HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY FARHAN HAQ,
ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
MONDAY, 27 JANUARY 2014
IN CUBA, SECRETARY-GENERAL MEETS TOP OFFICIALS
- The Secretary-General arrived in Cuba early this morning, and he has been holding bilateral meetings with Cuban officials.
- He has met with First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel and is scheduled to meet President Raul Castro later today. He will also meet with the President of the country’s parliament, the Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, and Marino Murillo, who oversees Cuba’s economic and social policy transformation.
- The Secretary-General also toured Old Havana to look at the development and economic transformation of the area. He also visited the Cuban National Centre for Sex Education where he attended an event related to his campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women.
- On Tuesday, the Secretary-General is scheduled to attend the opening of the second summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). He will address the summit and hold a number of bilateral meetings with visiting foreign leaders.
- On arrival in Havana earlier today, the Secretary-General said he looked forward to hearing views from CELAC leaders on key topics from peace and security to sustainable development and human rights. He said would be discussing such topics with Cuban leaders.
- He will also visit a medical school on Tuesday and meet the chief of civil defence. He will leave Cuba on Tuesday evening to fly to Germany.
UKRAINE: IN CALL WITH PRESIDENT, BAN CALLS FOR DIALOGUE TO RESOLVE CRISIS, PREVENT BLOODSHED
- The Secretary-General spoke today with the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.
- He informed the President that he has continued to follow the situation in Ukraine closely and shared his grave concern about recent developments in the country.
- The Secretary-General recalled his statement of 20 January, calling for meaningful, sustained and inclusive dialogue by all parties in order to find a solution to the crisis and prevent further bloodshed. He encouraged the President to lead the way to a constructive dialogue process to help resolve the crisis in his country peacefully and through compromise.
- The Secretary-General assured the President that the United Nations stood by Ukraine and its people.
SYRIA ENVOY SAYS GENEVA TALKS CONTINUING
- The Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, spoke to reporters following today’s meeting in Geneva between the parties and he said that efforts to have the negotiations produce confidence-building measures are continuing.
- He said he was encouraged that the negotiations have at last begun, although he added that it is only one little step forward and that any gains made so far are reversible.
- Asked about humanitarian access to Homs, the Spokesperson said that the humanitarian organizations working in Syria continue to do their best to deliver aid to people in areas affected or cut off by the fighting, and they are ready to proceed with convoys of life-saving aid, including to Aleppo and Homs.
- He said that it is now up to the parties to make that possible. More information would be expected once trucks of aid have reached their destination safely.
MORE CHEMICAL WEAPONS SHIPPED FROM SYRIA, JOINT MISSION REPORTS
- The Joint Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations says that a further shipment of chemical weapons materials from Syria has taken place today. The chemical weapons were verified by Joint Mission personnel before being loaded in Latakia port onto Danish and Norwegian cargo vessels for onward transportation.
- The vessels were accompanied by a naval escort provided by the People’s Republic of China, Denmark, Norway and the Russian Federation.
- The Joint Mission looks forward to the Syrian Arab Republic continuing its efforts to complete the removal of its chemical weapons materials in a safe, secure and timely manner.
U.N. HUMANITARIAN CHIEF BEGINS VISIT TO SOUTH SUDAN
- The Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, arrived in South Sudan earlier today. She visited displaced families at the UN base in the capital, Juba, and met with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Hilde Johnson, as well as members of the humanitarian community.
- At the base, Ms. Amos met a women’s group who expressed fears about returning home because of the ongoing insecurity.
- Violence in South Sudan, which started over six weeks ago, has left more than half a million people displaced, including over 112,000 people who have fled to neighbouring countries.
- On Tuesday, Ms. Amos is expected to travel to Upper Nile State, where hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. And on Wednesday, she is expected to hold a press conference in Juba.
- Meanwhile, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reports it has conducted 213 military and 45 police patrols over the last 24 hours, including in Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile States. The Mission says that the situation remains fragile in the country.
- Overall, the Mission continues to protect nearly 76,000 civilians in eight bases across the country. This includes approximately 36,000 people in two bases in the capital, Juba, and 27,000 people in Malakal in Upper Nile State.
- Asked about reports of violence, the Spokesperson said that the Mission has received reports of sporadic violence in some parts of Unity and Upper Nile States.
- Haq noted that the Mission is not in charge of monitoring the cessation of hostilities agreement. Robust mechanisms have to be put in place to monitor both sides within the mediation framework.
- He added that it is critical that both parties implement the cessation of hostilities agreement in full and immediately.
Côte d'Ivoire ON PATH TO LASTING PEACE, U.N. ENVOY TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL
- The Security Council was briefed this morning on the situation in Côte d'Ivoire. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the country, Aïchatou Mindaoudou, said that Côte d'Ivoire was firmly on the path to lasting peace and stability.
- She noted that the Government had initiated a series of institutional reforms aimed at enhancing political inclusiveness, and had made conciliatory gestures towards the political opposition, notably by provisionally releasing from prison several high-ranking individuals associated with former President Laurent Gbagbo.
- She also said that steps had been taken to address the root causes of the Ivorian crisis, including by passing legislation on land tenure issues and nationality.
- However, she also said that the country was still grappling with security-related challenges, including recurrent incidents of intercommunity and ethnic violence, as well as armed robbery and organized crime.
- The Special Representative said that, as Côte d'Ivoire moves towards a presidential election in 2015, it was important to work now to put in place the conditions for an environment conducive to peaceful elections. She said that considerable progress would be needed in key areas such as electoral reforms, disarmament and security sector reform.
- Earlier this morning, the Security Council adopted a resolution on kidnapping for ransom by terrorists.
U.N. RIGHTS CHIEF WARNS OF DETERIORATING SECURITY SITUATION IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
- The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said today that the security and human rights situation has further deteriorated in the Central African Republic over the past few days. She called on the international community to strengthen peacekeeping efforts.
- Ms. Pillay welcomed Catherine Samba-Panza’s appointment as Head of State of the Transition as well as her repeated calls for an end to violence. But she said that Muslim civilians were now extremely vulnerable. Many are being pushed out of the country, alongside ex-Séléka members, and are now fleeing, mostly towards the Chadian border.
- Serious incidents of violence have also been reported beyond Bangui as ex-Séléka and Muslim civilians flee the country.
- Ms. Pillay said that we simply cannot let the social fabric of this country be torn apart and stressed the need to urgently restore security not only in Bangui but also in other parts of the country.
TOP U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIAL VOICES CONCERN OVER UPTICK IN EGYPT VIOLENCE
- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said today that she was gravely concerned about the escalating violence in Egypt in recent days that has led to scores of people being killed and injured. She called for a prompt investigation into the incidents that led to the regrettable loss of lives, and appealed on all sides to exercise restraint.
- She noted that at least 62 people were killed in Cairo on Saturday, and she called on all sides to renounce the use of violence.
- The High Commissioner stressed that security forces in Egypt must at all times operate in line with international human rights laws and standards on the use of force, and she also condemned the violent attacks against police and security forces.
TUNISIA: SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES ADOPTION OF NEW CONSTITUTION
- In a statement issued Sunday evening, the Secretary-General commends the commitment to dialogue and consensus that has marked the democratic transition in Tunisia, which reached another historic milestone with the adoption yesterday of a new constitution. He believes Tunisia's example can be a model to other peoples seeking reforms.
- The Secretary-General encourages political actors in Tunisia to ensure the next steps of the transition are conducted in a peaceful, inclusive and transparent manner.
- Also, the Secretary-General spoke with the country’s President, Moncef Marzouki, on Saturday.
BAN SPEAKS OUT AGAINST ASSASSINATION OF IRANIAN DIPLOMAT IN YEMEN
- In response to a question, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General condemns the assassination in Yemen’s capital Sana’a on 18 January of Abolqassem Assadi, a cultural attaché, who served with the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
- The Secretary-General is concerned that terrorist attacks and hostage-taking have continued in Yemen. He recalls that according to the 1979 International Convention, hostage-taking is an offence of grave concern to the international community.
- The Secretary-General expresses his condolences to the bereaved family of Mr. Assadi and the Government of Iran. He calls for the perpetrators of this crime to be brought to justice, as well as for the immediate release of all hostages in Yemen.
DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL TO ATTEND AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT IN ETHIOPIA
- The Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Addis Ababa on Tuesday to represent the Secretary-General at the African Union Assembly of Heads of States and Governments.
- In Addis Ababa, the Deputy Secretary-General will address the Opening Ceremony of the 22nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union. During his visit, he will meet with Nkosazana Dhlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, as well as senior Government Officials of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and Heads of Delegations of other Member States attending the Summit. In addition, he will take part in the Central African Republic Pledging Conference.
- The Deputy Secretary-General will also meet with the UN Country Team, address a Town Hall meeting and conduct a field visit to a UNICEF community household sanitation improvements project.
- The Deputy Secretary-General will return to New York on 2 February.
ANNUAL HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL CEREMONY HELD AT U.N. HEADQUARTERS
- This morning, the General Assembly has been holding its yearly memorial ceremony for the victims of the Holocaust.
- In a video message, the Secretary-General said that this year’s commemoration focuses on journeys through the Holocaust, and he recalled his own recent journey to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.
- He said that the United Nations was founded to prevent such horror as the Holocaust from happening again, yet tragedies from Cambodia to Rwanda to Srebrenica show that the poison of genocide still flows.
- The Secretary-General said that, standing near the crematorium at Auschwitz, he felt deeply saddened by all that had happened within. He said that he was also inspired by all those who liberated the death camps for all humanity, and he called for everyone to join forces on a shared journey to a world of equality and dignity for all.