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Fourth Committee Concludes Its Work, Approving 9 Middle East Related Drafts Out of 10 Submitted for Adoption by General Assembly

Concluding its work for the main part of the seventy‑second session, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved 10 draft resolutions today, of which 9 related to Israeli practices in the occupied Arab territories and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The Committee approved — by a recorded vote of 160 in favour to 2 against (Israel, South Sudan), with 10 abstentions (Cameroon, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Paraguay, Solomon Islands, United States) — a draft resolution titled “Assistance to Palestine refugees” (document A/C.4/72/L.17).

By that text, the General Assembly would express grave concern at the difficult situation of Palestine refugees under occupation, in particular those in the Gaza Strip, underlining the importance of assistance and urgent reconstruction efforts there.  It would call upon all donors to continue strengthening their efforts to meet the Agency’s anticipated needs, including for recent emergency, recovery and reconstruction appeals, plans for Gaza and for regional crisis responses to the situation of Palestine refugees in Syria.

The Committee also approved — by a recorded 156 votes in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, South Sudan, United States), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Togo) — a draft titled “Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities” (document A/C.4/72/L.18).

By the terms of that text, the General Assembly would reaffirm the right of all persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities to return to their homes or former places of residence.  It would further stress the need for the accelerated return of those displaced, strongly appealing to all Governments, organizations and individuals to contribute generously to UNRWA and others in that regard.

In a subsequent action, the Committee approved a draft titled “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (document A/C.4/72/L.19), by which the General Assembly would express deep concern about the Agency’s critical financial situation, noting that contributions had been neither predictable nor sufficient to meet its growing needs.  As such, the Assembly would stress the need for further efforts to comprehensively address the Agency’s recurrent funding shortages, while commending its measures to address the financial crisis.

However, the Assembly would, by other terms, express profound concern that despite such measures, UNRWA’s programme budget — funded primarily through voluntary contributions from Member States and intergovernmental organizations — faced persistent shortfalls that increasingly threatened the Agency’s core programmes.  Further, the Assembly would appeal to States and organizations to maintain their voluntary contributions to the Agency, as well as increase contributions where possible.

Further by the text, the Assembly would call upon donors to provide early annual voluntary contributions, less earmarking and multi‑year funding, in line with the Grand Bargain on humanitarian financing announced at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, in May 2016.  The Assembly would also voice concern about the continuing imposition of restrictions on free movement and access for UNRWA personnel, vehicles and goods, as well as the injury, harassment and intimidation of its staff.  The Committee approved that draft by a recorded vote of 160 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, South Sudan, United States), with 7 abstentions (Bahamas, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Nauru, Paraguay, Solomon Islands).

The Committee went on to approve a draft titled “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (document A/C.4/71/L.20) by a recorded 158 vote of in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, South Sudan, United States), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Solomon Islands, Togo).

By that text, the General Assembly would request that the Secretary‑General take all appropriate steps to protect Arab property, assets and property rights in Israel.  Further, it would call upon Israel to render all facilities and assistance to the Secretary‑General for the resolution’s implementation and call upon all parties concerned to provide the Secretary‑General with any pertinent information concerning such property in Israel.  Moreover, the Assembly would urge the Palestinian and Israeli sides, as agreed between them, to deal with the important issue of Palestine refugees’ properties and revenues within the framework of final‑status peace negotiations.

The Committee also approved a draft resolution titled “Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories” (document A/C.4/72/L.21) by a recorded vote of 86 in favour to 11 against, with 75 abstentions.  By that text, the General Assembly would request the Special Committee to continue investigating Israeli policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially violations of the Geneva Convention, and to consult with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in order to ensure safeguards for the welfare and human rights of the peoples of the occupied territories.  It would also request that the Special Committee submit regular periodic reports to the Secretary‑General regarding the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and to continue to investigate the treatment and status of prisoners and detainees.

The Committee then approved — by a recorded 159 votes in favour to 8 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, United States), with 7 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Paraguay, Togo, Vanuatu) — a draft titled “Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories” (document A/C.4/72/L.22).

By that draft, the General Assembly would demand that Israel accept the de jure applicability of the Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, and that it comply scrupulously with the provisions of the Convention.  Further by that text, the Assembly would call upon all High Contracting Parties to the Convention to continue to exert all efforts to ensure respect for its provisions by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Taking up a draft titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/72/L.23), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 8 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, United States), with 10 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, Malawi, Paraguay, Togo, Tuvalu, Vanuatu). 

According to that text, the General Assembly would condemn acts of violence, destruction, harassment, provocation and incitement by Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It would call upon Israel to accept the de jure applicability of the Geneva Convention and to comply with all its obligations under international law.  Moreover, the Assembly would demand that Israel comply with its legal obligations, as mentioned in the advisory opinion rendered by the International Court of Justice on 9 July 2004.

Taking up a draft titled “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” (document A/C.4/72/L.24), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, United States), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Honduras, Paraguay, Togo, Vanuatu).

By that text, the Assembly would demand that Israel cease all practices and actions violating the human rights of the Palestinian people, including the killing and injury of civilians, the arbitrary detention and imprisonment of civilians, forced displacement, and any obstruction of humanitarian assistance, among others.  The Assembly would also demand that Israel comply fully with the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and cease all settlement activity, construction of the wall, and any other measures aimed at altering the character, status and demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It would further demand that Israel comply with its legal obligations under international law, as mentioned in the 9 July, 2004, advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, and as demanded in General Assembly resolutions ES-10/15 and ES-10/13 of 21 October 2003.

The Committee went on to approve a draft titled “The occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/72/L.25) by a recorded 154 votes in favour to 2 against (Israel, South Sudan), with 17 abstentions.  By its terms, the General Assembly would call upon Israel to comply with the relevant resolutions on the occupied Syrian Golan, in particular Security Council resolution 497 (1981), by which the Council determined that Israel’s decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void, and without international legal effect, demanding that Israel rescind its decision.

Further by that text, the Assembly would call upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan, and to desist, in particular, from establishing settlements.  The Assembly would also call upon Israel to desist from its own citizenship and identity cards on the Syrian citizens of the occupied Syrian Golan.

In closing remarks, Fourth Committee Chair Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela) noted that the Committee had approved 39 draft resolutions and 4 draft decisions.  Throughout the session, it had held 28 formal meetings, covering a wide range of issues, he added.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United States, Israel, Estonia (for the European Union), Syria and Iran, as well as an observer for the State of Palestine.

Representatives of Indonesia and Cuba presented the draft resolutions for action.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Committee first took up a series of drafts relating to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) (documents A/72/C.4/L.17-L.20).

The representative of Indonesia introduced those drafts, saying they reflected the latest developments in the Agency’s operations, including severe and recurrent shortages in funding.  As highlighted in the Secretary‑General’s report on the Agency’s operations and consultations earlier in 2017, UNRWA was recognized as an important partner, even in the context of instability and socioeconomic deterioration in the region, noting efforts to mobilize resources and stabilize its financial situation.  Ensuring continuity in its services called urgently for predictable and sustainable funding, he emphasized, noting that the Secretary‑General had offered important proposals in that regard, including calling on States to maintain and increase their voluntary contributions, with less earmarking and multi‑year funding.  Those recommendations were reflected in the draft resolution before the Committee, he said, urging delegations to support its implementation.

The representative of Cuba then introduced five drafts on the Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (documents A/C.4/72/L.21-L25).  They focused on the many violations of international law, particularly international humanitarian law, committed by Israel, the occupying Power, he said, noting that the violations had been documented by the relevant United Nations organs as well as other human rights organizations.  They had been reported to the Special Committee on the basis of interviews with victims and civil society.  Unfortunately, Israel’s actions persisted, he noted, citing forced displacement and provocations, particularly in East Jerusalem, as well as the blockade of the Gaza Strip.  Israel had also persisted in illegal settlement activity, including the demolition of houses and the imposition of roadblocks, thereby undermining the viability of the two‑State approach to the Israeli‑Palestinian peace process.

The Committee then moved to take action on the UNRWA drafts.

The representative of the United States said in a general statement that his delegation opposed the drafts because they were biased against Israel and undermined trust between the two parties involved.  Member States continued to single out Israel with such texts, condemning settlement activity but not violence, he said, pointing out that the only mention of Hamas was praise of its reconciliation agreement with Fatah.  The United States would, therefore, vote against such one‑sided draft resolutions and encouraged others to do so as well.  He said that his delegation was especially concerned about drafts on such United Nations bodies as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices, and the Division for Palestinian Rights, because they wasted limited resources without contributing to peace in the region, instead perpetuating a United Nations bias against Israel.  While the United States supported UNRWA’s work with refugees, it did not support funding the Agency from the United Nations regular budget.  That country had long been its largest donor, having already contributed more than $350 million in 2017, and being an active supporter of its attempts to secure new funding mechanisms.  He called for equal burden‑sharing among those States that cared about UNRWA, recalling that Member States expressing concern about the Agency’s funding shortfall as the Committee considered its work included those contributing only minimally to its budget.  He urged them to “match their rhetoric with action” and to provide voluntary donations.

The representative of Israel, speaking in explanation of position on all the drafts under consideration, asked whether the accusations of a regime guilty of committing heinous war crimes against its own people did anything to help the Palestinian cause.  Did false and offensive rhetoric do anything to promote dialogue and positive change?  The draft resolutions being considered today would do little to resolve the conflict in the Middle East and did nothing but pay lip service to the Committee’s mission, she said, emphasizing that they promoted a distorted picture of reality on the ground, absolved the Palestinians of any responsibility and failed to mention the positive developments achieved over the past year.  The draft on the Special Committee to investigate Israeli practices exemplified the waste of United Nations resources, she said.  As for the Temple Mount, the relative draft deliberately omitted any reference to Jewish or Christian connections to that site.  Since Israel’s founding, she noted, Palestinians had never changed their warlike attitude towards the Jewish people and they continued to reject efforts towards peace, she said, adding that they would rather demonize Israel in the Committee than work constructively to solve common problems.  Israel supported “two States for two peoples” and hoped Member States would not give the Palestinians a free pass for their one‑sided approach on that matter.  She expressed regret over the need to explain why her country would vote against the drafts since they did nothing for either party in their direct dialogue for peace and were nothing more than a political exercise.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution “Assistance to Palestine refugees” (document A/C.4/72/L.17) by a recorded vote of 160 in favour to 2 against (Israel, South Sudan), with 10 abstentions (Cameroon, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Paraguay, Solomon Islands, United States).

Taking up the draft “Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities” (document A/C.4/72/L.18), it approved that text by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, South Sudan, United States), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Togo). 

By a subsequent recorded vote of 160 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, South Sudan, United States), with 7 abstentions (Bahamas, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Nauru, Paraguay, Solomon Islands), the Committee approved the draft “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (document A/C.4/72/L.19).

It went on to on to approve the draft “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (document A/C.4/71/L.20) by a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, South Sudan, United States), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Solomon Islands, Togo).

The Committee then took up a series of resolutions relating to the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (documents A/C.4/72/L.21-L25).

Taking up the draft “Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories” (document A/C.4/72/L.21), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 86 in favour to 11 against, with 75 abstentions.

It then approved — by a recorded vote of 159 in favour to 8 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, United States), with 7 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Paraguay, Togo, Vanuatu) — the draft “Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other Occupied Arab territories” (document A/C.4/72/L.22).

The Committee then approved the draft “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/72/L.23), by a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 8 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, United States), with 10 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, Malawi, Paraguay, Togo, Tuvalu, Vanuatu).

Taking up the draft “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” (document A/C.4/72/L.24), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, United States), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Honduras, Paraguay, Togo, Vanuatu).

It went on to approve — by a recorded 154 votes in favour to 2 against (Israel, South Sudan), with 17 abstentions — the draft “The occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/72/L.25).

The representative of Estonia, speaking in explanation of position on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc had not found a legal qualification of the term “forced displacement” in the draft resolutions.  Furthermore, use of the term “Palestine” was not recognition by the European Union of the State of Palestine.  The European Union was concerned about the worrying developments at the Temple Mount site and recalled the special designation of holy sites, she said, emphasizing the importance of upholding the status quo in that regard.  The European Union’s vote did not represent a change of position on those issues, but the choice of language may affect its future voting patterns, she said.

The representative of Syria said in a general statement that the Committee had, once again with the exception of two Member States, sent a clear message to Israel that its occupation of the Syrian Golan contravened international law.  He called upon that country to end its occupation of Arab territory and to respect human rights and the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Israel’s activities in support of terrorist groups had been condemned by those protecting the primacy of international law, he said, emphasizing that the Balfour Declaration did not constitute divine justification of Israel’s crimes in Palestine.  Israel was cooperating with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Nusrah Front, he said, recalling the deaths of “Blue Helmets” from Fiji at the hands of those groups.  In doing so, Israel was in violation of Security Council resolutions prohibiting support of terrorists, he noted.  Israel had arrested the “Mandela of Syria” simply for his opposition to the occupation of the Syrian Golan and detained him once again because he had documented the cooperation between Israel and Nusrah Front.  In closing, he described Zionism as a weapon of mass destruction, a chemical weapon that had perpetrated mass destruction in the Middle East.

FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, Deputy Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, expressed gratitude to all delegations that had voted in favour of the draft resolutions under consideration.  They constituted important recommendations to the General Assembly on core issues and challenges since the occupation and, indeed, the partition of Palestine.  “These are principled resolutions, not cynical,” she said, emphasizing that they were firmly rooted in international law.  Far from being one‑sided, she said, the texts reflected the international consensus, constituting a genuine expression of multilateralism despite ongoing attempts to nullify international law in that regard.  It was important to support the rights of Palestine refugees, she said, confirming that those rights had not been diminished.  The draft resolutions were “not empty pieces of paper”, but instead represented safeguards of those rights, she said.  The State of Palestine mobilization of all efforts aimed at upholding the international community’s responsibility to end the unjust and unlawful situation.

The representative of Iran said the representative of the Israeli regime should not waste the Committee’s time defending her country’s actions.  Instead, she should repent Israel’s various sins, such as occupation and the killing of innocent children.  Citing the Secretary‑General’s report, he noted that the Israeli regime had killed 63 innocent Palestinians in 2017, 20 of them children.

Finally, the Committee turned to the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly.  Acting without a vote, it approved the draft decision “Proposed programme of work and timetable of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) for the seventy‑third session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.4/72/L.11).

Concluding Remarks

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), Chair of the Fourth Committee, noted that it had approved 39 draft resolutions and 4 draft decisions during the session.  It had held 28 formal meetings, covering a wide range of agenda items.  Welcoming the presence of senior officials during the session, including the President of the General Assembly and various heads of department, he also noted that States had been represented by members of parliament, directors and other high‑level officials.  During the decolonization debate, 116 individuals and organizations had addressed the Committee as petitioners from several Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, he said, recalling also that the Committee had held a joint panel discussion with the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) during the outer space discussion.  Noting that some delegates had been concerned about proceedings in the Committee, he emphasized that its discussions had been guided by the sovereignty of all States, expressing gratitude to all who had attended and demonstrated that respect.

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Regional Partners Must Steady Increasingly Unstable Security Landscape, First Committee Speakers Stress, Calling for Drive to Boost Trust

Regional efforts must advance common disarmament priorities and address global security challenges, said speakers in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today as they highlighted the importance of cooperation and confidence‑building in an increasingly unstable world.

The representative of Pakistan said achieving a stable balance of conventional forces and weapons through cooperative initiatives was imperative, particularly in regions characterized by tension and disputes.  At the same time, confidence‑building measures could help to create favourable conditions to resolve disputes peacefully, but they should not become an end in themselves, he added.

Offering a similar perspective, the representative of Bangladesh said the notion of “strategic stability” based on nuclear deterrence was of concern for his country.  Peaceful dialogue and diplomacy remained the best option for building sound regional security architecture.

In that connection, Cameroon’s delegate introduced a draft resolution on regional confidence‑building measures and activities of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa.  The draft text reaffirmed efforts to promote confidence‑building measures for removing tensions and reducing conflict in the region.

Several delegates highlighted best practices at the regional level that, in some cases, could be replicated in other parts of the world.  France’s representative cited the Group of Five for the Sahel (G‑5 Sahel) Joint Force, which encouraged the five States — Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania — to bolster their military presence in border areas and improve coordination through a single chain of command.  He also noted that global, regional and subregional non‑proliferation and disarmament initiatives could be mutually reinforcing when designed with a view to achieving complementarity.

Indeed, mutual trust was essential, Cuba’s delegate said.  She emphasized that the proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace had promoted general and complete disarmament and enabled confidence‑building in the region.  Implementing regional confidence confidence‑building measures contributed to avoiding conflict and preventing unwanted or accidental break of hostilities.

Underscoring some of the challenges in implementing regional agreements, the representative of Egypt said the long‑standing unresolved issue of establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East was undermining the sustainability and credibility of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  Many delegates echoed his call for resolving the issue, with some asking Israel to accede to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and end the impasse on the issue.

A panel discussion on “Disarmament machinery” featured the President of the Conference on Disarmament; Chair of the United Nations Disarmament Commission; Chair of the Secretary‑General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters; and the Director of United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).

The following draft resolutions were introduced: regional confidence‑building measures in Central Africa; the strengthening of security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region; the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean; the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Kazakhstan, Iraq, Algeria, United Arab Emirates, Peru, Togo, Kuwait, Myanmar, Azerbaijan, Nepal, Ukraine, Bahrain, Russian Federation and Iran.

The representatives of Syria, Myanmar, Armenia, Russian Federation, United States, Azerbaijan and Bangladesh spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 25 October, to conclude its debate on the disarmament machinery.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met to continue its thematic discussion on regional disarmament and security and held a panel discussion on the disarmament machinery.  For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3571 of 2 October.

Panel Discussion

A panel discussion on “Disarmament machinery” featuring Julio Herráiz, President of the Conference on Disarmament; Gabriela Martinic (Argentina), Chair of the Disarmament Commission; Trevor Findlay, Chair of the Secretary‑General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters; and Jarmo Sareva, Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).

Mr. HERRRÁIZ asked Member States to strengthen their patience vis‑à‑vis the two‑decade‑long paralysis in the Conference on Disarmament because the alternative was not an option.  Presenting the 2017 report, he highlighted activities, including that 27 States to date had requested joining.  Also, an open‑ended working group had taken stock of progress made on all issues of the agenda.  Although divided on its approach, members had debated ways to make advancements towards a nuclear‑weapon‑free world, with disarmament emerging as a priority.  Discussions had focused on two priority issues that would be important to a future programme of work: a fissile material cut‑off treaty and continued negotiations towards a mandate on negative security assurances.  Overall, there was a need to strengthen the constructive, common view to bring back to the Conference the mandate of negotiating treaties.  To do so, serious decisions needed to be adopted, he said, emphasizing that the power was in Member States’ hands.

Ms. MARTINIC said that while the Disarmament Commission was a deliberative body charged with producing a set of recommendations, it had been in a paralysis for 18 years.  The 2017 substantive session, the third year of the cycle to address nuclear disarmament and confidence‑building measures on nuclear arms, had seen delegations having discussions on a range of issues and reach an understanding, which was what multilateralism was all about.  Discussions on outer space had proven to be constructive.  Compromise was possible with lots of patience, goodwill and listening, she said, adding that multilateralism offered a win‑win situation for all.  It could be difficult and frustrating, but it took time, she said, encouraging all to follow that path.

Mr. FINDLAY said substantive issues on the Advisory Board’s 2017 agenda included the threat of cyberattacks by terrorists on nuclear facilities, the impact of artificial intelligence and a review of the recommendations contained in a United Nations study on disarmament and non‑proliferation education.  Recommendations included forming a science and technology advisory group, allocating more resources to nuclear security and that Member States should consult on measures to deal with biosecurity threats, given the lack of a verification system or implementation body for the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction.  In addition, he proposed that Member States table a draft resolution dealing with artificial intelligence, which represented both an opportunity and a threat to international security.  On disarmament and non‑proliferation education, he called for a landmark study to be reissued with a new foreword by the Secretary‑General.  He also noted the disappointing response by Member States to report on disarmament and non‑proliferation education efforts.  Turning to UNIDIR, he said it was weathering funding and institutional challenges, but the Advisory Board was confident it had a bright future as a critical component of the disarmament machinery.

Mr. SAREVA, commending UNIDIR staff, said the Institute was constantly held accountable and had been able to deliver on that reputation.  Drawing attention to the report (document A/72/154), which described the road map of the organization and the rationale behind its agenda, he said its administrative and financial footing was more stable, but that could not be taken for granted.  The need to ensure its stability while maintaining its autonomy persisted.  While it did well in mobilizing earmarked resources, financing the institutional operations was challenging.  That strain was particularly pronounced when earmarked resources were declining.  Recalling General Assembly resolution A/RES/70/69, which had called for exceptional one‑off funding for UNIDIR for the biennium 2018‑2019 to preserve its future, he said the Institute offered fact‑based analysis on a range of security issues, acted as a facilitator and had, through its activities, helped Member States to improve their international security programmes.

After the floor opened, the representative of Myanmar said developing countries depended on UNIDIR and its good quality research, calling on colleagues in a position to do so to financially support the Institute.

Regional Disarmament and Security

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said persistent instability and growing tensions around the world were making regional disarmament and security complicated to achieve.  Establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East was an effective non‑proliferation measure and such designated areas should be expanded to all regions.  Turning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme, he said that ensuring its proper implementation could show the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “the right road map” with a legal solution that could actually work pragmatically.

Mr. HASSAN (Egypt), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said the longstanding unresolved issue of establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East undermined the sustainability and credibility of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  The right way forward on that issue had been outlined in the proposal presented by the Non‑Aligned Movement at the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which had been acceptable to all States except three.  Egypt would continue to seek the implementation of the 1995 Review and Extension Conference resolution by creating a clear road map aimed at starting negotiations to conclude a legally binding treaty establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons.

Mr. SAEED (Pakistan) said regional arrangements for disarmament and arms limitation should give priority to addressing the most destabilizing military capabilities and imbalances in both the conventional and non‑conventional spheres.  In regions characterized by tension and disputes, achieving a stable balance of conventional forces and weapons through cooperative initiatives was imperative.  Confidence‑building measures could help to create favourable conditions to resolve disputes peacefully, but they should not become an end in themselves.  Rather, they should be pursued alongside sincere dispute settlement efforts, in line with the United Nations Charter.

FAIYAZ MURSHID KAZI (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the notion of “strategic stability” based on nuclear deterrence was of concern for his country.  Peaceful dialogue and diplomacy remained the best option for building sound regional security architecture.  He emphasized the need for establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East in the interest of sustainable peace and stability in the region.  Recognizing the useful role of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific in convening relevant experts and policymakers to share views on issues of concern, he said that his country benefited greatly from the centre’s customized support in promoting the implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.

MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon) introduced a draft resolution on regional confidence‑building measures and activities of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa.  The draft recalled the principles guiding general and complete disarmament.  The role of the Committee was to promote disarmament, non‑proliferation and development in the subregion, as well as to serve as an element of preventive diplomacy in the region.  The new elements of this year’s draft resolution took into account the revitalization of the work of the Committee to improve its peace agenda, and of the entry into force of the Central African Convention for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons, their Ammunition and all Parts and Components that can be used for their Manufacture, Repair and Assembly (Kinshasa Convention).  The draft resolution reaffirmed efforts to promote confidence‑building measures for removing tensions and reducing conflict in the region.  It had also included a timeline of activities to fight terrorism and arms trafficking.

Ms. SÁNCHEZ RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, stressed the importance of regional and subregional initiatives in proclaiming zones free of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction.  The proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace promoted general and complete disarmament and enabled confidence‑building in the region.  Implementing regional confidence‑building measures contributed to avoiding conflict and preventing unwanted or accidental hostilities.  Establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East would be a fundamental step for regional peace.  Underlining the importance of the work of the United Nations regional centres for peace and disarmament, including in her region, she lamented that the current resources were limited and insufficient.

Mr. REDHA (Iraq), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the importance of establishing nuclear‑weapon‑free zones, which would “bring us closer to achieving international peace and security”.  He regretted to note the failure to achieve consensus on the final document of the 2015 Review Conference of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.  Establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East to ease the tensions in the region depended on Israel joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non‑nuclear‑weapon party.

ABDELKARIM AIT ABDESLAM (Algeria), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, stressed his country’s emphasis on regional solidarity on security issues and its correspondingly deep concern at the lack of a nuclear‑weapons‑free zone in the Middle East.  In addition, he reiterated warnings about the uncontrolled proliferation of all types of conventional weapons in North Africa and the Sahel, and its close link with terrorism and transnational crime.  Given the magnitude of the humanitarian consequences of the spread of such arms, he underlined the importance of technical and financial assistance to stem their proliferation.  Affirming support for reconciliation among Algeria’s Libyan and Malian brothers, he expressed hope that he could count on support for the draft resolution submitted by his country, as in years past, on strengthening of security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region.

Ms. OWEIDA (United Arab Emirates), associating herself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Non‑Proliferation Treaty was a model in the region for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  On the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East, she renewed the call for Israel to enable progress on that issue and accede to the instrument.  Turning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, she said Iran must adhere to its provisions.  Further, United Arab Emirates supported international efforts to end Iranian activities that undermined security and stability in the region.  It also supported the First Committee’s efforts geared towards adopting effective measures that would contribute to the promotion of regional and international peace.

ENRI PRIETO (Peru), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted the varied efforts of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Member States had benefited from technical and legal assistance, and from training in marking, destruction and tracing of small weapons as part of an initiative to promote the implementation of the International Tracing Instrument and the Programme of Action on Small Arms.  The Regional Centres had also strengthened the capacity of Governments and assisted in the destruction of small arms.  For its part, Peru had launched a project to promote the participation of young people and raise awareness about dangers of firearms, he said, introducing a draft resolution titled “United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean” and calling for delegations to approve it by consensus.

ESSOHANAM PETCHEZI (Togo) said that in Africa, where small arms and light weapons had posed grave challenges for States, the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa had encouraged cooperative efforts and provided technical support.  It had provided support to the African Union in carrying out its sustainable development agenda, particularly in achieving the goal of silencing weapons by 2020, to efforts in the Sahel to stop the illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons and to the emerging debate on maritime security, having participated in an extraordinary session of the African Union on that issue.  Expressing gratitude for the Regional Centre’s efforts, he highlighted its financial challenges and appealed to Member States to donate funds and to support Nigeria’s related draft resolution.

Mr. COUSSIÈRE (France) said ambitious best practices at the regional level could inspire work in United Nations forums and disarmament conventions.  The European Union was the best example, having succeeded in drawing lessons from a painful past, and its cooperation tools had a strong regional dimension, including in the field of disarmament.  Among other international initiatives, France was involved in the Group of Five for the Sahel (G‑5 Sahel) Joint Force, encouraging the five States Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania to bolster their military presence in border areas and improve coordination through a single chain of command.  At the European level, France strongly supported establishing transparency and confidence‑building measures adapted to the geographic situation in the region.  Outlining some of those agreements, he said global, regional and subregional non‑proliferation and disarmament initiatives could be mutually reinforcing when designed with a view to achieving complementarity, and cited the international community’s mobilization against the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons as one positive example.

TALAL S. S. S. AL FASSAM (Kuwait), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, underlined the importance of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.  Urging States to focus on working towards achieving that objective, he regretted to point out the failure of achieving a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East despite all efforts.  In 2010, States had been very close to achieving that goal; however, such a zone had not been created because of Israel.  Voicing concern about the failure of Israel to join the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and place its nuclear capabilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) control, he said the current situation posed a threat to the security and humanitarian and environmental safety in the region.

PYE SOE AUNG (Myanmar), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), recalled that in 2016, his country had organized a national round table on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) in cooperation with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs.  At that event, stakeholders had exchanged views on best practices regarding implementing the resolution to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non‑State actors.  Also in 2016, the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific had organized a capacity‑building workshop on small arms and light weapons in Myanmar in order to formulate international instruments as well as domestic legislation and available tools for assistance.

FARID JABRAYILOV (Azerbaijan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that although his country had not ratified the 1992 Tashkent Agreement on the Principles and Procedures for the Implementation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, it had been voluntarily applying and observing the provisions.  Stressing the importance of confidence‑building measures, he cited Azerbaijan’s participation in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and said that illicit trade in small and light weapons must be eradicated.  However, implementation of arms control and disarmament instruments was being hampered by Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan.  Armenia was in flagrant violation of the treaty obligations, continued its military build‑up in occupied territories and misinformed the United Nations community by providing false information.  Any confidence‑building measure proposed by Armenia would not be considered by his country until it withdrew its armed forces from Azerbaijan’s territories.

Mr. THAPA (Nepal), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted the important role of regional centres in promoting international peace and security, and encouraged them to partner with youth, the private sector and civil society to develop confidence‑building measures and to act as a repository of best practices.  They should also be strengthened to fulfil their mandates.  In partnership with the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, Nepal had encouraged confidence‑building measures in the region and had also organized a conference on the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004).  Recognizing the role regional centres could play in supporting Sustainable Development Goal 16 and in including women in disarmament activities, he called for voluntary contributions by Member States.  As host of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, Nepal had tabled a resolution on that topic and hoped it would gain consensus.

ANDRIY TSYMBALIUK (Ukraine), expressing support for draft resolutions on regional and subregional arms control and confidence‑building measures, said his country was a long‑term participant of confidence‑building mechanisms, including the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, the Open Skies Treaty and the Vienna Document on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures.  Ukraine had continued to comply with its obligations, despite shouldering the burden of the Russian Federation’s invasion.  Expressing support for bilateral confidence‑building measures with neighbouring countries in border areas, as outlined in the Vienna Document, he regretted to note that the Russian Federation had caused an impasse on subregional military cooperation and confidence‑building agreements between the littoral States of the Black Sea.  Nevertheless, experience gained in the OSCE area with the development of confidence‑building measures deserved proper attention, and the Vienna Document could serve as an example for similar arrangements in other regions of the world.

Mr. NOJEM (Bahrain), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted the importance of an agreement to establish a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East for achieving regional peace and stability.  He also underlined the importance of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty in facing the catastrophic security and humanitarian danger resulting from nuclear weapons.  Denouncing Israel’s rejection to adhere to that instrument and to IAEA safeguards, he said such actions represented a threat to the security in the region and obstructed progress in non‑proliferation endeavours.  His delegation looked forward to obtaining positive results in establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East.

VLADIMIR YERMAKOV (Russian Federation) said his delegation had presented a draft treaty on comprehensive European security to substitute the outdated Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe.  Instead, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had accelerated its “reckless expansion to the East”, building military infrastructure near his country’s border.  There had also been direct interference in the internal affairs of the Russian Federation’s neighbouring country and attempts at a regime change using anti‑constitutional methods.  For that reason, the Russian Federation had supported the German initiative to launch a “structured dialogue” on European security issues in the OSCE region, easing tensions and restoring trust.  The OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation could become the best platform for promoting dialogue; however, its potential had been weakened by unilateral NATO actions that severed military cooperation with the Russian Federation.  The Open Skies Treaty remained an important confidence‑building measure.  However, after the coup d’etat in Kyiv, followed by unjustified claims against the Russian Federation on alleged armed forces concentrations near Ukraine’s border, he said his country had demonstrated transparency by allowing observation flights in that area.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Middle East remained one of the world’s most volatile regions, with the Israeli regime and two Persian Gulf States among the world’s top 15 countries for military expenditures in 2016.  To restore security and stability, the elimination of Israel’s nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and its accession to related international instruments, was crucial.  So too would be the establishment of a Middle East nuclear‑weapon‑free zone.  There must also be a sharp decrease in military expenditures and arms imports by Israel and certain Persian Gulf States, he said, emphasizing that Iran continued to have one of the lowest levels of military expenditures in the region while being party to all major treaties banning weapons of mass destruction.

Right of Reply

The representative of Syria, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said many European Union countries had trafficked and smuggled weapons to armed terrorist organizations in the region, and its coercive measures against his country were mainly responsible for the suffering of millions of people.

The representative of Myanmar said the humanitarian situation along the border of Bangladesh had nothing to do with disarmament issues being addressed by the Committee.  He affirmed that his Government was responding to the humanitarian crisis and would continue to work with others in good faith.

The representative of Armenia said his counterpart from Azerbaijan had failed to explain the reason behind constantly rejecting the establishment of any confidence‑building measures vis‑à‑vis Nagorno‑Karabakh.  It was unacceptable to allow Azerbaijan to continue ceasefire violations, he said, adding that Armenia would keep working towards a peaceful settlement through the OSCE Minsk Group.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the Kyiv authorities had fulfilled none of their commitments under the Minsk agreements, which contained no provisions that dealt directly with his country.  The Russian Federation could not withdraw troops from Donbass because there were none there.

The representative of the United States said improved relations between NATO and the Russian Federation would depend on the latter’s compliance with international law and commitments.  Emphasizing that NATO enlargement was not directed at the Russian Federation, he said the United States would keep honouring its Open Skies Treaty commitments.  The Russian Federation must stop interfering in its neighbours’ affairs, he said, adding that “all those little green men causing havoc in Ukraine” did not come out of nowhere.

The representative of Azerbaijan said Armenia must demonstrate constructiveness and respect for international law by withdrawing its forces from Azerbaijani territory.  He emphasized that Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity would never be a subject for negotiation.

The representative of Bangladesh said the situation in Rakhine State was far from stabilized.  The humanitarian situation was the reason why thousands of Rohingya refugees were crossing into Bangladesh, he said, adding that concerned and responsible Member States should reconsider arms transfers to Myanmar’s military forces.

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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.

**Nuclear Weapons

Today is the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.  In his remarks to the high-level plenary meeting to mark this Day, the Secretary‑General said that in recent months, the dangers posed by nuclear weapons have been forcefully driven home, and added that ensuring that we achieve a nuclear-[weapons]-free world is now more urgent than ever.  “It is true that we live in challenging circumstances,” he said, “but this can be no excuse for walking away from our shared responsibility to seek a more peaceful international society.”

He once again condemned the series of nuclear and missile tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [DPRK] and welcomed the Security Council’s firm action on the situation, as well as its desire for a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution.  He added that there is a need for inclusive dialogue, renewed international cooperation and practical measures for irreversible, verifiable and universal nuclear disarmament.

**Bangladesh-Myanmar

Turning to the situation in Bangladesh, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA] says that the number of Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since late August has now topped 480,000.  This brings the total number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to more than 700,000 people.  The UN and its partners continue to provide assistance to these refugees.

As part of its contribution to the response plan led by the Bangladeshi authorities, a cargo jet chartered by UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] carrying 100 metric tonnes of urgently-needed shelter supplies landed in Dhaka early this morning.  Two more aid flights are now scheduled to arrive.  Despite the efforts being made on the ground, the massive influx of people seeking safety is outpacing the capacity to respond.  Many of those who recently arrived are deeply traumatized.

At the request of authorities in Bangladesh, UNHCR and its partners have scaled up protection and life-saving support to the new arrivals in Kutupalong and Nayapara camps.  UNHCR is also distributing emergency shelter kits, kitchen sets, jerry cans, sleeping mats, solar lamps, and other supplies.  During his visit to Bangladesh over the weekend, the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, discussed the importance of working with Bangladeshi authorities.  He emphasized that, for now, the immediate focus has to remain on fast, efficient and substantial increase of support to those who are so desperately in need.

For its part, the World Food Programme [WFP] has enrolled 460,000 people to receive 25 kilos of rice every two weeks for the next six months.  More than 200,000 people have received an emergency supply of high-energy biscuits.  WFP is especially concerned about the health of women and children arriving hungry and malnourished, and has provided nearly 60,000 of them with fortified food to date.

The World Health Organization [WHO] has helped to set up a control room for the Bangladeshi Health Ministry’s operations in Cox’s Bazar.  The control room will monitor the health situation, provide early warning alerts and coordinate the work of health workers on the ground.

**Colombia

Turning to Colombia, today, the UN Verification Mission in Colombia started its activities in support of the peace process between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army [FARC-EP].  Its mandate is to verify the implementation by the parties of both reintegration and security guarantees.

The Verification Mission, as you will recall, succeeds the UN Mission in Colombia, which completed its mandate yesterday, following the successful tripartite monitoring and verification of the cease-fire and the cessation of hostilities.  That Mission has also had a specific role in overseeing the laying down of arms process of the FARC-EP.

The previous Mission, in a statement, provided a full list of all the weapons, ammunition, explosives and mines they collected.  This represents a total of 8,994 arms, 1,765,862 rounds of ammunition, 38,255 kg of explosives, 11,015 grenades, 3,528 anti-personnel mines, 46,288 electric detonation caps, 4,370 mortar rounds and 51,911 metres of detonating cord and fuses.

Following the laying down of arms, the FARC-EP has transformed from a guerrilla organization into a new political party.  The reintegration phase of former FARC members is now underway.

**South Sudan

Back here, the Security Council met on South Sudan this morning.  The Special Representative of the Secretary‑General, David Shearer, briefed the Council on the situation in the country, and Mr. Shearer will be briefing you in this room at 2 p.m.  Yes, in this room.

**Central African Republic

Turning to the Central African Republic [CAR], our humanitarian colleagues said today that the situation in the western part of the country has deteriorated again since the beginning of this month.  Armed groups have taken over several localities, including the cities of Bocaranga and Niem, and the ensuing confrontations have caused a large number of displacements.  The vast majority of the inhabitants of Bocaranga and Niem took refuge in the bush, where they cannot access humanitarian assistance.

The Humanitarian Coordinator in the CAR, Najat Rochdi, warned that the operational capacities of the humanitarian community are already under intense pressure in a context marked by the underfunding of aid.  The simultaneous emergence of new outbreaks of tension in several regions will undoubtedly exacerbate the already fragile situation of thousands of displaced people and the communities that are barely recovering from repeated crises, she added.

**Middle East

Nickolay Mladenov, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, today condemned the shooting attack today by a Palestinian in the Har Adar settlement, in which one Israeli policeman and two security guards were killed, and another was seriously wounded.  His thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of all the victims.  He hopes for a full and speedy recovery of the wounded.  Mr. Mladenov said that it is deplorable that Hamas and others continue to glorify such attacks, which undermine the possibility of a peaceful future for both Palestinians and Israelis.  He urges all to condemn violence and stand up to terror.

**Migration

In Brussels, the Director-General of the UN Migration Agency [IOM], William Lacy Swing, called on European countries to continue the European Union emergency relocation programme without interruption.  The programme was set [up] two years ago to relocate some 106,000 asylum seekers that arrived in Greece and Italy.  While today is its final day of registration, countries have until the end of the year to carry out relocations.

**Cattle

The Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] called today for broader cattle vaccination to keep lumpy skin disease at bay in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.  The disease is a cattle pox virus transmitted by insects that can be deadly for cattle, but does not impact humans.

**Press Briefings

Press conferences: I already mentioned at 2 p.m. David Shearer will brief you.  And at 4 p.m., the President of the General Assembly [PGA] will hold a press briefing right here.  He will have an announcement to make.  He will also share his observations on the general debate, outlining what was achieved and laying out his expectations for the rest of the session.  Because the PGA is briefing, Brenden [Varma] will not be here to brief you.

**Honour Roll

Lastly, today, we welcome Saint Kitts and Nevis to the Honour Roll.  This brings us up to… how many countries having been paid in full?

Correspondent:  137?

Spokesman:  133.  Close enough.  You get a free ice cream and a question.  Go ahead.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you.  I understand that the Secretary… Sec… Security Council will hold a meeting this afternoon on the… on the issue of Rohingya and that the Secretary‑General will address the Security [Council].  What is the… what… does the Security… does the Secretary‑General have a specific message to the Council?  And what does he expect from that meeting?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  First of all, my understanding is that there may be a briefing in closed consultations today.  I cannot confirm that the Secretary‑General will brief the Security Council this week.  If… once we have something confirmed, we will announce it.  Obviously, for the Secretary‑General, his message has been the same and is very simple, is a halt to the military and security operations in Rakhine State, humanitarian access for all humanitarian workers, and decisions to be made on the status of the Rohingyas, those who have no papers in Rakhine State.  And I think, as for what he expects for the Council, I think he laid it out in his letter.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you about this… the meeting… well, something in Burundi and DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] and also about the meeting yesterday with the Foreign Minister of… of… of… of the DRC… of Burundi.  Went up there and it… the readout does mention this killing of Burundian refugees in DRC, and I heard Kate Gilmore today speaking about it at the Human Rights Council.  But, for people in the DRC, they’re saying that actually another camp full of Burundian refugees, Lusenda, is surrounded by the FARDC [Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo], that there’s… there’s live fire taking place.  And I’m just wondering, beyond the sort of expressions of concern by the UN, is MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] doing anything to protect the refugees that were there…

Spokesman:  I will check with MONUSCO.

Question:  And on that… on that meeting, I guess, and in a number of the meetings, in terms of observing who’s there, it doesn’t seem like UN Human Rights, the New York office, the New York representative of the High Commissioner didn’t seem to be in on meetings that even seemed to implicate serious human rights concerns.  Is there some… did Mr. [Andrew] Gilmour attend any of the bilats?

Spokesman:  I don’t have Mr. Gilmour’s schedule.  What I can tell you is that, just looking at who’s in the meeting, I think, is not the whole story.  Obviously, whatever is discussed in the meeting and raised in the meeting represents the issues that are of concern of the house, whether they be political or human rights or humanitarian.  And, obviously, people who need to be briefed on the meeting afterwards are briefed on the meeting.

Question:  But I have just one more on readouts.  The Cameroon readout didn’t mention the anglophone issue, certainly by name, and it seemed to refer to something called the… the political situation in the country, which, I think, one of your colleagues that works on 38 [floor] believed that the readout said something about the internal situation.  But the Cameroonian coverage of that meeting has absolutely no mention of any human rights concern, anything.  And so I’m wondering…

Spokesman:  I think the Secretary‑General… I mean, the readouts offer a glimpse of… a broad glimpse of what was discussed.  Obviously, other issues are discussed.  And, I think, as the Secretary‑General will tell you, there is a time for public diplomacy, and there’s a time for private diplomacy.  Yes, sir?

Question:  After the referendum in the Kurdistan and Iraq, I… did you see these videos showing that the fabrication of voting, someone voting like 30 papers, signing them and putting them in the box, these are by… by social media, there have been such videos coming out.  How does the United Nations… of course, you… you refuse the idea of referendum.  But now, given that even the authorities there are fabricating the results, trying to influence the results…

Spokesman:  I have no… we had no role on the organization, the planning, the holding of this vote.  So, I have no… I haven’t seen the videos you mentioned, but I have no comment on the procedural aspects and of the vote.  We made our political position, I think, clear.  And I will leave it at that.

Question:  With regard to Kirkuk, I mean there’s disputed territory there.  UNAMI [United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq] has an idea about reconciliation.  But, of course, if Kurdistan… they are considering this part of them, what would UNAMI do, I mean, to prevent a war or a conflict in that area?

Spokesman:  Look, it’s clearly a time of heightened tensions in Iraq.  I think we’ve noted, as we said yesterday in a note to correspondents, that this referendum was unilaterally declared and included areas under the control of the Peshmerga and was opposed by the Iraqi constitutional authorities, Iraq’s neighbours, and the international community.  I think we regret that that the opportunities for dialogue prior to the vote were not seized for serious discussions between the Government in Baghdad, the national Government of Iraq in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Question:  How about the support coming from Israel to such referendum and independence of Kurdistan?  Have you…

Spokesman:  I have no… that’s your statement.  I don’t know how to… I have no information to that.  Linda?

Question:  It’s not a statement… there were statements by Israelis.  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  Linda, Linda.  We’ll come back to you… [inaudible] … I will come back to you.  Linda?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  I hope I didn’t miss this at some previous time, but this is regarding the Rohingya.  I know there’s a dire situation, humanitarian situation, now in Bangladesh where they fled.  But my question is about the Rohingya militants.  I mean, the… Myanmar has… has said that, you know, that they… this conflict began after militants attacked various police border crossings across big — I don’t know — a number of them.  But my question is, does the UN have any kind of assessment of who the militants are, how many are there, what they’re doing now if… you know, if they’re involved in… currently involved in the conflict?

Spokesman:  We strongly condemned those attacks when they took place by these militant group.  There was no excuse for it.  We have no one on the ground, nor do we have the capacity to monitor, analyse, the movements of these armed groups in Rakhine State.

Question:  But just to follow up, is there a sense that they’re still involved in, perhaps, fighting with the Government?

Spokesman:  You know, it’s… I can only… the analysis we have at this point is really based on the press coverage.  As I said, our physical presence in Rakhine State, especially in the areas where conflict is still going on, is extremely limited.  Yep?

Question:  Yesterday, Mr. Mladenov in his weekly… or his monthly briefing to the Security Council on the situation in the… in the Middle East, he said settlement activity by Israel makes it more and more unlikely for the two‑State solution to be implemented.  I mean, what’s the Secretary… the Secretary‑General’s position on this?  What’s… what’s his recommendation to the Security Council on this… on this issue?

Spokesman:  Well, it’s… the Secretary‑General shares that assessment.  He said in the past, Mr. Mladenov is there as the Secretary‑General’s representative in reporting to the Security Council.  I think it’s not so much a message to the Security Council but as to both… the parties involved that it’s time for direct face-to-face discussions.  Mr. Bays and then…

Question:  A question, which is really guidance for our diaries.  We’re all awaiting the Children and Armed Conflict report.

Spokesman:  Indeed.

Question:  Have you got any news on what day… could it be this week?  What day it might be.  And just, on that, last year we got the Secretary‑General on the day it came out, coming and briefing us at the stakeout.  Are you expecting the…

Spokesman:  Last year was quite a unique time if… really… you’re talking about the release in 2017… in 2016?

Question:  Yes.  Are you expecting similar things this year?

Spokesman:  No, I understand.  I have… just about everything, I have very little expectations about anything, but I will try to get you some guidance diary-wise at least.  Yes, ma’am?

Question:  So, this is a little off… maybe an off-topic question, but there is a… a petition out by some environmental activists who have declared the part of the ocean where all the trash is gathered, the plastic… the Trash Isles and they have apparently… they say they have sent a petition to the United Nations for being accepted as a country to the United Nations, which, obviously, I know all the rules of this body, but it’s obviously a way to get attention to this topic.  So, I was wondering if you have any reaction.  Has the petition been received, and what’s your take on it?

Spokesman:  I’m not aware the petition’s been received, but I think it’s a very innovative and creative way to bring attention to a problem that is often not seen, given the location of these piles of trash, but a problem of polluting the oceans, killing the life in the oceans is a very important one.  So, I… as I said, I think it’s creative and innovative.  But the chances of it being accepted are fairly nil.  I think we’ll go to Mr. Lee, Nizar.  I’m looking at you, but I’m thinking of Mr. Lee.  Go ahead.  And it looks like it’s a Periscope question.

Correspondent:  It is, actually.

Spokesman:  So it’s a bonus question.

Correspondent:  We’ll just rev it up.

Spokesman:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Question:  Actually, this has to do with the… with the… with the… the deaths of Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalán.  I wanted to ask you, I heard today, actually, again, in the Human Rights Council, Kate Gilmore was saying that… offering her condolences for Mr. Sharp, Ms. Catalan, and Betu Tshintela, the interpreter.  And, as you may know, there’s now some controversy about whether he, in fact, was killed, what his role in it was.  I know it’s come up in here before, so I wanted to ask you, it seems like enough time has gone by.  Is it the UN’s understanding that Betu Tshintela was, in fact, killed in this attack?  And, if so, given that even the Government of DRC said the body’s never been found, what’s the basis of the UN saying that he was killed?

Spokesman:  I really have nothing more to add to the investigation than what was shared with you in the executive summary of the Board of Inquiry.  We’re, obviously, saddened by the loss of life of our colleagues and others that may have died as well in the attack.

Question:  And given the pretty… the now pretty detailed criticism of the… the… the Board of Inquiry, that they were only there nine days, that they ignored a lot of the video and other evidence… and audio evidence that exists, I guess, what’s the… what’s the response to that criticism?  And what steps have been taken since the Secretary‑General said that the UN will somehow embed with or work with the DRC’s own investigation…?

Spokesman:  That process is ongoing.  We hope to have something to announce shortly.  Nizar and then Jordan.

Question:  Yeah, on Yemen, the outbreak of cholera, is it abating, or is it still… is there any update on it?

Spokesman:  I’ll give you some figures.  My sense is that’s not abating, but I will try to get you some updated figures for tomorrow or later today.

Question:  Also, Mr. Walid Al-Moualem, the Deputy Prime Minister of Syria, called on Syrians to return to Syria, especially that 80 per cent of Syria is now back in the hands of the Syrian Government.  And he guarantees their safety.  How does the United Nations react to such a call?  And does it feel safe for the people to return?

Spokesman:  The decision to return is one best left in the hands of the people themselves.  Jordan?

Question:  Are those people… sorry, follow-up on that.  These people need, of course, help to…

Spokesman:  Of course, they need help, but people… we are not in the business of forcing people to come home… go home or telling them what to do.  People need to make those decisions for themselves.

Question:  I have a question on North Korea and the SG.  I know the SG has met two days ago with the Foreign Minister of North Korea, as he met with all delegations.  Is there any possibility that the SG will be going to North Korea during the year to calm the situation?

Spokesman:  We have nothing to announce and we try… I have nothing to announce on that front.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Question:  Sure.  I’ve mentioned Kate Gilmore twice, and it’s for a reason.  I wanted to know whether you can give any update on the UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] process, both the candidacy of Ms. Gilmore and now of Alicia Bárcena?  Are you aware… what’s the deadline for SG selection…

Spokesman:  I’m not aware… the details of the process are one of the many things that I’m not aware of because, as you know, the announcement is made, and then the announcement of a job opening is made.  People apply, and once the process is over, we announce who got the job.

Question:  And I wanted to ask you, again, this is… I’ve asked you several times about Jeffrey Sachs, and each time you’ve said… statements that he’s made, you said, well, he’s only speaking when he’s in his capacity.  So, now there’s an article in the Guardian, which says, “The world is moving on with or without Trump’s crude bravado – Jeffrey Sachs”.  And the article is about the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs], which I understand to be his job for the UN.  So I guess I want to… it’s been a little unclear to me.  You’ve tried… sometimes you’ve said… at one point, you said it would be communicated to him that it was inappropriate to give an endorsement…

Spokesman:  What I’m saying to you is, if it… if he speaks… if he’s identified and speaking in his official capacity, then it is…

Question:  Okay.  So, can you look at the Guardian?  Because he’s talking about the SDGs.  And, again, many people share that view, but I wanted to know…

Spokesman:  I think I’ve answered the question to my best of my ability, Counsellor.  Jordan?

Correspondent:  I know, but it just continues to happen and lower-down UN staff get in trouble for doing the same thing.

Question:  Thank you.  I have a question on Western Sahara.  I know you issued a statement on behalf of the Special Envoy on 20 September, that he had some communications here at the UN, and he said he’s going to the region soon.  Has he gone there or not yet and…

Spokesman:  No, he’s not gone there.  When we have a trip to announce, I’ll let you know.  Thank you.

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