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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 SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

TUESDAY, 19 FEBRUARY 2013

SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR SOLUTION TO BE REACHED FOR PALESTINIAN PRISONERS ON HUNGER STRIKE

  • The Secretary-General is deeply concerned over the rapidly deteriorating condition of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody who are on hunger strike, in particular the critical health condition of one Palestinian detainee, Samer Issawi. 
  • The Secretary-General received a letter from Palestinian President Abbas as well as from the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States on this subject.  He has also expressed his concerns to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in their recent telephone conversation.  Of particular concern are the detainees held in administrative detention without charges.  Those detained should be charged and face trial with judicial guarantees in accordance with international standards, or be promptly released.
  • The Secretary-General urges for a solution to be reached without delay in order to resolve the prisoners' plight and preserve calm.  He recalls the importance of full adherence by all sides to the 14 May 2012 agreement in this regard, including the implementation of prisoners’ family visiting rights.  International human rights obligations towards all Palestinian detainees and prisoners under Israeli custody must be fully respected.
  • In response to a question, the Spokesperson noted that the Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, James Rawley, met in Ramallah today with protestors who expressed their solidarity with Palestinians on hunger strike in Israeli jails.
  • He said that the UN is following the issue of the hunger strike closely, adding that the Secretary-General and the United Nations is dealing with Israeli officials on all levels to resolve the issue.

U.N. HUMANITARIAN CHIEF SAYS VIOLENCE IN SYRIA CAUSES DEVASTATING IMPACT ON CIVILIANS

  • Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, spoke at the humanitarian forum on Syria taking place in Geneva on Tuesday, and she said that the violence in the country is causing widespread destruction and having a devastating impact on the lives of ordinary Syrians.
  • She said that, with an estimated 70,000 people having been killed since the beginning of the crisis, people do not feel safe or secure. The number of people in need has quadrupled since June last year.
  • Ms. Amos said that humanitarian workers are crossing conflict lines, negotiating with armed groups on the ground, to reach more people in need. But she added that we are not reaching enough of those who require our help.
  • Asked whether the case of Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General said last week that he welcomed the debate triggered by the call of some Member States for the Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
  • In response to questions, the Spokesperson reiterated the UN’s concerns about the destruction caused by all sides on the infrastructure and economic activity in Syria.

CIVILIAN CASUALTIES IN AFGHANISTAN DECREASE FOR FIRST TIME IN SIX YEARS

  • Civilian casualties in Afghanistan’s armed conflict decreased for the first time in six years, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said on Tuesday in its annual report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
  • The report says that there was a 12 per cent drop in civilian deaths last year, compared with 2011. The report says that the reduction in civilian casualties in 2012 was the result, among other things, of fewer civilian deaths and injuries from ground engagement among parties to the conflict, as well as a decline in suicide attacks and reduced numbers of aerial operations.
  • At the same time, however, the UN Mission says that there were increasing threats to civilians last year linked to the presence and re-emergence of armed groups, particularly in the north and northeast regions of Afghanistan.
  • Ján Kubiš, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said that the decrease in civilian casualties documented in the report is very welcome; yet the human cost of the conflict remains unacceptable.

U.N. CONDEMNS TERROR ATTACKS IN SOMALIA

  • The UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) condemns the terror attacks that have occurred in Somalia during the first half of February, including the killing of a leading Somali Islamic scholar, Sheikh Abdiqadir "Ga'amey" Nur Farah, in Garowe. 
  • The assassination of Dr. Nur Farah came shortly after a suicide attack in the central town of Galkayo and terror attacks in other regions of South Central Somalia.
  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, has extended his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and wishes the injured quick recovery. He called on the people of Somalia to strengthen their resolve to resist terrorism by working with the authorities to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.

ACTION PLAN FOR MALI’S CULTURAL PRESERVATION ADOPTED AT UNESCO MEETING

  • An Action Plan for Mali’s cultural heritage and manuscripts was adopted on Monday at an international experts’ meeting organized in Paris by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and France.
  • At the opening of the meeting, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova reiterated the Organization’s commitment to work for cultural preservation in Mali.
  • The Action Plan has three priorities: rehabilitate cultural heritage damaged during the conflict with the active participation of local communities; take measures to protect the ancient manuscripts kept in the region; and provide training.
  • Separately, the Operations Director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging, will visit Bamako, Timbuktu and Mopti from Wednesday to Saturday to see first-hand the humanitarian situation following the latest fighting and to review the scale-up of the humanitarian response.

MELTING OF SEA ICE REQUIRES EFFECTIVE MEASURES, U.N. ENVIRONMENTAL AGENCY SAYS

  • The melting of sea ice and the resulting rush for resources require effective measures to avoid damage in the Arctic, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Yearbook for this year.
  • A reduction in Arctic summer ice cover has become more intense in recent years, culminating in a record low last year. The Yearbook also highlights risks from chemicals and the recent spike in illegal wildlife trade.

U.N. AND LIBERIA LAUNCH HUMANITARIAN APPEAL FOR LIBERIANS IN NEED

  • The Government of Liberia and the United Nations appealed for nearly $37 million today to meet the pressing humanitarian needs of Liberia’s most vulnerable communities during 2013.
  • Liberia continues to face significant humanitarian challenges. Nearly half of Liberia’s population lives in extreme poverty, surviving on less than a dollar per day.
  • More than 64,000 Ivorian refugees remain in Liberia since post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire forced them to flee, and 25,000 former Liberian refugees who returned home last year continue to need essential humanitarian assistance.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

SECRETARY-GENERAL CONTINUES TO SPEAK OUT ABOUT CONCERNS OF SMALL ISLAND DEVELOPING STATES: Asked about the effects of climate change on small islands, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General has repeatedly spoken out about the need to address the concerns of small island developing states.

SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS DUE PROCESS NEEDED FOR PROTESTERS IN BAHRAIN: Asked about the treatment of protesters being tried in Bahrain, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General has made clear that due process needs to be followed in all their cases.

SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS IRAN’S NUCLEAR ISSUE SHOULD BE RESOLVED THROUGH DIALOGUE: In response to a question on Iran’s nuclear programme, the Spokesperson noted that the Secretary-General has repeatedly said that the way to resolve questions about it is through dialogue, as is scheduled to happen in Kazakhstan this month. The Secretary-General has made clear that the onus is on Iran to prove the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme.