Iraq: SRSG Ad Melkert concludes two day visit to Kirkuk and reiterates UN commitment to aid the resolution of land and property disputes

Baghdad-14 January 2010 -The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG) Ad Melkert concluded yesterday a two day visit to the Kirkuk governorate and Laylan sub-district. During his visit, Mr. Melkert attended a meeting of the newly formed committee for the resolution of property and land disputes in Kirkuk. The committee members aired their expressed frustration with the slow pace to date of land and property cases, particularly resolution of agricultural contracts and land ownership. They told the SRSG that they believed that those in authority are neglecting the urgent need to address this file.

Mr. Melkert said that the UN was pleased to hear about the committee's given priority to the evacuation of public school buildings, and the resolution of agricultural and land contract issues. He underlined the importance of action on the basis of consensus and inclusivity to advance resolution of these issues. He also encouraged the committee to take the needed steps, and reaffirmed UNAMI's continued commitment to provide technical expertise and to assist with securing additional financial resources to help resolve some of these claims. He noted that UNAMI, with the expertise of IOM, presented last year a report with recommendations for resolving land and property disputes which was recently adopted by the Kirkuk provincial council.

On Tuesday, 12 January, the SRSG had traveled to the Laylan sub-district, a Kurdish, Arab and Turkman community in the southeastern part of the governorate, where he met with Council members and listened to their concerns related to the resolution of outstanding issues. The visit provided him with insights into the challenges local administrators face, as well as insights into the cohesiveness and harmony that exist within Kirkuk among the different ethnic communities at the local level.

At the conclusion of his visit, the SRSG said, "While the country is preparing for the significant political events in the coming months, including the national elections, I am encouraged by the efforts at the local level to address the outstanding issues that have contributed to instability." He added, "Local level problem solving will continue to play a vital role in advancing relations between Iraq's various communities as we have seen in Laylan."