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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 SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

TUESDAY, 26 FEBRUARY 2013

SECRETARY-GENERAL MEETS WITH AUSTRIAN PRESIDENT IN VIENNA

  • The Secretary-General arrived in Vienna on Tuesday from Abu Dhabi and later met with Austrian President Heinz Fischer.
  • The Secretary-General also spoke by telephone with the President-elect of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades.
  • One of the main reasons for the Secretary-General's visit to Vienna is to attend the 5th Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, which starts on Wednesday.
  • The Secretary-General attended the Alliance's youth event on Tuesday, where he said the world needed to draw on the energy, idealism and action of young people. He said the world relied on the younger generation to speak the language of tolerance and respect and to drown out the voices of hatred and division.

POLITICAL CHIEF: U.N. TROUBLED BY ROCKET ATTACK INTO ISRAEL, CONCERNED AT DEATH OF PALESTINIAN PRISONER

  • Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, provided an update on the situation in the Middle East in an open meeting of the Security Council on Tuesday morning. He noted the continued frustration at the failure over many years to break the impasse between the Israelis and Palestinians, but added that it is now time for all of us to act decisively if we are to salvage the two-State solution.
  • He said that the United Nations was concerned to learn of the death in detention over the weekend of a Palestinian man, Arafat Jaradat, who had been arrested by the Israelis. He said that the United Nations underscores the importance of restoring calm and calls for an independent and transparent investigation by the Israeli authorities into Jaradat’s death, the results of which should be made public.
  • He added the United Nations was deeply troubled by Tuesday’s rocket attack into Israel, saying there is no justification for such attacks.
  • Discussing Syria, he said that the Secretary-General strongly condemns the reported ballistic missile strikes in Aleppo as well as the series of bombings in Damascus. And he repeated the Secretary-General’s call for the need to immediately end the supply of arms to both sides in the conflict.
  • Asked whether a staff member of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) was mission, the Spokesperson confirmed that a staff member is not accounted for and that the United Nations is in touch with the relevant parties to determine what has happened.

HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES CALLS TO REDUCE SURGE IN DEATHS IN THE INDIAN OCEAN

  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, today reiterated his call for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to work together to reduce the recent spike in deaths among people smuggled on boats in the Indian Ocean.
  • Nearly 500 people died at sea in 2012 after their boats broke down or capsized, making the Indian Ocean one of the deadliest regions in the world for people fleeing their country by boat or being trafficked by smugglers.
  • The High Commissioner called this figure alarming and stressed that the problem requires a far more concerted effort by the countries of the region to address the causes and prevent lives from being lost.

SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR DISASTER RISK REDUCTION DISCUSSES PALESTINIAN RESILIENCE TO DISASTERS

  • The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, is in Palestine today, where she met with the Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to discuss Palestinian resilience to disasters.
  • She also presided over the launch by Palestinian authorities of the first national disaster loss database and visited the UN-managed Shu’fat Refugee Camp in Jerusalem, to review community conditions and emergency preparedness.
  • Palestine is highly vulnerable to natural hazards, mainly earthquakes, floods, landslides, droughts and desertification. A recent winter storm has affected 12,000 people in the West Bank and caused more than $50 million in damages.

U.N. CHILDREN’S FUND LAUNCHES $45 MILLION APPEAL FOR MALIAN CHILDREN AND WOMEN IN NEED

  • The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday that it was issuing an urgent $45 million appeal to meet the immediate needs of children and women affected by the Malian crisis over the next three months.
  • The UN Agency said that the appeal will cover emergency programmes inside Mali as well as humanitarian assistance for 170,000 Malian refugees in Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. So far, UNICEF has received less than a million dollars for 2013.
  • The funding is needed for an integrated response to the nutrition crisis. UNICEF says that an estimated 660,000 children under the age of five are expected to face malnutrition this year in Mali.

D.R. CONGO: THE FIGHT BETWEEN RIVAL FRACTIONS WITHIN M23 KILLS FOUR CIVILIANS

  • In response to a question, the Spokesperson said that the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) reported that on 24 February, in Rutshuru, north Kivu province, an exchange of fire took place between rival factions within the M23 armed group. During the fighting four M23 elements and four civilians were killed. Twenty people were also injured, the mission adds.
  • Del Buey said that MONUSCO’s base in nearby Kiwanja was put on high alert and a patrol of armed infantry support vehicles was deployed to ensure the protection of civilians. Two patrols of UN peacekeepers continue to be present on the Rutshuru-Kiwanja axis. 

***The guest at the noon briefing was John Ging, the Operations Director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). He briefed journalists on his recent visit to Mali.