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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
24 January 2008


Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

          Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Secretary-General Addresses World Economic Forum

The Secretary-General this morning addressed the plenary session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, telling them that the challenge of securing safe and plentiful water for all is one of the most daunting challenges faced by the world today. He noted that the lack of water had contributed to poverty and tension around the world, from Darfur to the Occupied Palestinian Territory to Colombia.

“Water is running out,” the Secretary-General said. “We need to adapt to this reality, just as we do to climate change. There is still enough water for all of us -- but only so long as we keep it clean, use it more wisely, and share it fairly.”

Prior to addressing the Forum, the Secretary-General met with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, with whom he discussed the implications of the Annapolis process and the developments in Gaza and the West Bank. The Secretary-General reiterated his call on Israel to refrain from actions that will harm the well-being of the general civilian population in Gaza.

Later he met with Quartet envoy Tony Blair and discussed Palestinian capacity-building, the Paris donors’ conference and the importance of accelerating projects that donors had promised at Paris, and the situation in Gaza.

This afternoon, the Secretary-General met with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, and talked with him about the democratic process in Pakistan and Pakistan’s relationship with Afghanistan. After that he met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, with whom he discussed UN-Afghanistan cooperation.

**Security Council

And the Security Council, here, held consultations this morning on the Middle East, as you know, to continue the discussions from yesterday afternoon about the text of a draft presidential statement concerning the recent events in Gaza.

** Gaza Humanitarian Update

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN Special Coordinator’s Office in Jerusalem, 315,000 litres of industrial gas, 20,000 litres of benzene, 250,000 litres of diesel, and 200 tons of cooking gas went from Israel into Gaza today.

But there is still a shortage of benzene for hospital workers’ vehicles, so only three hospitals in Gaza are operating. The World Food Programme (WFP) was able to get some benzene today on the local commercial market, but that might only be enough to last them until the middle of next week.

WFP calls the situation in Gaza a “serious food crisis” and says that the access restrictions are causing them to run out of food. As a result, vulnerable people, such as the sick and elderly, received only partial rations yesterday. Meanwhile, tensions rose at a distribution point yesterday after supplies of chickpeas, sugar and salt ran out. In addition, new security checks are leading to a cost increase of nearly $50,000 extra per month for WFP operations in Gaza.

In terms of further updates, no UN trucks were permitted to cross into Gaza today. And Gaza’s power plant has been rationing supplies to avoid a crisis this weekend.

**Human Rights Council

Earlier in Geneva today, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution in which it called for urgent international action to put an immediate end to Israel’s grave violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The Human Rights Council also demanded that Israel immediately lift the siege it had imposed on Gaza, restore continued supply of fuel, food and medicine, and reopen the border crossings.

The result of the vote was 30 in favour and 1 against, with 15 abstentions.

The final text did not change from the draft version that we had in our office yesterday.

And there’s more information on this upstairs.


/....

And I just received two copies of the same announcement so I’d better read them: it’s an announcement by the President of the Security Council. He is inviting members of the Council to consultations at the ambassadorial level, at 4 p.m. today, to discuss the draft presidential statement in connection with the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. And those are the continuation of the discussion they had this morning on the draft presidential statement on Gaza.

/...

Question: I’m very keenly aware that I’m asking something you likely do not know, but I’d like you to look this up, if possible. You mentioned there were three hospitals operating in Gaza. I take it that means … does that mean Gaza Strip or Gaza City?

Deputy Spokesperson: In Gaza.

Question: In Gaza City. How many hospitals are there total in Gaza? What is their total bed count? And, just for reference, what is the known population, as far as you know, of the City of Gaza? Also, you mentioned that you had some material on the Arab Charter on Human Rights. Do you in fact have the exact text of that Charter among that material?

Deputy Spokesperson: The Arab Charter on Human Rights was adopted by the Council of the League of Arab States on 15 September 1994, so I’m sure that it is up on the Human Rights website (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights).

And the questions about the statistics about how many hospitals and beds in Gaza, I’m sure that my colleagues upstairs probably have that, so we’ll follow up on that.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that there are some half-dozen hospitals in Gaza. All hospitals are functioning, though only three have received fuel today.]

/...

Question: I don’t know if this was raised, but there were several suggestions by Israeli officials in recent days since the breakdown of the barriers in Gaza, to re-route deliveries of humanitarian goods. Rather than go through the borders that Israel controls, they would go through the border crossing that Egypt controls. Is that a feasible solution, from UNRWA’s (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) and other UN agencies’ point of view?

Deputy Spokesperson: I have not heard anything from UNRWA on this, but we can certainly check into it for you.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that, under the current agreement between Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Israel, Rafah is not supposed to serve to import goods. In addition, no adequate infrastructure exists in Rafah to do so.]

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