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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 EDUARDO DEL BUEY
DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

FRIDAY, 21 DECEMBER 2012

U.N. MISSION IN SOUTH SUDAN SAYS ONE OF ITS HELICOPTERS WAS SHOT DOWN

  • At approximately 10am South Sudan time on Friday, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reported that one of its MI-8 helicopters with four crew members on board was shot down.
  • In subsequent communications between the Mission and the South Sudanese armed forces (SPLA), the SPLA told the Mission that it had shot at a helicopter in the Likuangole area in Jonglei State.
  • The UN helicopter was on a reconnaissance flight to the area. Initial reports indicate that the UN helicopter crashed and burned.
  • The Mission immediately launched a search and recovery mission. It has confirmed the death of all four crew members.
  • The Mission investigation is ongoing. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations is in constant contact with the UN Mission in South Sudan and will provide updates as they become available.

CIVILIANS DISPLACED FOLLOWING ALLEGED AIR STRIKES IN DARFUR

  • The UN-African Union Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) has received reports of the displacement of civilians following alleged air strikes by Sudanese Armed Forces and attacks by armed groups in the Shangil Tobaya and Tawila areas of North Darfur.
  • The Mission has received reports that civilians are fleeing as a result of alleged air strikes in recent days, and it is arranging for further verification of these incidents.
  • While the scope of displacement is yet to be determined and allegations of air strikes are yet to be verified, the Mission is nevertheless concerned about the safety of civilians and the humanitarian situation in camps for internally displaced people.
  • The Mission calls on all parties involved to keep civilians out of harm's way and to grant the Mission unrestricted access and freedom of movement across Darfur. The Mission also warns that continued fighting could lead to a catastrophic humanitarian situation for the displaced civilians in North Darfur.

SPECIAL ADVISER ON PREVENTION OF GENOCIDE WARNS OF INCREASING RISK OF SECTARIAN VIOLENCE IN SYRIA

  • Adama Dieng, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, has warned of the increasing risk of sectarian violence in Syria.
  • He said that he is deeply concerned that entire communities risk paying the price for crimes committed by the Syrian Government. As the situation in Syria deteriorates further, there is a growing risk that civilian communities including Alawite and other minorities perceived to be associated with the Government and its assorted forces could be subject to large-scale reprisal attacks.
  • Mr. Dieng urged all parties to the conflict to adhere to international humanitarian and human rights law, which prohibits the targeting of individuals or groups based on religious or ethnic identity, as well as attacks against civilians not taking direct part in hostilities.
  • Asked about the recent human rights report saying that sectarian violence is on the rise in Syria, the Spokesperson reiterated that the Secretary-General has warned of the dangers that the violence poses to the social fabric of Syria. The Secretary-General has called for the violence to stop and for a negotiated solution to the crisis.
  • He added, in response to questions, that the Secretary-General has welcomed the growing coherence of the opposition, which could help to make negotiations easier.

U.N. FOOD AGENCY TO PROVIDE FOOD TO PEOPLE WHO FLED VIOLENCE AROUND YARMOUK CAMP IN SYRIA

  • The World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday that it will start providing ready-to-eat meals to 125,000 vulnerable Palestinians and displaced Syrians caught up in fighting around Yarmouk camp in Syria.
  • In recent days, Palestinian refugees and thousands of displaced Syrians who had taken refuge in the camp fled due to violence. Many of them are now in relatives’ homes, mosques, public shelters and schools.
  • WFP said that it will provide around 12 kilograms of food for each family per week. This emergency operation will require an additional $1.5 million to immediately procure more than 580 metric tons of food -- enough to feed the 125,000 people for three months.
  • Yarmouk camp, which is eight kilometers from the centre of Damascus, has been home to the largest Palestinian refugee community in Syria since 1957.

SECURITY COUNCIL ADOPTS RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING DEPLOYMENT OF AFRICAN-LED MISSION IN MALI

  • The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Mali on Thursday, urging the transitional authorities of the country to finalize a transitional roadmap and fully restore constitutional order and national unity, including through the holding of presidential and legislative elections.
  • In the resolution, the Security Council also decides to authorize the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) for an initial period of one year. This Mission will contribute to the rebuilding of the capacity of the Malian Defence and Security Forces and will support the Malian authorities in recovering the areas in the north of its territory under the control of terrorist, extremist and armed groups.
  • The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, Said Djinnit, has concluded a visit to Mali on Friday, where he met with President Dioncoundra Traore and other Governmental officials. Mr. Djinnit said that the United Nations was ready to assist Mali in implementing the Security Council’s resolution.
  • Asked about the Secretariat’s response to the resolution, the Spokesperson said that we had no statement to date, but that journalists should refer to the Secretary-General's report to the Security Council on Mali.

U.N. MISSION IN COTE D’IVOIRE CONDEMNS ATTACKS AGAINST IVORIAN SECURITY FORCES IN ABIDJAN

  • The United Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) confirms that two attacks against Ivorian security services’ positions by unidentified assailants took place last night in Abidjan.
  • An attack against a gendarmerie’s post in the Yopougon neighbourhood of Abidjan resulted in one death. Another attack against an army position in Agbaou, east of Abidjan, resulted in two wounded.
  • After the Mission was informed of the attacks, peacekeepers patrols were sent to the locations in order to provide assistance to Ivorian authorities. UNOCI’s medical teams are also assisting those wounded.
  • The United Nations Mission in Côte d’Ivoire strongly condemns these attacks.

U.N. CONCERNED BY DISAPPEARANCE OF A PROMINENT HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER IN LAOS

  • The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is concerned by what appears to be the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone, a prominent human rights defender in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
  • Navi Pillay’s office is highly concerned for his safety and believes that his abduction may be related to his human rights work.
  • Ms. Pillay’s office welcomes the Government’s recent statement that a serious investigation is underway, and urges the authorities to do everything possible to ensure that Mr. Somphone is found safe and unharmed.

SECRETARY-GENERAL INAUGURATES THE NEWLY RENOVATED U.N. HEADQUARTERS

  • The Secretary-General cut the ribbon to inaugurate the newly renovated UN Headquarters on Friday, saying that today we celebrate the rebirth of an architectural masterpiece for the 21st century. He called the day a major milestone toward the completion of the Capital Master Plan.
  • The Secretary-General said that the renovation has given new life to the Secretariat tower. The offices are now open and bright. The building is safer, greener and more efficient.
  • He added that we have reduced energy and water consumption by more than 50 per cent.  The United Nations is leading by example in sustainable development.

U.N. HEADQUARTERS WILL BE CLOSED FOR CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY NEXT TUESDAY

  • The Secretary-General will be in town next week, although for now, he is not expected to come into the building.
  • There will not be noon briefings for the rest of year. The noon briefing will resume on 2 January.
  • UN Headquarters will be closed for the Christmas holiday next Tuesday and for New Year’s Day the Tuesday after that.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

POLIO VACCINATIONS IN PAKISTAN WILL RESUME WHEN CONDITIONS ON THE GROUND ARE SAFE: Asked about the suspension of polio vaccinations in Pakistan following the killing of health workers, the Spokesperson said it would be important to see whether conditions on the ground are safe enough for the vaccinations to resume. 

SECRETARY-GENERAL CRITICISES PROPOSAL BY ISRAEL FOR RENEWED SETTLEMENT ACTIVITY: In response to a question, the Spokesperson noted that the Secretary-General has strongly criticised the proposal by Israel for renewed settlement activity in the West Bank.