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Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY FARHAN HAQ,
DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

THURSDAY, 24 JULY 2014

 

SECRETARY-GENERAL APPALLED BY ATTACK ON U.N. SCHOOL IN GAZA

  • In remarks to the press made in Erbil, Iraq, the Secretary-General said that he is appalled by the news of an attack on a UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school in Northern Gaza where hundreds of people had taken refuge. Many have been killed – including women and children, as well as UN staff.
  • In his briefing to the Security Council from Ramallah just two days ago, the Secretary-General condemned Hamas rocket fire and called on Israel to exercise particular care to avoid just such an attack on United Nations premises where civilians have taken refuge. More than 100,000 Gazans – 5 percent of the total population – have sought refuge in UNRWA facilities.
  • He once again says all sides must abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law to respect the sanctity of civilian life, the inviolability of UN premises and to honour their obligations to humanitarian workers. Today’s attack underscores the imperative for the killing to stop – and to stop now.
  • Asked about the casualties at the school, the Spokesman said it was not yet clear who was responsible for the attack. He added that hundreds of civilians had sought shelter at the school, and a large number had been killed or wounded.
  • He said that the school was a designated UNRWA facility and underscored the inviolability of all UN premises. UNRWA, he later added, is now hosting more than 140,000 people in its facilities in Gaza.
  • Asked what the Secretary-General would do in response, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General had made clear that he would stay in the region and continue to push for a ceasefire. The Secretary-General has been emphatic about the need for a halt to the fighting, after which efforts could be made to deal with the root causes of the conflict.
  • Asked about the disappearance of weapons from an UNRWA facility, the Spokesman noted the statement issued on Wednesday on that matter.
  • He said that the Relief and Works Agency said that, as soon as a second cache of weapons was discovered on Tuesday,
  • UNRWA immediately informed all relevant parties and issued a statement strongly condemning the abuse of its premises. It evacuated the premises and placed a guard at the gate. At the same time, it began intensive consultations to find an international actor to help survey the weapons so the extent of the problem could be ascertained and a safe disposal plan developed. There were 1,500 displaced civilians in schools on either side of the installation and their safety was paramount.
  • Haq said that UNRWA staff did not re-enter the installation until the following day when displaced people from Beit Hanoun forced open the school seeking refuge. At that point, its staff went to secure the area in which the weapons had been discovered the previous day and found they had been removed.
  • Asked about UN policy on how to deal with weapons caches, Haq noted that prior to last week, weapons had not been found on UNRWA premises, and he reiterated the condemnation of the violation of UNRWA premises.
  • He said that the Secretary General has initiated a full review of such incidents and how the UN responds in such instances and is taking concerted action to develop systems to increase the ability to prevent any violations.
  • In order to achieve this, the Secretary-General has directed the UN Department of Safety and Security (DSS) and the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) to develop immediately and implement an effective security plan for the safe and secure handling of any weapons discovered in UN premises. Further, he has directed UNMAS to immediately deploy personnel with expertise to deal with this situation.
  • Following instructions from the United Nations Secretary-General, UNMAS is preparing to deploy a team of explosive ordnance disposal experts to Gaza in support of UNRWA and civilians impacted by the conflict. The team - and equipment that will be needed - is being mobilised and will arrive in Gaza in the coming days.
  • Haq added that news has come through that three UNRWA staff have been killed in the current conflict. All three were teachers: two women killed along with members of their families by incoming Israeli fire while inside a residence, the third while reportedly walking home after working in one of our emergency shelters.

IN IRAQ, SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES FORMATION OF THOROUGHLY INCLUSIVE GOVERNMENT

  • The Secretary-General visited Iraq today, including Erbil and Najaf, where he met with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, with whom he reviewed the current crisis in Iraq and the necessary humanitarian response, as well as the process of government formation. 
  • The Secretary-General noted that the parliament has elected a new speaker, Dr. Salim al-Jubouri, a few days ago, and that Dr. Fouad Massoum has now been elected as President of the country. The Secretary-General expressed his sincere hope that under his leadership, an inclusive government would be formed without delay and within constitutionally mandated timelines.
  • Earlier, in Baghdad, the Secretary-General had what he described as a good, constructive meeting with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. They discussed the security crisis, the government formation process, relations between the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government, and relations between Iraq and Kuwait.
  • The Secretary-General said that it is critical that all political leaders fulfil their responsibilities to ensure that the government formation process falls within the constitutional timetable. He said that Iraq is facing an existential threat but it can be overcome through the formation of a thoroughly inclusive government - a government that can address the concerns of all communities, including security, political, social and economic matters.
  • Asked about the treatment of minorities in Iraq, the Spokesman noted the statement issued by the Secretary-General over the weekend condemning the treatment of minority groups who had been expelled from parts of Iraq.
  • Asked about reports that the Islamic State has imposed female genital mutilation on women in the areas that it controls, Haq said he was aware of what the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Jacqueline Badcock, had told reporters today. The UN in Iraq is verifying this information. If confirmed, this would be very serious.

SOUTH SUDAN: U.N. MISSION REPORTS HEAVY FIRING IN NASSIR

  • The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reports heavy firing this morning between SPLM/A In Opposition forces and SPLA troops in western part of Nassir town. UNMISS personnel report that opposition forces have abandoned Nassir Town.
  • There are no reports of injuries sustained by UNMISS personnel nor internally displaced persons inside the Mission’s county operating base in Nassir Town.

U.N. MISSION IN MALI REQUESTED TO HELP SEARCH FOR MISSING ALGERIAN PLANE

  • The UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) reports that it has officially received a request from the Malian and Algerian Governments to provide assistance for the search for the Algerian plane.
  • The mission reports that it has initiated search operations and has mobilized to provide the assistance required for rescue operations that will be deployed as soon as there is confirmation of the exact location of the airplane.

U.N. ENVOY SPEAKS OUT AGAINST BOKO HARAM KILLINGS IN NIGERIA’S BORNO, KADUNA STATES

  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa and High Representative to Nigeria, Said Djinnit, strongly has strongly condemned the killing of civilians yesterday and over the weekend, reportedly perpetrated by the Boko Haram group in the town of Damboa, in Borno State,  and in Kaduna, in Kaduna State.
  • According to initial reports, more than 130 people died and some 15,000 were forced to move to the Borno State capital of Maiduguri, or to neighbour towns of Biu and Goniri.
  • Mr. Djinnit encourages the Nigerian authorities to do their utmost to stop the cycle of violence and bring the perpetrators of this act to justice.
  • He also reiterates the support of the United Nations to an effective regional cooperation to put an end to the terrorism threat and Boko Haram attacks.

U.N. WELCOMES CENTRAL AFRICAN PEACE PACT

  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Central Africa, Abdoulaye Bathily, and for the Central African Republic, Babacar Gaye, have welcomed the signing of an agreement on the cessation of hostilities by the Central African parties, yesterday in Brazzaville.
  • They saluted the spirit that prevailed at the Brazzaville Forum. They said that the next steps of this process now needed to take place in the Central African Republic with local consultations and a forum on national reconciliation and reconstruction in Bangui.

U.N. MISSION PRESENTS RECOUNT PROPOSAL TO AFGHAN ELECTION COMMISSION

  • The UN in Afghanistan today presented its proposal to the Independent Election Commission for a regulatory decision covering the criteria for ordering the recount of ballot boxes and the invalidation of ballots.  
  • This proposal is a part of efforts to support the comprehensive audit of the results of the Presidential election run-off held on the 15 of June.
  • Under the technical agreement reached by the two Presidential candidates, the UN was asked to propose the manner for the supervision of the audit.

SECURITY COUNCIL MEETS ON U.N. CYPRUS FORCE

SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS NEW DEPUTY HEAD OF U.N. MISSION IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

  • The Secretary-General has appointed Diane Corner of the United Kingdom as his Deputy Special Representative and Deputy Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
  • Ms. Corner succeeds Lawrence Wohlers of the United States of America who will complete his planned short-term assignment. The Secretary-General is grateful to Mr. Wohlers for his dedicated service and political engagement during a critical time of transition and start-up of the peacekeeping operation.
  • Ms. Corner is currently the British Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and non-Resident Ambassador to the Republic of Congo.

SECRETARY-GENERAL TRAVEL BUDGET FOR 2014-2015 IS $2.1 MILLION

  • Asked about the Secretary-General’s travel budget, the Spokesman said that the approved funding for the Office of the Secretary-General for travel for the 2014-2015 biennium is $2,190,300.