HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY FARHAN HAQ,
DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
FRIDAY, 4 APRIL 2014
IN PRAGUE, SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES ACTION ON LONG-TERM CHALLENGES
- The Secretary-General arrived last night in Prague from Brussels. Today, he visited the UN offices in Prague and then delivered a lecture at Charles University, one of the oldest universities in Europe. The Secretary-General told the more than 200 assembled faculty and students that the Czech Republic was a dynamic country that had been buffeted by the winds of global change many times. While we deal with many immediate crises, the Secretary-General said that we also need to keep our eyes on what may seem less immediate but more destructive long-term threats. He called on the young people in the audience to be activists for global justice, peace, human rights and human dignity.
- The Secretary-General then met with the Czech Prime Minister, Bohuslav Sobotka. Prior to attending an official lunch hosted by the Prime Minister at the Hrzansky Palace, the Secretary-General and Mr. Sobotka had a brief press encounter. The Secretary-General told reporters that they had discussed climate change and the situations in Ukraine, Syria and the Central African Republic. And he also expressed appreciation for the Czech Republic’s current and future contributions for UN peacekeeping. The Secretary-General also recently met in the past couple of hours with the President, Milos Zeman.
- Prior to meeting the President, he met with the Mayor of Prague, who showed him the flood protection barriers along the Charles River. The Secretary-General expressed his admiration for the work the City of Prague has done on disaster preparedness and dealing with climate change.
AFGHANISTAN: U.N. MISSION SPEAKS OUT AGAINST ‘ABHORRENT’ ATTACK ON INTERNATIONAL JOURNALISTS
- The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) strongly condemns the abhorrent attack on two international journalists today, which left one dead and the other wounded. The two journalists – photographer Anja Niedringhaus and reporter Kathy Gannon, both Associated Press staff members – were shot in the Tani district of Khost province in eastern Afghanistan.
- Ján Kubiš, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said that he was outraged by this attack on civilians. He added that the journalists were going about their work, informing the world how Afghan citizens are exercising their right to shape a better future for themselves, their children and their country.
WRAPPING UP LEBANON VISIT, U.N. RELIEF CHIEF CALLS FOR STEPPED UP SUPPORT TO ADDRESS SYRIA CRISIS
- The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, ended her visit to Lebanon today with a call for greater support for the people of Lebanon who are experiencing challenges as a result of the Syria crisis, as well as continued support to Syrian refugees.
- She said that the world must do more to support the people and Government of Lebanon as they are struggling to meet increased demand for services like health, education, electricity, and water and sanitation. We should not take their generosity for granted, she said.
- Ms. Amos visited Syrian refugee families in Akkar and Tripoli in northern Lebanon. She also met key Government officials, including President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassile, to discuss how the international community can continue to support Lebanon.
U.N. RIGHTS OFFICE RELEASES INFORMATION ON INCIDENT INVOLVING CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC SOLDIERS
- The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provided detailed information today on the incident involving Chadian soldiers in Bangui on March 29, following an initial investigation carried out by a human rights team on the ground.
- According to the information collected so far by the Human Rights and Justice Section of the UN Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA) on March 29, Chadian national army soldiers in a convoy consisting of several military pick-ups entered Bangui, and went to the neighbourhood known as PK 12.
- As soon as the convoy reached the market area around 3:00 p.m., it reportedly opened fire on the population without any provocation. At the time, the market was full of people, including many girls and women buying and selling produce. As panic-stricken people fled in all directions, the soldiers allegedly continued firing indiscriminately.
- According to information the human rights team has gathered so far, it seems the Chadian force’s action was totally disproportionate as they were shooting in a crowded market full of unarmed civilians.
- According to the team’s preliminary findings, around 30 people were killed as a result of the shooting and more than 300 were seriously injured, including children, people with disabilities, pregnant women and elderly people, as they were less able to run for their lives.
Asked further about the role of the Chadian troops, the Spokesperson noted that the findings were preliminary and that the team would provide further information as its work continues.
SOMALIA: U.N. RIGHTS OFFICE VOICES CONCERNS OVER KISMAYO EXECUTION
- The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) says that it has received confirmation that a man was executed by a firing squad in public yesterday in Kismayo, Somalia.
- The man was found guilty last week of killing an elder, but the Office says that it is not clear by whom exactly and possibly not even by a court.
- The UN Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) had urged a stay of execution, including at the highest levels within the regional Interim Juba Administration, which appears to have been heavily involved in the sentencing and execution.
U.N. IN CONTACT WITH SIDES TO EMPHASIZE NEED TO ACT WITH RESTRAINT ON MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
- Asked about UN and Quartet contacts with the Israelis and Palestinians, the Spokesperson said that they were in contact with the sides to emphasize the need to manage current developments responsibly and act with restraint.
- Haq expressed the hope that a way can be found to see negotiations through until the scheduled end of the nine-month timeframe set to expire on 29 April. The goal remains to arrive at a substantive basis for negotiations towards a comprehensive peace agreement on all final status issues.
- Asked about delays in steps to release Palestinian prisoners, the Spokesperson said that it is important that the parties apply their best efforts, in the period ahead, to creating a climate of trust and an environment as conducive as possible to the continuation of negotiations.
- Asked about questions of Palestinian statehood, the Spokesperson said that the United Nations would be guided by the relevant General Assembly resolution from 2012.
***The guests at today’s noon briefing were Dmitry Titov, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO); Kazuyoshi Umemoto, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Japan and Chair of the Mine Action Support Group; and Agnès Marcaillou, Director of the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS). They briefed journalists on the occasion of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.