Briefing of SRSG to Iraq Nickolay Mladenov to the 7314th meeting of the UN Security Council

New York, 18 November 2014

Thank you, Mr. President,

Let me begin by presenting the Secretary-General’s report pursuant to paragraph 6 of resolution 2169 (2014) on the activities of UNAMI and the most recent develop-ments in Iraq. 

I am honoured to be joined today by Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Af-fairs Ms Valerie Amos and the High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. 

 

Mr. President,

Almost twelve months ago the city of Fallujah fell into the hands of the terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), setting off the displacement of more than two million people—currently one of the largest such populations globally. 

ISIL’s strategy is obvious — to insert themselves in the ethnic and religious fault lines of Iraq, to undermine legitimate authorities and to spread fear among all com-munities. Their goals are also clear— to destroy the Iraqi state and replace it with a State of Terror that is built on genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. To this end, they continue using parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria to advance on the rest of the region and threaten global peace and security. 

The crisis in Iraq has been further aggravated by the unresolved political, social and economic problems of the country’s difficult transition to democracy; by the lack of agreement on the full implementation of the Constitution; stalled reforms, sectarian differences; and the country’s exposure to the broad regional and global rifts. This explosive combination has consistently undermined public trust in the new Iraqi state for years as it has driven communities apart, and ultimately created fertile ground for violence. 

As the crisis unfolded, Iraq almost collapsed. Its western provinces were overrun by ISIL; the Kurdistan Region openly spoke of seceding; the southern Governorates struggle with poverty while producing the country’s riches; Baghdad was threatened by a daily barrage of suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices; and Iraq’s minorities have been subjected to unspeakable horrors. 

Faced with a common threat, the political, community and religious leaders across Iraq focused on the pulling back from the brink and saving their country. A strategy emerged, one which I am honored to report, was supported and facilitated by the United Nations mission in Iraq. Iraqi leaders agreed that the response to ISIL should be based on the Constitution, on national unity and reconciliation. 

First came the election of a new Speaker, a new President and a new Prime Minister by the Council of Representatives. Despite the odds this process was completed within the constitutional timeline. Then the focus shifted on ensuring a peaceful transition between the outgoing and incoming administrations — a rare occurrence in Iraq’s turbulent history. And, finally, an inclusive Government of national unity was formed, based on national political agreement and a new ministerial programme. These key documents prioritized widespread reform to tackle issues such as political fragmentation along sectarian lines, corruption, restructuring of the military, as well as introducing institutional and legal reform that would put an end to exclusion and human rights abuses. In so doing, the new Government acknowledged that a purely security solution alone cannot solve Iraq’s problems. 

In the last few days the Prime Minister has issued instructions preventing the armed forces from hoisting banners or flags, other than the Iraqi national symbols, and dis-continuing the use of logos and insignia of parties or political organizations. In a separate move the Government decided to allow displaced students to attend schools and universities in their current areas of displacement -- a key demand that had created much grievance. These are but first steps in a broader initiate to restore confidence among Iraq’s communities. 

I encourage the Iraqi Government to continue moving forward with consolidating its political, security and economic efforts in an inclusive and comprehensive manner to kick-start national reconciliation and dialogue, and restore stability and economic growth to Iraq. This also entails re-engaging all disaffected groups, particularly those currently located in conflict areas, as part of the democratic process.

Mr. President, 

The Iraqi Government’s security strategy to counter ISIL, is predicated upon organis-ing, supporting and integrating local communities into a national system that allows them to keep their homes safe from terrorism; on restructuring and empowering the armed forces to fight ISIL; on strengthening cooperation with the Peshmerga; and on working with the International Coalition, Iraq’s allies and neighbours. 

I particularly welcome the Government’s efforts to improve its cooperation with local tribes and other residents who are committed to protecting their communities from ISIL. In this process the payment of salaries, the provision of weapons and training as well as legal guarantees to the volunteers should be treated as a priority.

This strategy is bearing fruit. Spurred by the growing brutality of ISIL, illustrated most recently by the massacre of 322 members of the Albu Nimr tribe, communities are beginning to push back. Most recently the Anbar and Ninewa Provincial Councils reached agreement with the Government to form local forces. It is the cooperation between the Iraqi Army, local volunteers and outside support that has made the lib-eration of towns like  Amerli, Jurf al-Sakhar and Zumar possible. Most recently the oil refinery at Beiji and surrounding areas have been brought back under Government control. 

Nevertheless, the presence of militia groups, operating outside State structures, re-mains a challenge. To deal with this, the Government is putting in place measures that should prevent non-state groups from bearing arms in public. 

I use this opportunity to also urge all armed groups outside of ISIL, to seek the reso-lution of their grievances through serious dialogue with the Government in order to achieve genuine political reconciliation, stand united against the danger of terrorism and violence for a better future for all Iraqis.

UNAMI remains committed to assisting the Government of Iraq in these processes in accordance with its mandate.

Mr. President,

The process of working with local fighters should also go hand in hand with restruc-turing, re-training and re-equipping the Iraqi Army. I am pleased to report that im-portant initial steps have already been taken towards restructuring the Iraqi Army, including the appointment of a number of new commanders.

Moreover, the Government’s programme provides for the creation of the Iraqi Na-tional Guard, which has emerged as one of the key demands of the communities that seek to be re-integrated into the security structure. This force would allow people to volunteer and defend their homes, with legal guarantees that the Government would provide support in line with the standards of other branches of the Iraqi security forces. 

The UN Mission in Iraq has been asked to provide advice and technical assistance in the legal drafting process for the National Guard Law and we look forward to working with our national partners to conclude this process as soon as possible.

Mr. President, 

I am further happy to report some important positive developments in the relations between Erbil and Baghdad. Four days ago, with the support of the UN Mission in Iraq and Member States, an interim agreement was reached that allows public sector employees in the Kurdistan Region to begin receiving their salaries. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will also resume partially its oil contribution to the Federal budget at a time of national crisis. This important step breaks a deadlock of almost which was at the core of the most serious deterioration of relations between Baghdad and the Kurdistan region to date. It also reflects a newfound willingness for dialogue and cooperation to tackle difficult issues.

On behalf of the Secretary-General I want to commend Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and KRG Prime Minister Nechervan Barzani for reaching this agreement, which is to the benefit of all Iraqis. 

I would like to encourage both leaders to seize the momentum and swiftly move for-ward towards a comprehensive, fair and constitutional solution to all outstanding issues including the enactment of oil and gas and revenue sharing laws

UNAMI stands ready to continue providing its good offices, as well as legal and technical support to this process.

Mr. President,

The Iraqi Government’s efforts are being reinforced by the support of the international community. I would like to thank those of Iraq’s neighbouring states, who have been responding with generous pledges and delivery of vital humanitarian and security assistance in response to the crisis.

I have recently visited with some of Iraq’s regional partners who expressed readi-ness to establish a strategic relationship with Baghdad. This coincides with the Government’s ongoing efforts to engage its neighbours as part of a comprehensive effort to promote stability in Iraq and the region.

I strongly welcome the Government’s efforts to explore the elements of a common political and regional security approach to combat ISIL. This has been a key feature in the discussions that Iraq’s political leaders have pursued with Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE and others.

Mr. President,

From the beginning of 2014 and until the end of October, at least 10,000 civilians have been killed, and almost 20,000 injured. Coupled with the nearly 1.9 million individuals who have been displaced in 2014 alone, these are devastating times for the country. My esteemed colleagues, Ms Amos and Mr. al-Hussein, will brief you on humanitarian and human rights developments. 

I take this opportunity to call on the Government of Iraq to begin the process of re-forming the criminal justice system in order to promote accountability, strengthen rule of law and the protection of human rights.

In line with its programme, I also urge the Government to also move swiftly by put-ting forward an amnesty law that is in line with the Constitution.

While attention remains focused on the critical humanitarian situation, we should not overlook the need to support Iraq in its development agenda. The new Government has inherited a dire fiscal situation. Iraq is in need of international support to not only confront the menace of terrorism through military action but to also implement vital fiscal, economic and social reforms.

Mr. President,

I wish to now present now the fourth report of the Secretary-General, pursuant to paragraph 4 of resolution 2107 (2013) on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-party persons and property. 

I wish that I can report to the Council significant progress on the missing Kuwaitis and the Kuwaiti national archives since our last report. 

The lack of immediate results however should not be the only yardstick by which to measure success. First, Iraq-Kuwait relations are at their peak.

Second, UNAMI’s endeavours and Iraq’s persistence, especially in relation to the missing, have also been noteworthy. Both parties and UNAMI face the formidable foe of time, measured in memories that have faded, as they go as far back as 23 years ago.

In these last four months, as in the previous 13 months before that, Iraqis have shown their unwavering commitment to the search for the missing Kuwaitis. Explor-ing leads, debriefing witnesses and informants, and digging trenches have taken place in a purposeful manner despite the debilitating security situation. In fact, the Kuwaiti side expressed its appreciation with these efforts. 

A witness travelled to Kuwait in September—only the second witness to come for-ward since 2004—demonstrating Iraqi willingness and confidence. Sadly, the visit and the identification of the site did not yield immediate results. A second witness, who had approached UNAMI volunteering to help, is going to travel to Kuwait in the coming days. Our team is also working on the case of a third potential witness who may hold the key to a site containing a number of remains.

The sensitive discussion on the subject shows that UNAMI can play the role of facilitator and intermediary, and provide initial guarantees to potential witnesses. 

 Last but not least, UNAMI has been unanimously welcomed into the Tripartite Mechanism as an ‘observer’, which I read as a vote of confidence in our impartiality, trustworthiness and work.  

Mr. President,

I assure this Council and the families of the missing that UNAMI will continue to do all that it can to live up to this trust.

Finally, Mr. President, 

On 16 November, an explosion targeted a UN convoy in Baghdad. Thanks to the professionalism of the UN security teams all our colleagues are safe.  This incident reminds us of the conditions of hardship under which our staff must operate. As such, I would like to express my appreciation for their daily sacrifice, and to express appreciation for the support of the Secretary-General and of the Security Council for our work.

I wish to express my appreciation and gratitude to my political Deputy, Mr. Gyorgy Busztin, for having borne this responsibility with passion and commitment.

I wish to take this opportunity thank also my humanitarian Deputy, Ms. Jacqueline Badcock, for her committed service and for overseeing the humanitarian and devel-opment operations at a crucial time for both the Mission and Iraq.

I wish both of them the very best in their new endeavours as they leave UNAMI. 

I express my deep and sincere appreciation to the Government and people of Iraq for their continued cooperation and assistance during these difficult times.

Thank you.

 

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