The top United Nations envoy to Iraq said the country has the potential to not only overcome its challenges but flourish, while adding that much will depend on a number of key priorities, including an improvement in the daily lives of its people and defusing existing tensions.
“The future looks moderately bright and there is growing hope,” Staffan de Mistura told the Security Council today in his final briefing as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq and head of the UN Assistance Mission there (UNAMI).
“If the Iraqis can avoid or defuse tensions, if they are capable of seeing changes in their daily lives through sustainable security gains, delivery of basic services and more political inclusiveness, all of which are realistic goals, then Iraq will flourish,” he stated.
Mr. de Mistura said that as he wraps up his 18-month assignment in Iraq, he is proud of what the Mission has achieved, as well as by its joint successes with the Iraqis.
“We have together helped to turn the page on how the Iraqis view us, the Organization, the international community, and their leaders,” he said. “And we have contributed to Iraq assuming a new standing among the world community as an increasingly stable and sovereign nation.”
He said the past two years have seen the Iraqis “progressively fatigued” over civil strife, slowly shedding sectarian divisions, seeking reconciliation and turning up at the polls. In addition, it is building “credible and independent” institutions, including a functioning cabinet, a reliable Parliament, an experienced Electoral Commission and an increasingly capable security force.
“The Iraqi people have shown remarkable resilience,” he stated. “Iraqis are now more than ever able to determine the course of events in their own country.”
This is despite violent attacks against innocent civilians, which he said should be viewed as “attempts by isolated elements or groups trying to produce a feeling of insecurity.”
Mr. de Mistura noted that 2009 is a defining period as Iraq looks to possible future electoral events, including national elections, with the UN continuing to provide support for capacity building.
Calling elections UNAMI’s “flagship” programme, he pointed out that with the successful provincial elections in January of this year, the Mission has worked with Iraqis to produce four major electoral events since 2005.
In his recent report on Iraq, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that the successful and mostly peaceful polls earlier this year and an agreement on a new Speaker of Parliament are among the “encouraging signs of progress” Iraq has witnessed in recent months.
At the same time, he warned that many obstacles remain, with national reconciliation still the main priority for the country.
Mr. de Mistura highlighted some additional priorities, including the delivery of basic services, dialogue between the Iraqi Government and the Northern Region of Kurdistan (KRG) leading to defusing tensions in Kirkuk and other disputed areas, preparations for upcoming elections, assistance for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), and economic recovery.
In a statement read out at the end of the meeting by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey, which holds the rotating Council presidency for June, the Council underscored UNAMI’s important role in supporting the Iraqi people and Government to promote dialogue, ease tension, and develop a just and fair solution for the nation’s disputed internal boundaries.