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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 STEPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

WEDNESDAY, 21 MAY 2014

SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE END TO FIGHTING IN MALI

  • The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the deterioration of the situation in Kidal, Mali. He calls for the immediate cessation of fighting and the establishment of a ceasefire.
  • The Secretary-General particularly emphasises his concern for the security of civilian populations, and recalls that the protection of civilians is an obligation for all parties. He condemns the killing of civilians and calls on the perpetrators to be held accountable.
  • The Secretary-General reiterates the Security Council’s call for the urgent resumption of the cantonment process and of sincere peace talks between the signatories and adherents to the Ouagadougou Preliminary Agreement.
  • Over the last few days, the Deputy-Secretary-General has made all these points to President Keita of Mali. He also raised these points with Annick Girardin, the French Secretary of State for Development and Francophonie and today to the Executive Secretary-General of the European Union External Action Service Pierre Vimont, who shared the same concerns.

SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR COOPERATION AT ASIA CONFIDENCE BUILDING CONFERENCE

  • The Secretary-General addressed the Fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, today in Shanghai. He took note of Asia’s rise, calling the continent a home of economic dynamism, innovation and potential.
  • But the Secretary-General said that it is also the scene of some of the most worrying tensions in the world today, pointing to the situation in Syria and the growth of territorial disputes across the area represented by the organization’s Member States, among others.
  • He called for the region’s rifts and historical wounds to be healed through cooperation, not conflict, and through common interests, not unilateral action.
  • The Secretary-General held talks separately with the Presidents of Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iran, as well as with Yang Jiechi, State Councilor of China.
  • In response to further questions, the Spokesman noted that the Secretary-General and President Rouhani of Iran, in their meeting today, exchanged views on Syria and on how to set the country on a path of peace through a political solution. They also discussed how to ensure humanitarian assistance reaches millions of refugees and internally displaced people.
  • In response to questions about maritime issues in the region, Dujarric said that the issue has come up in the Secretary-General’s discussions. He noted that, in his speech today, the Secretary-General called on governments to resolve those issues through dialogue.

SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS BRIEFING ON SITUATION IN UKRAINE

  • Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovic is currently briefing the Security Council in closed consultations.
  • Mr Šimonovic, who was in Ukraine from 14 to19 May, is expected to share his observations of the human rights situation there and cover some of the points raised in the second report ofthe UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission.
  • Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernández-Taranco is also briefing on recent political developments, particularly in the context of the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for 25 May.

U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF CONDEMNS DISREGARD FOR INTERNATIONAL LAW IN ALEPPO, SYRIA

  • On Syria, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has condemned the flagrant disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law – both by the Government and by some armed groups – that has led to tremendous suffering for civilians in Aleppo Governorate in Syria.
  • She said that the people of Aleppo have been living in terrifying conditions, with intensified shelling and aerial attacks over the past six months, including through the rampant use of barrel bombs. Adding to this, the essential infrastructures of these communities, including their water systems, are being repeatedly damaged.
  • Pillay warned that international humanitarian law prohibits attacking, destroying, removing or rendering useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population.

U.N. MISSION IN SOUTH SUDAN CONCERNED OVER ASSUALT, DETENTION, HARASSMENT OF STAFF

  • In South Sudan, the United Nations Mission in the country (UNMISS) remains concerned about incidents, including assault, detention and harassment of its staff, that have recently occurred and exposed its personnel to serious security risks.
  • The Mission deplores the behaviour of alleged members of security forces, who assaulted and illegally detained two of its staff members in separate incidents in Juba in recent days. These acts are illegal and in clear violations of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which regulates relations between UNMISS and the Government of South Sudan.
  • This is despite the public reassurances given by President Salva Kiir after his meeting with the Secretary-General earlier this month concerning the Government’s commitment to cooperate with the UN Mission in South Sudan.
  • The Mission has asked the Government of South Sudan to immediately investigate these violations and bring the perpetrators to justice. It also demands that all parties ensure unhindered freedom of movement to the United Nations, and safety for its staff and humanitarian workers.

U.N. WORKING TO PREVENT FURTHER SPREAD OF CHOLERA OUTBREAK IN SOUTH SUDAN

  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the number of cholera cases has continued to rise in Juba. As of 20 May, a cumulative 266 cholera cases including 13 deaths.  
  • 179 cases (67%) have been treated at the Juba Teaching Hospital Cholera Treatment Centre.
  • Cholera cases have been reported from six locations in Juba County. Disease treatment and control, including raising awareness of cholera prevention through house-to-house sensitization, radio broadcasts and other activities are ongoing.
  • UNMISS engineers and humanitarian partners are working hard to improve hygiene, water and sanitation inside the UN bases and are clearing drainage systems. This is in addition to monitoring water quality, water treatment and provision of clean drinking water at Juba Teaching Hospital.
  • Decongestion of the overcrowded UN bases by either relocating civilians to new sites or extending existing ones, especially in Bentiu, Bor and Malakal, remains a top priority.
  • The Mission says that among its priorities has been to relocate civilians and decongest all sites, by either extending existing sites or building new ones, with the same level of protection and enhanced basic services, on land made available by the government, such as in Juba, Bor, Bentiu and Malakal.
  • Cholera vaccination is ongoing in Bentiu, in Unity State, with 13,219 individuals in the Protection of civilians sites vaccinated against cholera on 19-21 May.
  • In Jonglei state, cholera preparedness and response measures are also in place, including a cholera treatment centre.

U.N. LIBYA ENVOY MEETS INTERIM PRIME MINISTER

  • In Libya, the head of the Support Mission in the country (UNSMIL), Tarek Mitri, met yesterday with Interim Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thini, along with ambassadors of European Union states and the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires.
  • Participants underlined the importance of using political dialogue to address the differences instead of resorting to violence.
  • They emphasized respect for the sovereignty and national unity of Libya.
  • Asked whether what is happening in Libya is a coup, the Spokesman said what is happening is armed violence against the Government, which is not helpful. He noted Tarek Mitri’s efforts to resolve the disputes through dialogue.

DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL SPEAKS TO HEADS OF FLOOD-AFFECTED BALKAN COUNTRIES

  • The Deputy Secretary-General is making a round of calls to leaders of the impacted countries. Namely, Prime Minister Aleksander Vucic of Serbia, Bakir Izetbegovic, the chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and President  Ivo Josipovic of Croatia.
  • Mr. Eliasson is expected to express his deepest condolences to the flood victims and members of their families. He will also discuss the UN’s varying support for each country and express the organization’s solidarity with the governments and the people in the region.
  • The President of Serbia is also expected to be in New York next week where he will meet the Secretary-General.
  • On the ground, the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team is working to support the Serbian government in coordinating the response. There are six members and they are embedded within the response team, working with the EU Civil Protection team to coordinate aid offered by the international community, including helicopters, water pumping units, search and rescue teams, boats. Around 16 countries are involved in the response.
  • The UN has delivered two flights with humanitarian supplies to Belgrade, sent from UN humanitarian response depot in Brindisi, Italy. Value of shipment is around $500,000.
  • In Bosnia, we have delivered one flight from Brindisi to Tuzla, also with all sorts of equipment, including water purification units, and the value of that aid in that plane is $280,000.
  • Asked whether senior UN officials would travel to the Balkans, the Spokesman noted that the Secretary-General’s Representative in the region, Peter Due, has been active in responding to the latest developments.

PALESTINE REFUGEES SEVERELY AFFECTED BY INCREASED USE OF FORCE IN WEST BANK

  • The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East (UNRWA) has released a note and infographic on their observation of the sharp increase in the number of Palestine refugees killed and injured during law enforcement operations carried out by the Israeli Security Forces (ISF) in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
  • Notably, refugees have been severely affected by the increase in the use of force, evidenced by the large numbers of fatalities and injuries that have occurred in and around the densely populated refugee camps.

I.A.E.A. AND IRAN AGREE ON FURTHER MEASURES FOR THEIR COOPERATION FRAMEWORK

  • Yesterday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran agreed on 5 additional practical measures to their Framework for cooperation.
  • These measures are to be implemented by Iran by 25 August 2014.
  • They include exchange of information with the Agency, including on allegations related to the conduct of large scale high explosives experimentation in Iran.
  • Among the new measures, Iran also agreed to arrange a technical visit to a centrifuge research and development centre.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • Asked whether Boko Haram would be listed as a terrorist entity, the Spokesman said that was a decision for Member States. He recalled that the Secretary-General has repeatedly condemned the violent acts carried out by Boko Haram.
  • Asked about the investigation into Dag Hammarskjold’s death, the Spokesman said that the matter is in the hands of the General Assembly, and the Secretary-General hopes that the General Assembly will take the matter forward.
  • Asked about the pullback of Russian troops from the border with Ukraine, the Spokesman said that would be an important step in de-escalating the situation.