During his visit to Baghdad, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and other Senior Iraqi leaders. Mr. Ki-moon described his meetings as important and fruitful. He discussed with Mr. Al Maliki the latest developments in Iraq and explored with him the different ways the United Nations can become more effective in conducting its duties and obligations in Iraq.
The United Nations Secretary-General said that his visit to Baghdad as the first stop of his regional tour emphasizes Iraq's place on the United Nations list of priorities. He noted that although the United Nations has been extensively engaged with Iraq on a variety of critical issues for many years, today's visit reaffirms the position of the UN, Iraq and the nternational Community on the need for more active engagement for the UN in Iraq.
During his meetings with Mr. Al-Maliki and other Senior Iraqi leaders SG Ban Ki-moon stressed the need for an all-inclusive political and reconciliation process to bring down the level of violence, sectarian tensions and improve security and the human rights situation in Iraq.
He also noted that the United Nations is cochairing the International compact for Iraq (ICI) with the Government of Iraq. He said, "I co-chaired with Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi the ICI meeting, which was held Friday on 16 March at New York Headquarters." He added that the United Nations was encouraged that more than 30 different delegations representing the Member States and international institutions expressed unreserved support for the Compact, and noted the meeting set the end of April as a possible time to launch the ICI.
SG Ban Ki-Moon assured the Iraqi people that the United Nations' commitment to Iraq and the people of Iraq is unwavering and long term.
He earlier visited the headquarters of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) where he spoke with UN staff members, both international and national. He also laid a wreath at the monument for UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello who, along with 21 others, was killed in the terrorist bombing of UN headquarters in Iraq on 19 August 2003.
The one-day trip to Baghdad is the first to Iraq by a UN Secretary-General since Mr. Ban's predecessor Kofi Annan visited the strife-torn capital in November 2005.
SG Ban Ki-Moon opening remarks to meeting on the International Compact with Iraq (ICI)
Some 100 delegations from Member States, humanitarian agencies and regional organizations gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 16 March 2007 to attend a meeting on the International Compact with Iraq (ICI). The Compact which is co-chaired by the Iraqi Government and United Nations is a long-term initiative for Iraq that aims to consolidate peace and pursue political, economic and social development over the next five years.
Following is the opening remarks by SG Ban Ki-moon before the meeting :
I thank you all for attending this meeting and for your commitment to the International Compact with Iraq.
The preparatory process for the Compact has been under way in Baghdad since July 2006. This process, which included two high-level meetings in Kuwait and Abu Dhabi, has brought together the Government of Iraq and the international community in an effort to develop a mechanism that would help Iraq to realize its national vision.
As you know, a small support group was established to support the preparatory process. But it has always been ourintention - and that of the Government of Iraq - to expand the group in due course. Today's meeting offers an opportunity to bring the larger international community together to consider how best to support the people of Iraq under the Compact.
I am pleased that His Excellency, Mr. Adel Abdul Mahdi, Vice- President of Iraq, is here today to inform us about the latest developments in Iraq and, in particular, about the progress that has been made in the preparatory process for the Compact.
We are all aware of the difficult situation in Iraq. It is heart-wrenching to see almost daily attacks on innocent civilians, which have left immense suffering and pain in their wake. Beyond the political violence and sectarian strife, a humanitarian crisis is stretching the patience and ability of ordinary people to cope with everyday life. The United Nations is now strengthening its humanitarian efforts, and working with Iraq's neighbours and other countries in the region, to address the increasing needs of those who have left Iraq temporarily, those displaced inside the country and those suffering from diminishing access to basic public services.
Given these circumstances, some may question why a Compact would be necessary or appropriate. I understand these concerns. However, a framework for normalization is required now more than ever.
I am also aware of the view that there is a multitude of initiatives on Iraq which have yet to yield tangible results. Certainly, there is a need to streamline and consolidate these initiatives, and to concentrate on achievable goals. But unlike the other initiatives, the Compact focuses on Iraq's long-term economic development, while also stressing progress in the political and security fields, through a mutually re-enforcing relationship.
The Compact aims to achieve its objectives in two ways: First, a "national compact" among Iraqis on the necessary security and political steps would be agreed upon. These steps are prerequisites for the normalization of the situation in Iraq and for the revitalization of the economy. Second, an "international compact" between Iraq and its partners would set out the Government of Iraq's agenda for the next five years with regard to economic and social reform. This shared vision and mutual commitment would allow the international community to channel support in accordance with the priorities decided upon by Iraqis themselves.
The Compact should be seen as a tool for unlocking Iraq's own potential. It seeks to achieve concrete results in the areas of public sector resource management, institution building and human development, in line with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. It also emphasizes a more holistic approach to energy management. Toward that end, the Government's recent efforts to adopt new oil and gas legislation are encouraging. Indeed, a viable arrangement to share the nation's oil wealth and natural resources can also help build much-needed trust and confidence among Iraqi communities.
There has also been welcome progress in adopting other key legislative acts. But these may not achieve their full and positive impact unless the same consensus is also expressed in the Iraqi Constitution. This makes a genuine and meaningful constitutional review process all the more important.
Above all, it is essential that all Iraqi communities come together in a spirit of dialogue to find lasting solutions. As they do so, they should be able to count on the active support of Iraq's neighbours and the international community. The Compact is an important framework for fulfilling precisely those shared responsibilities towards Iraq and its people.
The United Nations is committed to supporting the implementation of the Compact. Through my good offices, and those of my Special Representative in Iraq, Mr. Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, the United Nations will make every effort to ensure that the international community remains engaged in this process.
I have appointed Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, who is well known to you all, as my Special Advisor on the International Compact with Iraq and Other Political Issues, to succeed Mr. Mark Malloch Brown as Co-Chair of the Compact. He will be in active contact with all concerned to move this process forward and to ensure its success.
The challenges ahead are immense. I am sure you will all agree that we cannot leave Iraq on its own to cope with them. The International Compact is intended to help the Government to build a secure, unified, federal and democratic nation, founded on the principles of freedom and equality, capable of providing peace and prosperity for all its people.
A positive political progress and a reduction of violence are essential preconditions for the success of this initiative. I call on the parties to work towards this goal. And to maintain the momentum generated by this meeting itself, I encourage the Government of Iraq to agree on the date and venue for the launch of the International Compact.
Thank you again for attending this meeting. I am hopeful that, through our concerted efforts, we can help to build a country at peace with itself, with its neighbours, and with the wider international community."
SRSG Qazi briefs SC and stresses need to transform Iraq into theatre of peace and reconstruction
Calling on the Iraqi Government to do more to inspire its citizens' confidence in a promising agenda of political reforms, and urging neighbouring countries to do their part to help restore stability, the senior United Nations envoy to Iraq told the Security Council today that the war-torn country must be transformed from a theatre of conflict to theatre of peace and reconstruction.
To re-establish an acceptable level of security in Baghdad and the wider Iraq, there must be simultaneous progress on the political front," Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for that country said in an open briefing that was also addressed by Adil Abdal Mahdi, the Vice-President of Iraq.
He said the Government of Iraq must take all necessary measures to ensure that all its citizens perceived its actions to be on their behalf and in their interest. Only then would security operations help bring the Iraqi people together. Previous plans, initiatives and statements had not resulted in tangible and sustained improvements for the long-suffering citizens, and conditions must be created for the emergence of an inclusive and participatory political process.
Describing the ever-present menace of political, sectarian and criminal violence that "reflected the grim reality of life in Iraq", he warned of the danger that would be posed by any additional conflicts in the already volatile Middle East. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had called on regional and international Powers not to use the country as a venue to wage their conflicts, and the United Nations was determined to encourage neighbouring States to develop a sustained and constructive dialogue to minimize the prospect of Iraq's tragedy being exacerbated by the wider problems of the region.
United States Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, reporting on behalf of the Multinational Force-Iraq, said that, despite the sobering scale of violent attacks, the Iraqi Government and people continued to pursue their political and economic development and security goals. Towards that end, the Council of Representatives had passed a law in January that established an Independent Higher Election Commission -- a key step in preparing for provincial elections. Late last month, the Council of Ministers had approved the draft hydrocarbon law that, together with complementary legislation, would ensure national control and equitable distribution of Iraq's oil wealth.
In response to the ongoing attacks in Baghdad, he said the Prime Minister Maliki had announced -- and the Council of Representatives had approved -- the Baghdad Security Plan to renew efforts by the Iraqi security forces to lead operations and secure the capital against insurgents and militias. That Plan included the commitment of elements from nine additional Iraqi army battalions to the operation. Announcing a "New Way Forward" on 10 January, United States President George W. Bush had committed an additional 21,500 troops to the Iraqi-led effort, with 4,400 committed in early March.
He said the Iraqi Government remained engaged in efforts to build positive relations with its neighbours. Over the last three months, Syria and Iraq had reopened their embassies in each other's capitals and Iraq had re-established its embassy in Saudi Arabia. The Iraqi Government had also invited Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as well as Bahrain, Egypt, the five permanent Security Council members and the United Nations to a meeting in Baghdad on 10 March, where all attendees had announced their support for the country's security and stability.
"The birth of a new Iraq can only happen with the support of neighbouring countries," said Mr. Adbal Madi, who is in New York ahead of an international conference tomorrow to update United Nations Member States, donors and others on the five-year plan known as the International Compact with Iraq. Bilateral and multilateral meetings over the past month had succeeded in bringing the country and its neighbours together, and had borne much fruit.
Such meetings could discourage outside interference in Iraq's domestic affairs, while proving that the country was able to help its neighbours engage in dialogue, thus helping to reduce regional tensions and prevent an upsurge in violence. For its part, Iraq's national unity Government had set its sights on re-establishing security and rebuilding the political structure and economy. Hopefully, 2007 would prove a decisive year in completing he reorganization of the Iraqi State and promoting international partnership towards the achievement of peace.
Turning to the subject of internally displaced persons, he said the Baghdad Security Plan took into account the need to guarantee their security, so they could return home. According to the International Organization for Migration and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), some 2 million Iraqi refugees could be found in Jordan and Syria. A joint commission involving Iraq and other countries interested in resolving that problem would be created as a result of the 10 March meeting.
Iraq was fully aware of the burden borne by its two "brother countries", but hoped they would treat the refugees in accordance with international humanitarian law. Iraq also hoped those refugees would be given legal residency and other assistance, while awaiting their return home. He welcomed UNHCR's announcement of an international conference on this matter on 17 and 18 April.