HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY, SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
MONDAY, 20 JANUARY 2014
SYRIA: SECRETARY-GENERAL DISMAYED BY DEVELOPMENTS ON PARTICIPATION IN GENEVA CONFERENCE
- The Secretary-General, who has expended extraordinary efforts to try to end the suffering in Syria, is dismayed by the developments regarding participation in the Geneva Conference on Syria, scheduled to begin Wednesday in Montreux.
- Some key participants have conditioned their acceptance to the inclusion or exclusion of other delegations. Iran, despite assurances provided orally to the Secretary-General, has made a disappointing public statement that suggests Iran does not accept that the basis for the Geneva conference, as defined by the two initiating states, the Russian Federation and the United States, is the full implementation of the 30 June 2012 Geneva communique, including the establishment by mutual consent of a transitional governing body with full executive powers.
- The Secretary-General underscores that now is the time for a push for peace in Syria on that basis. This is not the time to add conditions but to build momentum behind such a political solution for Syria.
- The Secretary-General is currently urgently considering his options, in light of the disappointing reaction of some participants.
- In answer to questions on Iran’s invitation to the Geneva Conference, the Spokesperson said the Secretary-General had emphasized to all parties that the invitation stated clearly that the purpose of conference was the full implementation of the 30 June 2012 Geneva communiqué.
- He said that the Secretary-General remained convinced that Iran was and important regional player. However, Nesirky added that the assurances given to the Secretary-General by the Iranian authorities had not been followed on. He also said that the statement issued today from Tehran fell short of what the Secretary-General had expected to hear.
- Asked if the Secretary-General had expected a public statement by Iran, the Spokesperson said that he had indeed said yesterday in his press briefing that he was expecting such a statement, in line with the oral assurances he had been given. He said the Secretary-General was deeply disappointed by the statement which was not consistent with the assurances he had received.
- Asked if the Secretary-General would rescind the invitation to Iran, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General was urgently considering his options in light of what he considered disappointing reactions. He noted that some key participants had conditioned their participation to the inclusion and exclusion of others.
- Asked if the Secretary-General had consulted the United States and Russia before issuing this invitation, Nesirky said that he had been in close contact with them today, over the weekend and for days and weeks before on this topic, as well as with a variety of other leaders. He added that the American authorities were fully aware of the timing of the announcement. He stressed that there had been discussions at various levels involving various United Nations, Russian and American officials.
- In response to questions on the complexity of the situation inside Syria, Nesirky said that was why a political solution was needed. He added that the good will and solidarity of the international community was essential to insure that a political solution would be implemented. The Spokesperson explained that the intention of the Montreux meeting was to provide that international solidarity. But he noted that it was for the Syrian parties to hold their own meeting, mediated by Lakhdar Brahimi, and to come up with a deal based on the Geneva communiqué.
- Nesirky also clarified that the part of the conference taking place in Montreux was a one day meeting of international players and organizations brought together to express their solidarity with the Syrian people. He added that this would then been followed on Friday, 24 January, by Syrian-led talks between the Government and the opposition, mediated by Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, in Geneva.
SECRETARY-GENERAL BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON MIDDLE EAST
- On Monday morning, the Secretary-General briefed the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East.
- On Lebanon, the Secretary-General commended the leadership of President Michel Sleiman to uphold the country’s disassociation policy. This, he said, is vital to prevent the Syrian crisis from exacerbating tensions in Lebanon as has been seen with recent acts of terrorism and bombings.
- The Secretary-General said that 2014 will be a decisive year to help Israelis and Palestinians draw back from a perilous and unsustainable status quo.
- He said that we face possibly the last attempt to salvage the two-state solution. The Secretary-General said that his message to President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is clear: If they are prepared to take the bold decisions required, the Secretary-General will push ahead on the positive agenda of peace dividends for both sides and ensure the United Nations works towards realizing the legitimate aspirations of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples within the framework of a comprehensive regional settlement.
SITUATION IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC REQUIRES IMMEDIATE, CONCERTED ACTION - SECRETARY-GENERAL
- The Secretary-General said that the situation in the Central African Republic was a crisis of epic proportions which requires immediate and concerted action.
- In a message to the Human Rights Council’s Special Session on the Central African Republic held in Geneva, he said that the country was in freefall, with collapsed public service institutions, disintegrated security forces and documented widespread human rights violations.
- The Secretary-General called for an immediate end to the cycle of violence and retaliation and urged all to prioritize national reconciliation and lasting peace. His full message is available online and that message was read by Michael Møller, acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG).
- The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, also speaking at that meeting, said that a more robust response to the crisis was urgently needed to protect civilians, prevent further violence, end impunity and promote reconciliation.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: U.N. MISSION WELCOMES ELECTION OF NEW HEAD OF STATE OF TRANSITION
- The UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic, BINUCA, has welcomed the election on Monday of Catherine Samba-Panza as the new Head of State of the Transition in the country.
- The Office says this election must mark a new beginning as the country moves towards the full restoration of democratic legitimacy, including through free, transparent, and democratic consultations.
- It also called on all actors to seize this opportunity and put an end to the senseless violence in the country.
NEARLY $500 MILLION PLEDGED FOR CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, SAYS U.N. RELIEF OFFICE
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that nearly half a billion dollars was pledged for the Central African Republic on Monday at a high-level meeting organized in Brussels by the Office and the European Commission.
- The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, said that the UN’s humanitarian agencies and NGO partners were scaling up their presence across the country and are delivering as fast as security and access conditions allow.
- The World Food Programme (WFP) said on Monday that insecurity was blocking supply routes and that it is running out of food to distribute to growing numbers of displaced people in the country.
- It says that 38 of its trucks carrying rice are blocked at the Central African Republic border with Cameroon, along with hundreds of other vehicles. Following recent fighting, commercial and WFP truck drivers have refused to cross the border.
- As a last resort, the World Food Programme is considering airlifting food from Douala in Cameroon to Bangui, but this would substantially increase the cost of its emergency operation in the Central African Republic.
MALI: U.N. MISSION VEHICLE HIT IMPROVISED EXPLOSIVE DEVICE
- The United Nations Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) says that, on Monday morning, one of its vehicle hit an improvised explosive device (IED), approximately 30km north of Kidal, on the road to Aguelhok.
- Five peacekeepers were injured – none of them seriously – in the explosion. They have been evacuated by a medical team to Kidal.
AFGHANISTAN: SECRETARY-GENERAL EXPRESSES SORROW OVER KILLING OF FOUR U.N. STAFF IN TERRORIST ATTACK
- The Secretary-General over the weekend expressed his sorrow over the killing of four members of the UN family in a terrorist attack in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Friday.
- He extended his deepest condolences to the families of Basra Hassan of the United States; Nasrin Khan of Pakistan; Khanjar Wabel Abdallah of Lebanon; and Vadim Nazarov of Russia.
- The Secretary-General called the terrorist attack, in which the four UN staff were killed, totally unacceptable and a violation of international humanitarian law. All the perpetrators must be held accountable.
- Yesterday, the UN system in Afghanistan held a memorial service in Kabul.
- The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Jan Kubiš, said that among the 13 foreigners killed in the attack were different nationals coming from different countries around one mission and one dream to work for Afghanistan: to work for peace in this country, for development, for human rights and humanity.
U.N. MISSION IN SOUTH SUDAN REPORTS CLASHES IN MALAKAL
- The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has reported clashes on Monday between Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and anti-government forces in Malakal, in Upper Nile State.
- The Mission said heavy fighting involving small arms occurred very close to the UN base in the town. Bullets are reported to have landed inside the base, wounding at least 32 civilians and two UN contractors who had sought shelter there. The Mission also says that its hospital inside the base has been considerably damaged.
- It added that fighting close to the UN base in Malakal had stopped late in the day, but that fighting continued in other parts of the town.
- The Mission once again condemns any fighting taking place nearby its bases and calls on all parties to respect the integrity of UN installations and the safety and security of civilians taking refuge inside the bases and all UN personnel.
- And you will have seen the statement we issued last night in which the Secretary-General demanded that all parties to the conflict respect the sanctity of UNMISS protection sites.
- The Mission is currently protecting 22,000 civilians in Malakal, and overall, more 70,000 civilians are being protected by peacekeepers in eight bases in the country.
- UNMISS says that it has conducted more than 140 patrols in the past 24 hours, including in various locations in the capital, Juba, as well as in Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile States.
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that 494,000 people are internally displaced and 86,100 have fled to neighbouring countries.
GLOBAL ECONOMY TO IMPROVE OVER NEXT TWO YEARS – U.N. REPORT
- Global economic growth should increase over the next two years with continuing signs of improvement, according to a new UN report launched on Monday.
- The World Economic Situation and Prospects 2014 (WESP) report says that the global economy is expected to grow at a pace of 3 per cent in 2014 and 3.3 per cent in 2015, compared with an estimated growth of 2.1 per cent for 2013.
- The world economy experienced subdued growth for a second year in 2013, but some improvements in the last quarter have led to the UN’s more positive forecast. The euro zone has finally ended a protracted recession.
- Growth in the United States strengthened somewhat. A few large emerging economies, including China and India, managed to backstop the deceleration they experienced in the past two years and veered upwards moderately.
- East Asia is expected to experience moderate economic growth over the next two years as developed economies – the region’s main trade partners – gradually recover.
- Latin America and the Caribbean are expected to accelerate their growth to 3.6 per cent and 4.1 per cent in the next couple of years, up from 2.6 per cent in 2013.
- The end of the recession in Western Europe will bring an increase in economic activity in Europe in 2014, but growth will be slow and high unemployment will persist.
NOBEL LAUREATE JOSEPH STIGLITZ TO SPEAK ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AT U.N. HEADQUARTERS
- Journalists are invited to Monday’s roundtable on sustainable development with Nobel Laureate and Professor Joseph Stiglitz. The roundtalble will take place at 3pm in the Economic and Social Council Chamber and will be webcast live.