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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 EDUARDO DEL BUEY,
DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

THURSDAY, 22 AUGUST 2013

SECRETARY-GENERAL INSTRUCTS SENIOR U.N. DISARMAMENT OFFICIAL TO TRAVEL TO DAMASCUS

  • In a statement issued on Thursday, the Secretary-General said that he remains deeply troubled by the reports of the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. The Secretary-General believes that the incidents reported yesterday need to be investigated without delay. Since yesterday he has been in touch with world leaders on the matter. He has instructed Under-Secretary-General Angela Kane to travel to Damascus.  Furthermore, senior UN officials have been in contact with the Syrian authorities since the first reports were received.
  • The Secretary-General takes positive note of yesterday’s meeting of the Security Council as well as the conclusions by the President of the Security Council supporting his intention to conduct a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation. 
  • The Secretary-General now calls for the Mission, presently in Damascus, to be granted permission and access to swiftly investigate the incident which occurred on the morning of 21 August 2013. A formal request is being sent by the United Nations to the Government of Syria in this regard. He expects to receive a positive response without delay.
  • The Secretary-General reiterates his call for a cessation of hostilities so that humanitarian assistance can be urgently delivered.
  • Asked about the continued fighting in Syria, the Deputy Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General has long stressed that there must be a political solution to the conflict, not a military one.

U.N. HUMANITARIAN OFFICE SAYS IT HAS RECEIVED NO REPORTS OF THREATS TO AID WORKERS FROM A REBEL GROUP IN SYRIA

  • Asked on Wednesday about a rebel group in Syria warning aid workers to leave, the Deputy Spokesperson said that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that it has received no reports of such threats. None of its partners has brought these reported statements to its attention.
  • Humanitarian organizations are working in very dangerous conditions but they continue to do their best to negotiate access to get vital aid to people in need. 
  • The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, has frequently reminded all parties of their obligations under international law to allow humanitarian workers safe passage.

SECRETARY-GENERAL ARRIVES IN THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA

  • The Secretary-General arrived in the Republic of Korea on Thursday.
  • On Friday, he has meetings with the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. We will provide details on those meetings as we get them.
  • The Secretary-General will also speak to the diplomatic corps based in Seoul about the Millennium Development Goals and attend an event hosted by the UN Academic Impact.

SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS CONSULTATIONS ON LIBERIA, SUDAN AND SOUTH SUDAN

  • On Thursday morning, the Security Council met in closed consultations, first on Liberia, and then on Sudan and South Sudan, receiving a briefing by Special Envoy Haile Menkerios.
  • In the afternoon, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet was due to brief the Council in consultations on the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The Council was also due to discuss Sudan sanctions and other matters.

SECRETARY-GENERAL CONGRATULATES IBRAHIM BOUBACAR KEITA ON HIS ELECTION AS PRESIDENT OF MALI

  • The Secretary-General congratulated Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on his election as President of Mali in a telephone conversation yesterday and welcomed the peaceful manner in which the elections were conducted.
  • The Secretary-General pledged the support of the United Nations to the Government of Mali in its efforts to address the root causes of the crisis, including through dialogue and reconciliation.
  • The Secretary-General also offered support for the implementation of the 18 June Preliminary Agreement between the Government of Mali and northern armed groups, and for the organisation of legislative elections.
  • Also, in a statement issued today, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, said that the entire fragile Sahel region needs to be supported so as to build sustainable peace. He said that the UN system is working on the implementation of a UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, which was presented to the Security Council in June.

U.N. MISSION IN D.R. CONGO TO TAKE NECESSARY ACTION TO PROTECT CIVILIANS FOLLOWING CLASHES NEAR GOMA

  • The United Nations Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) reports that fighting resumed yesterday between the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) and M23 armed group in the Kibati area, 15 km north of Goma, in North Kivu province.
  • The mission says that populated areas and UN positions were directly targeted by mortars and hit by indiscriminate fire.
  • In response, Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the Mission, has ordered UN peacekeepers to take necessary action to protect civilians and prevent an advance by the M23.

U.N. MISSION IN DARFUR AIRLIFTS MORE THAN 300 CIVILIANS FOLLOWING CLASHES

  • As part of its ongoing efforts to address the needs of civilians affected in the East Darfur inter-communal clashes, the joint African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), said on Thursday that it assisted in airlifting more than 300 civilians, on 18 August, from El Daein, East Darfur to Abu Karinka, located approximately 50 kilometers northeast of El Daein.
  • In addition, on Wednesday, the Mission provided logistical support by transporting representatives of Rezeigat and Ma’alia tribes to Al Tawisha, North Darfur to participate in the signing of an agreement to cease hostilities in East Darfur.

U.N. AGENCY FOR PALESTINE REFUGEES REJECTS ALLEGATIONS IT PROMOTED ANTI-SEMITISM, INCITEMENT TO VIOLENCE

  • The UN Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, said today that it categorically rejected the allegations made in a film release by an Israeli filmmaker that the Agency promoted anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in its ‘summer camps.’
  • UNRWA said it conducted a lengthy and detailed investigation into the film, called “Camp Jihad,” which it said is grossly misleading.
  • The Agency said that the filmmaker concerned has a history of making baseless claims about UNRWA, all of which it has investigated and demonstrated to be patently false.  UNRWA said that it has long been the practice of the filmmaker to show non-UNRWA activities and portray them as activities of UNRWA.
  • The Agency said that its repeated rejection of his falsehoods is a matter of public record.
  • UNRWA said that it is committed to fostering human rights and tolerance, and that it teaches these values through the curriculum in its schools. UNRWA is one of the few organizations that has implemented human rights and conflict resolution training for millions of Palestine refugee children in the complex political environment of the Middle East for over 12 years.

U.N. HUMANITARIAN OFFICIAL SAYS HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN COLOMBIA HAS IMPROVED

  • The Director of Operations for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging, said after a recent visit with representatives of international non-governmental Organizations to Colombia that while the humanitarian situation in the country has improved greatly, there is still more to be done.
  • Mr. Ging said that the international community must support the people of Colombia as they strive to recover from decades of conflict.
  • He said that while there has been recent progress in the peace talks, there are still hundreds of thousands of people waiting for the most basic improvements in healthcare, sanitation, food security, education and livelihoods.

U.N. MISSION IN LEBANON AWARE OF REPORTS OF ROCKETS BEING FIRED FROM LEBANON TO ISRAEL

  • Asked about reports of rockets being fired from Lebanon into Israel, the Deputy Spokesperson said that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is aware of these reports and the mission has sent one of its helicopters to investigate the incident.
  • The Force Commander is also in contact with various parties and has called for restraint.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO DISCUSS SPORT FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT

  • The General Assembly will hold a plenary meeting on Friday morning to discuss sport for peace and development.
  • The plenary meeting will be followed by an informal segment to mark the adoption of the “International Day of Sport for Development and Peace”, featuring statements by Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee, and Novak Djokovic, the World No. 1 ranked tennis player.