Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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07-Aug-2017 00:24:04
Briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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Over the weekend, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, expressed his deep concern over reports of airstrikes on civilians in Sa’ada Governorate, with attacks on a house and private car in two separate districts having killed at least 12 people, including women and children.

He said that these new incidents, which are being investigated by the UN Human Rights Office, are an example of the brutality in which the conflict is being conducted, adding that all parties to the conflict continue to show a disregard for the protection of civilians and the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants in the conduct of hostilities.

Mr. McGoldrick once again urged all parties to the conflict and those with influence and who support them to uphold their responsibility under international humanitarian law to ensure the safety of civilians.

On the situation regarding the UN’s ability to access fuel needed for its humanitarian operations in the country, some of the comments made by UN Development Programme (UNDP) Country Director Auke Lootsma spoke to reporters in New York last week, some his comments may have been taken out of context and misunderstood.

Since then, the ongoing dialogue between our colleagues on the ground and relevant authorities was able to clear up some of the misunderstandings and resulted in assurances that the fuel will begin moving this week from Aden to Sana'a.

All of the components of the UN in Yemen will continue to work with all the parties so as to bring some relief to the people of Yemen as they face an unspeakable humanitarian crisis. It is important the international community not lose sight of the plight of the millions of vulnerable Yemeni men, women and children. Their well-being remains of utmost importance.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that preparations to help those in need are under way for the anticipated military campaign to retake the Da’esh-held town of Telafar, some 60 km west of Mosul.

The population of the town was estimated at around 250,000, but the number of people has fallen significantly over the course of the conflict. Some 10,000 people are believed to remain trapped in the city, with another 50,000 residing in surrounding areas.

Aid workers are preparing to provide water, hygiene and sanitation assistance; ready-to-eat meals; and emergency medical care. Supplies such as food, health kits and shelter materials have been prepositioned, with 50,000 people anticipated to be uprooted in the coming week.

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, today condemned the killing of two Iraqi journalists whose bodies were found south of Mosul on 39 July.

Harb Hazaa al-Dulaimi and Soudad al-Douri were reportedly killed on 7 July while covering fighting in the area for Iraq TV channel Hona Salaheddinon.

Ms. Bokova said their deaths are a terrible reminder of the unacceptable toll paid by courageous media workers dedicated to keeping us informed.

She added that the targeting of journalists in conflict situations is an intolerable war crime, recognized as such by the Geneva Conventions.

Over the weekend, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, Ghassan Salamé, visited Tripoli, al-Qubbah and al-Bayda. Speaking to the press after his meetings, he said that there is a window of opportunity in Libya now and that, while he had no illusions regarding the difficulties and challenges ahead, he was optimistic that Libya could emerge from this crisis. However, he warned that time was very important and that every day without a political agreement had negative security, economic and social consequences for Libyans.

Meanwhile, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, Maria Ribeiro, yesterday expressed concern over reports of severe shortages of basic necessities, including life-saving medical supplies, due to the conflict in Derna. She urged all parties to consider the safety and wellbeing of civilians as a top priority and to allow the safe delivery of humanitarian supplies. Humanitarian workers are monitoring the situation closely, and are preparing to deliver humanitarian assistance to the city to meet the most acute gaps.

The UN Mission in Mali said that since fighting resumed between the Plateforme and the Coordination des Mouvements de l’Azawad last June in the Kidal region, it has received allegations of grave human rights violations. Out of 67 allegations, the Mission has been able to confirm 34, including forced disappearances, kidnappings and theft, among others. In Anéfis, the Mission saw individual and mass graves. It is determined to continue its investigation. The Mission also reiterates its call for a cessation of hostilities.

Marie-Pierre Poirier, the UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, said today that the world must not turn a blind eye to the dire situation of children and families in the Grand Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Over the past 12 months, more than 1.4 million people – including 850,000 children – have been forced from their homes, and their lives turned upside down by widespread acts of extreme violence. Ms. Poirier said many children have been recruited by armed forces, drugged and caught in the violence.

UNICEF is reaching more than 150,000 people impacted by the crisis with nutrition, health, education, water and sanitation, direct cash grants and child protection interventions. However, Ms. Poirier warned that unless this violence stops, their best work will never be enough.

In a press statement yesterday, the UN Mission in Colombia confirmed that a team composed of observers from the UN Mission, members of the Colombian National Police and the FARC-EP involved in an operation to extract a FARC-EP arms cache was ambushed in a rural area of the Department of Cauca.

A member of the Colombian National Police unit that provides security for such operations was shot and wounded. There was no harm to UN observers. The Mission praised the work of the Colombian security forces in support of the arms cache operations and expressed its hope for the speedy recovery of the wounded member of the National Police.

Over the weekend, the Security Council unanimously passed a resolution on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, condemning the country’s recent ballistic missile launches.

The Council reaffirmed its previous decisions that the DPRK shall not conduct any further launches using ballistic missile technology, nuclear tests or any other provocation. Additional sanctions were also imposed on exports of coal, iron, iron ore and seafood.

Noting findings by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) that well over half of the people in the DPRK suffer from major insecurities in food and medical care, the Council also voiced its regret of the country’s massive diversion of its scarce resources toward its development of nuclear weapons and a number of expensive ballistic missile programmes.

In a note to correspondents issued on Friday, the UN confirmed its receipt of a notification from the delegation of the United States expressing the country’s intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change as soon as it is eligible to do so. The communication says the US intends to exercise its right to withdraw, unless it identifies suitable terms for reengagement.

The Secretary-General reiterated that he welcomes any effort from the US to reengage in the Agreement and said that it is crucial that it remains a leader on climate sustainable issues.

In response to questions on the forthcoming elections in Kenya, the Spokesman said that, as in all elections, we urge the leadership of the various political parties to respect the outcome of the elections and to use the existing legal channels to address grievances. We also call for impartial and human-rights compliant conduct of the police and security forces as a cornerstone of peaceful elections.

In response to questions about Carla del Ponte’s intention to resign from the Syria Commission of Inquiry, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General notes with regret Carla del Ponte's decision to resign from the Commission. He is grateful for her service and her contribution to the important work of the Commission as a tireless advocate for the cause of accountability.

As the international community continues to search for a political solution to the Syrian crisis, the Secretary-General reiterates the importance of accountability for crimes against civilians during the conflict. In that regard, he supports the continued work of the Commission as an important and integral part of the accountability process.
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