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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press conference with H. E. Mr. Nouri Kamel Al-Maliki, Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq

Baghdad, Iraq, 13 January 2014

Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Assalamo Alaykom.
Good afternoon.
I am pleased to be back in Baghdad for the fifth time as Secretary-General of the United Nations. When I was here just over a year ago, that was December, 2012, I strongly encouraged the leaders of Iraq and Kuwait to look to the future together and usher in a new era of cooperation. There have been tremendous gains over the past year thanks to the leadership, commitment and flexibility of Prime Minister al-Maliki and the Emir of Kuwait.
I am very encouraged that the bilateral relationship has been improved and is going to further improve.
I just had a very good and constructive dialogue with His Excellency Prime Minister al-Maliki. I am going to have meetings with Vice President, the Foreign Minister, the Speaker of the Council of Representatives and President of the Independent High Electoral Commission. This is quite a busy schedule but at the same time I am very grateful to the people and Government of Iraq for their warm hospitality on this auspicious and very happy day of the birthday of Mohammad. This is quite an important day and I thank you very much and I sincerely congratulate you on this auspicious day.
We reviewed the security and political situation in Iraq, the upcoming parliamentary elections, and the relationship between the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the relations between Iraq and Kuwait. We also discussed the situation in Syria which the Prime Minister has just explained.
We agreed that the challenges facing Iraq require all political leaders to fulfil their responsibilities to ensure social cohesion, dialogue and progress over political obstacles. The people of Iraq are looking to their leaders for tangible benefits and a better future. The upcoming parliamentary elections are an opportunity to deliver on these legitimate expectations.
I am especially worried about deteriorating security in parts of Iraq. I strongly condemn the terrible attacks which have targeted civilians. And I am deeply saddened by the senseless deaths of innocent Iraqi women, children and men. The suffering of their families should spur us all to action.
In this difficult time, it is important for all political leaders to unite in their stance against terrorism and come together to stabilize the situation.
I also encourage measures to strengthen the country’s social fabric – through political participation, democratic processes and institutions, respect for the rule of law and human rights, and inclusive development.
Iraq’s leaders have always a grave responsibility to protect the security and welfare of the Iraqi people. They must find common ground and advance for the future of this great country. I count on all leaders to show courage, wisdom, persistence and vision.
I welcome the reinvigorated dialogue between Baghdad and Erbil. I understand there is a serious opportunity to reach agreement on several constitutional issues, including revenue sharing and security arrangements. I hope leaders will seize this opportunity. There is no alternative to a united, federal and democratic Iraq.
As the Prime Minister has just mentioned, we discussed in depth the situation in Syria and its impact on Iraq, including the humanitarian repercussions. I thank the Iraqi Government and people for their generosity in opening its border to Syrian refugees, and I count on Iraq to maintain this policy. Taking this opportunity I would like to really thank for such generous support for all the refugees coming from Syria. The number has been increasing; more than 220,000 people are being accommodated by your people. I sincerely hope that with the ending of this crisis they will be able to return home as soon as possible.
I continue to call on Member States to provide funding and assistance to countries hosting Syrian refugees. On Wednesday, I will convene the Second High-level Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait.
The United Nations will continue to stand by the Government and people of Iraq. Led by my Special Representative, Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations Assistance Mission -- UNAMI -- will remain steadfast in assisting the people and Government of Iraq build a more peaceful, stable, democratic and prosperous future for all.
Thank you. Shukran Jazeelan.
Q: [about appearance of Al Qaeda in Western Iraq and the ongoing military operation against them and on violence in Iraq in general]
SG: Let me briefly mention as I said the situation in Anbar Governorate, particularly in Fallujah and Ramadi, is a source of grave concern. The security situation in Iraq is undoubtedly a source of great concern. I am deeply concerned by this escalation of violence in Anbar Governorate. The number of civilian casualties has been at an all-time high since 2008. The Government and people of Iraq must unite in addressing this terrorism; and also regional countries and the international community as a whole should work together. The United Nations through this counter-terrorism strategy adopted by the United Nations General Assembly will continue to work very closely with the countries concerned, particularly in this case, the Iraqi Government. What is important at this time, I would urge the leaders of the countries, in this case Iraq, to address the root causes of the problems; what are the problems – their grievances or whatever. Also they should ensure that there is nobody left behind. There should be political cohesion, social cohesion and political dialogue, inclusive dialogue. All of this will really count on the leadership of Prime Minister al-Maliki and leaders of the region and leaders of the world. International terrorism is not something that needs to be the sole responsibility of one country or some regional countries. It must be addressed by the whole international community. That is why the United Nations is very much committed to addressing this issue.
Q: [on Geneva II and states that sponsor terrorism]
SG: About the Geneva II conference which will be convened next week, January 22, we have two parts. The first one, I will convene this international conference where Foreign Ministers will be participating. We will have overall discussions on this which will be followed by the negotiations between the two parties of Syria – the Government and opposition group – facilitated by Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi. You mentioned whether this should be followed by Geneva 3. Our target, our aim is to finish this one. We have been waiting longer than one and a half years. It was June 2012 when there was the first Geneva meeting convened, adopting the Geneva communiqué which stated, adopted very important principles, establishing a transitional government with full executive powers. The main goal of this Geneva II is to reaffirm this one and implement this very important Geneva I communiqué -- that is to establish a transitional governing body with full executive power. We will do our best. I really appreciate key countries like the United States and Russia and many other countries who have been really helping to make this Geneva II conference possible. I expect a strong and constructive contribution from regional powers including Iraq. I understand that Minister Zebari is going to lead the Iraqi delegation.
Q: [on the participation of Iran at Geneva II]
SG: There is no doubt that Iran is an important player and I believe I have been making many times my position and Lakdar Brahimi’s position clear that Iran should be invited so that they can participate in this Geneva II conference. But at this time there is no consensus among the key players, particularly initiating countries like Russia and the United States. We have been consulting on this matter many times and I understand that today in Paris, the Foreign Ministers of the United States and Russia are going to discuss this matter together with Lakhdar Brahimi. I hope that there will be a very fruitful result out of this meeting. Let us see the result on this matter.
Q: [on terrorism]
SG: We support all these initiatives and measures to fight against terrorism. As you know, the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations have taken very important decisions and resolutions. For example, the United Nations General Assembly has taken the UN Counter-terrorism Strategy and we have established this implementation task force. We are working very hard with key partners of the international community. As I said, many countries have suffered from these senseless attacks against civilians through terrorism. The whole international community must be united to fight against this and there should be very good security arrangements to fight against terrorism. At the same time, there should be a creation of a political atmosphere where terrorism cannot breed -- we should not provide any breeding ground for terrorism. That is important. I know that the Iraqi Government has learned many lessons. It is not only Iraq; you have seen this terrorism taking place all throughout the world. So let us be united in fighting against terrorism.
Q: [on death penalty and accountability]
SG: I discussed this matter with the Prime Minister today. I have urged the Prime Minister and the Iraqi Government to put a moratorium on the death penalty. As you know, the General Assembly of the United Nations has adopted a resolution recommending to all the Member States of the United Nations to have a moratorium on execution of the death penalty. This is human rights. Life is precious. We should fully protect human rights and human lives. At the same time, it is also important that all these perpetrators, perpetrators of serious crimes of human rights should be held accountable. But that’s one for the judicial process. But when it comes to executions, the United Nations fully supports as well as encourages the Member States to put a moratorium on this.
Q: [on states supporting terrorism]
SG: Terrorism -- killing innocent people, civilians, women and men and children – cannot be justified under any circumstances for any reason whatsoever. That is the firm position of the international community, reaffirmed many times by the General Assembly of the United Nations and also the Security Council. Therefore, all countries should mobilize all necessary means to fight terrorism by exchanging information and intelligence and also strengthening the capacities of national governments and institutions to address terrorism. We should provide no breeding ground for terrorism. For that we need to raise awareness -- the importance of the Alliance of Civilizations and mutual respect for others and traditions and cultures and religions and beliefs. This is very important. This is what the United Nations is promoting through an initiative, the Alliance of Civilizations. So we must unite and we must work together. This is not an easy one. This cannot be done by just one country or one group of countries. The whole international community must work together. Thank you.
Q: [on the Iraqi government providing evidence of a country in the region supporting terrorism]

SG: We discussed this matter during our meeting with the Prime Minister. I have taken note of it and we will discuss with Security Council members. Thank you.