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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE

10 January 2017

Alessandra Vellucci, Director, United Nations Information Service, chaired the briefing attended by the spokespersons for the Cyprus Talks and for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Cyprus Talks

Ms. Vellucci said that the Cyprus Talks were continuing today as planned.  She introduced Aleem Siddique, the spokesperson for the Cyprus Talks, whom the press could reach at siddiquea@un.org

Ms. Vellucci also said that the UN Secretary-General António Guterres would be leaving New York on the evening of 11 January to come to Geneva and would open and chair the opening of the Conference on Cyprus on 12 January in Geneva.  He would be back in New York on 13 January.  The press would be kept informed about any media opportunities related to the conference on 12 January.

In response to a question, Mr. Siddique shared the ground rules of the Cyprus Talks process.  He said that the talks were very much a leader-led process, with the agenda, pace and topic of the discussions being decided by the two leaders.  The role of the UN was to facilitate the efforts of the two leaders.  The UN was being guided by the two leaders as to what information could be released.  The talks were being conducted in a confidential manner in order to protect the integrity of the process.  On the topics of discussion of today, Mr. Siddique referred the press and would refer the press to the spokespersons of the two sides.

Answering a question, Ms. Vellucci clarified that as the Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General, Espen Barth Eide had said on 9 January, those were open-ended negotiations.  The Conference on Cyprus would go on for as long as required after its start on 12 January.  Information would be shared with the press as it became available.

In response to a question, Mr. Siddique said that the conference itself would be conducted by the two sides with the guarantor powers, and the opening would be chaired by the Secretary-General.

In response to a question regarding the difficulties encountered this morning regarding access for visual media when filming arrivals to the talks, Ms. Vellucci said that the pools were not easy to organize and there was a large press corps coming from the interested parties, who also needed to have access.  That was not always easy to combine with the permanently accredited press at the Palais.  UNIS had taken good note of the feedback expressed on 9 January and this morning, and was trying to accommodate the media from all sides.

In response to a question regarding the participation of the Secretary-General in the World Economic Forum, Ms. Vellucci said that confirmation will be given in due course.

In response to another question about the Conference on Cyprus, Ms. Vellucci said that it was not known yet what parts of the conference would be public and private.  The room would be confirmed in due course.

Iraq

Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that there was a new situation report available on the situation in Mosul.  On 29 December, the military operations in Mosul city had intensified, causing over the following days a corresponding increase in displacement.  On 2 January alone, some 4,000 people had been displaced from eastern Mosul city.  It had been one of the largest daily movements of people since the beginning of the crisis on 17 October.  Since 3 January, displacement numbers on a daily basis had returned to about 1,000 a day.  The newly displaced were mainly moving to the south and the east of Mosul where camps run by the Government and the humanitarian partners were taking them in.  Humanitarian assistance and shelter was provided to them.  Many were also seeking shelter with friends and family members in the neighbourhoods further east of the frontline areas.  With this increase in displacement over the past ten days or so, the total now stood at 135,500 displaced as a result of the efforts to retake Mosul.

The increase in military activities also meant that trauma casualties remained extremely high, particularly near the frontlines.  In the past week, 683 people had been referred from eastern Mosul to hospitals in Erbil and Dahuk.  The previous week, that number had stood at 817 trauma cases.

Partners on the ground considered as a very positive development that on 8 January a non-governmental organization, Samaritan’s Purse, had opened a 50-bed field hospital in Bartella about 18-20 kilometers to the east of eastern Mosul city.  It was the closest hospital to the frontline area.  That was expected to relieve some of the pressure on the hospitals in Erbil.

The humanitarian response continued and hundreds of thousands were receiving a wide range of aid.  The details were available in the situation report.  As of 8 January, contributions to the flash appeal for Mosul had reached USD 273 million, representing over 96 per cent of the required amount.  With those incoming contributions partners continued to scale up their efforts to respond to the crisis.

In response to a question regarding the number of people remaining in Mosul, Mr. Laerke said that there was no humanitarian access to ISIL-controlled areas of western Mosul.  It was possible to count, record and assist those fleeing, but it was impossible to say how many remained there.  The UN was very concerned for their safety, security and protection.  Those who were coming out would not have reliable information on the number of people left behind.  In the situation report, there was some information based on anecdotal reports from those who had fled western Mosul that there were few consumables left inside western Mosul, and that they had been restricted in running their generators by those in control of the area.

In response to further questions, Mr. Laerke said that the UN had increased access to the areas that had been retaken.  Typically there was a very high risk of unexploded ordnance, so a clearing process was necessary before it was possible to come in.  Water was being trucked in to those areas, but much of the response was in the Government- and UN-managed camps mainly to the south and the east of Mosul.  He said that he would look into the breakdown of the individual sectors of the Mosul flash appeal and would get back to the press regarding funds allocated for mine clearance.  He also said that the UN’s response had been winterized and that the UN was aware of the need for heating, warm clothes and shelter that could sustain cold temperatures.  The response was geared towards that.  More details were available in the situation report.

China

In response to a question following the announcement by the Chinese authorities of the visit of the President of China, Ms. Vellucci referred the press to the Chinese authorities and said that on the UN side, more information was expected soon. 

The Gambia

In response to a question, Ms. Vellucci said that on 9 January the UN Spokesperson had said during the daily briefing in New York that the situation in the Gambia was of continuing concern to the UN. He was waiting for an update from colleagues in the office for West Africa. He had said that it was important for the sake of the people of the Gambia that a peaceful resolution be found to the current impasse that the country was in.

Geneva Events and Announcements

Ms. Vellucci said that there would be a press conference on 11 January at 11.30 a.m. in Room III by the International Labour Organization (ILO), on the launch of the World Economic and Social Outlook (WESO) 2017, with ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, and Moazam Mahmood, Director, ILO Research Department.  The report and all related information was under embargo until 12 January, 9 p.m. GMT/ 10 p.m. Geneva time.

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The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/UNOG100117