Briefing on Iraqi progress in fighting terrorism, reducing sectarianism and peacefully transferring power, the United Nations top official for the country stressed, in the Security Council today, the critical importance of international support to the new Government for its efforts to deliver basic services as well as to improve security.
“Iraqis will require and count on the continued support of the international community,” said Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI). “We must not let them down.”
Updating the Council on the latest report of the Secretary-General on the issue (document S/2018/975), Mr. Kubiš said that, while there was some controversy in forming a Government following August elections, he welcomed the “exemplary peaceful transfer of power” in which the political blocs had demonstrated a willingness to act in support of Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, with differences largely political and non-sectarian.
He said that Iraqis deserve acknowledgement for defeating Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), uniting the country during deteriorating economic conditions, improving relations with neighbours and reducing sectarian rhetoric. He welcomed Government plans to build on those foundations, reporting that it intends to immediately begin creating services and jobs, reforming and energizing the economy and fighting corruption and red-tape.
Also reporting on political developments in the Kurdistan region, demining efforts, women’s empowerment, and the fight against impunity for international crimes in the country, Mr. Kubiš noted the recent discovery of mass graves and welcomed the arrival of the Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (UNITAD).
On outstanding issues from the invasion of Kuwait, Mr. Kubiš said that in November numerous items of property were returned and the new Minister of Foreign Affairs assured him of attention to clearing up remaining issues. Finally, noting that this is his last report to the Security Council in his current capacity, he affirmed that “The United Nations in Iraq has shown its relevance and will continue to build on the firm foundations of its ongoing partnership with Iraq and its people”.
Following the briefing, Council members took the floor, with most paying tribute to the work of UNAMI and Mr. Kubiš, and welcoming the formation of the new Government and its reported intentions to improve the daily lives of Iraqis.
Some delegates, beginning with the representative of France, described the country as being at a turning point. In that vein, speakers urged the new Government to work without delay to provide services without sectarian discrimination, and to make necessary reforms in governance, economics and security that prevent the resurgence of ISIL/Da’esh and impunity for past crimes.
Speakers also called on the Government to ensure the full representation of women at all levels of decision-making, and to facilitate the safe, voluntary and dignified return of all internally displaced persons, while advancing reconstruction in all areas of the country.
Some speakers underlined the need to respect Iraqi sovereignty, with the representative of the United States stressing that the Iraqi people must be free to shape their own future without outside interference. In that regard, the representative of the Russian Federation asserted that Iraq has the right to build relations with its Iranian neighbours without any other country undermining them.
Also welcoming the peaceful transfer of power in Iraq, Kuwait’s representative cautioned that the post-election phase could be a sensitive one, urging the international community to support the outcome of the international conference on the country’s reconstruction held recently in Kuwait and to help Iraq end the continuing terrorist threat. Welcoming progress in returning Kuwaiti property, he asked the Iraqi Government to advance its investigation to locate Kuwait’s missing national archives.
Iraq’s representative, taking the floor last, said that “Iraq is at the threshold of a new phase, following our just war against the terrorist gangs of ISIL.” He called for support from donors in the new phase to prevent the resurgence of that group under any form or name.
Thanking Mr. Kubiš and UNAMI for their longstanding support, he reaffirmed the country’s intention to speedily complete the formation of the Government and to make progress on priorities mentioned by all today’s speakers. In its reconstruction process, Iraq will follow the outcome of the recent reconstruction conference in Kuwait, he said, also calling on the country’s partners to fulfil all pledges made there.
Following many speakers today in welcoming the recognition of the struggle of the Yazidi people and women victims of violence through the Nobel Peace Prize given to Nadia Murad Basee Taha, he emphasized that Iraq derives strength from its diversity. All segments of society must work together. In that regard, he objected to references in the Secretary-General’s report to racial discrimination, stating all Iraqis enjoy full and equal rights.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the Côte d’Ivoire, Kazakhstan, Peru, Netherlands, Poland, Bolivia, Equatorial Guinea, United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Sweden and China.
The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 12:04 p.m.
JÁN KUBIŠ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), describing progress in forming the Government in Iraq after certification of the 19 August elections, said that the executive branch is in place as well as three ministries, although the Ministries of Defence and Interior are yet to be allocated. No female or minority candidates were appointed to ministerial positions, but the Prime Minister said that they will be considered for key positions in subsequent rounds of governmental formation. While there has been some controversy in the government-formation process, the political blocs demonstrated a willingness to act in support of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, with differences largely political and non-sectarian. “The support of all the political forces represented in parliament will be essential, including those who will now be in the opposition, for the first time since 2003. Barring this, Iraq’s political forces and leaders will fail their people”, he stressed.
The Government’s programme, created with advisory input from UNAMI, outlines specific plans for reforms, investment and transition from crisis to sustainable development, he said. It also aims to strengthen security and put all weapons under the strict control of the State, while preventing the formation of militias. Special attention will be given to resolving challenges with the Kurdistan region. Commending what he called the “exemplary peaceful transfer of power” to the new Prime Minister, he said that Iraqi stakeholders deserve acknowledgement and gratitude for defeating Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), uniting the country during deteriorating economic conditions, improving relations with neighbours and reducing sectarian approaches and rhetoric. “Iraq must now build on these foundations,” he stated, adding that the Government intends to immediately begin delivery of services and jobs, reforming and energizing the economy and fighting corruption and red-tape. Given the formidable challenges ahead, “Iraq will require and counts on the continued support of the international community. We must not let them down,” he said.
On the Kurdistan region, he said that the newly elected regional parliament first met on 6 November but failed to elect its speaker and the two deputies. The dominant party intends to consult with all stakeholders on continued government formation. On justice for international crimes, he described a 6 November report by UNAMI and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that includes information on Da’esh atrocities, evidenced by the hundreds of mass graves discovered so far. The Special Adviser and Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (UNITAD), Karim Khan, arrived in Iraq on 30 October. Also in October, UNAMI established a Women Advisory Group on Reconciliation and Politics in Iraq to ensure participation of women in political processes that shape reconciliation. Reporting on substantial efforts to remove mines and unexploded ordinance across the country to allow return of the displaced through the Funding Facility for Stabilization, he urged the Government to begin making its own contributions in such areas. Noting also the urgent need for public infrastructure beyond liberated areas, he welcomed the formation of a high-level Government committee to coordinate the effort.
Also updating the Council on the latest report on missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, titled “Twentieth report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 4 of Security Council resolution 2107 (2013)” (document S/2018/976), including the national archives, Mr. Kubiš said that in November numerous items taken during the invasion were returned, including books, a television archive and a valuable painting. The new Minister of Foreign Affairs assured him of further attention to clearing up outstanding issues. Finally, noting that this is his last report in his current capacity, he thanked the Council and his staff for their work on Iraq and wished success to his successor, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert. “The United Nations in Iraq has shown its relevance and will continue to build on the firm foundations of its ongoing partnership with Iraq and its people,” he concluded.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said that Iraq’s new Government currently stands poised to take important decisions in such areas as tackling corruption and delivering services to all its diverse peoples. Calling on that Government to ensure the full representation of women at all levels of decision-making, he pledged the United States commitment to work with Iraq’s new leaders and called on them to facilitate the safe, voluntary and dignified return of all internally displaced persons who suffered so heavily at the hands of ISIL/Da’esh. In that regard, he also called on the Iraqi Government to launch evidence-based investigations into the crimes perpetrated by ISIL/Da’esh, in line with Council resolution 2379 (2017), and strongly encouraged them to work closely with UNAMI as part of the country’s broader national reconciliation efforts. The Iraqi people must be free to shape their own future without outside interference, he stressed, adding: “The United States stands with Iraq in achieving this goal.”
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) welcoming Iraq’s successful convening of elections in May as well as the subsequent peaceful transfer of power, cautioned that the post-election phase could be a sensitive one. Kuwait, a robust partner of Iraq, stands with the country in its efforts to ensure its sovereignty and stamp out terrorism. Noting that peace, security and stability cannot be achieved without sustainable development, he urged the international community to support the outcome of the international conference on the country’s reconstruction held recently in Kuwait. Warning that terrorist groups continue to pose a threat to Iraq’s stability ‑ even in places where ISIL/Da’esh has been conquered ‑ he said partners must take all necessary steps to end those activities and ensure that the perpetrators are arrested and prosecuted. Turning to the fate of Kuwaiti and third-party nationals who disappeared in 1991, as well as missing property and assets, he welcomed efforts by Iraq to recover them and reiterated Kuwait’s commitment to help speed up that process. Finally, he asked the new Government of Iraq to advance its investigation into the fate of Kuwait’s missing national archives, which represent a crucial part of his country’s heritage.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) hailed this year’s “decisive turning point” in Iraq this year, punctuated by the military defeat of ISIL/Da’esh, the holding of peaceful elections and the formation of a Government ‑ all despite a tense regional context. The new Government must be able to work without delay on reforms of the security sector, electoral system and economy, she stressed, adding that it must be able to deter any resurgence of ISIL/Da’esh. Emphasizing the need for an exemplary justice system ‑ one that is “beyond reproach” ‑ to hold accountable those responsible for serious crimes, she also encouraged continued talks with Erbil to ensure that Iraqi Kurds also have their place in a modern Iraq that respects diversity. Urging the Government of Iraq and its international partners to move forward with reconstruction in line with the outcome of the recent Kuwait Conference, she nevertheless warned that major improvements cannot take root if Iraq falls prey to regional tensions. Outlining France’s financial support to the country’s development and reconstruction, she emphasized that Iraq is today “stronger, more inclusive and more stable”, and thanked Mr. Kubiš for his contribution to that progress.
KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire), welcoming political progress in Iraq, expressed hope that the new Government will create conditions for genuine reconciliation among Iraqis and for overcoming all challenges. The return of displaced persons, reconstruction and inclusion of women are priorities. He welcomed the initiative that allowed Kurdistan to resume flights and looked forward to further consultations to resolve key issues. Applauding steps to prosecute serious crimes and investigate the crimes of ISIL/Da’esh, he said that the recent discovery of mass graves demonstrated the urgent need to quickly gather evidence of the recent barbarity to ensure accountability. Security sector reform that leads to armed forces that respect rule of law and human rights is also a priority, he added.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation), also welcoming political developments in Iraq, noted that the country seems to be gradually returning to its former stable state. He said the Russian Federation respects the sovereign choice of the Iraqi people in the election of their new Government and called on the international community to strongly support it. Describing his country’s contribution to fighting terrorism in the region, he categorically condemned further manifestations of terrorism there and said that a broad coalition of States must be formed to make greater progress in ending the menace. Noting Government efforts in reconstruction and refugee return, he stated that such work must be done without prejudice in the whole region. Describing his country’s development assistance, he welcomed Bagdad’s strengthening of bilateral relations in the region. Iraq, he asserted, has the right to build relations with its Iranian neighbours and no one has the right to undermine them. He reiterated his country’s call for security and cooperation architecture in the region so that differences are resolved not through sanctions, force and threats but through dialogue. Expressing strong support for UNAMI, he urged Iraqis to work with the Mission in unity.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said recent elections are a bold step towards strengthening democracy and State-building and called on the new Government to restore economic structures and meet the needs of all Iraqis. He called on all political parties to support the new Prime Minister. Reaffirming the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Iraq, he voiced support for constructive dialogue between the federal Government and Kurdish authorities. Kazakhstan is confident the Iraqi Government will strive to pursue an independent foreign policy unaffected by the interests of outside forces. He said decisive efforts by security forces will effectively counter terrorist activities. Commending UNAMI engagement with civil society, he said women’s and youth empowerment contributes to peace and development. ISIL/Da’esh has committed horrific crimes, he said, and called for measures to “completely wipe out” such evil. Iraq’s readiness to hand over Kuwaiti property to UNAMI is praiseworthy, he concluded.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), welcoming Iraq’s successful holding of elections ‑ which included a vote recount and other actions to properly address electoral issues ‑ nevertheless urged the Government ministers appointed thus far to ensure a higher level of women’s participation in Iraq’s decision-making processes. Expressing concern over protests in Basra and other areas, where people took to the streets to demand that the Government provide adequate public services and address the soaring level of youth unemployment, he stressed that people have the right to peaceful demonstrations. However, he deplored the fact that some recent protests turned violent and said Government forces should always operate in line with the principles of precaution and proportionality. Iraq must be in a position to move forward without becoming a puppet for other regional interests. Warning that “Da’esh is down, but not out”, he also urged the Government to prevent the group’s resurgence and reverse the population’s current lack of trust in national institutions.
LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) said the new Government must increase efforts to meet the legitimate demands of the Iraqi people and provide basic public services, including safe and sufficient drinking water, electricity, job opportunities and combatting corruption. The Government should also strive to end impunity for perpetrators of gender-based violence, including by considering a law that would make violence against women a crime. Noting her country’s financial contribution to UNITAD, she encouraged the new Government to keep collaborating with UNAMI and the Investigative Team on the collection, preservation and storing of evidence. She also called on the Government to ratify and implement the Rome Statute and to recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
MARIUSZ LEWICKI (Poland) urged all political parties in Iraq to work towards the implementation of political, economic and social reforms and to advance the stabilization and reconstruction of areas freed from ISIL/Da’esh. The new Government must focus on the delivery of public services and tangible benefits for all Iraqis. “We regret that none of the eminently qualified female politicians have been elected to senior leadership roles,” he said, calling for the representation of women at the highest levels of decision-making. Special emphasis must be placed on serving justice to the victims of atrocities committed by terrorist groups, he said, expressing support for UNITAD. “We strongly urge Iraqi authorities to include sexual and gender-based crimes in prosecutions of [ISIL/Da’esh] fighters,” he stressed.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said Mr. Kubiš’ tenure was crowned by Iraq’s recent successes, including the peaceful holding of elections and the appointment of several Government ministers. Urging those newly appointed to pursue a participatory dialogue and engage all Iraqis, he said the new Government will face major challenges including protests and security flare-ups in the south of the country. “This is a golden opportunity to strengthen the dialogue and good relations between Erbil and Baghdad,” he said; however, he expressed concern that ISIL/Da’esh is still carrying out asymmetric attacks including against civilians and security forces. Bolivia is also appalled about the recent discovery of mass graves containing the remains of more than 12,000 mostly civilian victims of ISIL/Da’esh. Calling on the new Government to preserve the graves and collect as much evidence as possible in order to hold perpetrators accountable and ensure justice for the victims’ families, he also echoed other speakers in calling for full investigation into such crimes in line with Council resolution 2379 (2017).
JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) said the recent successful elections and the creation of a new Government in Iraq send a clear message to the international community about the strong determination of that country’s people. The new President should take a cue from that spirit, he said, asking him to take concrete steps to render Iraq more inclusive and resolve outstanding differences between the central Government and the local authorities in the Kurdistan region. Calling on Iraq’s main political parties to accept the outcomes of the elections recently held in that region, he went on to voice regret over the instability in the south of the country, and called on the Government to address the grievances of the population there. In addition, he called on the Council and the broader international community to support Iraq’s new Government as well as the country’s reconstruction process.
STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom), thanking Mr. Kubiš for his leadership of UNAMI, congratulated Iraq on its government-formation progress. He encouraged the appointment of remaining key positions in an inclusive manner, stressing the need to promote the representation of women in all levels of decision-making. The United Kingdom looks forward to supporting Iraq’s new Government in meeting the challenges it faces. Basic services are critical in that regard. Welcoming services for survivors of gender-based violence and recognition of such survivors by the Nobel Peace Prize, he also looked for more progress in implementing the women, peace and security agenda. On accountability for terrorist crimes, he welcomed efforts to preserve evidence and investigate ISIL/Da’esh crimes. He welcomed UNAMI’s ongoing support for finding missing Kuwaiti persons and property, as well as the recent transfer of property. It is essential that the dark chapter be closed and relations between the two neighbours strengthened.
MAHLET GEBREYESUS WOLDEMARIAM (Ethiopia) commended the people of Iraq for completing the 2018 national electoral process and expressed hope that the new leadership will exert every effort to form a new government within the constitutional timeline. She welcomed the renewal of relations between Baghdad and Erbil, commending progress between the federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government over issues relating to oil and transport. Commending the Government and its security forces for their continued efforts aimed at clearing ISIL/Da’esh remnants from the Iraqi territory, she recognized the myriad security challenges that remain. Enhanced international and regional cooperation in this regard are essential. She reiterated the Secretary-General’s call to honour donor pledges, adding that UNAMI remains an essential component in the political process and in providing critical assistance to the Iraqi people.
JOAKIM VAVERKA (Sweden) welcomed the confirmation of President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi as well as the partial formation of Iraq’s Council of Ministers. Voicing disappointment over the lack of women among those ministers appointed so far, he declared: “Iraq needs a stable national Government that brings Iraqis together and restores hope moving forward.” In the aftermath of the prevalence of ISIL/Da’esh, the population must feel that their voices matter and they have an accountable Government. The resurgence of ISIL/Da’esh must be avoided. Urging the new Government to advance economic reform, address basic service delivery, fight corruption and strengthen the rule of law, he called for a long-term, coordinated perspective in the international community’s support for those efforts. In addition, the root causes of conflict must be addressed and initiatives to strengthen accountability for international law violations should be pursued. In that vein, he welcomed Council resolution 2379 (2017) on UNITAD, promoting accountability of ISIL/Da’esh crimes. Also welcoming progress made in the Baghdad-Erbil dialogue and stressing the crucial role to be played by UNAMI, he declared: “Iraq must be able to pursue its own national interests and not become a proxy for confrontation by regional interests.”
MA ZHAOXU (China), thanking Mr. Kubiš for his service and welcoming political progress in Iraq, expressed hope that the new Government will improve conditions for all Iraqis. He stressed the need for all parties in Iraq to settle differences through dialogue. The international community should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq and support the Government in its reconciliation efforts, as well as in efforts to fight terrorism and ensure accountability for past crimes. The international community should also continue to provide support for development in Iraq so that the people receive the services they need. Affirming UNAMI’s important role, he called for international support for the Mission. He pledged China’s continued support for the development and political stability of the country.
MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), thanking Mr. Kubiš and UNAMI for their longstanding support, recalled that his country faced massive challenges in past years. More recently, however, Iraqis concluded a successful electoral process and a peaceful handover of power to a new President. Noting that they also appointed ministers to several critical Government posts within the established timeline ‑ representing Iraq’s desire to establish a Government capable of meeting the needs of its people ‑ he outlined several top priorities based on the pillars of security, economic reform and social progress. Among those, he pledged to provide basic services in Basra and other areas liberated from ISIL/Da’esh; devote more attention to resolving issues in the Kurdistan region; enhance national identity; boost community participation; and ensure security and stability. The Government will also work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and economic reforms, including a transition to a market-based economy, support to the private sector and diversification that does not overly rely on oil production.
Noting that the Government is committed to fighting corruption in all its forms, he promised to allocate resources strategically based on the Government’s reform priorities. In its reconstruction process, Iraq will follow the outcome of the recent reconstruction conference in Kuwait, he said, also calling on the country’s partners to fulfil all pledges made there. “Iraq is at the threshold of a new phase, following our just war against the terrorist gangs of ISIL,” he stressed, calling for support from donors in the country’s post-ISIL/Da’esh phase, including to prevent the resurgence of that group under any form or name. Welcoming the recognition of the struggle of the Yazidi people by the international community through Nadia Murad Basee Taha’s Nobel Peace Prize, he emphasized that Iraq derives strength from its diversity. All segments of society must work together. In that regard, it is strange that the Secretary-General included in his report references to racial decimation “that does not exist on the ground in Iraq”. In fact, all Iraqis enjoy full and equal rights.
Outlining several other Government priorities and achievements, he said it is currently developing a national action plan of action for the implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, aimed at enhancing the role and responsibilities of Iraqi women in post-conflict peacebuilding. Underlining several critical remaining challenges ‑ including a lack of medical capacity and the technical capacity required to clear landmines and unexploded ordinance – he asked the United Nations Mine Action Service and donor States to continue to support Iraq in those important areas. Noting that it is his country’s sovereign right to pursue capital punishment in terrorism cases, he said the Government always ensures that due process is followed. He expressed hope that the Secretary-General will take action against the imposition of any unilateral sanctions against Iraq, which will negatively impact its development. Concluding, he described efforts to further improve its neighbourly relations with Kuwait, including by providing it with a package of missing archives and making progress on the situation of missing Kuwaitis in line with resolution 2107 (2013).