HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FARHAN HAQ,
ASSOCIATE SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
MONDAY, 26 AUGUST 2013
SYRIA: U.N. CHEMICALS WEAPONS INVESTIGATION TEAM CONTINUES WORK AFTER VEHICLE SHOT AT
- The first vehicle of the Chemical Weapons Investigation Team in Syria was deliberately shot at multiple times by unidentified snipers in the buffer zone area. The Team later returned to work in the area to visit two hospitals. They interviewed witnesses, survivors and doctors and collected some samples.
- The Secretary-General said that he has instructed his High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane, to register a strong complaint to the Syrian Government and authorities of opposition forces to avoid any further incidents and ensure the safety and security of the investigation teams.
- Asked further about the shooting incident, the Spokesperson said that one vehicle used by the inspection team had its tyres and front window shot at. The vehicle could no longer be used, which prompted the team to head away from the area, although it was able to return later and go about its work.
- He said that the team had a productive day, in which it gathered information that would now be analysed. The team intends to return to onsite work on Tuesday.
- Asked about which areas are investigated, the Spokesperson said that the areas of daily investigation need to be predefined to allow for coordination, particularly to ensure there is a cessation of hostilities as well as cooperation from the opposition forces on the ground.
- He noted that, in addition to the site of the 21 August attacks, the team would still look into the other three sites on which there was previous agreement.
- Asked about the team’s mandate, Haq said that the team will collect all available information to determine whether chemical weapons, agents or substances were used during the attacks of 21 August. It has never been the mandate of the mission to investigate and determine responsibility.
- At the same time, he added that the Mission will seek to reconstruct an evidence-based narrative of the alleged incidents and other information in accordance with its guidelines.
- Asked whether it has taken too long for the team to collect useful information, the Spokesperson said that, despite the passage of a number of days, the Secretary-General is confident that the team will be able to obtain and analyze evidence relevant for its investigation of the 21 August incident at Ghouta in Damascus. He believes the investigation of this incident will benefit greatly from the fact that the investigation team was already on hand and prepared to go on site immediately.
- Asked about threats of military strikes on Syria, the Spokesperson declined to speculate on what actions may be taken. He noted that the Secretary-General has consistently called for the immediate cessation of hostilities in Syria and for all sides to work to achieve a political solution. The task is to complete an unimpeded investigation as promptly as possible before speculating any possible next steps.
SECRETARY-GENERAL DISCUSSING SYRIA DEVELOPMENTS WITH WORLD LEADERS
- The Secretary-General has been heavily engaged in developments in Syria over the past few days, and has spoken to a number of world leaders.
- The Secretary-General has also had meetings in Seoul with business leaders and development officials today, with a focus on women's empowerment and the Millennium Development Goals. The Secretary-General also gave a press conference.
- Over the weekend, the Secretary-General attended the opening of the World Rowing Championships in his home region and visited his birthplace and the town where he grew up.
- Tomorrow, the Secretary-General flies to the Netherlands and then travels later to Austria.
- He returns to New York this weekend.
LEBANON: MEETING PRIME MINISTER, U.N. ENVOY EXPRESSES CONDOLENCES ON TRIPOLI EXPLOSIONS
- Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, met with Prime Minister Najib Mikati this morning and extended his condolences regarding the two explosions in Tripoli last Friday.
- He noted that, as the Security Council has stated, the important things in the present circumstances are self-restraint, bringing those responsible for the criminal attacks to justice and cooperating with the security forces.
- He added that they also discussed the need to respect resolution 1701, adding that the events of last week across the Blue Line have generated concern.
U.N. AGENCY DEEPLY REGRETS KILLING OF STAFF MEMBER BY ISRAELI FORCES
- The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) deeply regrets to confirm that one of its staff members was shot dead by Israeli forces in an operation in Qalandiya Refugee Camp in the occupied West Bank this morning. Credible reports say that he was on his way to work and was not engaged in any violent activity. Another staff member of the Relief and Works Agency was shot in the leg during the same operation and is in a stable condition. An UNRWA investigation is ongoing.
- Today’s killing took place during an incursion into Qalandiya Refugee Camp during which three people in total were killed and about twenty injured, some of them seriously.
- The UN Relief and Works Agency condemns the killing of its staff member and calls on all sides, at this delicate time, to exercise maximum restraint and to act in accordance with obligations under international law.
U.N. HUMANITARIAN ARM CONCENED ABOUT CONTINUED DESTRUCTION OF PALESTINIAN HOMES
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says it is very concerned about the continued destruction of Palestinian homes and the forced displacement of men, women and children in the occupied West Bank.
- Since the beginning of the year, over 420 Palestinian structures have been demolished by Israeli authorities, forcibly displacing almost 800 people, around half of them children. Such actions cause significant human suffering, raise serious concerns under international law and must be brought to a halt.
HEAD OF U.N. AGENCY TASKED WITH PRESS FREEDOM SPEAKS OUT AGAINST DEATHS OF THREE EGYPTIAN JOURNALISTS
- Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), denounced the deaths of reporter Ahmed Abdel Gawad and photographer Mosab Al-Shami in Cairo on August 14, and journalist Tamer Abdel Raouf, at Damanhur in the north of Egypt on 19 August. The Director-General called for a thorough investigation to determine the exact circumstances of the three killings.
- These three deaths bring to six the number of journalists killed in Egypt this year.
HEAVY FIGHTING BETWEEN REBELS, GOVERNMENT FORCES IN EASTERN D.R. CONGO – U.N. MISSION
- The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) said today that heavy fighting resumed between the M23 rebel group and Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) in the Kibati area, 15 km north of the town of Goma, on Saturday.
The M23 used heavy weapons and fired indiscriminately into densely populated areas, posing a serious threat to civilians. An M23 mortar shell landed in the Ndosho section of Goma, killing one person and injuring five other civilians. The M23 also fired shells which towards MONUSCO’s position on the Munigi Heights, and one peacekeeper was injured.
In response to the targeting of civilian areas by M23, MONUSCO fired back to suppress M23 positions.
- The UN mission said that the unfortunate death of a civilian by M23 fire in Goma sparked violent demonstrations throughout the town. Demonstrators attacked a MONUSCO transit camp near Goma airport. Attempts were made to force entry into the camp, which led to the tragic deaths of two civilians and six injured when the Congolese authorities and MONUSCO tried to contain the crowd.
- The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Martin Kobler, deplored the death of the two demonstrators. A joint MONUSCO-FARDC investigation was immediately launched.
- The situation remained tense on Sunday, but no fighting occurred. This morning, the UN Mission has seen limited sporadic firing between the M23 and FARDC in Kibati.
- MONUSCO said it will continue to use all necessary means to defend civilians and prevent the threats of heavy weaponry and infiltration into the security zone
- The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes region of Africa, Mary Robinson, said in a statement issued over the weekend that the attacks on the town of Goma, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as on the UN peacekeepers, were unacceptable and that they should stop immediately.
- Mrs. Robinson strongly urged all authorities in the region to observe maximum restraint, to ensure that civilian populations are protected, and to minimize the risk of escalation of the situation.
- The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Moustapha Soumare, also strongly condemned the attacks. Mr. Soumare reminded all parties to the conflict that the indiscriminate or deliberate attack against civilians is a war crime.
- Asked about actions taken by the UN Mission (MONUSCO), the Spokesperson said it was focused on ensuring that the civilian population of Goma would be protected and be out of the line of fire from armed groups.
MEETING PEACEBUILDING CHALLENGES DEPENDS PRIMARILY ON SOMALI GOVERNMENT, SAYS U.N. ENVOY
- At a meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa today, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, gave a briefing on developments in the country.
- Mr. Kay said that Somalia still faces many challenges, including the volatile security situation in southern Somalia and particularly Mogadishu. He noted that the month of Ramadan saw a surge in security incidents as a result of the continued threat posed by Al-Shabaab.
- The Special Representative said that successfully meeting the major peacebuilding challenges in Somalia depends primarily on the efforts of the country’s Government, adding that foremost among these challenges is the establishment of a well-functioning federal structure.
SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS NEW U.N. MILITARY ADVISER
- The Secretary-General has appointed Lieutenant General Maqsood Ahmed of Pakistan as the Military Adviser for Peacekeeping Operations. Lieutenant General Ahmed replaces Senegal’s Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, whose tour of duty ended on 8 July 2013.
- Since February this year, Lieutenant General Ahmed has been a Corps Commander in Pakistan’s Armed Forces.
ON REPORTS OF MONITORING OF U.N. COMMUNICATIONS, WORLD BODY TO BE IN CONTACT WITH RELEVANT AUTHORITIES
- Asked about reports that the United States was monitoring communications at UN Headquarters, the Spokesperson said that the United Nations was aware of the reports and would be in touch with the relevant authorities.
- He said that the inviolability of diplomatic missions, including the United Nations and other international organizations, whose functions are protected by the relevant international conventions like the Vienna Convention, has been well-established international law. Therefore, Member States are expected to act accordingly to protect the inviolability of diplomatic missions.