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Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY
SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

TUESDAY, 6 NOVEMBER 2012

HEAD OF U.N. POLITICAL AFFAIRS BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON “GRAVE” SITUATION IN SYRIA

  • Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Security Council this morning in consultations on Syria and the efforts by the Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi.
  • Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr. Feltman said that the overriding message was one of grave concern. He said that the events of the past two weeks underscored these concerns, including new reports of atrocities, credible reports of the use of cluster bombs by the Syrian Government, reports that fighter jets were firing in Damascus for first time and the continued shelling of population centers. He also said that the humanitarian situation remained dire.
  • Mr. Feltman said that the solution needs to come through a political process which has to be Syrian-led. He said this was Mr. Brahimi’s focus. He also said that Mr. Brahimi had signaled that the Geneva Action Group Communiqué should be an important building block.
  • “We continue to hope that the Security Council can come together and act in a unified fashion on Syria, as this would be critical to any peace effort.  Without this, our chances for success are far more limited,” he said.
  • Asked about humanitarian access in Syria, the Spokesperson said the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is working to secure more access. There is humanitarian access to many of those in need and Syria, but more is needed.

GOLAN: U.N. DISENGAGEMENT FORCE LIAISING WITH SYRIANS, ISRAELIS TO PREVENT ESCALATION

  • There have been sporadic firefights between the Syrian security forces, including the Syrian army, and armed members of the opposition in the area of separation in Golan, the equivalent of a buffer zone between the parties under the 1974 Disengagement Agreement between the Israeli and Syrian forces.
  • These have involved the use by the Syrian armed forces of mortar shells and tank rounds, which on at least two occasions landed across the ceasefire line in Israeli-occupied territory. The Syrian army fired intermittently from the area of limitation towards some towns in the area of separation.
  • The presence of military personnel and the military operations in the area of separation is a grave violation of the 1974 Agreement on Disengagement between Israeli and Syrian forces.
  • It has the potential to escalate tensions between Israel and Syria and jeopardizes the ceasefire between the two countries and the stability of the region. It also exposes United Nations personnel to serious safety and security risks. The safety and security of United Nations personnel are primarily the responsibility of the host government.
  • Of particular concern, on 3 November, the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) observed Syrian armed forces conducting operations with at least four main battle tanks and mortar fire inside the area of separation in the vicinity of Bir Ajam against armed members of the opposition. UNDOF reported that the situation today is relatively quiet, but has not observed the battle tanks leaving.
  • The UNDOF Force Commander continues to liaise with Syrian authorities and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to prevent an escalation of tension.

U.N. CONDEMNS BOMBINGS IN BAHRAIN, CALLS FOR MAXIMUM RESTRAINT

  • In response to questions, the Spokesperson said that the United Nations condemns the bombings in Bahrain on Monday that have reportedly led to the death of two foreign nationals and injured another. These violent acts cannot be justified by any cause, Nesirky said.
  • He added, “We call on all concerned to exercise maximum restraint and to refrain from any provocations. We urge all Bahrainis to come together in a spirit of national unity and to resolve differences peacefully through dialogue and reconciliation.”

U.N. AGENCIES SAY FUNDS NEEDED FOR FOOD ASSISTANCE, AGRICULTURAL SECTOR IN HAITI

  • United Nations humanitarian agencies said today they need funds to provide food assistance in Haiti and help rehabilitate the country’s agricultural sector in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
  • The World Food Programme (WFP) said it needs more than $20 million to fund food assistance for some 425,000 people.
  • The Agency has been providing an immediate assistance of high energy biscuits to close to 13,000 people in temporary shelters in Port-au-Prince and in Artibonite. In coordination with the Government, it has also begun distribution of a 21-day food ration to 100,000 people living in affected areas.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Government of Haiti are also seeking $74 million over the next 12 months to help rehabilitate the agricultural sector.
  • The storm caused colossal damage to Haiti's crops, land, livestock, fisheries and rural infrastructures, leaving more than 600,000 Haitians at risk of food and nutrition insecurity.

MALI: ALARMING LEVELS OF MALNUTRITION AMONG CHILDREN UNDER FIVE

  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that it has received reports of alarming levels of malnutrition among children under five in northern Mali.
  • In Kidal, malnutrition rates have increased from 6 per cent in 2011 to 13.5 per cent this year, close to the emergency threshold of 15 per cent.
  • OCHA says that in response, humanitarian partners are launching a supplementary feeding programme targeting children under five as well as pregnant and lactating women in the Kidal region.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

REPORTS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST PROTESTERS IN WESTERN SAHARA SHOULD BE INVESTIGATED: Asked about reports of violence against protestors during the visit by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross, to Western Sahara, the Spokesperson expressed concern about these reports of violence and said the United Nations would expect them to be promptly and thoroughly investigated. 

SECRETARY-GENERAL CONCERNED ABOUT SITUATION IN RAKHINE STATE: Asked about the situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, the Spokesperson reiterated the UN’s concerns about developments there and noted that the Secretary-General has been vocal about those concerns. He said that many people have been displaced and emphasized the need for humanitarian access to the area. 

U.N. HAS RECEIVED NO OFFICIAL COMMUNICATION FROM UGANDA ON PEACEKEEPING: Asked whether a representative of Uganda met with the Deputy Secretary-General, the Spokesperson said that they met and discussed the report of the panel of experts dealing with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He added that the United Nations has received no formal communication from Uganda on this matter.