The respect for migrants and diversity is a fundamental pillar of the United Nations. So says the Secretary General Antonio Guterres in response to a question about whether he would support a call from the African Group of UN Ambassadors for President Donald Trump to apologise and retract his disputed remarks about African and Haitian immigrants to the United States.

The UN Chief was engaged in his first press conferences for 2018 and covered topics from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), funding cuts to a UN agency supporting Palestinians and achieving gender parity in the top structure of the organisation among others.

Antonio Guterres’ response says,  “As far as I understand, the United States President has denied that he has said that. Our position is very clear, we need to have relations of mutual respect with all peoples in the world and in particular migration is a positive aspect. And migrants contribute not only to the welfare to their countries of origin but to the welfare of the countries where they are part of the development process. The respect for migrants and the respect for diversity, the ethnic diversity, religious diversity, is a fundamental pillar of the UN and it will be a fundamental pillar of the action of the Secretary General.”

He welcomed renewed dialogue between the two Koreas but expressed his concern that while war was avoidable, peace was not yet guaranteed.

“What I believe is extremely important is to take profit of these signals of hope to make sure that a serious process leading to the peaceful denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula takes place. I think there is a window of opportunity, that window of opportunity will in my opinion hopefully make the war avoidable, it is important that we don’t miss the opportunity that windows can provide.”

The SG’s briefing came as the United States confirmed it was withholding $65 million or roughly half of its $125 million contribution to the UN Agency responsible Palestinian refugees -United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) – in a deepening rift between Washington and Ramallah since the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“In UNRWA I am very concerned and I strongly hope that in the end it will be possible for the United States to maintain the funding of UNRWA in which the US has a very important share. First of all, UNRWA is not a Palestinian institution, UNRWA is a UN institution created in 1948 by a UN resolution and UNRWA is providing vital services to the Palestinian refugee population both in the occupied territories, in Jordan and in Syria and in Lebanon.”

Guterres affirmed that despite Israeli settlement expansion that the UN still believed a two-state solution was possible; he also warned that climate change was winning the race against mitigation.

“It’s important for us to recognise that the commitments made in Paris in general are not necessarily being fully met and the commitments made in Paris are not enough to make sure that the increase of temp will stay below 1.5 or even two degrees which means we need an enhanced ambition.”

In a world he believes has gone in reverse over the last year, there was some positive news to share from within the UN itself.

“We have achieved a milestone.  For the first time in history, we have full parity in the top leadership of the United Nations, the 44-member Senior Management Group.  We will continue to do more to empower women and uphold our core commitment to equality and gender parity.”

The Secretary General will travel to the AU Summit in Addis Ababa later this month where he will sign a new joint platform for development cooperation to better align the UN’s Agenda 2030 with the AU Agenda 2063.

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