HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY,
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
FRIDAY, 30 AUGUST 2013
SECRETARY-GENERAL MEETS SECURITY COUNCIL’S PERMANENT MEMBERS ON SYRIA
- The Secretary-General has cut short his visit to the Europe to reach out to Member States and met with the Permanent Members of the Security Council today on Syria.
- The Secretary-General provided an overview of the work of Dr. Ake Sellstrom and the UN chemical weapons inspection team, which arrived in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on 18 August, in particular its work on the 21 August incident in al-Ghouta.
- Today, the mission visited a military government hospital in Damascus as part of its evaluation of information provided by Syria, which recently sent a letter to the Secretary-General containing further allegations [of the use of chemical weapons].
- The Secretary-General explained to the Permanent Members of the Security Council today that the UN team visited field hospital, interviewed victims and doctors, collected biomedical samples, as well as visiting affected areas, where they interviewed witnesses and collected environmental samples.
- The team has completed its collection of samples and evidence relating to the 21 August incident and is leaving Damascus tomorrow. The team will return to The Hague, where the headquarters of the Organisation of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is based. The samples that have been collected will be taken to be analyzed in designated laboratories and the analysis of the samples will be expedited. The Spokesperson stressed that before the mission can draw any conclusions about 21 August incident, the evaluation of all available information, including the laboratory analysis of all samples, must be completed.
- The Secretary-General has been in close contact with the team, having spoken to Dr. Sellstrom shortly before meeting the Permanent Members of the Security Council. Dr. Sellstrom’s team seeks to expedite the process of analysis, while also ensuring that rigorous attention is paid to maintaining the integrity of the process.
- As soon as the analysis of the samples is completed, a report will be given to the Secretary-General, who will share its results with all Member States and with the Security Council.
- The mission will proceed to complete its fact-finding activities of all pending, credible allegations. When it has completed its investigation of all allegations, the mission will submit its final report. The team will return to investigate the initial three incidents.
- The Spokesperson noted that the Secretary-General has also been making clear that he takes very seriously his responsibility as Secretary-General to ensure that the United Nations is doing everything it can to uphold the universal prohibition of the use of chemical weapons.
- The Secretary-General will meet tomorrow in New York with Angela Kane, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, who is traveling back to New York Dr. Sellstrom will be remain in Europe to oversee the analysis.
- Asked whether the Secretary-General would urge restraint about any military strikes, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General, in his meeting with the permanent members of the Security Council, once more underscored the importance of the UN Charter.
- Asked when the team’s work will be finished, the Spokesperson said that the team’s focus is on completing its analysis of the 21 August incident. There is no timeline at present for the completion of that task.
- He reiterated that the team is leaving on Saturday with the intention of taking the samples to the designated laboratories so that the testing can begin. There are scientific constraints on how long it takes to test the samples, but the effort is being made to get results as quickly as possible.
- He added that there will be no preliminary findings. There will be a final report once the analysis has been completed.
- Asked about the purpose of the reports, Nesirky said that the team has been investigating the 21 August incident and would also continue its work with the aim of compiling a final report on all the allegations it has received. They would then determine whether chemical weapons have been used in this incidents, but not by whom.
- Asked about media reports that some people from the team have already left for Lebanon, the Spokesperson said that the experts from the team are all currently in Syria and will leave the country on Saturday.
- Asked about reports that some countries have already concluded that Syria has used chemical weapons, Nesirky said that the Secretary-General has consistently encouraged Member States to provide any information that they have.
- Asked whether the Secretary-General had been briefed by the United States on the information it says it has, the Spokesperson said he was not aware of any briefing.
- Asked about the team’s visit to a military hospital, the Spokesperson said they were there to collect information. Based on the merits of that information, they could determine whether an investigation needs to be carried out.
- He added that they talked to a number of patients and took biomedical samples.
- Asked whether the Secretary-General or Dr. Sellström might brief the Security Council this weekend, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General is ready and willing to brief the Council if it wishes for him to do so.
- Asked whether the Secretary-General would brief the Security Council as a whole, Nesirky said that he would be willing to talk to the Council as a whole. The entire purpose of his return to New York was to engage with Member States.
- He said, in response to questions, that this was a scientific investigation that is taking place, and he noted that the mechanism that is in place has specific guidelines on the chain of custody.
- Asked about the laboratories used, he said they are in Europe. None is in a country that is a permanent Security Council member.
- Asked about the departure of the team, he said that it was departing within the allotted time frame that has been laid out. Even once it has departed, he added, more than 1,000 international and national UN staff members remain in Syria.
- Asked about security of those staff, he said that the United Nations places top priority on the safety of its staff.
SECRETARY-GENERAL CONDEMNS INDISCRIMINATE SHELLING BY M23 AGAINST CIVILIANS AND U.N. PEACEKEEPERS IN D.R. CONGO
- The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) said today that the Congolese Armed Forces are pursuing their operations to clear the Kibati Heights, north of Goma, supported by UN peacekeepers.
- The UN Mission also said that M23, under pressure from the Congolese Armed Forces, has vacated Kibati Village and part of Kibati Heights but that they continue to shell civilian areas and UN positions.
- In a statement issued early this morning, the Secretary-General condemned the indiscriminate shelling by the M23 that caused deaths, injuries and damage among the civilian population in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the immediate border area in Rwanda, as well as among United Nations peacekeepers.
- The Secretary-General encouraged all parties concerned to pursue a comprehensive political process aimed at addressing the root causes of the conflict. He called on all regional actors concerned to exercise utmost restraint and refrain from any acts or statements that could lead to a further deterioration of the situation.
- In a press statement issued yesterday, the Security Council condemned the attacks by the M23 against civilians and the UN Mission.
SECRETARY-GENERAL TO TRAVEL TO SAINT PETERSBURG TO ATTEND G-20 SUMMIT NEXT WEEK
- On Tuesday, the Secretary-General will depart New York for Saint Petersburg, in Russia, to attend the G-20 Summit.
- On Wednesday, he will give a lecture on the theme of “United Nations: Youth and Education”, which will be at Saint Petersburg State University.
- On Thursday, the Secretary-General will participate in the G-20 Summit. In a letter to G-20 leaders, he said that their continued commitment to support strong, sustainable and inclusive growth will be critical for making sustainable development a reality for all.
- While in Saint Petersburg, the Secretary-General is expected to have bilateral meetings with several world leaders.
- The Secretary-General will return to New York on 7 September.
MORE THAN 30 PEOPLE DIE FOLLOWING FLOODING IN BAMAKO, MALI, U.N. HUMANITARIAN OFFICE SAYS
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that there has been significant flooding in Bamako, Mali, since Wednesday due to heavy rains and poor drainage systems.
- Reports indicate that 34 people have died and thousands of people have lost their homes.
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that rescue teams from the Malian government's Direction Générale de la Protection Civile (DGPC) have been deployed to help flood victims. Hundreds of homeless families have been given temporary shelter in schools while hundreds of others have found refuge with host families.
- Humanitarian organizations delivered food, hygiene and sanitation products and household items to the DCPG to support around 300 families, within hours of the floods.
- OCHA is supporting the DGPC in assessing the needs of the people displaced by the floods.
THE WEEK AHEAD AT THE UNITED NATIONS
31 AUGUST – 6 SEPTEMBER 2013
(This document is for planning purposes and is subject to change.)
Saturday, 31 August
There are no major events scheduled for today.
Sunday, 1 September
Today, Australia will assume the rotating Presidency of the Security Council for September.
Monday, 2 September
Today is an official holiday at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
In Geneva, the 10th session of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will begin. It will end on 13 September.
Tuesday, 3 September
In Geneva, there will be a press conference by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to present its 2013 Report on UNCTAD's assistance to the Palestinian people. Speakers will include Mahmoud Elkhafif, Coordinator of the Assistance to the Palestinian People at UNCTAD.
Wednesday, 4 September
Today, the Secretary-General will arrive in Saint Petersburg, Russia, to attend the G-20 Summit.
Mr. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) will be the guest at the noon briefing.
At 1:30 p.m., the Permanent Representative of Australia, Gary Quinlan, will brief in his capacity as President of the Security Council for the month of September.
At 3:00 p.m., in Conference Room 1 of the Conference Building (CB), there will be a film-screening of the documentary “Out of the clear blue sky” and a panel discussion to remember the terror attacks on 9/11. Speakers will include: Azza Karam, Senior Adviser on Culture at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); Danielle Gardner, Film-maker; Yuval Neria, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University; and Dr. Peter Rajsingh, Adjunct Professor at New York University. It will be organized by United Nations Academic Impact.
At 6:00 p.m., in the main corridor on the First Floor of the Conference Building (CB), there will be the opening of the exhibit entitled “Peace now: Abolish nuclear tests and weapons”. It will be organized by the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan, in cooperation with the Department of Public Information (DPI).
In Geneva, there will be a press conference to launch the Cluster Munition Monitor Report 2013. Speakers will include Theresa Hitchens, Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and Mary Wareham, Advocacy Director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch.
In Geneva, there will be a joint press conference by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to launch two new UN publications on migration. Speakers will include Craig Mokhiber, Chief of the Development and Economic Social Issues Branch at OHCHR and John Sandage, Director of the Division for Treaty Affairs at UNODC.
Thursday, 5 September
Today is the International Day of Charity.
At 10:00 a.m., in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, there will be an informal meeting of the General Assembly to mark the observance of the International Day against Nuclear Tests. The meeting is convened under the overall theme “The Path to Zero”.
The noon briefing guest will be Georg Kell, UN Global Compact Executive Director, who will discuss a global corporate sustainability report and the forthcoming Global Compact Leaders Summit, to be held in New York on 19-20 September.
At 3:00 p.m., in Conference Room 1 (CB), there will be a panel discussion on “The role of charity in poverty alleviation and eradication and in promoting access to clean water and sanitation”. It will be organized by the Permanent Mission of Hungary, with the support of the Department of Public Information.
Friday, 6 September
There are no major events scheduled for today.