Address by H.E. Ambassador Baki İlkin, Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nations "The Situation Concerning Iraq" at the UN Security Council

Baki İlkin 26.02.2009
Mr. President,

I would first like to thank Special Representative Mr. De Mistura and the Permanent Representative of Iraq Ambassador Bayati for their extensive briefings.

Taking this opportunity, I would also like to express our deep appreciation for the excellent work carried out by UNAMI in support of the Iraqi people and Government. Their dedication and commitment to help Iraq accomplish its goals are indeed most commendable.

Mr. President,

As a neighbor of Iraq, Turkey is particularly interested in the promotion of stability and advancement security in Iraq. We have equally good relations with all segments of the Iraqi population, be it Arabs, Kurds or Turcomans, and our only message is one of goodwill and cooperation.

This is why we are happy to see that, after so many years of war, internal strife and destruction, Iraq is finally striding towards a more sustainable security and stability environment. The Iraqi people well deserves to enjoy peace and prosperity, both of which are now within their reach.

Mr. President,

It is against this backdrop that we followed closely the provincial elections held in late January, including by sending observers from Turkey. Despite certain irregularities or shortcomings, overall, the elections served its purpose rather successfully. It helped redress an important gap of representation in Iraqi politics. It also reinforced the democratic process in Iraq by underpinning responsibility and accountability at local level.

In short, Iraq has made a good start to 2009, a year which, we believe, will be crucial in shaping Iraq's future. Indeed, as important as they can be, the provincial elections constitute only a first step in consolidating democratic tradition in Iraq and thus paving the way for security and stability to take root in the country.

Among those challenges that remain to be addressed,

-the review of the Constitution in a way that will unify Iraqis as a whole;

-the settlement of the disputed internal administrative boundaries and in particular the status of Kirkuk in a way that will help preserve unity and territorial integrity of Iraq;

-peaceful transfer of security responsibilities to the Iraqi Security Forces in a way that will not create a power vacuum in the country after the withdrawal of multinational forces;

-making further progress on economic reconstruction and delivery of basic services in a way that will bring normalcy, hope and confidence to the lives of ordinary people;

-adoption of the long overdue Hydrocarbon Resources Law in a way that will yield an investment friendly setting and help all Iraqis fully benefit from its strategic energy resources;

-reaching an accord on the arrangements of income sharing in a way that will strengthen the sense of Iraqi nationhood and union, all stand out as priority issues.

The parliamentary elections to be held at the end of this year will also be an important milestone in the democratic evolution of Iraq, by which time we hope those priority issues to be resolved in a constructive and consensual manner, allowing the fair and free elections to crown those achievements.

Mr. President,

I know that the wide array of issues I have just referred to present a most daunting task. But failure is not an option. Neither Iraqis, nor the international community can afford any further setbacks. In this regard, we believe that a three-pronged process is best fit to take us to our common objectives in Iraq.

First aspect of this joint venture is about the responsibilities of the Iraqis themselves. With that, I mean the obligation of each and every political party in Iraq to work in good faith and cooperation with each other, with a view to ensuring that the solutions to many predicaments faced are found in compromise rather than through confrontation.

Indeed, the fundamental message of the Iraqi people that came out clear and loud during the last elections is a message of unity and good governance. The Iraqis of all ethnic and religious background declared in no ambiguous manner their resolve to live together in peace and prosperity.

We hope and expect that the political representatives of the Iraqi people will rise to the occasion and reconcile their differences for the benefit of all Iraqis. The Iraqi people have already rewarded those with the right promises. Now is the time to deliver them.

Mr. President,

The second set of responsibilities in this process belongs to regional countries. Indeed, sharing the same geography, the countries of the region have a special stake in seeing Iraq effectively tackle those challenges, many of which have direct implications for the whole region and beyond. We must all do whatever we can to support the development and reconstruction of Iraq.

This is precisely what Turkey has been doing all along. Indeed, Turkey has for long provided an essential lifeline for the flow of humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Iraq. Today, the volume of bilateral trade is rapidly rising, as with all other aspects of our economic cooperation. In particular, helping Iraq tap its vast energy resources and export them to world markets through reliable outlets such as Turkey remains a priority for us.

In parallel, our political cooperation has also reached an exemplary level. In this context, reciprocal visits by the two Prime Ministers have created a strong momentum in further enhancing our bilateral relations, as evident by the establishment of the High Level Strategic Cooperation Council. Now, our President will soon return the official visit of President Talabani, which is expected to give further boost to our relations.

Taking this opportunity, I am also pleased to announce that, in addition to the one in Mosul, our new Consulate-General in Basra has recently become operational.

We are equally committed to further advancing the regional cooperation on Iraq, to which we have extensively contributed, including by initiating the "Iraq's Neighbors Forum" some seven years ago, a forum which now operates in an expanded format with the participation of the permanent members of the Security Council and the G-8.

Finally, we also attach great importance to cooperation with Iraq in the fight against terrorism. As would be recalled, the PKK terrorist organization has long been using northern Iraq as a springboard for its cross-border terrorist attacks against targets in Turkey. PKK's presence in northern Iraq poses serious problems and threat to the people of Iraq too. Initially, we had our differences on how best to tackle this problem. However, today, we are pleased to see both central and local Iraqi authorities showing greater signs of cooperation against this scourge.

Indeed, the trilateral mechanism recently set up by Turkey, Iraq and the US to coordinate a joint response to this vicious terrorist organization has made an encouraging start and we now expect it to yield more effective and tangible results with a view to preventing Iraqi territory from being used for such cross-border terrorist activities.

Mr. President,

The third and final set of responsibilities in helping Iraq achieve its goals falls upon the international community. Indeed, Iraq can not be seen merely as a regional issue. For the future course of events in Iraq will have repercussions reaching much beyond the region.

In this regard, the United Nations must continue to play its important coordination and assistance role in the critical period ahead. In addition to the essential humanitarian and reconstruction assistance provided by the UN agencies, UNAMI's support to constitutional review process, as well as to the ongoing work concerning the disputed internal administrative boundaries and the status of Kirkuk is of great importance.

On Kirkuk in particular, Turkey strongly supports UNAMI's impartial and neutral role in promoting dialogue among the parties concerned and helping forge a consensus on this sensitive issue. Kirkuk, which is a microcosm of the rich ethnic diversity of Iraq, should not be allowed to trigger off new conflicts in Iraq.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, allow me to reiterate once again our strong support for the democratic transformation underway in Iraq. Obviously, we are still at the early stages of this long journey, the pace and the final destination of which will be determined first and foremost by the Iraqis themselves. However, given the strategic importance of this whole endeavor, we must all be generous in extending our support and assistance. Turkey is more than ready and willing to do its share.

Thank you.