UN urges ‘patience, calm’ as Iraq waits on ratification of election results

UN urges ‘patience, calm’ as Iraq waits on ratification of election results
Iraq is waiting on final confirmation of the election result by the Federal Supreme Court. (AFP/File)
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Updated 24 November 2021

UN urges ‘patience, calm’ as Iraq waits on ratification of election results

UN urges ‘patience, calm’ as Iraq waits on ratification of election results
  • Mission chief calls on Iraqis to reject violence and use legal means to settle disputes over voting outcome
  • ‘Peaceful, well-managed poll a substantial achievement’ after deadly 2019 protests swept the country

NEW YORK: Iraqis across the political spectrum should show restraint, shun violence and wait patiently for the final ratification of results from last month’s “hard-earned” elections, a senior UN official told the Security Council on Tuesday.

Jeanine Plasschaert, special representative of the UN secretary-general and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, said there is much for Iraqis “to be proud of” in the Oct. 10 election — the fifth national poll held under Iraq’s 2005 constitution — which the UN has praised as generally peaceful and well-managed.

Her comments come as Iraq waits on final confirmation of the election result by the Federal Supreme Court.

Referring to the poll, Plasschaert said: “All in all, it was a substantial achievement, which Iraq’s authorities and parties would do well to publicly acknowledge.”

She reminded the Security Council that the October elections came in the wake of an unprecedented wave of protests throughout Iraq in 2019, including “demonstrations that were marked by violence, excessive use of force, abductions and targeted killings.”

The protests resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries, Plasschaert added.

Iraqis went to the polls to elect MPs amid protesters’ calls for a halt to endemic corruption and an improvement in living conditions.

Following the elections, supporters of the Fatah Alliance — the coalition representing Iran-backed militias that lost two-thirds of its seats — claimed the poll was rigged and refused to accept the results, despite hundreds of international observers testifying to the integrity of the voting process.

Describing the current Iraqi outlook as “precarious,” Plasschaert highlighted clashes that erupted in the weeks following the vote, and sit-ins that escalated into violence and resulted in several deaths.

The UN official called the assassination attempt against Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi a direct attack on the Iraqi state, “a heinous act, and one that can only be condemned in the strongest of terms.”

Speaking to the Security Council remotely from Baghdad, Plasschaert added: “Let me be clear, under no circumstances must terrorism, violence or any other unlawful acts be allowed to derail Iraq’s democratic process.”

While acknowledging that emotions run high in any democratic election, she called for dialogue, calm and restraint to ease tensions, and warned that any unlawful attempt to prolong or discredit the electoral results process, through violence, intimidation or pressure, “can only backfire.”

“The fact is that citizens in democracies often must recognize that, even if the results are not what she or he hoped for, the process as such might have been sound. In fact, one of the clearest signs of a strengthening democracy is the ability for parties and electors to recognize outcomes — no matter their individual preferences when it comes to results.

While reiterating the absence of any evidence of systemic fraud, the UNAMI chief called for any electoral concerns to be dealt with through legal channels.

“While losing seats can be difficult to digest, it is important — for any party in any democracy — to examine the reasons and to learn for future elections,” she said.

With the continued risk of political deadlock in Baghdad, Plasschaert underscored the importance of an inclusive government formation process.

“Iraq desperately needs a government that is able to — swiftly and effectively — tackle the long list of unfinished domestic business. This is the primary responsibility of all political stakeholders,” she said.

US Permanent Representative to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield also said Iraqis should be proud of this election, which took place “in a world with far too much democratic backsliding.”

Thomas-Greenfield also credited the Security Council for the successful results of Iraqi elections.

“This council spoke in unison, authorizing UNAMI to provide electoral technical assistance and election monitors. This council came together and provided the resources the government of Iraq needed to meet the legitimate demands of its people. This council helped strengthen democratic institutions,” she said.

The US envoy called for this “spirit of cooperation” to continue across all the files on the Security Council agenda.


6 dead, 30 missing after migrant boat sinks off Tunisia

6 dead, 30 missing after migrant boat sinks off Tunisia
Updated 28 January 2022

6 dead, 30 missing after migrant boat sinks off Tunisia

6 dead, 30 missing after migrant boat sinks off Tunisia
TUNIS: At least six Africans trying to migrate to Europe died and an estimated 30 were missing in the Mediterranean Sea after their boat sank off the coast of Tunisia on Thursday, according to Tunisia’s Defense Ministry.
Tunisian naval and coast guard forces retrieved the bodies, rescued 34 survivors and are searching for the people listed as missing, the ministry said in a statement. The survivors told rescuers that the boat had 70 people on it and they were headed for Italy, the ministry said.
The boat had left from neighboring Libya and sank about 40 kilometers (24 miles) off the Tunisian town of Zarzis, near the Libyan border, it said.
The survivors included people from Egypt, Sudan and Ivory Coast, according to Mongi Slim, head of the Tunisian Red Crescent.
It’s the latest of several migrant boat sinkings in the region. The central Mediterranean route, which runs from North Africa to southern Italy, is the busiest and deadliest migration route to Europe. People travel from Libya and Tunisia in crowded boats and at the mercy of the smugglers they pay to get them across the sea.
About 60,000 people arrived in Italy by sea last year, and some 1,200 died or disappeared on the journey, according to the United Nations refugee agency.
The Tunisian Defense Ministry said authorities thwarted eight boat migration trips in the last 48 hours off the coast of the city of Sfax, and 130 people from Tunisia and sub-Saharan Africa were detained.

Rockets hit Baghdad airport compound

Rockets hit Baghdad airport compound
Updated 28 January 2022

Rockets hit Baghdad airport compound

Rockets hit Baghdad airport compound
  • US air base, known as Camp Victory, is located around the perimeter of Baghdad’s civilian airport

BAGHDAD: At least three rockets landed in the Baghdad International Airport compound and near an adjacent US air base, damaging one disused civilian aeroplane, Iraqi police sources said.
The police sources did not report any other damage or any injuries. The damaged aircraft was an out of use Iraqi Airways plane, they said.
The US air base, known as Camp Victory, is located around the perimeter of Baghdad’s civilian airport.
Rocket attacks which US and some Iraqi officials blame on Iran-aligned Shiite militia groups who oppose the US military presence in the region have regularly hit the complex in recent years.


Coalition says target in Saada airstrike was a Houthi special security camp

Coalition says target in Saada airstrike was a Houthi special security camp
Updated 28 January 2022

Coalition says target in Saada airstrike was a Houthi special security camp

Coalition says target in Saada airstrike was a Houthi special security camp
  • Coalition spokesman slams Houthis for peddling misleading information
  • Joint Forces Command ready to present facts to UN Humanitarian and Red Cross teams

RIYADH: The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen on Friday denied targeting a prison in Saada and accused the Houthi militia of trying to mislead the public.

Houthi officials on Thursday claimed that coalition air strikes last week killed around 90 people and wounded more than 200 at Saada prison.

In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency, Coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Turki Al-Malki said the targeted location was a Houthi special security camp, which is a "legitimate military target". 

Al-Maliki cited a report of the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) dated January 27, 2022, after investigating the Houthis' claim.

The statement said there are four locations identified as prisons in the Joint Forces Command’s No Strike List (NSL) in Saada, all of which are being used by the "terrorist Houthi militia" in launching "cross-border attacks to target civilians and civilian objects."

The closest prison is located 1.8 kilometers away from the site targeted in a coalition air strike.

"What was announced and disseminated by the terrorist Houthi militia in its media outlets is a blatant attempt to mislead the public opinion regarding the true nature of the location in an attempt to garner sympathy from UN organizations and INGOs," Al-Maliki said in the statement.

He assured that the Joint Forces Command "applies the highest targeting standards."

The Coalition said it is prepared to shed light on the issue with representatives of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Red Cross.

"The terrorist Houthi militia bears the full responsibility in case it uses civilians as human shields in its military locations," Al-Maliki said.

Fighting has escalated in recent weeks, with more air strikes on what the coalition says are Houthi military targets.

The Iran-aligned Houthi movement has stepped up missile and drone attacks on the United Arab Emirates and cross-border launches on neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The coalition had previously accused the Houthis of using civilian centers as a shield against legitimate strikes.


Qatari official’s Iran visit gives hope for talks breakthrough

Qatari official’s Iran visit gives hope for talks breakthrough
Updated 28 January 2022

Qatari official’s Iran visit gives hope for talks breakthrough

Qatari official’s Iran visit gives hope for talks breakthrough
  • Sheikh Tamim to meet US President Joe Biden on Jan. 31

DUBAI: Qatar’s top diplomat visited Iran on Thursday, days before Qatar’s emir holds talks in Washington at a crucial time for efforts by Tehran and major powers to revive a 2015 nuclear pact.
The visit by Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani comes after his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian on Monday said Tehran is ready to consider direct talks with Washington if it feels it can get a “good nuclear deal.”
However, Iran’s state news agency IRNA said the visit was not intended to help set up direct talks with Washington.
“Although Doha and Tehran are experiencing good and close relations, this visit ... has fueled some misconceptions. Some are fabricating it to facilitate direct talks with the United States,” IRNA said.
The US and Iran have held eight rounds of indirect talks in Vienna since April aimed at reinstating the pact that lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.
After then-US President Donald Trump quit the nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions, Iran gradually started violating the pact’s nuclear curbs.

BACKGROUND

The US and Iran have held eight rounds of indirect talks in Vienna since April aimed at reinstating the pact that lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.

Significant gaps remain about the speed and scope of returning to the deal, including Iran’s demand for a US guarantee of no further punitive steps, and how and when to restore curbs on Iran’s atomic work.
Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, will hold talks with US President Joe Biden on Jan. 31. They will include efforts to salvage the pact. The minister, Sheikh Mohammed, is expected in Washington on Friday in advance of the emir’s visit.
Iran’s hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi emphasized the importance of “deepening ties between regional countries” in a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed, who invited the president to attend the Gas Exporting Countries Forum summit in February in Doha.
The lead US nuclear negotiator told Reuters on Sunday that securing the nuclear deal is unlikely unless Tehran releases four US citizens Washington says it is holding hostage.
While ruling out any US preconditions, Iran said on Monday that Tehran and Washington can reach “a lasting agreement on both separate paths (the Vienna talks and the prisoner exchange) if the other party has the will.”
Iranian officials have refused to comment on the matter, but Tehran has repeatedly said it is ready for a full prisoner exchange with Washington.
Tehran denies holding people for political reasons. It has accused many of the dual-nationals and foreigners in its jails of espionage.
Tehran says Iranians detained in the US, mostly for breaking sanctions, are being unjustly held.


UAE leading model of global human solidarity: Vatican secretary of state

UAE leading model of global human solidarity: Vatican secretary of state
Updated 28 January 2022

UAE leading model of global human solidarity: Vatican secretary of state

UAE leading model of global human solidarity: Vatican secretary of state
  • Cardinal Pietro Parolin was speaking during a phone call with UAE foreign minister
  • He expressed his solidarity with the UAE following a terrorist attack by Yemen’s Houthi militia

LONDON: The Vatican said the UAE is a leading model of global human solidarity, and its humanitarian initiatives help promote peaceful coexistence, tolerance and peace around the world, Emirati state news agency WAM reported on Thursday.
Speaking during a phone call with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, expressed his solidarity with the UAE following a terrorist attack by Yemen’s Houthi militia on civilian facilities in the UAE capital.
The Iran-backed Houthi militia launched a number of drones and missiles toward Abu Dhabi on Jan. 17, which were intercepted and destroyed by the UAE defense ministry, however, remnants landed in separate areas around the capital, killing three people and injuring seven.
Parolin offered his sincere condolences to the victims of the attack, and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
Sheikh Abdullah thanked Parolin for his sentiments, and praised the Vatican’s outstanding role in serving humanitarian issues and promoting the values of tolerance and coexistence among all peoples.
Sheikh Abdullah also affirmed the UAE’s keenness to strengthen its relations with the Vatican across various levels.
Relations between the UAE and the Vatican have witnessed continuous growth, especially at the humanitarian level, after the Emirates hosted the Human Fraternity Meeting between Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayyib in 2019.
During the meeting, the “Document on Human Fraternity” was signed to promote human relations, build bridges of communication, harmony and love between peoples, and tackle extremism.