This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Both sides in Libya conflict agree need for ceasefire that lasts
The UN negotiator leading talks to secure an end to fighting in Libya said on Tuesday that officials from both parties to the conflict have agreed on the need for a “permanent and lasting” ceasefire to replace an uncertain truce.
The parties are meeting in Geneva after months of conflict around Tripoli between the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (or GNA) and the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which laid siege to the capital last April.
At a press conference, Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, said that both sides had accepted the principle of a truce in January, but it has not been respected.
Mr. Salamé also warned that an international arms embargo has been broken “incessantly” since the UN Security Council agreed to it in 2011, with evidence of increasing foreign interference.
“We have new evidence of new equipment but also new fighters - non-Libyan fighters - joining the two camps. Therefore, we believe that the arms embargo is being violated by both parties…I also hope that that those who are exporting these arms understand that there is already more than 20 million pieces of weapons in the country, and th at this is enough, and the country doesn’t need new equipment.”
WHO moves fast to tackle coronavirus ‘infodemic’
The UN health agency has taken steps to ensure that the coronavirus epidemic that has claimed hundreds of lives in central China does not spark a dangerous social media “infodemic” fuelled by false information, it has announced.
WHO Director of Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness, Sylvie Briand, told journalists in Geneva on Tuesday that the agency has already moved fast to dispel an online rumour that the virus can be caught from an infectious “cloud”:
“People had suddenly the impression that the virus was in the air and… there is this cloud of virus will be infected. So this is not the situation. Currently the virus is transmitted through droplets and you need a close contact to be infected…so we try to clarify what we know about the science, what is still unknown and to provide recommendations that can help people to protect themselves and their families.”
Dr Briand’s comments echo those of WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, who on Monday said that the agency was working with major internet platforms to ensure that WHO’s information about the coronavirus appeared first on online searches.
To date, the respiratory illness has claimed 425 deaths, according to WHO; there are more than 20,000 reported cases in China and 158 cases outside the country.
Daily bombing leaves northwest Syrian civilians nowhere to hide
To Syria finally, where UN humanitarians said on Tuesday that they are “shocked and horrified” by continued military action in the northwest of the country, that has displaced more than half a million people in the last two months alone.
Jens Laerke from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that staff who have been helping some of the three million civilians trapped in Idlib - the last opposition-held enclave in Syria – have reported desperate conditions:
“There are no safe places in Idlib – bombs fall everywhere and anywhere. Even those fleeing the front-line areas are not safe and there’s just a sea of people moving in all directions as the airstrikes and shelling has continued throughout the last two months. The biggest challenge is shelter. Thousands of people are crammed into schools and mosques and so on. Many are in tents in the mud, exposed to wind, rain and freezing weather.”
In a statement on Tuesday, UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, said that the continuing violence was having “devastating consequences” for people.
Military operation by all parties - including actions against and by terror groups - needed to respect international humanitarian law, Mr. Pedersen insisted.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.