian regime is insisting that the United States remove all sanctions up front before it begins to negotiate any concessions, does the [Under-Secretary-General] have any thoughts about whether the United States should make any moves first in removing the sanctions that are now imposed to incentivise or to also make concessions, or should these be done simultaneously as confidence building?  Just give us a little bit more detail on… and context on what she has in mind in terms of what she's calling upon the United States to do.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding that, I think… I don't know whether you heard it, but at the top of the briefing, I mentioned what she said in her briefing, where she made clear that she and the Secretary‑General both appeal to the United States to lift or waive its sanctions as outlined in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and extend the waivers regarding the trade in oil with Iran.  And on Iran's side, she has called, as has the Secretary‑General, on Iran to reverse the steps it's taken that are not consistent with its nuclear‑related commitments under the Plan.  And of course, I believe we've provided the full transcript of what she said, and that goes into the details about what we want to see.

Question:  No, I understand that, but I'm trying to drill down a little further because the question is sequence here.  Iran is insisting that the United States move first, not only to remove some of the sanctions but all of the sanctions.  But, even if we're talking about any of the sanctions you just mentioned, oil waivers and so forth, to break the logjam, she and the Secretary‑General believe that the United States [inaudible] from the JCPOA should move first.  That's my question.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah.  And regarding that, obviously, the parties themselves are in discussions, and we're leaving them to discuss further how they will deal with this.  What our guiding principles are and what we want to see out of this have been spelled out very clearly by Rosemary DiCarlo, and I'd refer you back to what she said.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  You know the tension between the Russian Federation and Ukraine is going higher and higher.  Is the UN Secretary‑General involved in any way?  Did he even try to contact the parties?  Is he doing anything on that crisis?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, what we are doing… we're not directly involved in this, but we have been urging all concerned parties to remain focused on resolving differences through dialogue at all levels, de‑escalating tensions and safeguarding regional peace.  We remind all stakeholders of their responsibility to ensure a peaceful settlement of the conflict in accordance with the Minsk Agreements, as endorsed by the Security Council in its resolution 2202 (2015).  Thanks.  And I see no further questions, so I will turn the floor over to the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, Paulina Kubiak.  Paulina, over to you.

For information media. Not an official record.