Friday, November 30, 2012

Iraq: UN envoy flags improved Kuwait links, with progress depending on ‘restoration of confidence’

UN - 29 November 2012 – Highlighting improvements in relations between Iraq and Kuwait, the United Nations top official in Iraq today said that progress will “depend on the restoration of confidence between both sides” and encouraged further momentum from the two countries.

In a briefing to the Security Council on the situation in the Middle Eastern country, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Martin Kobler, noted how, earlier this year, Iraq demonstrated renewed commitment to improving its bilateral relations with Kuwait, and how he had “stepped-up” engagement with the two countries to see how the UN could best help resolve any outstanding issues in accordance with relevant Council resolutions.

“In this context, I recently held high-level meetings in Iraq and Kuwait where I was encouraged by the strong commitment that both Prime Minister Maliki and the Amir of Kuwait expressed to normalizing relations between their two countries,” Mr. Kobler said. “I very much hope that they will now be able to move quickly and they can count on the UN in this regard.”

Relations between the two countries were affected by Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The following year, the Security Council established the UN Compensation Commission (UNCC), which settles the damage claims of those who suffered losses in the invasion.

So far, the amount of compensation disbursed by the UNCC totals $37.7 billion for more than 1.5 million successful claims of individuals, corporations, Governments and international organizations. Successful claims are paid with funds drawn from the UN Compensation Fund, which is funded by a percentage of the proceeds generated by the export sales of Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products.

In his remarks, Mr. Kobler appealed to the Government of Iraq to “continue to demonstrate the goodwill necessary to fulfil Iraq’s other outstanding obligations, in particular to missing persons and property.” He noted how its commitment to fulfil these obligations will be conducive to the normalisation of relations between the two countries.

“I equally call on the Government of Kuwait to continue to act in a spirit of flexibility and reciprocity as reflected earlier this year by the important reciprocal visits of the Amir in Baghdad and Prime Minister Maliki in Kuwait,” he said, adding that he remains fully committed to working with both Governments to resolve bilateral issues, at their request.

In his briefing, in addition to a range of other issues related to Iraq, the envoy also addressed the situation affecting Iranian exiles located in a camp outside of the capital, Baghdad, urging the international community to come forward with offers for their resettlement.

“I wish to emphasize that Camp Liberty was only meant to be an interim facility to facilitate the Refugee Status Determination and subsequent resettlement in third countries,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Martin Kobler, told a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle Eastern country.

“I should like to take this opportunity to reiterate the Secretary-General’s appeal to Member States to offer resettlement opportunities to former residents of Camp Ashraf – without such an undertaking, there can be no sustainable solution for the residents,” he added.

In line with a memorandum of understanding signed in December by the UN and the Iraqi Government to resolve the situation, more than 3,100 of the 3,280 residents originally in Camp Ashraf – now also known as Camp New Iraq – have been re-located to a temporary transit location near Baghdad, known as Camp Hurriya – and formerly known as Camp Liberty – where a process to determine refugee status is being carried out by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). There are 100 residents left in Camp Ashraf.

The issue of Camp Ashraf – located in eastern Iraq and once made up of several thousand Iranian exiles, many of them members of a group known as the People’s Mojahedeen of Iran – has been one of the main issues dealt with by UNAMI for more than a year.

“The Government of Iraq insists to close Camp Ashraf in the next days,” Mr. Kobler said. “It requested the last 100 residents be relocated to Camp Hurriya.”

He noted that UNAMI has spared no effort over the last weeks to help facilitate meetings between involved parties – however, these efforts have been unsuccessful so far, leading to a stalemate.

“The Government of Iraq considers this stalemate as an attempt by the residents to delay the relocation of the remaining 100 persons,” Mr. Kobler said. “The Government of Iraq’s patience is, therefore, wearing thin. I call on the residents of Ashraf to cooperate with the Government of Iraq to solve all outstanding questions related to property.”

The envoy also called on the Government of Iraq to maintain the peaceful relocation of the residents as stipulated in the memorandum of understanding, to demonstrate restraint, and be as flexible as possible when it comes to resolving property-related issues.

In addition, he noted that UN staff who monitor the human rights and humanitarian situation of the residents of Camp Hurriya on a daily basis are often denied access to certain areas of the site which “hinders the performance of their duties.”

“I urge the residents to engage constructively with the Government of Iraq and the United Nations so that Camp Ashraf can be closed peacefully and efforts can focus on the residents’ resettlement to third countries,” he added.