Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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14-Oct-2019 00:33:45
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The Secretary-General is gravely concerned over the military developments in northeast Syria, which have already reportedly resulted in many civilian casualties and the displacement of at least 160,000 civilians. He continues to urge for maximum restraint and stresses that any military operation must fully respect international law, including the UN Charter and international humanitarian law.

The Secretary-General calls for the immediate de-escalation and urges all parties to resolve their concerns through peaceful means.

The Secretary-General emphasizes that civilians not taking part in hostilities must be protected at all times. Likewise, civilian infrastructure must be protected in accordance with international humanitarian law. He recognizes in particular the vulnerabilities of internally displaced persons. He further stresses that sustained, unimpeded and safe humanitarian access to civilians in need must be guaranteed, including through the cross-border modality, in order to allow the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to continue to carry out its critical work in northern Syria.

He also notes with serious concern that the current military operations could lead to the unintended release of individuals associated with Daesh, with all the consequences this could entail.

The Secretary-General recalls Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), which stresses that any solution to the Syrian crisis must reaffirm the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that since 9 October, those on the move have been displaced by the violence from areas around Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain. Most of the displaced are staying with relatives or host communities, but increasing numbers are arriving at collective shelters in the area.

The latest fighting compounds an already dire humanitarian situation in north-east Syria. Of the three million women, children and men in the north-east, 1.8 million were already in need of humanitarian aid, including over 910,000 in acute need. Close to 710,000 of those living in the area were already internally displaced.

There are also heightened concerns for thousands of vulnerable displaced persons, including women and children at various camps for internally displaced people, including Al Hol – which currently host over 68,000 people, 94 per cent of whom are women and children.

The UN is continuing with its contingency planning and humanitarian workers are committed to stay, but the Organization is concerned about their safety.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) has so far provided immediate food assistance to more than 70,000 people fleeing towns in the area. WFP is deeply concerned about the safety of civilians caught in the violence and urges that vital supply routes must be kept open and safe for humanitarian deliveries. The food agency is providing families in shelters with ready-to-eat food that does not require cooking while those staying with host families receive a regular food package.

On the political front, Geir Pedersen, the Special Envoy for Syria, has met with the 28 EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg today. He expressed deep alarm at the developments in northeastern Syria. He urged the concerned parties to refrain from actions that further imperil civilians, undermine sovereignty, destabilize the fragile situation and endanger efforts on political track.

Over the weekend, Mr. Pedersen consulted with the Syrian National Committee in Riyadh. He will head to Damascus very soon and stressed that all must work constructively to achieve the goals of the Constitutional Committee.

The Secretary-General has appointed Helen Meagher La Lime of the United States as his Special Representative for Haiti and Head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH).

As you know the mandate of the Mission is changing tomorrow. Ms. La Lime had been the head of the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH).

In response to questions on the situation on Guinea, the Spokesman said the Secretary-General is following with increasing concern the situation in Guinea, where demonstrations against a government proposal to review the current Constitution have been called for today, 14 October.

The Secretary-General calls on all stakeholders to resort to inclusive political dialogue to resolve their differences. He reiterates that freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental rights and calls on security forces to exercise maximum restraint and uphold relevant international human rights standards in responding to any demonstrations. He calls on all actors to take all necessary measures to prevent the current situation from escalating and undermining peace and stability in the country and the region.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel continues to monitor the situation in the country and remains in contact with key national stakeholders towards de-escalating tensions and the promotion of a peaceful environment ahead of the legislative elections and the 2020 presidential elections in the country.

The UN Peacekeeping Mission in that country reports that on Saturday, hundreds of people gathered in the town of Sevaré in the Mopti region, and marched towards the Mission's camp.

Demonstrations quickly turned violent, with protesters throwing stones and chanting anti-UN slogans. They broke into several of the Mission’s storage containers, located in front of the camp, and caused some material damage.

Malian security forces and the UN Police dispelled the crowds.

In a statement issued over the weekend, the UN Mission reiterated its support for freedom of expression and the right to peaceful demonstrations, but strongly condemned the acts of vandalism.

Today, the Government reiterated its strong support to the UN and recalled that the peacekeeping Mission is in the country to support Malian security forces. As an example, they noted the support provided by the UN following the Boulekessi attacks against the Malian army two weeks ago.

The Secretary-General strongly condemned the attack on a mosque that took place in Burkina Faso during Friday prayers.

He expressed his deep condolences to the families of the deceased and the people and the Government of Burkina Faso.

Over the weekend, a statement was issued strongly condemning the mortar attacks on 13 October against the International Airport in Mogadishu that hit the compound of the UN and the African Union Mission.

The Secretary-General reiterates his strong support to all United Nations colleagues in Somalia. He reaffirms that the UN remains determined to support the Federal Government of Somalia and all Somalis in their pursuit of peace and stability.

Over the weekend, the UN welcomed the announcement of the start of a dialogue process between the Government of Ecuador and indigenous organizations, facilitated by the Episcopal Conference and the United Nations Country Team. The Secretary-General called on all concerned to commit to inclusive and meaningful talks, to work in good faith towards a peaceful solution to the pressing challenges facing the country.

The Secretary-General also called on all actors to reduce tensions, refrain from acts of violence and exercise restraint.

Also over the weekend, a statement was issued from the Secretary-General on Japan, in which he said he was saddened by reports of loss of life and extensive destruction caused by the typhoon that hit over the weekend. He extended his deep condolences to the families of the victims, the Government and people of Japan.

The UN continues to monitor the situation and stands ready to assist if requested.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) urged Afghan authorities to safeguard and complete the ongoing election process.

In a statement issued, the Mission recalled that this presidential election was the first completely run by Afghan authorities since 2001 and is an important milestone in Afghanistan’s transition to self-reliance.

The Mission also stressed that all Afghan involved in the process must demonstrate their commitment to safeguard and complete the election, and to protect the integrity of the process, especially with regard to tabulating and announcing the results.

For the first nine months of the year, over 80,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe via Mediterranean routes, according to the UN Refugee Agency. More than a quarter of them were children, many travelling without their parents.

In a new report titled Desperate Journeys, the UN Refugee Agency recognized positive steps taken across Europe to improve the protection of refugees and migrants. But the agency also calls on European States to step up their efforts to protect child refugees and migrants through measures such as: ending the use of immigration detention for children, appointing trained guardians or social workers and ensuring that refugee and migrant children can receive an education.

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