HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PRESS BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY,
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
SUNDAY, 1 SEPTEMBER 2013
BAN BRIEFED ON NEXT STAGES OF INVESTIGATION PROCESS BY HEAD OF SYRIA CHEMICAL WEAPONS TEAM
- The Secretary-General held a telephone call today with Dr. Åke Sellström, Head of the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic.
- Dr. Sellström, who has just returned to The Hague with the rest of his expert team, after work in Syria from 19 to 31 August, briefed the Secretary-General on the next stages of the investigation process.
- All preparations for classifying the samples are progressing well. Samples will begin to be transferred to laboratories tomorrow.
- Dr. Sellström told the Secretary-General that two Syrian officials were observing the process.
- The whole process will be done strictly adhering to the highest established standards of verification recognised by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
- In light of the horrendous magnitude of the 21 August incident in the Ghouta area of Damascus, the Secretary-General asked Dr. Sellström to expedite the Mission’s analysis of the samples and information it had obtained without jeopardizing the scientific timelines required for accurate analysis, and to report the results to him as soon as possible.
- They discussed ways to further accelerate the process.
- The Secretary-General personally thanked Prof. Sellström for his undertaking and for the performance of the team while in Syria in spite of the difficult and dangerous circumstances.
- The Secretary-General spoke this morning with the Foreign Minister of France, Laurent Fabius, and he will continue to be in contact with world leaders in the days to come.
- Asked about the announcement made by US President Barack Obama yesterday on the referral to Congress, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General has taken note of it. The regards it as one aspect of an effort to achieve a broad-based international consensus on measures in response to any use of chemical weapons. Use of chemical weapons will not be accepted under any circumstances. There should be no impunity and any perpetrators of such a horrific crime against humanity must be held accountable. The UN Investigation Mission should be given an opportunity to succeed. The Secretary-General applauds the bravery of the team of UN experts who undertook their on-site fact-finding activities despite grave security risks. The Secretary-General reiterates the primary role of the Security Council in maintaining and restoring international peace and security, including in any case where the use of chemical weapons is established. As such, he believes the Council should stand firm and united in agreeing on measures in response to any use of chemical weapons.
- Asked about the Secretary-General’s participation at the forthcoming G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Spokesperson said that Syria is likely to figure prominently in the discussions. Nesirky added that the itinerary of the Secretary-General, who will be departing New York on Tuesday, during the summit has not yet been finalized.
- Asked about further work by the investigation team in Syria, the Spokesperson said that the team has given a clear undertaking to the Syrian authorities that it will return to conduct the investigation into all pending allegations, including Khan Al-Asal. Nesirky said that no specific time or details on the composition of the team have been given.
- Asked about the work of the mission and the announcement by the United States of its own findings, the Spokesperson reiterated that the UN mission is uniquely capable of establishing in an impartial and credible manner the facts of any use of chemical weapons based directly on evidence collected on the ground. He added that despite various reports of timelines of when the mission will complete its work, there is no timeline. Nesirky said that the Secretary-General discussed with Dr. Sellström ways to accelerate the process will keeping strictly within scientific bounds, including adhering with the established OPCW standards. He noted that guidelines for who should oversee the chain of custody are very clear, with two Syrian Government officials involved.
- Asked about the Secretary-General’s views regarding any possible military strikes, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General has underscored the importance of the UN Charter and that he reiterates the primary role of the Security Council in maintaining and restoring international peace and security. Nesirky said the Secretary-General has underscored a need for a political solution to the crisis and that a military solution is not an option.
- Asked about the Secretary-General’s interaction with the Security Council, the Spokesperson said that briefings can take numerous forms. In addition to his meeting with the permanent members of the Council, the Secretary-General intends to speak with the non-permanent members, probably on Tuesday, 3 September. Nesirky noted that it is up to the Security Council itself to invite the Secretary-General to speak to it. He added that that the Secretary-General has been reaching out to Member States and that he is ready and willing to speak to the Council.
- Asked about whether evidence of alleged chemical weapons incidents has been shared with the UN, the Spokesperson said that Member States are encouraged to share information. Nesirky said he is not aware of whether the United States or Russia has shared information on alleged incidents.
- Asked about how perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons can be held accountable, the Spokesperson said that this is for the Security Council to determine.
- Asked about the logistical arrangements regarding the work of the UN mission, the Spokesperson confirmed that Germany had provided the team with an aircraft.
SYRIA: U.N. CONTINUING WITH CRITICAL HUMANITARIAN WORK
- The UN is continuing its critical humanitarian work in Syria, where and when possible, as well as in neighbouring countries.
- For example, the World Food Programme (WFP) targeted 3 million people with food aid in August. And last week, it dispatched 2,000 emergency ready-to-eat rations for 10,000 people in Latakia. In Aleppo, where fighting and the spike in prices are leading to food shortages, the Programme sought to feed more than 350,000 people in August.
- In the first seven months of this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) has coordinated the provision of assistance to 3.7 million people in Syria.
- The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has reached more than 180,000 uprooted children with health support in clinics, and it has also helped more than 10 million people in Syria access drinking water.
- For its part, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its partners have reached more than 1.5 million people with much-needed supplies.
- There are many more people outside of Syria in neighbouring countries receiving assistance.