HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY,
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
TUESDAY, 4 SEPTEMBER 2012
SECRETARY-GENERAL DUE TO SPEAK AT THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S MEETING ON SYRIA
- The Secretary-General was scheduled to speak to the Member States of the General Assembly on Tuesday afternoon, to discuss the situation in Syria. The Assembly was meeting one month after its adoption of a resolution [66/253 B] on Syria and was due to hear from both the Secretary-General and the new Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.
- The Secretary-General was expected to discuss recent developments and call for support for the Joint Special Representative’s work.
- At the same time, he was expected to say that the humanitarian situation is grave and deteriorating, both in Syria and in neighbouring countries affected by the crisis. However, we are constrained by underfunding. The $180 million Humanitarian Response Plan is only half-funded.
- He was also expected to say that Governments that have generously opened their borders and accepted their responsibility to shelter those who have sought refuge urgently need support.
- Asked whether there will be a new humanitarian appeal for Syria, the Spokesperson noted that the Secretary-General was expected to draw attention to the under-funding of the current humanitarian appeal in his remarks on Tuesday afternoon. The funding is plainly needed.
- Nesirky added that it is a time of austerity in the world, but it is also a time of great need. There is a need to help both those people displaced within Syria and those who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.
- Asked about rumours of al-Qaeda elements being present in Syria, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General has repeatedly said that there must be no further militarization of the conflict in Syria.
SHARP INCREASE OF NUMBER OF REFUGEES FLEEING SYRIA IN AUGUST, U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY SAYS
- According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the number of refugees fleeing Syria rose sharply in August, with more than 100,000 people seeking asylum in surrounding countries – the highest monthly total of the Syria crisis to date.
- Refugees continue to cross into Jordan at a rate of about 1,000 a day.
- In Lebanon this week, the United Nations Refugee Agency is opening a mobile registration centre in Baalbeck in the eastern Bekaa in response to the increasing number of displaced Syrians who are settling in the area.
- There are now more than 59,000 displaced Syrians who are registered or awaiting registration with UNHCR in Lebanon.
- According to the authorities, there are currently 80,410 Syrian refugees in Turkey. The Government of Turkey continues to assure UNHCR that the borders remain open to refugees.
U.N. COORDINATOR FOR LEBANON HOPES THOSE KIDNAPPED IN SYRIA WILL BE RELEASED SOON
- Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, met with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Tuesday about the situation in Lebanon and recent developments and spoke to reporters afterwards.
- Mr. Plumbly expressed the hope that all those who have been kidnapped in neighbouring Syria will be released without any further delay. He added that it is unacceptable that this situation should continue.
- The Special Coordinator and the Prime Minister also discussed the situation on the border and Mr. Plumbly underlined again the UN’s concern that cross-border incursions and shelling continue. The discussions also touched on the work of the United Nations in addressing immediate challenges, particularly the situation of Syrians displaced in Lebanon.
- In response to questions, the Spokesperson said he was aware of reports in the media suggesting that the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) should be deployed along the Lebanese border with Syria.
- He said that UNIFIL’s deployment and functions are clearly defined in resolution 1701 and accordingly is focused on operations between the Litani River and the Blue Line in coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces. The core of UNIFIL’s mandate relates to the cessation of hostilities between Lebanon and Israel.
- For this specific purpose, resolution 1701 authorises UNIFIL to assist the Government of Lebanon, if the Government were to request that. It is the sole prerogative of the Lebanese Government to make any such request.
- However, Nesirky said, the United Nations is not aware that any official request in this regard has been made.
U.N. AGENCIES APPEAL FOR ACTION ON FOOD PRICES
- Three UN agencies have appealed for action on international food prices following fears of a repeat of the 2007-2008 world food crisis.
- In a joint statement released on Tuesday, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), José Graziano da Silva, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo F. Nwanze, and the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, say that we need to act urgently to make sure that price shocks do not turn into a catastrophe hurting tens of millions over the coming months.
- The three UN agencies say that in response to high food prices, countries must avoid panic buying and refrain from imposing export restrictions.
- They also say that weather has been among the drivers of each of the three international food price spikes in the past five years. They add that the danger will remain until we find a way to make our food system shock-proof and climate-proof.
U.N. AGENCIES STAND READY TO ASSIST PEOPLE AFFECTED BY STORM IN DPRK: The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that Typhoon Bolaven struck the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) late last month. State media said that nearly 50 people were killed and more than 21,000 people were made homeless by the storm.
The Office is monitoring the situation and UN agencies stand ready to assist.
More than 160 people have been killed in floods caused by heavy rains in July and August. Food, health and water and sanitation assistance have been identified as being the most immediate needs. The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has released $2 million to provide relief.
SECRETARY-GENERAL MADE CLEAR HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IS CRITICAL IN IRAN DURING HIS VISIT TO THIS COUNTRY: Asked about human rights in Iran, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General had spoken on the matter during his recent visit, including while he was at the Foreign Ministry’s School of International Relations in Tehran. The Secretary-General did not meet with opposition leaders during his visit but made clear that the human rights situation in the country remains critical.
Asked about sanctions on Iran, the Spokesperson noted the difference between UN sanctions and those imposed separately by nations or groups of nations. It is up to Iran to comply with the resolutions of the Security Council and to prove that its nuclear programme is for exclusively peaceful purposes, Nesirky added.
It is for the Iranian authorities to dispel concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme, he said, adding that such concerns do not contradict Iran’s sovereign right to nuclear power.