Address by H.E. Prof. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, at the Secuirty Council Meeting on Iraq

Ahmet Davutoğlu 18.06.2009
I would first like to join others in thanking Special Representative Mr. Staffan de Mistura for his insightful presentation. But more so for his unrelenting and keen efforts at the helm of the UNAMI. Indeed, during his rather short tenure, he energized the entire UN team in assisting the Iraqi Government and people in their quest for peace and stability.

And this took place at a critical point in time when Iraq's need for UN assistance was perhaps greater than ever. Under his able leadership the UNAMI has played a most constructive role. They provided expertise and analysis, bridged differences and helped bring about positive change.

However, the UN's job is still far from over. In the months and years ahead there will be an equally pressing need for the UN to continue to support Iraq. And we hope that Mr. de Mistura's successor will carry the flag even further.

Of course, not only the UN, but the entire international community, and first and foremost the Iraqi Government and people themselves should rise to the occasion. We must all collectively ensure that Iraq embarks upon an irreversible path towards lasting peace, security and prosperity.

There is still a tall order to reach that point, but we have no other option. For, a united and democratic Iraq, assuming its rightful place within the community of nations, will constitute a true success for all of us.

And given what has been achieved in the past 6 years, we have good reason to be optimistic. Indeed, not long ago, all sorts of doomsday scenarios were abound. Today, despite many risks still ahead of us, we see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I myself have been a witness to that evolution. Indeed, I have been to Iraq a few times in this past 6 years. And every time I go back, I have observed changes in the right direction. After years of dictatorship plagued by fear, frustration and hatred, the Iraqi people are now trying to make a leap forward with hope, confidence and empathy. And they are feeling good about it.

That is because democracy is seen in action at both national and local levels. Security situation is improving despite spikes of violence by extremist elements. There is a growing awareness among political parties to engage in a national dialogue. And more importantly, there is an increasing sense of ownership on the part of the Iraqi people.

These are not modest achievements, given where Iraq was only six years ago. But they are no reason to be complacent either. We must not let our optimism outrank realism in our assessments for the future of Iraq. Iraq is still at a critical point in its transformation into a stable and democratic state. As a matter of fact, Iraq is on the verge of yet another defining phase in its history.
The parliamentary elections coming up at the beginning of next year, for instance, will be a crucial turning point in Iraq's young democracy. In view of the irregularities experienced during the last elections, the impartiality and professionalism of the Independent High Electoral Commission will certainly be one of the keys to a successful election process.

But more significantly, the political process itself is fraught with serious pitfalls in the run up to the elections. Given the considerable and rather confrontational differences among the political parties, efforts towards national reconciliation become all the more important at this critical stage.

In particular, the ethnic and sectarian harmony in Iraq requires close attention. Differences along these lines have to be addressed within the framework of a meaningful national dialogue, in a way that will strengthen the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq.

Likewise, the settlement of the status of Kirkuk and the broader question of disputed administrative boundaries also presents a pressing priority. Hence, the ongoing political and legislative processes should be intensified with a view to rapidly resolving this sensitive issue. As a microcosm of Iraq, Kirkuk could and should be a stimulus for national reconciliation.

The peaceful transfer of security responsibilities to the Iraqi Security Forces poses yet another challenge. For, the extremist elements will try to exploit this transition to create chaos and fear. We have already started to see the first signs of this threatening development. This is why the training and equipment of the Iraqi Security Forces should be at the highest possible level at this critical phase leading up to the elections and beyond.

On top of these, fair and just implementation of the Amnesty Law; facilitation of the return of refugees and IDPs; adoption of the long overdue Hydrocarbon Resources and Revenue Sharing Laws; building confidence and cooperation with neighboring countries; strengthening regional dialogue; and last but not least, combating terrorism originating in and from Iraq are also among the issues that require urgent and constant attention.

At this point, I would like to stress that the fight against terrorism demands full cooperation within the international community, but more so among the neighboring countries. In fact, it is an obligation that all members of the UN are strictly bound with. In the case of Iraq, Turkey fully respects that obligation and expects both Iraq and its neighbors to do the same.

Finally, and maybe for the rather longer term, achieving a solid consensus based on the constitution is imperative for Iraq to become a truly functioning democracy. A unifying constitution that enjoys national consensus is the basis of any democratic system. In Iraq too, the constitution should reflect a social contract that all parties could embrace and unite around.

As you can see the road ahead is not an easy one. Given the manifold challenges, it will certainly be a bumpy ride. But I have full confidence that the Iraqi people and Government will come out of this process with flying colors.

The international community's responsibility is to stand in solidarity with Iraq in tackling these daunting tasks. Indeed, we must all help Iraqis take the right steps along this road. This is why we are glad to see that the divisions within the international community that have prevailed at the early stages of the post-Saddam era have now given way to a strong and joint commitment to support Iraq's desire for peace, security and prosperity.

The UN is certainly an integral part of this collective effort and it must continue to play its useful role. Their assistance in resolving the question of disputed administrative boundaries and Kirkuk's status, in particular, is of great importance. The reports prepared by UNAMI on this matter provide a good basis to build upon. We now expect all parties in Iraq to engage in an inclusive dialogue that will yield a consensual solution to this sensitive issue.

On the other hand, the International Compact with Iraq (ICI) also provides an excellent framework for the international community's engagement with Iraq, in tune with the priorities set forth by the Iraqi Government itself. Thus, we must constantly review and update the ICI to maintain its efficiency. This is particularly important given that the global financial crisis and the sharp fall in oil prices had a rather serious impact on Iraq's economy.

On its part, Turkey will continue to support Iraq's development and reconstruction. As a matter of fact, Turkey has long provided a significant conduit for the flow of humanitarian and economic assistance to Iraq. Today, the volume of bilateral trade is also rapidly rising. The Turkish-Iraq High-level Strategic Council led by the two Prime Minister provides firm guidance and impetus to the diversification and advancement of our economic cooperation.

On the political front too, the frequency of the high-level bilateral visits in itself can be an indication of the exemplary nature of our relationship. Indeed, we enjoy good relations with all the political actors in Iraq and that enables us to play an effective role in encouraging national reconciliation.

Furthermore, the recently signed bilateral military training agreement is yet another clear example of the deepening cooperation between our countries. Through this agreement, we shall provide extensive training to the Iraqi Security Forces in order to strengthen their ability to cope with the increased security responsibilities at a critical time.

In short, I would like to reiterate once again that Turkey will spare no effort to help Iraqis achieve the peace and prosperity they deserve. As a neighbor, we see this as our responsibility. The centuries-old ties of common history and culture create an unbreakable bond between us and all the segments of the Iraqi society, ranging from Arabs to Kurds, Turcomans to Assyrians, Shiites to Sunnis. They are all our brothers and sisters whose security and welfare is as dear to us as it is ours.

Let me emphasize once again our firm belief that Iraq has a bright future. And it is now within reach. We are confident that the Iraqi people will achieve it, acting in unison and rising above their ethnic and sectarian differences. On our part, we promise to be with them at every step of this honorable journey.

Let me stop here on this rather high note and resume my functions as the President.