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.