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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

WEDNESDAY, 23 JULY 2014

MIDDLE EAST: VISITING ISRAEL, SAUDI ARABIA AND JORDAN, SECRETARY-GENERAL CONTINUES EFFORTS TOWARDS CEASEFIRE

  • The Secretary-General travelled to Saudi Arabia from Amman, Jordan, where he met with King Abdullah as he continued his efforts to push for a cease-fire in Israel and Gaza. He told reporters that he came to Jordan with a heavy heart, knowing that so many people have been killed and wounded in Gaza. He said that over a recent two-day period, one Palestinian child had been killed every hour. The Secretary-General said that he thanked Jordan’s Government and people for the humanitarian assistance given to Gaza.
  • Earlier today, he met in Jerusalem with Israeli President Shimon Peres and said to the press that the violence must stop now. He added that it is important for dialogue to be resumed between Israelis and Palestinians, saying that, whatever the obstacles, they share a common future.
  • The Secretary-General also held separate meetings this morning with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. In those meetings, the Secretary-General reiterated his call for an immediate cease-fire, 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 urgent need to address the underlying issues. He stressed the importance of ensuring the unhindered freedom of movement for humanitarian actors and their operations.
  • The Secretary-General met with US Secretary of State John Kerry before leaving Israel for Jordan. He said in press remarks after that meeting that this is the 15th day since the crisis began, and that we do not have time to lose.
  • Asked about the Secretary-General’s use of a Qatari-chartered plane for the first part of his travel, the Spokesman reiterated that the in-kind contribution by a Member State was made because of the need to travel to the region on short notice.  He added that the Secretary-General has been dealing equally and impartially with a wide number of Member States as he travels through the region, trying to obtain a halt to the fighting.
  • Asked whether the Secretary-General was hopeful that there would be a ceasefire, Haq said that the Secretary-General was one of many officials working to build support behind the Egyptian-led initiative and he noted the increasing momentum of diplomatic efforts.

NEARLY THREE QUARTERS OF THOSE KILLED IN MIDDLE EAST ARE CIVILIANS, SAYS U.N. RIGHTS CHIEF

  • The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, addressed the Human Rights Council at its special session today on the Occupied Palestinian Territory and discussed the situation in Gaza and Israel.
  • She said that, according to preliminary UN figures, around 74 percent of those killed so far were civilians, and thousands more have been injured. Those numbers have climbed dramatically since Israel’s ground operations began on 17th of July. Hundreds of homes and other civilian buildings, such as schools, have been destroyed or severely damaged in Gaza, and more than 140,000 Palestinians have been displaced as a result.
  • Ms. Pillay added that two Israeli civilians have also lost their lives, and between 17 and 32 others have been reported injured as a result of rockets and other projectiles fired from Gaza. Also, 27 Israeli soldiers have been killed during military operations in Gaza.
  • Asked whether the Secretary-General agreed with Ms. Pillay’s views that war crimes may have been committed, the Spokesman noted that the Secretary-General had talked about the need for accountability. The actions by the parties on the ground would require further investigation.

U.N. ENVOY WARNS SECURITY COUNCIL THAT ISLAMIC STATE POSES INCREASINGLY COMPLEX THREAT TO PEACE, SECURITY IN IRAQ

  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Nikolay Mladenov, briefed the Security Council today, warning that the Islamic State has grown to be a complex threat to peace and security in Iraq, the entire region and beyond.
  • Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on Iraq, he urged the Council to demand that the Islamic State cease all hostilities and atrocities. He called on Member States to cooperate in enforcing existing sanctions and hold accountable the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of the horrific terrorist acts, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Iraq.  
  • Speaking about treatment of minorities in the Ninewa Province, he added that tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes, while many others have been executed or kidnapped. He added the UN has received reports that women and children are being targeted in the conflict areas.
  • Mr. Mladenov said all parties to the conflict must ensure that international human rights and humanitarian law are respected. He called for the establishment of humanitarian corridors and respect for impartial organizations that are providing assistance.

WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME BEGINS AIRLIFT TO 50,000 OF MOST VULNERABLE PEOPLE IN SYRIA’S AL HASSAKEH

  • The World Food Programme (WFP) started airlifting food yesterday for a total of 50,000 of the most vulnerable displaced people in Syria’s north-eastern Al Hassakeh governorate, as food deliveries by road are blocked and concern is rising about growing needs.
  • The first of 23 World Food Programme-chartered flights from Damascus landed at Qamishli airport, bringing critically needed food rations for 4,000 people.
  • Subsequent flights will carry rations for 50,000 people for one month, ready-to-eat foods, and other humanitarian assistance such as life-saving medicine to meet the immediate needs of new arrivals in the area.

AFGHANISTAN: U.N. CONVENES TALKS ON BOLSTERING AUDIT OF PRESIDENTIAL RUN-OFF POLLS

  • The United Nations in Afghanistan convened a meeting today at the headquarters of the Independent Election Commission to strengthen the audit of the Presidential run-off election.
  • One of the purposes of the meeting was to discuss best practices developed during the last six days of auditing. The UN hopes that this will help the audit to proceed more rapidly, and in an orderly and respectful environment.
  • The audit is being carried out under the authority the Independent Election Commission, with the close and extensive international supervision led by the UN.
  • A post-disaster measles vaccination campaign led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Afghan Ministry of Public health has been completed in provinces affected by severe flooding earlier this year.
  • More than 320,000 children in five provinces in northern Afghanistan have been vaccinated.

ON 100TH DAY SINCE ABDUCTION OF NIGERIAN SCHOOLGIRLS, SECRETARY-GENERAL REPEATS NEED TO PROTECT GIRLS FROM HARM

  • The Secretary-General, in a message, said that he stands in solidarity with all those taking part in vigils today to demonstrate that the world has not forgotten the girls who were so cruelly abducted from their school 100 days ago in Chibok, Nigeria. 
  • The Secretary-General once more calls for their immediate release, and for an end to discrimination, intimidation and violence against girls whose only wish is to gain an education.  Only by shielding them from harm and enabling them to realize their full potential can we usher in a better future for all.
  • Asked about the support provided by the United Nations, the Spokesman noted that the United Nations has tried to provide psycho-social support to the families of the abducted girls and to schoolgirls who have since been released. A number of UN envoys, including Gordon Brown and Said Djinnit, have travelled to Nigeria to push for measures to protect girls’ right to education there.

SOUTH SUDAN: U.N. MISSION REPORTS HEAVY FIGHTING AROUND NASSIR

  • The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reports that heavy fighting erupted again in Nassir Town at around 9 a.m. today between armed youths and SPLA troops in the western part of the town.
  • One shell landed inside the Mission base on the south eastern edge of Nassir Town but did not explode. All UNMISS personnel stationed in the base are safe and accounted for.

SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS NEW HEAD OF U.N. MISSION IN SOUTH SUDAN

  • The Secretary-General has appointed Ellen Margrethe Løj of Denmark as his new Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS). 
  • Ms. Løj succeeds Hilde Johnson of Norway, who completed her assignment on 7 July 2014. The Secretary-General is grateful for Ms. Johnson’s dedication and leadership of UNMISS since the Mission’s inception in July 2011. 
  • Ms. Løj most recently served as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative of the United Nations Mission in Liberia.

U.N. RELIEF CHIEF ALLOCATES $75 MILLION WEST AFRICAN SAHEL, HORN OF AFRICA, WARNING OF CRISIS DUE TO INACTION

  • The Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, has allocated US$75 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to boost life-saving relief work in two of the world’s most neglected regions: the West African Sahel and the Horn of Africa.
  • Eleven countries were selected based on a global review of critical aid operations that are facing funding deficits. This is the second of two annual rounds of allocations for underfunded emergencies.
  • Ms. Amos said that with so many crises competing for attention many people in need are forgotten. She warned that these countries could fall back into crisis if we don’t help now.

U.N. SOMALIA ENVOY SPEAKS OUT AGAINST ASSASSINATION OF PARLIAMENT MEMBER

  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, has condemned the assassination of Saado Ali Warsame, a female Member of the Somali Federal Parliament.
  • He remains deeply concerned about the continued attacks targeting parliamentarians in the capital. He added that the role of Somali women in public life must be protected and respected by all.
  • Mr. Kay called on Somali authorities to make every effort to bring the perpetrators to justice swiftly.

U.N. ENVOY ON ‘NAME’ ISSUE TO TRAVEL TO GREECE, FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA

  • The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Matthew Nimetz, will be meeting with officials of the two countries during a mission to the region next week. 
  • He will be in Skopje on 28 and 29 of July and in Athens on 30 and 31 of July.
  • The goal of the meetings is to reinvigorate the UN-sponsored talks aimed at finding a mutually acceptable solution to the "name" issue.

U.N. POLITICAL CHIEF TO TRAVEL TO UKRAINE, RUSSIA

  • Asked about UN efforts in Ukraine, the Spokesman said that Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman was expected to begin travel to Kiev and Moscow this weekend.

***The guest at the noon briefing was John Ging, Director of Operation at the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). He brief reporters on his recent trip to Ethiopia.