Tag Archives: Arabisation

Interview with Dindar Zebari (KRG Special rep. to UN)

In your opinion, is the United Nations in a position to resolve a complicated internal dispute such as Kirkuk?

Let me first take this angle on the subject, the UN involvement in finding a resolution on the so-called disputed areas is based on a UN Resolution 1770 and after after 2008, 1880. These two resolutions are crucial to the legitimacy of involvement on the part of the UN. The UN has a mission in Iraq today; this mission is a political one, as well as construction and humanitarian one, which are supported by the Iraqi authorities. The UN involvement on the disputed areas including of Kirkuk came upon the request from Iraqi officials, adding another angle of legitimacy. One angle is the UN resolution that states for the UN special representative and Secretary General to help Iraqi leaders.  It doesn’t say Iraqi central or Iraqi regional government but from Iraqi leaders to resolve internal borders disputes, internally. This as a format used for the draft resolution of 1770 and the later resolution of 1830.

The second legitimate argument for the freedom of UN involvement came upon the request of the Iraqi leaders themselves.  Iraqi leaders requested assistance for United National Secretary General special representative to Iraq, Steffan di Mistura, in later December 2007, when article 140 expired as per the timetable set in the Iraqi constitution.

When the UN came in on exactly the first day Article 140 expired, it was upon on the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and KRG Prime Minister Nerchirvan Barzani, to help to extend the resolution and solution of the subject. So timetable was extended, and the UN officially intervened on the request of the Iraqi leader. UN is providing consultancy, technical support, general report, logistics, support in data, criteria that have to be used for the solution. So the UN involvement is an advisory and consultancy capacity, to advice Iraqi leaders in the solution of these. But the executive side, in terms of implementing any solution is on the Iraqi side

In other words, any report is not prescriptive?

The UN reports, we have in our hands, doesn’t say these areas have to part of a certain authority but may state that according to criteria that have been used, let’s say geographical, historical and cultural backgrounds, previous elections result, the majority of the certain districts of these areas are supporting annexation or support to be part of that authority, but it does not say the UN decides.

One of first things that Steffan di Mistura said when he headed the mission, was that the UN stopped a “ticking time bomb” in Kirkuk, have they really stopped the time-bomb?

I believe the involvement of the UN has been a big help to the political process in Iraq, because one of the main current disputes is around the internal borders, including districts and sub-districts.  Article 140 is an Iraqi article, part of a constitution voted by the Iraqi people, therefore any delay in implementing the constitution will create further disagreement and differences, and I believe time is not in favor of further delays, UN has been pushed forward to help bring Iraqi authorities around the table for discussions and start negotiations on how to implement this article.

Do you think that Steffan di Mistura can enforce the implementation of Article 140 regarding Kirkuk?

According to Resolution 1830, the UN does not have the decisive or the executive power to enforce any part of the article or the constitution. But the UN support s the constitution and I believe this is an important fact for the Kurds, as this report is not in fact in favor of the Kurds, Arabs or Turkmen but in favor of every side.  If negotiations are geared towards all sides, they have to favor mechanism of negotiations that to lead to the success for everyone. Sustainable solutions are important, not just decisions made by the central or regional authorities.  This is the first time we have this piece of work conducted internationally with help of international communities, not just with the UN by the way, but with other foreign powers in Iraq such as the Americans and Britain.

Can the UN take a completely impartial view of the dispute over Kirkuk, in light of heavy political pressure from regional governments or internal pressure in Iraq? In other words will such pressures, predetermine how the report is shaped?

The UN report is in its final draft. We know it has been shaped towards and to satisfy the Iraqi leaders including Iraqi President, Iraqi Vice President, Iraqi Prime Minister, KRG Prime Minister and KRG President,

The report has been given to all 5 leaders, to read, analyze and come back on the technical details submitted. I am sure all 5 leaders will come back to Steffan Di Mistura and to the UNAMI mission by saying these are our observations and afterwards come up with another set of recommendations. So if there are deemed to be mistakes, then there is an opportunity to deal with this.

Looking at it from a Kurdish perspective, do you believe that before the report has already been issued, Steffan di Mistura may have a predefined mindset before he issues the report due to external political pressures, say from Turkey?

I don’t believe the report will redrafted or redesigned, the report has been finally produced after months of studies. What has been given to the authorities, these are the five leaders of Iraq, to take into consideration the elements that had been officially requested to the UN to determine. The five leaders will read the report as it stands, I suppose in the next couple of days, their final observations will be given to UNAMI, to take into consideration if there are facts and figures but not the objectives. I don’t believe the UN is taking observations from one sector of Iraqis or from neighboring countries, this is a complete package that they we come up with.

The most important thing I can gather from your replies, is the that whatever the shape of the, the report will be neutral and will be a very balanced report that serves every side

This is what we hope, of course.

What is the KRG stance towards the report at the moment?

KRG has been very clear on any options regarding disputed territories, that regardless of timetable or transitional period, there must be a solution and this solution must be quick. KRG is looking forward to counterparts, official counterparts, governmental counterparts to sit down and discus how to implement this report frankly and KRG looks forward to more compromises amongst all Iraqis, and the solution must be immediate and more urgent, because it affects the political process, it affects the trust between Iraqis in this period of transition.

The KRG also believes in working together with Iraqis and taking the support as an advisory side of it, as another recognition that there must be solution, there must be no alternative to 140. it doesn’t matter on 140 on what practical capacity, or it will be implemented on what geographical areas or the means and mechanisms of the implementation, the power sharing will not make any difference, what is important is to implement the solution.

Kurdish leaders have been adamant that article 140 is the defining principle behind resolving the conflict, is the issue here how we get to implement 140 or alternative 140

I believe for many months the discussion was how to implement article 140, because 140 is an Iraqi constitutional article and no one can say that this article must be neglected, because the constitution is  a package and you can not ignore a part of that package, otherwise the other sides groups or minorities will take other articles out of the constitution, so you have to look at it as a package

Do you feel confident that stalemate on Kirkuk can soon be broken?

I don’t look it like that frankly, I believe this report has been, my personal view as KRG chief coordinator to the UN relations and as an envoy of the KRG the UN, because I have been working hard for the past 2 or 3 years to convince all sides to come and help, don’t forget that inside article 140 there is a clear indication that if Iraqis can not find a solution for the internal borders of the districts and sub districts of Iraq, they might approach for international arbitration , and from that side of the constitution, I believe bringing the UN to the process and bringing advisers from the international committee is a huge asset that Iraq can use today, and it’s a huge asset for the Iraq political process, since there must be a solution

With regards to the UN role in general, the UN is a massive organization to support human rights, social development, and other factors, is the UN doing enough to help Kurdistan and ensure that the Region has the representation it needs?

There is no sentence or indication internationally that UN is an independent position at current.  UN is an international created by the states and composed of multi international entities.

But UN has a policy towards its own member states, and UN has a responsibility to preserve the security of its own member states, we have seen from resolution 688, there are problems in Iraq. Sometimes humanitarian problem, but I think this report made the problem of the Iraqi Kurds in Iraq a political problem, and the UN has another responsibility in Iraq, which means the UN has to support the political process in Iraq since the collapse of the regime in 2003 and I think the Iraqi Kurds, are part of the process, as the region is recognized by the UN as well as the federal nature of the country. This region is the first region to share power with central government, and I believe there has been mismanagement or misunderstanding, therefore UN has a role in successful reconciliation, and the current involvement is a part of the UN commitment to the political process.

It goes back to the early question, therefore, the UN must be impartial?

Certainly, the approach must have impartial and certainly must be neutral, otherwise the UN can not give solutions

Do you think the solution in the respect of Kirkuk, since it’s such a tentative issue, we have seen mutterings from many sides, many neighboring countries

It is a different scenario, if we compare UN involvement in the last 20 years ago in Iraq or its member states by today, if you compare, frankly because in Iraq of today you still have foreigners that control some of the political process in Iraq, when I say controlling its because they are part of the international pact to support Iraq, you still have multi national forces in Iraq, that still have a huge responsibility of the international community to make Iraq a success. And I think the time is very crucial for this sort of report to come out because in Iraq today, it’s not just Iraqis themselves that can make decisions

in many areas Iraqis failed to make a decision, and I think I stand against let say it’s a purely Iraqi matter, that has to be Iraqi wide supported or solved I say no, because Iraqis have not sorted out, Iraqis leaders have not implemented the constitution, and I think when we have a problem to implementation, and the state, stability and security of the county is in danger, therefore its an international responsibility. Therefore they must be involved, they must help to sort out and bring peace and prosperity to Iraq

With regards to the recent Amnesty International Report, the KRG have been quite proactive in their reply, to the issue of human rights and taking the report seriously. I just want to get a brief perceptive from your pint of view, on how the Kurds will approach the Amnesty International Report?

I am personally a member of the high committee of this government to respond to the Amnesty International report, setup by PM Barzani, myself, the secretariat and also several ministers and key security department chiefs in this region to respond to the Amnesty International report

Amnesty International Report is something we took seriously, we believe that there are shortages in many areas, but we also believe that the Amnesty international report must be somehow more specific and targetable, otherwise it would undermine its help to us. we have setup special committees to come back to make reform, we have already taken a number of practical steps for the last 2 years frankly, and PM Barzani is heading many meetings and many conferences and awareness in this region, to help to bring records of human rights to international standards

We took it seriously, and don’t forget that today Iraqi Kurdistan is open to all monitors and we have given access to all monitors to evaluate and scrutinize, this is something we have to get credit for, there are mistakes by officials, there have been mistakes due to shortages of laws and procedures, there are mistakes because law enforcement in some areas have been neglected, and this something that can not be resolved overnight. And we need to work to achieve it.

I have to admit that there is a well decision making body that is promoting the respect of human rights, and the we come back Amnesty Rights and other human rights reports, we want to be pragmatic, we want to be up to the responsibility, and we have to admit and take the report with an open heart and look for resolutions

One final question, with the upcoming elections in Kurdistan region, elections are always unique period, what is your opinion on how the next elections may strengthen the Kurdish democratic experience.

I believe these elections will be another addition to the legitimacy of the setup of this reign, elections always brings back credibility, transparency and trust, from the authorities to the people and also from the people to the authorities.

KRG has been a leady party of democracy in Iraq and we want to once more capable of doing so, KRG has a lot of peace, stability and security, and international minorities can use that peace and security to come in and help the process itself. We have invited the UN international community and a number of European countries to supervise these elections.

I believe that these elections will prove once more that this region is progressing, and the government is doing good and I believe the selection of the presidency of the region will also give another legitimacy to the region, and another reminder to international community and in Iraq of today, we are facing different realities, different type of government, there is a regional government and this region has its own vision and principles

This will serve as another commitment of Iraqi Kurds to the sovereignty and unity of the country.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Peyamner, Various Misc.

Breaking the Kirkuk deadlock?

Of all the current issues in Iraq, the dispute over the oil-rich Kirkuk region could go a long way in deciding future fortunes of the “new” Iraq.

Kirkuk was a persistent thorn in the side of the Iraqi Kurds and Baghdad for many decades and the new Iraq after the downfall of Saddam Hussein has done little to change that, in spite of the fact the stipulations under article 140 of the Iraqi constitution adopted in 2005 was designed to bring a democratic solution to the control of Kirkuk once and for all.

Once the deadline for the implementation of article 140 inevitably passed at the end of 2007 and without much progress, the UN was tasked with the responsibility of diffusing tensions, or in the words of UN special envoy to Iraq, Steffan di Mistura, stopping the ticking time-bomb.

Fast forward to 2009, after many months of fact finding, research and analysis, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) finally submitted their detailed report outlining recommendations to Iraqi leaders on resolving the numerous border disputes, of which Kirkuk is the most notable.

Kurds have ubiquitously accused Baghdad of dragging their heels, and heeding to pressure from neighbouring countries particularly Turkey, who is naturally unfavourable to seeing Kirkuk’s immense oil wealth ‘fall into the hands’ of the Kurds.

As tensions have reached a knife-edge between the Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen, Kirkuk has often been referred as a touch-paper for the rest of Iraq with international powers keen to prevent civil war.

Kurdish frustrations are compounded by Baathist Arabisation policies that saw thousands of Arabs resettle in the area at the expense of the Kurds and the changes to the provincial boundaries to dilute Kurdish population figures.

Now Kurds, who have remained insistent that article 140 is a red line, wait anxiously for resolution of Kirkuk, especially with the US withdrawal plans expected to gather pace. The exact details of the UN report are still unclear, whether the suggestions will lead to an agreement is even more uncertain.

According to KRG Special Representative to the UN, Dindar Zebari, UN Resolution 1770 and 880 gave the UN involvement crucial legitimacy which was aided further by the direct request for “technical” assistance from Iraqi leaders. “The involvement of the UN has been a big help to the political process in Iraq”, remarked Zebari.

According to Zebari, UN recommendations are intended as a “complete package” that is not designed to appease one Iraqi group or any neighbouring country.

“UN is providing consultancy, technical and logistics support, assistance in terms of data, and other criteria that have to be used to formulate solutions. So the UN involvement is essentially in an advisory and consultancy capacity”, stated Zebari who emphasized from an executive perspective that the implementation of any solution can only come from the Iraqi side.

Iraqi leaders now have the opportunity to analyze the report, based on elements that were officially requested for the UN to determine, and come up with their own feedback or recommendations. All four solutions proposed in the report, however, deal with Kirkuk as a single unit.

“The UN reports doesn’t say these areas have to part of a certain authority but may state that according to criteria that have been used, let’s say geographical, historical and cultural backgrounds, previous elections result, the majority of the certain districts of these areas are supporting annexation or support to be part of that authority. However, it does not stipulate that the UN decides,” Zebari reaffirmed.

Whether agreements lead to sustainable solutions is unclear, however Zebari warned that that there must be more urgency to progress.

Zebari emphasized that from a KRG perspective they are eager for a quick solution, and are keen for more compromises amongst all the sides, but moreover any discussion or solutions must be formulated around article 140 of a constitution that is essentially “a package and you can not ignore a part of that package”, otherwise as Zebari warned, “other groups or minorities can take other articles out of the constitution”.

As far as the KRG are concerned, “the solution must be immediate and more urgent, because it affects the political process and the trust between Iraqis in this important period of transition.”

According to Zebari, the UN and international community have a key responsibility in the post-liberalisation of Iraq and “have a key role in successful reconciliation, where the current involvement serves a part of the UN commitment to the political process”. Zebari underlined that the International community are committed to the peace and security of Iraq and still have “a huge responsibility to make Iraq a success.”

Either way, it remains to be seen whether the UN stopped the ticking-tomb or simply just delayed its implementation. The real desire to reconcile, compromise and enforce democratic principles is down to Iraqi’s alone. International powers can facilitate the process but ultimately in Iraq it may be a case that ‘you can take a horse to a well, but not make it drink it’.

First Published On: The Media Line

Other Primary Sources of Republication: Kurdistan Regional Government, Kurdish Globe, Rudaw, Peyamner, eKurd, PUK Media, Online Opinion, Various Misc.

Did the UN Really Stop the Clock?

In December 2007, as the deadline for the implementation of article 140 of the Iraqi constitution unsurprisingly passed, UN special envoy to Iraq Staffan de Mistura claimed: “…the question of Kikruk was a ticking time bomb. The United Nations has stopped the clock”. In reality however, the UN never stopped the clock, they only added more time to the “ticker”.

After Iraqi political figures agreed to “technical” assistance from the UN, it was hoped that a breakthrough could be finally reached on the hotly-contested territories including oil-rich Kirkuk. That aside, officially article 140, despite Turkoman and Arab rhetoric, is still the only legally binding paradigm for solving land disputes. The decision in December was to extend the deadline by another 6 months. However, only the deepest optimist would have thought that a referendum would be held by 31st June 2008.

The fact that Iraq is unwilling to follow democratic principles adopted by a clear majority speaks volumes about the level of mistrust and animosity gripping the national horizon and lack of genuine appetite for egalitarianism. Iraqis should never have allowed the interference of outside parties in internal affairs, let alone that of the UN. Simply, the UN lacks an adequate understanding on the level of differences rooted amidst the socio-political landscape.

The Kurds have never had representation in the UN and have been commonly persecuted while the UN Security Council has taken no action. Whilst 250,000 Kurds were kicked and beaten without remorse from their historical homes, “compromise” was not a word uttered by Baathist forces. Now those same Kurds, wishing to return home, are been told their legally-enshrined demands constitute overreaching and they must compromise.

In tandem with political progress on article 140, even the UN missed their own deadline to table suggestions to Iraqi leaders by weeks. Finally, those widely anticipated suggestions arrived in Baghdad last week.

Even the first phase of a methodology designed as a stepping-stone for dealing with Kirkuk by resolving less-contested areas was met with much apprehension. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) “first analysis” recommended putting Akra and Makhmour districts under Kurdistan Region control and with the districts of al-Hamadaniya and Mandali to be administered by central government.

The recommendations were based on “the administrative history of the areas and the change that have taken place after 2003 March along with the population structure and 2005 elections”. No matter what historical trajectory is analysed, UNAMI suggestions will always be based on approximations, until the people of every town are consulted in true democratic terms. This simply takes the argument a full circle – no technical agreement can formulate an all-encompassing basis for each region without an unambiguous consultation.

The suggestions were almost immediately criticised by Iraqi lawmakers on both sides of the Arab-Kurdish divide. There was general Arab census that the recommendations were “unconstitutional”, complicated the issue and had no legal basis. The Kurds themselves are unlikely to be happy without the prize asset of Kirkuk returning.

For the Kurds, this is a historical juncture. This is a chance to correct the wrongs of the past in a democratic and legal manner. If Kurds were unwilling to compromise in 1975 over Kirkuk, then any deal in the “new” Iraq of 2008 not involving its rightful return would represent a huge setback. The UN is an international yet generic taskforce when it comes to fiercely-contested regional matters. They will adopt a formula to try and please all parties, regardless of the weight of historical argument. If the UN is truly a taskforce capable of ensuring equal rights and safeguarding stability, then Kurdistan would have been independent long-ago.

The UN formula seemingly side-steps the fact that article 140 is synonymous with Kirkuk. A solution to deal with other less-emotive areas under dispute does not alter the picture a great deal.

Recently, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, stated his administrations willingness for power sharing. If realised, such concessions are likely to be weighted with many caveats. Possibly, for greater compromise by Baghdad on the hydrocarbon-law or the return of all other disputed lands without question. Concessions would give Kurds productive short-term gains as well as a major boost of ties with the Turkish administration, yet the sense of regional defeat may be unavoidable.

Kirkuk has been a historical red-line and remains a future icon of Kurdish prosperity and survival. The will of the majority must not be sacrificed as a political token or gesture.
Regardless, the ticking time-bomb continues its countdown.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Peyamner, Various Misc.