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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

THURSDAY, 6 JUNE 2013

U.N. INFORMED OF AUSTRIAN DECISION TO WITHDRAW FROM U.N. DISENGAGEMENT OBSERVER FORCE

  • In response to questions, the Spokesperson said that the United Nations has been advised by the Austrian Government of their decision to withdraw from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). The Austrian Foreign Minister phoned the Secretary-General this morning to inform him personally of Austria’s decision.
  • The Spokesperson said that Austria has been an important part of the Mission and their withdrawal will affect the Mission's operational capacity. The United Nations is in discussions with them about the timing of the withdrawal, and with other troop contributing countries to provide replacement troops.
  • Nesirky said that the Secretary-General is concerned about security in the region and, in that context, he regrets the decision that has been taken.
  • Asked about the number of peacekeepers, the Spokesperson said that UNDOF has 911 troops at present, including 377 from Austria, 341 from the Philippines and 193 from India.
  • Asked about the Philippines, he said that those peacekeepers remain with the Force at present.
  • Asked about injuries to peacekeepers today, the Spokesperson said that two personnel from the Force sustained minor injuries after mortar rounds impacted in Camp Ziouani. Both peacekeepers are reported to be in stable condition.
  • Asked about UNDOF’s future, the Spokesperson said that the Mission’s mandate is provided by the Security Council and it has been performing crucial work for four decades.
  • The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) reports that intense fighting took place today between anti-government elements and Syrian forces within the Area of Separation in the vicinity of Al Qataniyah and Al Qunaytirah.
  • Asked whether an observation post was seized, Nesirky said that did not happen. UN peacekeepers took shelter at UN Positions 22, 25, 27, and 60.
  • He added that, contrary to reports, no UN peacekeepers had been seized.

SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES CONTRIBUTION BY EUROPEAN COMMISSION FOR SYRIA AND NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES

  • On Friday, the United Nations and partners will launch the revised 2013 appeals for urgent aid for Syrians caught up in the brutal conflict.
  • Millions more vulnerable people now depend on humanitarian help, whether displaced from their homes on Syria or living as refugees in other countries.
  • It is vital that donors continue to give generously so that we can help provide families with life-saving food, clean water, shelter and medical care.
  • In this regard, the Secretary-General welcomes Friday's announcement by the European Commission of 400 million euros in additional funding for Syria and neighbouring countries, in particular Jordan and Lebanon.
  • This substantial contribution shows the compassion and solidarity of the people of the European Union for Syrians in need.

SYRIA: DISPLACED CHILDREN SUFFER FROM DISEASES CAUSED BY POOR SANITATION AND HYGIENE CONDITIONS

  • A UN assessment team has found that many children displaced from Al Qusayr, in Syria, are suffering from diseases caused by poor sanitation and hygiene conditions in the shelters. Other urgent humanitarian needs in Hasaiya, near Qusayr, include food, tents and essential supplies such as hygiene kits. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent and UN agencies have provided drinking water, food assistance, dignity kits for women and children's clothing.
  • To prevent and respond to possible disease outbreaks during the summer, health workers are closely monitoring trends in waterborne diseases. For example, a 172 per cent increase in acute diarrhoea has been reported. The World Health Organization is reinforcing its Early Warning Alert and Response System to monitor the quality of water, and medical supplies are being pre-positioned to enable rapid response to any disease outbreak.
  • Also, UNICEF has distributed hygiene and water kits to assist more than 100,000 people, mainly in Aleppo, Homs and Deir Ez-Zor.

SYRIA: SECRETARY-GENERAL CONCERNED OVER REPORTS OF ALLEGED USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS

  • A note issued on Wednesday afternoon underscored the Secretary-General’s grave concerns over the reports of the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. Most recent reports, including in the press, have highlighted again the urgency for the Mission established by the Secretary-General to conduct on-site investigations of the allegations. Thus far, the Syrian Government has not granted access to the Mission as requested by the UN.
  • The Mission has continued to monitor developments and collection of information available off-site.  Ake Sellström, the Head of the Mission, recently visited London and Washington DC. Earlier this week in Paris, Mr. Sellström received additional information related to the reports of the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, submitted by the Government of France.
  • Mr. Sellström cautions that the validity of the information is not ensured in the absence of convincing evidence of the chain-of-custody of the data collected. In this regard, he reiterates his belief that on-site activities are essential if the United Nations is to be able to establish the facts.

SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES AGREEMENT ON TALKS BETWEEN TWO KOREAS

  • The Secretary-General welcomes the announcement by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea on their agreement to hold talks. This is an encouraging development towards reducing tensions and promoting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
  • As the Secretary-General has consistently stated, any differences should be resolved peacefully through dialogue. The Secretary-General is hopeful it is the beginning of a process of trust-building between the parties. He encourages them to build on this opportunity and to generate momentum for further progress.
  • As Secretary-General, he will spare no effort to support inter-Korean reconciliation.

DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS SOMALIA STILL FACES CHALLENGES

  • On Thursday morning, the Deputy Secretary-General addressed the Security Council on Somalia.
  • He said that the country still faces many challenges, but noted how far it has come.
  • The Deputy Secretary-General said that a major milestone in the UN’s engagement in the country was passed this week with the successful launch of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia in Mogadishu.
  • The mission will support political dialogue, peace-building, and the protection of human rights. 
  • However, the Deputy Secretary-General said, successfully meeting the major peace-building challenges depends primarily on the efforts of the Government of Somalia.

GUINEA: U.N. REPRESENTATIVE WELCOMES DISCUSSIONS BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION

  • The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, Said Djinnit is in Conakry, Guinea, on Thursday, in his capacity as International Facilitator for the inter-Guinean political dialogue ahead of the legislative elections.
  • Mr. Djinnit has welcomed the start of the substantive discussions between the Government and the opposition on Wednesday.
  • He has reported that the discussions took place in a constructive spirit seeking the necessary compromises for the holding of free, fair and peaceful elections. The parties have agreed to maintain an atmosphere conducive to the continuation of those talks.
  • Mr. Djinnit has called on all parties to refrain from any action or declaration which could undermine these positive steps. The discussions were scheduled to resume this afternoon in Conakry.

IRAQ: U.N. REPRESENTATIVE CONDEMNS MURDER OF POLICEMEN AND CIVILIANS

  • Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, has condemned in the strongest terms the cold-blooded murder of at least 14 border guard policemen and civilians by gunmen at a fake checkpoint in the town of Al-Nukhaib.
  • He urged the security authorities to take swift and decisive action to arrest the perpetrators of this crime and to bring them to justice.

SECRETARY-GENERAL TO SEND LETTER TO INCOMING PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER

  • Asked about incoming Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General is writing to the Prime Minister to congratulate him.
  • He said that he would anticipate that the Secretary-General will also welcome the first transition from one civilian government to another.
  • He is also likely to praise Pakistan’s role in peacekeeping operations. He is likely to say he is confident the Government will continue to build on the country’s democratic achievements to date, for example on women’s empowerment and human rights.
  • The Spokesperson anticipated that the Secretary-General will also say he is confident the Government will ensure progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.
  • He is looking forward to working with the Prime Minister and welcomes Pakistan’s support for regional cooperation, particularly as it contributes to supporting stability and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

SECRETARY-GENERAL RECEIVES REPORT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

  • The Secretary-General has received a report by the Leadership Council of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). The report, entitled “The Action Agenda for Sustainable Development”, outlines 10 sustainable development priorities, covering the four main dimensions of sustainable development: economic growth and the end of poverty, social inclusion, environmental sustainability, and good governance.
  • Upon receiving the report, the Secretary-General said that it is a critical input to the work the United Nations is doing to shape an ambitious and achievable post-2015 agenda.
  • The Secretary-General created the SDSN to bring together academia, civil society, the private sector, and development practitioners from all parts of the world.