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Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General

TRANSCRIPT OF SECRETARY-GENERAL’S PRESS ENCOUNTER FOLLOWING THE SECURITY COUNCIL’S ADOPTION OF RESOLUTION ON CRISIS IN SOUTH SUDAN

TUESDAY, 24 DECEMBER 2013

Good afternoon. 

I just attended the Security Council meeting and you must have been closely following all this situation. 

I want to commend the Security Council for acting quickly and decisively to respond to the unfolding crisis in South Sudan.

The world is watching – and the world is acting. 

I welcome today’s resolution calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and opening of dialogue and demanding that all parties cooperate fully with our peacekeeping mission, UNMISS.

This measure will help boost security, reinforce peacekeeping bases and provide critical assets.  It authorizes the strengthening of UNMISS with 5,500 more troops, and 440 more police.

I thank many world leaders from across Africa and around the world for their flexibility and collective determination to respond to the crisis – and I count on Member States to provide us with these tools. 

The situation remains very fluid.  I am deeply concerned about growing violence in many parts of the country. 

We have reports of horrific attacks, including extra-judicial killings, rapes and a mass grave in Bentiu. 

Tens of thousands have fled their homes and the numbers keep growing. 

And, of course, innocent civilians are being targeted because of their ethnicity.  This is a grave violation of human rights which could fuel a spiral of civil unrest across the country.

I once again call on South Sudanese leaders to exercise restraint and settle their differences peacefully.  I underscore their responsibility to protect civilians – and remind them that those responsible for crimes will be held accountable.

As my Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect said today, “Targeted attacks against civilians and against United Nations personnel, such as those that have occurred in Juba and Jonglei, could constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.”

I thank again the Security Council for the important step it has taken today. 

But even with ongoing support, the strengthening of our protection capabilities will not happen overnight.

And even with additional capabilities, we will not be able to protect every civilian in need in South Sudan.

The parties are responsible for ending the conflict.

This is a political crisis which requires a peaceful, political solution. 

In this season of peace, I urge the leaders of South Sudan to act for peace. 

Stop the violence.  Start the dialogue. 

Save your proud and newly independent country.

There is no time to lose. 

Thank you.

Q: What about Bentiu? It was said that the Government has given an ultimatum for the rebel forces to leave Bentiu; otherwise they say they are going go into force. What does that UN think of that? Would you call for restraint? What is the role of UNMISS on this retake in Bor and now Bentiu?

SG: There is no military solution at this time. Therefore, I am urging again that the leaders, whatever their differences may be, should start dialogue immediately. I have been speaking with African and other world leaders yesterday and today, with a lot of leaders, so that they could provide necessary assets and resources, as well as demonstrate their influence, whoever they may have [it on].

Q: When do you expect the new forces to arrive in South Sudan?

SG: Of course, it may take time. That is why we are asking for an inter-mission transfer. For example, there are several [peacekeeping] missions in the region, so I am asking[them. For detailed matters, I am not supposed to disclose here. I am asking the leaders of those countries who are providing their troops in the nearby region to transfer, temporarily, some battalions. We need at least five battalions and police officers and attack helicopters and utility helicopters, transport airplanes. All these number of 5,500 [troops and] 440 police and many enablers. I am in the process of discussing more in detail with those countries concerned.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, do you have any sense as to whether this is a serious coordinated rebellion with identifiable leadership, or does it look, as it seems to me, like a sporadic outbreak by various ethnic groups in different parts of the country?  

SG: I am not in the position to characterise why this has happened [in] this way. You should know that there has been some discontent among the parties concerned. That is why I have been urging President Salva Kiir consistently that he should address the root causes of the problems. It is always important for leaders to address all the issues [and] the fundamental causes of the problems. I sincerely hope that the two leaders will be able to meet together and discuss this matter in a peaceful way.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, Japan has provided ammunitions to South Korean peacekeepers in South Sudan, which goes against Japan’s ban on exporting weapons. This is becoming a political issue. Do you any reaction on this, and do you welcome Japan’s contribution?

SG: I am aware of that. I understand that the Korean engineering team whose numbers are not big enough and they are basically an engineering team. They are not combat troops. That is why they asked for certain support to the Force Commander of UNMISS. I understand that the Force Commander of UNMISS has arranged this supply of ammunition to the Korean engineering team. I think this is an appropriate thing, to have them defend themselves and to reinforce their capacity there.

Q: What concerns do you have about the spillover of this conflict over the borders into Sudan itself and the Central African Republic, which are neighbouring countries, and your assessment that you're undertaking, for example, of the Central African Republic of a possible deployment of  peacekeeping force there? How do these interrelate in terms of a spillover possibility?

SG: I do not want to see any spillover effect of this current crisis in South Sudan. My urgent hope and appeal to the countries concerned and parties concerned is that, first of all, [they] address this issue as soon as possible through political means without letting it further spread, without causing any regional implications. And as far as the situation in the Central African Republic is concerned, the situation is still very, very fluid and dangerous.  That is why I am very carefully assessing the situation there. I really appreciate the forces of MISCA [African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic], as well as the French forces, who are working there, very hard, to stabilize the situation. And I am required to provide own assessment and recommendation to the Security Council around the end of February, as required by Security Council resolution 2127.  At that time, I will try to recommend my own assessment and recommendation [of] what would be the best way to address the situation in the Central African Republic.

Thank you.  I hope you enjoy at least some happy holidays and merry Christmas to you all.
 

SOUTH SUDAN: SECRETARY-GENERAL REACHES OUT TO LEADERS FOR SUPPORT FOR CIVILIAN PROTECTION

  • On the situation in South Sudan, the Secretary-General has been speaking to many leaders, reaching out for their support for bolstering the capacity of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (UNMISS) to allow it to do its utmost to protect civilians and for stepping up efforts to find a political solution to the crisis.
  • So far, the Secretary-General has spoken with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission; Hailemariam Dessalegn, Chairperson of the African Union and Prime Minister of Ethiopia; Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Joyce Hilda Mtila Banda, President of Malawi; Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of Tanzania; Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan; Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh; and Khil Raj Regmi, Prime Minister of Nepal.
  • The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, today expressed grave concern over the serious and growing human rights violations which have taken place over the past 10 days, calling on the leadership of both sides to protect civilians and refrain from instigating violence based on ethnic grounds. She said that mass extrajudicial killings, the targeting of individuals on the basis of their ethnicity and arbitrary detentions have been documented in recent days, adding that a mass grave has been discovered in Bentiu, Unity State, with at least two others reportedly in Juba.
  • For their part, the Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect today voiced their concern over the serious risk of an escalation of inter-communal violence, noting that targeted attacks against civilians and UN personnel could constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity. They urged all parties to exercise restraint and to comply with international humanitarian and human rights law and underscored the responsibility of the Government to protect all South Sudanese populations, irrespective of their ethnicity or political affiliation.
  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that some 81,000 people have been displaced by the crisis in South Sudan, but that the real number is likely to be higher. OCHA says that 45,000 people have sought refuge in UNMISS camps, while access to those outside has been limited due to continued insecurity.
  • The Office said that the humanitarian response to help some 20,000 displaced people in two UNMISS bases in Juba is gaining momentum, with registration underway and food distributions ongoing. More than 2,200 families received food on 22 and 23 December in Juba, while food aid has been distributed to 7,000 civilians sheltering at the UNMISS base in Bentiu on 22 December.
  • A mobile clinic is operational and conducted 200 medical consultations on 23 December at an UNMISS base in Juba.
  • Displaced families in Juba have received mosquito nets, blankets, sleeping mats, soap and kitchen sets, and additional items are being pre-positioned for distribution in the coming days.

SOUTH SUDAN: U.N. REPRESENTATIVE REITERATES MISSION’S SUPPORT FOR PROTECTING CIVILIANS

  • The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, reiterated the United Nations’ mandate to remain in the country and continue its support for protecting civilians, at a press conference held in Juba.
  • She said that the presence of the United Nations in South Sudan (UNMISS) is greater than ever and the United Nations is providing shelter to approximately 45,000 individuals, civilians, who have fled to camps seeking protection.
  • She also said that the United Nations is increasing staff in critical security related areas and is reinforcing the bases.
  • On the humanitarian front, she said that assistance – including water, shelter and medical assistance – is underway for the 45,000 in the different locations around the country that the UN Mission is protecting.
  • Ms. Johnson also said that this is a political crisis and it can only be resolved through political means. She added that there is no military solution to this conflict.

SECRETARY-GENERAL CONCERNED ABOUT ESCALATING VIOLENCE IN ISRAEL, GAZA AND WEST BANK

  • The Secretary-General is concerned about escalating violence in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. He condemns the killing of an Israeli civilian today as a result of cross border fire from Gaza, and the bus bombing near Tel Aviv on Sunday. He also deplores the death of a young child in Gaza from Israeli retaliatory raids today as well as a number of Palestinian civilian casualties since Friday. He extends his deepest condolences to the families of the victims.
  • The Secretary-General rejects all actions targeting civilians and calls on all concerned to exert maximum restraint to prevent another cycle of bloodshed. It is also essential to preserve the ceasefire understanding of November 2012 and restore calm.
  • The Secretary-General continues to emphasize the need for the Israeli and Palestinian sides to remain steadfast in their commitment to achieving the two-state solution in order to end the violence permanently.

SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES AGREEMENT REACHED ON STATUS OF SOUTH AND NEW STRUCTURE OF YEMENI STATE

  • The Secretary-General welcomes the agreement reached yesterday in the National Dialogue Conference on the future status of the South and the new structure of the Yemeni State. His Special Adviser, Jamal Benomar, has been facilitating the negotiations on these issues for the past three months working closely with President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and leaders of political parties.
  • The Agreement provides for the creation of a new federal state, outlines principles that will guide its formation, and stipulates a special arrangement for Southern representation in the executive, legislative and judicial branches, as well as in the civil service.  It calls for the President to establish a committee that will determine the number of regions in the new federal state. The agreement paves the way for establishing a new unified state, on the basis of federalism and democracy, which upholds human rights, the rule of law, and equal citizenship through the creation of a new state structure and social contract.
  • The Secretary-General calls on all sides to continue to work together in good faith and in collaboration with his Special Adviser with a view to resolving outstanding issues and advancing the political transition.

U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY STEPS UP AID TO DISPLACED IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is increasingly concerned about security and humanitarian problems in areas hosting the growing numbers of displaced people as inter-communal clashes continue in parts of the Central African Republic.
  • The Agency says that more than 710,000 people have been uprooted within the country since the current crisis started a year ago. This includes 214,000 internally displaced people in the capital Bangui. Many Christians have sought refuge in schools, churches and at the airport, while an estimated 35,000 displaced Muslims are mainly living with host families. A further 40,000 displaced people are in Bossangoa, 300 km north of Bangui.
  • The Agency says that while fighting between armed groups has been ongoing since last December, inter-communal clashes in Bangui erupted for the first time earlier this month.
  • Lasare Kouassi Etien, UNHCR's Representative in the Central African Republic, said that some 60 per cent of the displaced population are children.
  • UNHCR has already distributed tents, sleeping mats, plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, blankets and clothes to the displaced, but the needs are still massive.
  • Security and access remain the top concerns, especially at the Bangui airport site for internally displaced persons.

SOME 5.6 MILLION PEOPLE REQUIRE FOOD ASSISTANCE IN THE PHILIPPINES – U.N. RELIEF OFFICE

  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that some 5.6 million people continue to require food assistance and 450,000 families in the farming and fishing industries need livelihood support, following Typhoon Haiyan which swept through the Philippines on 8 November.
  • According to the Philippines authorities, more than 14 million people have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan and 450,000 families in the farming and fishing industries need livelihood support.
  • Aid organizations have reached approximately 70 per cent of affected people with a mix of cash and food assistance in the majority of municipalities. They have also distributed rice seeds to farmers.
  • Despite the scale up of the humanitarian response, acute needs persist in remote parts of the country where access remains a challenge. Limited funding is affecting key programmes, including those needed to repair and rebuild shelter for displaced families.
  • Humanitarian and development partners are working with the Government of the Philippines to help to rebuild the health care system in affected areas where over 2,000 health facilities were damaged.
  • OCHA also said that health partners have vaccinated over 35,500 children against measles and polio, and reached 34,500 children with Vitamin A supplements.