Can the UN do more to help resolve Erbil/Baghdad disputes?

APPG Chair Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP asked the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Minister “what assessment he has made of the potential role of the UN in assisting the federal and regional governments of Iraq to support (a) resolution of the status of disputed territories in Iraq and (b) a budget deal and a revenue-sharing agreement between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the federal government.”

The Middle East Minister James Cleverly replied: “We work closely with the UN and international partners to encourage the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to resolve their issues, including on a sustainable budget and disputed internal boundaries. The recent agreement on Sinjar, which the UN supported, is a positive step in this regard. I discussed these issues with the Governments of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq during my visit in December 2020.”

My comment. Questions put issues on the agenda for further pursuit. There is a good case for the UN to take a more pro-active position with encouragement from a member of the UN Security Council such as the UK. The government may not think the time is right and that current diplomatic pressures are enough.

Resolving the differences between Erbil and Baghdad are vital to the peoples of Iraq and for international security to defeat Daesh, which recently carried out an atrocity in Baghdad which murdered 32 innocent people.

Last December, Robert tabled a Commons motion which highlighted the work of the UN on this matter. It reads: “That this House endorses the statement of 24 November to the Security Council by Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq; agrees that Iraq faces several interlinked and mutually reinforcing crises and that the devastating economic impact of Covid will probably outlast the pandemic; shares her view that a constructive relationship between federal Iraq and the Kurdistan Region underpins the stability of Iraq; deeply regrets the continuing impasse on federal budget payments to Kurdistan for civil servants’ pay who, in her view, should be shielded from political disputes rather than collectively victimized; agrees that constructive negotiations between Baghdad and Erbil are hampered by 15 years of unclear constitutional guidance, which cannot be ignored as it will block lasting solutions; agrees that the recent agreement between Baghdad and Erbil on the governance of the disputed territory of Sinjar is the first step towards stable security structures followed by a unified administration there; believes that such agreements can then be rolled out to other disputed territories, especially Kirkuk, and as part of greater co-ordination between the Peshmerga and the Iraqi Army to tackle Daesh extremists who operate in the no man’s land between the two forces; and urges the Government to encourage negotiated solutions on all outstanding issues based on the provisions of the federal constitution of Iraq and the rights of the Kurdistani people.

Gary Kent

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