|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6320th Meeting (AM)
‘Difficult to Overstate Importance’ of 7 March Legislative Elections in Iraq;
RepresentS Firm Rejection of Violent Forces, Objectives Security Council Told
Head of UN Mission Also Draws Attention to ‘Chilling Number’ of Violent Incidents;
Iraq Says Delay in Forming Government Being Used by Terrorists to Advance Interests
While serious dangers still threatened Iraq, the successful legislative elections provided an opportunity to further strengthen the country’s sovereignty and reconciliation, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council this morning.
“It is difficult to overstate the importance of this milestone,” Ad Melkert, who is also the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), said about the 7 March polls. “It represents a firm rejection by the vast majority of the Iraqi electorate of the violent forces and their objectives,” he said, adding that in the post-election period he observed a common feeling that there was no alternative to respecting the constitutional basis for governmental transition, even though time was a concern.
The success of the elections, as well as the confirmation of the count after a recount in Bagdad, was a matter of pride to all United Nations staff, he said, who had tirelessly stood by the Independent High Electoral Commission in the delivery of the historical result and were now supporting the necessary parliamentary and constitutional processes, as well as further elections, that lay ahead.
On the other hand, he drew attention to the “hard fact that a chilling number of violent incidents” had left over 2,000 Iraqis dead and 5,000 injured so far in 2010, including yesterday’s assassination of a newly elected member of Parliament, saying that it was imperative that the international community condemn and isolate the perpetrators in order to create a political environment conducive to meaningful dialogue and power-sharing.
He explained that in Iraq’s political system, the election result alone was not a direct guarantee for the choice of Prime Minister. For that reason, UNAMI was encouraging the winning parties to meet and to converge around agreements guided by inclusiveness, power-sharing and a time-bound process for the formation of a government.
Another major challenge, he said, was meeting the high expectations that progress on the political and security front would translate into economic growth and creation of jobs and drastic improvement in living conditions. Shortages were still everywhere and life expectancy was 15 years less than in Syria. Displacement was still rampant. Unfortunately, reconstruction and reform had often been piecemeal to this point and little attention was being paid to social priorities in the post-election period. That must change, or the democratic gains would be undermined, he warned.
Turning to actions of the United Nations in that regard, he said the signing of the first United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) on 11 May marked a milestone toward longer term economic and human development planning for Iraq, centred on the priorities outlined in the Secretary-General’s report (see background). The framework for a related trust fund was being discussed with all partners, with the aim of making it operational by 2011.
He said that the gradual government formation process offered opportunities to advance some key outstanding issues, including those crucial for reconciliation. UNAMI’s impartial outreach aimed at reconciliation between different communities and interests in the province of Ninewa had generated a possibility of tangible results in the near future. The Mission was facilitating meetings between the Ninewa Governorate and the Kurdistan Regional Government as a basis for progress in clarifying responsibilities in security policies for Ninewa, the issue of Arab detainees held in Kurdistan, strengthening protection of minorities and ending the absence of representatives from the Kurdish Fraternal List in the Ninewa provincial council and administration.
He hoped that those first signs of change in atmosphere would bode well for addressing the outstanding issues concerning all “disputed areas” that still cast their shadow on the stability and future of Iraq. To that end, the Mission was exploring the possibility of expanding the work of the High Level Task Force. He advised all parties to focus the expanded agenda on: principles guiding the management, development and revenue-sharing of oil production throughout Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region and Kirkuk province; achieving consensus on the future arrangements concerning Kirkuk province; clarification of the relevant administrative roles and responsibilities with regard to “disputed” territories; and practical modalities for joint security arrangements.
In regard to regional reconciliation and normalization of Iraq within the region and the wider international community, he said it was important to exit Chapter VII as soon as possible. There was some concern that signs of ambiguity seemed to stand in the way of advancing good relations with Kuwait. Re-affirmation by Iraq of the border demarcated in 1993 and affirmed in Council resolution 833 (1993) was indispensable for finding a solution to other outstanding issues, counting on the reassurance by the Government of Kuwait that normalizing relations was of mutual interest.
Reconciliation also required a strong commitment to uphold human rights, which were still under tremendous pressure, he said. He urged in that regard the authorities in Baghdad and Erbil to take very seriously the alarm sounded by the International Federation of Journalists about violence against journalists in Iraq. UNAMI was also concerned at reports of ill-treatment and torture in secret detention places. Stemming trends of ongoing violence required both effective security forces and consistent application of the law in order to avoid a vicious cycle of infringement of elementary rights.
Turning to the upcoming drawdown of United States Forces, he said that drawdown would affect the ability to provide adequate protection to United Nations staff, as having the full range of security services provided by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) would take some time. That necessitated a combination of security options during the transitional period including: improving the United Nations’ own capability; gradually increasing reliance on the ISF; additional support from Member States in providing more United Nations guards; and, as a last resort, judiciously outsourcing some security function.
The United Nations in Iraq would also have to work towards becoming self-reliant in life support and logistical services, he said. Preparations for a new United Nations compound in Baghdad were under way, following the offer by the Government of a construction lot and a payment of the initial contribution of $25 million as part of a proposed 50 per cent share. He counted on the support of Member States to enable the United Nations to continue to be represented in Iraq with the current footprint and — if requested by Iraq — more than that. The alternative would be reduction of presence with a negative impact at a time when major tasks were still ahead.
After Mr. Melkert’s presentation, Iraq’s representative Hamid al-Bayati said security incidents such as yesterday’s assassination occurred because terrorists were trying to use the vacuum created by the delay in the formation of the Government to advance their interests. As for Iraq’s relations with Kuwait, he assured the Council that Iraq was committed to implementation of all Council resolutions.
He then went on to describe progress made in Iraq in the political, security, economic, social and international areas, saying that the success of the electoral process in Iraq was another achievement of the Government, the Security Forces and the Independent High Electoral Commission. He commended UNAMI for its advisory assistance and logistical support to the Independent High Electoral Commission. The political process in Iraq was ongoing and would continue, as political rivals turned to the law and the Constitution to find solutions to political problems.
Among examples of successes achieved by the Iraqi Security Forces, he mentioned operations that had lead to the death of the Egyptian terrorist Abu Hamza Al-Muhajir and the capturing of Manaf abd al-Rahim Al Wawi, known as the “governor” of Baghdad. Despite new terrorist operations, the security environment had improved dramatically over the last few months. That improvement had led to the return of some 61,000 persons displaced abroad and internally as of 31 March. Since that time another 41,852 internally displaced had returned to their homes and 7,241 had returned from abroad.
He also noted the signing of the UNDAF and said Iraq’s oil exports — some 2 million barrels a day — had been remarkably stable over the past months. The Oil Ministry was now preparing for the third round of bidding that would focus on investment in natural gas fields. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in its 2010 report on humanitarian action, had mentioned the end of the acute emergency stage of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq.
Addressing what he called the “exaggerated fanfare” over the existence of secret prisons in Iraq and torture of detainees, he pointed out that media reports had distorted the truth and insulted the Iraqi Government. The Prime Minster had ordered that all allegations be investigated. He also pointed to regional and international openness in Iraq, mentioning a number of visits by international envoys, diplomats and other high-level officials to Iraq and visits to neighbouring countries by Iraqi high-level officials.
Iraq, he said, was still suffering from the Council-imposed sanctions regarding disarmament of weapons of mass destruction and denying Iraq the use of technological advances and research, he said. On 17 February, Iraq had declared that it would apply the Additional Protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which it had signed in 2008, pending its entry into force. He therefore renewed his Government’s demand that the Council review, with a view towards lifting, the restrictions in resolutions 687 (1991) and 707 (1991).
The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and ended at 10:55 a.m., when Council members immediately began consultations on Iraq, as previously agreed.
As the Security Council considered the situation in Iraq, it had before it the Secretary-General’s report pursuant to paragraph 6 of resolution 1883 (2009) (document S/2010/240) regarding the fulfilment of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) over the past three months.
In his report, the Secretary-General states that the national elections for the Council of Representatives on 7 March were “a testament of the Iraqi people’s determination to exercise their democratic right to vote and elect a Government that will shape the country’s future for the next four years”. During the elections, there were relatively few incidents of violence and voter turnout was strong. UNAMI has assisted in drafting key electoral legislation, developing Electoral Commission rules and regulations and assisting in public outreach.
All election complaints are being vetted by competent electoral and judicial bodies and UNAMI assisted the Independent High Electoral Commission in developing clear protocols and procedures to ensure that recounts are conducted in a transparent and efficient manner, according to the report. The coming months will be a critical period, as ongoing negotiations to form a new government intensify. The Secretary-General urges political leaders to move swiftly and work together in a spirit of national unity to build a cohesive and inclusive government and ensure that the transition is peaceful.
Once the new government is formed, the Secretary-General continues, it will have to deal with major challenges such as national reconciliation, resolving outstanding Arab-Kurdish issues, sharing of natural resources, human rights, internally displaced persons and refugees and reconstruction and development.
He writes that relations between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Government of Iraq continue to be a significant factor for political stability. Leaving outstanding issues such as administrative boundaries, the control of oil resources and minority rights unresolved will impact negatively on the political and security situation in northern Iraq. Initiatives such as recent talks held through the High-level Task Force supported by UNAMI to facilitate cooperation in Ninewa Province can contribute to broader efforts to promote lasting reconciliation.
There is a gradual shift to longer-term development, as reflected in the United Nations Development Assistance Framework and the Iraq Humanitarian Action Plan for 2010. In the spirit of the Millennium Development Goals and the Paris Declaration, according to the Secretary-General, the United Nations Development Assistance Framework will form an important platform for supporting Iraq’s new vision for the future. The United Nations Development Group Iraq Trust Fund window of the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq will be entering its final months for allocation of funds. Discussions are continuing regarding a new funding mechanism, as well as the Government’s imitative to develop the necessary framework for the establishment of a co-financing mechanism. In order to support development priorities in the Framework, the United Nations country team will inevitably require more resources from Member States.
As regional cooperation is essential for Iraq’s long-term stability, the Secretary-General urges the Governments of Iraq and of neighbouring countries to pursue the resolution of all contentious issues between them, including land and maritime issues and the safe return of refugees. He hopes that Iraq will make a concerted effort to expeditiously fulfil its Chapter VII obligations, including those related to Kuwait, as that could help create a positive momentum within the Council when it reviews outstanding Chapter VII mandates on Iraq.
In conclusion, the Secretary-General observes that Iraq remains an extremely complex operating environment for the Organization. The safety and security of United Nations personnel remains his chief concern, he writes, expressing gratitude to those Member States who continue to provide security and logistical support for the United Nations presence in Iraq. In view of the planned drawdown of the United States Forces for Iraq, UNAMI is considering alternative arrangements to ensure that its security and logistical requirement are met. If the United Nations is to maintain or increase its activities in Iraq, a significant increase in resources from Member States will be essential.
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