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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
4 February 2009

Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

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


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


Secretary-General in Abu Dhabi

The Secretary-General left Addis Ababa today for the United Arab Emirates, arriving this afternoon in Abu Dhabi.  In the evening, he met with the United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister.  That meeting is being followed by a working dinner.  Speaking to reporters upon arrival in Abu Dhabi, the Secretary-General reiterated his call for a durable and sustainable ceasefire in Gaza and for the opening of all the crossing points into Gaza.

** Gaza

Still on Gaza, the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report that the number of truckloads of aid permitted to enter Gaza daily by the Israeli authorities remains insufficient.

In addition, only a very restricted list of items is being allowed in through the crossings.  For example, last Friday, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was not allowed to bring into Gaza the plastic bags that it uses to distribute supplies.  With some 20,000 food parcels distributed daily, such bags are a vital component of UNRWA’s assistance.  Meanwhile, as of yesterday, only three non-school UNRWA shelters remain open, hosting nearly 400 displaced people.  But although most people have left the shelters since the ceasefire, thousands of Gazans still remain homeless, according to UNSCO.

The World Health Organization reports that most health facilities have resumed normal operation and that large volumes of medical supplies have been donated, but drugs used to treat mental health problems are still lacking and urgently needed.  Also needed are items such as syringe pumps, ventilators and anaesthesia monitors.  In terms of additional priority requirements, UNRWA says it needs blankets, mattresses, plastic sheeting, kitchen kits, hygiene kits, water tanks, clothing and tents.

UNSCO also reports that rolling blackouts are still continuing in most of the Gaza Strip, with some areas experiencing power cuts of 12 hours a day.


**Questions and Answers


Question:   Are there any details on the Secretary-General’s meeting in the United Arab Emirates with the Foreign Minister?

Deputy Spokesperson:    No, it’s just taking place now, so I can get you a readout afterwards.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that the Secretary-General and the United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister mainly discussed Gaza and the Middle East.]


Question:   You said that the Secretary-General reiterated his… about the opening of the crossings for Gaza.  Does he have any plan to do something, perhaps go to the Security Council about the fact that he has been reiterating this for quite a while and the crossings remain closed.  Is there some other process that he is trying to undertake, so that there can be some action on this?

Deputy Spokesperson:    The Secretary-General has gone to the Council, and he is exploring, as you know, every possible venue to try to help the people in Gaza.

Question:   But can you report more on other venues that he is exploring?  Because it just seems this has been going on for a long time, and there have been a lot of deaths now, and there is a pretty devastating situation, and it is a real challenge for the United Nations to be dealing with this in some way.

Deputy Spokesperson:    Well, why don’t we set you up something after this meeting, because in two minutes, the Security Council President will come, and we will brief you on all his efforts.


* *** *

For information media • not an official record

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