Permanent Representative Tells of Air Strikes, Demands Turkey Remove All Forces
With the liberation of Mosul imminent, the international community must maintain a dual focus on defeating the remaining Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) forces in Iraq, and on working towards post-conflict security and reconstruction, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative said in a briefing to the Security Council today.
Ján Kubiš, also Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), said the days of the so-called Da’esh caliphate in Iraq were “numbered” and discussions on how to rebuild the country had begun. In that regard, Secretary-General António Guterres had recently received the long-awaited submission of the Iraqi Forces Coalition’s vision of a national settlement, he said, adding that the recent “Turkmen Forum” held in Baghdad had served as an inclusive platform for the sharing of reconstruction visions.
Mr. Kubiš presented the Secretary-General’s report outlining progress towards fulfilling UNAMI’s mandate, as well as his fourteenth report on developments relating to missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals (document S/2017/371). He went on to stress that the imminent defeat of Da’esh must also provide an urgent impetus to address the needs of minorities, especially their ability to return to their homes. The return of all internally displaced persons to areas liberated from Da’esh must be a top priority, as should tackling increasing incidents of kidnapping and paying sustained attention to upcoming elections in 2017 and 2018.
Following the briefing, many Council members welcomed recent military victories against Da’esh, but several speakers voiced deep concern about the grave humanitarian situation in the country, including the continuing large-scale population displacements and reports of hundreds of thousands of civilians still trapped in ISIL-controlled areas or used by that group as human shields.
“We cannot relent in our efforts,” the United Kingdom’s representative said, emphasizing that security and stability would count for little without accountability. The work of gathering evidence of atrocities must begin immediately before it was lost.
Egypt’s representative was among a number of speakers who welcomed the increased cooperation among various factions that had led to Iraq’s recent military victories. He nevertheless joined others in rejecting any and all foreign interventions in Iraq — especially those feeding sectarian strife, fuelling further conflict and creating a breeding ground for extremism and terrorism — specifically condemning Turkish air strikes in northern Iraq.
Uruguay’s representative voiced strong support for the Secretary-General’s calls for an appropriate mechanism to ensure accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and even possible genocide committed by Da’esh in Iraq. He also warned that, despite recent defeats, Da’esh had demonstrated its ability to survive, especially by traversing the porous borders between Iraq and Syria, emphasizing that even greater coordination between Iraq and the anti-ISIL Coalition would be needed to effectively counter that “band of killers”.
Iraq’s representative provided a comprehensive economic, social and security vision of his country’s post-Da’esh future, including the restoration of stability, security and basic services, and respect for different religious, sectarian and ideological backgrounds. Terrorist cells must never be allowed to re-emerge, he said, also underlining the need to fight corruption and to ensure that State institutions would never again become instruments of political intervention.
He went on to say that, on 25 April, Turkish forces had — in clear and flagrant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and good neighbourliness — violated his country’s air space and territory in dropping more than 20 bombs in northern Iraq, killing and wounding Peshmerga combatants. Iraq requested that the Council shoulder its legal and ethical responsibilities to prevent a recurrence of such violations, and demand that Turkey withdraw its forces from Iraqi territory. In the same vein, he urged other countries to develop strict legal norms for combating foreign terrorist fighters.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United States, Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, China, Italy, Japan, Bolivia, Sweden, Ukraine, France, Senegal and Ethiopia.
The meeting began at 3:07 p.m. and ended at 4:50 p.m.
JÁN KUBIŠ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), said the days of the caliphate of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) were “numbered” and the liberation of Mosul was imminent. The recent Ministerial Plenary for the Global Coalition Working to Defeat ISIS, held in Washington, D.C., in March, had been a reminder of the need for a dual focus on defeating Da’esh while working towards post-conflict security in Iraq. Calling for international support in that regard, he also recalled that the Secretary-General had recently received the long-awaited submission of the Iraqi Forces Coalition’s vision on a national settlement and that a recent Turkmen Forum held in Baghdad on 16 and 17 May had served as an inclusive forum for the sharing of visions of how to rebuild the country.
UNAMI continued to operate on the basis of a number of key principles, including respect for the Constitution, equal participation in the political process and rejection of terrorism and sectarianism, he said. National reconciliation could only succeed if it reflected the aspirations of the population, including women and youth, he said, adding that the imminent defeat of Da’esh must also provide an urgent impetus to address the needs of minorities, especially their ability to return to their homes. Indeed, the return of all internally displaced persons to areas liberated from Da’esh must be a top priority, he emphasized, expressing concern at continuing delays. Another major concern were growing allegations of disappearances in Anbar Province and elsewhere, which remained unresolved.
Urging Baghdad and Erbil to leverage their joint efforts against Da’esh and to address such issues as border disputes and building a “functional federation” based on partnership, he noted that senior officials in Kurdistan had recently announced their intention to hold a referendum on the region’s future later in 2017. They had indicated that their aim was to “show the world the will of the people” on the status of Kurdistan, rather than assert independence immediately, he noted. Meanwhile, Turkey’s Armed Forces maintained their relentless air attacks against PKK fighters, he said, citing Ankara’s declarations that they would continue in order to deny sanctuary to the PKK. The Prime Minster had deplored the attack, he added.
Noting that the overall rule of law remained weak, he said kidnapping was becoming an increasing problem, recalling that the National Intelligence Cell had met on 11 May to discuss the link between terrorism and organized crime, including kidnapping. The international community must vigorously pursue accountability for crimes committed by Da’esh in Iraq, he said. As for elections scheduled in 2017 and 2018, he said the elections for a new Parliament in April 2018 would be particularly important as a precursor of new Government structure.
Meanwhile, the issue of internally displaced persons remained critical, with some 700,000 people having fled their homes since mid-October, he noted. Hundreds of thousands of others remained in ISIL-controlled areas, suffering lack of food and water and often finding themselves caught in crossfire. He concluded by reporting on his recent visit to Kuwait, saying he had met with officials there on the issue of missing Kuwaiti nationals and property. They had voiced concern about the lack of progress on the ground, he said, urging the Government of Iraq promptly to fulfil its obligations under that file.
MICHELE J. SISON (United States) reiterated her country’s support for Iraq’s efforts to defeat ISIL, while expressing deep concern about the grave humanitarian situation in Iraq and urging donors to contribute to the United Nations humanitarian response plan. The United States also encouraged the United Nations to work closely with the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan regional government on the return and reintegration of displaced persons, she said. Going forward, the United States was committed to a united, federal and democratic Iraq, she said, adding that success would depend on the steps taken by Iraq and the international community in the coming days, months and years. Emphasizing that Iraq-led, United Nations-supported stabilization efforts were as critical as ever, she said good governance was central to enduring reconciliation. The United States supported the United Kingdom’s proposal for an international body that would help the Government of Iraq investigate atrocities committed by ISIL and other extremists groups, she said, stressing that such groups must be held accountable.
STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom) said that until Iraq was free of the terrible scourge of Da’esh, families would remain endangered. “We cannot relent on our efforts,” he emphasized. As the Da’esh caliphate came to an end, Iraq would need reconciliation and reform, he said, urging UNAMI to facilitate that effort. Emphasizing that security and stability would count for little without accountability, he said the work of gathering evidence of atrocities must begin immediately before it was lost. The United Kingdom was working with the Government of Iraq and international partners in that regard, and its proposal would clear the way for the Council to answer the Prime Minister’s call to hold ISIL accountable.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said his country would like to see the swift eradication of the ISIL threat. Given the close ties between Iraqi and Syrian extremists, close cooperation would be needed among international counter-terrorism operations, he said, adding that the Russian Federation was ready to work on such an initiative. Despite some progress, the situation in Iraq remained tense, requiring heightened international attention. Terrorists were still present in a number of provinces and cities, using civilians as human shields and employing chemical weapons. Emphasizing the impossibility of restoring stability to Iraq by military means, he said UNAMI’s assistance could be channelled towards establishing a dialogue on national reconciliation initiatives, with the aim of creating an inclusive solution for everyone.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), voicing support for Iraq’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, stressed that long-term recovery would only result from addressing the country’s essential services, centralizing federal authority, promoting national reconciliation and bringing perpetrators to justice. Emphasizing the importance of upcoming provincial and district-level elections, he expressed support for all legitimate calls for electoral reform and underlined the need to protect Iraqi civilians while providing unimpeded humanitarian access. Now was the time for speedy implementation of recommendations on the return of internally displaced persons, he said, while also expressing concern over the looting and smuggling of cultural property during the conflict. Arab countries, in particular, must support Iraq’s efforts towards stabilization and reconstruction, he said. Kazakhstan endorsed the outcome of the recent League of Arab States Summit calling for economic, humanitarian and development assistance for Iraq, while reaffirming its independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity as a cornerstone of Arab regional security.
WU HAITAO (China) said that despite the Government’s positive progress in facilitating national reconciliation, fighting terrorism and promoting economic development, Iraq still faced an array of challenges nevertheless. The international community’s continued support and engagement was critical in that regard, he said, noting that UNAMI had played an important role since its inception in helping the Government promote an inclusive dialogue, rebuild the country and coordinate international assistance. As for terrorism, the international community should “adopt unified standards and respond robustly” in order to prevent terrorist groups from continuing to act throughout the region and beyond, he said. At the same time, China hoped that countries in the region would respect Iraq’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) described the humanitarian needs in and around Mosul as unprecedented, noting that they continued to increase. Italy was particularly concerned about civilians trapped in ISIL-controlled areas, as well as appalling reports of the sexual abuse of women — especially those of Yazidi origin — by Da’esh. Italy was funding psychosocial support for such victims and working to promote accountability, he said, adding that “we must not forget that the fight against terrorism is a long-term one”, requiring unity of purpose and addressing root causes. A plan for universal Iraqi citizenship offered a way out of sectarian tensions, a way towards the establishment of an effective and professional police force, broader security-sector reform efforts and the essential inclusion of all religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq’s reconciliation plans.
KORO BESSHO (Japan), underlining his country’s support for the Government in the fight against terrorism, said the protection of civilians was an immediate challenge that all parties must address, particularly in the context of liberation operations. Human rights abuses benefited nobody in Iraq except terrorists, he said, emphasizing that the humanitarian situation was particularly severe for people displaced by fighting. Japan would continue to provide Iraq with humanitarian and stabilization assistance, and the international community must do likewise, he stressed, adding that the Iraqi people could not be sustained without real national conciliation. “The unity demonstrated by the Iraqi people in the fight against ISIL must be further strengthened in the post-ISIL phase,” he said, calling upon all parties to make every effort to promote national reconciliation, with UNAMI playing a crucial role.
PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia), acknowledging the struggle of Iraq’s security forces against ISIL, expressed concern about the number of people displaced since the start of military operations in Mosul. Bolivia condemned all acts of terrorism, including ISIL’s use of drones, he said. Hopefully, an electoral calendar in Iraq would be the result of consensus among interested parties, for the benefit of the entire population. Bolivia also welcomed efforts by the Government to identify Kuwaiti citizens buried on Iraqi soil and to return Kuwaiti property, he said, calling on all parties to find a path that would lead to reconciliation and lasting peace.
CARL SKAU (Sweden), noting that his delegation was stepping up its contribution to the global coalition against Da’esh, declared: “In responding to an ideology that is devoid of any decency or humanity, it is imperative that we uphold the principles and values that we share and which, indeed, we are fighting for.” In the context of the current offensive, that meant ensuring the protection of civilians, he said, expressing grave concern at the humanitarian situation in the remaining part of western Mosul and noting that significant additional humanitarian needs were likely to arise before the end of the operation. As the coming period would require major stabilization efforts — led by strong national leadership, supported by the international community and with the continued attention of the Council — he said UNAMI had the potential to contribute significantly to a relapse into conflict by strategically focusing its efforts on reconciliation; accountability; building inclusive and equitable institutions; and promoting gender equality.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said it was appalling that ISIL kept using civilians as human shields. Protection of civilians should thus remain the top priority for the Iraqi security forces and coalition, even if that slowed the military advance. With 200,000 people liable to flee Mosul in the coming days, he expressed concern that existing camps for displaced persons would have no space to accommodate them. He went on to say that only inclusive national reconciliation efforts could heal Iraq’s wounds and help achieve a lasting national settlement.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) said her country was very worried about the fate of civilians still in Mosul. It strongly condemned atrocities perpetrated by Da’esh, including the use of human shields, and supported humanitarian and stabilization efforts on the ground. With regard to combating impunity, she said priority should be given to collecting and storing evidence as soon as possible to ensure its integrity pending a transfer of criminal cases to a competent jurisdiction in due time. There could be no lasting peace without justice, she said, adding that it was important to plan for the day after in order to avoid a governance vacuum. “There has to be a lasting peace, not just a battle won,” she said, adding that without reconciliation across the board, especially with Sunnis, chaos would return.
GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said urgent and appropriate measures must be taken to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need. Senegal was pleased to see the Prime Minister’s efforts to encourage national reconciliation and dialogue, he said, adding that the international community must continue to provide humanitarian assistance. He also stated that perpetrators of terrorist atrocities including rapes and forced conversions must be held accountable for their actions.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) noted that Iraq’s recent military successes could not have happened without all the country’s forces working hand in hand to combat terrorism. Eradicating terrorism would require a comprehensive approach going beyond military operations to encompass political, economic, social and other components. Realizing stability in the liberated areas would also require the voluntary, safe and dignified return of internally displaced persons in a manner that would not alter pre-war demographics, he emphasized. Expressing support for the convening of a donor conference to support Iraq “at this turning point”, he rejected any and all foreign interventions in that country, especially those feeding sectarian strife, fuelling further conflict and creating a breeding ground for extremism and terrorism. In that regard, he strongly condemned the Turkish air strikes in northern Iraq, saying they were unjustified and constituted an attack on the latter’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
DAWIT YIRGA WOLDEGERIMA (Ethiopia) agreed that the coordination between the various Iraqi parties had been critical to recent strides against Da’esh, and must continue going forward. However, Iraq’s humanitarian situation — especially that of those displaced by conflict, and the alleged use of chemical weapons — were of major concern. The protection of civilians was of paramount importance, he said, expressing hope that relevant United Nations agencies and other actors would continue to provide all possible support to those displaced by recent operations. Describing the Secretary-General’s recent visit to Iraq as an important message of solidarity, and expressed support for his call upon all stakeholders to engage in broad-based dialogue.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay), Council President for May, spoke in his national capacity, expressing support for the Secretary-General’s proposal to create an appropriate mechanism that would ensure accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and even possible genocide committed by Da’esh in Iraq. The fight against terrorism must always ensure respect for human rights law and international humanitarian law, and it must also be made clear that military operations alone would not eradicate the threat of terrorism. In that regard, the various factions in Iraq must overcome their historic mutual mistrust and deep sectarian and religious divisions, he said. Warning that Da’esh had demonstrated its ability to survive despite recent defeats, especially by traversing the porous borders between Iraq and Syria, he emphasized that even greater coordination between Iraq and the anti-ISIL Coalition would be needed to effectively counter that “band of killers”.
MOHAMMED SAHIB MEJID MARZOOQ (Iraq) said that, despite tight finances due to lower oil prices, his country had a comprehensive economic, social and security vision for the future. It included, among other things, restoring stability, security and basic services while enabling internally displaced persons to return to their homes. Respect for different religious, sectarian and ideological backgrounds formed the basis for reconciliation, he said, saying terrorist cells must never be allowed to re-emerge. Good neighbourly relations with other countries in the region was important as well, he said, emphasizing also the need to fight corruption and for State institutions not to become playgrounds for political intervention.
He said the Government acknowledged the sacrifices made by the army, local police, Peshmerga and tribal forces, with international coalition assistance, that had recovered most of Mosul while making the protection of civilians a priority. Various authorities in liberated areas were now working on a return to normalcy, including demining efforts, to allow internally displaced persons to return. He said Iraq called on the international community to participate in reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts, adding that the Government understood the nexus between sustainable development, peace and security with a goal to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
He went on to say that, on 25 April, Turkish forces — in clear and flagrant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and good neighbourliness — violated Iraqi airspace and territory when they dropped more than 20 bombs in the north of his country, killing and wounding Peshmerga combatants. Iraq requested that the Council shoulder its legal and ethical responsibilities to prevent a recurrence of such violations and demand that Turkey withdraw its forces from Iraqi territory. In the same vein, he said Iraq urged other countries to develop strict legal norms to combat foreign terrorist fighters. He added that Iraq was studying different options in the global campaign to bring Da’esh to justice, including those concerning the gathering of evidence, without prejudice to the sovereignty and jurisdiction of its judiciary.
Turning to internally displaced persons, he said Iraq valued the efforts of UNAMI and other United Nations agencies and encouraged States to assist. The Iraqi Government was working to enhance its relation with Arab brotherly States, including the Syrian Government. It was committed as well to pursuing efforts with regard to missing Kuwaiti national archives and to pursue excavations for missing Kuwaiti nationals, based on new information from witnesses and documents.