18 June 2009
Security Council
SC/9684

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6145th Meeting (AM)


SECURITY COUNCIL COMMENDS IRAQ ON IMPORTANT EFFORTS TO STRENGTHEN DEMOCRACY,


IMPROVE SECURITY, COMBAT SECTARIAN VIOLENCE, IN PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT


Special Representative Describes Progress, ‘Growing Hope’ for Future;

Iraq Tells Council Country Basing Actions on ‘Ballot Boxes and Not Bullet Boxes’


The Security Council today commended the important efforts made by the Government of Iraq to strengthen democracy and the rule of law, to improve security and public order and combat terrorism and sectarian violence across the country, following a debate among its members and a briefing by the outgoing head of the United Nations Mission in Iraq.


In a statement read out by the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoğlu, whose delegation holds the rotating presidency for June, the Council reaffirmed its commitment to Iraq’s independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, and emphasized the importance of the stability and security of Iraq for its people, the region, and the international community.


It also reaffirmed its full support for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) in advising, supporting and assisting the Iraqi people and Government to strengthen democratic institutions, advance inclusive political dialogue and national reconciliation, and, among other tasks, facilitate regional dialogue.


The Council underscored UNAMI’s important role in support of the Iraqi people and Government to promote dialogue, ease tension and develop a just and fair solution for the disputed internal boundaries.  The Council called on the parties to participate in an inclusive dialogue towards that goal.  It also strongly endorsed UNAMI’s continued assistance to the Iraqi people and Government in preparations for the upcoming elections.


The Council congratulated the departing Special Representative, Staffan de Mistura, on his strong leadership of UNAMI, and expressed deep gratitude to all United Nations staff in Iraq for their courageous and tireless efforts.


Every so often, said Mr. de Mistura in his briefing, the United Nations was given, if lucky, the chance, and also the right mandate, political support and resources, to deliver.  And every so often the timing, the team, the mission objective and the drive came together to make it work.


Reflecting on United Nations involvement in Iraq during two of the country’s most critical and formative years, he said: “We have together helped to turn the page on how the Iraqis view us, the Organization, the international community and their leaders.  And we have contributed to Iraq assuming a new standing among the world community as an increasingly stable and sovereign nation”.


In seeking to combine strategic thinking and operational solutions, the Mission had chosen, with the Council’s blessing, time-sensitive entry points in areas where the United Nations could make a difference and be allowed to act as an honest broker, he said.  It sought to be selective and incremental in identifying “quick wins” to build credibility by trying to demonstrate that it could deliver and by proving that it could be creative and reliable in the use of its main asset -- international legitimacy.


The past two years, he noted, had seen the Iraqis slowly shedding sectarian divisions, bringing their differences into the legislative arena, turning up in the polls to declare their preference for the country’s return to normality.  The Government had increasingly exercised its sovereignty, administering a State that enjoyed broad support, as shown in the recent provincial elections.  The Iraqi State was consistently building credible and independent institutions:  a functioning cabinet; a reliable parliament; an experienced electoral commission, and an increasingly capable security force.


He said the Iraqi people had shown remarkable resilience, and they were now more than ever able to determine the course of events in their country.  Even the isolated spikes of violent attacks against innocent civilians were not capable of destabilizing the country.  Iraqis should now focus on forcing a political consensus and on, among other priorities, delivery of basic services, dialogue between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Government of Iraq leading to defusing tensions in Kirkuk and other disputed areas, preparation for the next elections, and pre-positioning to assist returns of refugees and internally displaced persons.


“The future looks moderately bright and there is growing hope,” he said.  If Iraqis avoided or defused tensions, if they could see changes in their daily lives through sustainable security gains, delivery of basic services and more political inclusiveness, all of which were realistic goals, then Iraq would flourish.  “All those who died in Iraq for Iraq, including Sergio [Vieira de Mello], did not die in vain,” he concluded.


Iraq’s representative told the Council that the Iraqi people, driven by their mission to build a democratic country, were basing their actions on “ballot boxes and not bullet boxes”.  The Kurdistan region would hold local council elections during July and the central Government was preparing for parliamentary elections in January 2010.  And following the great success in the provincial elections held at the end of January, the political forces that had gained the majority of seats at those elections had formed provincial councils in 14 of the provinces where the poll had been held.


He said the security situation continued to improve, despite some violations.  Official statistics indicated that, between March and May 2009, violence had declined by some 76 per cent, compared to the same period in 2008.  An essential element of the political process was the guarantee for all Iraqi people to enjoy their fundamental rights.  To that end, the Parliament had decided to establish the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  He also said the improved security situation had contributed to an increase in the number of Iraqis returning to the country.


Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Davutoğlu, in his national capacity, said Iraq had a bright future that was now within reach.  And, given what had been achieved in the past six years, there was reason for optimism.  He had witnessed the evolution taking place in Iraq as, after years of a dictatorship plagued by fear frustration and hatred, the people of the country were now trying to make a leap forward with hope and confidence.  “And they are feeling good about it”, because democratic changes were under way, the security situation was improving, there was a growing awareness among political parties of the need to engage in national dialogue and, most importantly, because the people were beginning to feel an increasing sense of ownership in the process.


However, even in the wake of such progress, he warned of the danger of complacency, urging the Iraqi people, neighbouring countries and the wider international community “not to let our optimism outrank realism” in assessing Iraq’s future.  The country was still at a critical point in its transformation into a democratic State.  The political process itself was fraught with pitfalls.  Settlement of the status of Kirkuk and the broader question of disputed administrative boundaries were also pressing matters.  Among the other challenges, he pointed to the return of refugees and displaced persons, adoption of long overdue hydrocarbon and revenue-sharing legislation, combating terrorism and strengthening regional ties.


The representative of the United States said that her country, in accordance with the United States-Iraq security agreement, would withdraw its combat troops from Iraqi cities, towns and villages no later than the end of this month.  That would pave the way for the withdrawal of all United States forces by the end of 2011.  That drawdown, or withdrawal, in no way would diminish the United States partnership with Iraq in the long term, as the Iraqis assumed full responsibility for their sovereign nation.  The United States would continue to build a strong, lasting, strategic relationship with Iraq, one that served both countries.  It would work with the Government to strengthen its democratic institutions, uphold the rule of law and develop peaceful and cooperative relations with its neighbours.  It would also encourage the international community to deepen its engagement with the Government, and further secure and build on Iraq’s economic, political and security gains.


The United Kingdom’s combat troops had begun to draw down, and the process would be complete by the end of July, its speaker said.  The United Kingdom would continue to provide support to reconstruction efforts and naval forces.  He said that, despite security challenges, Iraq continued to make good progress.  He welcomed the formulation of provincial councils, which had followed the successful election of council ministers.  Those councils and officials had an important role to play in delivering the essential services in the lives of those that had voted for them.  He also acknowledged the good progress Iraq was making in the area of human rights, but felt that more remained to be done.  He encouraged all parties inside Iraq to achieve more progress on federalism, boundaries and sharing national borders.


There were commendations around the Council table for the reconciliation efforts spearheaded by the Iraqi Government, with many speakers highlighting the provincial elections of late January as a prelude to future fair and impartial elections, coming up in July and early in 2010.  UNAMI was encouraged to continue working with the Government towards the safe return and resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons.  Recent regional contacts, characterized by high-level visits between Iraq and its neighbours, were welcomed.  Resolution of the internal boundary dispute was underlined by many as an indispensable element for lasting peace, and the Iraqi leadership was urged to work steadfastly to resolve it.


Statements were also made by the representatives of France, Costa Rica, Russian Federation, China, Burkina Faso, Austria, Mexico, Croatia, Libya, Viet Nam, Uganda and Japan.


The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and was adjourned at 12:40 p.m.


Presidential Statement


The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2009/17 reads as follows:


“The Security Council reaffirms its commitment to the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, and emphasizes the importance of the stability and security of Iraq for its people, the region and the international community.


“The Security Council commends the important efforts made by the Government of Iraq to strengthen democracy and the rule of law, to improve security and public order and combat terrorism and sectarian violence across the country, and reiterates its support to the people and the Government of Iraq in their efforts to build a secure, stable, united and democratic country, based on the rule of law and respect for human rights.


“The Security Council reaffirms its full support for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) in advising, supporting and assisting the Iraqi people and Government to strengthen democratic institutions, advance inclusive political dialogue and national reconciliation, facilitate regional dialogue, aid vulnerable groups, strengthen gender equality, promote the protection of human rights, including through the work of the Independent High Commission for Human Rights, and promote judicial and legal reform.


“The Security Council encourages UNAMI’s continued work, in coordination with the Government of Iraq, to help create conditions conducive to voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons, and welcomes further attention to this issue by all concerned.


“The Security Council underscores UNAMI’s important role in supporting the Iraqi people and Government to promote dialogue, ease tension, and develop a just and fair solution for the nation’s disputed internal boundaries, and calls upon all the relevant parties to participate in an inclusive dialogue to this end.


“The Security Council emphasizes UNAMI’s efforts to assist the Iraqi Government and the Independent High Electoral Commission in the development of processes for holding elections.  The Security Council strongly endorses UNAMI’s continued assistance to the Iraqi people and Government in preparation for the upcoming elections.


“The Security Council congratulates departing Special Representative of the Secretary-General Staffan de Mistura on his strong leadership of UNAMI, and expresses deep gratitude to all the United Nations staff in Iraq for their courageous and tireless efforts.”


Background


When the Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Iraq, it had before it the latest quarterly report of the Secretary-General on the fulfilment of the responsibilities of United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) (document S/2009/284), which, among other things, summarizes key political and security developments in the country.


Dated 2 June, the report notes encouraging signs of progress in Iraq.  Following the successful and largely peaceful conduct of provincial elections earlier this year, local democratic processes were at work, with the formation of political alliances to allow the selection of governors and their deputies in each of the 14 governorates that held elections.  The hope, says the Secretary-General, is that this will promote greater accountability in local governance institutions.  In addition, after a long stalemate in the Council of Representatives, an agreement was reached on the selection of a new Speaker of Parliament and on a rigorous plan of work aimed at making progress on critical outstanding legislation essential for the country’s recovery.  The Iraqi security forces also continued to demonstrate their ability to assume greater security responsibilities.  Those developments underscore a general positive trend in the country on both the political and security fronts.


Nevertheless, the report states, many important challenges remain, and further progress is needed in the coming months to ensure that the gains can be sustained.  National reconciliation remains the main priority in Iraq.  In particular, the resolution of key issues, including federalism, the sharing of natural resources and disputed internal boundaries, could serve as a means of achieving lasting peace.  Further progress on these complex issues will be possible only if Iraqi leaders come together in a spirit of national unity and adopt much-needed constitutional and legislative measures in the political, electoral, economic and social fields.  The delivery of essential services will also be critical to improving the lives of the Iraqi people.  In accordance with its mandate, the Untied Nations continues to support and facilitate the ongoing efforts of Iraq in all those areas.


Important electoral processes in Iraq are ongoing, and the Independent High Electoral Commission is preparing for electoral events in 2009 and early 2010, according to the report.  The Commission is slated to build on the solid foundation of the January elections and deliver further credible electoral events.  At the same time, the Secretary-General notes with concern rising tensions in several areas, and urges national and local leaders to endeavour to ease tensions and work towards resolving the underlying causes.  The Mission’s report on the disputed internal boundaries of Iraq could serve as a useful starting point for constructive dialogue, and he urges Iraqi leaders to use this opportunity to engage in a process aimed at resolving these important issues.  At the same time, in support of strengthening the rule of law and respect for human rights through transparent and independent institutions, UNAMI intends to promote the Independent High Commissioner for Human Rights.


The report finds that Iraq’s recovery is entering a different phase, with the Government leading the effort and a shift away from a multi-donor trust fund to an emphasis on bilateral donor relations.  This new reality calls for a change in the balance and nature of international support and, from the United Nations perspective, a much greater focus on sustainable social and economic development.  As security improves, it is hoped that the Government and the United Nations country team will have a more intensive and policy-based interaction.  Looking forward, the production of a comprehensive United Nations development assistance framework will help normalize the country team’s relations with Iraq.  Such a realignment and expansion of United Nations operations will be a United Nations priority for 2009.  Coordination of international assistance to Iraq was an equally important priority, and regional and international cooperation also remain essential.  As the security situation improves, the United Nations will continue to strive to expand its presence and activities in Iraq.  However, Iraq remains a challenging operating environment, and the safety and security of United Nations personnel is one of the Secretary-General’s top priorities.  For that reason, the United Nations will continue to depend on Member States for security, logistical, operational and financial support in the foreseeable future.  This includes timely investments to improve the Organization’s own operational capabilities.


Opening Remarks


Making an introductory statement, Council President AHMET DAVUTOĞLU, in his capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey, said the Security Council had been an important forum for discussion of events in Iraq and for setting the country’s road map towards security and stability.  The commitment of the United Nations and international community to help Iraq had been reconfirmed time and again.  Iraq had taken encouraging strides, based on provisions of numerous Security Council resolutions, and discussions in the Council had become more of a stock-taking nature.  That was actually a welcome development.  He looked forward to a time when Iraq would not be discussed in terms of the maintenance of international peace and security at all, but in terms of development on its own merits.  The situation was getting closer to that point.  One might view today’s meeting as such a beginning.


He said the situation in Iraq was passing through a critical point in time, with various challenges still in the way towards a better future for its people.  International support of the country’s reformation remained critical, and the international community should acknowledge the good work done by the Iraqi Government and people, and stand with them in the challenges ahead.  There was a golden opportunity today to do so through a strong message of support.  That Turkey was presiding over this meeting was meaningful, which was why he had travelled to New York twice in 15 days.  He looked towards a lively exchange and confirmation, in unequivocal terms, of a commitment to Iraq’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and to its people living in peace with their neighbours.


Briefing


STAFFAN DE MISTURA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq, said that, 18 months after starting his fourth assignment in Iraq, and in his sixteenth mission, he was departing, proud of what the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) had achieved in a short period of time and by its joint successes with the Iraqis in overcoming what sometimes appeared to be insurmountable challenges.


“We have together helped to turn the page on how the Iraqis view us, the Organization, the international community, and their leaders.  And we have contributed to Iraq assuming a new standing among the world community as an increasingly stable and sovereign nation,” he said.


Every so often the United Nations was given, if lucky, the chance, and also the right mandate, political support and resources, to deliver, he went on.  And every so often the timing, the team, the mission objective and the drive came together to make it work.  He felt privileged to have been associated with UNAMI during two of its most critical and formative years, and to have seen remarkable and unforeseen shifts in the political and humanitarian landscape.  Three dynamics had shaped the course of United Nations action in Iraq:  an expanded mandate with a new resolution; a call for an expanded presence; and a new approach with a reinforced team, as well as a clear direction from the Secretary-General to be proactive and results-oriented.


He said that had been matched by an Iraqi Government open to increased United Nations engagement and an international community changing its outlook towards Iraq, even letting the Organization assume a centre-stage role in some areas.  The international community, more than ever, was working towards common objectives in Iraq.  Resolution 1770 (2007) had set the parameters broad enough to give considerable scope to the Mission; the Secretary-General had set the tone, giving it enough flexibility to act on the ground; the international community had set the support for an enlarged United Nations role; and, finally, the Iraqis had set the agenda.


In seeking to combine strategic thinking and operational solutions, the Mission had chosen, with the Council’s blessing, time-sensitive entry points in areas where the United Nations could make a difference and be allowed to act as an honest broker, he said.  It sought to be selective and incremental in identifying “quick wins” to build credibility by trying to demonstrate that it could deliver and by proving that it could be creative and reliable in the use of its main asset -- international legitimacy.


He said UNAMI’s priorities had been determined by a need for immediate reaction to emergency situations, such as returnees, and anticipation of impending deadlines, which, if not met, could potentially cause friction.  “Together, we have turned challenges and crises into opportunities,” he said.  In an unusual combination for any integrated mission in such an operationally challenged environment, UNAMI was simultaneously acting in emergency mode, with its political arm working mainly on conflict prevention on the Arab-Kurdish file, while the rest of the Mission worked on post-conflict matters and peacebuilding.


The past two years, he noted, had seen the Iraqis progressively fatigued over civil strife, slowly shedding sectarian divisions, seeking to reconcile after the Samarra fallout, and bringing their differences into the legislative arena, turning up in the polls to declare their preference for the country’s return to normality.  The Government had increasingly exercised its sovereignty, administering a State that enjoyed broad support, as shown in the recent provincial elections.  The Iraqi State was consistently building credible and independent institutions:  a functioning cabinet; a reliable parliament; an experienced electoral commission, and an increasingly capable security force.


He said the Iraqi people had shown remarkable resilience, as they were now more than ever able to determine the course of events in their country.  Even the isolated spikes of violent attacks against innocent civilians were not capable of destabilizing the country.  Iraqis should now focus on forcing a political consensus.  In the context of subsiding sectarian violence, UNAMI first acted to prevent a new conflict between Arabs and Kurds, and to contribute to national reconciliation.  But, tensions persisted between the two sides.  UNAMI had kept the door of dialogue open and indicated possible options.  It was encouraging that the parties had agreed to come to the table to commence discussions on a process based on elements provided by UNAMI’s analyses on the disputed areas.


This year was a defining period, as Iraq looked to possible future electoral events, he said, adding that, with the provincial elections in January -- notable for the remarkable absence of violence and the credibility of the process -- UNAMI had worked with Iraqis to produce four major electoral events since 2005.  The United Nations would continue to provide support for capacity-building in that area.  It would remain diligent in not forcing premature or ill-prepared events.  The United Nations had also stood poised, early on, to assist with voluntary returns.  The exact number of internally displaced Iraqis was undetermined, and their hoped-for return depended largely on improved quality of life in poor communities and opportunity in Iraq.  Security was only one of the many drivers of return.


Internally displaced persons and refugees were mostly a political, rather than a purely humanitarian, challenge, he said.  As such, it could not be solved by large-scale humanitarian funding directed purely at those persons.  Iraq was not a humanitarian crisis, but had humanitarian pockets of dire need and displacement.  Funding for the displaced, therefore, should be packaged within broader programmes to revitalize jobs and services in conflict-affected communities.  The United Nations would work to ensure that conditions were in place for voluntary, dignified and sustainable return, but it should exert special efforts on displacement-specific issues, such as housing and related legal protections.


In the context of its partnership and engagement with the international community, he said Iraq wished to shed what it considered externally imposed obligations with dwindling relevance for Iraq’s future.  A new approach was required in the regional environment; a major shift had taken place in the strategic partnership between Turkey and Iraq, and Syria had resumed diplomatic relations with it.  Additionally, Jordan had found common ground on refugees, and Iran was ready to discuss cross-border issues.  Iraq, for its part, had taken significant steps towards building a strong and peaceful central Government inclusive of its communities, with control over its territory, and where no one country dominated the political scene.  In terms of its relations with Kuwait, he firmly believed that, at the present critical juncture, it should be possible to contribute to a significant improvement of the climate of cooperation, taking into account the concerns of both countries.


The priorities were self-evident, he said, pointing to delivery of basic services; dialogue between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Government of Iraq leading to defusing tensions in Kirkuk and other disputed areas; preparation for the next elections; pre-positioning to assist refugees and internally displaced persons; reintroduction of certain elements into the economy; technical assistance to ensure that a census was conducted in compliance with international standards; tackling unemployment by revitalizing the private sector; providing expertise in ensuring the passage of a long-overdue hydrocarbon law as an essential step towards increasing oil production and revenue; and helping Iraq rebuild its agriculture and diversify its heavily oil-dependent budget.  He was confident that, in its national development strategy, Iraq would lay out a clear and inclusive vision for socio-economic revival.


He said: “The future looks moderately bright and there is growing hope.”  If the Iraqis could avoid or defuse tensions, if they were capable of seeing changes in their daily lives through sustainable security gains, delivery of basic services and more political inclusiveness, all of which were realistic goals, then Iraq would flourish.  “All those who died in Iraq for Iraq, including Sergio [Vieira de Mello], did not die in vain,” he concluded.


Statements


HAMID AL-BAYATI ( Iraq) said that, following the great success achieved by the Iraqi people in the provincial elections held at the end of January, the political forces that gained the majority of seats at those elections had formed provincial councils in 14 of the provinces where the poll had been held.  The Iraqi Government considered that accomplishment an important step within the framework of providing those councils with increased responsibilities and the power to play an important role in supporting the federal Government in the reconstruction of the country.


He went on to say that national reconciliation remained a top priority and, in that context, Iraq had witnessed this past March a visit by more than 4 million Iraqis to the holy shrines in the city of Samarra in an atmosphere characterized by a sprit of brotherhood and tolerance.  There had been no security breaches during that event and, overall, it had marked a day of national unity among Iraqis from different ethnic and sectarian groups who overcame the painful past, which included the bombing of that shrine in 2006 and subsequent acts of sectarian violence.


“ Iraq today is a democratic State that respects freedoms and is governed by a Constitution, [and] the principle of peaceful rotation of power forms the basis of an open and transparent political process,” he continued.  All Iraqi political forces operated within that process and through constructive dialogue to address key issues, such as building a federal system, legislation on the distribution of natural resources, constitutional amendments and internally disputed boarders.  Such cooperation and dialogue would lead to reaching a political settlement on those matters, so that the gains made in the framework of the ongoing political process could be preserved.  He said that the Iraqi people, driven by their mission to build a democratic country, were basing their actions on “ballot boxes and not bullet boxes”.  The Kurdistan region would hold local council elections during July and the central Government was preparing for parliamentary elections in January 2010, he added.


He said the security situation continued to improve, despite some violations.  Official statistics indicated that, between March and May 2009, violence had declined by some 76 per cent compared to the same period in 2008.  That improvement confirmed the development of Iraq’s security forces’ capability, as well as significant decline in the capabilities of terrorist groups.  Statistics showed that Iraq’s security forces had been able to dismantle and destroy 90 per cent of those groups and, on 23 April, the so-called Emir of the Islamic State of Iraq, Omar al‑Baghdadi, had been arrested.  The Iraqi Government, in cooperation with the United States Government, had continued to take over responsibility from United States troops, in line with the security arrangements between the two parties.  To that end, Iraq was now responsible for some 90 of a total of 138 military sites and, by the end of the year, the Iraqi Ministries of Defence and Interior would take over responsibility for 48 more sites.


He said an essential element of the political process was the guarantee for all Iraqi people to enjoy their fundamental rights, as set out in the country’s Constitution.  To that end, the Parliament had decided to establish the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor the human rights situation in the country and to assist the Human Rights Ministry in carrying out its functions.  He also said the improved security situation had contributed to an increase in the number of Iraqis returning to the country.


Turning to the socio-economic situation in the country, he highlighted the recent “Invest in Iraq 2009” conference held in London, which had drawn the participation of some 400 investors and led to the creation of an investment plan consisting of 500 projects in Iraq, worth some $500 billion.  Some 300 companies at the conference had announced their intention to invest in Iraq.  He went on to highlight reconstruction efforts and matters related to resolving the countries external debt.  On that point, the Government had reached an agreement to settle its debt with Tunisia and Greece for some $186 million and $259 million, respectively.  The Government had also settled its debt to trade creditors for the amount of some $470 million.


He said the Iraqi Government had begun consultations with the Secretary-General to review Security Council resolution 1859 (2008), among other relevant texts.  Based on that review, the Government had found that Iraq had fulfilled all obligations pursuant to those resolutions, both with regard to the impact of the occupation of Kuwait and issues related to arms.  Specifically, he pointed out that Iraq had recognized Kuwait and its borders in accordance with relevant Council resolutions, and both countries had continued to cooperate towards the maintenance of border pillars.  Among other measures, he also said that, through April, Iraq had paid some $27 billion in total compensation.  However, there was still some $25 billion due that was a heavy burden on Iraq, which needed those monies for services, reconstruction and development.


Turning to disarmament, he said the Council resolution that had ended the mandate of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) had mentioned that Iraq had fulfilled its commitments in that area.  He hoped the Secretary-General and the Security Council would assist Iraq in returning to the international status it had held before the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, “an invasion which was one of the most atrocious crimes committed by Saddam Hussein, and which the Iraqi people continue to pay a heavy price for”.  In conclusion, he stressed his Government’s gratitude for the role UNAMI was playing in Iraq and for the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.


JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT ( France) thanked Mr. de Mistura for giving hope to the population of Iraq; he had been a worthy successor of Mr. de Mello.  France supported UNAMI, which today played an essential role in several areas, including to ensure the smooth conduct of the elections.  After the electoral success of 31 January, he looked forward to the parliamentary and regional elections to be held on 25 July and the council elections in January 2010.  The Mission must continue to bring its expertise to the Government to advance solutions for internal border limits, especially in the Kirkuk areas.  He welcomed the reports given to the Iraqi federal authorities and the regional Kurdish government on the critical boundaries issue.  It was a difficult question, but it must be resolved, and he called on all Iraqi actors to advance towards a solution acceptable to all.


Noting the substantial progress of recent months towards a stable, democratic and unified Iraq, he commended the Government for its efforts, which had just been confirmed by Iraq’s Ambassador, who had said he stood ready to strengthen his contribution towards the stability and prosperity of his country.  As emphasized by the Special Representative, the momentum must be built upon to improve the living conditions of Iraqis and strengthen national reconciliation.  The constitutional review must be concluded, with tangible improvement in daily life.  Beyond the initial responsibility of the Government and UNAMI, neighbouring States must play their part.  He supported the Mission’s action towards strengthening a regional dialogue, which should deal with such essential issues as border control and voluntary return.  It was in the interest of the States of the region to get involved to make Iraq permanently stable.  He hoped the positive present cycle would help the country recover its sovereignty.


PHILIP PARHAM ( United Kingdom) said his Government strongly supported the role played by UNAMI in helping Iraq become a democratic, inclusive and stable State.  In order to continue the momentum and progress engendered by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, it was imperative to ensure a smooth and timely handover to his successor.  He went on to say that, despite security challenges, Iraq continued to make good progress.  He welcomed the formulation of provincial councils, which had followed the successful election of council ministers.  Those councils and officials had an important role to play in delivering the essential services in the lives of those that had voted for them.  Welcoming the upcoming elections in Iraq and in the Kurdistan region, he urged the Independent High Electoral Commission to spare no effort in facilitating transparent and successful polls.


Turning to human rights, he acknowledged the good progress Iraq was making, but agreed with the Secretary-General’s report that more remained to be done.  To that end, he urged the Government to ensure that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was fully supported and financed.  He also encouraged all parties inside the country to continue cooperation to achieve more progress on federalism, boundaries and sharing national borders.  The international community had demonstrated that it was ready to support that process.


He said the murder of a key Member of Parliament last month had been a cowardly act and should not be used to derail the political processes in which the people of Iraq were currently engaged.  He added that enhanced regional dialogue would also help Iraq make more progress towards democracy and development.  He also agreed with the Secretary-General that the Compact should be more streamlined.  Turning to his countries future engagement with Iraq, he said the core of that new relationship would be based on diplomatic and trade links.  The United Kingdom’s combat troops had begun to draw down, and the process would be complete by the end of July.  The United Kingdom would continue to provide support to reconstruction efforts and naval forces, he added.


SUSAN RICE ( United States) said her country planned, in accordance with the United States-Iraq security agreement, to withdraw its combat troops from Iraqi cities, towns and villages no later than the end of this month.  That would pave the way for the withdrawal of all United States forces by the end of 2011.  That drawdown, or withdrawal, in no way would diminish the United States partnership with Iraq in the long term, as her country would continue its firm support of Iraqis as they assumed full responsibility for their sovereign nation.  The United States would continue to build a strong, lasting, strategic relationship with Iraq, one that served both countries.  It would work with the Government to strengthen its democratic institutions, uphold the rule of law and develop peaceful and cooperative relations with its neighbours.  It would also encourage the international community to deepen its engagement with the Government and further secure and build on Iraq’s economic, political and security gains.


Acknowledging the vitally important work of the United Nations in Iraq, she said that, under Mr. de Mistura’s leadership and at the invitation of the Iraqi Government, UNAMI continued to expand its presence and capacity throughout the country.  It continued to play a critical role in promoting long-term peace, security and prosperity.  In the days and months ahead, the Mission’s work would be critically important.  Its efforts would matter most in a number of areas.  In January, several new provincial councils had been chosen in a process that had been marked by diverse voter turnout and a significantly improved climate.  Based on that success, UNAMI would continue to provide advice as Iraq prepared for two more votes, in July 2009 and January 2010.  As for Iraq’s disputed boundaries, UNAMI should promote constructive dialogue towards a mutually acceptable solution.  Clearly, the Mission was accelerating lasting stability, and the United States called on all parties to advance that in earnest.  UNAMI also provided valuable support for the orderly return of displaced Iraqis, on which long-term stability depended.  She welcomed the Government’s efforts to provide housing, jobs and basic services to those returnees.  Everyone could be proud of the accomplishments.  She firmly supported Iraq’s ongoing development as a sovereign and democratic nation, for which regional and international support was essential.


JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica) said that, in recent months, there had been significant progress in Iraq on a number of fronts.  Among other successes, he was pleased to hear that Iraq was making sound political progress, especially in the area of elections.   Costa Rica hoped that positive momentum would continue during the upcoming general elections and elections in the Kurdistan region.  Those polls should strive to include the participation of women at all levels.  He urged all political parties inside Iraq to continue to cooperate on matters of national reconciliation, including distribution of natural resources and border issues.


However, despite the progress, he was concerned by the human rights situation and was troubled that recent security improvements had not led to improvements in the rule of law, or to a regular system for tackling impunity.  He was also concerned that an independent human rights commission had not been set up.  Costa Rica believed that it was essential for Iraq to reaffirm its commitment to human rights and the best way to do that was by signing on to relevant international covenants, including the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women.  Finally, he expressed his concern that Iraq was retuning to the use of the death penalty and respectfully urged the Government to suspend such executions.  He was also concerned by the persistence of reports that detention procedures in Iraq often included torture, and he hoped Iraq would translate its political will into concrete action and accede to the International Convention against Torture, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said that, despite the progress, he was still concerned at the situation in the security sector.  The terrorist threat had been maintained and even stepped up, owing to the work of armed groups and ongoing interethnic tensions.  UNAMI’s role should be to help reconciliation, which was now skidding.  He encouraged Iraqi leaders to seek mutually acceptable solutions in the political, social and economic spheres aimed at a just distribution of income and fair use of natural resources.  A vital purpose of the United Nations in Iraq was to be a coordinating centre to help stabilize the country.  At this point, the two upcoming elections must be organized.  Their effectiveness depended on the future presence of the United Nations in Iraq.


He was concerned that the start of the pre-electoral process had fuelled tensions.  Indeed, interreligious and interethnic problems might grow and, thus, UNAMI should encourage interethnic and interreligious dialogue.  Despite the Government’s assessment, there had been no success in terms of security and, in fact, the number of casualties had grown in April, as compared to March, by one third.  UNAMI must strive to counter that trend and proceed with its analytic recommendations on the matter, while careful not to take over the sovereign Iraqi decisions, which was an exceedingly sensitive issue to all Iraqi groups.  Iraq’s relationship with countries of the region was another important topic.  Without more cooperation between Baghdad and its neighbours, it would be very difficult to achieve security in Iraq.  He supported the draft presidential statement on the Council’s table.


LA YIFAN ( China) said that, earlier this year, provincial elections had been successfully held in Iraq.  Security forces were increasingly taking over responsibility from international forces.  At the same time, Iraq still faced challenges in political, security, human rights, reconstruction and national reconciliation areas.  Indeed, bombings continued to occur and matters regarding internal boundaries remained unresolved.  The primary responsibility for the future destiny of Iraq rested with the people of the country and they relied on their political leaders to put the needs of the State above all else, and to work together to ensure peace, security and stability.


Continuing, he said China hoped the parties could join hands, so that political progress, reconstruction and human rights improvements could continue.  At the same time, such progress could only be consolidated if the international community helped bolster the reconstruction efforts.  To that end, he urged all States to stand by their commitments.  Global stakeholders should also encourage Iraq’s increasing cooperation with its regional neighbours.  UNAMI should continue to coordinate humanitarian assistance, including towards the return and resettlement of refugees and displaced persons.  It should also provide greater assistance towards the protection and promotion of human rights.


MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso) encouraged the Iraqi Government, in the face of remaining difficulties, to persevere in its efforts to preserve the progress made, particularly in the areas of national reconciliation and strengthened authority throughout the country’s territory.  He noted happily that Iraqis were truly committed to national reconciliation, which was a precondition for success in all other areas, including on border matters, federalism and the sharing of natural resources.  He also congratulated Iraqis for their successful elections and the fine organization by the electoral commission.  He hoped future elections would be similarly crowned with success.  Still, the Iraqi President continued to face numerous challenges.  For that reason, strong collaboration and cooperation with UNAMI and the multinational and Iraqi security forces was essential for ensuring Iraq’s stability.  First and foremost, it was up to the Iraqi people to bolster peace and ensure harmonious development.


Concerning the unresolved issue of domestic borders in the north of the country, he said he hoped lessons learned would contribute to a resolution, to power-sharing and to a political reform of the region.  Meanwhile, the success of the development strategy would bode well for the country’s recovery overall.  A new approach for international assistance would reinforce that strategy, as would a decision by the United Nations funds and programmes to establish a plan for 2011 to 2014.  In the area of human rights, he welcomed initiatives by the United Nations and the Government aimed at promoting gender equality and parity, towards full implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000).  It was essential to underscore that strengthened regional cooperation was an important parameter of the post-conflict strategy in Iraq.  Indeed, peace and stability in that country were crucial, not only to the region, but for the world.  No effort, therefore, should be spared to restore security quickly and definitively to Iraq.


THOMAS MAYR-HARTING ( Austria) said his delegation agreed that national reconciliation remained the main priority for ensuring a peaceful and stable Iraq.  To that end, he welcomed the recent decision of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to convene a dialogue with Kurdish officials on internal borders.  Those talks and their outcome would be important in the run-up to elections in the Kurdistan region next month.


He went on to say that the recent rise in attacks against civilians and suicide bombing were a stark reminder that hard-won gains were fragile and the effort to comprehensively address security matters must not waiver.  He also called for enhanced efforts to ensure the safe return of displaced persons and refugees.  Such returns would convey a message to the 1.5 million Iraqi refugees still abroad that they would, and could, have a future back home.  Here, he recognized the efforts of Syria and Jordan to accommodate Iraqi refugees.  On human rights, he hoped the Secretary-General’s recommendation on that matter would be implemented soon, especially towards enhancing protection of women, children and vulnerable groups.  He also urged Iraq to reinstate its moratorium on the death penalty, and to carry out its stated commitment to root out corruption.  Finally, he said that, as Iraq security forces took on greater responsibilities, the Government might consider boosting the participation of women police and military officers.


CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) said the Iraqi Government continued to strengthen democracy, effectively control its territory and improve life for its people.  It should continue along those lines, with international support, ahead of the upcoming elections.  Significant progress had been made in many areas of life.  The January elections had confirmed the Iraqi people’s desire to return to democracy.  Strengthened institutions would improve the quality of life for the population.  The Electoral Commission, thanks to the support of the Iraqi Government, UNAMI and the international community, had registered important success, ensuring legitimacy and the impartiality of the results.  That fruitful cooperation should continue during preparations for the coming elections.


Turning to security conditions, he welcomed the recent bilateral agreement between Iraq and the United States, and was pleased that the latter’s troops had begun withdrawal from former bases, while Iraqi forces had increased their participation in domestic security.  That process was of great importance for Mexico, which had always favoured Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial autonomy, and its ability to consolidate relations with its neighbours.  For that reason, he welcomed the decision to prioritize strengthened relations in the international pact with Iraq and in UNAMI’s work.  Resolving the border disputes was essential to peace in Iraq.  There were also additional challenges to reconciliation and economic development, such as the frequent massive indiscriminate attacks on civilians.  He urged the Iraqi forces to confront the responsible armed groups and to progressively exercise control over Iraqi territory.


At the same time, he said, his country opposed the renewal of the use of the death penalty.  It also called for attention to respect for women’s rights and supported the creation of an independent high commission for human rights, aimed at addressing those and other challenges.  He hoped the funds for financing the high commission would soon be provided.  Despite the many persistent security challenges, nearly 50,000 internally displaced and refugee families had returned to the country since 2008.  That process should be encouraged, under the best possible conditions.  Reconstruction and economic development were essential for a solution to that problem, which was also intimately bound to improved security and strengthened rule of law.  The efforts of UNAMI and the international community should be channelled towards those aspects.  He welcomed the Government’s recent efforts to strengthen economic and social development, to which Mexico had contributed, through the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), specifically to address health epidemics.


RANKO VILOVIĆ ( Croatia) welcomed the ongoing assistance and support provided by UNAMI in the areas of peace, stability, human rights and development, and expressed his Government’s appreciation to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and his staff for their dedication and hard work.   Croatia supported the presidential statement the Council was set to adopt at the end of the meeting.  He stressed that recent electoral and political successes in Iraq were an encouraging manifestation of a broader trend of Iraqis increasingly taking responsibility for their own affairs.  He added that such political success should be channelled into the national dialogue.


National reconciliation remained the most pressing challenge.  Ultimately, only political will could lock in recent gains.  He called on the political leaders of the country to rise above personal interests and seek dialogue and cooperation on key issues, including hydrocarbon legislation, constitutional review and internal boundaries.  He also called on the Government to address the situation of refugees and displaced persons.  The Government should build on recent security improvements to make gains in the rule of law and rooting out corruption, among other areas.


IBRAHIM DABBASHI ( Libya) said UNAMI had carried out significant tasks in the recent period and had achieved great success under difficult conditions, especially in the area of security.  He reinforced the role of the United Nations and its agencies in Iraq as an alternative to the presence of any foreign troops.  Iraq had achieved great political progress in the reporting period, especially with the January elections.  He praised the efforts of the Special Representative and UNAMI in supporting the Electoral Commission, and for their efforts to resolve disputes over internal boundaries.   He hoped the tension in the area of Kirkuk could be brought to an end and that a political solution could be found in line with Iraq’s Constitution and all segments of Iraq’s population.  He urged the Mission and Special Representative to continue their neutral role, in order to build confidence, encourage national reconciliation and promote dialogue, in consultation with the Government, to achieve consensus among all parties in matters under dispute and to achieve safety and security throughout Iraq.


He said the continued military operations and tension in the reporting period prompted him to reaffirm that the continued existence of occupation forces, in any form, were a cause of continued instability.  Their withdrawal would lead to national reconciliation, which was a prerequisite for Iraq’s stability, reconstruction and prosperity, and an important element in the promotion of relations between Iraq and its neighbours.  Moreover, withdrawal of foreign forces would reduce the support to armed factions, which claimed that they were operating against the foreign troops in Iraq.


On another matter, he noted that the Secretary-General’s report had indicated that Iraq’s possible budget deficit for 2009 might reach $15.9 billion, which, if that occurred, would be the highest deficit for that nation in six years.  That might delay reconstruction and prevent the realization of the Government’s policies.  He hoped that the improved price of oil might reduce that number and even eliminate it completely.  The countries that had led the invasion should bear the responsibility for assisting Iraq.


He said he was satisfied at the continued return of Iraqi internally displaced persons and refugees, but he remained highly concerned over the continued existence of millions of refugees outside the country, especially in neighbouring countries.  He hoped the Iraqi Government and United Nations agencies would accord the matter top priority.  Despite relative progress in the area of human rights, he remained concerned over attacks against politicians and other civilians, as well as the presence of more than 15,000 detainees in the hands of the occupation forces and the re-arrest of some of those released by Iraqi authorities.  They continued to be held under difficult circumstances, without arrest warrants or fair trials.


LE LUONG MINH ( Viet Nam) said that, for the past six months, there had been a consistently positive trend in the overall political and security situations in Iraq. Serious efforts had been made to form provincial councils in 14 governorates and to strengthen local governance institutions following successful provincial elections.  A Speaker of Parliament had been elected, which had opened up the prospect for progress on pending key legislation that needed to be adopted to carry forward the recovery effort.  While applauding that and other areas of improvement, he was mindful that multiple challenges remained, including the recent surge in indiscriminate attacks against civilians, ongoing attacks against Iraqi and international security forces, and the delicate reconciliation process, which was being complicated by the country’s difficult economic situation.


Against that background, it was crucial for the Government and people of Iraq to strengthen the progress made so far and to move ahead with national reconciliation, reconstruction and reintegration.  He urged cooperation on other issues, including to resolve the status of Kirkuk and other disputed internal administrative boundaries, and pressing ahead with the constitutional review process.  All those issues required goodwill and a firm commitment on the part of all stakeholders, he said, calling on all Iraqi parties to rise above their partisan interests and to work together in good faith to find solutions that would allow the country to continue its march towards lasting peace and stability.  He added that, with the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq coming to a close at the end of the year and other financing for reconstruction and development diminishing, ensuring the ownership and transparency of aid was an imperative.


RUHAKANA RUGUNDA ( Uganda) commended the reconciliation efforts spearheaded by the Iraqi Prime Minister, bringing together all Iraqi elements.  He was convinced that durable peace and stability would come only with the leadership of the Iraqi people, supported by the international community.  He supported the election of the new Speaker of Parliament and encouraged the different sectors of Iraqi society to build on those achievements to create a more stable and peaceful Iraq.  He congratulated the Iraqis for their successful provincial elections, which had enabled the election of governors and their deputies, and the High Electoral Commission for the work done to organize the elections.  As preparations got under way for the Government elections in July and the national parliamentary elections in January 2010, he called on the Commission to build on past achievements.


He said UNAMI should continue to work with the Government to help create safe conditions for the return and resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons.  He welcomed the important regional developments, which had been characterized by high-level visits between Iraq and other countries of the region during the reporting period.  Iraq’s security and development were inextricably linked to regional peace, stability and development.  There were still challenges to be addressed in order to consolidate the gains.  The resolution of the internal boundary dispute was among the most indispensable elements for lasting peace, and he encouraged the key Iraqi leaders to work more closely to take measures to resolve that and other pressing concerns.  He supported the presidential statement of the Council, spearheaded by the delegations of the United States and Turkey.


YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) said that, while it was encouraging that Iraq had made significant progress in recent months, it was clear that many challenges remained.   Japan believed that national reconciliation was the most important issue affecting Iraq’s stability and he welcomed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s renewed calls for action on that front.  At the same time, he stressed that a representative and inclusive democratic process would be an essential basis for national reconciliation and, with the preparations for elections for the Council of Representatives under way, Japan hoped there would be a higher turnout than at earlier ballots and that the overall electoral process would become normal, showing that the Iraqi people dealt with grievances with ballots and not bullets.


He said that disputed internal boundaries were another important reconciliation issue, and UNAMI had made valuable contributions in that context with its contribution to analytical reports.   Japan hoped those reports would help the Iraqi people come to an agreement on the disputed boundaries, including the status of Kirkuk.  Those issues would have implications for possible amendments to the Constitution, and he believed that UNAMI could play a useful role in helping resolve those complicated and interrelated matters.


Turning to the security situation, he said recent events had proved that progress in that area remained precarious.  With the United States forces preparing to leave Iraqi cities at the end of June, he hoped that national forces would be able to step up to the challenge of maintaining security themselves.  Finally, he welcomed Iraq’s “strong initiatives” in the area of economic recovery and development.  The recent drop in oil prices could impact the Government’s budget, but he was confident that the country could meet the challenge.  For its part, Japan had provided $1.7 billion in grant aid and an Exchange of Notes for a Japanese official development assistance (ODA) loan of up to $2.43 billion had just been signed for 12 projects in such fields as transportation, energy, industrial plants and irrigation.


Speaking in his national capacity, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mr. DAVUTOĞLU, said that, while the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and his team at UNAMI had “played a most constructive role” at a critical time when Iraq needed United Nations assistance more than ever, the job was far from over.  In the months and years ahead, there would be an equally pressing need for the world body to continue to support Iraq, and he hoped Mr. de Mistura’s successor would carry the flag even further.  At the same time, the Iraqi Government and people, as well as the wider international community, should also rise to the occasion.  “We must all collectively ensure that Iraq embarks on irreversible path towards lasting peace, security and prosperity,” he said, adding that, while that would be a tall order, “we have no other option”.


Sill, given what had been achieved in the past six years, there was reason for optimism.  He had witnessed the evolution taking place in Iraq as, after years of a dictatorship plagued by fear, frustration and hatred, the people of the country were now trying to make a leap forward with hope and confidence. “And they are feeling good about it”, he said, because democratic changes were under way, the security situation was improving, there was a growing awareness among political parties to engage in national dialogue and, most importantly, because the people were beginning to feel an increasing sense of ownership in the process.


Even in the wake of such progress, he warned of the danger of complacency, urging the Iraqi people, neighbouring countries and the wider international community “not to let our optimism outrank realism” in assessing Iraq’s future. That country was still at a critical point in its transformation into a democratic State.  For example, he noted, in view of the irregularities experienced during the last round of elections, the impartiality and professionalism of the Independent High Electoral Commission would be one of the keys to ensuring the success of upcoming parliamentary elections.  Further, he said, the political process itself was fraught with pitfalls, and differences had to be addressed within the framework of a meaningful dialogue on national reconciliation.


Continuing, he said settlement of the status of Kirkuk and the broader question of disputed administrative boundaries were also pressing matters.  Therefore, the ongoing political and legislative process should be intensified, with a view to rapidly resolving those sensitive issues.  “As a microcosm of Iraq, Kirkuk could and should be a stimulus for national reconciliation,” he said.  Tuning to the security situation, he warned that extremists would try to exploit efforts to transfer security duties to Iraqi forces.  That was why those forces should be adequately trained and properly equipped, especially during the critical stage during the run-up to elections.


He went on to highlight other challenges, including facilitation of the return of refugees and displaced persons, adoption of long overdue hydrocarbon and revenue-sharing legislation, combating terrorism and strengthening regional ties.  While it was clear that the road ahead would not be easy, he had confidence in the Government and people of Iraq.  The international community must stand in solidarity with Iraq as it tackled the myriad challenges it would face.  The United Nations was certainly an integral part in the collective effort to ensure long-tem stability in Iraq.  The world body must continue to play a useful role.


Turkey would continue to support Iraq’s development and reconstruction.  Indeed, it had long provided a significant conduit for the flow of humanitarian and economic assistance to Iraq and, today, he added, the volume of bilateral trade was increasing.  Further, a recently signed bilateral military training agreement was yet another clear example of deepening cooperation between the two countries.  Turkey would spare no effort in helping Iraqis achieve the peace and prosperity they deserved.   Turkey firmly believed that Iraq had a bright future that was now within reach.


In response, Mr. AL-BAYATI ( Iraq) expressed his Government’s profound thanks to Mr. de Mistura and his staff for their hard work and dedication on behalf of the people of Iraq.  He hoped and believed that the United Nations would continue to help the Iraqi people make progress on the road towards lasting peace and sustainable socio-economic development.


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For information media • not an official record