HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY, SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
MONDAY, 13 JANUARY 2014
IN BAGHDAD, SECRETARY-GENERAL MEETS IRAQI PRIME MINISTER
- The Secretary-General arrived in Baghdad this morning. He met with the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and discussed the security and political situation in Iraq, as well as the situation in Syria.
- Speaking to the press afterwards, the Secretary-General said that he was worried about the deteriorating security in parts of Iraq. He said it was important for all political leaders to unite in their stance against terrorism and come together to stabilize the situation. He also encouraged measures to strengthen the country's social fabric.
- The Secretary-General thanked Iraq for opening its border to Syrian refugees and called on all Member States to provide funding and assistance to countries hosting Syrian refugees.
- The Secretary-General also met with the Vice-President, Foreign Minister, the Speaker of the Council of Representatives and the Chairman of the Independent High Electoral Commission.
- Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will travel to Kuwait City, in advance of the Second High-Level Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, which he will chair on Wednesday.
U.N. RELIEF CHIEF VISITS SYRIA, SPOTLIGHTS DIRE HUMANITARIAN SITUATION
- Valerie Amos, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, highlighted the dire humanitarian situation affecting 9.3 million Syrians at the end of her visit to Damascus on Sunday. During that visit, she held talks with members of the Government and humanitarian partners about the plight of people in communities which have been blocked by Government or opposition forces and who have not been reached with aid for months. She said she was particularly worried about reports of starvation.
- Ms. Amos also held talks with the Government on the protection of civilians. She emphasized the need to build on steps to reduce the impact of violence on civilians, like the recent ceasefires which allowed evacuations from the Old City of Homs and from Adra Umaliyeh in Rural Damascus.
- Meanwhile, a two-day meeting to support women’s participation and to ensure that their voices are heard in the Syrian peace process ended today with a statement by Syrian women civil society members and activists that calls for support of the political process and respect for the rights for Syrian women to full political participation in all matters related to shaping the future of their country. The meeting was convened in Geneva by the UN Women together with the Government of the Netherlands.
- The Spokesperson added that Ms. Amos will participate in the pledging conference on Syria in Kuwait and will be able to provide a firsthand account of the humanitarian situation in the country.
- Nesirky affirmed the impartiality of the United Nations in its humanitarian work in Syria.
- Asked whether Iran could be included in the Geneva Conference on Syria, the Spokesperson said that Iran has not been included in the invitations that were sent.
- The Secretary-General and Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi have consistently expressed their view that Iran, as a regional power with influence on the Syrian conflict, can contribute to the solution of the Syrian conflict. They believe that Iran’s presence would be useful at talks.
- Nesirky added that Iran could be included if the Initiating States were to agree in its participation.
- He noted that the parties were to meet on 22 January in Montreux and then participate in direct talks in Geneva mediated by Mr. Brahimi that start on 24 January.
- Asked about the list of states participating in the Geneva Conference on Syria, the Spokesperson noted that the list had been read out on 20 December.
U.N. ENVOYS BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON D.R. CONGO
- The Security Council discussed the Democratic Republic of the Congo this morning, and heard updates from Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the country, and Mary Robinson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region.
- Mr. Kobler said that, after the military defeat of the M23, it was important to move forward with the implementation of the Nairobi Declaration. And he urged the Congolese Government to move forward with its disarmament, demobilization and reintegration plan. He added that the staff of the UN Mission, MONUSCO, is being redeployed where it is most needed, in the areas affected by armed conflict in the East. Before July, two thirds of the Mission’s substantive staff will be active in its operations in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- Mary Robinson said that the positive atmosphere that prevailed following the defeat of the M23 and the signing of the Kampala agreement has vanished. She said that the region is going through a period of renewed turbulence. She added that the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework agreed to one year ago remains the best chance to achieve sustainable peace, security, cooperation and development in the Great Lakes Region. However, it is essential that the pace of its implementation be increased in order to maximize its impact.
SOUTH SUDAN: U.N. MISSION PROTECTING 60,000 CIVILIANS IN ITS BASES
- The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) continues to protect nearly 60,000 civilians at ten bases across the country.
- The Mission is in the process of creating a new site for the uprooted in Juba. There are already 30,000 displaced people seeking shelter in two Mission locations in the capital.
- The Mission says that anti-government forces are in control of Bor in Jonglei state. The Mission said that there have been reports of sporadic gunfire, close to the UN Mission’s base there.
- The security situation in Bentiu in Unity State is reported to be relatively calm. Nearly 9,000 civilians are being protected by 570 UN peacekeepers at the UN’s base there. Over the weekend, a Mission patrol to Bentiu and Rubkona saw looting and burning of houses by civilians and people dressed in military uniform.
- Additionally, the UN Mission has been undertaking patrols in Juba, as well as in Malakal and Nassir in Upper Nile State.
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that some 355,000 people are now internally displaced in South Sudan, nearly half of whom have been reached with aid.
- The Office also reports that more than 42,000 people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.
- Humanitarian agencies are extremely concerned about reports of violence against civilians and aid workers, and the looting of humanitarian compounds and commandeering of vehicles.
- Asked about potential tensions within the compounds, the Spokesperson said that thousands of people owed their lives to the protection being provided to them at UN compounds.
- He said that everyone understands that the situation outside the compounds is precarious, while the camps themselves are overcrowded.
SENIOR U.N. RIGHTS OFFICIAL TO VISIT SOUTH SUDAN
- The Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovic will visit South Sudan tomorrow to assess the human rights situation in the country and the impact of the fighting.
- During his four-day visit, Mr. Šimonovic will meet with senior Government officials, the national human rights community, diplomats, representatives of civil society, and people who have been uprooted by the fighting.
- He plans to travel to Malakal, Bentiu and possibly Bor.
WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME AIMS TO REACH 400,000 UPROOTED PEOPLE IN SOUTH SUDAN
- The World Food Programme (WFP) has launched a new emergency operation to expand aid to people affected by the crisis in South Sudan.
- The operation seeks to provide food for up to 400,000 internally displaced people. It will cost nearly $60 million and last three months.
- The Programme, which began providing food for the uprooted just days after fighting broke out last month, has already reached at least 100,000 people.
- For its part, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said that the recent violence in South Sudan is threatening to increase hunger and human suffering considerably.
- The Organization said that the fighting could unravel modest gains made in food security in the past two years.
BLUE HELMETS FIRED UPON IN MALI
- The UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) says that, on Saturday, a patrol of peacekeepers was fired upon by attackers near Aguelhok in Kidal province.
- Three peacekeepers were wounded in the subsequent exchange of fire. They were evacuated for treatment to Gao.
- The peacekeepers were investigating a series of explosions which had taken place in the area the day before.
U.N. POLITICAL CHIEF VISITS CHINA
- Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, was a keynote speaker today at a Shanghai conference on Global Transformative Governance with a focus on China-UN Cooperation. In his speech, he focused on the UN's work in conflict prevention and peacemaking and emphasized the importance of Chinese-UN cooperation.
- From Shanghai, Mr. Feltman travelled to Beijing, where he will have consultations with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other officials on a wide variety of issues on the UN's peace and security agenda.
SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES RESTRAINT IN BANGLADESH
- In response to questions, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General reiterates his calls for restraint and urges political leaders on all sides in Bangladesh to respect the right to assembly and expression and to continue the dialogue leading to inclusive polls in the future. He is concerned about the arrest and detention of high-profile opposition leaders and large numbers of activists.
- The Secretary-General is also deeply concerned about the recent attacks on religious minorities, in particular the Hindu community, and encourages the Government to take immediate action to prevent further violence and to ensure the protection of such communities. He underscores the need to initiate a thorough and independent investigation into these incidents. The expectations of the people of Bangladesh for peace, tolerance and an inclusive political process must be respected.
- Asked about cholera in Haiti, the Spokesperson pointed to the large amount of work being done by the UN and its partners to improve sanitation in the country.
- Asked about talks on Iran’s nuclear programme, the Spokesperson noted the progress that has been achieved. The Secretary-General is aware of reports that talks may resume in February, which would be a welcome development.
***The guest at the Noon Briefing was Babacar Gaye, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA). He briefed reporters by telephone link from the capital, Bangui, on the situation in the country.