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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

TUESDAY, 25 MARCH 2014

SECRETARY-GENERAL WRAPS UP NUCLEAR SECURITY SUMMIT, ON WAY TO GREENLAND

  • The Secretary-General has left The Hague for Greenland, where he will be until Thursday.  The Secretary-General will spend the night in the town of Ilulissat, which is 250 kilometers above the Arctic Circle.
  • During the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague that just wrapped up, the Secretary-General held several bilateral meetings, including with the Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Frans Timmermans; Queen Maxima of the Netherlands; and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron. Yesterday, the Secretary-General also met with Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul and King Abdullah of Jordan.
  • Discussions centred on the situation in Ukraine and Syria, as well as on the Central African Republic. Readouts of all these meetings are available.
  • Before leaving The Hague, the Secretary-General congratulated the Government of the Netherlands for the successful organization of the Summit. The fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit will be held in 2016 in Washington.

SECRETARY-GENERAL APPEALS TO LEAGUE OF ARAB STATES TO RE-ENERGIZE GENEVA TALKS ON SYRIA

  • Lakhdar Brahimi is representing the Secretary-General at the summit of the League of Arab States, which is taking place in Kuwait.
  • In a message to the League which Mr. Brahimi read, the Secretary-General welcomed recent efforts to improve humanitarian access in Syria, but added that the crisis can only be resolved through a political solution. He appealed to the members of the League of Arab States, working with the Russian Federation, the United States and the United Nations, to take clear steps to re-energize Geneva II. It is particularly essential that the regional actors are unified in encouraging all parties to return to the negotiating table.
  • The Secretary-General added that he continues to urge Israelis and Palestinians to make the necessary compromises to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. On recent political developments in the region, the Secretary-General said that the adoption of Tunisia's Constitution on 26 January 2014 represented a major milestone for the country's transition. 
  • He said that Yemen’s all-inclusive National Dialogue Conference of 25 January 2014 also demonstrates that genuine dialogue and compromise are the best ways to achieve positive change.

AFGHANISTAN: U.N. MISSION CONDEMNS ATTACK ON INDEPENDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSION

  • The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned the lethal attack today on an office of the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) in Kabul. Nobody should threaten civilian electoral institutions or their fellow countrymen and women who choose to exercise their inalienable right to vote.
  •  The Mission extends it condolences to the families of all those killed and wishes a speedy recovery for those wounded.
  • The Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom, said that the Election Commission and its civilian workers are conducting a public service so that Afghans can vote, and it is reprehensible that they have been deliberately targeted.

HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE SAYS MASS IMPOSITION OF DEATH PENALTY IN EGYPT IS IN BREACH OF INTERNATIONAL LAW

  • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said it was deeply alarmed by the imposition of the death penalty against 529 people in Egypt yesterday after a cursory mass trial in which the majority of defendants were not present in court.
  • The Human Rights Office said that the astounding number of people sentenced to death in this case is unprecedented in recent history. The mass imposition of the death penalty after a trial that was rife with procedural irregularities is in breach of international human rights law.
  • Lawyers have reportedly filed a case contesting the trial on the basis of procedural flaws.
  • The Human Rights Office adds that it is particularly worrying that there are thousands of other defendants who have been detained since last July on similar charges. The Minya criminal court in southern Egypt is today trying more than 600 individuals for membership of the Muslim Brotherhood, among other charges.
  • Asked about the Secretary-General’s views, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General supported the views of the High Commissioner’s office and would continue to monitor developments.
  • Haq added that the Secretary-General opposes capital punishment, noting the General Assembly’s recent resolutions concerning a moratorium on the death penalty.

SECRETARY-GENERAL ENCOURAGES DIRECT DIALOGUE BETWEEN MOSCOW AND KYIV

  • Asked about the situation between Ukraine and Russia, the Spokesperson noted that the Russian Foreign Minister and Acting Foreign Minister of Ukraine had met with each other, in a welcome sign of dialogue. He said that the Secretary-General, in his own diplomatic efforts, has encouraged direct dialogue between Moscow and Kyiv.
  • Asked about the Secretary-General’s position on how the UN Charter applies to recent events, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General has made clear the need for all States to abide by the principles of the Charter, including those regarding the peaceful settlement of disputes and regarding sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.
  • He has also been pressing all sides for a de-escalation of the situation.
  • Asked further about the Charter and its application, Haq noted that the General Assembly is expected to take up the issue of Ukraine on Thursday.
  • Asked about the work by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, the Spokesperson said that Mr. Feltman was returning to New York today after several days of consultations in Ukraine.

DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL TO START VISIT TO NIGERIA

  • Later today, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Abuja to co-chair the Regional Coordination Mechanism for Africa (RCM-Africa) of United Nations entities working in support of the African Union and its NEPAD programme.
  • The Deputy Secretary-General will subsequently address the opening session of the Joint African Union Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance and the Economic Commission of Africa’s Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, held this year on the theme “Industrialization for Inclusive and Transformative Development in Africa”.
  • While in Abuja, the Deputy Secretary-General will hold meetings with leading members of the Government of Nigeria, as well as visiting Ministers of Finance, Planning and Development.
  • The Deputy Secretary-General will also meet with the United Nations Country Team and representatives of the UN Nigeria Staff Association.
  • He will visit the site of the 2011 UN House bombing to lay a wreath in memory of the victims of this tragedy.
  • The Deputy Secretary-General will return to New York on 30 March 2014.

HUMANITARIANS APPEAL FOR MORE FUNDS TO HELP SOUTH SUDANESE REFUGEES

  • The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, and the World Food Programme (WFP) are appealing to donors on behalf of partners for US$371 million in urgently needed support for the thousands of South Sudanese refugees now arriving in neighbouring countries.
  • Since fighting erupted in mid-December more than 204,000 people have already fled to Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya. With continuing insecurity and growing food shortages inside South Sudan, the Refugee Agency says that it expects the number of South Sudanese refugees across the region to reach 340,000 by the end of the year.
  • The Agency also says that South Sudanese have recently been fleeing into neighbouring countries at a rate of nearly 2,000 per day, with most heading to Ethiopia and Uganda. With more than 700,000 people displaced inside South Sudan and 3.7 million at high risk of food insecurity, UNHCR warns that the potential for further cross-border movement is high.
  • The regional emergency response will focus on protection activities and other life-saving needs such as food, water, sanitation, and health. 

ON DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH DETAINED, MISSING STAFF, SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS TO SECURE RIGHTS OF U.N. PERSONNEL

  • Today is International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members. According to the Department of Safety and Security, 56 United Nations civilian personnel remain under arrest and/or detention by national authorities and 4 United Nations and associated personnel abducted by non-State actors remain in captivity.
  • In a statement, the Secretary-General calls for immediate action to secure the freedom and rights of United Nations and humanitarian personnel unlawfully detained and arrested.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED ON LEBANON: Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, briefed the Security Council in its closed consultations this morning on the implementation of Resolution 1701.

SECRETARY-GENERAL HAS CALLED FOR RESTRAINT BY ALL SIDES IN SYRIA/TURKEY SITUATION: Asked about the situation at the border between Syria and Turkey, the Spokesperson noted that the Secretary-General had discussed the matter with the President of Turkey on Monday. The Secretary-General had called for restraint from all sides to prevent a further escalation of the situation.

STRATEGIC REVIEW OF A.U.-U.N. DARFUR MISSION WAS DONE: Asked about problems in Darfur, the Spokesperson noted that the Secretary-General had issued a special report on the Strategic Review of the UN Mission, UNAMID, in February. The report identifies three main challenges faced by the Mission in implementing its mandate: the cooperation of the Government; internal managerial and coordination issues, especially with the UN Country Team; and, the capabilities of UN troops and police contributors.

*** The guests at the Noon Briefing today were John Ging, the Operations Director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and Yasmin Haque, the Deputy Director of Emergency Operations for UNICEF.