Briefing to the Security Council by SRSG for Iraq Ján Kubiš; New York, 2 February 2017 [EN/AR]

Report
from UN Assistance Mission for Iraq
Published on 02 Feb 2017

Mr. President,

Distinguished Security Council members,

I have the honour to present the second report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 7 of resolution 2299 (2016), as well as the thirteenth report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 4 of resolution 2107 (2013) on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and property.

Mr. President,

Let me start with applauding the bravery of the Iraqi Security Forces, including the Popular Mobilization Forces, the Peshmerga, and the tribal volunteers, as well as the endurance of the Iraqi people. Three months after the Mosul military operation started, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared on 24 January that combat operations in the eastern part of Mosul had come to an end.

This steady progress should not conceal that fighting has been and will be a massive challenge, in particular inside the old city in western Mosul. The Iraqi forces, with significant support from its international partners, especially the US, will remain engaged in complex urban operations. Yet, in the rather short foreseeable future, the liberation operations in Iraq are coming to an end - the days of the so-called ISIL are counted. I take this opportunity to honour the martyrs who have sacrificed their lives in the fight against the international terrorists of ISIL, for a free and united Iraq and in defence of human values shared by the world, as strong allies of the US and the international anti-ISIL coalition.

Mr. President,

The recent executive order of the new US Administration on the temporary halt of immigration has been met in Iraq with regret and astonishment. During a press conference on 31 January, Prime Minister al-Abadi labelled the decision as offensive and noted that the Government of Iraq has studied several options on how to respond, but that Baghdad would not take reciprocal measures. He expressed hopes that the Iraq-US Strategic Framework Agreement would continue to be implemented, and assured that fighting terrorism would remain a strategic priority for Iraq. He also recalled the shared economic interest and called upon the US Administration to reconsider the decision. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that this decision towards Iraq, an allied State, that has a strategic partnership with the US, was unfortunate. It urged the US to reconsider this decision and stressed the Iraqis’ willingness to strengthen and develop the strategic partnership between both countries, and increase the prospects for cooperation in countering terrorism and in the economic field.

Mr. President,

In the post-Da’esh period, Iraq will need continuous, substantial and sustainable support and assistance from the international community, including its regional partners. Any abrupt scaling-down of engagement or support would mean repeating mistakes of the past - mistakes that have had grave consequencesforstability and security, well beyond the borders of Iraq, even globally.

Mr. President,

The humanitarian consequences of the ongoing fighting are serious with many casualties on both military and civilian sides. The so-called ISIL has been deliberately targeting civilians who are attempting to flee its areas of control, indiscriminately shelling civilians in liberated areas, exploiting civilians as human shields and deliberately stationing itself in and near hospitals and schools.

The Humanitarian Concept of Operations adopted by the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi Security Forces, including the Popular Mobilization Forces, prioritises the protection of civilians in an unprecedented manner in both the planning and the conduct of the military operations, based on the lessons learned from mistakes of the previous liberation operations. The conduct of all security forces during the liberation operations has mitigated much – but not all – of the fear that existed among the population prior to the operation.

I note that UNAMI has received no evidence of any systematic or widespread violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law on the part of the security forces. However, criminal acts against civilians and prisoners of warstill regrettably happen. Mostly, they are quickly investigated with measures taken to prevent such acts in the future.

In this regard, I applaud the Prime Minister’sswift action in ordering an inquiry after a video was published online recently which purportedly showed members of the Iraqi Security Forces and forces operating in support of the ISF abusing and mistreating captured ISIL fighters.

I urge the Government to deal with such issues with the necessary transparency so as to instil confidence that no violation will remain unanswered. Here, I would like to recall the alleged disappearance of hundreds of civilians in the context of the liberation of Falluja last June, particularly in Saqlawiyah, and that an investigation committee was established by the Prime Minister. I urge the authorities to make public the findings of this committee as well as of other inquiries that have been instituted into such incidents.

I further observe that the security screening of civilians leaving areas controlled by Da’esh appears to be conducted in a transparent manner and in general observance of international standards. I however express my concern over disturbing reports of looting and destruction of civilian property, and looting of humanitarian aid by armed groups operating in support of the Iraqi Security Forces, in particular by some local resistance groups. It remains essential that the Government of Iraq, and, whenever necessary, in cooperation with Kurdistan Regional Government Peshmerga forces, ensures security and acts to restore rule of law in all liberated areas with a particular attention to minorities. The protection of civilians, the avoidance of steps that could incite sectarian tensions, and the prevention of revenge attacks in Mosul, but also in other liberated areas of the country, are of vital importance for winning the hearts and minds of the population. They constitute first steps in the process of national and community-based reconciliation, in building a new and truly unified Iraq in which all its people will feel as equal citizens, under fair treatment and the protection of the State. I urge the Iraqi authorities and all forces engaged in the liberation operations to continue their forthcoming military campaigns in the same spirit, to respect and uphold the cardinal principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution for the civilians, and justice for the victims.

Mr. President,

I take note of the recent adoption of the Popular Mobilisation Commission Law by the Iraqi Council of Representatives, which provides a legal framework for, and command and control of the fighters under the Popular Mobilization Forces. It also ensures that military codes and regulations apply to all armed elements in Iraq. The implementation of the law will gradually separate these forces from unlawful militias and other armed groups. While the Law was adopted against the will of the Sunni component, the subsequent steps included the adoption of the budget for 2017, to which Sunni lawmakers expressed their support. The budget also apportioned financial means for the Sunni parts of the Popular Mobilization Forces. On 30 December 2016, Prime Minister al-Abadi decided to absorb local fighters from the Ninawa Guards into the Popular Mobilization Forces.

I further take note of the conviction by the Iraqi Central Criminal Court of 47 members of the Popular Mobilization Forces for crimes committed during the course of military operations as well as for common crimes.

Mr. President,

I deplore the continued cowardly terrorist attacks by Da’esh, targeting civilians in many parts of the country that have increased since the beginning of the year. On New Year’s Eve, two suicide bombers attacked civiliansin a predominantly Shi’a area in Baghdad, killing at least 28 people. The next day an attack on a police checkpoint in Najaf governorate killed seven persons. On 2 January, the Shi’a-prevalent neighbourhood of Sadr City, Baghdad, suffered a vehicle bomb attack which killed at least 24 people and injured another 60 persons. These desperate attempts to sow terror and discord have not only magnified citizens’ security concerns and the urgent need for the Government to take more effective measures to prevent terrorism, but have also raised the urgency of defeating Da’esh.

As more areas become accessible as a result of the progressing military operations, I would like to emphasize the importance of sufficient security arrangements as well as clear and effective governance for the peaceful reintegration and interaction among all groups of the population in Ninawa governorate, including ethnic and religious minorities. The return of displaced persons holds the key to rebuilding Iraq’s societal fabric and it is part of the national and community-based reconciliation and healing process. The rehabilitation of infrastructure, provision of essential services, functional schools, and employment opportunities are equally important to restore confidence in the Government of Iraq and the local authorities, and to rebuild a future united Iraq.

In line with the Prime Minister’s decision to rely on existing governance structures and local police forces, to the extent possible, and his commitment to mobilise and provide the necessary assistance from the Government of Iraq and itsline ministries, I welcome the return of the Provincial Council Members and the Governor to Ninawa governorate in the town of Bartalla, which is located east of Mosul. Thisis a clearsign of the improved security situation in the area and it will facilitate the much needed provision of services to the population. The UN in Iraq, through UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization, has prepositioned 40 million US dollars worth of power, water, and health equipment and technicians which are being deployed into eastern Mosul. Already, 25 separate stabilization projects have been approved for the liberated areas in eastern Mosul.

Another piece of good newsisthat more than 70 schools have been reopened, many with assistance from UNICEF and its partners (after being closed for two years) in liberated areas of Mosul and other freed areas of the governorate. Access to education, extra-curricular activities and specialized child protection services offer children, who have been deprived of this for a long time, an opportunity to start recovering and gradually normalize their daily life. In addition to the children who have been affected by this, teachers also need long-term support to be able to help children rehabilitate and recover.

Mr. President,

The world will not forget the horrendous crimes committed by Da’esh. We stand in solidarity with the abducted, abused, and violated women and girls. The provision of justice to the victims of human rights abuses and violationsrequiresre-establishment of the formal justice system, the effective and efficient documentation of violations and abuses, and establishment of non-formal justice mechanisms such as truth telling, specialised care and rehabilitation programmes for women, and de-radicalisation programmes for children subjected to extremist indoctrination. There issimultaneously a need for broader intra- and inter-community dialogues around justice and human rights.

Attention should also be given to the requirements of ethnic and religious minorities, which have been disproportionately affected by the conflict. Since 2003 Iraq has lost more than half of its ethnic and religious minority population. It is my fear that without adequate response this process will continue even after the defeat of Da’esh. Special attention should therefore be paid to arrangements that address the specific security and other concerns of minorities to enable returns to their homes. Efforts should be focused in particular on the Ninawa Plains, Tal Afar and Sinjar, where a toxic brew of competing claims and feelings of revenge could plant the seeds of future conflict.

Mr. President,

As noted before this Council previously, there has been an unprecedented coordination and cooperation between the federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government during the planning and conduct of the Mosul military operation. However, cooperation pertaining to military operations only is not enough. I urge Baghdad and Erbil to use the positive momentum and extend their cooperation to also cover outstanding issues in the political, economic, and administrative field, including oil exports, revenue sharing, disputed boundaries, and the voluntary return of the internally displaced persons to their homes in line with humanitarian and human rights principles. The agreement in principle between Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi and President Barzani to engage in such dialogue shall be put into practice without further delay.

With regard to internal Kurdistan region of Iraq matters, I welcome the joint statement issued by the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan on 11 January, in which they commit to strengthen their cooperation, promote economic reforms, and address both the financial and the political crises in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Further inclusive consultations with other Iraqi Kurdistan political parties and civil society organisations are necessary, as unity within the Kurdistan region of Iraq could contribute to resolving outstanding Baghdad and Erbil key issues, redefining the basic parameters of cooperation between the central and regional authorities in the new post-Da’esh phase, and to advancing national settlement in Iraq.

Mr. President,

Over the past months, I have engaged with the leadership of the Iraqi National Alliance, the largest parliamentarian bloc, on the way forward in post-Da’esh Iraq. The National Alliance submitted its National Settlement Initiative to UNAMI on 30 October following its approval in various institutions of the National Alliance, namely the Leadership Council, the Political Council and the General Assembly. I welcome and support this encouraging move of the National Alliance.

UNAMI has been asked to provide its political good offices and to assist in the mobilisation of support for this Initiative and, in general, for a national settlement through facilitation, advice, support, and assistance in promoting and pursuing the objectives of a settlement at national, regional, and international levels. The National Alliance Initiative is a good starting point in this process and has already sparked a wave of interest within all components and segments of the Iraqi society, albeit with different reactions and discussions, sometimes rather critical. UNAMI is currently working with these groups, including the Sunni and Turkmen components, Kurdistan region of Iraq, civil society, minority communities, tribal leaders, and youth and women groups with the aim of soliciting their views and vision on how to build a post-ISIL united Iraq, based on the principles of equality and citizenship. I would like to encourage all Iraqi partners to engage constructively in this Iraqi-owned and led, and UN-facilitated, national settlement process that could turn a new page in the modern history of Iraq.

Let me emphasise that for national reconciliation to succeed, it must be supported by grassroots initiatives. I am therefore glad to announce that UNAMI has launched a series of events called “Iraq: youth and coexistence”. The first took place on 28 January in Basra where one hundred and twenty youth from the four southern governorates participated.

We have further been conducting a series of discussions named “Iraq after the conflict roundtable” with intellectuals, academia and civil society in several parts of Iraq, including Erbil, Fallujah and Karbala. I am glad to inform you that the next roundtable will take place tomorrow in Kirkuk. The UN, and notably UNDP, is further moving on with stabilization and community-based reconciliation efforts where, in distinct areas, access to formal and non-formal justice processes will be of paramount importance for social peace and coexistence. The mission is also engaged in consultation with a range of stakeholders, including civil society, law enforcement, the judiciary, and the Government of Iraq, on formal justice processes and criminal justice law reforms that promote respect for and the protection of international standards of due process and fair trial.

In this regard, and asIraq and the region are going through various security, political, humanitarian, and economic challenges, I am encouraged by the willingness expressed by all regional interlocutors to support the national settlement efforts, and I invite them and other international stakeholders to render any possible support for such a process. I look forward to be working with all partners on the way forward, in full coordination with the Government of Iraq, in order to facilitate the process and to clear away any obstacles that may emerge.

Mr. President,

Iraqi citizens continue to call for fair and equal treatment, transparent governance, and better service delivery. It remains essential that the Government of Iraq continues on the path of reforms and implements measures to diversify the economy, combat corruption and patronage, improve accountability, and develop more responsive governance. In this light I am encouraged by the announcement of the International Monetary Fund on 19 January that the Iraqi authorities have made good progress on implementing economic reforms under the IMF Stand-By Arrangement. However, a lot more needs to be done to guarantee equitable service delivery to the people of Iraq.

I call on the political blocs in the Parliament, civil society, and other stakeholders to cooperate with the Prime Minister to accelerate his Reform Agenda. Here, I am glad to note that the Council of Representatives, during the 30 January session, supported the Prime Minister’s proposed candidates for the positions of Minister of Defence and Minister of Interior. Swift action to agree on the selection and appointment of ministers for the remaining vacant posts, including Ministers of Trade, Industry, and Finance, is necessary. Meanwhile, abiding by the stipulations established at the 30 November Organisation of the Oil Producing Countries (OPEC) meeting, the Iraqi authorities have started to implement measures that aim to limit oil production in line with the agreed crude oil production levels. These measures aim to steady the oil prices in order to stabilise the Government’s revenue and provide an environment conducive to critical investments.

Mr. President,

Efforts have been done and progress has been made in strengthening the institutional framework for the protection of fundamental and human rights. The UN in Iraq continues to provide support to the Iraqi High Commission on Human Rights in order to build an institution that is more efficient and effective in delivering its mandate. The selection of a new Board of Commissioners is proceeding well, and it is hoped that the procedure will be completed very soon (end-February).

Mr. President,

I welcome the establishment of the Directorate for empowering Iraqi women as part of the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers, and the appointment of high-level focal points for conflict-related sexual violence in both Baghdad and Erbil, asis provided for by the recent Joint Communiqué on prevention and response to conflict-related sexual violence between Iraq and the UN. UNAMI is ready to work together with the new Directorate and the high-level focal points on the full range of issues, and has deployed a Senior Women Protection Advisor to support the federal Government and Kurdistan Regional Government with the implementation of the Joint Communiqué. After the collapse of the so-called Da’esh caliphate and the end of its barbaric treatment of women, effortsto change negative social norms, end harmful practices, and promote respect for the rights of women and girls will be more important than ever.

Mr. President,

Democratic and transparent governance and respect for the human rightsrequire an open society that allows for the full exercise of the fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and association and freedom of expression. I call upon the Iraqi authorities to refrain from imposing any obstaclesto public demonstrationsin Baghdad and other parts of the country, and to ensure the safety of the protestors.

I express my deep concern over violence committed against journalists, including abduction and murder. On 26 December, a well-known journalist, Ms. Afrah Shawqi, was abducted from her home by unidentified gunmen wearing military-style uniforms. Although she was subsequently released, the negative impact of such grave infringements on the freedom of the press is self-explanatory. Moreover, on 5 January the Iraqi police found the body of a journalist and lawyer who had gone missing a week earlier while travelling from Erbil to Baghdad. Occasionally, there are other reports of harassment of journalists. Such attacks are totally unacceptable, and I urge the authoritiesto investigate the cases and bring perpetrators to justice and to provide better protection to journalists, in full recognition of the fact that free media are one of the cornerstones of a functioning democracy.

Mr. President,

Lawmakers have continued to debate and adopt important pieces of legislation. The Supreme Judicial Council law was adopted on 12 January and the 2017 Federal Budget Law was passed in December 2016. Some pending laws such as on the distribution of oil revenues over oil producing and other governorates, health insurance, amendments to the Justice and Accountability Law, and human rights legislation are currently being tabled and debated in Parliament. I call on Iraqi representatives, in particular, to enact important pieces of human rights legislation, including the Components’ Rights law, which aims to prevent and prohibit discrimination on the base of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, and other distinctions, and the Domestic Violence Law, which seeks to protect women and children from sexual and gender based violence and conflict related sexual violence. Discussions on possible suggested amendments by the Council of Ministers to the General Amnesty Law of August 2016 are ongoing. I urge the Government of Iraq to provide full transparency on the implementation of the law, including the numbers of prisoners released and the specific grounds for their release, and to refrain from statements that associate criminal developments with the General Amnesty Law withoutsubstantiating such claims.

Mr. President,

After months of uncertainty regarding the timing of the Provincial Council elections in Iraq, Prime Minister al-Abadi announced on 17 January that Governorate and District Council elections were scheduled to be held on 16 September, this year. Now it is for the Council of Representatives to urgently put in place the appropriate legal and institutional framework for these elections. Let me note that the Council of Representativesis currently debating various electoral reform proposals, including the law on Governorates, Districts and Sub-Districts Council Elections.

A clear and comprehensive electoral legal framework is essential to enable preparations by the Independent High Electoral Commission. Additionally, I encourage the Government of Iraq to provide the requisite funding to the Commission to facilitate their regulatory and operational planning for the elections. Meanwhile, the Commission has made some progress in preparing for the elections, including through a continuous biometric update of the voters’ register, registration of Internally Displaced Persons, and the development of plans on improving its results management systems. The provision of adequate security for voters will enhance the credibility of the coming elections. UNAMI will continue to provide technical support to the Commission and other institutions as they prepare for these important events. Also, on 23 January, the Kurdistan Regional Government announced that the parliamentary and presidential elections shall be conducted on 11 November 2017.

Mr. President,

From direct monitoring by UNAMI, security screening by the ISF of civilians leaving ISIL controlled areas appears to be conducted transparently and in general observance of international standards. However, physical conditions of some detention and screening centres, such as those in the Qayyara and Shura subdistricts of Ninawa, remain poor and there is need for the Government of Iraq to ensure that these issues are addressed by continuing to provide adequate food, water, clothing, and other essentials. UNAMI has observed that most detainees held for security screening are held for a period of between three to five days, and are subsequently released back to their familiesin safe areas. Those that remain in custody are usually brought before an investigative judge within one or two days, and their cases are transferred either to courts in Ninawa or to the Central Criminal Court in Baghdad for charge and trial.

Mr. President,

I have already expressed my concern oversome reports of looting and destruction of civilian property by a number of armed groups operating in support of the ISF, in particular some local resistance groups from Ninawa. For instance, on 10 December 2016 a reliable source reported that the villages of Abu Jarbuah, Qara Tapah, Guari Garyban, and Bazwaya in the Bashiqa sub-district of Mosul district were systematically looted by members of a community based resistance group. In Kokjali area reliable sources reported that on 12 December 2016 another community based resistance group looted the houses of Sunni families. On 7 January, sources reported that civilians in the Qahirah neighbourhood of Mosul started looting houses in the area after the collapse of ISIL control. It is essential that the Government ensures security and acts to restore the rule of law in all areas retaken from ISIL, to ensure that such incidents do not occur and that the perpetrators of such any acts are dealt with according to law.

Mr. President,

The military operation in Mosul continues, and the contingency plan developed by the Government and humanitarian partners warned that in a worst case scenario, up to one million civilians could be impacted.

During the previous phase of the operation, an estimated 885,000 civilians have remained in their homes in the areas retaken by the Iraqi Security Forces. Nearly 190,000 people have been displaced since mid-October, far lessthan humanitariansfeared. Already, 30,000 of these people have returned to their homes, and more are doing so each day. Conditions in the liberated eastern suburbs are difficult, but markets are already beginning to reopen, the Government has restarted the Public Food Distribution System and public services are coming on line. Humanitarian partners have been providing substantial assistance in these areas, reaching 500,000 people, and will continue to do so as long as needed. More than 100 humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations are part of the Mosul humanitarian operation, including UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP, IOM, WHO, OCHA, FAO, UNFPA, and UNMAS. Partners are also providing a full package of assistance to displaced people who have sought safety in 13 emergency sites and camps. Already, eight of these sites are full. Construction of eight new sites is underway in preparation for the assault on the densely populated western sections of the city where 750,000 civilians are concentrated.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the crisis has been the extremely high percentage of civilian casualties. Nearly half of all trauma victims being treated in Erbil in the Kurdistan Region are civilians. Very worryingly, there is clear evidence from the pattern of gunshot wounds that civilians are being directly targeted by ISIL,shot at as they try to reach safety or secure food and household necessities. At present there are four stabilization points in eastern Mosul providing trauma care and referral services, and a 50-bed field hospital with a surgical theatre was set up in early January, 21 kilometres to the east of Mosul.

Mr. President,

There is no question that civilians will be at extreme risk when the fighting starts in the western sections of Mosul. All of the major commercial supply routes into the western neighbourhoods have been cut since late November. Prices of basic commodities are soaring and water and electricity supplies are intermittent. Although many families were able to stockpile food and household supplies, these are already starting to dwindle. Humanitarian partners are bracing for a variety of possible scenarios in the western sections, including a possible mass exodus, prolonged siege-like conditions, or a sequenced and managed evacuation by the Iraqi Security Forces.

Mr. President,

We are grateful to donor countries for the generous support they are providing to the Iraqi humanitarian operation. In 2016, the operation has been one of the highest funded in percentage terms in the world. Nearly 90 percent of last year’s Humanitarian Response Plan was funded and 97 percent of the flash appeal launched in July 2016 to prepare for Mosul was received. We are very worried that similar levels of funding may not be forthcoming this year. Although the military campaign to oust ISIL from Iraq is nearly won, the humanitarian crisis is expected to continue for months, if not years. In December, humanitarian partners presented an advance summary of the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan. At least USD 985 million is required this year to reach the 5.8 million most vulnerable Iraqis. Of this amount, USD 331 million is being sought specifically for the Mosul response. Principled humanitarian assistance will remain crucial after Mosul, Tal Afar, Hawija, and Ba’aj are retaken, and millions of Iraqi’sreturn home or remain in areasthey have moved to during the conflict. Providing support to help people restart their lives must be seen as one of the highest collective priorities of the international community.

Mr. President,

Already a lot is being done. Over 1.4 million displaced Iraqis have returned to their homes, including one million in the past 12 months. UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization is currently operational in 21 liberated towns and districts. Hundreds of thousands of people have returned to these cities. More than 360,000 people have returned to Ramadi, which was liberated a year ago in December, and nearly 300,000 have returned to Fallujah, liberated in July last year.

In preparation for the full liberation of Mosul, USD 40 million of equipment including electrical supplies, water equipment, municipal equipment, and health equipment have been pre-positioned. Engineers and technicians are being deployed into each of the city’s eight sub-districts as soon as they are liberated. In November and December, UNDP’s Facility started operations in areas retaken during the Mosul military campaign including Hamdaniya, Bashiqa, Bartala and Tal Kaif district. Electricity, water and sewage grids are being repaired, rubble is being removed, public infrastructure is being restored, businesses are being helped to open, and thousands of people in newly liberated areas are being employed to restore and rehabilitate their neighbourhoods. FAO isrejuvenating agricultural systems, UNHABITAT is helping to improve city planning and districting in cities destroyed by the conflict, and UNHCR and IOM are repairing damaged homes. UNMAS and mine action companies are surveying, clearing, and conducting risk education and awareness. Without this support, neither humanitarian operations, stabilization nor returns would be possible. Aware that mine action will be required for yearsin many liberated areas, UNMAS istraining local police officers from Ninawa, Anbar, Salah al-Din, and Diyala governorates as first responders to IED threats.

Mr. President,

Allow me to now turn to the thirteenth report of the Secretary-General on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country national and missing Kuwaiti property, including the National Archives.

I am glad to start on a positive note. The Government of Iraq has shown determination to pursue the important work of locating missing persons and to achieve results. Through the exceptional and proactive efforts of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence, the number of witnesses coming forward to give information has dramatically increased. Field visits and excavation works continue, both in Iraq and in Kuwait. Even with the weight of regional challenges, strong working relations and positive dynamics between the two countries have led to better cooperation, coordination, and a measure of confidence, which is invaluable in moving the process forward.

Separately, efforts in recovering Kuwait’s missing patrimony are ongoing. Over 6,000 Kuwaiti books have been located and itemised from the libraries of the Kufa and Babil Universities, and are being prepared for an official handover to Kuwait. In December in Hilla, the Iraqi security personnel seized what is believed to be an ancient manuscriptstolen from the Kuwait Museum. This gives all of us hope that a correct approach backed by determined efforts can lead to the discovery of the remainder of Kuwaiti property, in particular the National Archives.

Mr. President,

This month, on 28 February, we will mark 26 years since the end of the First Gulf War. Unfortunately, until this day and regardless of its efforts and determination, the Government of Iraq has yet to fully realize its obligation in addressing the human cost of that conflict and provide answers to the families of the missing.

Time is not on our side. Its passage makes locating burial sites all the more difficult. We owe it to the families of the deceased to continue supporting Iraq in this humanitarian process and to continue employing a multidimensional and innovative approach which is necessary for Iraq to honour and fulfil its international obligations under this file.

Thank you for your attention.