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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 STEPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

WEDNESDAY, 12 MARCH 2014

 

AS SYRIAN CONFLICT ENTERS FOURTH YEAR, SECRETARY-GENERAL ISSUES APPEAL TO REENERGIZE GENEVA TALKS

  • With the conflict in Syria now entering its fourth year, the Secretary-General appealed in a statement to all to reflect upon the long and growing list of horrors taking place in Syria every day.
  • Syria is now the biggest humanitarian and peace and security crisis facing the world, with violence reaching unthinkable levels. Syria’s neighbours are bearing the increasingly unbearable humanitarian, security, political and socio-economic effects of this conflict.
  • The Secretary-General deeply regrets the inability of the international community, the region and the Syrians themselves to put a stop to this appalling conflict.
  • He appeals to the region and the international community and in particular to the Russian Federation and the United States, as the initiating States parties to the Geneva Conference on Syria, to take clear steps to reenergize the Geneva process.
  • The Secretary-General strongly urges the Syrian Government and the opposition to exercise responsibility, leadership, vision and flexibility to rise to the challenges.

SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNESCO HEAD AND SPECIAL ENVOY BRAHIMI CALL FOR HALT TO DESTRUCTION OF SYRIA’S CULTURAL HERITAGE

  • The Secretary-General, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and UN and League of Arab States Joint Special Representative to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, issued a statement in which the three of them make a joint appeal to stop the destruction of Syria’s cultural heritage.
  • They say that, as the people of Syria continue to endure incalculable human suffering and loss, their country’s rich tapestry of cultural heritage is being ripped to shreds.
  • They call on all parties to halt immediately all destruction of Syrian heritage, and to save Syria’s rich social mosaic and cultural heritage by protecting its World Heritage Sites.
  • They condemn the use of cultural sites for military purposes and call on all parties to the conflict to uphold international obligations. And they appeal to all countries and professional bodies involved in customs, trade and the art market, as well as individuals and tourists, to be on alert for stolen Syrian artifacts.

UKRAINE: U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS ENVOY DENIED ACCESS TO CRIMEA

  • Assistant-Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovic had hoped to travel to Crimea this week.
  • In addition to the logistical challenges, including limited flights in and out of the Simferopol airport, Mr. Šimonovic has been informed by authorities that he cannot be received in Crimea
  • The reasons given were the complex situation on the ground as well as the impossibility of providing security for his delegation. Mr. Šimonovic had very much hoped he could travel to Crimea himself. But as in all areas where access is denied, Mr. Šimonovic will report on human rights challenges in Crimea based on sources including the diplomatic community and international and national organizations.
  • He was in Lviv today, where he met with local authorities, the Ombudsperson and representatives of civil society.
  • The Spokesman added, in response to questions, that Mr. Simonovic had wanted to go to Crimea but, because he was not able to, would harvest information on Crimea from other sources.
  • Asked about the proposed date for a referendum on Crimea, the Spokesman said the Secretary's General, in his recent statement, made clear his concerns about events, particularly in Crimea, serving to deepen the crisis.  The call for a referendum by the Crimean parliament adds unhelpful complexity to an already tense and volatile situation.

IN DARFUR, SITUATION IN SARAF OMRA IS RELATIVELY CALM

  • The African Union –United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) reports that the situation in Saraf Omra, in North Darfur is relatively calm. However, many residents remain displaced and are in need of assistance.
  • The Mission has received reports of an unverified number of displaced people having relocated to nearby villages in Central Darfur, about 15 kilometres south-west of Saraf Omra.

SOUTH SUDAN: U.N. MISSION AND HUMANITARIAN WORKERS RESPONDING TO EFFECTS OF HEAVY RAIN

  • Heavy rains in Juba, South Sudan, have damaged tents at the Tomping compound.
  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that it has exacerbated already difficult living conditions. Aid agencies responded with measures to improve drainage and shelters in the site, and will assist people to move to plots in the UN House base later this week.
  • The UN Mission also says that it is finding ways to improve conditions by trying to extend current sites and is building new ones.
  • Displaced communities and the aid agencies supporting them expect to face similar challenges in several sites once the rainy season starts in earnest in April.
  • Meanwhile, the UN Mission in the country, UNMISS, is reporting a growing number of violations of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), including restrictions of movement. This makes it difficult for the Mission to implement its mandate and dangerous for UN staff working in South Sudan. The Mission calls on all parties to respect the work of the UN and the inviolability of UN assets and premises.
  • The Mission also says it is monitoring the trial of the remaining four detainees who stand accused of plotting to overthrow the Government in December, and who appeared before a Special Court in Juba on Tuesday.

U.N. ENVOY IN AFGHANISTAN: ELECTIONS ARE A BASIC HUMAN RIGHT

  • In Afghanistan, the United Nations Assistance Mission (UNAMA) emphasized that taking part in elections is a basic human right for all people.
  • Ján Kubiš, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said that such participation is especially important for Afghanistan as it prepares for historic elections which will be important in helping shape the country's future direction.
  • Afghanistan is slated to hold Presidential and Provincial Council elections on 5 April.

FAMILY FLIGHTS RESUME FOR WESTERN SAHARA REFUGEES

  • In Western Sahara, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced today that the family visit flights from Tindouf refugee camps to the Western Sahara Territory will resume. The flights allow separated families to see each other again.
  • The High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, said it was vital that these visits continue as they increase trust and understanding in one of the world's longest-standing refugee situations. Families originating from Western Sahara have been separated for nearly four decades.
  • The first series of flights are scheduled for 17 April. UNHCR is in the process of submitting a list of applicants and the flights schedule for the rest of the year.
  • UNHCR says that nearly 20,000 people have taken part in family visits since the programme began in 2004.

SECRETARY-GENERAL DISCUSSES UKRAINE, SYRIA AND CYPRUS WITH TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER

  • The Secretary-General met the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, on Tuesday evening.
  • The Secretary-General raised with the Foreign Minister his strong concerns over the Ukraine situation, the need to fully respect the country's territorial integrity and the importance of respecting the human rights of all communities throughout the country.
  • He expressed his alarm that some parties might be planning to take hasty actions that could have very serious implications for the region and the entire international community. 
  • On Syria, the Secretary-General deeply regretted the absence of progress on the diplomatic track.  He discussed with the Foreign Minister measures that could be taken to alleviate the desperate humanitarian situation in parts of the country.
  • And finally regarding Cyprus, the Secretary-General underlined the importance of Turkey's role in resolving that long-standing conflict, and hoped the Cypriot leaders would show readiness to make the compromises required in order to keep up the positive momentum. 

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

SECURITY COUNCIL MEETS ON MISSIONS IN SUDAN AND SOUTH SUDAN: The Security Council held consultations on the situation in Sudan and South Sudan and the work of the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA). Haile Menkerios, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, briefed the Council on the first topic, while the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, briefed on the second. The Security Council will hold consultations on Darfur in the afternoon. 

MEETING WITH NEW YORK MAYOR POSTPONED: The courtesy call that the Secretary-General was scheduled to make to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has been postponed until further notice. 

D.P.R.K. REPORT ON SANCTIONS IS OUT: Asked about information concerning violations of the sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Spokesman said that the latest information came in a report by an independent panel of experts that reports to the Security Council.