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Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PRESS BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY,
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

MONDAY, 30 SEPTEMBER 2013

U.N. CHEMICAL WEAPONS TEAM WRAPS UP SYRIA MISSION

  • The team of chemical weapons investigators led by Prof. Ake Sellström, which was in Syria to investigate allegations of the use of chemical weapons there, left the country today after completing its six-day mission.
  • The team will now move to the phase of finalizing its report, which the team hopes will be ready by late October.
  • Meanwhile, the Deputy Secretary-General spoke by videolink today to the UN Refugee Agency’s Executive Committee in Geneva, and he drew attention to the needs of more than 2.1 million Syrian refugees who have registered or are waiting to be registered in five neighbouring countries. He said that the impact of the refugee crisis on neighbouring countries has been very significant, with public services becoming severely overstretched.
  • António Guterres, the High Commissioner for Refugees, said that Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq have been sheltering an unrelenting flood of Syrian refugees, saving lives and providing protection. They have been generous hosts to their neighbours, but all of them are stretched to their limits. Valerie Amos, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, also spoke at that meeting.
  • Asked about whether the Sellström team members would return to Syria, the Spokesperson said that they departed today and would now work to finalize their report by the end of October. He said that they had obtained considerable information during their visits.
  • He added, in response to further questions, that the team had received good cooperation as it went about its work. He noted, in addition, that their most recent work did not necessarily require on-site visits to areas where alleged chemical weapons attacks had taken place.
  • Asked why the team did not visit Khan al-Asal, the Spokesperson said that, for many sites, documentary information or data from witnesses could be obtained without going to the area. The passage of time, meanwhile, affected the ability to obtain useful samples from some sites.
  • Asked about a joint UN-Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) team going to Syria, the Spokesperson said that the team was scheduled to begin work on Tuesday. He noted that the team comprises OPCW chemical weapons experts and other key personnel supporting their work.
  • Nesirky added that the team going in was an advance team, with a larger team going in a few weeks later.
  • He added that, following the Security Council vote on chemical weapons in Syria last Friday, there was a clear need to move forward on the political and humanitarian tracks.
  • Asked about the guidelines for the Sellström team’s work, the Spokesperson pointed to the guidelines of the Secretary-General’s mechanism for dealing with chemical weapons, which were developed following the passage of a General Assembly resolution in 1987, reaffirmed by a later Security Council resolution.
  • Under those guidelines, the teams determine whether chemical weapons were used but not by whom.
  • Asked about a letter from the Government of Syria concerning Syrian opposition leaders, the Spokesperson confirmed that the letter has been received.
  • He added that the Secretary-General met over the weekend at his residence with Syrian opposition leaders.
  • Asked about the humanitarian situation, the Spokesperson noted that, in his remarks to the Security Council on Friday, the Secretary-General said that he expected Council members to firmly demand that the Syrian Government and the opposition uphold their obligations under International Humanitarian Law, including the lifting of all obstacles to humanitarian access.
  • Nesirky added that the Secretary-General had added in his General Assembly address that human rights monitors could play a useful role.

IRAQ: U.N. ENVOY SHOCKED AT EXPLOSIONS IN ERBIL

  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq has expressed his shock at the series of car bomb explosions that hit the city of Erbil yesterday and caused a number of casualties.
  • Special Representative Nickolay Mladenov said that, for many years, the city Erbil has benefited from peace and security. He urged the regional and national authorities to work together to ensure that conditions will remain calm and tranquil and that those responsible for the attack will be brought to justice.

U.N. MISSION WORKING TO BOLSTER SECURITY IN MALI

  • In response to questions, the Spokesperson said that the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is working closely with the Malian authorities and Operation Serval regarding follow up to the suicide bombing in Timbuktu and on strengthening security in the town, as well as on restoring order in Kidal.
  • MINUSMA is also working with the parties to the 18 June Agreement and international partners to help ensure that implementation gets back on track.  It is vital that there is cooperation amongst the parties within the implementation mechanisms for the Agreement and discussions on the way forward to continue.
  • Important steps include the ceasefire, the launch of an inclusive dialogue with all Northern armed groups and communities and the cantonment process.
  • The security incidents that have taken place over the past couple of days in Timbuktu and Kidal are indications of need for continued vigilance. 

SECRETARY-GENERAL SPOTLIGHTS FRAGILITY OF ECONOMIES OF LANDLOCKED DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

  • At a Ministerial Meeting of Landlocked Developing Countries this morning, the Secretary-General said that the economies of landlocked developing countries remain fragile and vulnerable to external shocks such as the global economic crisis and climate change.
  • To address these challenges, the Secretary-General said that policies should be results-oriented and broad-based. He also called on Landlocked Developing Countries to strengthen partnerships and take advantage of cooperation and investment among developing States while stressing the need for a successful conclusion of the Doha Round of trade negotiations.
  • The Secretary-General also said that the concerns and perspectives of landlocked developing countries must be taken into account in crafting the post-2015 development agenda.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • Asked about the Secretary-General’s meeting last week with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, the Spokesperson said that they discussed human rights, among other subjects, including the recent release of a dozen human rights activists, including Nasrine Setoudeh. The Secretary-General welcomed that release and called for additional such steps.
  • Asked about the situation between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Spokesperson said that a solution to the so-called “name” issue is in the interest of both countries, as well as to the Western Balkans as a whole. The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Matthew Nimetz, visited the region earlier this month and met with senior government officials of both countries to seek their views on his most recent proposal.
  • Asked about cholera in Haiti, the Spokesperson said that the focus of the United Nations is to help the people of Haiti deal with the epidemic, adding that funding is crucial for that effort. He noted that the Secretary-General had met with the Prime Minister of Haiti last week.