NEW YORK: Speaking to the press at United Nations Headquarters, in New York, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced that he will be travelling to the Central African Republic early next week to draw attention to the fragile situation in the country that is often far from the media spotlight.
"Across the country, communal tensions are growing. Violence is spreading. And the humanitarian situation is deteriorating," the Secretary-General said.

The deteriorating situation driven about a quarter of the people in the country from their homes and since the start of 2017, the number of internally displaced persons has reached 600,000 and refugees in neighbouring countries number over 500,000.

"Despite these rising needs, humanitarian personnel and aid workers are being targeted and access restricted," added Mr. Guterres, noting that so far this year, 12 relief workers and an equal number of peacekeepers from the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the country, known by its French acronym, MINUSCA, have lost their lives in hostile acts.

"My upcoming visit will be an opportunity to engage with the Government and others in order to ease suffering, halt the current backsliding, and strengthen international support for peace," he said.

At the press encounter, the UN chief announced that he will be spending United Nations Day, celebrated on 24 October, with the Mission's "blue helmets" to pay tribute to the work of peacekeepers around the world who show tremendous courage in volatile environments.

Mr. Guterres added that during the visit, he aims to give impetus to the new UN approach to addressing and preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.

"We know that the good work and tremendous sacrifice of peacekeepers around the world has been tarnished by the appalling acts of some UN personnel who have harmed the people they were meant to serve," he said.

Mr. Guterres will be accompanied by Jane Connors, appointed recently as the UN's first Victims' Rights Advocate.

"We are determined to ensure that the voices of victims are heard - I will myself be ready to meet with victims and their families - in and beyond the Central African Republic. Victims must be at the centre of our response if we want our zero-tolerance policy to be successful," he said.

JCPOA 'absolutely' essential - Secretary-General

In response to a question concerning the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on Iran's nuclear programme, the Secretary-General underscored that the agreement is essential and needs to be preserved.

"It is up to the parties to the agreements to look into whatever development they might consider, but it is absolutely essential, in my opinion, to preserve this agreement for peace and stability in the world," he said.

On another question, regarding the tensions in the Korean Peninsula, Mr. Guterres said that unity in the Security Council is crucial to achieve denuclearisation in the region and that it also creates the room for diplomacy.

"Diplomatic engagement is the way to be able to achieve the objective of denuclearisation that we all cherish. I think that a war situation would be a tragedy that we need to be able to avoid," said the Secretary-General, adding that he remains available for any action that might be useful and in agreement of the relevant parties.

(Posted on 27 October 2017, 1679692699 18O206O92O240)