|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6586th Meeting* (AM)
‘Cautious Optimism’ about Iraq’s Future Depend on Determined National Leadership,
Regional Cooperation, Special Representative Tells Security Council
Permanent Representative Outlines Progress
On Reconciliation, Development, Human Rights, Preparations for Transition
Real progress had been achieved in replacing Iraq’s ruthless dictatorship with institutions mandated by constitutional principles, which laid the ground for “cautious optimism” about the future, provided that determined national leadership and a stronger spirit of cooperation in the region prevailed, Ad Melkert, Special Representative of the Secretary-General told the Security Council today.
Briefing the Council on recent developments, Mr. Melkert said that in some important aspects, Iraq was at the heart of fundamental changes in the region, as its system of government had incorporated a power-sharing Constitution that guaranteed the participation of women and minorities while nurturing a culture of constitutional debate. While it had been drawn out, Government formation had progressed, with Parliament now taking an increasingly important role in decision-making. In a departure from decades of authoritarian regime, negotiations among all parties had become the predominant feature of political life, he added.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s economy continued to grow at a 10 per cent rate amid higher than projected oil revenues, he said, noting that a 50 per cent jump in foreign direct investment to more than $42 billion in 2010 had benefited construction, transportation, electricity, health and agriculture. At the same time, the poverty index remained high, at 22.9 per cent. “These political and economic facts matter in a country that has suffered much during three decades of wars and oppression,” he stressed. Explaining that reconstruction, institution-building and “bringing back knowledge” took time, he said armed opposition groups had tried to make undue gains through kidnappings and assassinations. That such violence had not subsided underscored the need for determined, jointly shared political action against the perpetrators, regardless of the source of their support.
Consolidating gains would also require a “keen understanding” of the need to resolve pending issues, he said, stressing that the key lay in the implementation of the November 2010 Erbil Agreement that had brought together the Prime Minister of Iraq, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqiya leader under a power-sharing arrangement. Since the appointment of security ministers was pending, and the National Council for Strategic Policies had not yet been formed, there was understandable concern over whether the post-election spirit could prevail, he said, calling on Iraq’s political leaders to set aside their differences and move swiftly to agreement on a way forward.
The mandate and selection of the Independent High Electoral Commission within the next year would also benefit from consensus, he continued, noting that the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) stood ready to advise the Council of Representatives on the procedure for consolidating independence and the standards for organizing elections. The Mission continued to facilitate dialogue within the Standing Consultative Mechanism, and had hosted all representatives elected in Kirkuk as part of ongoing consultations on the conditions that would allow delayed Provincial Council elections to take place in the near future.
Regarding Kuwait, he hailed the decision to form a joint ministerial committee aimed at finding viable solutions to outstanding bilateral concerns, while reminding Iraq of its need to show “tangible and expeditious” progress in implementing its Chapter VII obligations pertaining to that country.
On the human rights front, he said several initiatives had been launched at the national and regional levels, including a conference at the Council of Representatives from 5 to 7 June, during which more than 100 recommendations had been incorporated into the draft national action plan on human rights. It covered women’s and children’s rights, minorities, rule of law, freedom of expression, internally displaced persons and refugees. “From the international perspective, there is every reason for strongly welcoming the return of Iraq as a full and respected member of the international community”, he said.
He went on to underline that what went well in Iraq would be of “tremendous” benefit to the region, especially in reducing the space for extremism. The converse was also true — sustained international engagement would help the country tap into the vast potential of a more diversified and integrated economy, and social progress would ultimately define the region’s future, he said, urging countries in the region to step up their engagement with a view to resolving differences and identifying areas of cooperation in the political, security and development fields.
Gains made in Kurdistan were a great asset to stability and confidence-building, he said, adding that they would generate hope that common sense would prevail in addressing significant, but not insurmountable, issues in the disputed areas, including Kirkuk. The key would be the readiness of all parties to respect mutual concerns and substitute them with the recognition that pluralism should be recognized in power-sharing arrangements that served the common interest.
Following the briefing, Hamid al-Bayati (Iraq) said the political and security situation had improved since the March 2010 parliamentary elections, and the next stage would see the withdrawal of United States forces at the end of the year. The Government was preparing its security forces to protect internal security and defend democracy. In terms of governance, the “100 days” initiative aimed at improving the performance of weak Government institutions by, among other things, trimming non-essential and honorary positions and changing the number of ministries.
Turning to national reconciliation, he said the Government had reintegrated dissolved entities through the justice and accountability law, while tribal councils had been set up to foster tribal reform. Religious conferences had been provided with support to unify the views of Iraqis, and the Government was also open to armed groups that laid down their weapons.
He said Iraq had coordinated efforts to implement the National Development Plan for 2010-2014, which included 2,700 strategic projects costing $186 billion. It aimed to help the economy make a “quantum leap” in improving services, he said, adding that the Government was still working to improve the oil industry. It was also committed to reaching agreement on conducting a census since a “real State” could not be built without one.
The new Iraq had also established credible, independent national mechanisms to monitor human rights, he said, explaining that the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights was now accepting nominations for its 11-member council. On 7 April, however, several residents of the Ashraf camp that had been occupied by the Iranian group Mujahidin e Khalq had been killed after the Iraqi security forces had tried to establish control over part of it. They had been attacked with firebombs and knives, which had led to the fatal clashes. The Government had expressed its willingness to investigate those events, but the Iranian group had refused to leave, challenging Iraq’s sovereignty, he said.
Explaining that Iraq had proven, since 2003, that it did not represent an international security threat, he underscored the country’s support for global efforts to control arms. In 2009, it had signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, among other treaties, he recalled. More broadly, Iraq’s openness to the world had spurred visits by foreign officials and progress in its follow-up to Council resolutions 1956 (2010), 1957 (2010) and 1958 (2010), which marked the “beginning of the end” of sanctions imposed on the country.
Iraq also had shown “absolute cooperation” with Kuwait to solve all outstanding issues, he said, reiterating that his country’s position on the issue of missing Kuwaitis and Kuwaiti property was not to extend the mandate of the High‑Level Coordinator when it expired on 31 December 2011. Rather, it would depend on the Tripartite Technical Committee and suggestions outlined in the 26 November 2010 letter from the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Secretary-General.
The meeting began at 11:41 a.m. and ended at 12:24 p.m.
Meeting this morning to consider the situation concerning Iraq, Council members had before them the third report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 6 of resolution 1936 (2010). Dated 7 July 2011, the report (document S/2011/435) provides an update on the activities of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) since his report of 31 March 2011 (document S/2011/213).
According to the report, Iraq continued to make progress in consolidating its young democracy, strengthening the rule of law, developing its institutions and addressing economic and social challenges, the Secretary-General observes, emphasizing that those efforts would be considerably enhanced if all major political parties worked together in a spirit of national reconciliation to realize the Iraqi people’s legitimate aspirations for a better life.
“The Iraq of today is very different from the Iraq of 2003,” the Secretary-General states, noting that the country continues to face considerable political, security and development challenges. Almost seven months after the Council of Representatives approved the current Government, key security appointments remain outstanding, while demonstrations have called for better social services, the creation of jobs and an end to corruption. With that in mind, the United Nations country team will expand its presence and provide support through priorities identified in the United Nations Development Assistance Framework and the National Development Plan 2010-2014.
Noting that it is almost seven months since the Security Council ended a number of Chapter VII mandates on Iraq, a move unanimously hailed as a major step towards the normalization of its international status, the Secretary-General reminds Iraq to demonstrate “tangible and expeditious” progress on outstanding obligations pertaining to Kuwait, notably missing Kuwaiti persons and property, including archives, and the Iraq-Kuwait boundary maintenance project.
The Secretary-General also reminds the Government that the issue of compensation payments to Iraqi private citizens pursuant to resolution 899 (1994) is still pending, and that the Department of Political Affairs is awaiting a response to proposals it submitted to the Government in that regard. “I have consistently stated that progress on these fronts could create a positive momentum and enable the Security Council to take up my report pursuant to resolution 1859 (2008),” he says. “In this context, both my Special Representative and High-Level Coordinator remain committed to assisting Iraq and Kuwait in bringing closure to long-standing Security Council mandates.
On the status of Kirkuk and other disputed internal territories, the Secretary-General encourages the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to use the standing consultative mechanism under UNAMI to find mutually acceptable solutions that ultimately serve the interests of national reconciliation and long-term stability.
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