Expected Council Action
A comprehensive report on Iraq’s compliance with resolution 1284 of 1999 (on the repatriation of all Kuwaiti and third-country nationals or their remains and the return of all Kuwaiti property, including national archives following the 1990-1991 Gulf War) is expected by the Council in April. This may include the assessment of when the mandate can be concluded.
The Council is likely to discuss this in informal consultations and be briefed by the Secretary-General’s High-Level Coordinator, Gennady Tarasov.
It is unclear whether any decision on concluding the mandate will be taken during April. The Council may prefer to wait for the Secretary-General’s report on the status of all resolutions pertaining specifically to Iraq since resolution 661 of 1990. This report, requested in resolution 1859 of December 2008, is anticipated midyear. (The report is expected to suggest steps to be taken to return Iraq to its international standing prior to resolution 661.)
The Council will need, however, to take a decision on the future allocation of funds from the Iraq escrow account for the high-level coordinator, given that it decided in March 2008 to approve it only for 12 months.
On other matters, a briefing on the activities of the Development Fund for Iraq and the International Advisory and Monitoring Board is now expected in April. Resolution 1859 requested such a briefing no later than 31 March.
Key Recent Developments
In his last report on 4 December, Tarasov said the number of Kuwaiti and third-country nationals whose remains had been identified increased by one (to 236) over the six-month reporting period. (Several hundred Kuwaitis and third-country nationals are missing.) Progress on exhumation of Kuwaiti graves was constrained because of a shortage of capacity in Iraq’s Ministry of Human Rights. The Ministry is the only institution authorised to exhume graves in Iraq. No visits to burial sites in Iraq were conducted in 2008 despite the improved security situation. No progress had been made on locating missing Kuwaiti national archives.
On 10 December Tarasov briefed the Council in closed consultations. The Council adopted a press statement. It noted positive identification of human remains had been made and expressed concern at the absence of progress on locating Kuwaiti archives. It also noted with regret the lack of progress on exhumation activities and expressed appreciation for the support that the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) offered to the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights to accelerate progress.
During a briefing to the Council on 26 February, the UN Special Envoy for Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, said UNAMI was supporting a training project to build the capacity of the Ministry of Human Rights on exhumations.
On 26 February, Kuwait’s highest ranking envoy since the 1990 invasion visited Iraq. Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Al-Sabah met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
On 2 March Iraq returned to Kuwait tapes of radio and television recordings.
On 10 March Iraq wrote to the Council calling for an end to the mandate of the high-level coordinator and transfer of responsibility for the issue to the Tripartite Commission. (The Commission consists of France, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UK and the US on one side and Iraq on the other, with the International Committee of the Red Cross as a third party.)
Kuwait’s parliament continues to insist Iraq meet its debt obligations of approximately $15-16 billion, which represents loans Kuwait made to Baghdad in the Saddam Hussein era. In addition to the external debt, reparations to Kuwait related to the 1990-1991 invasion and occupation also remain outstanding. Currently 5 percent of revenues from the sale of Iraqi oil are channelled through the UN Compensation Commission, which is a subsidiary organ of the Council established to process claims and pay compensation for losses and damage related to Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait. Claims total $52 billion and as of January, $26.9 billion had been made available in compensation. It is understood that most of the remaining outstanding compensation is owed to Kuwait. In its 10 March letter to the Council, Iraq called for the annulment of all remaining claims or the reduction in level of deduction to one percent.
A key issue is whether Iraq and Kuwait are yet willing to bring to a conclusion the matters of repatriation and the return of property. For the Council, the issue is what to do if it becomes clear that the goals of Tarasov’s mandate cannot be implemented any further.
A related issue which the Council is likely to have to address in 2009 is the ongoing nature of its role regarding Iraq, particularly in light of resolution 1859 which called for a review of resolutions pertaining to Iraq since its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
A practical question is whether there is over the long term a need for a high-level coordinator. But the immediate issue is whether to authorise the continuation of escrow account funding for Tarasov’s mandate given the Council had agreed to support his activities only through March 2009. An option in this regard is a rollover pending consideration of the wider issues.
Most Council members seem keen to conclude the mandate in a timely manner. However, there is much sympathy for Kuwait’s position that the process needs to be brought to a conclusion in a principled way. Council members would prefer to support solutions found on a bilateral basis between Iraq and Kuwait. During discussions last year on ongoing support to the high-level coordinator, Russia supported a longer financial commitment.
Selected Security Council Resolutions
Latest Secretary-General’s Report
Latest Security Council Press Statement
Secretary-General’s High-Level Coordinator
Gennady P. Tarasov (Russian Federation) appointed April 2008