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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

TUESDAY, 18 MARCH 2014

 

UKRAINE: SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES ALL PARTIES TO AVOID PRECIPITATE STEPS

  • Asked about the latest developments in Ukraine, the Spokesman said that the United Nations was very closely following developments with mounting concern; first, the holding of the referendum, and now actions taken in relation to the annexation of Crimea. 
  • He added that the Secretary-General had been clear from the start regarding Ukraine and that he maintained his position that all parties must avoid precipitate steps under the complex and tense current circumstances. 
  • Dujarric also said that all parties must work for a solution that is guided by the principles of the United Nations Charter, including respecting Ukraine's unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity.  He noted that as the Secretary-General intensified his diplomatic efforts, he strongly urged an immediate resumption of constructive dialogue between all concerned parties in order to resolve this crisis.
  • Asked if the Secretary-General recognized the referendum held in Ukraine, the Spokesman said that it was not up to the Secretary-General to do so and that he had made known his concerns regarding hasty actions.
  • In response to questions on the visit to Ukraine by Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic, Dujarric said that he was scheduled to be back in New York tomorrow. He added that Mr. Simonovic would debrief the Secretary-General and his team and would also be talking to the press later this week.
  • Asked if he had been to Crimea, the Spokesman recalled that Mr. Simonovic had been very intent on doing so but could not, given the circumstances and security situation. He also noted that Mr. Simonovic had put great emphasis on the protection of all the minorities in Ukraine and that the human rights situation in Ukraine was one of the concerns of the Secretary-General. He also said that it was incumbent on the authorities in charge to make sure that the rights of the different minorities were respected.
  • In response to questions about the Secretary-General’s contacts regarding the situation in Ukraine, Dujarric said that there had been high level exchanges between the Secretary-General and other United Nations officials and all the main parties involved to stress the need to intensify diplomatic efforts and work for a resumption of dialogue.

STATUS QUO BETWEEN ISRAELIS, PALESTINIANS UNSUSTAINABLE, U.N. POLITICAL CHIEF TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

  • Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Security Council this morning on the Middle East. He said that the latest surge of fighting shows that the fragile status quo between Israelis and Palestinians is not sustainable. He noted the tensions in the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and said that the parties must show utmost restraint, and the sanctity of holy sites of all faiths must be fully respected.
  • Regarding Syria, Mr Feltman said that the situation in Golan remains volatile, with heavy clashes between the Syrian armed forces and armed opposition.

U.N. MISSION IN CONTACT WITH ISRAELI, SYRIAN SIDES REGARDING GOLAN BLAST

  • Asked about reports of an explosion in the Israeli-occupied Golan which wounded Israeli soldiers, the Spokesman said that the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) had been in touch with both the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Senior Syrian Arab Delegate. The IDF confirmed to UNDOF that it observed an individual crossing the ceasefire line, and that an IDF patrol was sent to the location. The IDF soldiers got out of their vehicle and crossed the technical fence when an improvised explosive device exploded resulting in injuries.
  • In response to a question on other insurgents in the region, Dujarric said that in light of the events in Syria, the work of UN Disengagement Observer Force had not been made easier and the Force was operating in difficult circumstances. He urged all sides to respect international agreements as well as the work of the United Nations on the ground.

AFGHANISTAN: U.N. MISSION SPEAKS OUT AGAINST DEADLY SUICIDE ATTACK

  • In Afghanistan, the UN Assistance Mission (UNAMA) strongly condemned a deadly suicide attack which took place today in the northern province of Faryab, killing 15 civilians and injuring another 47.
  • Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative in Afghanistan and the acting Head of the Mission, said that the continuing rise in civilian deaths from improvised explosive devices is tragic. He reiterated the call for an immediate stop to their indiscriminate use, especially in areas known to be populated by civilians.
  • In the first two and a half months of 2014, improvised explosive devices have killed 190 civilians in Afghanistan, which marks a 14 per cent increase from the same period last year.

U.N. LIBYA MISSION CONDEMNS TERRORIST BOMBING IN BENGHAZI

  • The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) strongly condemns the terrorist bombing that took place yesterday in Benghazi. The attack targeted members of the Military, killing a number and wounding others.
  • The Mission calls upon all Libyans to denounce and reject the continued series of acts of violence and terror, such as kidnappings, assassinations and bombings, which have hit Benghazi and other parts of Libya.
  • The Mission urges Libyans to rally around their national institutions in confronting these crimes and calls upon officials and all forces to intensify efforts to put an end to all actions that add insecurity and hamper the building of the Libyan State.

SOUTH SUDAN: U.N. MISSION REPORTS CLASHES IN UPPER NILE STATE

  • The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reports that there has been fighting between the Opposition forces and Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in Malakal, in the Upper Nile State.
  • The Mission says that two tank shells exploded about 200 metres from its compound last evening, wounding a displaced civilian sheltering at the protection site. This person is currently being treated at the UN hospital within the site. The Mission also reports that sporadic arms fire and artillery shell explosions were heard earlier in the day yesterday, also not far away from the compound.
  • The Mission reiterates the importance for both parties to fully comply with the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, and to ensure a swift establishment of the monitoring and verification mechanism.
  • It also stresses that both parties to the conflict must respect the inviolability of UN premises and facilities, as well as the life-saving work that the United Nations is doing on the ground.

WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME BEGINS AIRDROPS IN REMOTE PARTS OF SOUTH SUDAN

  • The World Food Programme (WFP) has started a series of airdrops of food assistance to remote areas of South Sudan. The two rounds of airdrops today delivered enough cereals for about 8,000 displaced people for about 15 days in the town of Ganyiel in Unity state. Airdrops are planned for nine locations in Upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity states, and may be expanded to reach other areas.
  • The World Food Programme says it is in a race against time to get assistance to people who are in critical need in places that can’t be reached by road or river transport.

HUMANITARIAN NEEDS GROWING IN SUDAN, U.N. AGENCIES SAY

  • The Operations Director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging, is visiting Sudan with the Emergency Directors of UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, WHO, IOM, the FAO and the Danish Refugee Council.
  • They visited Nyala in Darfur, where they met people who recently fled their homes because of violence and others who have been living there for ten years.
  • Ging told a news conference today in Khartoum that that humanitarian agencies were deeply concerned about the situation in the country, where 6.1 million people need humanitarian aid -- a 40 per cent increase since this time last year. 
  • He noted that 3.3 million people are in need in Darfur alone, and that 500,000 children across the country are facing Severe Acute Malnutrition.  He added that needs were growing because of the continuing conflict.
  • The Emergency Directors called on all parties to join the political process to realize the potential for peace in Sudan.

U.N. AGENCY LEADS SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN TO PUSH FOR MORE RELIEF FOR SYRIAN REFUGEES

  • The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has been leading a campaign using Thunderclap social media to push for greater humanitarian access to civilians in Syria, including in the Yarmouk Camp.
  • The campaign, #LetUsThrough, is supported by 130 organisations. The Thunderclap to get the message out took place at noon today in Yarmouk.

LEBANON IS LARGEST PER CAPITA REFUGEE RECIPIENT COUNTRY – U.N.

  • In a press conference in Geneva today, the new acting Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, Ross Mountain, said that Lebanon is the largest per capita recipient of refugees anywhere in the world. The country has virtually 1 million refugees registered by the UN Refugee Agency, about 25 per cent of the population.
  • Mr. Mountain expressed his concerns for the future as flows of refugees continue - with new arrivals today of families in the border town of Arsal - as conflict continues in neighbouring Syria. He said that there are already signs of tensions between Syrian families and Lebanese host communities.  He noted that the appeal to help Syrians who have fled the conflict and host communities in the region is only 14 per cent funded so far.

BAN KI-MOON WELCOMES U.S. ANNOUNCEMENT ON INTERNET

  • In a statement issued this morning, the Secretary-General welcomes the announcement by the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of 14 March 2014, concerning its intent to transition key Internet domain name functions to the global multi-stakeholder community.
  • The Secretary-General takes note of this important development, especially in light of the results of decisions taken at the World Summit on the Information Society that agreed on a multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance. He encourages governments, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, the private sector and the Internet technical community to engage in furthering the process to ensure a single, open, free, secure and trustworthy Internet.
  • The Spokesperson added that until now, the United States has had the final say in changes to globally used data on top-level Internet domain names, such as “.com.” This announcement is a significant step towards the globalisation of the function of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, better known as IANA.  It is therefore in line with the need for a more global multi-stakeholder basis for the governance of the Internet, which the United Nations, along with many other actors, has been advocating.
  • Asked about various attempt to restrict the use of the internet, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General had always called for access to information.

MEETING UGANDAN LEADER, U.N. AFRICA AIDS ENVOY SAYS CRIMINALIZATION OF HOMOSEXUALITY FUELS DISCRIMINATION

  • Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa, said that she has highlighted to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni that the criminalization of homosexuality only serves to fuel stigma and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, and risks undermining the national AIDS response, which is otherwise making significant progress.
  • She said that she will continue to engage with the Government of Uganda and civil society organizations on this important matter, and she continues to urge the Government of Uganda to repeal the Anti-Homosexuality Act at the earliest possible opportunity.