A national conference bringing together the various factions in Iraq could help promote stability, but any initiative in this direction would require international support, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.
Mr. Annan, who spoke yesterday with members of the United States Iraq Study Group, was asked during a press encounter today in New York whether the UN would assume a security role in the troubled country.
“Obviously, we have to wait for their report, but the UN, as you know, has played a role in the past – in the elections, the referendum, the constitutional review, and reconciliation efforts,” he replied.
“We can play a role, but of course the security is a major constraint,” he said. “If one were to work out an arrangement where one can get all the Iraqi political parties together, somewhere outside Iraq as we did in Afghanistan, the UN can play the role it normally plays.”
In November, 2001, the UN led mediation efforts bringing Afghan parties together in Bonn, Germany, where they reached an agreement that paved the way for nationwide elections and improved stability.
For Iraq, the Secretary-General said it would “at some stage… be helpful to have a conference that brings everybody together” but cautioned that “we need to work slowly to get there.”
No such conference could be organized “without other specific actions being taken,” he said. “And of course the Iraqi leaders will have to understand that they need to come together to make compromises to resolve their differences.”
At the same time, he emphasized the need for outside support. “I do not believe, given the bitterness and the level of violence, that they can do it alone. The international community has to help them do it and work with them.”
Asked about the involvement of Syria and Iran, Mr. Annan reiterated his position that the two countries have a role to play. “They should become part of the solution, and we should bring them in and get them to work with us in resolving the issue, and let them assume some of the responsibility,” he said.