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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-01-05

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

ARCHIVES

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING

BY THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL

UN

HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Monday, January 5, 2009

SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS SITUATION IN GAZA HAS WORSENED DRAMATICALLY SINCE ISRAELS GROUND INVASION

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a town hall meeting with UN staff this morning, said that the situation in

Gaza and southern Israel has worsened dramatically in the past 48 hours. Civilian suffering was already alarming, he said, but Israels launch of a ground operation has only made it worse.

The Secretary-General has spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and expressed his extreme concern and disappointment. He stressed the need for Israel to do everything possible to protect civilians and to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need. He said there must be an immediate end to violence on both sides.

In a

statement issued on Sunday, the Secretary-General regretted that the Security Council has not been able to reach a consensus, including during its emergency session held on Saturday evening, in order to bring about an end to the violence.

The Secretary-General will be working actively with members of the Council and other key players, in particular Arab leaders whom he will see at 3:00 today, to facilitate the emergence of a consensus.

The Secretary-General added that he is extremely concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation on the ground. We are in close contact with the Israeli authorities to press them to open not only the Kerem Shalom crossing, but also Karni and Nahal Oz, to allow in, particularly, wheat grain and fuel for the power plant, as well as other essential supplies.

Asked about the Secretary-Generals conversations with Israeli officials, the Spokeswoman added that the Israeli side said it would work to strengthen humanitarian mechanisms. She added that there was no indication that Israel would halt fighting, despite the Secretary-Generals urging.

U.N. STRESSES NEED FOR MORE FOOD AND FUEL TO GET INTO GAZA

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Maxwell Gaylard, said that the fuel crossing at Nahal Oz was opened today for the transfer of urgently needed industrial fuel with the assistance of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

We hope that this crossing will now remain open in order for sufficient supplies to enter over the coming days, and for the Gaza power plant to continue to operate on a more sustained basis.

As of today, Gaylard said at a press briefing, our estimates are that the Palestinian fatalities are five hundred and rising, and the injured are 2,500 and rising. He added that movement within the Strip is a severe challenge. Ambulances and medical workers are facing increasing difficulty reaching the wounded, and some have been killed in doing so. Getting medical supplies to where they need to be is also extremely challenging.

For its part, UNRWA says that it is struggling to maintain its services in Gaza, but it has opened all but two of its food distribution centres there, as well as all but five of its 18 health centres. The Relief and Works Agency has also opened seven shelters around the Gaza Strip, which are currently housing some 4,000 people affected by the recent fighting.

UNRWA emphasizes the need for humanitarian breathing space. It calls upon Israel to allow industrial quantities of wheat to pass through the conveyor belt at the Karni crossing. It also calls for more fuel to get into Gaza; at present, the Agency says, one million people in Gaza are without electricity, while a quarter of a million people lack fresh water.

SECURITY COUNCIL MEETS ON GAZA SITUATION

The

Security Council had its first meeting of the year on Saturday night, when it held consultations, under Frances presidency, on the situation in the

Middle East.

The consultations ended without agreement on a statement on Gaza, but the Council President, Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert of France, said that there had been a convergence of views on the need for an immediate, permanent and fully respected cease-fire.

The Council expects to hold consultations Tuesday morning on its programme of work for January.

U.N. IRAQ ENVOY CONDEMNS RECENT ATTACKS ON PILGRIMS

Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for

Iraq, condemns in the strongest terms the attacks targeting pilgrims both on Sunday and today. De Mistura described these actions, which included an attack that resulted in the killing of at least forty pilgrims on Sunday, as appalling and unjustified crimes.

He extended the United Nations sincere condolences to the aggrieved families and its wishes for the full and speedy recovery of the wounded.

SECRETARY-GENERAL CONCERNED OVER REPORTED THREATS AGAINST IRANIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST

The Secretary-General is greatly

concerned about reports that Iranian lawyer, human right activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi has been threatened in recent days, her Center for the Defense of Human Rights broken into and materials taken, and that hostile crowds have mobilized today outside her office and home.

He calls on the Iranian authorities to take immediate measures to prevent any further harassment and to ensure Shirin Ebadi's safety and security.

PROGRESS REPORTED ON CYPRUS DISCUSSIONS

The Cypriot leaders met for about three hours this morning under UN auspices. The first hour was devoted to a tÍte-ŗ-tÍte meeting.

Tayť-Brook Zerihoun, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for

Cyprus, said afterward that the leaders have reached full agreement on the issue of harmonization and cooperation between the federal government and the constituent states, or the federal units. They are also very close to full convergence on the issue of hierarchy of norms and have decided to continue discussion on the matter in order to overcome the remaining obstacles.

The two leaders will meet next on Monday, 12 January, and have agreed to take up the issue of past Acts at that meeting. Special Adviser Alexander Downer will attend that meeting.

SECRETARY-GENERAL CONGRATULATES GHANAIANS ON ELECTIONS

The Secretary-General warmly

congratulates the people and Government of Ghana on the peaceful and orderly resolution of the recently concluded presidential and legislative elections. He acknowledges the dedication and professionalism of Ghana's Electoral Commission, which has skillfully managed the process. He commends the political parties and their leadership for their statesmanlike conduct during the final stages of this exercise.

Ghanaians can and should take pride in this democratic achievement. With their continuing show of commitment to the democratic process, Ghana and its leaders are setting an admirable example.

U.N. AGENCIES RESPOND TO HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN EASTERN D.R. CONGO

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), citing figures from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and national authorities, says that more than 300 people have been killed in attacks in areas of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo where military action against the Lords Resistance Army is ongoing.

Humanitarian organizations are particularly concerned about the situation in North Kivu, specifically the forced recruitment of children, large numbers of unaccompanied children with insufficient protection, and the extensive food needs among displaced people.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has so far distributed approximately 21,000 tons of food to more than 7,000 displaced people in Dungu Province. Distributions of 90 more tons of food to displaced persons in North Kivu are set to begin soon.

U.N. COORDINATOR GRAVELY CONCERNED OVER VIOLENCE IN CENTRAL SOMALIA

Mark Bowden, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, today

expressed grave concern at the number of civilian casualties and the massive displacement caused by recent fighting in central Somalia.

Violence this past week in the Galgaduud Region has reportedly resulted in 40 civilian deaths and the displacement of approximately 50,000 people. In two of the regions towns, 90 per cent of the population has fled; many of them had already been displaced by fighting in Mogadishu.

Bowden called for a cessation of hostilities to allow urgently needed humanitarian assistance to be provided wherever it is required in Somalia.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

TWO MORE POLICE CONTINGENTS ARRIVE IN DARFUR: The UN-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) says that it received two contingents from the Nigerian formed police unit last week, consisting of 140 personnel each. The Nigerian police will be deployed in Zalingei and El Geneina in West Darfur. That brings the number of formed police units in Darfur to five, following the earlier arrival of units from Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nepal. UNAMID expects to have 19 such units once it is at full strength.

PERMANENT CONTRACTS NOT PART OF U.N. CHARTER: Asked about changes in the structure of UN contracts, the Spokeswoman noted that the system of contracts has been simplified, from 11 types of contract previously to three today. There continue to be temporary, fixed-term and continuing contracts, she noted, but she disputed the idea, as expressed in one question, that any shift away from permanent contracts could be a violation of the UN Charter. Permanent contracts are not part of the Charter, she said.

  • The guests at noon were John Ging, Director of Operations in Gaza for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) via video-link from Gaza; and John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator, who briefed on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

    Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

    United Nations, S-378

    New York, NY 10017

    Tel. 212-963-7162

    Fax. 212-963-7055


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