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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
7 January 2009


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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

**Guests at Noon Briefing Today

Our guests at the noon briefing today are Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process; John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator; and John Ging, Director of Operations in Gaza for UNRWA, the UN Refugee and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.  They will brief you on the situation in Gaza in a few minutes.

/...

** Gaza -- Security Council

We’ll come back later, in a few minutes, to Darfur, but, first, the Security Council this morning has resumed its formal meeting on the Middle East, which began yesterday afternoon with an open debate on the recent fighting in Gaza and southern Israel.  Fifteen more speakers are inscribed today.  Then, at 3 this afternoon, the Security Council has scheduled consultations on the Middle East.

Speaking to the Security Council yesterday, the Secretary-General said that attacks by Israeli military forces which endanger United Nations facilities acting as places of refuge are totally unacceptable, and should not be repeated.  Equally unacceptable, he said, are any actions by Hamas militants which endanger the Palestinian civilian population.  The attacks on UN Relief and Works Agency schools yesterday underscore the dangers inherent in the continuation and escalation of this conflict, and the Secretary-General called once again for an immediate ceasefire.  The Secretary-General told the Security Council that he intends to travel next week to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and to regional capitals.

But he added that he does not believe we can wait until then to end the violence.  There must be an immediate ceasefire, durable and respected fully by all sides, he said.  Immediate humanitarian measures, including open crossings for humanitarian assistance, should be ensured.  In addition, viable international mechanisms will be required to ensure that borders are properly functioning.  And Gaza's enormous social relief and reconstruction needs will need to be addressed.

The Secretary-General has been actively engaged with regional and world leaders to bring the violence to a speedy end.  Yesterday, he met with President George W. Bush in Washington, D.C., and stressed the importance of acting immediately, and he also spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The readout of the Secretary-General’s meeting with President Bush was made available to you yesterday, to those who asked.  We have the Secretary-General’s statement for the Council, as well as a separate one on the strikes on the UNRWA school upstairs and on the web.

** Gaza –- Joint Statement

We also have upstairs a joint statement from UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, expressing grave concern over the attacks against UNRWA schools and associated facilities set up by the United Nations as places of refuge for civilians fleeing the fighting in Gaza.

** Gaza -- Humanitarian

Despite continuing insecurity, the World Food Programme (WFP) has succeeded in delivering food assistance to more than 50,000 people since the latest hostilities erupted on 27 December.  Another 15,000 people have been provided with bread, while canned meat and high-energy biscuits have been delivered to 13 Gaza hospitals, sufficient for 6,000 patients and staff for up to one month.  But we will in a few minutes, of course, have a humanitarian update with Mr. Holmes, who will be with you, and with John Ging, who is in Gaza, with us.

** Gaza –- Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council in Geneva has announced that it will hold a special session this Friday, to address “the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the recent aggression in the occupied Gaza Strip”.  The session was requested by Egypt, on behalf of the Arab Group and the African Group; Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference; and Cuba, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay will address Friday’s meeting; representatives of United Nations agencies working in the region, States and observers of the Council, and the countries concerned will also speak.  There is more information in a press release upstairs.

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And I will stop here, because I would like to give the floor to our guest, Robert Serry, who is with us, John Holmes, who is also here.  And we also have, as we did yesterday, John Ging on the other side, in Gaza.  Please.
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For information media • not an official record

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