HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FARHAN HAQ, ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
TUESDAY, 21 JANUARY 2014
SECRETARY-GENERAL ARRIVES IN SWITZERLAND AHEAD OF SYRIA CONFERENCE
- The Secretary-General has arrived in Montreux, Switzerland, ahead of tomorrow's high-level segment of the Geneva Conference on Syria. He is meeting a number of leaders this evening.
- The Secretary-General flew to Montreux by Swiss military helicopter from the UN headquarters in Geneva, where he addressed the opening of the 2014 session of the Conference on Disarmament.
- He told the delegates that his message was clear: do not wait for others to move. Be the first mover. He said that delegates should not hide behind utopian logic which says that, until we have the perfect security environment, nuclear disarmament cannot proceed. He said we must face the realities of the 21st century. The Conference on Disarmament can be a driving force for building a safer world and a better future.
- While in Geneva, the Secretary-General also met Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
- On Wednesday, the Secretary-General will open the high-level part of the Geneva Conference in Montreux. The two Syrian parties will start their negotiations on Friday in Geneva, with mediation by Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi and his team.
- Asked about the reasons for not inviting Iran to the Conference, the Spokesperson noted that it was made clear in a statement on Monday that, in a series of meetings and telephone conversations, senior Iranian officials assured the Secretary-General that Iran understood and supported the basis and goal of the Conference, including the Geneva Communiqué.
- The Secretary-General was deeply disappointed by Iranian public statements that were not at all consistent with that stated commitment. He continues to urge Iran to join the global consensus behind the Geneva Communiqué. Given that it has chosen to remain outside that basic understanding, he decided that the one-day Montreux gathering will proceed without Iran’s participation.
- Asked whether the participants at the Conference needed to abide by the terms of the Geneva Communiqué, Haq noted the importance of promoting implementation of the Geneva Communiqué, including the establishment of a transitional governing body with full executive powers.
- He said that although it is clear that many different countries with opposing views on Syria will meet at Montreux, the expectation is that they will push the parties to negotiate in good faith so that the Geneva Communiqué can be implemented and the war can be brought to an end.
- Asked why the Secretary-General had invited Iran at all, the Spokesperson said that he had explained his decision and how it followed oral assurances that he had been given by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Those oral assurances were not followed by public statements, however.
- Asked whether the United Nations had been in touch with the US Government, Haq said that the United States and other key countries had been kept informed throughout the process that took place in recent days.
BAN KI-MOON SPEAKS OUT AGAINST BEIRUT CAR BOMBING, CALLS TERRORISM IN LEBANON ‘UNACCEPTABLE’
- The Secretary-General condemns the car bombing today in the southern Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik that has caused deaths and injuries. He extends his condolences to the families of the victims and the Government and people of Lebanon. He calls for the perpetrators of this heinous crime to be brought to justice.
- The recurrent acts of terrorism and violence in Lebanon are totally unacceptable. The Secretary-General calls on all Lebanese parties to come together in support of their State institutions, particularly the security forces, and to strive for national unity as the best safeguard of Lebanon’s security and stability in the face of terrorism.
- Also speaking out against today’s bombing was Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, who said that today’s explosion, the third bombing in Lebanon in as many weeks, is another deeply disturbing act of indiscriminate terror, he said. Such acts cannot be justified, and are contrary to the interests of all Lebanese.
- The Special Coordinator called on all Lebanese to come together, and encouraged all steps that help reinforce national unity at this difficult time, including the recent momentum to form a new government.
SOUTH SUDAN: U.N. MISSION CONTINUES PATROLS
- The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has conducted 49 police and 112 military patrols in the past 24-hour period, including in the capital, Juba, Bentiu in Unity State, and Malakal in Upper Nile State.
- In Malakal, the Mission has received reports that the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) appears to be in control of the town, after heavy fighting between the SPLA and anti-government forces on Monday.
- The Mission reports continued small scale fighting in the town today. The Mission is also very concerned about the continued reports of extra-judicial killings that it is receiving. The Mission will seek to investigate these reports.
- In the south, in Unity State, the Mission has received reports of rising tensions in the town of Leer, as the SPLA is reported to be advancing toward the town.
- In Bor, in Jonglei state, UNMISS reports the situation to be calm in the vicinity of its compound. Approximately 1,000 UN troops and police are currently protecting 10,000 civilians sheltering in the Mission's protection site in Bor.
- The Mission continues efforts to organise resupply flights from Juba to its bases in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity States.
- Asked about President Salva Kiir’s recent comments about the UN Mission, the Spokesperson said that the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, is implementing its Security Council mandate in an impartial manner.
- The Mission continues to protect over 70,000 civilians inside its bases in eight locations across the country. And the Mission continues to keep it gates open to civilians from all communities and backgrounds, who are fleeing the violence.
- Haq said that it is critical that South Sudanese Government leaders and all public figures take care in public statements and comments to ease tensions and to lessen the possibility of further violence.
- As Assistant Secretary-General Ivan Simonovic stated at the noon briefing on Monday, following his visit to South Sudan, it is clear that all sides have committed serious human rights violations against civilians.
- Comments by senior public figures, from both the Government and the anti-Goverment side, against the Mission, risk inflaming the situation and being taken by others as incitement to violence against civilians sheltering inside UNMISS bases and against UN personnel. In such a volatile situation, it is a time for careful, measured public statements, aimed at calming, not inflaming, the situation.
- Asked about the weekend incident at the UN base in Bor, the Spokesperson said that a senior Government minister along with SPLA soldiers attempted to enter the UNMISS protection site in Bor, which protects nearly 10,000 civilians.
- In order to maintain the civilian character of the protection area within the UNMISS camp, the Mission informed the Minister that only unarmed civilians would be allowed in, without weapons or cameras.
- The Secretary-General is particularly disturbed that United Nations staff were threatened by South Sudan military when they refused to allow armed soldiers to accompany civilians to visit the UNMISS protection site.
- In the past, Haq said, UNMISS has facilitated meeting with community leaders during visits of government officials to its protection sites. He condemned the threats made against UN personnel and reiterated that all parties to the conflict must respect the sanctity of UNMISS protection sites.
U.N. YEMEN ENVOY: CONCLUSION OF NATIONAL DIALOGUE CONFERENCE ‘HISTORIC’
- Jamal Benomar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Yemen, congratulated the Yemeni people for concluding the National Dialogue Conference today, which he called a historic moment for Yemen.
- Mr. Benomar commends the unprecedented Yemeni achievement. After being on the brink of civil war, Yemenis negotiated an agreement for peaceful change. He notes that Yemen serves as a model for comprehensive national dialogue, based on transparency, inclusivity and active and meaningful participation of all political and social constituencies.
- Mr. Benomar also strongly condemned the assassination of Dr. Ahmed Sharafuddine, the Ansar Allah delegate to the National Dialogue Conference, today in Sana’a.
- Mr. Benomar said that this crime targets Yemen and is a desperate attempt to jeopardize the political process and the National Dialogue. He further calls upon the Yemeni authorities to bring those responsible to justice.
SECRETARY-GENERAL, U.N. RIGHTS CHIEF VOICE CONCERN OVER UKRAINE CLASHES
- The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has appealed to all parties to engage in constructive dialogue in Ukraine to avoid further escalation of the unrest in the country. She said that the violent clashes over the past few days in the centre of Kiev are very worrying. She also recommended that the dialogue be inclusive and sustained over time.
- Ms. Pillay expressed serious concern about the legislative package passed last Thursday, 16, January, which introduces strict conditions for the exercise of fundamental rights. She has called on the authorities to suspend application of the laws to allow time for a thorough review of their content, which must be in full compliance with international human rights standards.
- In a statement issued on Monday evening, the Secretary-General said that he continues to follow developments in Ukraine closely and with concern. He reiterates his appeal to all concerned to act with restraint, avoid any further escalation and violence and to uphold the democratic principles of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
IN EASTERN D.R. CONGO, U.N. FORCE COMMANDER VISITS BENI
- The Force Commander of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) visited Beni in North Kivu today.
- General Carlos Dos Santos Cruz said that it was clear that the population had been suffering for a long time and called on armed groups to stop fighting.
- He said the UN Mission was there to provide logistical and tactical support to the Congolese army to stop these armed groups.