|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6875th Meeting (AM)
United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq Remains Key Factor in Transition
to Inclusive, Stable, Prosperous Democracy, Security Council Told
Briefing Members, Special Representative Paints
Mixed Picture of Progress amid Political Stalemate, Extremist Violence
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) remained an important factor in helping that country to “stay the course” and complete its transition to an inclusive, stable and prosperous democracy in the face of a national political stalemate and regional turmoil that had left it vulnerable to extremist violence, the Mission chief Martin Kobler told the Security Council today.
“Indeed, notwithstanding the lack of progress between Iraq’s political leaders in resolving their differences, Iraq’s expectations of UNAMI continue to grow,” said Mr. Kobler, who is also the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the country. He pledged to provide the needed support while emphasizing that the “substantial cut” of $30 million to the Mission’s budget planned for next year would require doing more with less.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report, he said there had been progress during the review period, with Iraq making “committed efforts” to enforce law and order following the withdrawal of United States forces. Additionally, reclaiming its place at the diplomatic table, the country had successfully hosted the Arab Summit in April and international talks with Iran in May. On the strengthening of State institutions, he pointed to the establishment of the Human Rights Commission in April and the election of new members to the Board of the Independent High Electoral Commission, which had facilitated agreement on a date for Governorate Council elections in April 2013. An agreement to resume official oil exports from the Kurdistan region and progress on a hydrocarbons management framework deserved encouragement and support, as they could advance the settling of internal boundaries, he said.
However, strained relations between political leaders persisted, he said, adding that one manifestation was the Arab-Kurdish rift. In addition, power-sharing, security and other issues remained unresolved, and a military standoff was evolving due to the establishment of the Tigris operations command in Kurdish areas, which had resulted in the death of a civilian. Calling for restraint, dialogue and implementation of understandings already reached, with UNAMI facilitation, he said extremists had tried to use the political differences to ignite ethnic tensions by staging attacks that had killed dozens in recent days alone, pointing out that August and September 2012 had been the deadliest months of the last two years. The political impasse had also left Iraq vulnerable to spillover from violence in the wider region, he said. The crisis in Syria had already had a significant humanitarian impact, and Iraq’s relationship with others in the region, particularly Turkey, had become strained.
Given those challenges, UNAMI had focused on national reconciliation and regional issues, he continued. It had encouraged inclusive dialogue on contentious issues, provided sustained facilitation and technical advice to the Council of Representatives and contributed to the selection of the new Board of Commissioners. It would continue to coordinate international support for the Independent High Electoral Commission in advance of high-stakes elections ahead. The Mission had also established an informal dialogue forum for the political representatives of Kirkuk’s communities on power sharing, election scheduling, security arrangements and a voter registry review. UNAMI was also strengthening its support for Iraq’s legislative agenda, particularly on the establishment of the Federation Council, reform of the judicial system and the adoption of laws on minority communities and political parties.
Noting that the Mission had stepped up its engagement in the normalization of relations between Iraq and Kuwait, he appealed to the former to initiate border maintenance without further delay and to fulfil outstanding obligations relating to missing persons and property. He called on Kuwait to continue to demonstrate flexibility and reciprocity, expressing hope that the cancellation of pending lawsuits would facilitate an improvement in relations.
Reiterating the Secretary-General’s appeal that Member States offer resettlement opportunities to the former residents of Camp Ashraf, he said only 100 of them remained on the old site, while more than 3,100 had been peacefully transferred to Camp Hurriya, near Baghdad. The Iraqi Government insisted on closing Camp Ashraf in the next days, and had requested the relocation of the last 100 residents, he said. UNAMI could not be directly involved in the related negotiations on property, but it had facilitated meetings. In the continuing stalemate, the Government’s patience was running out, he warned, calling upon the Camp Ashraf residents to cooperate with the Government in resolving outstanding issues and on the Government to maintain the peaceful nature of the relocation. Residents often denied United Nations human rights and humanitarian monitors access to certain areas of the camp, he noted, urging constructive engagement with the United Nations and the Government to allow a focus on resettlement to third countries.
Hamid al Bayati ( Iraq) said his country had made important progress on establishing the solid foundations of a democratic and federal State, with parties agreeing on the need to resolve the political crisis within a constitutional framework. To solve the political stalemate, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki had met with the Speaker of Parliament to discuss the internal situation, latest developments and the latter’s efforts to resolve problems with the Kurdistan Regional Government. “The Prime Minister stressed the importance of avoiding the language of threats and war because Iraqis have passed that stage and they should not return to it.”
Yet, despite steady improvement in the security situation, terrorist attacks persisted, he said. Iraq’s armed forces had arrested several of the groups involved and the Government’s responses to such threats included efforts to modernize security planning. To ease tensions in Kirkuk, technical meetings had been held in Baghdad this week following incidents of violence earlier this month. As for Provincial Council elections scheduled for 20 April 2013, all necessary requirements had been provided, he said, adding that Iraq was seeing increased political activities among all blocs.
Concerns remained about the remaining 200 residents of the New Camp Iraq following the transfer of 3,000 to Camp Al-Hurriya, he said. There was a need to find a sustainable solution by resettling the camp’s residents in other countries, in accordance with Iraq’s 2011 Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations. Still, there had bee a number of positive achievements in recent months, including the increase in oil exports. In August 2012, for the first time in years, Iraq had become the second largest oil-exporting country in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
He went on to note that there had also been positive developments in Iraq-Kuwait relations, including concrete steps towards settling unresolved issues relating to Iraq’s 1990 invasion. Laying the foundations for better relations, the Iraqi Cabinet had earlier this week approved a draft law on the ratification of an agreement establishing a joint commission for cooperation between the two countries.
The meeting began at 11:09 a.m. and ended at 11:54 a.m.
The Security Council had before it the First report of the Secretary-General pursuant to resolution 2061 (2012), a text that requires him to provide updates every four months on progress towards the fulfilment of the responsibilities of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). Dated 16 November 2012, the report (document S/2012/848) also covers key political developments, as well as regional and international events, in addition to operational and security matters in the country since 11 July 2012.
During that period, the report states, political blocs pursued consultations aimed at resolving Iraq’s continuing political stalemate, launching several initiatives, but “no tangible progress was made on any of them”. The Secretary-General, therefore, once again calls upon political leaders to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialogue to resolve their differences. UNAMI, he adds, stands ready to assist the people and Government of Iraq to overcome their differences and focus on building a peaceful, democratic and prosperous country.
According to the report, the Secretary-General is also concerned over signs of increased tensions between the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government, hampering progress on disputed internal boundaries. He urges both sides to work together constructively, and welcomes the agreement reached to resume oil exports from the Kurdistan Region, hoping it will pave the way for the adoption by the Council of Representatives of the much-needed legislation on the sharing of revenues from oil and gas. UNAMI stands ready to provide impartial facilitation and support to stakeholders on this matter, too.
Welcoming also the agreement reached on selecting the new Board of Commissioners of the Independent High Electoral Commission, the report says, the Secretary-General pledges that the United Nations will work closely with it, but regrets that only one member of the nine-strong body is a woman. He calls for adequate representation of women at all levels of political institutions, and urges all parties to continue working together to enable the holding of elections in Kirkuk without further delay.
According to the report, the Secretary-General pledges to work with UNAMI to support the normalization of relations between Iraq and Kuwait. Urging Iraq to keep its borders open to Syrian refugees, he assures the Government that the United Nations will pursue efforts to respond to their needs, in coordination with other stakeholders, and requests Member States to ensure that such a response is fully funded.
The report notes that the peaceful transfer of most former residents of Camp New Iraq to the temporary transit location of Camp Hurriya is almost complete. The Secretary-General urges both the Government and the residents to continue their constructive engagement for the expeditious, peaceful and orderly closure and handover of Camp New Iraq.
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