HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY FARHAN HAQ,
DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
TUESDAY, 22 JULY 2014
BRIEFING SECURITY COUNCIL FROM RAMALLAH, SECRETARY-GENERAL VOICES HOPE THAT FIGHTING WILL END SOON
- The Secretary-General briefed the Security Council on the Middle East this morning from Ramallah, the fifth stop on a journey that has so far included Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt and Israel. He will continue on to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and other countries as needed.
- He mentioned the recent discussions on the way forward and added that it is his hope and belief that these talks will lead to results and an end to the fighting in the very near future.
- He stressed his pride in his many UN colleagues, with the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the lead, who have courageously assisted the people of Gaza under such difficult circumstances.
- He warned that the escalation of violence is now acutely affecting the Relief and Works Agency’s regular operations. A total of 23 UNRWA installations are closed as a result of the conflict. A total of 77 UNRWA installations have been damaged since 1 June as a result of the conflict. He said that the premises have been used to store weapons, which he called unacceptable. Today, about 100,000 people – more than 5 percent of the population of Gaza – are seeking shelter with UNRWA.
- The Secretary-General told the Security Council that the parties must heed the Security Council’s call to return to negotiations in order to find an end to this conflict through a viable two-state solution.
- Asked how the peace efforts are going, the Spokesman noted the increase in the momentum of efforts by the Secretary-General and others to push for a ceasefire.
- Asked whether he would visit Gaza, Haq said that the Secretary-General’s travel plans have been changing rapidly and he declined to comment on what his future travels might be.
- Asked about an attack on Al Jazeera reporters, he noted the consistent position of the United Nations that journalists have the right to go about their work without hindrance. At the same time, he noted the overall violence in Gaza and the need for a halt to all fighting.
- In response to a question on attacks on children in Gaza, Haq said that, as of this morning, the crisis in Gaza has seen at least 582 Palestinians killed, including 145 children, while more than 100,000 people are displaced in 69 UNRWA schools, according to information received by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
IN ISRAEL, SECRETARY-GENERAL MEETS PRESIDENT, REPEATS CALL FOR UNCONDITIONAL CEASEFIRE
- Before visiting Ramallah, the Secretary-General was in Tel Aviv where he met earlier today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a joint press encounter with the Prime Minister, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations strongly condemns rocket attacks against Israel and he warned against the use of civilian sites for military purposes. He said he full shares Israel’s right to defend its citizens, but called once more for maximum restraint. He said his message to Israelis and Palestinians remains the same: Stop fighting, start talking and address the root causes of the conflict.
- In their meeting, the Secretary-General updated Prime Minister Netanyahu on his recent contacts in the region, including with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. The Secretary-General reiterated his call for an immediate ceasefire, without conditions. He stressed the need to alleviate the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. Once a cease-fire is in place, the Secretary-General underscored the immediate need to address the underlying issues. They agreed to remain in close touch and may meet again tomorrow before the Secretary-General leaves for Jordan.
- Before leaving Cairo this morning, the Secretary-General met with the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al Sisi. The Secretary-General thanked the President for his leadership role in the current efforts to establish a cease-fire in Gaza. They both agreed on the need for an intensified concerted international effort to stop the fighting urgently and also focus on the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.
- Yesterday, the Secretary-General held separate meetings with the Egyptian Foreign Minister and with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
IRAQ: HUNDREDS OF CHRISTIAN FAMILIES FLEE MOSUL, U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY REPORTS
- The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has reported that more than 450 Christian families from the Iraqi city of Mosul are now in Dohuk. The majority of the 100 Christian families who had recently arrived in the district of Telkef have no or little resources, and are staying in churches. UNHCR continues to assess the situation and provide essential relief supplies to families in need.
- At the UN briefing in Geneva today, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) presented a new report on the completion of the first phase of the biggest ever vaccination campaign in the Middle East, including Iraq and Syria.
- Despite the challenges, particularly due to the crisis in Iraq and Syria, some 25 million children under five were vaccinated for polio in seven countries in the region. Polio has returned to Syria largely due to the disruption of routine vaccination, the damage to Syria’s health infrastructure and the exodus of trained health workers from the country. Mass displacement inside Syria has also led to overcrowded and unhygienic living conditions, increasing the risk among children.
- Asked about UN action to help the minorities displaced from parts of Iraq, the Spokesman noted the efforts by the UN Mission in Iraq and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in providing humanitarian assistance for people who have been forced to flee.
- He noted the statements issued by the Secretary-General and the Security Council, condemning their displacement.
OUTGOING FORCE COMMANDER FOR U.N. LEBANON MISSION BIDS FAREWELL TO AUTHORITIES
- The Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Major-General Paolo Serra, today bid farewell to the Lebanese authorities in Beirut. He said afterwards that he thanks Lebanon’s leaders for their unflinching support for the UN Mission’s work.
- Major-General Serra introduced the Lebanese authorities to the incoming UNIFIL Force Commander, Major-General Luciano Portolano of Italy, who accompanied him on the visits. Major-General Portolano will take up the position of UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander on Thursday.
GREATER CONFLICTS FUEL FIFTY-FOLD INCREASE IN WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME’S AIR DELIVERY OF AID
- The World Food Programme (WFP) says that a surge of conflict in the first half of this year prompted a more than fifty-fold increase in the amount of life-saving food and goods it moved globally by air, compared to the same period last year.
- From January to June 2014, WFP Aviation delivered some 8,700 metric tons of cargo – more than 56 times what was transported by air during the same six-month period in 2013.
- WFP says that more than 90 percent of the supplies were delivered to the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Syria. Insecurity, limited humanitarian access and rains often mean food and other supplies cannot be moved by road or boat.
U.N. CHILDREN’S FUND, U.K. GOVERNMENT HOST FIRST-EVER GIRL SUMMIT TO STEP UP PROGRESS TO END FEMALE GENITAL MUTILIATION
- The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Government of the United Kingdom are hosting the first-ever Girl Summit to accelerate progress to end female genital mutilation, or FGM, and child marriage – two practices affecting millions of girls around the world.
- UNICEF Executive Director Tony Lake said that female genital mutilation and child marriage profoundly and permanently harm girls, denying them their right to make their own decisions and to reach their full potential. He added that girls are not property and that they have the right to determine their destiny.
- According to UNICEF data released today, more than 130 million girls and women have experienced some form of female genital mutilation in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, where the practice is most common.
- Child marriage is even more widespread, with more than 700 million women alive today having been married as children.
***The guest at today’s noon briefing was the UN Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador, Actress Mia Farrow, and she spoke to the press on her recent visit to the Central African Republic.