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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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New York, 15 December 2010 - Secretary-General's Remarks to Security Council High-Level Event on Iraq

Thank you.

Your Excellency Joseph Biden, Vice President of the United States of America,

Distinguished Vice President of Uganda, Vice President of Kenya, Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I appreciate Vice President Biden's leadership and strong commitment on Iraq and on other matters of our common concerns as demonstrated by his very strong statement just now and his own participation in this very important council meeting.

Excellenices,

This meeting is a milestone for Iraq.

Its people have known tremendous hardship. They continue to struggle with insecurity and appalling violence. They lack jobs and basic services.

But today we recognize how far the country has come in key aspects of its journey to normalize its status in the community of nations.

Today the Security Council considers closing several major Chapter VII mandates relating to Iraq, including on weapons of mass destruction and the oil-for-food programme.

We all know the difficult history on WMDs in Iraq. A decision to lift the country's remaining obligations would bring this chapter to an end.

Iraq has pledged to remain free of weapons of mass destruction. This commitment is enshrined in its constitution.

The country has also joined key international agreements, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

These steps bode well for security and development in Iraq and the wider region.

The Security Council has also decided to end all residual activities under the oil-for-food programme. Here, too, the United Nations will do its part to bring closure to this long-running, complex and unprecedented initiative.

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I commend Iraq's leaders for their recent agreements ending months of political deadlock. These efforts should help pave the way for a national partnership government – and for the first peaceful transition between elected governments under full Iraqi sovereignty. I urge Iraq's political blocs to honour their agreements and move swiftly to conclude the process.

A new government will face many challenges in providing stability and opportunity for all Iraqis.

It will have to normalize Arab-Kurd relations in the disputed areas, and ensure the protection of all minorities, including Christians.

It will have to manage oil production and move forward with the return of refugees and internally displaced persons.

The new Government will also need to improve Iraq's relations with its neighbours and the region. In the same spirit, I encourage Iraq's neighbours to open a new chapter in their relations with Iraq. The United Nations is prepared to do its part to support these efforts, and promote peace in a region that has experienced three major wars in the past three decades.

Indeed, the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein's regime two decades ago and its legacy caused widespread suffering – among the peoples of both countries and in neighbouring states as well.

Iraq bears the primary responsibility for fulfilling its Chapter VII obligations to Kuwait. I hope that after today's meeting and after the formation of a new government in Baghdad, there will be a new impetus for the two countries to work together in resolving their outstanding issues.

I encourage Iraq to quickly reaffirm its commitment to resolution 833 with respect to its land and maritime boundary with Kuwait, and fulfil all other outstanding obligations, including missing Kuwaiti persons and property, compensation and the maintenance of boundary markers.

Progress on these fronts should enable the Council to take up the report I submitted pursuant to resolution 1859, and consider further steps for the full normalization of Iraq's international status.

Excellencies,

At every step of Iraq's political transition, the United Nations has been Iraq's partner.

The UN Assistance Mission, UNAMI, helped in the establishment of the Interim Government in 2004. UNAMI has worked hard for the success of two parliamentary elections and a referendum on the Constitution in 2005, Governorate Council elections in 2009, and parliamentary elections earlier this year.

Mr. President, I thank your strong support and encouragement, words of encouragement, for staff of UNAMI, including Special Representative Ad Melkert. Thank you very much.

As highlighted in my latest report to the Council, the Mission will continue, in accordance with its mandate, to promote political dialogue, provide constitutional support, monitor human rights, deliver humanitarian assistance to Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons, help build the capacity of Iraq's electoral institution, and encourage a negotiated political agreement to disputed internal boundaries.

The new government and parliament will no doubt shape those priorities further.

The country's development needs are considerable. It remains essential to restore the basic services that make daily life bearable. Access to education and health services is likewise critical for the country's future.

Iraq's development vision should also encompass its mosques, churches and shrines ? its archaeological artefacts ? its magnificent history and its contemporary environment.

The United Nations is eager to be part of this wide-ranging drive to normalization.

The planned United States military drawdown will have major security implications for the United Nations presence.

UNAMI carries out its work with greater operational autonomy, and is receiving more assistance from the host government. But Iraq remains a challenging environment. The Mission will continue to need strong political and financial support from Member States of the United Nations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I deeply appreciate the contributions and sacrifices of UN staff and other foreign nationals who have helped Iraq through its troubled times.

My message to the people of Iraq is this:

You have suffered too much for too long. I pay tribute to your resilience.

There will be more hurdles ahead. But you have the wisdom and the capacity, to overcome.

You are now in the lead in your quest for a better life.

The United Nations will continue to stand with you as an impartial partner.

We are determined to fulfil that mandate, and help you find, once and for all, the path of prosperity and peace.

Thank you very much.


Statements on 15 December 2010