Monday, April 28, 2014

Ban's report on chemical weapons in Syria

25 April 2014
Dear Madam President,
I have the honour to transmit herewith the seventh monthly report of the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) pursuant to paragraph 12 of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) (see annex). The present letter provides information requested in that resolution on the activities of the United Nations from 22 March to 24 April 2014 related to the implementation of the resolution.

During the latter half of the reporting period, the Syrian Arab Republic made important progress towards the elimination of its entire declared stockpile of chemical weapons material. As at 24 April 2014, the total figure for removal and in-country destruction had reached 92.5%. This includes 96.7% of high priority chemical materials and 82.6% of other chemical materials removed. The amount of declared isopropanol verified as destroyed in-country remained at 93.1%.
The Syrian Arab Republic had earlier committed to removing all chemical weapons material from its territory by 13 April 2014, apart from material located at two sites that were considered inaccessible by the government owing to the prevailing security situation, which were to be cleared by 27 April 2014. The Syrian authorities postponed planned chemical weapons material removal operations for two weeks in late March 2014 in view of the deterioration in the security situation in the Latakia region. Removal operations resumed on 4 April 2014 and a systematic and regular series of movements was re-established in mid-April 2014.
At the same time, the Syrian Arab Republic had made significant progress eliminating other parts of its chemical weapons programme. This included the destruction of the remaining standard equipment and buildings related to the storage and production of chemical weapons material, aside from the twelve remaining production facilities currently awaiting an OPCW Executive Council Decision on the modalities for destruction.
It is critical for the Syrian Arab Republic to maintain its commitment and determination in ensuring the removal and in-country destruction of the final 7.5% of its declared chemical weapons material, and the timely completion of other remaining activities. This would permit the Syrian Arab Republic to achieve remaining timelines in line with its obligations under Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) and relevant Decisions of the OPCW Executive Council.

Activities towards the elimination of the chemical weapons programme of the Syrian Arab Republic
Following military confrontations in the north of the Latakia region that began on 21 March 2014, the Syrian Arab Republic authorities informed the Joint Mission that the security situation necessitated the diversion of military forces and the redeployment of security assets previously dedicated to safeguarding the security of chemical weapons material during the course of transport and loading operations at the port of Latakia. In view of this development, the Syrian Arab Republic postponed scheduled movements.
During the initial part of the reporting period, the Syrian Arab Republic continued packing and loading chemical weapons material at storage facilities in preparation for movement to Latakia. At the same time, Syrian personnel conducted internal movements consolidating material from sites deemed vulnerable to attack, by moving them to safer locations. At the request of the Joint Mission, the Syrian Arab Republic also carried out concurrent activities required prior to the closing of each of the twelve chemical weapons storage facilities and eighteen production facilities. These activities included the decontamination of containers with chemical residue and the destruction of remaining standard buildings and equipment. Syrian personnel also destroyed all remaining containers that had previously held sulphur mustard. These operations were subsequently verified by the Joint Mission.
Consequently, by the end of the reporting period, the Joint Mission had verified the closure of eleven of the twelve declared storage facilities, and five of the six production facilities that are not currently under review at the OPCW Executive Council. Notably, the modalities of destructiOn for the remaining twelve production facilities are currently under review by the OPCW Executive Council.
Following the resumption of chemical weapons material removal operations on 4 April 2014, the Syrian Arab Republic had conducted a total of 18 movements until 24 April 2014. During this period, the Syrian Arab Republic reiterated its concerns over the security risks posed by ongoing military confrontations in the north of the Latakia region. Accordingly,_the authorities decided to limit the size of each convoy. Nevertheless, the Syrian Arab Republic achieved the removal of all declared chemical Weapons material with the exception of material held at one site, Where the Government had determined it would not be possible to undertake removal operations due to the prevailing security situation. Some 7.5% of declared chemical weapons material now remains at this one site in the Syrian Arab Republic. This includes high priority and other chemicals, as well as a small percentage of isopropanol which is to be destroyed in-country. The Syrian authorities have recommitted to the removal and destruction of this remaining stockpile as soon as the security situation permits.
Any further postponement in the completion of chemical weapons material removal operations will delay the commencement of outside country destruction activities. This in turn could delay full elimination of the chemical weapons programme as envisioned in the relevant Decisions of the OPCW Executive Council and Security Council resolution 2118 (2013). Furthermore, postponement in the'completion of removal operations increases direct and indirect costs to Member States participating in the maritime effort. An early commencement of out-of-country destruction is imperative. The Joint Mission engaged with the Syrian Arab Republic on a continuous basis to provide recommendations to its Syrian counterparts and helped to facilitate progress in furtherance of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013). The Special Coordinator remained in close contact with senior Syrian officials underscoring the critical importance of the timely removal of chemical weapons material.
The Joint Mission maintained its operations throughout the reporting period. It conducted sampling and analysis of chemical weapons material, and carried out verification and inspection activities, including final inspections of storage and production facilities. Verification and inspection were carried out physically at sites Where security conditions were conducive, and remotely, using surveillance camera equipment, Where security conditions did not permit. During removal operations, Joint Mission personnel carried out additional verification and inspection activities at the port of embarkation prior to loading the containers onto the cargo vessels.
The Joint Mission continued outreach activities With representatives of contributing Member States, including those assisting in maritime operations. During the reporting period, the Special Coordinator visited Egypt and met with diplomatic representatives in Damascus, Beirut and Nicosia. The Joint Mission continued its engagement with the World Health Organization (WHO) helping to strengthen the hazard response capability of the Syrian Arab Republic, including managing and responding to chemical accidents and mass casualty incidents involving toxic materials.

As the Syrian conflict continues, significant progress had been made towards the elimination of the chemical weapons programme of the Syrian Arab Republic, which must reach its successful conclusion as quickly as possible.
It is the responsibility of the Syrian Arab Republic to complete the removal of its entire stockpile of chemical weapons material and ensure the full elimination of its chemical weapons programme on its territory. The continuing the security situation only underscores the importance of expediting the removal of remaining chemical weapons material and the destruction of remaining parts of its chemical weapons programme.
I call once more on Member States to use their influence on all of the parties to the Syrian conflict to abstain from any activity which could directly or indirectly impact the completion of chemical weapons material removal operations and remaining in—country destruction activities, including the safety and security of Joint Mission personnel.
I am concerned about recent reports of allegations regarding the use of toxic chemicals during the course of the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic. All necessary steps should be taken to establish the facts surrounding these allegations.
A number of Member States have provided significant funds and in-kind contributions towards the removal and destruction of chemical weapons material from the Syrian Arab Republic. This support will be required a while longer to complete remaining removal operations. There may be an additional requirement to support possible destruction activities related to production facilities currently under review in the OPCW Executive Council.
Once again, I Wish to express my appreciation'to the Special Coordinator and the staff of the Joint Mission for working 'under hazardous and challenging circumstances inside the Syrian Arab Republic. The safety and security of the Joint Mission is ultimately the responsibility of the Syrian Arab Republic. It remains amongst my highest concerns. The Joint Mission shall continue to assess the security situation and review its presence on the ground. It shall do so in order to minimise risks and undertake its remaining mandated activities as quickly and safely as possible. '
In the face of the tragedy that has befallen the Syrian people, the timely completion of the elimination of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons programme will make a modest, but hopefully meaningful, contribution to peace and security in the country and the Wider region.
I would be grateful if you would bring the present letter and its annex urgently to the attention of the members of the Security Council.
Please accept, Madam President, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Ban Ki-moon
Follow me on Twitter @NabilAbiSaab

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ban's report on the implementation of Resolution 2139 / Syria

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (seated, centre) poses for a group photo with Security Council members. 
22 April 2014

Report of the Secretary-General
23 April 2014
I. Introduction
1. This second report is submitted pursuant to Paragraph 17 of Security Council resolution 2139 (2014), in which the Security Council requested the Secretary-General to report, every 30 days, on the implementation of the resolution by all parties in the Syrian Arab Republic.
2. The report covers the period 22 March to 21 April 2014. The information contained in the report is based on the limited data available to the United Nations (UN) actors on the ground as well as reports from open sources and Syrian Government sources.

II. Major Developments

A. Political/Military
3. During the reporting period fighting between Government and opposition forces, as
well as between various opposition groups, continued in many parts of Syria. Fighting was particularly intense in Aleppo, Latakia, Dar’a, Homs and Rural Damascus governorates. Clashes also continued in several other parts of the country, including in Hama, Idleb, Ar-Raqqa and Deir -ez-Zor governorates. The conduct of hostilities by all parties to the conflict, including direct and indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian areas, continued to cause deaths and injuries.
4. In Aleppo, fighting escalated with significant shelling and the continued use of other heavy weaponry by Government forces. The use of missiles and rocket launchers by opposition groups resulted in a high number of casualties and injuries. An average of 20 shells and missiles were reported to have fallen daily on neighbourhoods in both eastern and western Aleppo between the end of March and early April. According to Human Rights Watch, which conducted a review of satellite imagery on 22 February, 1 March and 2 April 2014, there is strong evidence to suggest the use by government forces of indiscriminate aerial bombardment and ground attacks of opposition-held neighbourhoods in Aleppo. This reportedly includes over 85 major places impacted since 22 February with damage signatures strongly consistent with the use of improvised barrel and conventional bombs, resulting in the destruction of a vast number of residential buildings. This damage was particularly evident in opposition held neighbourhoods of Masaken Hanano, al Sakhour, Terbet Lala, Helwaniye, Jabal Badro, Al Heidariyya and Owaija.
5. Since 5 April, armed groups have also launched an offensive in the Al-Layramoun and Al-Zahraa neighbourhoods, in north-west Aleppo city, with armed clashes resulting in scores of civilians injured and displaced. In addition, armed clashes between Government and opposition groups in and around Ramousa town on the southern outskirts of Aleppo city have rendered access to the western part of Aleppo irregular since 12 April. Aleppo city is effectively encircled by armed opposition groups. Fighting, especially near the only supply route from Homs, Damascus and the coast into the city, has raised concerns about fuel shortages and rising food prices and other commodities in both western and eastern Aleppo.
6. In Latakia, armed opposition groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and Ansar al-Sham, launched a major offensive on Kassab town and surrounding areas on 21 March, taking control of the adjacent border crossing with Turkey from the Syrian Government. The fighting reportedly led to the forced displacement of over 7,500 people, many of whom have sought shelter in Latakia city. There have been reports of attacks on civilians, as well as looting of civilian homes and religious sites, including churches, although these remain unconfirmed.
7. In Dar’a Governorate, conflict persisted in locations with a heavy concentration of civilians including displaced people. Reports of a high number of aerial bombardments were reported in Dar’a city, Jasim and Ankhal (north Dar’a); Tassil, Tafs and Mzeireb (southwest); and Tiba and Sayda (east of al-Naseeb border crossing with Jordan). This included, for example, the damaging of grain silos storing 25 tons of wheat in Dar’a on 26 March.
8. Government-controlled cities and towns, including Damascus, were subject to indiscriminate mortar attacks and shelling by armed opposition groups. Between 26 March and 1 April heavily populated areas of Damascus, such as Al Midan, Al Mogambo, Al Sulaymaniya, Al Khaldiya and Nile Street, were attacked with mortars, resulting in secondary and tertiary displacement. In the first week of April alone, over 100 mortars were fired on neighbourhoods of Damascus. Opposition groups shelled residential areas in the city including the districts of Al-Malk, Bab Touma, al-Sadat, al-Kabbas and al-Zablatani.
9. Car bombings and suicide attacks, including against civilians, resulted in further civilian deaths and injuries. In particular, multiple instances of vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) were reported in the governorates of Idleb, Dar’a, Al-Hasakeh, Latakia and Homs. For example, according to open sources, on 9 April at least 25 people, including women and children, were killed and another 100 were wounded when two car bombs exploded in the Karam al-Luz district, a predominantly Alawite neighbourhood of Homs city. Two volunteers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent were among the injured as they arrived in an ambulance to treat people hurt by the initial blast.
10. Fighting near the Khan Danoun Palestinian Refugee camp, in south Damascus, resulted in a number of deaths and injuries of Palestine refugees. Several buildings and a mosque were also damaged. Four Palestinians were taken hostage by armed opposition groups and are still missing. After several hours of fighting the armed groups withdrew from the camp.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

UN Secretary General's updated report on Western Sahara

Report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2099 (2013), by which the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April 2014 and requested the Secretary-General to provide a report to it on the situation in Western Sahara well before the end of the mandate period. It covers developments since my report dated 8 April 2013 (S/2013/220) and describes the situation on the ground, the status and progress of the negotiations and the existing challenges to the Mission’s operations, as requested by the Council in its resolution 2099 (2013).

Recent developments
2. The situation in Western Sahara, as it presents itself to MINURSO, is generally calm. The ceasefire continues to hold and the people can live without fear of a resumption of armed conflict in the medium term.
3. That part of Western Sahara under control of Morocco, west of the berm marking the ceasefire line, continued to witness considerable Moroccan investment in infrastructure and in the social and cultural sphere. Public life proceeded peacefully, and holidays brought large numbers of people into the streets, generally without incident. This was at least in part due to the extensive presence of security forces.
4. An increased number of delegations from foreign legislatures and diplomatic missions, as well as governmental and non-governmental institutions and journalists, visited the western part of the Territory. Moroccan authorities showed increased openness to and engagement with such visits, although on occasion visitors deemed hostile to Moroccan interests were denied access to or expelled from the Territory.
5. Some underlying discontent, however, remained perceptible among the Saharan population, expressing itself in sporadic demonstrations in Laayoune and other towns in the western part of the Territory throughout the reporting period. These were usually small in scale, but at times the participation of up to 300 demonstrators was reported. These demonstrations aimed at drawing attention to human rights concerns, socioeconomic issues and political demands, including the right to self-determination. They were swiftly dispersed by Moroccan security forces. On most such occasions, there were credible reports of heavy-handedness on the part of security forces, as well as violence, such as stone-throwing, on the part of demonstrators. At times, the regional offices of the Moroccan National Human Rights Council (Conseil national des droits de l’homme) in Laayoune and Dakhla deployed observers and tried to defuse tensions and prevent clashes.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Blue draft resolution on Central African Republic

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressing the National Transitional Council. Bangui, Central African Republic 05 April 2014

8 April 2014 – CAR  Draft resolution – BLUE

The Security Council

Recalling its previous resolutions and statements on the Central African Republic (CAR), in particular resolutions 2121 (2013), 2127 (2013) and 2134 (2014),

Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the CAR, and recalling the importance of the principles of non-interference, good-neighbourliness and regional cooperation,

Reaffirming the basic principles of peacekeeping, including consent of the parties, impartiality, and non-use of force, except in self-defence and defence of the mandate, and recognizing that the mandate of each peacekeeping mission is specific to the need and situation of the country concerned,

Expressing deep concern at the security situation in the CAR,

Recalling that the Transitional Authorities have the primary responsibility to protect the population in the CAR,

Emphasizing that any sustainable solution to the crisis in the CAR should be CAR-owned, including the political process, and should include the restructuring of the Central African security forces

Further emphasizing that the continued role of the region, including the Chair of ECCAS and its Mediator, as well as the AU, will be critical for the promotion of lasting peace and stability in the CAR,

Welcoming the positive and decisive impact of MISCA’s actions on the ground in protecting civilians and preventing serious violations of international law, and the progress made in the implementation of other aspects of its mandate as reflected in the first progress report of the AU Commission on the deployment and operations of MISCA submitted pursuant to paragraph 32 of resolution 2127 (2013),

Remaining seriously concerned by multiple violations of international humanitarian law and the widespread human rights violations and abuses, including those involving extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, sexual violence against women and children, rape, recruitment and use of children and attacks against civilians, in particular but not limited to Muslims, and attacks against places of worship, denial of humanitarian access,  committed by both former Seleka elements and militia groups, in particular the “anti-Balaka,”

Condemns in the strongest terms all the attacks and provocations against MISCA contingents by armed groups and urging the CAR Transitional Authorities to take all possible measures to ensure the arrest and prosecution perpetrators,