Thank you, Mr. President; esteemed members of the Security Council,
September 2015 marked one year in office of the Government led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The Prime Minister continues to actively lead efforts to fulfil the Government’s programme and his reform agenda even as the scope and complexity of Iraq’s security, political, social, budgetary and humanitarian challenges increase. At the same time, the Prime Minister faces immense challenges to implement his planned reforms, primarily due to disagreements and political polarization among political forces. Last week, the Council of Representatives unanimously voted to bar the Government from passing key reforms that would infringe on the separation of powers between the three branches of Government and the Constitution. Since taking office, the Prime Minister has been struggling to exercise his authority while his opponents grew bolder. Meanwhile, the scope and impact of the reforms have not met public expectations.
Despite hopes that he would be able to move national reconciliation forward and bring the broader Sunni community into the political process, the Prime Minister’s efforts have been obstructed by elements within all Iraqi components, the main reasons being lack of trust and vested interests.
Yet, the majority of Iraqis believe that Prime Minister al-Abadi remains their best hope for a better, united less sectarian and prosperous Iraq, and they support him. The Prime Minister has so far retained sustained political backing from the highly influential Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani and the Marja’iya.
I have stressed to the Prime Minister and other political forces the need for openness, partnership, inclusiveness and broad consultations in decision-making to work in unity and to promote effective governance. Progressing political confrontation is the last thing the country needs at this point of time.
In the wake of the steep drop in global oil prices, Iraq’s fiscal crisis and growing budget deficit are of increasing concern and highlight the need for urgent economic reform in the country. I urge the Government, as well as its foreign partners, including international and regional financial institutions, to undertake urgent measures to address the pressing economic and budgetary challenges.
UNAMI has continued its efforts to promote inclusive national reconciliation among the leaders of all Iraqi components and political groups, civil society and local communities, and neighbouring countries, in support and coordination with the Government of Iraq. UNAMI stands ready to assist all efforts to promote an inclusive reconciliation process that uphold respect for Iraq’s unity, sovereignty and constitutional order. There is a vital need to show political will, ownership and a commitment to historic compromise and national reconciliation, regardless of opposite views and political risk, to capitalize on signals from some Sunni leaders and groups outside of the political process that they are ready to join it. The Government, the Council of Representatives and the political forces should not lose sight of the need to proceed with the Government’s national reconciliation programme, including priority legislation; to promote a genuine, inclusive Iraqi political system based on equal rights for all Iraqis - and to counter sectarianism and ISIL’s radical ideology. Progress on the Syrian file towards a political solution would also have a critical positive impact on national reconciliation in Iraq.
The stabilization efforts led by the central and local authorities and supported by the UNDP Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization are progressing. The stabilization of Tikrit is a success as nearly its entire displaced population, some 155,000 people, returned home. Now, four governorates –Anbar, Diyala, Salah al-Din and Ninewa- have asked for additional assistance from the Funding Facility. The UN family in Iraq is ready to respond positively. As often, funding is the problem.
In areas reclaimed from ISIL, the Government must continue to exert all its efforts to ensure that good governance and the rule of law are restored as quickly as possible. UNAMI is actively engaging with the respective authorities on this issue, as well as with the Popular Mobilization Forces’ leadership.
The Kurdistan Region of Iraq has long been a source of stability and development in Iraq. Deep disagreements between the major political parties of the region, however, threaten this.
I have engaged Kurdish interlocutors extensively, encouraging them to swiftly reach a compromise solution based on an inclusive political dialogue and democratic principles to remain united for the critical task of fighting ISIL.
Concerning Baghdad–Erbil relations, it is imperative that differences over the December 2014 oil and revenue-sharing agreement be quickly resolved through dialogue. UNAMI is ready to support this. Furthermore, the current impasse at the time of the 2016 budget discussions in the Council of Representatives hurts the relationship between the central Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government, critical to Iraq’s stability and unity, the fight against ISIL, as well as to addressing the growing economic, budgetary and social challenges through reforms.
During the reporting period, ISIL has been successfully pushed back. In Central Iraq, the Iraqi Security Forces, Popular Mobilization Forces and tribal volunteers have re-taken key areas, including Beiji, which is now under government control. The pro-Government forces have proven their ability to conduct military operations in several areas simultaneously. The Global Coalition to Counter ISIL has become more effective in supporting the Iraqi Security Forces and the Peshmerga, both in direct military activities and training and in providing supplies of materiel.
In addition, the Government of Iraq has recently begun to cooperate with Russia, Iran and Syria in intelligence sharing through a coordination cell in Baghdad.
Yet, ISIL continues to possess the funding and military capacities to prolong its reign of terror over large swathes of Iraq. Notwithstanding ISIL’s sophisticated and massive use of IEDs, suicide attacks and ability to conduct operations in complex urban environments, the Iraqi Security Forces continue to make slow progress, while at the same time doing their utmost to avoid civilian casualties.
In addition, the reported use of chemical weapons by ISIL against the Peshmerga is currently under investigation. Representatives from the OPCW have recently visited Baghdad to discuss this matter with Iraqi officials.
During his visit to Iraq last week, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, made a strong plea for strengthened mechanisms for the protection of minorities, stressing the need for accountability of crime perpetrators and the importance of national reconciliation at the community level. Protection of minorities remains one of the critical tasks of the UN family.
The humanitarian situation remains of the gravest concern. The scale of the crisis is outstripping our collective capacity to respond. With limited funding, the UN humanitarian community had to cut and reorganise its programmes in support of Iraqi IDPs. Since the vast majority of IDPs want to remain in Iraq, the best way to encourage this is to provide humanitarian support at the point of origin. They will be less inclined to flee the country and migrate to third countries, first of all in Europe.
Allow me now to turn to the eighth report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 4 of resolution 2107 (2013) on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives.
In spite of all the instability plaguing the region, good relations, a positive atmosphere and closer dialogue and cooperation are prevalent in the relations between Iraq and Kuwait. Goodwill between the two countries was further evidenced when on 28 October, the payment of the remaining 4.6 billion USD in reparations owed to the Government of Kuwait was extended until 1 January 2017.
While the challenging security and political situation in Iraq and the burden placed on state finances are fully recognized, the Government of Iraq is nonetheless expected to demonstrate complete commitment to this international obligation and exert efforts to move the file forward. The steps it has taken so far, and the results to date, are insufficient.
I would like to touch upon the issue of the residents of Camp Hurriya and the need to alleviate Iraq of this burden. On 30 October, the Camp was again the target of a rocket attack that claimed the lives of 24 residents and wounded many others. The only solution guaranteeing the security of the residents is their speedy relocation to third countries. While strongly reminding the Government of Iraq of its obligation to ensure the safety of the residents, I equally strongly urge all countries to work together with the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor to consider hosting these residents in their territories or to use their influence in assisting in their relocation at the shortest possible time.
I will also continue to remind the Council of our UN national staff member that was taken hostage earlier this year. I urged the Iraqi authorities to redouble efforts to secure his release. It has now been more than 6 months that we do not have any credible information about our colleague, nor a positive solution to this case.
Mr. President; excellencies; members of the Council,
UNAMI, in close consultation with the Iraqi authorities, has embarked on implementing the Secretary-General’s recommendations as outlined in his last report and endorsed through the adoption of our new mandate in July. The new mandate gives the Mission the flexibility it needs to respond to the evolving challenges in Iraq and enables UNAMI, together with the UNCT, to prioritize its activities. With the continued support of the Council, we will continue working hand-in-hand with the Government of Iraq, political forces and civil society to achieve results in all critical areas while increasingly mobilizing regional as well as international support and cooperation.