|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6675th Meeting (AM)
Withdrawal of United States Forces in Iraq at Year’s End Will Give Iraqis Chance
to Prove Themselves, But Entails Many Challenges, UN Envoy Tells Security Council
Special Representative Warns against Underestimating Task Ahead, Especially
On Security Front; Seeks Extended Deadline for Resettling Camp Ashraf’s Residents
The withdrawal of United States forces in Iraq by the end of the year would be an important milestone that entailed many challenges even as it provided all Iraqis the opportunity to prove to themselves that they could build a peaceful and better future and gave the country’s political and elected officials the chance to consolidate democratic and economic gains, the Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) told the Security Council this morning.
“The task ahead should not be underestimated and will require further progress on the security front,” Martin Kobler, who also serves as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said as he presented the Secretary-General’s report on the activities of that Mission, the first submitted pursuant to paragraph 6 of Council resolution 2001 (2011).
He noted that, while the Iraqi Security Forces had assumed full control of the country’s security, they continued to face armed opposition and terrorist groups, who carried out mass casualty attacks that affected the lives of hundreds of citizens across the country. They also posed significant challenges to the delivery of United Nations assistance on the ground. He condemned, in the strongest possible terms, yesterday’s terrorist attack on Ashura pilgrims, and stressed that Iraq’s religious and ethnic diversity was its ultimate strength and formed the heart of its effort to establish a prosperous and all-inclusive society.
In the two months since assuming his assignment in Iraq, he had travelled throughout the country and the region, he said. During that initial period, he had witnessed a great number of changes and improvements. “Despite many obstacles ahead, there is a significant degree of good will and determination to achieve further progress,” he said, adding, however, that some of yesterday’s most pressing challenges remained today.
He listed wealth distribution and power-sharing, delivery and access to basic services, strained community relations, and unresolved issues between Iraq and Kuwait among them. UNAMI and the United Nations country team stood ready to work with the Government and to redouble its efforts to solidify democracy, political stability and prosperity as the United States forces withdrew.
Outlining the latest political developments, he emphasized that it was crucial for Iraq’s leaders from all sides to work collectively to overcome their differences and promote confidence and tolerance. He sensed a growing discontent at delays in fully implementing the Kurdish-Arab agenda. Iraqi leaders should take the necessary steps to overcome the current standstill in appointing security ministers and resolving other pending issues agreed during the Government formation process.
He reported that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had requested UNAMI’s continued assistance in addressing Arab-Kurd issues related to the disputed internal boundaries. The Mission was currently exploring ways to reinvigorate the Standing Consultation Mechanism as the forum for addressing that issue through dialogue. Discussions on the issue of Kirkuk, including holding elections and improving security, as well as a possible “third party” role for the Mission in the Combined Security Mechanism, had also been initiated.
The Iraqi Army’s recent deployment around the Kirkuk airport was viewed with concern by the leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government, he said, underlining the need to ensure that mechanisms were in place for settling disputes. He called on all parties involved to use existing mechanisms to avoid confrontation and to provide the necessary space to UNAMI to assist.
Turning more broadly to United Nations activities, he stressed the need for democratic standards, including respect for rule of law, in relation to the electoral process and human rights, to be safeguarded and further advanced after the United States’ withdrawal. “There must not be a rollback,” he asserted.
In that context, he highlighted the appointment of a new Board of Commissioners of the Independent High Electoral Commission by April 2012 as the foundation for any future credible elections. The Council of Representatives had formally requested UNAMI to perform an advisory role in the selection process for the next Board, which should be conducted in full transparency and based on the candidates’ professional qualifications.
Continuing, he said much more must still be done to address the difficulties faced by all Iraqis in their daily lives, and he called on the Government to do everything it could to protect the victims of violence and ensure that the perpetrators were held accountable. Of particular concern were the 11 reported acts of violence against human rights defenders since the beginning of October. Journalists also continued to be targeted. UNAMI was following up on each case and, together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was supporting the appointment of 11 commissioners to serve on the Iraq High Commission for Human Rights. In particular, technical and logistical support was being given to the Committee of Experts in the nomination process, which would hopefully be concluded in early 2012.
In the development arena, the United Nations Country Team and the Government continued to partner in implementing the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), he said. UNAMI would also, in the coming months, focus on youth, water resource management and the environment, which were at the core of Iraq’s potential to realize sustainable development and achieve the Millennium Development Goals and must be addressed by the Government as a matter of urgency. Additionally, women’s participation and education must also be promoted, while all forms of violence against women and girls must be combated.
Addressing regional dynamics, he noted that the Governments of Iraq and Turkey, together with the Kurdistan Regional Government authorities, had proactively engaged in constructive crisis management following terrorist attacks by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on 19 October. A contingency plan had been prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to address any future movement of population into Iraq and was being updated regularly to take into consideration the fluid situation in Syria.
He had also urged Iraq to implement its outstanding Chapter VII obligations as outlined in the road map envisaged in the Secretary-General’s report of 2009 (document S/2009/385), which would allow for the long-overdue normalization by the Council of the country’s status in the international community. He was encouraged by the resolve of Iraq and Kuwait to improve bilateral relations, including through the establishment of a Joint Ministerial Working Committee.
Noting that Iraq had requested United Nations assistance in facilitating a peaceful and durable solution to the situation of Camp Ashraf, he said the Organization was working exhaustively to do so. However, the positions of the Government and the camp’s residents and leadership remained far apart. The 31 December deadline set by the Government to relocate the camp’s residents to another location until third-party resettlement countries were identified was fast approaching. The residents, who hoped to remain in the camp until the third-party countries were found, did not agree to be transferred to a location “without the protection of blue helmets”.
“There is real danger of confrontation and even violence unless a mutually acceptable solution is achieved,” he said, noting at the same time that the Government had agreed to give UNHCR its mandated role. It had also given assurances of its commitment to the principle of non-refoulement. He called on all concerned to act with restraint and flexibility to ensure that a peaceful solution was found.
To that end, he said UNAMI and UNHCR had formed a working group on Camp Ashraf that had frequently met with the Iraqi Government in recent weeks. UNAMI also continued to visit the camp on a regular basis, and the Secretary-General had spoken to Prime Minister Maliki on the matter. For its part, the United Nations was emphasizing that lives must be protected and that any forced action that resulted in bloodshed or loss of life would be ill-advised and unacceptable. Any workable solution must be mutually acceptable and respect Iraqi sovereignty and relevant international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. It must also respect the principle of non-refoulement.
He appealed to the Iraqi Government to extend the 31 December deadline to permit adequate time and space for a solution to be found. UNHCR also needed time to complete its verification and interview process for refugee status determination. He also appealed to the camp’s leadership and residents to give serious consideration to the proposals under discussion and to refrain from provocation or violence. And, he appealed to the international community to step forward with resettlement offers. Finally, he welcomed Iran’s readiness to receive those residents who voluntarily wanted to return with the assurance that their welfare and safety would be respected.
Iraq’s Ambassador Hamid Al-Bayati agreed that his country had seen tremendous and notable improvements in political and security areas and it remained poised to take on the great challenges and responsibilities that would follow the withdrawal of United States forces later this year.
“Iraq is witnessing today a new era, in which the foundations of democracy, personal and private freedom of the press, freedom of creating political parties, political diversity and peaceful transition of power are established,” Mr. Al‑Bayati told the Council. “My Government has worked hard in the last months to improve its defensive capabilities to stand in the face of terrorist attacks, to protect international security and to save democracy.”
The political changes and reform movements that began within the Arab Spring had proven without a doubt the “correct” political path his country had been on, as well as its support for democracy in the region. The Ministry of Human Rights had, among other things, conducted training sessions and invited officials to visit prisons and detention centres. Iraq was also committed to good relations with neighbouring countries, disarmament and non-proliferation, he said.
The Government was also moving forward towards solving the electricity crisis, including fuel distribution. It had signed an agreement of principles with Shell and Mitsubishi oil companies to establish a joint natural gas company, and had maintained its monthly oil production levels, moving towards this year’s goal of 3 million barrels a day.
Turning to Camp Ashraf, he assured the Council that he did not want to force any people to return to Iran and encouraged other nationals to return to their countries of origin. However, because camp residents were preventing Iraqi forces from entering, his Government could not confirm the situation within the camp. To that end, he said he needed the Council’s help to address that concern, with a view to finding a permanent solution.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:50 a.m.
The Security Council met this morning to consider the first report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 6 of resolution 2001 (2011) (document S/2011/736), which discusses progress made towards the fulfilment of the responsibilities of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and political, security and socio-economic developments there since 7 July.
In his report, the Secretary-General elaborates on the Mission’s political activities, including holding consultations with concerned parties, electoral assistance activities and technical preparations for the census. He also highlights development and humanitarian assistance and human rights activities, as well as reports on security, operational and logistical issues.
The Secretary-General observes that the planned withdrawal of United States military forces from Iraq by the end of the year marks a historic milestone in the country’s progress. He urges the Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to define the future of the combined security mechanism in the disputed internal territories.
The Secretary-General remains concerned by reports of continued human rights violations in Iraq, particularly the pattern of violence. He encourages the Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to finalize action plans on human rights and calls upon the Government to investigate allegations of violations. He also calls upon authorities to establish a moratorium on the death penalty, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 62/149.
The situation in Camp Ashraf remains worrisome and a peaceful and durable solution was needed, the report says. That complex and sensitive matter requires full cooperation and support of all sides. He appeals to the Government to give Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees the time and neutral space it needs to interview and register camp residents for resettlement, and hopes the Government will be willing to show some timing for the camp’s closure pending tangible progress in the relocation of residents outside Iraq before 31 December, the current announced closure date.
Turning to regional issues, the Secretary-General condemns the continuing terrorist attacks by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan against Iraq’s neighbours, including Turkey and Iran, and urges Iraq and affected countries to continue to engage in a constructive dialogue in order to find a peaceful solution to this challenge.
The report states further that a year since the Security Council lifted most of Iraq’s obligations under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, Iraq needs to fully implement its outstanding obligations pertaining to Kuwait, including the repatriation of Kuwaiti and third-country nationals or their remains and the return of property. He urges the Iraq and Kuwait Governments to resume their bilateral dialogue under the Joint Ministerial Committee that they established in January to address outstanding concerns and work towards finding mutually acceptable solutions.
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