‘Hunt for missing souls, property must continue’ Iraq must fulfill obligations; UN bides time

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 19, (KUNA): UN Security Council members said they needed more time to examine Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s options to deal with the issues of missing Kuwaiti and third country nationals and that of missing property, and insisted that whatever their choice will be, Iraq still needs to fulfill its obligations towards Kuwait.

In his recent report to the Council, Ban, who visited Kuwait and Iraq earlier this month, listed four options to choose from after his high-level Coordinator for the two humanitarian files Gennady Tarasov leaves his post later this month for another UN job in Geneva.

The four options Ban presented to the Council to choose from are: asking the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) to fulfill Tarasov’s role, appointing an interim Coordinator for six months, replacing Tarasov with another Coordinator, or asking someone from UN headquarters to assume this mandate.

Ban prefers that UNAMI takes over Tarasov’s mandate. He said Kuwait and Iraq find it “acceptable” too, “but under certain conditions for Kuwait, most notably the fulfillment by Iraq of its border-related obligations.” Diplomats said the Council is split on what option to choose, but concur on one thing: “whatever the choice is, Iraq still needs to continue to fulfill its obligations towards Kuwait,” a diplomat told KUNA.

While the US, UK, France and Germany prefer that someone from the UN Secretariat at headquarters assume Tarasov’s mandate for the coming six months, Russia prefers that an interim Coordinator be appointed.

The option of replacing Tarasov with another Coordinator for a long period will happen only if Iraq fails to fulfill its obligations to Kuwait, especially those related to the border between the two countries.

Tarasov briefed the Council behind closed doors for the last time on Ban’s report and his options.

He told KUNA following the briefing that the Council’s reaction to Ban’s options is that “they need more consultations, because the Secretary General proposed a new shorter confidence-building period to give Iraq another chance to comply with its obligations.” They will discuss the option and “will decide at a later stage.” “My mandate ends on Dec 31, but I told the Council very clearly: whatever the transformation of this mandate may undergo, the search for the missing persons must continue, as well as the missing property, including the (Kuwaiti) archives,” he said.

“It is something in the Council resolution (1284), and this effort needs to continue under whatever form or guise both sides find acceptable,” he insisted.

“I am leaving, but the Kuwaiti families who lost their loved ones are still there, they still suffer, they still wait for the outcome,” he added.

He described his job since he was appointed in April 2008 to replace late Yuli Vorontsov, as a “difficult task.” He recalled that at the beginning, the “confidence between Iraq and Kuwait was at a very low point. So our first priority was to try to build the confidence between the parties, because without that, nothing could move forward ... Not many people believed in that approach, but it finally worked.” He said the task of finding the remains of hundreds of people killed over 20 years ago in the desert was a “difficult professional business” that needed a machinery that he helped set up.

He indicated that he got assurances from the Kuwaiti, Iraqi and other sides that such mission and excavations will continue after he leaves his post.

He conceded that no much progress was recorded on this issue and that is because of the lack of information.

“The biggest problem now is to have better information. Without more precise information, digging without precise information will take a lot of time and effort and will not produce any results,” he argued.
He noted that the exchange of high-level visits between Kuwait and Iraq and the decisions taken at the joint Ministerial Committee were “very good examples that both countries are now on the right track.” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told KUNA following the Council private meeting “we believe that the Secretary General’s suggestion to have an interim appointment of a high-level Coordinator will be the cleanest in legal terms, and will also provide some political encouragement because it would indicate that we have taken note of the fact that Iraq has made some progress and that the overall relationship between the two countries has improved.”

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