Briefing to the Security Council by SRSG for Iraq Ján Kubiš New York, 22 November 2017(AS DELIVERED)
I would like to congratulate the Iraqi government and people on their historic victory against the Da’esh terrorist group and its so-called Caliphate.
On 17 November, the Iraqi Security Forces fully recaptured Rawa district, the last remaining area under Da’esh control in Iraq. Iraqis took back their country through the heroism and sacrifices of the ISF, including the Popular Mobilization Forces, working alongside the Peshmerga and tribal forces, supported by neighbour states and the Global Coalition against Da’esh.
This victory has come at a very high cost. Many thousands of fighters and civilians were killed or wounded, leaving behind thousands of widows and orphans; hundreds of thousands of brainwashed children were deprived of proper education; entire cities are in ruins; and some six million people have been displaced from their homes. Many thousands from both Muslims and minority communities were inhumanly exterminated or enslaved by Da’esh, particularly women and girls, in war crimes and crimes against humanity, perhaps even genocide. I must also underline the sacrifice of those who have been selflessly sheltering millions of IDPs, including in Kurdistan. Our condolences go today to all the victims and their families of this war against Da’esh.
Da’esh is down but not, yet, out, even in Iraq. The military victory is only one component of a complex battle. Only by defeating its “takfiri” ideology, choking off its external support, and addressing the causes that prompted so many Iraqis to join or tolerate Da’esh can this terrorist organisation finally be eliminated.
I encourage the Global Coalition against Da’esh, including regional countries and the wider international community, to continue both military, and increasingly non-military, efforts aimed at helping Iraq to ensure the lasting, sustainable defeat of Da’esh. In Iraq, priority must be given to facilitating the expeditious voluntary return of IDPs under conditions of safety and security, to de-mining, to stabilization, reconstruction and rehabilitation that will also take care of the minorities, and will create the conditions for their safe and sustainable future in post-Da’esh Iraq, while continuing with humanitarian assistance. An international conference on reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq planned for next February in Kuwait must in deeds confirm such lasting commitment of the international community, including of countries of the region. These efforts should complement support to security sector reform aimed at increasing the country’s ability fully to enforce law and order against the multitude of armed groups which persist outside state control, including criminal gangs, militias and tribal elements.
Just as the country is beginning to breathe a sigh of relief at the defeat of the Da’esh terrorists, many long-standing unresolved issues - overshadowed by the urgency of fighting Da’esh - are coming once again to the fore. Prominent among those are the tensions between the central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) prompted by complaints of both sides about deficiencies in implementing of the Constitution. The response of the Kr-I authorities was to hold an independence referendum on 25 September in the Kurdistan region and the disputed territories under its control since 2014, against the will of Baghdad and against the advice of regional countries and the international community.
Challenged by the referendum, the Government of Iraq took determined steps to re-establish federal authority over Iraq’s external border crossings, including the international airports in the KR-I, over the disputed territories and in the export of oil. On 16 October, federal security forces launched operations in Kirkuk, proceeded rapidly through other disputed territories, and reached almost to the so-called Green Line of 2003. Although in most cases the withdrawal of Peshmerga forces from these areas took place in coordination with the ISF, sporadic clashes did occur. Even now, however, control of some disputed areas and border crossings, including Faish Khabour, remains unresolved.
UNAMI received reports of civilian casualties, primarily from the Kurdish community, that occurred in Kirkuk, Tuz Khormatu and other areas. I welcome the measures taken by Prime Minister Abadi to enforce law and order by federal forces in areas that have witnessed an increase in violence as a prerequisite for return of mostly Kurdish IDPs back home. I also urge the competent federal and KR-I authorities to carry out prompt and impartial investigations of all incidents and to bring those responsible to justice.
On 6 November the Federal Supreme Court concluded that it did not find in the Constitution any provision authorising the secession of any component of the federal system of the Republic of Iraq. On 20 November the FSC decided that the referendum was unconstitutional and all of its results and effects shall be cancelled. The Government of Iraq welcomed both decisions.
On 14 November, the Kurdistan Region Government confirmed its respect for the Federal Supreme Court’s interpretation of Article 1 of the Iraqi Constitution as per its decision of 6 November 2017, and thus for the unity of Iraq. Following the second FSC verdict on 20 November PM N.Barzani again confirmed respect for the Constitution while noting that the FSC rulings are final and cannot be challenged.
UNAMI has called repeatedly on all sides to refrain from threat or use of force, from inflammatory statements and confrontational steps. Our message has been clear: all outstanding issues between the federal Government and the KRG need to be resolved through their constructive partnership dialogue, leading to sustainable solutions on the basis of the Constitution, that will also guarantee the full constitutional rights of the KR-I and its people. Now that the issue of the referendum has found its Constitutional resolution UNAMI urges the continuation of the high-level intergovernmental dialogue on military and security issues, to avoid confrontation during the deployment of federal forces in the disputed areas and enable the establishment of federal authority over the external border crossings of Iraq, including the international airports in the KR-I, with the aim of finding arrangements that will enable their reopening for international flights as soon as possible. UNAMI also calls for an immediate start to negotiations with government representatives on other key matters such as the budget, salaries and oil exports. UNAMI has offered its support to such negotiations, should it be requested by both sides.
Following the resignation letter of KR-I President Masoud Barzani on 29 October, the Regional Parliament passed a law temporarily redistributing his presidential powers among the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. It has laid a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of PM N. Barzani and his deputy Q. Talabani to find a way out of the political, economic and social crises of the region, to steer the course of Baghdad-Erbil relations out of confrontation. For that they will need support from all segments of the Kurdistani society and political forces, as the KRG works on solutions for the Baghdad-Erbil crisis.
UNAMI continues to engage with Iraqi political parties to advance national reconciliation and settlement, working together with the Government of Iraq to identify key priorities and deliverables over the forthcoming months in the run-up to next May’s national and provincial elections. Social reconciliation centred around the return of IDPs has now become a critical priority.
On 23 October a new Board of Commissioners for the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) was approved by the Council of Representatives. A major disappointment for Iraqi civil society and UNAMI has been that, for the first time, no women were appointed to the Board.
On 15 May 2018, both the Governorate Councils and the Council of Representatives elections are scheduled to take place in accordance with the Constitution – and the Constitution ought to be fully respected here, too. The elections will face a number of challenges, including the first time use of new voting technology, the holding of two simultaneous elections, a tight timeline, pending Provincial Council and Parliamentary elections laws, and security concerns, notably in the areas of returns of IDPs. I urge that these challenges are resolutely addressed in the months to come. Otherwise, holding elections when parts of Iraq remain insecure and large numbers of people, particularly from the Sunni communities, continue to be displaced could cast doubts over the inclusiveness and credibility of the elections and thus the acceptability of its results – both internally and abroad.
Humanitarian partners have reached more than six million Iraqis during this year, including two million impacted by military operations in Mosul. The Iraq Humanitarian Response Plan has received 71 percent of the USD 985 million required for 2017. We ask partners to continue their generous contributions to ensure that the people who have suffered most receive the assistance they need.
Through UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization more than 1,460 projects have either been completed, are under development or are being implemented in 23 liberated cities and districts in Anbar, Salah al Din, Diyala and Nineveh Governorates. More than 95 percent of all stabilization projects implemented under the Funding Facility are undertaken by the local private sector. We are committed to ensuring that the more than 200 projects underway in priority Christian and Yezidi towns are implemented as quickly as possible.
In the year ahead, UNDP estimates that USD 289 million is needed to stabilize priority locations in liberated areas and we are appealing to donor countries to step forward to provide these urgently needed resources. De-mining is a critical priority and UNMAS needs continuous support as well.
On the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, the Government of Iraq is fully cognisant of its international and humanitarian obligations relating to the file. Since assuming a proactive role last year, the Iraqi Ministry of Defence has made impressive efforts, including through exploration and excavation, to identify further grave sites.
The long-awaited ICRC Review Report was submitted to last week’s 45th Tripartite Committee meeting in Cyprus. It offers an exhaustive historical overview and technical assessment of all aspects of previous search efforts for burial sites, and makes concrete recommendations on prioritisation and further exploration of specific locations. Members of the Tripartite Commission will work together to translate the recommendations into a plan of action.
In November, Alice Walpole, my newly appointed Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs, has taken on this file in accordance with Resolution 2107. I would like to thank former Deputy Special Representative Gyorgy Busztin for his excellent w work, efforts and commitment to this file since the adoption of the resolution in 2013.