REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE
Ms. Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing. In attendance were the Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, as well as spokespersons and representatives of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the International Labor Organization (IOM), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Informal 5+1 meeting on Cyprus
Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the United Nations Secretary-General, reminded that, as had been announced in February, the Secretary-General would be convening this week, in Geneva, an informal 5+1 meeting on the Cyprus issue. The Secretary-General had decided to call this meeting following the consultations conducted over the past several months on his behalf by Under Secretary-General Jane Holl Lute. The purpose of the informal meeting was to determine whether common ground existed for the parties to negotiate a lasting solution to the Cyprus issue within a foreseeable horizon.
The following officials would lead their respective delegation: H.E. Mr. Nicos Anastasiades, Greek Cypriot leader; H.E. Mr. Ersin Tatar, Turkish Cypriot leader; H.E. Mr. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey; H.E. Mr. Nikos Dendia, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece; and the Right Honorable Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom. The UN Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres, would lead the UN delegation.
The meeting would get underway in the afternoon of today, 27 April, with the Secretary-General holding separate bilateral meetings with the leaders of the two communities; he would then hold an informal reception, during the evening, for all heads of the participating delegations.
In the morning of Wednesday, 28 April, the Secretary-General would host a plenary meeting with the five parties at the Palais des Nations. He was then expected to hold bilateral meetings with each of the five delegations in the afternoon. Later that evening, the Secretary General would host an informal dinner for the heads of delegations.
More meetings were expected on Thursday, 29 April, for which details would be released later.
Mr. Dujarric then had an exchange with the correspondents, whose transcript follows:
Question: If we do not have this common ground after this meeting, what are next steps for the UN?
Spokesman: As you can imagine I will not prejudge the outcome of meetings that have not started. As I said, the Secretary-General will move forward on the outcomes of these informal talks, but let’s wait to see what the outcome is before we decide… we discuss anything else.
Question: What is role of the British Secretary Dominic Raab in these talks?
Spokesman: This is the 5 + 1 format agreed to, which is basically the two leaders of the communities plus Greece, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. That format is really based on historical precedent. It is a format that has been used quite often.
Question: Is the Secretary-General willing to take any initiative?
Spokesman: It’s a very understandable and good question on your part. At the risk of repeating myself, the Secretary-General will move forward based on the outcomes of these informal talks. As we have said, and as I’ve said in February and in other briefings in New York, the parties are welcome to be creative and the Secretary-General will be encouraging them to move, to use diplomatic language in a sincere and frank manner. Again, it is important to stress that these are informal talks.
Question: Just to be clear, so we shouldn’t expect any curtain raiser, stakeout from the Secretary-General or the two Presidents?
Spokesman: I only speak for the Secretary-General. There will be nothing from the Secretary-General until this informal meeting concludes. I have no knowledge… There is nothing planned at the Palais. You should check with the various delegations about what they are doing but we don’t expect any of these things, but again I can only speak for one person.
Question: Is Secretary-General ready to hear anything regarding the essence of the Cyprus problem, rather than discussing whether we have common ground. If we have common ground, is he willing to discuss the Cyprus problem?
Spokesman: Don’t want to precede or prejudge what will happen in the discussions. The aim is… the reasons he is inviting them is to see if there is a common vision for the future, right? The parties will say whatever they want to say. Let’s allow the meetings to get underway.
Question: I was wondering, the issue of territorial… in particular the two sovereign bases of the UK (Akrotiri and Dhekelia) – are they are on the table as a possibility to move on the territorial issue?
Spokesman: Good question but I am not going to get into the weeds ahead of these informal meetings.
Question: The word that keeps being repeated is informal, and yet whenever the Secretary-General goes somewhere, almost by its very nature it is not informal because he’s the Secretary-General. But what is the state of mind of the Secretary-General going into these talks? Is he optimistic? Is he cautious? Is he pessimistic? What is his frame of mind?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General is realistic. This is an issue he knows well, he has participated in discussions before, so he is realistic.
UNICEF: Mounting risks for children in the Central African Republic
James Elder, for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), introduced Fran Equiza, UNICEF Representative for the Central African Republic (CAR), speaking from Bangui.
Mr. Equiza said that, according to the last estimates, at least 168,000 children had been forced to flee their homes by widespread violence in the run-up to and following general elections of last December in the CAR. 370,000 children were now internally displaced across the country because of ongoing violence and insecurity. This was the highest level of child displacement in the country since 2014.
UNICEF was concerned about the fate of the thousands of children who, after seeing their lives turned upside down by conflict and violence, might now experience the additional trauma of being forced to join and live among armed actors, to engage in combat, putting both themselves and the lives of others at extreme risk.
Protection remained one of the most urgent concerns. In the last three months of 2020 alone, the UN had verified more grave violations against children than in the entire first half of the same year. The impact of the COVID-19 epidemic had been severe, with a significant decrease of immunization rates, in particular among displaced persons, and an increase in incidents of gender-based violence across the country. At least 62,000 children under five were expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition, a 25% increase from 2020.
In the CAR, 53% of population, half of whom are children, needed humanitarian aid. The country was the toughest in the world in terms of humanitarian need, along with Syria and Yemen. Humanitarian access remained a major concern as well, with 115 incidents against aid workers recorded by OCHA in January and February 2021, against 46 in the same period of 2020. Limited availability of supplies on the local market, coupled with roads in poor conditions and insecurity, also represented an important challenge for the quick availability and deployment of supplies.
More than 15,500 children – 30% of whom were girls – had been taken away from armed groups. However, one in five of these children had not yet been enrolled in reintegration programmes, mainly due to funding constraints.
At a time of increasing insecurity, UNICEF’s humanitarian strategy remained to “Stay and deliver”. It would continue to be on the frontlines of the response, working to protect children from grave rights violations. But the Fund could not do this alone and needed the collaboration of other groups and donors.
Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), announced that UNCTAD would publish today a commentary on the rise of China’s economy as a trade exporter over the past years, entitled “China: The rise of a trade titan”. The text would be forwarded to journalists, and authors were available for interviews.
Over the last 25 years, China’s economy had rapidly expanded, lifting more people out of poverty than anywhere else in the world. “China: The rise of a trade titan” went through the genesis of the trade transformation the country had experienced.
Ms. Huissoud also announced that next week, on a date to be confirmed, UNCTAD would issue a technical note on the latest data on global e-commerce. This study would review 2019 and outline some preliminary prospects for 2020.
ILO: Marking “World Day for Safety and Health at Work”
Sophy Fisher, for the International Labor Organization (ILO), said ILO would release tomorrow a report marking World Day for Safety and Health at Work (or “OSH Day”, 28 April). Entitled “Anticipate, Prepare and Respond to Crises: Invest Now in Resilient OSH Systems”, the report would examine risk prevention and management relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. It would also analyse health and safety risks associated with the changing work arrangements that have resulted from the virus control measures.
Further details as well as a press release had already been sent to journalists in the morning. A video message on OSH Day from the ILO Director General was available on the ILO’s website.
Also, a webinar on occupational safety and health would take place today from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m., with interpretation. The Director Generals of WHO and ILO would be participating.
Answering a journalist’s question, Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization, said WHO had not yet scheduled a review meeting regarding the Sputnik vaccine.
Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, announced on behalf of the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria, that tomorrow, 28 April, Special Envoy Geir O. Pedersen would brief the Security Council in an open session (10 a.m. EST – 4 p.m. Geneva time). The briefing would be carried live on UN Web TV and a transcript would be provided.
Ms. Vellucci also announced, on behalf of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), that the 166th Session of the FAO Council would be taking place this week in a virtual format. The Council would be discussing the world food and agricultural situation and related matters, current and prospective activities of the Organization and constitutional matters. The FAO Director-General had made an opening statement yesterday morning. The list of documents pertaining to the session was available on FAO website; sessions could be followed on the webcast.
Finally, regarding treaty bodies meetings, Ms. Vellucci said that the Committee on Enforced Disappearances would close its 20th session on Friday, 7 May, issuing its concluding observations on the three reports reviewed during the session: Switzerland, Colombia, and Mongolia. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination would conclude its 103rd session next Friday, 30 April, at 5 p.m. The Committee Against Torture would close tomorrow, 28 April, at 2:20 p.m., its 3-day 70th session, which had started yesterday.
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