HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY, SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
THURSDAY, 31 OCTOBER 2013
SYRIA: JOINT O.P.C.W.-U.N. MISSION VERIFIES DESTRUCTION OF EQUIPMENT
- The Joint Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations confirmed today that the Syrian Government has completed the functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared chemical weapons production facilities and mixing and filling plants, rendering them inoperable. It met the 1 November deadline for the destruction of that equipment.
- The Joint OPCW-UN Mission has inspected 21 of the 23 sites declared by Syria. The two remaining sites were not visited because of safety and security concerns. But Syria declared those sites as abandoned. The items related to chemical weapons that they contained were moved to other declared sites, which were inspected.
- The Joint Mission is now satisfied that it has verified, and seen destroyed, all of Syria’s declared critical production and mixing and filling equipment. Given the progress made in the Joint OPCW-UN Mission in meeting the requirements of the first phase of activities, no further inspection activities are planned for the time being.
- Asked whether the inspectors would visit the two sites that they have not yet visited, the Spokesperson reiterated that the mission is satisfied that it has verified - and seen destroyed - all of Syria’s declared critical production and mixing/filling equipment, and no further inspection activities are currently planned.
- Asked about the Secretary-General’s views of the team’s work, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General this week submitted to the Security Council the report by the OPCW Director General and a separate letter. The Secretary-General said that good progress has been made and noted the challenging timelines that remain.
- In response to questions about the travels of the Senior Coordinator for the Joint OPCW-UN Mission, Sigrid Kaag, Nesirky said that she was in The Hague today for talks with the OPCW Director General and other officials and would be in Moscow on Friday.
- Asked about the forthcoming report by the team headed by Professor Ake Sellström, the Spokesperson said that Prof. Sellström is currently working on the final report in coordination with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and World Health Organization (WHO) experts that were part of the UN Mission.
- A number of samples are still being analysed by the designated laboratories and the results are expected to be provided to the UN Mission early next week.
- The final report is expected to be finalised in early December, after all information gathered by the UN Mission has been evaluated.
- Asked about an International Conference for Syria, to be held in Geneva, Nesirky said that no date has been set for that. He said that the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, and his deputy, Nasser al-Kidwa, continue to work with parties in arranging that conference.
- Mr. Brahimi, he said, would meet with US and Russian officials in Geneva on 5 November to take stock of the preparations for a Geneva II conference.
- The Secretary-General will announce a date for the conference when appropriate, the Spokesperson added. He noted that the Secretary-General was clear when talking to the Security Council about his intentions of holding that conference.
- Asked about the Deputy Secretary-General’s role on Syria, the Spokesperson said that, as with the Secretary-General, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, Mr. Brahimi and Mr. al-Kidwa, the Deputy Secretary-General is closely engaged in dealing with the issue.
- Nesirky said that Mr. Brahimi has the Secretary-General’s and Deputy Secretary-General’s full support in his role. He noted that the Syrian authorities have made clear to Mr. Brahimi their intention to participate in the conference.
U.N. LEBANON ENVOY MEETS MUFTI OF TRIPOLI
- Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, visited the city of Tripoli today and met with Mufti Malek Shaar. He relayed to the Mufti the UN’s serious concern over the recurrence of armed clashes in the city and sincere condolences for the recent loss of life.
- The UN Special Coordinator welcomed the fact that calm has been restored but added that a temporary halt of the violence is not enough in Tripoli. The people of Tripoli need long-term security and economic and social solutions. The present situation should not be allowed to continue.
- Mr. Plumbly encouraged all sides to respect and cooperate with State institutions, particularly the security authorities, who have a significant burden as they work to keep Lebanon safe from the impact of the crisis in neighboring Syria.
SECRETARY-GENERAL SPEAKS OUT AGAINST TERRORIST ATTACK IN SOUTHEASTERN IRAN
- In response to questions, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General condemns the terrorist attack which recently took place in Saravan in southeastern Iran, killing 14 Iranian border guards. He extends his condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the people and the Government of Iran.
- The Secretary-General also noted with serious concern the reported hanging of 16 people following the attack. The Secretary-General reiterates his call on the Iranian Government to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
D.R. CONGO: U.N. FORCE INTERVENTION BRIGADE NOT UNDERTAKING OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS
- Asked about the recent death of a Tanzanian peacekeeper from the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), the Spokesperson recalled that the peacekeeper was killed in an ambush by the M23 while he was on a protection of civilians patrol in a zone known as the "Governor Hills" on the Kiwanja-Rutshuru axis, 25 km north of Goma.
- Nesirky added that the Force Intervention Brigade is not undertaking offensive operations at this stage, but is working as part of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to protect civilians.
- The FIB troops have been intensely engaged in protection of civilians activities, with the main aim to minimise the harm to civilians in the recent clashes between the M23 and the Congolese army.
SECRETARY-GENERAL VOICES CONCERN OVER RECENT VIOLENCE IN BANGLADESH
- In a statement issued this morning, the Secretary-General said that he has been following with concern the recent wave of violence in Bangladesh.
- He calls on all concerned to respect the rule of law, exercise restraint and express their views peacefully.
- The Secretary-General hopes that the recent steps to initiate dialogue continue and he urges all parties to ensure an environment conducive to credible and peaceful elections.
- In response to questions, the Spokesperson added that the Secretary-General has been following developments in Bangladesh for some time, and there have been a number of contacts made on the issue.
FUNDING SHORTAGE RESULTS IN U.N. FOOD AGENCY CUTTING RATIONS TO HALF MILLION REFUGEES IN KENYA
- The World Food Programme (WFP) says that, beginning Friday, it will be forced to reduce food rations for more than half a million refugees in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, in Kenya, because of a funding shortfall.
- The 20 percent reduction in ration sizes means that refugees will not receive the minimum recommended energy requirements as set out by the World Health Organization (WHO).
- The World Food Programme needs about US$10 million every month to distribute more than 10,000 tonnes of food to refugees in those two camps.
- WFP is urging donors to respond to its urgent appeal as quickly as possible.
NIGER: DOZENS DIED OF THIRST EN ROUTE TO ALGERIA, U.N. HUMANITARIAN WING REPORTS
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today that local authorities in Niger have reported that several dozen people, including women and children, died from thirst in early October as they were trying to reach Algeria through the Sahara desert.
- Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident but part of a recurrent pattern that sees impoverished people leaving their country in search of work.
- The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has allocated US$7.9 million this week to help implement nine under-funded humanitarian projects in Niger, including humanitarian assistance to vulnerable migrants in the Agadez region.
INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT IS INDEPENDENT BODY
- Asked about the International Criminal Court (ICC) ruling on when the trial of Kenya’s President would begin, the Spokesperson noted that the ICC is an independent body.
- He added that the United Nations has encouraged support for the Court’s work.