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7314th Meeting (AM)

Support for Iraq’s New Government Reconciliation Efforts Critical to Fighting Common Terrorist Threat, Top United Nations Official Tells Security Council

The United Nations top official for Iraq today urged continuance of, and support to, the new unity Government’s efforts to push forward reconciliation and security efforts that he said were beginning to succeed in countering the brutal onslaught of terrorist forces.

“Faced with a common threat, the political, community and religious leaders across Iraq have focused on pulling back from the brink and saving their country,” Nickolay Mladenov, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), told the Security Council.  The quarterly briefing on the country also included High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos, as well as Mohamed Ali Alhakim, Iraq’s Permanent Representative.

Presenting the most recent UNAMI report (document S/2014/774), Mr. Mladenov said that since the fall of Fallujah 10 months ago to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) and the resulting brutality that had displaced more than 2 million people, the Mission had supported and facilitated an Iraqi response based on the Constitution, national unity and reconciliation.

The election of a new Speaker, a new President and a new Prime Minister were all followed in a timely manner, he said, by the formation and transition to an inclusive Government of national unity, based on national political agreement and a new ministerial programme prioritizing widespread reform to tackle sectarian fragmentation, corruption, restructuring of the military, exclusionary policies and human rights abuses.

Recent steps to restore confidence among Iraq’s communities included preventing armed forces from hoisting sectarian and political banners or flags, and allowing students to attend schools in their current areas of displacement.  The security strategy to counter ISIL was predicated upon organizing, supporting and integrating local communities into a national system that allowed them to keep their homes safe from terrorism; on empowering the armed forces and working with the international coalition of Iraq’s allies and neighbours.

Communities were beginning to push back, he said.  Most recently the Anbar and Ninewa Provincial Councils reached an agreement with the Government to form local forces.  Such cooperation and outside support had made possible the liberation of towns like Amerli, Jurf al-Sakhar and Zumar and the recapturing of the refinery at Beiji and surrounding areas.  To deal with the challenge of armed groups operating outside of State structures, the Government was putting in place measures to prevent them from bearing arms in public.  Mr. Mladenov urged all armed groups outside of ISIL to seek resolution of grievances through dialogue with the Government and to stand united against terrorism.

He said steps had been taken to restructure the Iraqi Army, including the appointment of a number of new commanders.  The Government’s programme provided for the creation of an Iraqi National Guard, a key demand of communities that sought to be reintegrated into the security structure.  UNAMI had been asked to assist in the drafting of the legislation needed to create the Guard.

The Mission, he said, had also supported the reaching of interim agreements between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad on resumption of salary payments to public employees and contribution of oil revenues to the federal Government.  He encouraged national and regional leaders to seize the momentum and move forward towards a comprehensive, fair and constitutional solution to all outstanding issues including the enactment of oil and gas revenue-sharing laws.

Mr. Mladenov welcomed the support and cooperation of Iraq’s regional partners in humanitarian efforts, as well as discussions between Iraq and Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and others exploring elements of a common political and security approach to combating ISIL.

He called on the Government to begin reforming the criminal justice system, urging it to move on an amnesty law in particular.  Greater attention needed to be paid to the development agenda, he said, urging international support to implement vital fiscal, economic and social reforms.

Introducing the latest report on missing Kuwaitis, other persons and property from the 1990 conflict, he said that despite the lack of significant progress, Iraq-Kuwait relations were at their peak, and Iraqis had shown an unwavering commitment to the search for the missing persons.  UNAMI had played a role as intermediary in related efforts and had been invited into the Tripartite Mechanism as an observer.

Reporting on human rights in Iraq, High Commissioner Al Hussein said the crimes being committed by ISIL — in violation of Shari’ah and customary law alike — were so monstrous that the world was taken aback.  Broad evidence, notably in respect of the Yazidis, had shown that three of the five offences falling under the crime of genocide possibly had been perpetrated by ISIL’s leadership, along with 9 of the 11 offences defined as crimes against humanity.  Their commission of war crimes was “virtually undeniable”.

The scale of ISIL’s brutality towards civilians had “shred every principle” relevant to human rights, he said, including wanton killings, summary public executions, abductions, rape and enslavement.  Women and girls who had escaped captivity had reported sexual assault, trafficking and forced marriage.  “They are literally sold in open markets,” he said, adding that children had been tortured by ISIL, and others forced to watch and participate in executions.

Among the causes of the crisis, he said, were discrimination, corruption and impunity in Iraq.  During the current crisis as well, Iraqi Security Forces and affiliated armed groups had violated human rights, he stated, citing reports of attacks, harassment and illegal arrest of journalists.  The anti-terrorism law was another concern, as it failed to respect binding international commitments on the administration of justice, as were air strikes and shelling, which might have violated the principles of distinction and proportionality.

Urging Iraq to accede to the Rome Statute, he said his Office was in a position to dispatch a fact-finding mission to the country.  Little attention had been given to the struggle for minds, while significant military efforts had been deployed to stunt inflows of ISIL recruits.  He questioned whether it was possible to “bomb” such an ideology into submission.  Two months ago, when 126 prominent Muslim scholars had written a letter to refute ISIL’s claims, on behalf of Islam, it had not received the global attention it deserved.

Outlining the humanitarian dimensions of the conflict, Under-Secretary-General Amos said 5.2 million people were in need of assistance.  More than 2 million people had been internally displaced.  In the past 10 weeks alone, more than 200,000 people had been forced from their homes in Anbar, Ninewa, Salah al‑Din, Kirkuk and Diyala governorates, while more than 100,000 Iraqis had been registered as refugees in neighbouring countries this year.  Every governorate in Iraq was hosting displaced people.  “The crisis in Iraq is, first and foremost, a protection crisis,” she said, stressing that brutality was being meted out on civilians from all religious and ethnic backgrounds.

The United Nations and its partners had scaled up their response, she said, thanks in part to a $500 million contribution from Saudi Arabia.  Those funds had had tangible results:  more than 1.4 million Iraqis had received food assistance this year in all governorates; 1.5 million people had been provided water, latrines and hygiene materials; and 1.2 million internally displaced persons had received emergency shelter and relief items.  Yet, more help was required, as 450,000 people needed warm clothing and more than 1 million people needed health assistance.  Ongoing fighting had prevented the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs from reaching all those in need, she said, drawing attention to the 2.2 million people in areas controlled by ISIL and affiliated groups.

She said $173 million in “winterization” funding was needed to help displaced persons in Kurdistan and elsewhere, noting that if the World Food Programme did not receive $85 million in the coming days, food could not be procured or shipped in January.  Welcoming the $50 million provided by Iraq for the construction of camps in Dohuk Governorate, she pointed out that unsubsidized fuel prices meant that humanitarian groups could only provide fuel for fewer than half of the 80,000 vulnerable families in Kurdistan in the next two months.

“This is not just Iraq’s crisis,” she stressed.  “It is part of a regional catastrophe, which we have a collective responsibility to address.”  The humanitarian needs were urgent, and civilian protection must be at the heart of political, military and other efforts.

Mr. Alhakim took the floor following those briefings to affirm that Iraq had been able to build an inclusive Government of national unity even while under the threat of ISIL.  The new Government’s priorities were combating terrorism and corruption and bolstering relations with neighbours.  The Government was committed to cooperating with all allied forces and all political blocs, and was working to improve the economy.

He said that relations with neighbours must be built based on mutual respect.  It was particularly important to deprive ISIS of oil revenue in that context.  With the cooperation of communities and international allies, he confirmed, several areas had been liberated from the terrorists.  He stressed the importance of religious authorities who had helped to bring together all positive forces in Iraq.  He also thanked the coalition acting under the lead of the United States for their military support, as well as the Security Council for its resolutions.

Given the atrocities of ISIL, which he called crimes against humanity and war crimes, he said that the Government sought to reduce the suffering of the millions of displaced people until they could return to their homes.  He expressed gratitude for all assistance provided.  The Government continued to respond to the needs of those who had sought refuge in his country from elsewhere; he called on the international community to help deal with that issue as soon as possible.

He commended Saudi Arabia on its announcement that it would reopen its embassy in Baghdad.  Iraq was also keen on further strengthening its relations with Kuwait, pledging all continued efforts on missing persons and archives.  He expressed thanks for all the support that the United Nations had provided to the Iraqi people, hailing UNAMI for its operations under difficult conditions.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11 a.m.

For information media. Not an official record.