The Future of Disputed Territories: MERI Forum 2014 | S1:P3


Session 1: The future of the disputed territories
Date: 04/11/2014

Part 1: Intervention of Mohammed Ihsan (King’s College)
Part 2: Intervention of Hassan Toran (Turkmen Front Coalition)
Part 3: Intervention of Marwan Ali (UNAMI)
Part 4: Intervention of Gareth Stansfield (Exeter University)
Part 5: Questions & Answers Session


Transcription of Marwan Ali (Director of Political Affairs, UNAMI)

I will start where Dr Ihsan ended. Dr Ihsan was one of our partners on our work as United Nations in the disputed territories. If we had been successful in settling parts of the problem of the disputed territories, or the disputed internal boundary as others like to put it, we would not have ISIL now in Mosul. There is no doubt about it. If we had been successful, as we did in some other areas together with our partners, Iraq would be different today. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Not only that, other issue, if they were tackled in a comprehensive manner, Iraq would be today one of the leading regional countries.

The whole dispute started, as also Dr Ihsan and other colleagues mentioned, starting with the terminology itself, with the question whether and how the UN should get involve, is this going to be an international issue or purely internal? We started looking at it as a nightmare. What will the Kurds say, what will the Sunnis say? I am not going to use diplomatic terms, the reality is hidden somewhere. The disputed territories mainly are between the Sunnis and the Kurds. Our major problem is to start to convince the parties that it is an urgent issue that needs to be tackled. The committees, as Dr Ihsan said, failed to tackle the issue.

A new democratic regime can be created while there are issues, which need to be tackled. Iraq is entering a new era of democracy coexistence and power-sharing. It has to continue to resolve the problems at hand. We succeeded somehow in what I call, and others call, the research. We were descriptive; we did not say who is for whom. At least we described the communities, the grievances and the history of these areas, what the former regime has done, and how many people were deprived from their properties. We gathered all of these, put them together, information about each district and sub-district, to create the basis for negotiation among the parties.

First, everybody got suspicious and said that UN is biased sometimes towards Kurds, sometimes Shias or Sunnis. But thank God we succeeded to put it on paper. We were supported by the Prime Minister, the Vice President, Tariq Al-Hashimi, and President Jalal Al-Talabani. These were three people who we worked with. We got some feedback from KRG but not from any others. We then established a high committee to discuss the ways forward, a usual mediation and dialogue mechanism. It was well represented and we had Dr Mohammed Ihsan as the Minister of the Disputed Territories who is a senior official in KRG and the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq at that time, Dr Rawsh, and the second Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Alissawi, a senior advisor who represented the Prime Minster in the committee.

We worked well and made some progress and agreed that we need to start with confidence-building measures because it was a big fight. We had to at least show some trust among the parties. It was not easy, and Dr Ihsan witnessed that, to get the parties together sometimes. This did not happen until the provincial elections took place. Alhadba, I am not revealing secrets, was anti-Kurds at that time in Mosul, but it did not work for them, because we decided to go step by step on confidence building measures as we worked on two tracks, one, from Ninawa, to basically solve the problem on the ground to win the confidence of the people there, and the other, from Kirkuk, to work on the property issue. In Ninawa, we succeeded at that time to bring the governor of Nianaw, Atheel Al-Nujaifi, to Erbil about the detainees and other practical issues in the relationship between KRG and Ninawa.

From that day, I think this is one of the successes of dialogue, most of Atheel Alnujaifi’s time was here in Erbil, we succeeded in certain areas but with the start of the campaign of 2010 national election, then people raised their demands and standards for electoral purposes, this is a problem that Iraq has. Then, the new government was established, the process took 7 months, and we could revive the committee. After that, De Mustura left and a new member came. Unfortunately, we had only a couple of meetings. And most of the time, there was no political will from certain partners for political internal reasons.

Now, I think, the problems arising from the disputed territories resulted from a lack of power-sharing in the country, lack of laws for revenue sharing, lack of an oil and gas law, and also lack of a balance of power. Parties feel marginalized and see other parties dominating the authorities. The UN experience at that time was our first engagement with the population components, we like to call them the components of Iraq, I confess, we both, succeeded and failed. We succeeded in starting a genuine dialogue. When the people of Ninawa want a solution and KRG wills to do so, we reach the solution. With that, I could send Asiash officials to Mosul to start the dialogue. This means that there was a will. We also could get Atheel Al-Nujafi to come to Erbil at that time. There was somehow a will, and we solved the detainees issue and some other issues as well.

What I want to say is that we all share the same problem. Now we have ISIL taking some of the areas. We tried, we engaged, we got into a level thinking that we were almost there, but it did not work. At the same time we hope that this government will be different through serious engagement. The government should engage in issues where there is need for compromise. The whole centralism in Iraq is not working; it did not work and is not going to work. You have to have an acceptable type of federalism the rights of the people are guaranteed. Iraqis should not feel different in terms of rights, be it in the south, centre, or the north. This is where people are suspicious and that is why a huge space was found, ISIL just came and occupied it. That is why it was easy, because there was space and nobody cared. People were not interested because they did not feel that their rights were guaranteed and they did not feel that their lives were in safe hands. They felt frustrated because there was no genuine power-sharing. It was easy for ISIL to do whatever they are doing now.

Now, we are trying to basically revive the mechanisms for the disputed areas, those that were functioning, but now we hope, with this challenge in Iraq, to create the will, which was absent. We will be able to engage with the different parties to have the proper compromise to get Iraq back together again, where everybody feels that his or her right is guaranteed. I don’t want to go beyond that and take so much of your time and I hope this forum will come up with some recommendations for Iraqis and the international community to address the Iraqi issue.

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