Iraq

Press Conference by Special Adviser on Iraq Compact on Sharm el-Seikh talks

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More than 70 delegations, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and the Arab Development Bank had participated in officially launching the implementation phase of the International Compact with Iraq following a nearly year-long preparatory process, Ibrahim Gambari, the Special Adviser on the International Compact with Iraq and Other Political Issues, said at a Headquarters press conference today.

Briefing correspondents on the outcome of Friday's Sharm el-Sheikh talks in support of Iraq, Mr. Gambari said that, while those delegations, one third of which had been represented at the ministerial level, had participated in the event to endorse the Compact, thereby illustrating their commitment to helping the Iraqi people, the Compact was not a free ride. The development initiative, formally announced on 27 July 2006, was a partnership aimed at consolidating peace and pursuing violence-torn Iraq's political, economic and social development over the next five years.

The meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, had been the culmination of a strong commitment to develop the mechanism, which sought to help Iraq achieve its national vision, Mr. Gambari said. As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had noted at the end of the meeting, the Compact meeting had demonstrated broad support for helping the people and Government of Iraq overcome current challenges. The Compact encompassed that Government's commitment to pursue a programme of economic, political and security reforms, as well as a strong pledge to continue to promote national reconciliation. In turn, the international community had agreed to help the country achieve those goals.

Noting that several countries had announced commitments, either at the meeting or during the lead-up to the launch event, Mr. Gambari said those pledges could potentially translate into $30 billion in debt relief and new assistance. Nonetheless, negotiations were continuing on the final details of some of the commitments. During the implementation phase, Compact participants would meet periodically to review progress and adjust priorities if necessary. The Compact's secretariat, to be announced shortly, would be located in the office of Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih in order to help ensure coordination, follow-up and monitoring.

The Special Adviser stressed that a stable and prosperous Iraq required full involvement and engagement by the international community. A peaceful, prosperous and unified Iraq was not only good for the Iraqis, but also for its neighbours and the international community as a whole, as Secretary-General Ban had pointed out. He had also said the international community and the United Nations could not leave Iraq alone to confront the enormous challenges it faced. In particular, Iraq's neighbours and regional countries must continue working together to help build a peaceful, unified and prosperous Iraq.

Responding to several questions about the breakdown of the $30 billion in commitments, the Special Adviser said the United States and the United Kingdom had announced $10.7 billion and $400 million, respectively, in additional aid, while the Republic of Korea had pledged $200 million, Denmark $35 million, Spain $22 million and Australia 28 million Australian dollars, all in new money. Iran had announced a pledge of $10 million in grants and about $1 billion in loans.

Regarding debt, he said Iraq was carrying out negotiations with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bulgaria. Those countries were generally saying they would go along with the Paris Club terms, which meant debt forgiveness and 80 per cent debt relief.

As for meeting the benchmarks, he said in reply to another question that the Iraqis were committed to that goal. The Compact provided for a joint monitoring matrix, and it had been agreed in the resolution adopted at Sharm el-Sheikh that there would be a period of reviews to see the extent to which the Iraqis and the international community were meeting their respective commitments. The Iraqi Government had in place legislation concerning the constitutional review process and revenue sharing, all aimed at promoting national reconciliation.

The Compact was built on three pillars, he explained in response to another question: the political pillar included national reconciliation; the security pillar included a commitment to reduce violence; and the economic pillar included economic reform. In turn, the international community would honour its commitment to debt relief, assistance and capacity-building. The framework was to have the joint monitoring matrix and periodic meetings review how far each side had gone towards fulfilling their respective parts.

Asked how the Compact could be implemented without improvement in the security situation, he advised correspondents not to underestimate the political situation, which would also affect security and reduce the level of violence. Economic reform and meeting basic needs were also part and parcel of the Compact.

In response to another question, he said the Saudi-Iraqi relationship was very complicated, for well-known reasons. There were elements of the debt that must be reconciled because the Saudis had one sense of how much was owed while the Iraqis had a slightly different sense. There were also official debts and those owed to private individuals. The Saudis had invited the Special Adviser and the Central Bank of Iraq to a meeting in order to promote reconciliation of issues over which there were differences of opinion.

Responding to another question, he said he was not aware that one of Iran's loans had been rejected because the interest rate was too high. That would be followed up by the Iraqis and Iranians.

To a question about refugees, he replied that the more the Iraqis could do on their own, and with international assistance, to deal with the return of refugees the more confidence there would be that they were moving in the direction of stabilization and normalization.

In response to a further query, he said the European Union was committed to financing establishment of the Compact's secretariat, though a question remained as to whether it would stand alone or be combined with the secretariat for the Iraq Reconciliation Fund. Consultations were leaning in the direction of a stand-alone secretariat.

He said all kinds of figures had been reported on the size of Iraq's debt, but $50 billion-plus was the most common. That was "not so bad" if there was a commitment to debt relief plus new money in the range of $30 billion.

Asked about investment before security improved, he said, "There are two possibilities: you can wait until everything is perfect before you come in, or you can try to encourage the Government of Iraq to honour their own commitment on all the aspects, which, in our view, will also contribute to the security situation and lower the level of violence."

Getting both the Iraqis and the international community to honour their commitments would contribute significantly to reducing the violence, he said. The world could not wait and the neighbours did not want to wait until everything was perfect on the security front before helping the people of Iraq, including the refugees and the internally displaced. Strict implementation of the Compact could very well help to address the security situation.

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