HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FARHAN HAQ, ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
MONDAY, 6 JANUARY 2014
SECRETARY-GENERAL SENDING INVITATIONS FOR GENEVA CONFERENCE ON SYRIA
- Today, the Secretary-General is sending invitations to Syrian and international participants of the Geneva Conference on Syria. The list of invitees was determined at the 20 December Trilateral meeting between the Russian Federation, the United States and the United Nations.
- The Conference is the result of an important initiative announced by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry on 7 May 2013 in Moscow. It aims to bring two broadly representative and credible delegations of the Syrian Government and opposition to a negotiating table in order to end the conflict and launch a political transition process through the full implementation of the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012.
- The Secretary-General views the conference as a unique opportunity for ending the violence and ensuring that peace can be restored and the transition foreseen in the Geneva Communiqué can be implemented in a way that fully meets the aspirations of the Syrian people. At the core of this effort is the establishment of a transitional governing body based on mutual consent.
- The Conference will convene under the chairmanship of the Secretary-General, first in an international high-level format at Montreux, Switzerland, on 22 January 2014. Negotiations between the two Syrian parties, facilitated by Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, will start at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on 24 January 2014.
- Asked about Iran’s participation, the Spokesperson recalled that the Secretary-General has said that he is in favour of inviting Iran, but discussions between the initiating States have not produced final results yet.
- Haq noted that US Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov will meet on 13 January, and expressed the hope they will reach agreement on Iran's participation. He added that the active support of regional powers in a political solution is critical.
- Asked about the composition of an opposition delegation, Haq noted that the opposition has not yet named members of its delegation for the Geneva Conference. He said that the United Nations urges the Syrian opposition to name their “broadly representative” delegation as soon as possible, so as to allow sufficient time to prepare for negotiations.
BAN SADDENED BY VIOLENCE MARRING BANGLADESH ELECTIONS
- The Secretary-General is saddened by the loss of life and incidents of violence that marred yesterday’s parliamentary elections in Bangladesh, which were characterised by polarisation and low participation. He regrets that the parties did not reach the kind of agreements which could have produced a peaceful, all-inclusive election outcome.
- He calls on all sides to exercise restraint and ensure first and foremost a peaceful and conducive environment, where people can maintain their right to assembly and expression. Violence and attacks on people and property can never be acceptable.
- The Secretary-General calls on the political parties to resume meaningful dialogue and to urgently address the expectations of the people of Bangladesh for an inclusive political process. The UN will continue to support the country’s democratic processes in accordance with the principles of inclusiveness, non-violence, reconciliation and dialogue.
SOUTH SUDAN: U.N. MISSION REPORTS TROOPS ARE MOBILIZING
- The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) says that there have been signs of mobilisation over the weekend of both pro- and anti-government troops in many locations in the country, including reports of military clashes.
- It adds that the situation in Bor remains tense. During the past few days, there has been heavy fighting between pro-government and anti-government forces south of Bor.
- The UN Mission continues to protect approximately 9,000 civilians in its compound in Bor. The resupply of the UNMISS Bor base is becoming a critical issue and medical capacity continues to be severely overstretched.
- The Mission has called on both the Government and anti-government forces to cooperate to allow resupply flights.
- In Juba, the Mission reports that the situation is tense, with incidents of shooting over the weekend. This includes exchanges of fire on Saturday night near the Jebel market and the National Security headquarters, resulting in a further 1,000 civilians taking shelter in the UN House base. The Mission also reports that there was a shooting incident nearby the Mission’s Tomping base on Sunday night, with a further number people taking shelter at the base.
- Three Bangladesh military utility helicopters deployed to Juba today, on temporary loan from the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These helicopters will be used to transport personnel and equipment to reinforce UNMISS bases throughout the country. Preparations are underway for the deployment of new troop battalions and additional police personnel in the coming days.
- Asked about the fighting, the Spokesperson reiterated that the United Nations has called for a political solution to the crisis. He noted the efforts to reach a political solution in Addis Ababa and the efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in that regard.
UNDER NEW JORDANIAN PRESIDENCY, SECURITY COUNCIL AGREES ON JANUARY PROGRAMME OF WORK
- The Security Council, in its first consultations for January, agreed on its programme of work this morning.
- This afternoon, the Security Council is scheduled to hold a formal meeting, followed by consultations, on the Central African Republic. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman will brief Council members on the latest developments there and the work of the UN integrated office, BINUCA.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: ONE-FIFTH OF POPULATION UPROOTED, U.N. RELIEF WING REPORTS
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the ongoing violence has forced about a fifth of the population of the Central African Republic to flee their homes.
- It adds that according to recent estimates, nearly 1 million people have been displaced with more than half of them in the capital, Bangui, alone. There has been a 40 per cent increase in displaced people in Bangui since 24 December.
- The Office also says that some 2.2 million people - or about half the population of the Central African Republic - need humanitarian assistance. But insecurity, as well as the lack of funding and access to people in need, continues to hamper aid efforts, including assessments and response.
- The Office adds that insecurity at the international airport in Bangui, where about 100,000 people have sought refuge this month, has made it hard to provide essential services, including an emergency vaccination campaign against measles, which started across the country on 3 January.
- Despite the challenges, UN agencies and humanitarian partners are reaching people with essential relief supplies. The World Food Programme (WFP) provided over 1.7 metric tons of food to nearly 250,000 people in December. But it says that its food aid will be 90 per cent depleted in February due to the lack of funding.
- Meanwhile, health partners have been providing malnutrition care in six camps in Bangui. Aid organizations have also provided soap, blankets, kitchen sets, sleeping mats and mosquito nets to hundreds of families around the country.
- Asked about the need for a UN peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic, the Spokesperson said that it was up to the Security Council to determine whether such a force would be established. For now, there is a multinational force in the country, MISCA.
U.N. LEBANON ENVOY MEETS SENIOR SAUDI OFFICIALS
- The Secretary-General's Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, visited Saudi Arabia today and met with senior Saudi officials, including the Second Deputy Prime Minister and the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs.
- He discussed the support agenda for Lebanon and the region ahead of the conference on Syrian refugees, which is to be held in Kuwait on 15 January.
- Following the discussions, Mr. Plumbly noted the crucial importance of the Lebanese Armed Forces for security and stability in Lebanon and the calls by the Security Council, the Secretary-General and the International Support Group for international assistance in support of the Lebanese Armed Forces.
- He warmly welcomed the very generous pledge of assistance from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in that regard recently announced by President Michel Sleiman.
SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS NEW SPECIAL ADVISER FOR RELOCATION OF IRAQ CAMP RESIDENTS
- The Secretary-General has appointed Jane Holl Lute of the United States as his Special Adviser for Relocation of Camp Hurriya Residents Outside of Iraq.
- Ms. Holl Lute will work with a wide range of stakeholders, in particular Member States, with a view to facilitating the relocation of residents of Camp Hurriya outside of Iraq.
- Ms. Holl Lute also has previously served as Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support (2008-2009) and Assistant Secretary-General for Mission Support in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (2003-2008).
U.N. INVESTIGATION FINDS NO EVIDENCE OF MISCONDUCT BY SOMALIA PROGRAMME MANAGER
- In response to questions, the Spokesperson said that the inquiry conducted by the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) Internal Audit and Investigation Group into the programme manager in Somalia was extensive and did not find any evidence of misconduct. The findings have been shared with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).
- No further action was deemed necessary and the matter is now closed.
FORMER U.N. CORRESPONDENT MOURNED
- The Spokesperson expressed sorrow at the death of veteran reporter Michael Littlejohns, who died in New York at the age of 90 on Friday.
- Michael Littlejohns was a long-time UN correspondent for Reuters, and he also worked for the Financial Times and was the host of “World Chronicle,” a UN television programme. He had also served as President of the UN Correspondents Association.