HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY EDUARDO DEL BUEY
DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
TUESDAY, 20 NOVEMBER 2012
SECRETARY-GENERAL HOLDS MEETINGS WITH ISRAELI LEADERS IN JERUSALEM BEFORE HEADING TO RAMALLAH
- The Secretary-General is in Israel, where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is also scheduled to meet President Shimon Peres. He also met the Israeli Foreign and Defense Ministers.
- Speaking to reporters following his meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister, the Secretary-General made clear that rocket fire from Gaza into Israel must cease. At the same time, he once more emphasized the need for Israel to exercise maximum restraint.
- Earlier today, the Secretary-General met with the Egyptian Prime Minister, Hisham Qandil, and with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil Elaraby.
- Following his meeting with Mr. Elaraby, the Secretary-General said that immediate steps are needed by all to avoid further escalation, including a ground operation, which would only result in further tragedy. He said that all sides must halt fire immediately. Further escalating the situation will put the entire region at risk.
- The Secretary-General said that he would also travel to Ramallah to have a meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas, whose efforts at finding a long-overdue two-state solution are now more crucial than ever.
- In response to questions, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General’s paramount concern is for the safety of all civilians, in Gaza and in Israel.
- Asked about reports that a ceasefire may be declared in Cairo, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General considers Egypt to be playing its role as a regional leader. The Secretary-General was encouraged by the efforts being made by the Egyptian authorities to push all sides to agree to an immediate ceasefire.
- Asked about warnings made to the population in Gaza about a possible attack, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General had strongly cautioned the Israeli Prime Minister about the consequences of a ground attack in Gaza.
- Asked about humanitarian concerns in Gaza, the Deputy Spokesperson said that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports the significant and increasing displacement across Gaza with families relocating from neighbourhoods targeted by, or considered at risk of, Israeli airstrikes to safer areas.
- The principle humanitarian concerns in Gaza relate to the pre-existing shortages of drug and medical supplies, which are exacerbated by the current escalation in violence.
D.R. CONGO: SITUATION IN GOMA AT “CRITICAL STAGE”, U.N. PEACEKEEPERS STILL CONTROL AIRPORT
- The situation in and around Goma has reached a critical stage. The M23 is now present in Goma, according to the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).
- The M23 military advances have continued despite the demands of the Security Council, the Secretary-General, the African Union and others, including countries in the region, for the M23 to immediately stop their attacks.
- At this stage, the UN Mission remains in control of the airport in Goma. Robust patrolling by 17 Quick Reaction Force teams is continuing.
- MONUSCO troops will remain actively present in Goma and will continue all efforts within their capabilities to protect civilians from imminent threat.
- The Secretary-General reiterates his strong condemnation of the grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the M23 that have accompanied their military advance.
- MONUSCO is closely monitoring the situation. Reports indicate that the M23 has wounded civilians, continued abductions of children and women, destroyed and looted property, and intimidated journalists and those who have attempted to resist their control.
- The Secretary-General underlines that those who commit violations will be held responsible for their actions.
- Asked about the UN Mission’s activities to protect civilians in Goma, the Deputy Spokesperson said that MONUSCO has conducted active attack helicopter sorties every day since the M23 attacks began on 15 November. The helicopters have fired hundreds of rocket and missiles rounds on M23 positions to seek to prevent their further military advance.
- He added that the Mission has just under 1,500 troops in Goma, which is a city of an estimated 1 million people.
- The UN Mission, he said, cannot substitute for the efforts of national security forces, including the Congolese Armed Forces.
- The Deputy Spokesperson noted that the use of force by UN peacekeepers is principally to protect civilians, not to engage in armed confrontation for broader military purposes.
JOINT SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR SYRIA HOLDS MEETINGS IN KUWAIT
- The Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, was in Kuwait today.
- He held a meeting with H.E. Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Kuwait.
- Mr. Brahimi was then received in audience by the Head of State, HH Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.
- The discussions focused on the Syrian crisis.
- Mr. Brahimi will be in New York next week to brief the Secretary-General, the Security Council and the General Assembly.
NEW HIV INFECTIONS DROP BY HALF ACROSS 25 COUNTRIES, UNAIDS APPOINTS AUNG SAN SUU KYI AS GLOBAL ADVOCATE
- The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) says that an unprecedented acceleration in the AIDS response is producing results for people.
- A new World AIDS Day report shows a more than 50% drop in new HIV infections across 25 countries as countries approach the 1,000-day deadline to achieve global AIDS targets
- In addition, the number of people with access to antiretroviral therapy increased by 63% in the last 24 months and AIDS-related deaths fell by more than 25% between 2005 and 2011 globally.
- Meanwhile, UNAIDS has appointed Nobel peace prize winner and Member of Parliament Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as a Global Advocate for Zero Discrimination. In this new role, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will call on her fellow citizens and people around the world to eliminate stigma and discrimination.
AFGHANISTAN: OPIUM CULTIVATION INCREASES DESPITE ERADICATION EFFORTS
- Because of plant diseases and bad weather, potential opium production in Afghanistan decreased by 36 percent over the past year, according to a study prepared by the Afghan Government and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
- At the same time, the area for opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan covered 154,000 hectares in 2012, which is 18 per cent more land than was recorded the previous year. Cultivation increased despite a significant 154 per cent increase in Government eradication efforts, the survey says.
- The Executive Director of the Office on Drugs and Crime, Yury Fedotov, said that high opium prices were a main factor that led to the increase in opium cultivation. He called for a sustained effort to address illicit cultivation with a balanced approach of development and law enforcement measures.
PAKISTAN: FUNDING NEEDED FOR THOSE AFFECTED BY FLOODS
- The Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Catherine Bragg, made her first visit to Pakistan this week to assess and draw attention to the urgent needs of communities affected by the floods in the south and displaced families in the north-west.
- She said funding for the protracted displacement crisis in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas was inadequate. She said that $79 million was urgently needed to help people in that area as winter approaches.
AGREEMENT ON STATUS OF FORCES IN ABYEI NOW SIGNED BY BOTH SUDAN AND SOUTH SUDAN
- The Department for Peacekeeping Operations is pleased to announce that the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) for the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) has now been signed by both Sudan and South Sudan.
- The Government of Sudan signed the SOFA on 1 October and the Government of South Sudan signed it earlier this morning.