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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's Press Conference [unofficial transcript]

Baghdad, Iraq, 6 December 2012

[unofficial transcript]

Assalamo Alaykom, Good afternoon,

I am pleased to be back in Baghdad for the fourth time, and second time this year. My last visit was in March when Iraq hosted the Summit meeting of the League of Arab States. That Summit showed Iraq’s steady progress toward regaining its rightful place in the region, the Arab world and the broader international community. I congratulate such leadership and achievement.

Today, I had productive meetings with President Talabani, Prime Minister Al-Maliki and and I am going to have a separate meeting with Foreign Minister Zebari, and also I will be meeting the Speaker of the Council of Representatives. I will also have the honour of addressing the Heads of Political blocs and elected members of the Council of Representatives.

We have discussed a wide range of issues, particularly relations between Iraq and Kuwait. We also addressed relations between the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government. And we reviewed the situation in Syria – which we are all deeply concerned about.

Iraq-Kuwait relations have improved much since March. I believe that a historic opportunity is at hand to fully normalize relations between the two States.

It is time for both countries to put the past behind and usher in a new era of cooperation. I strongly support the efforts of Prime Minister al-Maliki to fulfil without further delay Iraq’s outstanding Chapter VII obligations – especially the maintenance of the boundary and the compensation of the farmers. 

I have come here from Kuwait. I had good meetings with both Prime Minister al-Maliki and the Emir of Kuwait.  I appealed to their statesmanship and asked that they redouble their efforts. This will greatly benefit the people of both countries in the long-term.

In my meetings with the Iraqi leadership, we also discussed the political situation here. The ongoing impasse between political blocs is a disservice to the people of Iraq, who look to their leaders to deliver a better future.

I also expressed hope that divergences over disputed territories in Northern Iraq can be resolved. There is no alternative to peaceful coexistence within a united federal Iraq. The United Nations Assistance Mission (UNAMI) stands ready to help reach this goal.

We discussed the situation in Syria and its impact on Iraq. I am particularly concerned about the humanitarian situation. I thank the Government of Iraq for its generosity and hospitality towards Syrian refugees. I urge the Government to continue to keep the borders open to enable Syrian refugees and Iraqi returnees to seek safety in Iraq.

UNAMI, led by my Special Representative, Martin Kobler, will remain steadfast in supporting the people and Government of Iraq in securing peace, stability and prosperity.  I can assure you that the United Nations will stand by the people and Government of Iraq in promoting further stability and peace and sustainable development under the leadership of Prime Minister Al-Maliki.  It has been a great pleasure for me to work with you and I will continue to work with the Iraqi Government and people.

Thank you. Shukran Jazeelan.

Q: [In Arabic, on Syria]
SG:  For your question about the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria, I have expressed my gravest concerns to [the] Government of Syria, and I have sent a letter directly to President Assad a couple of days ago, as I did a couple of months ago, again. I am very much concerned, and I have warned that in any case if a chemical weapon is used, then whoever maybe will have to be brought to justice, and it will create serious consequences to those people. And I’m going to speak to the [Director]-General of the OPCW, the Organization [for] the [Prohibition] of Chemical Weapons, this afternoon here in Baghdad to discuss this matter, how the United Nations and the OPCW can work on this issue. Again [the] whole international community is expressing their serious concerns, and I hope that the leaders in Syria will listen very carefully to this.  I have, again, repeatedly stated that these would be outrageous crimes [against] humanity, and under any circumstances, this must not be used.
Q: [In Arabic, on Kuwait]
SG:  I support the aspirations of the Iraqi Government and people that their status in the international community should be respected and particularly [to] exit from this Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter provisions. I believe that most of the sanctions under the Chapter VII have been lifted through the implementation of your obligations. But there are still some international obligations pertaining to Iraq’s relationship with Kuwait remaining, and we have discussed at length with the Prime Minister on this issue, how the Iraqi Government can [inaudible] and accelerate these obligations. I think the recent exchanges of the leadership between the two countries, and the joint ministerial meetings between the two countries, [brings them] close, quite close to the stage where they can really make a final agreement on this matter. The main purpose of my visit is to facilitate such an effort by the Iraqi and Kuwaiti governments. And we will continue to work with both governments, and I am confident and optimistic that this will be resolved very soon. Thank you very much.
Q: [In Arabic, on Syria]
SG:  In my discussions on the situation in Syria, I have commented on the measures which the Iraqi Government has taken in inspecting [inaudible] airplanes which might have some suspicious cargo.  I commented that that has been preventing the flow of illegal weapons to extremists.  This is in alignment with the United Nations consistent appeal to all the parties who might be providing weapons and other assistance to the parties in conflict [inaudible].  I commended such very courageous actions taken by the Iraqi Government. And also, as I have stated in my statement I have asked the Iraqi Government to continue to provide necessary humanitarian assistance, including to Iraqi returnees, and [inaudible] should be important [inaudible].