SG at NATO Summit; Syria; Security Council; Sudan/South Sudan; and more

SG at NATO Summit: World leaders were attending the NATO Summit in Chicago today to discuss how to complete the NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and how to show their continued commitment to the Afghan people beyond that date.

The Secertary-General told the meeting that he had come to the NATO Summit with one overriding message: that the United Nations will continue to support the Afghan Government to the maximum of its ability. He said that the Summit must reaffirm the timeline for an international troop withdrawal in tandem with the pace at which the Afghan National Security Forces assume responsibilities. It should also provide concrete decisions on funding following that withdrawal.

The UN chief noted that Afghanistan’s security forces must prioritize the protection of civilians, including special measures to protect the human rights of all citizens, particularly women and girls affected by conflict.

Also this morning, the Secretary-General had a bilateral meeting with the new French President, François Hollande, as well as meetings yesterday with the Presidents of Turkey and Afghanistan. On Syria, the Secretary-General said that a pivotal moment had been reached in the search for a peaceful settlement to the crisis and that he remained extremely troubled about the risk of an all-out civil. He also voiced concern over the outbreak of violence in neighboring Lebanon, which has been linked to the situation in Syria.

The head of UN peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous, met with Syrian government and opposition group representatives in the city of Homs today, during a visit to assess progress made on the ground by UN military observers.

During the meeting, both sides expressed their commitment to Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s 6-point peace plan and noted the diminishing of violence in the city since the arrival of the Military Observers.  Mr. Ladsous affirmed that the focus now needs to be on building dialogue and confidence between the parties. 

Security Council Trip:
The Security Council is currently in Côte d’Ivoire, as part of its three-country mission to West Africa. The Council arrived in Liberia on Saturday to assess the progress made by the country towards development and to assess the mandate of UNMIL, the UN peacekeeping mission there. Council members were informed by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf that in a period of two to three years, Liberia hopes to have the capacity to safeguard the country without the support of UN peacekeepers.

The Council arrived in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire last night. Today, it held a meeting with President Alassane Ouattara, in which they discussed reconciliation and security sector reform. Next, the Security Council will meet with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), during which issues, including Guinea-Bissau and Mali, are expected to be discussed.

Sudan/South Sudan:
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Ali Al-Za’tari, today welcomed the continued progress in the airlift from Khartoum to Juba of some 12,000 people of South Sudanese origin who had been stranded for many months at a way-station in Kosti. The airlift is being managed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and supported by the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan.

The Humanitarian Coordinator also welcomed continued progress by the two Governments to regularize the status of people of South Sudanese origin who wish to remain in Sudan.  He also welcomed the decision to grant citizens of South Sudan residing in Sudan temporary identification cards.

Yesterday, the SG congratulated the people of Timor-Leste on the tenth anniversary of the restoration of independence. The Secretary-General said that Timor-Leste has made impressive advances over the past decade and that the peaceful conduct of the presidential election is testament to the country’s progress.

The Secretary-General said that while the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste continues to prepare for its anticipated departure at the end of this year, the United Nations will remain steadfast in its support for many years to come.