HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY MARTIN NESIRKY,
SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
TUESDAY, 11 FEBRUARY 2014
SECRETARY-GENERAL CONDEMNS REPORTED MASSACRE IN VILLAGE OF MA’AN, SYRIA
- The Secretary-General has learned with great shock of reports of yet another massacre in Syria. Dozens of civilians are said to have been brutally killed on 9 February in the Syrian village of Ma’an.
- The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms all violence against civilians and calls for the perpetrators of this massacre, and all other crimes in Syria, to be brought to justice.
- Such horrific incidents should be a reminder to all of the urgency of ending the conflict and launching a political transition towards a new Syria where all people and communities are guaranteed protection, rights and freedoms.
MORE THAN 1,130 PEOPLE EVACUATED FROM OLD CITY OF HOMS IN PAST FOUR DAYS, FOOD SUPPLIES DELIVERED FOR 2,500
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that, in the past four days, more than 1,130 people were evacuated from the Old City of Homs - including 457 people yesterday - and food supplies were delivered for 2,500 people.
- The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, has said that all those who are wounded and sick - whether they are civilian or combatant - have the right to medical assistance under international humanitarian and human rights laws.
- At the same time, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has emphasized the need for the parties to the conflict to allow for the sustained delivery of aid to the 250,000 people who are in besieged communities and all those in desperate need across Syria.
- Asked about men leaving Homs, the Spokesperson said it was understood that about 370 men who left Old Homs in the last couple of days are being screened by the Government forces. More than 111 have been released so far. He said that the United Nations is concerned for their welfare.
- Nesirky said that there are UN protection officers present at the school where these individuals are held and talking to the men after their questioning. It is essential that they come to no harm.
- He noted that Youssouf Abdel-Jelil, the UNICEF Representative in Syria who is in Homs, said that the children hr has seen leaving Homs were terrified, frail and emaciated. In general, there were issues of malnutrition and the need for vaccination.
- Before the operation began, Mr. Abdel-Jelil said, UNICEF estimates there were more than 1,000 children trapped in old Homs. It estimates that about 500 have come out. He called for ready access to the children and the civilians to provide them with humanitarian assistance.
- The Spokesperson responded to reports today that operations have been suspended, saying that such reports are not accurate.
- Today, the humanitarian teams continue to be on the ground, monitoring conditions, and working with interlocutors to see how this humanitarian pause can move into a more sustained way of delivering aid and evacuating people who want to leave.
- Nesirky said that it is vital that this is not a one-off. He pointed to the need for sustained aid delivery for Old Homs and all the besieged areas where 250,000 people are living, and of course for all those in need across Syria. He added that the United Nations is hoping to see more evacuations on Wednesday.
- Asked whether a Security Council resolution on humanitarian aid would be useful, the Spokesperson recalled that Valerie Amos has consistently said that she was grateful for the Security Council’s Presidential Statement on humanitarian access but would have preferred a resolution. The Secretary-General agrees. Nesirky added that it is up to the Security Council to decide.
INTRA-SYRIAN TALKS CONTINUE IN GENEVA, BRAHIMI TO MEET U.S., RUSSIAN REPRESENTATIVE FRIDAY
- The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights called the targeting of UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid workers who delivering food and medical aid in Homs on Sunday disgraceful. It is a war crime to deliberately fire on those carrying out humanitarian operations.
- The Human Rights Office said that it must not be assumed that those who remain in Old Homs and other besieged areas are all combatants. In addition, attacks against individuals who have left combat due to sickness, injury, capture or surrender, are prohibited by international humanitarian law. The Human Rights Office renews its calls for unimpeded, continued and safe access to all the besieged areas of the country.
- In Geneva, Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, met with both parties this morning. He told reporters afterwards that he would have a trilateral meeting on Friday with Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov from Russia and Under-Secretary of State Wendy Sherman from the United States. He also anticipates travelling to New York fairly soon to brief the Secretary-General.
- Asked how the talks can move forward, the Spokesperson said that Mr. Brahimi has already demonstrated his patience and staying power and has made clear that he and his colleagues will continue to work on the issue. What is important, Nesirky added, is that the two sides have had a first round of meetings and have now reconvened.
SOUTH SUDAN: HUMANITARIAN PARTNERS CONTINUE TO ASSIST DISPLACED, CALLS FOR CONDITIONS FOR SAFE RETURN
- On South Sudan, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that in the eight weeks since the crisis began in the country, almost 724,000 people have been displaced across the country and nearly 145,000 have fled into neighbouring countries.
- It adds that 85 per cent of displaced people are outside UN bases. Most families have lost any means of providing for themselves because of displacement, looting and the destruction of their property.
- The Office also says that humanitarian partners have assisted 300,000 displaced people but most of those displaced have not yet received help because of continued insecurity. It says that it is essential that conditions are created to facilitate the safe return of internally displaced people.
- The Office notes that even before the current crisis, the humanitarian situation in South Sudan was critical, with more than 3 million people food insecure.
- This morning, the Security Council was briefed in consultations on the situation in South Sudan by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in South Sudan, Hilde Johnson.
- In response to questions about whether a UN compound in Juba had been surrounded by the SPLA, the Spokesperson said it had not. He said that the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, has taken a series of steps to strengthen security in relation to Protection of Civilians sites within the Mission's compounds. Security problems have continued to cause serious concern at the gates and in the vicinity of the UNMISS compounds.
- On Monday, 10 February, the South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS) therefore conducted an operation outside the compound in Tomping, Juba. The operation was aimed at increasing security through searching for weapons, taking care of vehicles that could be a security threat and dismantling sale stands and liquor bars involved in illegal activity.
- Nesirky said that the operation was led by the South Sudanese Police with the support of 50 UN Police Officers. At no point did the South Sudan government troops surround the UNMISS compound, and neither was the SPLA involved in the operation.
CLUSTER BOMBLETS FOUND NEAR BOR, SOUTH SUDAN; U.N. SAYS IT IS COMMITTED TO ENDING THEIR USE
- Last week, unexploded cluster bomblets were found along the Juba-Bor road in the area of Malek, 16 km south of Bor.
- A UN Mine Action Service team working with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) found these items. Cluster bombs are unreliable and indiscriminate, with their sub-munitions causing potential long-term danger to civilians and vehicles.
- In line with the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the United Nations is firmly committed to ending their use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions and mitigating the suffering they cause and, of course, condemns their use.
U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE WORRIED ABOUT CLIMATE OF IMPUNITY IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
- On the Central African Republic, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) says that the security situation in Bangui continues to deteriorate, with targeted assassinations, increased violence and criminality on the streets.
- The Office adds that it is particularly worried about the climate of complete impunity in the country, illustrated by public statements from anti-Balaka elements claiming responsibility for the crimes and murders they have committed. The Office says it is also concerned that some members of the National Transitional Council itself have made public statements within parliament which could instigate inter-communal violence.
- The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights says it is working with various parties to try to re-start the judicial process in Bangui towards combating the pervasive impunity in the country.
- It recalls that fundamental rights of Central African people and foreigners must be respected in all circumstances and that the leadership of ex-Séléka, anti-Balaka and FACA, the armed forces of the country, have the responsibility to protect those rights in the areas under their effective control. The Office says they will be held personally accountable for human rights violations perpetrated by those under their control.
U.N. IRAQ ENVOY CONDEMNS ATTACK AGAINST SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE CONVOY
- The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, strongly condemned the attack against the convoy of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Osama Al-Nujaifi, in the city of Mosul on Monday afternoon.
- Mr. Mladenov urged all leaders to unite against terrorism, which is affecting all segments of the Iraqi society. He called on the people of Iraq to support the security forces, local authorities and the tribes of Anbar in their fight against terrorism and to provide humanitarian support to those affected by the fighting.
- In addition, he called on all sides to help rebuild Anbar through investment and socially inclusive policies and to address the causes of violence through dialogue and the political process.
SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES RE-LAUNCH OF CYPRUS NEGOTIATIONS
- In a statement issued this morning, the Secretary-General warmly welcomed today’s finalization of a joint communiqué and the formal re-launch by the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders of negotiations aimed at reaching a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.
- The Secretary-General also noted that his Special Adviser, Alexander Downer, will be stepping down, and thanked him for his perseverance and commitment for the past 5.5 years.
- For his part, Mr. Downer commended the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders for their commitment to resuming negotiations and working towards the successful conclusion to the Cyprus problem.
INDIA DECLARED POLIO-FREE, AFGHANISTAN WRAPS UP VACCINATION CAMPAIGN AFTER RECENT POLIO CASE
- The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that millions of children have a better chance of a healthier future as India is now polio-free.
- Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s Executive Director, says that India’s success is the success of every child who will grow up free from polio.
- He adds that it is also the world’s success – proof positive that we can defeat the scourge of polio, even in places once thought impossible.
- In Afghanistan, following the recent diagnosis of a case of polio in the capital, Kabul, a three-day vaccination campaign targeting some 73,000 children wrapped up today. A second round will be held later this month, targeting more than 110,000 children.
- Polio eradication efforts in Afghanistan are led by the Ministry of Public Health, with UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) as key technical partners. Four National Immunization Days are held every year, during which more than 8 million children are immunized.
UKRAINE: U.N. STANDS READY TO ASSIST PARTIES TO RESOLVE ISSUES THROUGH DIALOGUE
- Asked about Robert Serry’s role in Ukraine, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General had sent Mr. Serry, a former Dutch ambassador to Ukraine, to the country at the end of last month, where he met with President Yanukovych and opposition leaders.
- The UN stands ready to assist in any way it can and to make sure that the parties resolve their issues through dialogue, should such assistance be requested.