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SC/14038
3 December 2019
8676th Meeting (AM)

After Decades of Strife, Renewed Patriotism Takes Hold in Iraq, Top Official Tells Security Council amid Calls to Heed Legitimate Demands Voiced by Protesters

Permanent Representative Outlines New Reform Package, while Kuwait Hails Committee Formed to Probe Force Used against Dissenters

Years of urgent, unfinished business in Iraq — and a resulting “crisis of confidence” among its people — have culminated in civil unrest and the deaths of more than 400 people since October, said the senior United Nations official in the country today, as she briefed the Security Council on the latest developments.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), addressed the 15‑member Council via teleconference from Baghdad, noting that after decades of sectarian strife, a renewed sense of patriotism has taken hold.  However, peaceful protests driven largely by economic frustration turned deadly in October, when authorities resorted to excessive force.  Since the beginning of that month, she said, more than 400 people have been killed and more than 19,000 seriously injured.  While deadly force has dropped since then, the improper use of non‑lethal devices continues in a manner that causes horrific injuries or death — as do unlawful arrests, abductions, threats and intimidation.

Reiterating the importance of guaranteeing fundamental rights to life, peaceful assembly and free expression, she voiced concern over attempts to hijack the protests by politically motivated groups — which could provide a cynical excuse for political inaction or violent crackdowns.  “Any and all forms of violence are intolerable and must not distract from the rightful demands for reform,” she said, noting that Government reforms addressing housing, unemployment, financial support and education have been seen as unrealistic or too little, too late.  “The situation cannot be resolved by buying time with band‑aid solutions and coercive measures,” she warned, urging Iraq to embrace the potential of its young people.  “Out of any crisis, new and great opportunities can emerge,” she said.

Robert Mardini, Permanent Observer for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), described recent work by the Tripartite Commission tasked with searching for persons missing since the 1990s Gulf War.  Chaired by ICRC, the Commission has helped repatriate more than 75,000 citizens, civilian returnees and prisoners of war.  Noting that the remains of Kuwaiti nationals were recently recovered in mass graves in Iraq for the first time in 14 years, he underlined the severe toll suffered by the families, communities and entire societies of missing persons.  “The wounds of the missing are long‑lasting and deep,” he stressed, pledging to push forward with the Commission’s work and help bring families the answers they seek.

Also addressing the Council was Bashar Warda, Archbishop of the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.  Characterizing the protests as a rejection by the majority of Iraqis of the post‑2003 structure and Government, he said they are also a rebuke to a sectarian‑based Constitution which has divided Iraq and prevented it from becoming a unified, functioning country.  Christians, Yazidis and other minorities have been openly welcomed into the protest movement.  That window of reconciliation demonstrates real hope for positive change in which a new Government — if there is one — will genuinely embrace a multireligious Iraq, he said, while warning that, should the protests fail, another civil war is likely to follow.

As Council members took the floor, many condemned the brutal attacks against Iraqi protesters while hailing their determination to voice legitimate democratic aspirations.  Some called on the Government to speed up its reforms in response to those demands, welcoming a proposed meeting of Iraq’s leaders to develop a formal road map in that regard.

Kuwait’s representative was among those warning that people seeking to sow instability and insecurity must not be allowed to attack innocent protesters in Iraq.  Recent years have shown Iraq’s commitment to overcoming tensions and insecurity, he said, welcoming the Government’s establishment of a committee to investigate the use of force against protesters and hold perpetrators accountable.  On the sensitive issue of missing Kuwaiti nationals and property, he called on the Council to help end the suffering of families by supporting the Tripartite Commission, and for renewed efforts to restore priceless Kuwaiti archives to their home.

The representative of France decried the disproportionate crackdown on protests in recent weeks, describing the deaths of hundreds of people as unacceptable.  Also calling for an end to attacks and threats against aid workers, journalists and civil society members, she said that absent a credible, prompt response from the Government, the situation risks plunging both Iraq and the wider region into chaos.  “[Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh)] cannot but benefit from destabilization in Iraq,” she warned, also citing threats to development and to the country’s social fabric.

Echoing some of those points, Belgium’s delegate emphasized that reconciliation is badly needed and that no tensions which ISIL/Da’esh can exploit should be allowed to linger.  Iraq faces unique challenges as it begins the long path forward.  “This is a process that takes time,” he said.  Aspirations being voiced by the people — as well as their free expression and right to peaceful protest — must be respected, and urgent measures must be enacted to fight corruption, create jobs and foster both economic recovery and access to basic services, he said.

Several speakers, including China’s representative, stressed the importance of fully respecting Iraq’s sovereignty even as the international community provides the country with support.  Noting that Iraq has both the ability and wisdom to defuse the tensions, he underlined the need for reconstruction support and respect for Iraqi leadership in conducting its own affairs, while rejecting any external interference.  “Iraq is still at a critical stage in consolidating its work against terrorism” as well as in reforming its Government, he said, calling for particular support for its efforts to address the challenge of foreign terrorist fighters.

Iraq’s delegate, meanwhile, said the recent violence was carried out by illegal armed groups — not by national defence forces, which adhere to strict rules prohibiting the use of live ammunition against civilians.  Outlining efforts to identify the perpetrators and hold them accountable, he welcomed that “the Iraqi people have eloquently expressed their opinion” about crucial issues through brilliant demonstrations.  In response to their demands, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi recently submitted his resignation, and a package of reforms has been adopted including counter‑corruption laws, a new social protection system and efforts to diversify the national economy beyond oil.  “This is only the beginning of our democratic journey, which will mature in time,” he said.

Also speaking were representatives of the United States, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Peru, Dominican Republic, South Africa, Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire, Poland, Germany and Equatorial Guinea.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:28 p.m.

Briefings

JEANINE HENNIS-PLASSCHAERT, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), speaking via teleconference from Baghdad, recalled that in recent months she has consistently referred to urgent, unfinished domestic business in Iraq.  “Perhaps inevitably, today I will brief on protests and civil unrest,” she added, noting that recent protests — driven initially by hundreds of thousands of young people giving voice to their frustration over poor conditions and prospects — are extracting an “unimaginable price”.  Since early October, more than 400 people have been killed and more than 19,000 injured.  Recounting a hospital visit to a 16‑year‑old torn by shrapnel, she cited his mother saying that the lack of any prospects makes teenagers desperate.  After decades of sectarian strife, a renewed sense of patriotism has taken hold, she added, warning that any successful nation needs to warmly embrace the potential of its young people.

Events spun out of control on the first night of the demonstrations, with authorities immediately resorting to excessive force, she said, describing what ensued as a “crisis of confidence”.  Although the Government announced various reform packages addressing housing, unemployment, financial support and education, they were seen as unrealistic or too little and too late.  In addition, the Government’s investigation of the violence in early October is seen as incomplete, with perpetrators of attacks on media outlets, protesters and civil activists still unknown, and snipers often masked.  Acknowledging that several arrest warrants have been issued, she stressed that perpetrators must be brought to full account.  She also noted that more restraint was observed at the start of the second wave of demonstrations, after rules of engagement were reviewed.  However, improper use of non‑lethal devices continues in a manner that causes horrific injuries or death, as do unlawful arrests, abductions, threats and intimidation.  She reiterated the importance of guaranteeing fundamental rights to life, peaceful assembly and free expression, as well as accountability and justice at all levels.  Shutdown of media outlets adds to the public perception that authorities have something to hide, she said.

Another grave concern, she said, are attempts to hijack the protests by politically motivated groups, or those driven by gangs or external loyalties.   Such attempts could provide a cynical excuse for political inaction or violent crackdowns.  Reiterating that the vast majority of protesters are peaceful, she added that the State has a responsibility to protect its people.  “Any and all forms of violence are intolerable and must not distract from the rightful demands for reform,” she said.   Turning to the overall challenges, she stated that “the weight of Iraq’s past and immensity of current issues would surely be challenging to any Government’s ability to act, and to act fast”.  Among urgent needs are the holding of credible elections that make representatives duly accountable, the tackling of corruption — including the abolishment of so‑called “economic offices” — and the creation of an environment conducive to employment and economic growth.

On the immediate way forward, she said attempts to foster dialogue, as encouraged by UNAMI, are ongoing, stressing however that for any such initiatives to succeed, the protesters’ conditions are clear:  an end to the bloodshed, abductions and unlawful arrests.  Accountability must be ensured.  Some structure and coordination on the part of peaceful protesters is also of great importance, she added, acknowledging, however, that a collective protest movement does not necessarily recognize central leadership.  Noting that today, the Speaker of Parliament asked the President to designate a new Prime Minister following the former Prime Minister’s resignation, she explained that he will have 15 days to do so, with the Prime Minister then required to form a Government within 30 days.  Emphasizing the urgency of the current circumstances, she stated that “political leaders do not have the luxury of time and must rise to the moment”.  Moreover, “they will have to come clean in public and advance real solutions”, instead of leaving it to a Prime Minister with little or no support.  The political class as a whole must take on their responsibilities as well, she stressed.

Turning to Baghdad-Erbil relations, she said they are on an upswing but there have been no real breakthroughs on the ground.  Major restrictions to humanitarian action continue in Sinjar, with a single administration and stable security structures required there.  In Dohuk, more than 16,000 Syrian refugees have arrived, with more coming daily.  In addition, she warned of a new disaster in the making in the context of the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), with the unsustainable situation in al‑Hawl camp.  “We are seeing a frankly shocking lack of international long‑term thinking,” she commented.  Regarding the issue of missing Kuwaitis, third‑country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, she welcomed the return of some 200,000 books belonging to Kuwaiti institutions and commended the work of forensic experts in identifying remains found earlier this year.

In a final word on the demonstrations, she said “the situation cannot be resolved by buying time with band‑aid solutions and coercive measures”, adding that, “out of any crisis, new and great opportunities can emerge”.  She underlined that “the challenge is to seize this opportunity and to build a sovereign, stable, inclusive and prosperous Iraq”.

ROBERT MARDINI, Permanent Observer for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), recalled that his organization has chaired the Tripartite Commission tasked with searching for missing persons since its founding in 1991.  Today the Commission — comprising Iraq, Kuwait, and members of the Coalition, such as Saudi Arabia, France and the United States — works with UNAMI support to trace persons still unaccounted for since the Gulf War, and to provide answers to families.  Since the Commission’s inception, it has helped repatriate more than 75,000 citizens, civilian returnees and prisoners of war.  To date, 1,080 cases of missing persons remain open.  For the first time in 14 years, Kuwaiti remains were recovered in Iraq, and excavations are ongoing.  No other remains or burial sites were found for eight years.

Earlier in 2019, he said, there was a breakthrough, with new information leading to the identification of two mass graves of alleged Kuwaiti citizens.  Describing the review process and forensic work that led to those findings, he said the Commission adopted the Review Project Report and its recommendations in December 2018, which helped guide its work, while witness information, satellite data analysis and on‑the‑ground exploration missions finally led investigators to Samawa in Al Muthanna Governorate, where the mass graves were located.  Human remains were exhumed in March and are currently being processed by Kuwaiti authorities.  “This is a time‑consuming process that is expected to last into next year,” he said, noting that if a match is found, the remains will be returned to their families.  While the Iraqi Human Rights Directorate carried out further extensive excavations across the country’s southern deserts with ICRC, no human remains have been found at those locations.

“There is a lesson here in this breakthrough,” he continued, noting that “the wounds of the missing are long‑lasting and deep”.  When persons go missing, their absence affects families, communities and society as a whole.  Solving such cases takes time, patience and cooperation among Governments, humanitarian organizations and the families of the missing.  But most importantly, it requires perseverance.  “Each one of these individuals is important,” he said, underscoring the need to keep the course no matter the time it takes.  The Tripartite Commission hopes to continue identifying further remains and has agreed to update its existing protocols for the transfer of human remains between Iraq and Kuwait to bring them in line with the respective domestic legal frameworks and best practices.  Its members, including ICRC, remain committed to upholding the rights of families and bringing them the answers they seek, he said.

BASHAR WARDA, Archbishop, Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, said the current protests demonstrate the rejection by the majority of Iraqis of the post‑2003 structure and Government of Iraq.  They are a rejection of a sectarian‑based Constitution, which has divided Iraq and prevented it from becoming a unified and functioning country.  Rather than hope and prosperity, the current Government structure has brought continued corruption and despair, especially among young people.  It is very significant that young Iraqis have led the protests, making it clear that they want Iraq to be independent of foreign interference.  It is important to understand that Christians have not only sided with the protestors openly, but also that they and other minorities, including Yazidis, have been welcomed into the protest movement by Iraqi Muslims, he said.  This opening of reconciliation among all Iraqis demonstrates real hope for positive change in which a new Government — if there is one — will be much more positive towards a genuinely multireligious Iraq, with full citizenship for all.

If the protest movement succeeds in creating a new Government, then hope can still exist for the long‑suffering Iraqi people.  If the protests are not successful, Iraq will likely soon fall into civil war, the result of which will send millions of young Iraqis into the diaspora.  The international community must not be satisfied with false changes in leadership that do not represent genuine change.  It is clear that the ruling power groups do not intend to cede control and will make every effort to maintain the existing power structures.  “The international community must clearly understand that the protestors will not accept this,” he said, stressing that early elections must be initiated.  Unlike the very limited participation of past elections, these must involve young people who have stood up so courageously against corruption.  Before and during the elections, the press — both Iraqi and international — must be free to report on and discuss all issues to be addressed by the polls.  The current blocking of news reporting, Internet and social media must end immediately.  The elections must be fully monitored by the United Nations and observed by all major parties in Iraq so that they are legitimate, free and fair.

Statements

KELLY CRAFT (United States), Council President for December, spoke in her national capacity, underlining the need to support religious freedom in Iraq.  “It is clear that Iraq now stands at a crossroads,” she said.  Its recent protests reveal a popular hope for a country free of sectarian tensions and a Government without corruption.  Underlining the need for electoral reforms, anti‑corruption efforts and respect for free expression and assembly, she voiced concern about the use of force against peaceful protesters and called on all sides to exercise restraint.  Pointing out that Iraqis have loudly rejected intervention attempts by Iran, she urged neighbouring States not to meddle in Iraq’s affairs.  Recalling that the Council undertook its first‑ever mission to Iraq earlier this year, she said the visit demonstrated the country’s openness and good will.  However, “progress means building on this good will”, by undertaking reforms and improving accountability.  The Iraqi people should be able to chart a course forward to prosperity and stability, she said, urging the international community to support it in every way possible.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) voiced regret over recent casualties in Iraq and called for non‑violence, restraint and calm.  Those seeking to sow instability and insecurity should not be allowed to attack innocent protesters.  Noting that recent years have shown Iraq’s commitment to overcoming tensions and insecurity, he welcomed the Government’s recent establishment of a committee to investigate the use of force against protesters and hold perpetrators accountable.  All challenges should be addressed peacefully, with support from the international community, while avoiding any interference in Iraq’s internal affairs.  Welcoming UNAMI’s vital role — including its proposal to convene talks between the President, Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament to develop a reform road map — he said the issue of missing Kuwaiti nationals and property is a sensitive one.  He called on the Council to help end the suffering of the families of missing persons, including by providing support to the Tripartite Commission established for that purpose.  He also called for renewed efforts to restore crucial Kuwaiti property, including priceless archives, to their home.

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) echoed expressions of support for the right of the Iraqi people to peaceful protest and urged security forces to respond proportionately and refrain from using live ammunition.  She voiced concern about attacks against Iranian consulates, warning that diplomatic spaces should not be targets.  Calling for inclusive reforms that respond to the legitimate demands of protesters — including credible electoral reforms that ensure the voices of Iraqis are heard — she stressed that “stopping hate speech does not mean stopping freedom of expression”.  The United Kingdom supports the investigation of crimes committed by ISIL/Da’esh by the Council’s team created for that purpose, as well as efforts to return the remains of missing persons to their families.  The Council stands united in its concern over casualties since the beginning of recent protests, and in its hope that Iraq will advance reforms to address popular concerns and deliver stability and prosperity, she said.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) expressed firm respect for Iraq’s sovereignty while closely following the situation there.  As the unrest has socioeconomic causes, it is important for the international community to provide support in that regard.  Internecine strife throughout the Middle East must be resolved, and relations improved between Erbil and Baghdad.  Affirming the need for continued international action to counter the terrorist threat, he said all action must be coordinated with Baghdad.  Ethnic and religious diversity must be maintained after horrific terrorist acts, he underlined, stating that measures are needed to stem the exodus of Christians and other minorities.  In that regard, he condemned recent attacks, including those on Orthodox Christians, adding that further stirring tensions around Iran’s relations with Iraq is unhelpful, and that Iraq has the right to shape its own foreign relations.  Mechanisms for dialogue in the region are needed instead.  The Russian Federation is open to supporting all work to improve collective security in the Persian Gulf, he said, welcoming UNAMI’s efforts to foster inclusive political dialogue.

NÉSTOR POPOLIZIO (Peru), noting with concern the turbulence in Iraq, regretted that excessive use of force has resulted in so much death.  Efforts to mitigate tensions must be coupled with structural security reforms, credible elections and socioeconomic advancement.  International support will be needed in all those areas.  The concerns of young people must be seriously addressed and the extremist ideology of ISIL/Da’esh combated.  Hailing the increasing role played by women in Iraq, he said democracy will be strengthened by further inclusion.  He called for a dignified process to deal with all persons now in camps, and support to meet the humanitarian needs of displaced persons and others in the country.

JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic), expressing concern over instability in Iraq, supported peoples’ legitimate right to peacefully protest, while condemning violence and destruction of property.  He also condemned excessive use of force and deliberate killing of protesters, calling on authorities to allow journalists to do their job unimpeded, and for media freedom as well.  Welcoming measures to ensure accountability for the violence, as well as structural reforms, he expressed hope that the inclusion of women in responsible positions will continue, and that all parties involved in resolving the matter of missing persons and property will cooperate in bringing finality to the issue.  Expressing respect for Iraq’s sovereignty, he said national dialogue is critical and should continue to be supported by UNAMI.

STEPHEN MAHLABADISHAGO NTSOANE (South Africa) expressed concern that recent public protests, which have spread and escalated across Baghdad, have also led to the resignation of the Prime Minister.  He expressed hope that the Government can take action to address the concerns of its citizens, launch investigations into the violence and loss of life resulting from the protests and ensure accountability for any human rights violations.  Welcoming proposed reforms to improve governance structures, he stressed the importance of national reconciliation in avoiding challenges stemming from the fracturing of Government policies and actions.  Peace and security are fundamental in order for Iraq to develop its infrastructure, grow its economy and provide basic services to all its citizens, he said, expressing support for the Iraqi army’s full consolidation of control over its territories, as well as Government efforts to end the threat posed by ISIL/Da’esh.

MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia) expressed support for Iraq’s journey towards democracy and prosperity, and deep concern that the demonstrations have turned violent, calling on all parties to act with maximum restraint and resolve demands through peaceful and inclusive dialogue.  Reiterating support for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said combating corruption, strengthening the investment environment, the rule of law and security sector reform are all crucial for post‑conflict recovery and reconciliation.  As part of the reform process, and to resolve outstanding issues, negotiations between Baghdad and Erbil must continue.  He applauded Iraq’s efforts to build stronger relations with neighbouring countries, as well as persistent efforts by Iraq and Kuwait, ICRC and the Tripartite Commission that have yielded progress on the return of Kuwaiti and third‑country nationals or their remains.  Welcoming also that Iraq handed over 200,000 books belonging to Kuwait, he called for building on these efforts and said Indonesia will continue to monitor progress, particularly regarding missing Kuwaiti and third‑country nationals or their remains.

WU HAITAO (China) said maintaining stability and security in Iraq is a top priority.  Noting that the country has both the ability and wisdom to defuse the current tensions, he said the Council should respect Iraq’s sovereignty and support its efforts in that regard.  “Iraq is still at a critical stage in consolidating its work against terrorism” as well as in reforming its Government, he said.  The international community should lend its full support to Iraqi efforts towards an inclusive dialogue, peaceful coexistence between diverse communities and new security arrangements.  Noting that terrorism remains a major threat, he called for robust support to Iraq’s counter‑terrorism initiatives as well as its efforts to address the issue of foreign terrorist fighters.  He also underlined the need for reconstruction support and respect for Iraqi leadership in conducting its own affairs, while rejecting any external interference therein.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France) said Iraq stands at a crossroads, with peaceful protesters calling for life, dignity and freedom.  A disproportionate crackdown on those protests in recent weeks has led to hundreds of deaths, which are unacceptable and must be investigated with perpetrators held to account.  Also calling for an end to attacks and threats against aid workers, journalists and civil society members, she said that absent a credible, prompt response from the Government, the situation risks plunging both Iraq and the wider region into chaos.  “Da’esh cannot but benefit from destabilization in Iraq,” she warned, also citing threats to development and to the country’s social fabric.  The Iraqi people can count on support from the international community, but meaningful national dialogue is also urgently needed.  The Government must be strong enough to adopt critical measures, notably to restore paramilitary groups to State authority and fight corruption.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) said Iraq is facing unique challenges as it begins the long path towards reconciliation and reconstruction.  “This is a process that takes time,” he said, noting that State institutions remain vulnerable.  Aspirations being voiced by the people — as well as their free expression and right to peaceful protest — must be respected.  Echoing concerns over the use of deadly force against protestors and broader attempts to derail them, he urged all defence forces to act with restraint and demanded that the Government hold perpetrators to account.  She called for urgent measures to fight corruption, create jobs, and foster both economic recovery and access to basic services.  Ensuring long‑term stability requires reconciliation, and an examination of the past is of utmost importance.  No tensions which ISIL/Da’esh can exploit can be allowed to linger, she stressed, adding that the core principles of Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity should guide the work of all its partners.

KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire), expressing grave concern over the crisis in Iraq, urged that accountability be upheld through identification of those suspected of criminal acts, and that Iraq’s sovereignty be respected.  Authorities must use proportional force and he called on all stakeholders to exercise restraint.  He also called for proposed reforms to be acted upon urgently, and for UNAMI to step up its cooperation with the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, known as UNITAD, stressing the need to guarantee justice for victims.  Support for reconstruction is also critical, as are continued efforts to mobilize resources to fully fund the humanitarian response.  Resolution of issues between the Government of Iraq and the Kurdish region must also make progress, including on missing persons and assets dating from the Iraq‑Kuwait conflict.  He affirmed support to UNAMI’s efforts to assist Iraqis towards stability and prosperity.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) expressed alarm over the high number of killed and injured during recent demonstrations and the continued use of live ammunition against protesters, causing a further loss of life.  All actors must exercise maximum restraint and she urged Iraqi authorities and security forces to protect demonstrators, respect the rights to free expression and assembly, and to swiftly conduct independent and credible investigations in order to provide accountability for all acts of violence.  Recent events offer a stark reminder that the legitimate aspirations of Iraqis for an efficient and accountable administration remain unfulfilled.  It is paramount to step up efforts to address those concerns.  Long‑term stability requires national reconciliation and social cohesion, she said, encouraging Iraqi authorities to address this important issue by ensuring accountability for rights violations and providing protection to vulnerable groups.

JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany), expressing deep concern over the loss of life in Iraqi protests, deplored excessive use of force by security forces.  The use of live ammunition is only acceptable to protect against an imminent threat of death or serious injury, he stressed.  All fatalities must be investigated in that light.  He emphasized that all forms of intimidation against those exercising their rights to expression or providing medical care are also unacceptable.  As a new Government is formed, it is vital that key reforms are swiftly implemented to regain trust in public institutions.  The new Government must be formed rapidly and protesters’ demands must be addressed.  Welcoming initial steps to counter corruption, he urged all parties to work for progress in that effort and underlined Germany’s readiness to continue its major support for reconstruction and development.  He urged authorities to engage with the younger generation and to seize the opportunity presented by the protests to orient the country towards peace and prosperity.  He finally called for progress in settling issues between Erbil and Bagdad and resolving matters between Iraq and Kuwait.  Affirming support for UNAMI, he called for cooperation with UNITAD by all stakeholders.

AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea), expressing grave concern over death and destruction in Iraq, conveyed condolences to the Government and to all families who have experienced loss.  She appealed to all parties to end the violence, stressing that peaceful protest must be allowed and protected.  All parties must cast aside their partisan interests to work for the good of the country and fight to preserve recent achievements, including the victories over ISIL/Da’esh.  Welcoming consultations between political leaders, she underscored the importance of all parties working together.  Measures proposed for dialogue and reform must be implemented swiftly.  She urged more progress to resolve issues between Erbil and Baghdad and looked forward to the appointment of a new Prime Minister, while welcoming efforts to resolve outstanding issues between Iraq and Kuwait.

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq) conveyed his condolences to the families of the victims of those killed in recent protests.  “The Iraqi people have eloquently expressed their opinion” about various crucial issues through brilliant demonstrations, which were tainted by the violent acts of illegal groups, he said.  Noting that attacks were launched against both civilians and the Iraqi security forces, he declared:  “These groups have nothing to do with the protests.”  Instead, they use demonstrations as a source of cover and protesters as human shields.  The Government is committed to ensuring the Constitutional right to free expression and demonstration, he said, vowing to meet all the protesters’ legitimate aspirations for reform.

Citing strict rules prohibiting Iraq’s defence forces from using live ammunition against protesters, he said the Government has begun to identify those responsible for the recent violence and will cover all medical expenses for the injured.  Responding to Mr. Warda’s comments regarding recent Internet restrictions — which have since been lifted — he said Governments are sometimes forced to restrict access to the Internet when it is being used to spread violence.  Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi recently submitted his resignation in response to the protesters’ demands, he said, outlining ongoing strides and reforms.  Those include laws promoting social justice and combatting corruption; a new social protection system; the return of thousands of internally displaced persons; diversification of the national economy beyond oil; and efforts to attract foreign investment.  In addition, Iraq is committed to ensuring that its territory is never used as a launch pad for attacks against neighbouring States and has adopted a balanced foreign policy which prioritizes regional security and stability.

Turning to the handover of the remains of missing Kuwaitis recently discovered in mass graves — as well as Kuwaiti property — he pledged to continue to pay dues to that country and expressed hope that all outstanding debt will be paid off by the end of 2020.  Bilateral relations between Iraq and Kuwait are improving, he said, thanking the latter for its support of Arab issues on the Council’s agenda.  “This is only the beginning of our democratic journey, which will mature in time,” he said, noting that the protests reveal people’s strong political engagement, and the Government’s response is a show of maturity.  Iraq is committed to building a peaceful and prosperous State, speeding up reconstruction and continuing the fight against terrorism, he assured.

For information media. Not an official record.