Syria; Sudan/South Sudan; countering the LRA; Quartet meeting; and more

Syria: The Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan, today received a letter from the Syrian Government informing him of its decision “to cease all military fighting throughout Syrian territory as of 6:00 a.m. (Damascus time) tomorrow, Thursday, 12 April 2012,” Mr. Annan’s spokesperson said today.

The letter, from Syria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, added that the Syrian Government reserved “the right to respond proportionately to any attacks carried out by armed terrorist groups against civilians, Government forces or public and private property,” the spokesperson, Ahmad Fawzi, said in a statement issued in Geneva.

The Joint Special Envoy is expected to update the Security Council tomorrow.

Sudan/S. Sudan:
In a conversation today with the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate de-escalation of the situation between South Sudan and Sudan in order to avoid further bloodshed.

The de-escalation is the “immediate priority” ahead of any discussion on the causes of the escalation, Mr. Ban said in a morning telephone call with Mr. Kiir, according to Mr. Ban’s spokesperson. “The Secretary-General urged [Mr. Kiir] to consider holding a presidential summit immediately to build confidence and assure the peoples of South Sudan and Sudan that peace and dialogue is the only option before both sides,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council has called on South Sudan to withdraw from a town in Sudan that it captured Wednesday. The Council called the seizure of the oil-producing town of Heglig a “very serious development”.

Senior officials from the United Nations and African Union (AU) are visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR) to strengthen the newly-launched joint initiative to counter the threat of the terror group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The UN-AU mission follows the March launch in Juba, South Sudan, of the UN-supported and AU-led Regional Cooperation Initiative against the LRA and its military component, the RTF. It is mandated to capture LRA leader Joseph Kony and other members of his group, which terrorized inhabitants of northern Uganda for two decades.

Middle East peace process: The “Quartet” of Mideast peacemakers appealed Wednesday for Israel and the Palestinians to take confidence-building steps to improve the atmosphere for negotiations, as top Israeli and Palestinian officials prepared to meet for the first time 18 months.

In a statement, they expressed concern about the “increasing fragility” of the Palestinian Authority, which needs $1.1 billion in financial aid, and called on the two sides to work together to improve Palestinian governance and expand economic opportunities for the Palestinian people.

The Quartet urged both Israel and the Palestinians to refrain from actions that could undermine trust and peace prospects. Instead it urged them to “focus on positive efforts that can strengthen and improve the climate for a resumption of direct negotiations.”

Green Growth forum:
The business and industry sectors play a key role in leading countries towards sustainable development, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang said today, adding that their collaboration and partnerships with governments are essential to accelerate progress around the world.

At the two-day, ‘Realizing Inclusive and Green Growth’ forum,  which started today in the Netherlands, Mr. Zukang emphasized that business leaders in particular have the power to have an impact on issues relevant to sustainable development, such as the transfer of technology between countries, intellectual property, integrating women into the workforce, and creating local jobs, among others.