News in Brief 7 February 2017 (AM) – Geneva

Alarm at "failed" humanitarian access in Syria

Humanitarian aid deliveries to desperate Syrians last month largely "failed", top UN negotiator Staffan de Mistura said on Tuesday.

The announcement from the Special Envoy for Syria was made in Geneva by his spokesperson, Yara Sharif:

"January marked the worst month since March 2016 and there is an urgent need to move on with the other convoys as there are areas that didn't receive any humanitarian aid for more than 100 days. Madaya, Zabadani, Foah and Kefraya are out of food and despite being able to evacuate 13 medical cases since 20 January, there are still critical cases in Madaya and Zabadani that require immediate medical attention."

Some 4.7 million people remain in hard-to-reach locations inside Syria, including more than 600,000 in besieged areas.

This is despite a fragile ceasefire holding, which is guaranteed by Turkey, Iran and Russia.

In his statement, Mr de Mistura confirmed that the UN had provided these three countries with advice on how to monitor violations of the agreement.

And he said that he hoped that this would strengthen the ceasefire inside Syria and contribute to a fresh round of intra-Syrian talks planned later this month in Geneva.

Condemnation for Iran missile test at disarmament conference

Iran has defended its recent ballistic missile test at UN-led disarmament talks in Geneva on Tuesday.

Addressing the Conference, Iran's representative Nasserreddin Heidari said that his country had no wish to provoke regional instability with its ballistic rocket launch on 29 January.

He also denied that the move was in defiance of a UN Security Council resolution 2231, which calls on Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles which are designed to carry a nuclear weapon.

"Iran is not seeking nuclear weapon capability, we do not think that the nuclear weapon would provide us with security, therefore, that is why Iran has been committed to its obligation to nuclear disarmament so far."

At the disarmament talks in the Swiss city, United States Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament Robert Wood said that the test was "clearly inconsistent" with the Security Council resolution on Iran.

"Ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering a payload of at least 500 kilogrammes for a range of at least 300 kilometres are inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons. This affects us all."

The US representative also called for Iran to be held accountable and for "all countries" not to supply Iran with the technological expertise necessary for such testing.

Alarm as Burundi exodus nears 400,000

Concern is growing over the rising exodus of Burundians into neighbouring countries amid ongoing instability in the country.

UN Refugee Agency UNHCR raised the alarm on Tuesday, saying that many hundreds of people are leaving Burundi every week.

The country has been rocked by violent protests and what UN experts have described as "growing" government repression since President Pierre Nkurunziza stood for and won a controversial third term in office in 2015.

According to UNHCR, neighbouring countries such as Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are struggling to cope with the new arrivals.

The pressure is most acute in Tanzania, where 600 people arrive daily.

The majority are women, children and others with specific needs.

Since April last year more than 386,000 people have fled Burundi and numbers are expected to pass the half-a-million mark in 2017 if the instability inside Burundi continues.

Source: United Nations Radio