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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, 13 NOVEMBER 2012

SECRETARY-GENERAL TO SPEAK AT YALE UNIVERSITY ON THEME OF ‘SHAPING SOLUTIONS FOR A WORLD IN TRANSITION’

  • The Secretary-General is in New Haven, Connecticut, this afternoon, where he will speak at Yale University on the theme “Shaping Solutions for a World in Transition”.
  • In his lecture, he will reiterate his grave concern about Syria. He will say that the risks to the wider region are clear, as spill-over effects are already seen in neighbouring countries.
  • The Secretary-General will also speak about the challenges the world faces: climate change, sustainable development, hunger. On climate change, he will say that the science is clear and that we should waste no more time on that debate.
  • The lecture starts around 4 p.m. and will be streamed live on Yale’s YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/yale
  • The Secretary-General will return to New York this evening.

SYRIA: U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY MAKING PROGRESS IN ASSISTANCE DESPITE INSECURITY

  • In Syria, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is making progress in its major effort to provide aid to up to half a million people by the end of this year, despite recent disruptions to operations due to security problems.
  • To date, the Agency has provided family aid packages to nearly 300,000 people.
  • Unfortunately, recent deliveries have been very difficult. Last week, humanitarian operations were disrupted on at least two days in Damascus. Similar difficulties were experienced by staff working in Aleppo.
  • Lack of security over the past few weeks has also resulted in loss of aid supplies, including some 13,000 blankets that burned in a Syrian Arab Red Crescent warehouse in Aleppo that was apparently hit by a shell.
  • Asked about the activities of the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, the Spokesperson said that he was holding meetings with key officials in Cairo, including with European officials who had attended meetings with their Arab counterparts there.
  • Asked whether the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) had approved Syrian military operations in Golan, the Spokesperson said that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had received a letter from the Syrian Permanent Representative and has responded to it.
  • Nesirky said that UNDOF's mandate is strictly prescribed by the Disengagement Agreement. UNDOF does not have the mandate or the authority to approve military operations in the Area of Separation, as this is a breach of the Disengagement Agreement. UNDOF's Force Commander has at all times acted in accordance with the mandate. The Mission did not give oral agreement for Syrian military operations.

SECRETARY-GENERAL GREATLY CONCERNED BY WAVE OF VIOLENCE IN GAZA, SOUTHERN ISRAEL

  • The Secretary-General is greatly concerned by the new wave of violence in Gaza and Southern Israel, which has resulted in several Palestinian deaths, including civilians, and wounded people on both sides.   He deplores the loss of life and calls for an immediate de-escalation of tensions.
  • The Secretary-General reiterates his call for an immediate cessation of indiscriminate rocket attacks by Palestinian militants targeting Israel and strongly condemns these actions.   He calls on Israel to exercise maximum restraint.   Both sides should do everything to avoid further escalation and must respect their obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians at all times.

U.N. SPECIAL COORDINATOR FOR LEBANON VISITS TRIPOLI

  • Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, visited Tripoli today and met with political leaders there.
  • In remarks to the press, Mr Plumbly welcomed the recent calm in the city and the role played by the security forces. He stressed the responsibility of all concerned to avoid a recurrence of the earlier violence and to hold accountable those responsible.
  • Mr. Plumbly also paid tribute to the work of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Tripoli and north Lebanon, and to the hospitality extended to Syrian refugees by communities there. He said that, with the approach of winter, more needs to be done, particularly in providing shelter.

SECRETARY-GENERAL TO MEET HEAD OF SRI LANKA REVIEW PANEL AND RECEIVE REPORT ON WEDNESDAY MORNING

  • Asked about a BBC report citing a leaked report on Sri Lanka, the Spokesperson declined to comment on leaked documents.
    He noted that he had said on Monday that the Secretary-General will be receiving the report of his Internal Review Panel on United Nations Action in Sri Lanka this week. When he does receive it and has read it, it will be made public.
    Nesirky said that the Secretary-General will be meeting Charles Petrie, who headed the panel, on Wednesday morning. He expected that the report will be made public soon after that.

MISSION INFORMED OF FIGHTING IN NORTH DARFUR

  • Asked about fighting in Shangil Tobaya, in North Darfur, the Spokesperson said that on 9 November the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) team site in Shangil Tobaya observed the movement of a large convoy of Government of Sudan military forces (188 Military jeeps, 34 military trucks, and 10 Armoured Personnel Carriers) from Shangil Tobaya north east towards Abu Zerega, North Darfur. 
  • The following day, UNAMID was informed by Government representatives that its convoy had reportedly been ambushed by members of the Sudan Liberation Army/ Minni Minawi near Abu Zerega village. Several fatalities were reported and the attackers were reported to have fled with several weapons and vehicles and took several Government military personnel hostage.
  • Nesirky said that UNAMID has yet to independently confirm the extent of the casualties incurred by both sides.

SOMALIA: U.N. ENVOY WELCOMES ENDORSEMENT OF NEW COUNCIL OF MINISTERS

  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, has welcomed the endorsement by the Somali Federal Parliament of the Council of Ministers, announced by Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon on 4 November.
  • He noted that the appointment of just ten Ministers conclusively demonstrates the will of the Somali leadership to move away from the mindset of the past and bring about positive change.
  • Mr. Mahiga also said that he was particularly pleased with the historic appointments of two women to substantive high profiles, one as Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Foreign Affairs and the other as Minister of Development and Social Services.

U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY SERIOUSLY CONCERNED ABOUT RECENT BOAT TRAGEDIES IN BAY OF BENGAL

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is seriously concerned about recent boat tragedies in the Bay of Bengal involving people fleeing Myanmar. The Agency is calling on countries in the region to strengthen burden-sharing in the face of this growing humanitarian emergency.
  • In the last two weeks, there have been reports of two boats sinking in the Bay of Bengal, with an estimated 240 people on board, among them Rohingyas from Myanmar's Rakhine State. Available information is that more than 40 people have been rescued from the two boats, while there were other reports of bodies seen floating in the water.
  • The Refugee Agency is urging the Government of Myanmar to take urgent action to address some of the factors leading people to take to the seas, especially those connected with the problem of citizenship and statelessness in relation to the Rohingyas. In the meantime, it is also calling on Governments in the region to keep their borders open to people seeking asylum and international protection.
  • Asked about the situation in Rakhine State, the Spokesperson reiterated the UN’s concerns and said that Vijay Nambiar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, was following up on them with the Government of Myanmar.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

SECRETARY-GENERAL MET WITH NEW SAHEL U.N. ENVOY: The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, will speak to reporters this evening. The Secretary-General met on Monday with Mr. Prodi, who is making his first visit to New York since his appointment. 

SECURITY COUNCIL MEETS ON BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: The Security Council began an open meeting this morning to discuss Bosnia and Herzegovina. Council members heard from Valentin Inzko, the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, who provided an update on the situation since the completion of the transition and reconfiguration of the international presence there. 

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ELECTIONS DECIDED BY MEMBER STATES: Asked about elections to the Human Rights Council, the Spokesperson said that was a matter for Member States to decide. 

ONE STAFF MEMBER DIES, ANOTHER INJURED AFTER CLASHES IN ABYEI: Today one national staff member succumbed to his injuries and another sustained an injury as a result of clashes in Abyei between the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) and Ngok Dinka demonstrators. UNISFA has established checkpoints and is monitoring movements into Abyei. UNISFA's leadership is also meeting with Dinka and Misseriya representatives in an effort to defuse tensions.