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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 FARHAN HAQ,
ASSOCIATE SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

THURSDAY, 29 AUGUST 2013

SECRETARY-GENERAL CUTS SHORT VISIT TO AUSTRIA TO MEET WTH U.N. INVESTIGATION TEAM ON SYRIA

  • The Secretary-General met today with the President, Chancellor and Foreign Minister of Austria in Vienna. He discussed Syria extensively with all three.
  • The Secretary-General briefed the President and the Chancellor on the work of the UN chemical weapons investigation team. He underscored the importance of giving diplomacy a chance and enabling the investigation team to finish their work.
  • In remarks to reporters, the Secretary-General said that the chemical weapons investigation team in Syria will continue its activities in the country until Friday and will come out of Syria by Saturday morning. He expects to be briefed by the team after they come out of Syria. For that reason, he added, he would cut short his visit to Austria and is traveling back to New York.
  • In response to questions, the Spokesperson said that the chemical weapons investigation team had visited sites today where it had gathered evidence related to the 21 August Ghouta attack. That visit occurred without incident.
  • Asked about what the team would do after its departure from Syria, Haq said that the large number of material the team had collected would be analysed in laboratories in Europe. Team members would accompany all evidence to ensure chain of custody.
  • He added that the Secretary-General expected an oral briefing from the team in the coming days.
  • Asked whether that briefing would include a partial report about the team’s findings, Haq cautioned that the team would need to await laboratory analysis of the samples it has gathered before its work is completed.
  • Asked whether the Secretary-General would brief the Security Council on Syria in the coming days, Haq said no meeting has been scheduled by the Security Council. He added that the Secretary-General would reach out to Member States on Syria once he is back in New York.
  • Asked about a request from the Syrian Government to look into three additional sites where chemical weapons use is alleged, the Spokesperson said the request was received on Wednesday. Any reports of alleged incidents of the use of chemical weapons that are brought to the Secretary-General’s attention by a Member State will be given serious consideration.
  • Asked about the team’s initial focus on Khan al-Asal and two other sites, Haq said that the team still intends to look into those incidents in due course. He recalled that the Secretary-General had asked the team to look into the Ghouta incident as a matter of priority following the 21 August attack. The team would therefore put together the information on that incident first before returning to investigate other sites.
  • In response to questions, the Spokesperson reiterated that the team’s mandate was to determine whether chemical weapons had been used rather than who used them. At the same time, he added, they would put together an evidence-based narrative that would help to determine what happened during the 21 August incident.
  • Haq declined to speculate on whether further military action could take place in Syria, but added that the Secretary-General has made clear the need to give diplomacy a chance and get the parties to cease fighting and enter negotiations. He has also made clear the need for the Security Council to take up its responsibilities and act on Syria in a unified manner.
  • Asked when Angela Kane will return to New York, he said she would also leave Syria on Saturday and come back to New York then.
  • Asked about the number of UN staff in Syria, he said there were about 1,000 international and national staff in the country.

DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL TO TRAVEL TO SWEDEN

  • This evening, the Deputy Secretary-General will depart New York to give the keynote address on 2 September at the World Water Week in Stockholm.  He will travel afterward to Uppsala University to take part in a panel discussion on “The Future of the UN,” which will be attended by around 1,500 teachers and students. A wreath will also be placed at the graveside of Dag Hammarskjöld in the presence of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.
  • On 3 September, he will speak at a seminar in memory of former Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, who was assassinated in September ten years ago. On 4 September, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Lund to deliver the 2013 Anna Lindh Lecture at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute at Lund University. 
  • The Deputy Secretary-General will return to New York on Thursday, 5 September.

U.N. MISSION SUPPORTS ARMY OPERATIONS IN EASTERN D.R. CONGO, BAN CONDEMNS KILLING OF BLUE HELMET

  • The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) says that Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) have resumed operations today to remove the M23 threat of shelling into populated areas from the Kibati Heights. The UN Force continues to support this operation including with use of its artillery and attack helicopters.
  • In a statement issued last night, the Secretary-General condemned the killing of a Tanzanian peacekeeper and the wounding of ten others, when they came under fire from the M23 group while carrying out the mandate of the Force Intervention Brigade.
  • The Secretary-General offered his sincere condolences and sympathy to their families and to the Governments of the United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of South Africa.
  • Since the statement was issued last night, the mission reports that one further peacekeeper has been wounded.
  • The Security Council will hold consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo today, and will be briefed by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
  • Asked about reports that Rwanda has been fired upon from the DRC, the Spokesperson said that the Mission reports that it can confirm firing incidents into Rwanda territory originated from M23 positions between 22 and 29 August. The Mission further reports that it has not witnessed any Congolese Armed Forces firing into Rwanda territory during this period.

SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF LEBANON MISSION, BRIEFED ON KOSOVO

  • This morning, the Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) until August 2014.
  • The Council was then briefed by videoconference by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Farid Zarif.
  • He told the Council that important progress has continued towards the implementation of the Agreement reached between the parties on 19 April.
  • Mr. Zarif said that the leaders in Pristina and Belgrade have sustained their commitment to work toward implementation of the Agreement in a timely and constructive manner, notwithstanding some complications in the process.
  • He said that such progress remains fundamental to building mutual trust and realizing the key aspirations of both parties, the population in Kosovo, and indeed of the region.
  • Asked about a report issued by Human Rights Watch on the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), the Spokesperson said that UNMIK attaches very high importance to the work of its own Human Rights Advisory Panel.  The Special Representative of the Secretary-General has provided timely and positive responses on recommendations by the Panel, and where the Panel has found that UNMIK had failed to ensure protection of human rights in cases of missing persons, the Special Representative has explained that the events occurred under the interim administration of Kosovo. 
  • UNMIK no longer exerts executive powers over the institutions and resources of Kosovo, including the Kosovo consolidated budget.  Therefore, for all practical purposes, UNMIK is not anymore in a position to follow through on the panel’s recommendations.
  • The Special Representative has urged, however and in light of the importance of this issue, that EULEX take all possible steps to ensure continuation of investigations and the need to bring perpetrators to justice.
  • Asked about financial compensation, Haq said that the claims relate to alleged failures by UNMIK in its capacity as the interim administration of Kosovo. To date, a significant number of critical administrative functions are performed directly by the Kosovo authorities.  As a practical matter, UNMIK no longer exerts control over the Kosovo consolidated budget and therefore cannot make the decision to follow through on the panel’s recommendations for payment of financial compensation.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY URGES AUTHORITIES TO PROTECT CIVILIANS FROM CLASHES

  • The UN Refugee Agency today called on the authorities in the Central African Republic to take immediate action to protect civilians from fighting in the capital Bangui and allow people to return to their homes.
  • The UN Agency said that over the past ten days arbitrary arrests, detention, torture, extortion, armed robberies, physical violence, restriction of movement, lootings and attacks on civilians have displaced thousands of people.
  • By Thursday morning, an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 people, including many women and children had taken refuge at Bangui International airport, blocking the runaway and forcing flights to be rerouted to Cameroon.
  • There were already more than 206,000 internally displaced people in the Central African Republic before the recent events.

U.N. POLITICAL TEAM TO ASSESS POLITICAL, ELECTORAL SITUATION IN THE MALDIVES

  • A UN team fielded by the Department of Political Affairs in New York will visit the Maldives from 31 August through 12 September 2013.
  • During its stay, the team will assess the political and electoral situation prior to and after the 7 September presidential election.
  • While present in the country, the team will work in close coordination with the UN Resident Coordinator in the Maldives.