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Remarks on the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Remarks to the media following a Security Council Stakeout
New York City
August 7, 2007

USUN PRESS RELEASE #190

Ambassador Khalilzad: Good morning, (inaudible), today the co-sponsors, the United States and the United Kingdom have circulated a draft resolution on UNAMI extending its mandate for another year and updating and expanding the role of the United Nations with regard to Iraq. As you know, ever since I’ve been here I have been saying that the situation in Iraq is important, not only for determining the future of Iraq, a very important country in its own right and for its own people, but it’s also very important for the future of the region of the Middle East. And that the future of that region is the defining geopolitical challenge of our time. And therefore the UN needs to play an enhanced role in helping Iraqis overcome the difficulties that they have at the present time. And the big challenges that Iraq face are one: as a result of internal disagreements with regard to political and economic sharing of power. And therefore there is a need for Iraqis to come to a national compact, an agreement among themselves. And that the UN can, given its comparative advantage, play a role in facilitating and helping Iraqis get to that goal. And second: that there is a regional dimension to the problems of Iraq and that the UN can also facilitate agreement, cooperation, among regional states in support of Iraqi reconciliation. I believe that one of the sources of conflict in Iraq is regional, the disagreement among neighbors with regard to Iraq. The interference by some of the neighbors in ways that are unhelpful to the situation in Iraq. And thirdly, of course, is that the situation in Iraq as I described is causing humanitarian difficulties and refugees, and therefore that’s also appropriate for the international community through the UN to help look after those refugees and deal with the humanitarian issues and to assist with the return of those refugees. I believe that the draft resolution is a balanced resolution. We had a discussion on it, I believe that this resolution will be supported, we’ve had expert level talks already and we have taken the views of our colleagues into account. We have had consultations with the UN Secretariat and we have taken their views into account. And we have consulted with Prime Minister Maliki in the last 24 hours and the resolution also takes of course the views of the Iraqi government into account. I believe that we are well on our way to the adoption of the resolution this Thursday.

Reporter:

Ambassador, do you believe that with the adoption of this resolution that the UN should be prepared to really sort of swallow hard and take some greater risks in terms of moving throughout the country to deliver humanitarian aid, greater risks than they’ve wanted to take since August 2003 in the Canal Hotel bombing?

Ambassador Khalilzad:

Well we’re very, of course, sorry about the attack that took the life of Sergio de Mello. But I’ve said also that this is a very important issue, the future of Iraq, for the Iraqis, for the region, and for the world. Therefore the UN needs to play a bigger role that can help Iraqis overcome these difficulties although we understand that some of these issues, the primary responsibility is an Iraqi responsibility, coming to agreement among themselves. It’s Iraqis that have to come together, but the UN should play a bigger role to facilitate that. We understand also that there may be a need for increased assistance to the UN to deliver on its expanded, or updated mandate, and the U.S. for its part is willing to do its part to help for the UN to have the means appropriate to the ends for which we want to deploy it. And therefore the answer to your question is specifically, yes, the UN should do more, its appropriate for it to do more, but it should also be given additional means as appropriate.

Reporter:

Did any of the countries demand a timetable for the withdrawal of the U.S. troops to go hand in hand with the expansion of the UN role?

Ambassador Khalilzad:

Not when I was there in the room.

Reporter:

Do you think this will be helpful in giving assurances that this is turning into an international operation and not a U.S. one?

Ambassador Khalilzad:

We understand that the issue of the coalition presence is an issue on which Iraqis disagree. But I also know, you all know that I was in Iraq for almost two years, that no community in Iraq would like a precipitous U.S. withdrawal. Therefore, I think people are realistic as to what is driving the conflict now is largely disagreement among different Iraqi groups on political-economic distribution of power, and two, unhelpful regional interference. But the issue of the coalition timetable was not brought up by anyone when I was there.

Reporter:

Can you give us an indication on the question of how much freedom the UN would have to talk to all the parties including insurgent-related groups? The government of Iraq seems to be sort of expressing concern that the UN not be out freelancing without directly coordinating with the government.

Ambassador Khalilzad:

Well I think one of the advantages of the UN is that it can reach out to many groups, and some groups that do not want to talk to other external players are willing to talk to the UN. For example, as you know, Ayatollah sistani, one of the influential figures of Iraq, does not speak to the representatives of the U.S. or UK directly, but does engage with the UN envoy. So there is that ability to reach out to others, but I also think it is important as the UN representative reaches and talks to various Iraqis that there is coordination also with the Iraqi government. This is an elected government and therefore it is entirely appropriate that the UN coordinate and forms and keeps the Iraqi government in the loop.

Reporter:

About the meeting in Damascus today, and the Americans taking part. What are you aiming to achieve from that?

Ambassador Khalilzad:

One of the three committees that were established when the meeting of neighbors, plus Iraqis, plus other interested parties took place in Baghdad, where I was also present at that time, three committees were established. One on fuel and energy issues, one on refugees and one on security. This one will be dealing with security. The issues of security are quite clear what they are. It is the question of foreign fighters coming across the border. It’s the question of weapons coming across the border to illegitimate groups. It’s the question of training. It’s the question of cooperating to share information. So there are a lot of issues with regard to security.

Reporter:

Mr. Ambassador, do you encourage a change of leadership of UNAMI in Iraq? Does the U.S. support that? And with regard to the tools you just mentioned (inaudible).

Ambassador Khalilzad:

First with regard to the leadership of UNAMI, there will be a new leadership in UNAMI, because Mr. Qazi has been there for, I think, almost three years. That is a long time, I think he would like to do something else. I can understand that. So there will be new leadership in the coming period. With regard to the second issue. As I said, when you give a new mandate you want to make sure that the appropriate logistical and security support is provided and I have said inside, in the discussions with my colleagues, that the U.S. is prepared to do its part. We are.

Reporter:

Ambassador, just on the leadership issue. Do you feel any concern that the UN seems to be having difficulty finding a replacement for Mr. Qazi, is the U.S. helping in this regard? And another question briefly…

Ambassador Khalilzad:

Where did you get that from? That the UN has difficulty finding a replacement…

Reporter:

You hear it.

Ambassador Khalilzad:

Are you volunteering?

Reporter:

Yeah, sure. If the price is right. Do you have any response to Georgian claims that Russia fired a rocket into its territory?Ambassador Khalilzad: 



Released on August 7, 2007

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