A profound political crisis engulfing Iraq was paralysing the work of the Government and Council of Representatives at a time when terrorist attacks were spiking along with civilian deaths and a grave humanitarian situation was unfolding, the chief of the United Nations mission in that country told the Security Council today.
Providing an update on developments since 26 January, Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), via videoconference, said the current situation had added a new layer of complications to the already complex set of military, security, humanitarian, economic and human rights challenges facing the country. “The humanitarian crisis in Iraq remains one of the world’s worst,” he said, noting that nearly one third of the population, more than 10 million people, now required assistance and with intensifying military campaigns possibly leading to an additional 2 million internally displaced persons by the end of 2016.
On the political spectrum, he said the Government’s failure to carry out genuine reform had triggered protests echoing growing frustrations that had, in turn, led to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi attempting to replace the cabinet to enable reform efforts to unfold. Many blocs had viewed recent events as a bid to delegitimize the entire political system, and on 30 April, once it was clear ministerial elections would not occur, protestors had stormed Government buildings. Concerned that solutions currently being discussed would not meet the demands of the people and that demonstrations would continue, Mr. Kubiš strongly urged the Government, constitutional and political leaders, and civil society to work together to resolve the impasse.
Maintaining focus and unity of efforts in fighting Da’esh remained a critical priority, he went on to say. That should be followed by mobilizing international assistance to help alleviate deep economic, fiscal and humanitarian crises and promote stability and a return for internally displaced persons. “Political crisis and chaos only serve the interest of the enemies of Iraq,” he said, first and foremost Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), which stood to benefit from lack of political stability. While advances had been made in the fight against ISIL, with a focus on consolidating control over liberated areas and preparing to retake land under that group’s control, such as Mosul, a rise in violence had resulted in high civilian casualties from attacks that included shelling, suicide bombings and the use of weaponized chemical agents.
To replace that grim scenario, Iraq’s political groups must together find a solution based on the Constitution, law and principles of democracy while responding to the people’s needs, he said, calling on the Government to take steps to promote women’s participation in politics as part of the reform process. There was also an urgent need to make progress in intercommunity relations, including between Baghdad and Erbil.
The international community must remain engaged, he said, emphasizing that only one quarter of the requested $861 million for life-saving assistance had been secured. “There is a need to step up human and funding resources to address the immense needs of displaced women and girls,” he added.
Turning to the Secretary-General’s tenth report pursuant to paragraph 4 of Security Council resolution 2107 (2013), he said Iraq’s Ministry of Defence had taken over the technical overview of the missing Kuwaiti persons file and had taken steps forward. To more actively contribute to the file, UNAMI would reach out to stakeholders to seek assistance in various aspects that would push the process further ahead.
Speaking after the briefing, Mohamed Ali Alhakim (Iraq) said that his country’s President, Prime Minister and Parliament were working together to implement the reform programme. With the support of international donors, it aimed at reforming the Government, providing basic services, and ensuring the return of internally displaced persons. Describing 2016 as a crucial year for his State, he emphasized the Government’s intention to take over captured territories by ISIL.
Continuing, he noted that the operation to retake Mosul, supported by the United States, had started. Paying tribute to the Iraqi army for its success in taking over Ramadi, he underlined that they were working hard to recover cities from terrorists. Quoting United States Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement, he said that ISIL had committed genocide against Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims. Calling upon all to implement relevant Security Council resolutions to stop the flow of terrorists, and support efforts to bring those responsible to justice, he underscored the need to respect the independence of territorial integrity and non-interference in domestic affairs.
He then went on to demand that the Government of Turkey withdraw its forces urgently from his country as it was a violation of international law and the United Nations Charter. Expressing gratitude to the international community for their support towards achieving stability, he said that the Government had passed a law on accountability to make further progress. In addition, Iraqi security forces continued to allow humanitarian access to the cities.
Also taking the floor, Vitaly Churkin (Russian Federation) expressed support to the reform process, while underscoring the urgency to achieve national reconciliation with the participation of all concerned parties. Efforts must be unified to combat the scourge of terrorism, he said, drawing attention to ISIL’s expansion to other areas in the region.
Evidence of use of chemical weapons by ISIL had been found in Tikrit, he said, emphasizing that they had been produced in Turkey and smuggled to Iraq. Expressing concern over the humanitarian situation in the country, he stressed the need for assistance. It was unfortunate that the Council had continued to discuss Syria yet did not pay the same attention to Iraq. Warning against double standards, he called upon Member States to step up their efforts.
Commenting on the intervention made by the Russian Federation’s delegate, Michele J. Sison (United States) said “of course ISIL remains a pernicious enemy in Iraq”. Emphasizing that her country was a committed partner of Iraq, its people and UNAMI, as demonstrated by, among other things, United States Vice-President Joseph Biden’s visit last week, she underlined that it was “important that we work together as a Council” using “a consensus-based approach”. “We have worked together on the [chemical weapons] portfolio in Syria and adopted a number of very important resolutions together,” she said, which included resolutions 2118 (2013) and 2235 (2015), “and we see this as a success.” The resolutions had removed quantities of chemical weapons from Syria, she said, adding that examining the use of such armaments in Iraq should be conducted similarly, in a constructive manner using a consensus-based approach.
Council President Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta (Egypt), speaking in his national capacity, expressed concern over recent developments, particularly in view of the security scenario. Appealing to all political blocs to respect and overcome the current crisis and prevent its potentially broad repercussions, he said a comprehensive political reform programme must be implemented and the international community should support the process using all means available. Stressing the importance of maintaining the Arab character of Iraqi society while preserving the ethnic identities within the country, he said embracing that commonality would prevent the country from spiralling into an ever-broadening violence abyss.
Turning to related matters, he said UNAMI must follow up on the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Iraqi territory. Welcoming the Iraqi army’s victories in liberating many areas from ISIL, he stressed the need for a broad approach going forward that emphasized security, reconciliation and reconstruction. For its part, Egypt had made a number of security-related contributions, including its Ministry of Defence certifying a training programme and the provision of assistance to similar initiatives.
The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 10:58 a.m.