|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7068th Meeting (AM)
International Community Must Take Stand against Targeting of Civilians,
Says Top United Nations Diplomat in Iraq
Iraq’s deteriorating security environment and entrenched political deadlock were being exploited by terrorists intent on fomenting sectarian violence, the senior United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today, urging the 15-member body to support Iraqis’ aspirations to build a peaceful, inclusive and democratic nation.
Nickolay Mladenov, Special Representative for Iraq and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), presented the Secretary-General’s report pursuant to paragraph 6 of resolution 2110 (2013) (document S/2013/661), on the Mission’s activities since 11 July 2013. The conflict in Syria had added a regional dimension to sectarian tensions, he said, enabling groups such as Al-Qaida to forge links with similar factions fighting across the border.
“Today, more than ever, Iraq’s challenges cannot be considered in isolation from the broader risks that face the region,” he declared, stressing that resolving the Syrian crisis through an inclusive national “project” and a regional strategy against all forms of religious or sectarian extremism were vital to bringing stability to Iraq. That would create an enabling environment in which the country’s ethnic and religious communities could find a balance without undue outside influence.
Terrorism was a significant threat, he said, with armed groups seeking to foment a vicious cycle of violence. They were attempting to impose their will on parts of the country, assassinating political leaders in Ninewa, Anbar and Salah al-Dine, and targeting Shiite pilgrims and Sunni mosques. He called on the Council to strongly condemn the recent terrorist attacks. “As the international community stands up to crimes against humanity, so we must take a stand against all forms of widespread and deliberate targeting of civilians,” he asserted.
While combating terrorism required a range of political and development interventions that advanced social cohesion, democratic accountability and the rule of law, he said, most importantly it required leaders to work together to reduce political tensions. With that in mind, he urged full implementation of the Constitution, including articles on the separation of powers, federalism and decentralization. He also called on Iraqi leaders to enact the Federation Council and political parties law.
To be sure, there had been positive developments, he said, lauding the 4 November adoption of the election law and the setting of 30 April 2014 as the date of the next general election. Further, many of Iraq’s political, religious, tribal and civil leaders had taken part in the Conference for Social Peace, where they signed a national Code of Honour, pledging to uphold the country’s unity and avoid issuing potentially divisive public statements. They also had committed to a comprehensive dialogue and reform process.
As for outstanding issues between Iraq and the Kurdistan regional government, he highlighted the need to make progress on security arrangements in disputed areas, including by identifying more effective coordination mechanisms, the absence of which had had major consequences in the disputed areas, where many of Iraq’s minorities resided. He also called on all leaders to ensure that the governorate council elections in Kirkuk took place as soon as possible.
More broadly, he said Iraq was poised to take up a prominent regional role. To that end, normalizing relations with its neighbours was essential and Iraq could take advantage of the region’s ongoing transition to pursue closer ties in a range of areas. Chief among them must be containing the terrorist threat, he said, noting in that context, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s call to host an international conference to combat that threat.
Regarding the Syrian conflict, he said the number of registered Syrian refugees in Iraq now exceeded 202,000 people. The impact of the crisis was especially visible in the Kurdistan region, which had accommodated more than 98 per cent of the refugees to date, an estimated 60 per cent of whom were residing in the governorates of Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaymaniya and Anbar. Commending the Kurdistan regional government for its work in setting up refugee camps, he called on all actors to reopen borders for those seeking refuge from armed conflict.
For its part, UNAMI had condemned in the strongest terms the 1 September attack on Camp Ashraf, he said, which had left 52 dead and 7 missing. Nearly 300 residents had been resettled outside Iraq, most of them in Albania and Germany. As resettlement was the only avenue for guaranteeing safety and security, he urged all States to provide relocation opportunities to the remaining residents and contribute to the United Nations trust fund established to facilitate relocation costs.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s first report on missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals, and missing Kuwaiti property (document S/2013/654), he recalled that the Council had decided to transfer responsibility for those issues to UNAMI, under Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter. Kuwait rightly considered the original national archives as part of its identity and history. While Iraq’s efforts to remedy the loss of Kuwaiti property had yielded some results, he was disappointed that few clues had emerged to identify the whereabouts of those archives.
He went on to say that his deputy had attended the first inter-ministerial meeting on missing persons at the Ministry of Human Rights on 13 November and he welcomed Kuwait’s intention to appoint an official dedicated to that file, who would be based in Baghdad. Missing persons were an important priority for UNAMI and he urged parties to make themselves available to the Mission’s engagement with the Government and a wide range of political actors in Iraq that could assist in carrying out that task.
Following his briefing, Mohamed Alhakim ( Iraq) said his country was sparing no efforts to involve all segments of Iraqi society in the political process and resolve all lingering problems in the framework of national reconciliation. His Government aimed to build a strong economy, based on its “enormous” human resources and by taking advantage of its natural resources.
“ Iraq continues on the path of democracy to build its institutions,” he said, noting Parliament’s recent passage of the election law and its plans to hold national elections on 30 April 2014 — a milestone that would mark the fourth time in 10 years that Iraqis would choose their representatives. Welcoming the Council’s adoption of resolution 2107 (2013) on the situation between Iraq and Kuwait, he reiterated Iraq’s commitment to fulfilling provisions related to the search for missing Kuwaitis and the return of Kuwaiti properties. He also highlighted the “excellent and developing” relations between his country and Kuwait.
Turning to Syria, he said the conflict there had significantly increased the frequency of terrorist attacks in Iraq, as extremist armed groups linked to Al-Qaida had crossed the shared border and obtained both arms and financial aid from individuals, organizations and countries. He called on the Council to carry out its responsibility to take appropriate actions, to consider such behaviour terrorist activity, and bring the perpetrators to justice. “The humanitarian situation in Syria and the Syrian refugee camps in neighbouring countries are in dire need of international assistance,” he stressed.
On the political front, he said Iraq had participated in the Geneva I Conference and supported efforts by the Joint Representative of the Secretary-General and the Arab League to bring disputing parties together to negotiate at the Geneva II Conference. He urged that measures be taken to support Iraq in the fight against terrorism, in line with the 2006 United Nations global strategy. He also pressed States to help Iraq bring the perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of those reprehensible acts to justice.
The meeting began at 10:40 a.m. and ended at 11:15 a.m.
* *** *
For information media • not an official record