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

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN
Remarks to the media following a Security Council Stakeout
New York City
August 10, 2007


Ambassador Khalilzad: Good Morning. I think this was an important vote today by the Security Council, it signifies that the international community recognizes that what is happening in Iraq is very important for the entire world and that the world represented by the Security Council is prepared to help Iraqis deal with the challenges that they face. And, the Iraqis are in the lead in terms of dealing with those challenges, but that they need help. And that the United Nations Security Council, has empowered, instructed the Secretariat to assist the Iraqis in three areas as the Ambassador of Iraq said, in particular. Reconciliation at home, improved regional cooperation, continuing in the follow up of efforts at Sharm el-Sheikh, Baghdad and elsewhere, and on the humanitarian and human rights issues. I think this is, a new page has been turned, with regard to the Security Council’s role in Iraq and I think that this was an important vote, and an important decision by the Security Council.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador you have specified, I mean you nominated already Mr. De Mistura as the head of the UN team for Iraq, in your interview with the American press, do you think that it was a good step for you to say that before the Secretary-General himself choosing him?

Ambassador Khalilzad: I didn’t say that I had nominated him, what I said, and it’s clear the decision is the Secretary-General’s decision; I said I believe that he is the likely person to be selected. The decision is the Secretary-General’s and our colleagues have worked with him, know him, like him, he is a known quantity and has worked with the UN in various areas, including Iraq, so he is not an unknown quantity.

Reporter: Could you tell us specifically what the United States expects the United Nations to do in terms of facilitating national reconciliation and regional cooperation?

Ambassador Khalilzad: Well the first thing is of course for the new envoy to be announced, there is a mandate, we need an envoy, and that envoy in consulting with the Iraqis, as I said they are in the lead, will propose specific steps in addition to what they are doing now, already the UN is helping on the constitution for example. In other areas on which Iraqis differ, what they can do, the UN mission in Iraq, can do to bring Iraqis together. The role in my view will be two fold. One, besides contacting others, is an agreement with Iraqis to be the convener of meetings potentially. And two, where there are differences, potentially, to propose bridging formulas. They, the United Nations, have a lot of experience in dealing with a situation in which different groups in a country have not had agreement with each other, this is not the first time in the history of the world that you’ve got problems like you’ve got in Iraq, although each country is unique in some ways. So therefore with regard to the domestic situation, working with Iraqis, those two functions besides contacting and talking to different people will be their main goal. On the regional one it is more regularizing and institutionalizing what has already started with Baghdad in March then Sharm el-Sheikh and so on to make sure that the neighbors assist the Iraqis to overcome their difficulties and I think that’s an important role and that again, a convening role, assisting in the process will be an important role.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, why should a UN staff member want to go into a country where twenty of the best and brightest got blown up, where this organization said at the time we’re going to have to do things differently and sometimes we can’t go in where we should. There is a war on, there’s a surge, suicide bombings and also you mentioned differences in the past between the US and the UN, I believe in your remarks, is this an admission that the US failed by going around this organization? Four years ago the President of the US said I want to see some hands in the air, I’m not bluffing, now the US is saying we need you.

Ambassador Khalilzad: Well, on the first point, you know I have served in Iraq and I know that it is a difficult security environment but it is also important and everyone now in the Security Council agreed that what’s happening in Iraq is very important for the future of the world and therefore the security challenges should not deter one from doing something that’s very important. What it involves and what it requires is that you take measures to minimize the security challenges. And I said today that we are prepared to do our part. We appreciate the sacrifices, we pay homage to the lost lives, UN people, but this is so important that we can’t be deterred from doing what we can to help with appropriate security measures taken. I understand the concerns that the staff have, but we will do our part to assist. On your second point, I don’t want to look back, there was a difference of view, we certainly feel strongly about what we did. At the time that we did, we did it through our own processes and our own processes are legitimate processes, and made some decisions. But now we are in a new situation, regardless of what you thought about whether the coalition should have gone in or not there is a recognition that what’s happening in Iraq affects everyone and that’s an important recognition that people have arrived at and therefore it’s important that we all pool our resources to assist the Iraqis, again with the Iraqis being in the lead. We’re not saying we’re going to turn this over to the UN or to others, we will do our part. We understand our responsibility but since it’s so important for everyone, others through the United Nations can also help and I am grateful that the United Nations Security Council to vote unanimously and you saw the statements that people made. It was quite a positive atmosphere that everyone welcomed. A greater contribution from the international community through the United Nations to help Iraqis. Thank you very much, thank you.

Released on August 10, 2007

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