Campaign to Expel Islamic State from Iraq ‘Nearly Won’, But Engagement, Support from Partners Still Vital, Top Official Tells Security Council

SC/12703
2 February 2017
7875th Meeting* (AM)

Campaign to Expel Islamic State from Iraq ‘Nearly Won’, But Engagement, Support from Partners Still Vital, Top Official Tells Security Council

Hailing Liberation of Mosul’s Left Bank, Permanent Representative Says Entire City Will Be Free of Islamic State Grip

With the campaign to oust Da’esh fighters from Iraq “nearly won”, the country’s international partners must remain engaged because any abrupt scale-down in support would risk grave consequences both within and beyond the nation’s borders, the top-ranking United Nations official there cautioned in the Security Council today.

Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), told the 15-member Council that the country would require continuous, substantial and sustainable international support and assistance in the “post-Da’esh period”.  Abrupt reductions could mean repeating mistakes of the past, posing serious risks to stability and security, he said.

Briefing on the situation in Iraq, he said combat operations in the eastern part of Mosul had come to an end three months after the beginning of the military effort to retake the city.  “The days of the so-called ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] in Iraq are counted,” he said in presenting two reports of the Secretary-General (documents S/2017/73 and S/2017/75).  Nevertheless, the steady progress must not conceal the massive struggle that the fighting had been — and would continue to be — for Iraq and its international partners, he warned.

Noting that nearly 190,000 people had been displaced from Mosul since mid-October — far fewer than humanitarians had feared — he said 30,000 of them had already been able to return to their homes in the city, in addition to more than 1.4 million more across the country.  The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Funding Facility for Stabilization was currently operational in 21 liberated towns and districts to which hundreds of thousands of people had returned.

Nevertheless, continued international support was needed, he emphasized.  “Although the military campaign to oust ISIL from Iraq is nearly won, the humanitarian crisis is expected to continue for months, if not years,” he warned, adding that at least $985 million would be required in 2017 to reach the 5.8 million most vulnerable Iraqis.  Reiterating the commitment by the Government of Iraq to prioritize the protection of civilians, he said UNAMI had received no evidence of any systematic or wide-spread violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law on the part of the national security forces.  However, reports of criminal acts against civilians and prisoners of war persisted, regrettably.

He went on to underline that, in addition to protecting civilians, avoiding measures that could incite sectarian tensions was vital, as was the prevention of looting and revenge attacks in Mosul and other liberated areas.  Such steps were important in the effort to win Iraqi hearts and minds.   UNAMI’s activities in that regard constituted the first steps in the national and community-based reconciliation process.  In addition, the Council of Representatives had recently supported the Prime Minister’s proposed candidates to take charge of the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Interior.  Swift action was needed to agree on the selection and appointment of ministers to fill the remaining vacant positions, including the Trade, Industry and Finance Ministers.

“The world will not forget the horrendous crimes committed by Da’esh,” he said, underscoring the need to ensure justice for the victims of human rights abuses.  That would require re-establishing the formal justice system, effective and efficient documentation of violations, and the creation of non-formal justice mechanisms, among other things.  The needs of minorities must also be addressed, he said, underscoring the fact that Iraq has lost more than half of its ethnic‑ and religious-minority populations since 2003.  He welcomed several strategies for moving forward in “post-Da’esh Iraq”, including the National Alliance Initiative, which represented a starting point in the national settlement and reconciliation process led and owned by Iraq, but facilitated by the United Nations.  UNAMI was already working on that initiative with various segments of Iraqi society, including its Sunni and Turkmen components, as well as representatives of the Kurdistan region, civil society, women and others, he said.

Mr. Kubiš went on to recall that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had announced, on 17 January, that district council elections would be scheduled for 16 September.  The Council of Representatives must now urgently put the appropriate legal and institutional framework in place, he said, encouraging the Government to provide the Independent High Electoral Commission with the requisite funding to facilitate regulatory and operational planning.

Turning to the question of missing Kuwaiti nationals and property, including the neighbouring country’s National Archives, he said the Government of Iraq had demonstrated its determination to pursue the important work of locating missing persons.  Through the proactive efforts of the Ministry of Defence, the number of witnesses coming forward to provide information had increased dramatically, he said, adding that field visits and excavations continued.  More than 6,000 Kuwaiti books had been located and were being prepared for official hand-over to Kuwait.

Following the briefing, Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay) said it was clear that Iraq continued to face humanitarian, political, economic, security and other challenges, as well as a struggle against terrorism.  Emphasizing the importance of combating the “terrorist blight” within the framework of international law, he welcomed the Government’s emphasis on protecting civilians, while expressing concern that Da’esh/ISIL continued to use civilians as human shields.  He said military operations alone would not eliminate the threat of terrorism, emphasizing that leaders in Iraq must bridge mistrust and unite around a common vision of reconciliation.

Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia) reiterated his delegation’s round condemnation of the terrorism and violence wrought on Iraqi civilians.  Recognizing the Government’s efforts to bring forge agreement among all parties, he emphasized the importance of rebuilding hospitals, schools and other important civilian infrastructure, and expressed optimism about the forthcoming elections.

Mohamed Ali Alhakim (Iraq) welcomed the successful liberation of Mosul’s left bank and the progress made towards retaking the entire city.  Demining efforts were under way, as were operation to begin rebuilding and provide services, all of which would help facilitate the return of internally displaced persons.  To date, more than 2,000 Iraqi families had been able to return home to Mosul’s left bank, he said, adding that emergency aid and shelter had been provided to those returning to such liberated areas.

Calling on all States to implement the various Council resolutions relating to the movement and financing of foreign fighters, he said the relevant sanctions committee must play its role in neutralizing terrorist groups and cutting off their funding.  In that regard, he welcomed the activities of UNAMI, the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate and the international coalition States, especially the support provided by the United States and the European Union.

In similar vein, he welcomed the recent election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States, but expressed deep regret that his 27 January executive order barred travel to that country from seven countries, including Iraq.  That order contravened the strategic partnership between Iraq and the United States at a critical time — amid the great progress made in combating ISIL — and President Trump should re-examine it while continuing to broaden his country’s cooperation with Iraq.

On the missing Kuwaiti citizens and property, he said the Joint Commission charged with investigating the matter was currently conducting a number of interviews, reaching out to witnesses and undertaking a number of other methods to collect valuable information.  No human remains had yet been found, but excavations would continue in 2017.  Emphasizing the importance of sincere good-neighbourly relations, he thanked Kuwait for the support it had provided for recently liberated areas of Iraq.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:41 a.m.

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*  The 7874th Meeting was closed.

For information media. Not an official record.