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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 FARHAN HAQ,
DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

 

FRIDAY, 21 MARCH 2014

 

IN UKRAINE, SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES PEACEFUL DIPLOMATIC SOLUTIONS

  • The Secretary-General is in Kyiv today, where he met recently with Acting President Oleksander Turchynov and spoke to the press afterward. He said that the current crisis can only be resolved through peaceful diplomatic solutions based on the principles of the United Nations Charter, including respect for the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and a determined statesmanlike pursuit of peace and security. And he emphasized that there has to be a real dialogue between Kyiv and Moscow. 
  • The Secretary-General also met earlier this morning with the head of the United Nations human rights monitoring mission.
  • He told reporters later that he was pleased that the team has deployed, including the east and south regions. And he said that he was heartened to hear that Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic has arrived in Crimea. That will be for a two-day visit As the Secretary-General has said repeatedly, it is critical that the human rights of all people in Ukraine, especially minorities, be respected and protected.
  • Asked whether the annexation of Crimea was legal, the Deputy Spokesman noted that it is up to States, and not the United Nations, to determine borders of States. He reiterated that the Secretary-General has been working for a de-escalation of the situation on the ground and encouraging a direct dialogue between Moscow and Kyiv.
  • Asked about the work of the human rights monitoring team in Crimea, Haq said that Ivan Simonovic is on a two-day visit to lay the groundwork for a UN human rights monitoring mission to set up a presence in Crimea. During his last mission, he had wanted to visit Crimea but was unable to do so.
  • The human rights team’s objective, he added, was to have a presence throughout Ukraine.
  • Asked further about Mr. Simonovic’s visit, Haq said that he and his team met in Simferopol today with Sergei Aksenov and Vladimir Konstantinov, as well as representatives of the Ombudsperson, civil society, journalists and regional organizations.

U.N. MISSION STRONGLY CONDEMNS DEADLY ATTACK IN KABUL

  • The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) strongly condemned the deadly attack last night on a hotel in the capital, Kabul, with officials reporting nine civilian fatalities and several wounded.
  • The attack took place on a clear civilian location on the eve of Nowruz, customarily the start of the new year and a time for celebrating values such as peace and solidarity among different communities. Among those killed were Afghan women and children.
  • The UN Mission reiterates that the indiscriminate attacks on civilian locations are breaches of international humanitarian law. It extends its condolences to all those affected by the violence.

SEVERAL TRUCKS CARRYING AID CROSS INTO SYRIA FROM TURKEY – U.N. RELIEF WING

  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that eight trucks, out of a total of 79, crossed the border from Turkey into Syria yesterday and are in the process of being off-loaded at humanitarian agencies' warehouses in Qamishli.
  • Yesterday's movement included four trucks for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) carrying blankets for 12,000 people, and 4 trucks for the World Food Programme (WFP) with wheat flour for 20,000 people.
  • Other components of the 'food parcels', like oil and rice, are expected to cross in the coming days, as well as items like water kits, medicines, children's clothes, hygiene kits and sleeping mats.
  • Nigel Fisher, the regional Humanitarian Coordinator, said earlier today that no convoy movements are expected today, but agencies are hoping that operations can continue tomorrow, Saturday.
  • Asked how the aid is being distributed, the Deputy Spokesman said that UN agencies are working with local partners on the ground.
  • He said that there are 500,000 people who urgently need aid in the Hassakeh area, local families and those displaced from other parts of Syria, who cannot be reached from inside the country due to insecurity and live fighting.

LEBANON: U.N. ENVOY CONGRATULATES PRIME MINISTER ON VOTE OF CONFIDENCE

  • Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, met with Lebanese Prime Minister Tamam Salam today and congratulated him on the strong vote of confidence the government secured yesterday in Parliament. 
  • He told reporters afterwards that he welcomed the priority being given by the Prime Minister and his colleagues to the security challenges facing Lebanon. Mr. Plumbly said he was deeply disturbed by the ongoing violence in Tripoli, by the repeated and totally unacceptable violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty along Lebanon’s northern and eastern borders with Syria, and by the consequent loss of life.
  • He said that a mission is in Arsal today to assess the needs there as a result of recent events.

U.N. OFFICIAL ISSUES CALL FOR GLOBAL SUPPORT FOR SOUTH SUDAN

  • On South Sudan, the Operations Director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging, has called for international support to the country at a press conference today in Juba.
  • Mr. Ging, who is visiting South Sudan with the Emergency Directors of UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, WHO, IOM, FAO and the Danish Refugee Council, called on the international community to support the political process to resolve the crisis, and to fund the humanitarian appeal so that vital aid can be delivered before the rains come.  So far, some US$300 million has been received, leaving a shortfall of $970 million.
  • Mr. Ging also called on South Sudan's people to respect humanitarian workers and operations. He added that humanitarian agencies appreciated expressions of support from the authorities but said these needed to be translated into action at all levels.
  • And also on South Sudan, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says it is gravely concerned about new tensions arising from lack of food in Maban County, in South Sudan’s volatile Upper Nile state. Maban County hosts 125,000 Sudanese refugees from Blue Nile state.
  • The agency says that local residents demanded that some 60,000 refugees in Yusuf Batil and Gendrassa camps leave within two months. Hostilities have spread to Doro and Kaya camps. It adds that it is working with authorities and other humanitarian agencies to defuse the tensions.
  • The UN Refugee Agency says that competition for natural resources – including wood, grass and grazing land – has recently boiled over into “tit-for-tat” attacks, forcing up to 8,000 refugees to flee Yusuf Batil camp. Although refugees have since returned to the camp, tensions persist.
  • The governments of South Sudan and of Ethiopia have agreed to allow humanitarian supplies through Gambella, Ethiopia, which will enable the World Food Programme to dispatch much needed food for internally displaced people and refugees in Maban in the coming days.

U.N. TEAM INVESTIGATING SOUTH SUDAN INCIDENT

  • On the work of the High Level Investigation Team, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations says that the Team had been immediately sent to South Sudan to establish the facts concerning the incident on 5 March 2014. That was when South Sudanese Government officials impounded a convoy from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) that was transporting cargo, including some weapons and ammunition, in Rumbek, Lakes State, South Sudan.
  • The team has been on the ground for a week and has met Government officials, including at Rumbek. It has also had extensive meetings with UNMISS staff and staff of other UN Missions from whence the cargo was shipped. Throughout its mission, the team received constant cooperation from the Government of South Sudan.
  • The team has now completed its work and is in the process of compiling its report, which will address why cargo containing weapons and ammunition belonging to and for the use of the Ghanaian Battalion was inadequately labelled and transported from Juba to Bentiu by road, contrary to agreed protocol with the Government of South Sudan.
  • Its preliminary analysis and conclusions have been discussed with the Government of South Sudan and will be submitted to UN senior officials in New York.  A series of measures, which will be communicated to the government of South Sudan, will be put in place to avoid any repetition of this error.

EXODUS FROM CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC RESULTING IN REGIONAL CRISIS – HEAD OF WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME

  • The Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, said today that the exodus of almost 300,000 people from the Central African Republic (CAR) is creating a regional crisis in neighbouring countries that were already short of food.
  • She said that while the international community urgently needs to step up and address the disaster in the Central African Republic, international support is also required for the regional refugee crisis.
  • WFP says that Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo, which are hosting refugees, are themselves confronted with food insecurity and pockets of malnutrition. The influx of refugees significantly increases pressure on the host communities and governments, as well as on WFP operations which are severely underfunded.

ITALIAN PRIEST, U.S. ORGANIZATION NAMED 2014 WINNERS OF U.N. POPULATION AWARD

  • An Italian Catholic priest and a non-profit organization in the United States are the winners of this year’s United Nations Population Award.
  • Father Aldo Marchesini is also a medical doctor and has worked on population issues for more than four decades.  For many years, he was the only doctor to treat obstetric fistula in Mozambique, where he was also kidnapped and imprisoned several times during the country’s civil war.
  • The Johns Hopkins Programme for International Education in Gynecology and Obstetrics was founded in 1973 to prevent maternal deaths. It has provided assistance to some 160 countries and has trained more than half a million health professionals in family planning and reproductive health.
  • The General Assembly set up the UN Population Award in 1981 to recognize outstanding achievement in the fields of population and health. This year’s awards will be presented on 12 June.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • Asked about violence in Darfur, the Deputy Spokesman said that the Joint African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) received reports that on 18 March, a shooting incident took place in El Fasher between Sudanese police and a group of armed men. One policeman was reportedly killed and two injured. The motive has not yet been established.
  • Asked about reports that the Government of Turkey had cut off access to Twitter, the Deputy Spokesman said that the United Nations encouraged freedom of expression.