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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 MARTIN NESIRKY,

SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

TUESDAY, 26 MARCH 2013

 

SYRIA: SECRETARY-GENERAL NAMES SWEDISH SCIENTIST TO HEAD U.N. CHEMICAL WEAPONS MISSION

  • The Secretary-General has appointed Professor Ǻke Sellström of Sweden to head the UN fact-finding mission which will investigate allegations of the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria.
  • Mr. Sellström is currently a Project Manager at a research institute in Sweden. The institute is called the "European Center for Advanced Studies of Societal Security and Vulnerability, in particular major incidents with Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Substances (CBRNE).  
  • He is an accomplished scientist with a solid background in disarmament and international security. He has taught at universities in the United States and served as Director at the Swedish Defense and Security Research Institute (FOI).
  • Mr. Sellström served as Chief Inspector with the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) and as Senior Adviser to the Chairmen of UNSCOM and the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) for the disarmament of Iraq.
  • In response to questions about the mission, the Spokesperson said that on Monday, the Syrian Government provided additional information on the allegation they have asked to be investigated.  The UK Government has also provided additional information.
    The terms of reference for the mission are being finalized in consultation with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
    While the terms of reference are being finalized, Nesirky said, work is already well under way so that the mission can be dispatched quickly.
  • He added that the Secretary-General said in a letter to the President of the Security Council that he had requested the Syrian, French and UK Governments to provide additional information about the incidents they have reported to him. He said that the provision of this information would be crucial in defining the terms of reference for the mission and the scope of its work with a view to verifying any alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.
  • The initial focus of the investigation will be an incident involving the alleged use of chemical weapons in Kfar Dael region in Khan Al-Asal area in Aleppo governorate.
  • Asked further about the composition of the team, the Spokesperson said that it was a technical team and would comprise technical experts.
  • Asked about the League of Arab States’ recognition of the Syrian opposition and the opposition’s call for a seat at the United Nations, the Spokesperson said that membership is a matter for Member States.

 

U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY URGES SAFE PASSAGE FOR RELIEF AID IN SYRIA

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has appealed to all parties to ensure safe passage for convoys delivering humanitarian aid to civilians inside Syria. Several convoys have had to be cancelled or delayed recently, and this is depriving many Syrians of vitally needed help.
  • According to the latest estimates, at least 3.6 million people are internally displaced in Syria. UNHCR is working with the Government and non-government parties to see that aid gets through; but for now, assistance is only reaching a fraction of those in need.
  • UNHCR’s goal is to deliver relief items to at least 1 million people by June of this year, and it hopes to reach many more people in the months after that. As of 20 March, it had delivered relief items to more than 437,000 people in some of the most affected provinces. The aid includes bedding, shelter, household items and clothes.

 

NEW URGENCY NEEDED TO REACH POLITICAL SITUATION IN SYRIA – BAN KI-MOON

  • In a message sent to the League of Arab States summit in Doha, the Secretary-General says that we must inject urgency towards reaching a political solution while there is still time to prevent the destruction on Syria.  The goal is difficult, but clear:  an end to violence, a clean break with the past, and a transition to a new Syria in which the rights of all communities are protected and the legitimate aspirations of all Syrians for freedom, dignity and justice are met. 
  • On Yemen, he says that the path of peaceful dialogue has been chosen, with the National Dialogue Conference, which is the most inclusive and participatory process in the history of the country. And the Secretary-General adds that we are entering a critical period with regards to the Palestinian question. This message is available in English and in Arabic.
  • Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, is attending the summit meeting in Doha.

 

U.N. PEACEKEEPING CHIEF UPDATES SECURITY COUNCIL ON DEVELOPMENTS IN GOLAN HEIGHTS

  • The Security Council received a briefing in consultations this morning on the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in Golan from the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, who provided an update on recent events in the peacekeeping force’s area of operations.
  • The Council began its work today by unanimously adopting a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) by one year, until the end of March 2014.

 

SECURITY COUNCIL SPEAKS OUT AGAINST ATTACKS, POWER SEIZURE IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

  • The members of the Security Council yesterday heard a report by Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, on the situation in the Central African Republic.
  • In a press statement released after that meeting, the members of the Security Council strongly condemned the recent attacks and the seizure of power by force in the Central African Republic on 24 March by the Seleka coalition, as well as the ensuing violence and looting.
  • The members of the Council called on all parties to refrain from any acts of violence against civilians, including foreign communities, to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access consistent with international law, and to fully respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
  • Regarding the situation of UN personnel in the Central African Republic, the United Nations has yesterday night temporarily relocated its non-essential staff from the Central African Republic to Yaoundé, Cameroon.  A total of 40 staff members, considered critical personnel, will remain to continue United Nations operations in the country.
  • In response to a question on whether UNHCR helped to transport President François Bozizé out of the Central African Republic, the Spokesperson said that the Agency was not and is not engaged in any aspect of the situation of Mr. Bozizé. UNHCR says it has not taken part in any movements in which Mr. Bozizé may have been involved now or before.
  • Asked about the future of President Bozizé, the Spokesperson noted that the Secretary-General has condemned the unconstitutional seizure of power and believes that the Libreville Agreements remain the most viable framework to ensure durable peace and stability in the country.

 

MEDICAL FACILITIES OVERWHELMED BY INFLUX OF INJURED, POWER CUTS IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today that many people injured by the recent fighting there have been brought to hospitals around Bangui. Medical facilities are finding it difficult to cope with the influx and power cuts are affecting their ability to provide care.
  • The United Nations has helped to deliver medicine to keep minimal medical services up and running but more is needed.
  • OCHA says that widespread looting is apparently continuing, including of one paediatric hospital.
  • The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and other humanitarian staff in Bangui are preparing to reassess needs and start delivering urgent assistance as soon as security allows.

 

AS NEGOTIATIONS FOR ARMS TRADE TREATY REACH JUNCTURE, BAN URGES MEMBER STATES TO COMPROMISE

  • The Final Conference on an Arms Trade Treaty has entered its second and final week. On Thursday, the treaty will need to be agreed upon by consensus.
  • The Secretary-General has called the absence of a global instrument dealing with conventional weapons "a disgrace" He has consistently said that a strong and robust Arms Trade Treaty will have a real impact on the lives of those millions of people suffering from the consequences of armed conflict, repression and armed violence.
  • The negotiations now stand at a critical juncture. There are a range of views on the scope of the treaty, in particular if ammunition should be fully part of that; and the criteria which arms exporting States will need to use to determine if a particular arms export is warranted.
  • The Secretary-General has full confidence in the very skillful leadership of Ambassador Peter Woolcott of Australia to guide the Final Conference to a substantive outcome. He calls upon Member States to show a shared determination to close the gaps in the poorly regulated international arms trade by agreeing to a set of legally binding global standards that will make a difference. This is long overdue, he has said, so we all expect a willingness to compromise on all sides.
  • The Secretary-General has been active in encouraging Member States to reach an agreement. He has been reaching out to some of the key players in this regard.

 

SECRETARY-GENERAL PAYS TRIBUTE TO LATE PRESIDENT OF BANGLADESH

  • The Secretary-General spoke this morning at a General Assembly meeting paying tribute to the memory of Zillur Rahman, the late president of Bangladesh.
  • In his remarks, the Secretary-General said that President Rahman believed in independence for Bangladesh. While we mourn his loss, we take comfort that the country he helped to found is growing stronger by the day, the Secretary-General added.

 

U.N. ENVOY, ADVISER ON PREVENTION OF GENOCIDE VOICES CONCERN OVER MYANMAR VIOLENCE

  • The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, wrapped up a visit to the country yesterday. He met with President Thein Sein and other officials.
  • Mr. Nambiar also visited Meiktila township in Mandalay region, the scene of violent incidents this week. He expressed his deep sorrow and called upon authorities to take firm action to punish the perpetrators and to prevent further loss of life. He also stressed the need to prevent the spread of violence to other parts of the country.
  • While in Meiktila, Mr. Nambiar visited relief camps and took part in a public discussion with Muslim, Buddhist and Christian religious leaders, together with representatives of affected families.
  • Also voicing concern over the situation in Meiktila was the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, who said that in the context of last year’s violence between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state, there is a considerable risk of further violence if measures are not put in place to prevent this escalation.
  • He added that these measures must address not only the immediate consequences of the current violence, but also the root causes of the problem.

 

***The guest at the noon briefing was Vijay Nambiar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Myanmar, who called in from Thailand.