SPOKESPERSON’S DAILY HIGHLIGHTS
BY MARTIN NESIRKY, SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
TUESDAY, 24 JANUARY 2012
SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES THE MIDDLE EAST
- This morning Oscar Fernandez Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.
- Mr. Fernandez Taranco reported that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators started meeting 3 January in Amman, under the auspices of King Abdulla and Foreign Minister Judeh.
- He noted the Secretary-General commended Palestinian and Israeli leaders on these important first steps, and remains hopeful that these negotiations will continue and lead to serious negotiations based on comprehensive proposals on territory and security.
- However, actions on the ground continue to contribute to tensions. Mr. Fernandez Taranco said the United Nations continues to call for the lifting of the closure of the Gaza border, and believes this can be done with due consideration for Israel’s legitimate security concerns.
- Turning to Syria, Mr. Fernandez Taranco noted time is pressing for violence and human rights violations to stop and for a credible, inclusive, and Syrian-led political process to start in Syria. He hoped the international community will act in a concerted and coherent manner in support of efforts for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.
- Asked about the situation in Syria, Nesirky said that the Secretary-General had spoken by telephone yesterday with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States. He added that they discussed the most recent meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the League of Arab States and the decisions taken there.
- The Spokesperson also noted that the Secretary-General reiterated the readiness of United Nations to provide support in the form of training for the observers of the Arab League mission to Syria. [He subsequently confirmed the Secretary-General had received a letter from the League of Arab States.]
SECRETARY-GENERAL ATTENDS SECOND DAY OF CYPRUS TALKS
- The Secretary-General has left for the Greentree estate, in Long Island, where he will spend the afternoon meeting with the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities for a second day.
- Last night, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, described the first day of talks as intensive. He added that the discussions focused on the core issues. Downer noted that the Secretary-General had made his expectations clear and that it was for the leaders to make decisive moves.
- The Secretary-General will make remarks to the press here at Headquarters following his two-day meeting with those leaders.
- In response to a question on the time devoted by the Secretary-General to this fifth meeting with leaders, the Spokesperson said that it was an indication of the United Nations’ willingness to help move this Cypriot-led process forward.
SECRETARY-GENERAL APPEALS TO CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT TO START NEGOTIATIONS
- The Secretary-General appealed today to the members of the Conference on Disarmament to support the immediate start of negotiations on agreed issues.
- In a message to the first meeting of the Conference for its 2012 session, the Secretary-General said that the Conference on Disarmament was no longer living up to expectations. He urged them to seize this moment, when the world is focused intently on advancing disarmament goals.
- Asked about the idea of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, the Spokesperson said that this initiative was continuing. He said that the Conference on Disarmament should regain the central role it could and should be playing in disarmament developments.
- Nesirky also said that the Secretary-General had noted that other mechanisms could be brought in to play if the Conference on Disarmament cannot deliver in line with existing expectations.
UN REFUGEE AGENCY CONDEMNS AIR RAID ON SOUTH SUDAN
- The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has condemned an air raid in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state yesterday which hit a refugee transit site, located less than 10km from the border with Sudan. It says that one refugee was injured and 14 others are missing.
- According to the agency, about 5,000 refugees were at this site at the time of the incident.
- The agency says it is alarmed by this attack on refugees already fleeing violence in Sudan’s Blue Nile state. It also notes that there have been previous attacks on refugees in border areas – at the end of last year in New Gufa, an entry point for refugees also in Upper Nile state, and at the Yida refugee settlement, in Unity state.
- Asked about the withdrawal by Russia of its helicopters with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Nesirky said that this was a decision by the Russian Government. He added that the Department for Peacekeeping Operations had thanked the Russian Government for the critical assistance that it had provided.
- The Spokesperson said that at the moment the Mission was using its existing air assets, which included 24 civilian helicopters.
- Nesirky noted that the United Nations was also in discussion with Member States to determine how they can support the needs of the Mission. He added that the UN has been redeploying some helicopters from its missions in the region to help immediate needs. The Spokesperson stressed the importance of helicopters to allow the UN Mission in South Sudan to fulfil its mandate, in particular the protection of civilians.
PEACEKEEPING HEAD IN D.R.C.
- The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, has arrived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a four-day visit.
- He will meet in Kinshasa with Government officials, and representatives of the UN Mission in the country, MONUSCO.
- Mr. Ladsous will then travel to the eastern town of Goma for further meetings and to see first hand the work of Mission.
HUMAN RIGHTS HIGH COMMISSIONER SHOCKED AT EXECUTIONS IN IRAQ
- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said today that she was shocked at reports that 34 individuals, including two women, were executed in Iraq on 19 January following their conviction for various crimes.
- Ms. Pillay said that given the lack of transparency in court proceedings, major concerns about due process and fairness of trials, and the very wide range of offences for which the death penalty can be imposed in Iraq, this was a shocking figure.
- She called on the Government of Iraq to implement an immediate moratorium on the death penalty.
SECRETARY-GENERAL’S PRESS CONFERENCE
- Tomorrow at 12 p.m there will be a press conference by the Secretary-General.
THE UNITED NATION’S VIEW OF DEVELOPMENTS IN YEMEN: In response to a question on Yemen, the Spokesperson said the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Jamal Benomar, had just left Sana’a over the weekend where he had been monitoring the progress on implementing the agreement signed in November. He said that Mr. Benomar had stressed the need to ensure that all efforts are made so that the elections can take place on time. Concerning amnesty and transitional justice, Mr. Benomar also noted that a law was passed last week and that the Parliament had made significant improvements to that legislation, added Nesirky. He also said that although Mr. Benomar was encouraged by the modifications made to the text, he still believed it did not go far enough.
The Spokesperson noted that Mr. Benomar was expected to brief the Security Council on the situation in Yemen tomorrow.
*** The guest at today’s noon briefing was Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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