(As Delivered Remarks)
Thank you, Mr. President. We are honored by your presence at this debate.
I want to begin by joining my colleagues in thanking you Mr. Special Representative for your extraordinary leadership. I know how deeply my government – up to and including President Obama – has been grateful for your service, for your enormous contributions, for your personal sacrifice and for your success in this important endeavor. You will be missed and I just want to underscore how deep our gratitude truly is.
I also want to thank you for reminding us of the enormous contributions and sacrifices that so many have made on behalf of the United Nations as well as many other countries and, of course, foremost the people of Iraq towards the achievement of a sovereign, democratic and stable Iraq. And your mention of Sergio today is moving and timely and we thank you again for that.
I also want to thank the Secretary-General for his report and all of the men and women of UNAMI for their tireless work to support a more peaceful and prosperous Iraq. Rooted in our shared strategic interests with the Government of Iraq, heartened by the heroic service of thousands of brave Americans and many others, and mindful of the future of millions of Iraqis, the United States remains deeply committed to Iraq.
As this Council knows, the United States plans—in accordance with the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement—to withdraw its combat troops from Iraq’s cities, towns, and villages no later than the end of this month. That, in turn, will pave the way for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces by the end of 2011.
Our drawdown and withdrawal, however, in no way diminish our long-term partnership with Iraq. During this transition period, the United States will continue to our firm support the Iraqi people as they assume full responsibility for their sovereign nation. We will continue to build a strong, lasting strategic relationship with Iraq—one that respects the sovereignty and serves the interests of both our countries.
As a friend and a strategic partner, we will work with Iraq’s government to strengthen democratic institutions, uphold the rule of law, and develop peaceful and cooperative relations with its neighbors. We will also continue to encourage the international community to deepen its engagement with the Government of Iraq to further secure and build upon Iraq’s political, economic, and security gains.
Mr. President, the United States would like to acknowledge the vitally important work that the U. N. is doing in Iraq. Under the leadership of Special Representative Staffan de Mistura and at the invitation of the Iraqi government, UNAMI continues to expand the UN’s presence and capacity throughout Iraq. From helping address disputed internal boundaries to helping hold free and fair elections, from pursuing national reconciliation to easing the suffering of refugees and the displaced, UNAMI continues to play a critical role in promoting the long-term peace, security, and prosperity of Iraq.
In the days and months ahead, UNAMI’s work will be critically important. Let me highlight just three areas where UNAMI’s efforts will matter most.
In January, Iraqis chose new provincial councils in 14 out of Iraq’s 18 provinces. That vote was marked by a heartening, diverse voter turnout and a significantly improved security climate. Based on that success, UNAMI will once again provide technical assistance and advice to Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission as it prepares for two upcoming votes: the Kurdistan Regional Government elections in July and Iraqi parliamentary elections in January 2010.
Second, UNAMI will also continue to play a crucial role in supporting efforts to address Iraq’s disputed internal boundaries. By promoting constructive dialogue about a mutually acceptable solution, UNAMI is helping provide a key requirement for lasting stability in Iraq. And we call on all relevant parties to advance this process in earnest.
Third, UNAMI will provide valuable support to the Iraqi government as it facilitates the safe, voluntary, and orderly return of displaced Iraqis. Here too, UNAMI’s work is critically important: the sustainable and voluntary reintegration into Iraqi life of refugees and internally displaced persons is essential for the country’s long-term stability. To support and sustain the return of those uprooted by war and chaos, UNAMI is working with the Iraqi government to provide them with security and access to housing, jobs, and basic services. We welcome additional efforts on this issue by the Government of Iraq.
All of us here can be proud of UNAMI’s outstanding record of accomplishments. We deeply appreciate its work and look forward to its continued success.
Mr. President, the United States firmly supports Iraq’s continuing development as a sovereign and democratic nation—a country where all of its diverse and vibrant communities can participate freely in political, social, and economic life; a country where human rights are protected; a country that contributes to the peace and security of the region; a country that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant.
To build on the progress we have made, regional and international support for Iraq is essential. We encourage all countries to help Iraq meet its goals and to support the Iraqi people as they pursue prosperity and peace.
The United States unequivocally encourages UNAMI’s work and its expanded footprint in Iraq. My government stands ready to continue to assist UNAMI as necessary and we encourage all countries to do the same.
Finally, the United States fully supports the Presidential Statement circulated by the Turkish Presidency. It is an important signal of support for UNAMI, and for the people of Iraq.
Thank you, Mr. President.