HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PRESS BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY, SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
MONDAY, 16 SEPTEMBER 2013
SECRETARY-GENERAL’S PRESS REMARKS ON THE REPORT OF THE CHEMICAL WEAPONS MISSION IN SYRIA
- Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for your patience, for waiting.
- Today marks a grim but necessary step in the world’s efforts to combat chemical weapons.
- The report of the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the use of Chemical Weapons in Syria has concluded that chemical weapons were used on a relatively large scale in the Ghouta area of Damascus on August 21st, causing numerous casualties, particularly among civilians.
- This morning I submitted the Mission’s report to the Security Council and the Member States of the United Nations. We have also posted it on-line for all the world to see.
- The team of experts led by Professor Åke Sellström deserves high praise. They faced dangerous circumstances, including a sniper attack. They did their job in record time while upholding the highest professional and scientific standards. Working with experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the World Health Organization (WHO), they showed the United Nations at its best.
- The report makes for chilling reading.
- The team gathered testimony from survivors, medical personnel and first responders.
- They collected biomedical evidence and dozens of soil and environmental samples.
- The Mission has provided the world with an impartial and independent account.
- The results are overwhelming and indisputable.
- Eighty-five per cent of the blood samples tested positive for sarin. A majority of the environmental samples confirmed the use of sarin. A majority of the rockets or rocket fragments recovered were found to be carrying sarin.
- The findings are beyond doubt and beyond the pale.
- This is a war crime and a grave violation of the 1925 Protocol and other rules of customary international law. It is the most significant confirmed use of chemical weapons against civilians since Saddam Hussein used them in Halabja in 1988 – and the worst use of weapons of mass destruction in the 21st century.
- The international community has a responsibility to ensure that chemical weapons never re-emerge as an instrument of warfare.
- Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention and its belated acknowledgement that it possesses chemical weapons are welcome developments that come with strict obligations.
- I also welcome the agreement reached over the weekend between the Russian Federation and the United States on a framework to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons.
- I urged, this morning, the Security Council to act urgently to ensure enforcement and compliance with this plan. After two and a half years of tragedy, now is the time for the Security Council to show leadership and exercise its moral and political responsibilities.
- There must be accountability for the use of chemical weapons. Any use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, is a crime.
- But our message today must be more than: Do not slaughter your people with gas.
- There must also be no impunity for the crimes being committed with conventional weapons.
- The United Nations Commission of Inquiry reported last week on a host of horrors being committed by both sides in the conflict, from murder, rape and torture to indiscriminate shelling of civilian neighbourhoods. Yet arms continue to flow to the country and the region.
- The humanitarian situation is desperate. People are living under siege. Families face intolerable choices between the risk of remaining in place and the risk of taking flight. Communities that once lived in relative harmony are now torn with sectarian tension. One third of the country’s people have fled their homes -- the largest flows of refugees and internally displaced persons in many years, causing instability across the region.
- All of the killing must end. The fighting must end.
- We need to do everything we can to bring the parties to the negotiating table. I stand ready to convene the International Conference on Syria in Geneva as soon as possible. I look forward to meeting with Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov of Russia and Secretary [John] Kerry [of the United States] later this month and hope we will be able to set a date for the conference at that time.
- The UN Mission will return to Syria as soon as it can to conduct the other investigations for which it was established. My hope is that this incident will serve as a wake-up call for more determined efforts to resolve the conflict and end the unbearable suffering of the Syrian people.
SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES UNDERSTANDING ON SYRIA’S CHEMICAL WEAPONS
- In a statement issued on Saturday, the Secretary-General welcomed the news that Russian Federation Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had reached an understanding regarding the safeguarding and destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles. The Secretary-General looks forward to learning more of this framework agreement and pledges the support of the United Nations in its implementation.
- The Secretary-General expresses his fervent hope that the agreement will, first, prevent any future use of chemical weapons in Syria and, second, help pave the path for a political solution to stop the appalling suffering inflicted on the Syrian people.
SYRIA SENDS IN INSTRUMENT OF ACCESSION TO CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION
- The Secretary-General, in his capacity as the depositary of the 1992 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, received the formal instrument of accession to the Convention by the Syrian Arab Republic on Saturday.
- Pursuant to the Convention, any State may accede to the Convention at any time. The Convention will enter into force for the Syrian Arab Republic on the 30th day following the date of deposit of this instrument of accession, namely on 14 October 2013.
- The Secretary-General welcomes the accession of the Syrian Arab Republic to this Convention.
HEAD OF U.N. MISSION NOTES STRAIN ON POLITICAL PROCESS IN LIBYA
- Tarek Mitri, the head of the UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) briefed the Security Council on Monday on the situation there, and he said that a combination of internal and regional dynamics continues to place a huge strain on the political processes taking place in the country.
- During the last three months, he added, we have seen more pronounced political disagreements among the various political forces.
- Mr. Mitri notes that the recent and severe disruption of the country’s oil exports, following protests at a number of terminals, mostly in the east, has grave consequences for Libya’s economic stability.
67th GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION CLOSES AFTER ADOPTING MORE THAN 300 RESOLUTIONS
- The Secretary-General has commended the number of significant achievements made by the General Assembly over the past year at the closing session of the 67th session of the General Assembly.
- The Secretary-General said that the Assembly stepped in when the Security Council was divided on Syria. He also commended the Assembly on its first-ever High-level Meeting on the Rule of Law and the adoption of an Arms Trade Treaty, the first-ever international treaty to regulate the trade of conventional weapons.
- The Assembly adopted more than 300 resolutions during the 67th session.
AT HIGH-LEVEL CONFERENCE, SECRETARY-GENERAL VOICES OPTIMISM FOR SOMALIA’S FUTURE
· The Secretary-General said on Monday that is optimistic about the future of Somalia, noting that behind the day-to-day crises and violence, some of the fundamental foundations for progress are in place, such as an international community united behind a credible, legitimate Federal Government and the political will to compromise and manage disputes.
· In a message delivered by his Special Representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, to the High-Level Conference on a New Deal for Somalia held in Brussels today, the Secretary-General said that this compact is about the people, for the people and with the people of Somalia.
· He added that today’s meeting is a milestone and the beginning of a new partnership based on mutual commitments and accountability that bind all of us in support for Somalia.
- The Secretary-General said that the UN will continue to support the Government’s efforts to bring the political process, security needs, human rights protection and development activities together under one framework. He said that the UN will also continue to improve its own operations in Somalia, promoting international coordination and working progressively towards strengthening national systems.
SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS CHIEF OF U.N. CONVENTION TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION
- The Secretary-General following consultation with the Bureau of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) announced today the appointment of Monique Barbut of France as Executive Secretary of the UNCCD. She will replace Mr. Luc Gnacadja.
- The Secretary-General expressed his gratitude for Mr. Gnacadja’s outstanding contribution and commitment in spearheading the Organization’s work.