22 November 2017
8112th Meeting (AM)

Secretary General’s Special Representative Outlines ‘Very High Cost’ of ‘Historic’ Victory over Islamic State in Briefing to Security Council

Permanent Representative Assures Members on Relations with Kurdistan Region, Missing Kuwaiti Persons, National Archives

Victory over Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) had come at a very high cost, with thousands of fighters and civilians killed or wounded, hundreds of thousands of children brainwashed, entire cities in ruins, and some six million people displaced, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative in Iraq said today, as he briefed the Security Council on the situation concerning that country.

Ján Kubiš, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) noted that ISIL/Da’esh had exterminated or enslaved thousands of Muslims as well as minority communities, particularly women and girls, in action amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity, perhaps even genocide.  He presented the Secretary‑General’s reports pursuant to Security Council resolutions 2107 (2013) and 2367 (2017) (documents S/2017/880 and S/2017/881), respectively, and congratulated the Government and people of Iraq on their historic victory.

Recalling Prime Minister Haider al‑Abadi’s warning that terrorism continued to pose a threat in Iraq, the wider region, Europe and beyond, he said Iraqi forces remained vigilant against incursions from Syria.  “Da’esh is down but not yet out, even in Iraq,” he emphasized.  He encouraged the Global Coalition against Da’esh to continue both military and non‑military efforts to help Iraq ensure the lasting and sustainable defeat of Da’esh.  Inside Iraq, priority must be accorded to facilitating the voluntary return of internally displaced persons, stabilization, reconstruction and rehabilitation.  It would also be crucial to reform the security sector and to enforce law and order against armed groups outside State control, including criminal gangs, militias and tribal elements.

He went on to state that among the prominent current concerns were the tensions between the Central Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government in the wake of a decision by the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to hold a unilaterally-declared independence referendum.  The central authorities had rejected the referendum as unconstitutional and had taken steps to re‑assert federal authority over Iraq’s external border crossings, including the international airports in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

On 6 November, he reported, the Federal Supreme Court had issued an opinion stating that the constitution did not provide for authorizing the secession of any component of Iraq’s federal system, and that the referendum was illegal.  The Kurdistan Region Government had confirmed its respect for that opinion, he said, adding that UNAMI had repeatedly called on all sides to refrain from threats or the use of force, from inflammatory statements and from confrontational steps.  All outstanding issues between the Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government must be resolved through sustainable solutions based on the constitution, he emphasized, noting that the Mission had also called for immediate negotiations with Government representatives on such issues as the budget, salaries and oil exports.

Turning to elections, he said the new Board of Commissioners for the Independent High Electoral Commission had a herculean task ahead, including holding two simultaneous elections, a tight timeline and security concerns.  He called upon the Council of Representatives to pass legislation to ensure that elections were held on 15 May 2018, adding that a United Nations electoral needs assessment mission had been deployed to help in identifying priority areas for support.  UNAMI had also completed a draft law on the Establishing of National Specialized Court on Most Serious Crimes, to be discussed with relevant authorities.

Impressive work was being done to stabilize newly liberated areas through the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Funding Facility for Stabilization, he continued.  The impact of that effort was significant, he said, noting that 2.6 million Iraqis had returned to their homes, with 1.7 million expected to return in the coming months.  In the year ahead, the Funding Facility would help to ensure that military gains against Da’esh were not undermined.  The UNDP estimated that $289 million would be needed to stabilize hot spots, he said, appealing to donor countries to provide those urgently needed resources.

Turning to the question of missing Kuwaiti and third‑country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including that country’s National Archives, he said Iraq and Kuwait served as models of good neighbourly relations in a region fraught with instability.  Iraq’s Government had made impressive efforts to identify grave sites, but efforts to identify missing Kuwaiti property had met with limited success.  Although there had been no progress in locating the National Archives, the Government of Iraq had identified more than 6,000 Kuwaiti books.  The United Nations and the international community would continue to pursue the matter and to support Iraq on that question until that chapter could be closed, he said.

Also briefing the Council, Major Anna Patrono, Arma dei Carabinieri Team Leader of the First Female Policing Course in Baghdad, who said her contingent had played the lead role in Operation Inherent Resolve since 2015, when a task force had been deployed to coordinate training for the Iraqi Federal Police.  Gender balance constituted the backbone of the Carabinieri strategy, she said, explaining that strengthening women’s participation in policing, as well as their influence in post‑conflict environments, could dramatically improve stabilization efforts.  Some 100 female police personnel had already been trained through a dedicated programme, and there were plans to train many more in the coming months.

She said the main purpose of the course was to increase knowledge of fundamental human rights in the context of gender‑related enforcement techniques and tactical procedures.  Special emphasis was placed on countering sexual and gender‑based violence as well as crimes against various vulnerable groups.  Basic policing competence was built by teaching such skills as self‑defence and search‑and‑handcuff techniques, in concert with discussions on human rights and proper conduct, she said.  The increased efficiency, integration and interoperability of the trained officers had been confirmed by their successful deployment to areas liberated from Da’esh, she stated.

Several Council members took the floor after the briefings, with the representative of the United States welcoming the external expert assessment of UNAMI.  She said the assessment provided excellent recommendations on how the Mission could more effectively fulfil its mandate, particularly on sharing burdens with other actors.  She requested that the Secretary‑General take those recommendations into account and that he share the full report with Council members in the interest of transparency.

Uruguay’s representative welcomed the hard work carried out by UNAMI in conjunction with the Iraqi Government.  Hopefully, the major victory against Da’esh would lead to that group’s end and to accountability by deterring support.  Recounting the group’s rise following the invasion of Iraqi and the arming of insurgents, he called upon the Government to address development needs and promote broad national reconciliation that would heal all divisions.  In that light, he expressed concern about the Kurdish referendum and urged all parties to participate in dialogue.

Bolivia’s representative encouraged UNAMI to help strengthen national reform and reconciliation efforts.  Welcoming Iraq’s retaking of territory from Da’esh, he called for that group to be held accountable for its crimes, while also emphasizing the need to end harm caused by explosive devices.  In that context, he urged a greater focus on the work of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), which was removing threats in liberated areas.  All such areas should be made fully suitable for the return of displaced persons, he stressed, adding that Bolivia also looked forward to fair and peaceful elections.  External intervention in Iraq’s affairs had caused the political disruption that had encouraged the rise of extremist groups, he maintained.

Iraq’s representative said his country’s forces had achieved a victory that put an end to the state of terrorism there.  He saluted the armed forces and all those who had stood by Iraq in its war against Da’esh, also thanking the States involved in the Global Coalition.  The Government was also working to solve problems with the Kurdistan Regional Government, he said, underlining that it was impossible to forfeit Iraq’s unity.  The Federal Supreme Court had rejected the illegal Kurdish referendum of 25 September, and had also stated that the constitution did not allow for secession.  Oil revenues were the property of all Iraqi people, and not of any regional group or individual, he emphasized, reiterating that all revenue must be under Federal Government control.

Turning to the parliamentary elections to be held in mid‑May 2018, he said their success would take the pluralistic political system to a higher state of political stability that would strengthen Iraq in the face of any crisis and towards achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  However, the post‑conflict state of affairs posed a great challenge, he said, while stressing that stability and reconstruction must be re‑established.  That would require true cooperation to cut off any return to terrorism.  The decision to criminalize Da’esh was a victory for civilization, and would also serve as a strong warning to supporters of the terrorist group, including those providing financial support, he noted.

There was a growing need for international support to rebuild Iraq’s liberated areas, he said, calling upon the private sector and friendly States to invest in his country.  Emphasizing that Iraq had established a friendly legislative environment for investment, he welcomed efforts by the Russian Federation, Iran and Turkey, noting that they were also working towards a solution that would eliminate all terrorist gangs in Syria.  Underlining his country’s close and constructive cooperation‑based relationship with Kuwait, he pledged that Iraq would continue its efforts to locate the missing Kuwaiti persons and archives.

The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 11:10 a.m.

For information media. Not an official record.