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.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Yes. Yesterday, you urged us to look at the details in the report on children in conflict, and in doing so, I noted a paragraph, 111, after recounting various events including the Gaza war last year, there's only a specific reference to actions that the Secretary-General is urging Israel to take, including reviewing existing policies and practices to protect children, prevent the killing and maiming of children, and to respect the special protection of hospitals and schools. Why not in a more balanced way, at least, didn't the Secretary-General urge Hamas and other Palestinian jihadists to stop using schools to store arms, which he acknowledged was taking place earlier in the report, to stop using children as human shields, to stop the military training camps for children in Gaza and elsewhere? Why wasn't there any specific reference to urging Hamas and other Palestinians to take the kinds of steps that he urged Israel to do?
Spokesman: I think… I think that message has been… has been passed on, notably, I think, in the BOI [Board of Inquiry]. There's also been a dialogue obviously in… with Israeli… with the Israeli authorities. So I… you know, I don't think I have anything… I don't have anything to add to what was said in the report, which I think brings to light what happened to the children during the Gaza conflict.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I'm going back to the report of children in armed conflict. And as we know, Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, has recommended to the Secretary-General to include Hamas and Israel. She recommended that. However, the Secretary-General did not take that recommendation. First, is it common? Is there a precedent that the Secretary-General does not take the recommendation of those working for him and recommend that? And if so, what explanation… he should give an explanation so it becomes convincing why he didn't follow the recommendations of those who are working for him.
Spokesman: I will answer your question without confirming the premise of your question. Your question, which I've never confirmed here, which I don't think anyone has confirmed. Obviously, like you, I've read what's… what is being written about this whole process with great interest. I think what is clear is that the recommendation of Ms. Zerrougui or any RSG is exactly that. It is a recommendation to the Secretary-General whose name is on the report. The recommendation of a SRSG is part of a wider process of consultation, of decision-making, and it remains… the final decision remains with the Secretary-General. So this is what happened in this case, and this is what happens in a number of cases. There's… there is a discussion. People have a right to disagree. People have different opinions. I think, as I said yesterday, this was a… this was part… this report is the result of a large consultative process. It was not an easy decision report to draft and to issue, but the Secretary-General stands by it, as does the Special Representative. So it's part of a process, and I don't think it's… it's surprising.
Question: Yes. My question is on this report which we are discussing — Israeli Defense Forces targeted UN schools and killed 44 children. What is it… and… and so on and so forth. What is it that forced Israel… Secretary-General's hand to take Israel off the list? What is it…
Spokesman: First of all, you know, Masood, we had… we had an extensive discussion yesterday. It's not a matter of who's taken on or off the list. There is a list. It's published in the report and that's the only list that matters.
Question: Yeah but…
Spokesman: Again, I think the report lays out clearly in black and white what happened in Gaza and what happened to the children of Gaza during the Israeli operation there. I think… there's no question about that. In addition, we also had the board of inquiry, which also laid out the facts as the board found them. So I really… I don't have anything more to add than what I've said yesterday.
Question: My question is with this argument going back and forth about Israel being put on the list, what about all the multi-fractions fighting in Syria like Da’esh and others over the Palestinian situation in Yarmouk, the desperate situation in Yarmouk?
Spokesman: I think… I'm not going to comment on the first part of your question because that's really not for me to comment. I think people are here, journalists are here express their…
Spokesman: …express their questions and opinions in their questions in a way that is an open and free debate which I strangely enjoy. I would… I would look at the report. It's fairly transparent and the list is… is extensive. So I don't know what else to tell you. Abdelhamid.
Question: Thank you. I'm going back to the same report. I'm sorry.
Spokesman: Don't be sorry.
Question: I hope you endure with our questions. Doesn't the UN lose some of its moral edge when they talk about major crimes committed against children? According to the Secretary-General, he said at least 540 Palestinian children were killed, okay, and between 1… the age of 1 week and 17 years. You talk about these crimes and there is no accountability. And the Secretary-General always takes pride of pressing this idea of accountability. So don't we… I mean, the UN and the Office of Secretary-General, doesn't he feel he's losing some moral ground when he talks about the crime and the accountability…
Spokesman: I don't agree with you, because I think the words you read out are the word of the Secretary-General. I think a large part of accountability comes with shedding light on what's happened, whether it's for children in Gaza or in any other part of the region and of the world. And this report is an important step in getting accountability. So on the contrary, I don't believe the Secretary-General loses any moral authority. Somebody's telling me to stop. Okay. So the… our guests are there. So they're being very patient. And I will be back tomorrow.