HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY,
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
THURSDAY, 21 MARCH 2013
SYRIA: SECRETARY-GENERAL TO ESTABLISH INVESTIGATION ON POSSIBLE USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS
- The Secretary-General has decided to establish a United Nations investigation on the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria.
- His senior advisers are working on the modalities in close consultation with the relevant bodies, including the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the World Health Organization (WHO). These include detailed issues such as: overall mandate, mission composition, and operational conditions, including safety and security.
- The Secretary-General hopes that the mission would contribute to ensuring the safety and security of chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria.
- The investigation mission is to look into the specific incident brought to the Secretary-General’s attention by the Syrian Government. He is also aware that there are other allegations of similar cases involving the reported use of chemical weapons.
- In discharging its mandate of an investigation mission, full cooperation from all parties will be essential, including unfettered access.
- In response to questions about the scope and time frame of the UN investigation, the Spokesperson said that many details remain to be clarified.
- In addition to the Wednesday request for an investigation from the Syrian Government, the Secretary-General had also received a letter from the Permanent Missions of France and the United Kingdom, who are calling for investigations into three alleged incidents of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Nesirky noted that the Secretary-General would review this suggestion as the mandate for the UN investigation – which would not be easy and could not happen overnight – was being developed.
- The Secretary-General was fully aware that an investigation team needs to be on the ground to begin its work as soon as practically possible, especially given technical reasons. The international community needed full assurance that chemical weapons stockpiles are verifiably safeguarded.
- Asked about the safety of the investigation team, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General had clearly stated that Syria is experiencing extreme chaos and the suffering of the Syrian people was of paramount importance. Efforts must be carried out to alleviate their pain and raise awareness of issues augmenting their suffering.
- The Secretary-General was well aware that this would be a difficult mission, including operational conditions such as safety and security.
- Asked about the UN team’s access in Syria, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General had called for full cooperation from all parties, including unfettered access. The Secretary-General would reiterate that in his communications with the Syrian authorities, which would take place soon.
- Asked whether there were any precedents for such a UN investigation, the Spokesperson pointed to two cases in 1992: Azerbaijan and Mozambique.
- Asked about the involvement of Joint Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, the Spokesperson said that Mr. Brahimi was well aware of this investigation.
U.N. REPRESENTATIVE FOR IRAQ SAYS IRAQI CHALLENGES INCLUDE SPILL-OVER OF SYRIAN CONFLICT
- Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, briefed the Security Council on Thursday in an open meeting, saying that Iraqis face a complex set of interrelated problems, among them the very real potential for a spill-over of violence from Syria. He added that, since late December, tens of thousands of demonstrators in Iraq’s western provinces have taken the streets to voice their grievances, which are focused on human rights and access to basic services.
- Kobler said that acts of terrorism from November last year to the end of February this year have claimed the lives of almost 1,300 civilians, with more than 3,000 Iraqis having been wounded. He has condemned these acts in the strongest possible terms and has called on all of Iraq’s leaders and religious authorities to rise as one to stop the bleeding.
- On Thursday afternoon, Hilde Johnson, the Special Representative for South Sudan, briefed the Security Council on the situation in that country. She will also brief reporters at the stakeout once she has finished talking to the Council members.
SECRETARY-GENERAL CONGRATULATES CHINESE PRESIDENT AND OFFERS THANKS FOR SUPPORT FOR U.N.
- The Secretary-General spoke on Wednesday by telephone with Xi Jinping, the President of the People’s Republic of China.
- The Secretary-General congratulated the President on his recent election and expressed his gratitude for China’s strong support for the United Nations.
- The Secretary-General said he was confident that cooperation between China and the United Nations would continue to grow because China’s path of peaceful development had many common elements with his own agenda on durable peace, conflict prevention, sustainable development and human rights for all. He noted in particular common efforts to support Africa’s peace and development efforts.
- The Secretary-General said he was very concerned about mounting tensions on the Korean peninsula. He commended China’s constructive role in the Security Council in dealing with matters relating to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. He said he counted on China’s continued leadership on this matter.
U.N. ENVOY SAYS SITUATION IN SAHEL MAKES SOLUTION FOR WESTERN SAHARA URGENT
- The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, said on Thursday in Rabat, Morocco, that the situation in the Sahel region and its vicinity makes a solution more urgent than ever regarding the question of Western Sahara.
- In his remarks to the press, Ross said that he has started a new tour dedicated to searching for a solution to the Western Sahara question, in line with successive Security Council resolutions.
- He said that he had in-depth meetings with the Prime Minister of Morocco, the Foreign Minister and the two Parliament speakers on the best way of moving the negotiating process forward. He said that he will meet with the Minister of Interior and other officials.
- During his trip to North Africa which started on Wednesday, Mr. Ross will also visit Western Sahara and hold consultations with the neighbouring States, Algeria and Mauritania. He said he will present a report of his trip to the Security Council on 22 April.
U.N. REPRESENTATIVE PARTICIPATES IN FIRST ARAB CONFERENCE ON DISASTER RISK REDUCTION
- The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, participated this week in the First Arab Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.
- The Conference in Jordan was attended by more than 200 representatives from the 22-member League of Arab States, donors, UN agencies, academia and civil society organizations who discussed their priorities for the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction.
- Ms. Wahlström also met with Government officials. While in Aqaba, she presented the city with a certificate of its status as a role model in the Making Cities Resilient Campaign.
PRESS EVENT WITH CUBAN BLOGGER TO BE HELD BY U.N. CORRESPONDENTS ASSOCIATION
- Asked about a press meeting today featuring a Cuban blogger, the Spokesperson said that the event had not been scheduled or organized by the UN Secretariat, but rather by the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA), an independent entity.
- As a principle, the UN does not interfere with UNCA events. The meeting was not being held in a UN Secretariat auditorium.