Al-Nujaifi Briefs EU Deputies on Iraq

July 22, 2011 at 11:46 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Al-Nujaifi Briefs Deputies on Iraq Today

Answering questions from Members of the European Parliament in a specially convened hearing, Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi talks of extending support to Iraq’s Christian community but does not extend such support to the creation of a new region in Mosul.

Below is an article published by UNPO:

Opening the hearing, Mr. Gabriele Albertini MEP, chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, spoke of having heard in earlier discussions the positive vision of Iraq, despite the numerous problems that still remained. In working to resolve these he noted the “complete solidarity on these values” between the Council of Representatives and the European Parliament. This relationship was already deepening as the European Parliament moved forward with its the report on the forthcoming association agreement between the European Union and Iraq currently being drafted by Frieda Brepoels MEP.

Taking the floor, Mr. Osama al-Nujaifi, Speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, expressed the desire of Iraqi deputies for a future based on developing relations with Europe and stressed that Iraqis had shown themselves to “bounce back just like the phoenix” after having lived through some of the country’s most trying times. Iraq has been blighted as a “warfield by proxy” Mr. Al-Nujaifi claimed and conflicting interests continued to affect a country that was “seeking to retrieve its sovereignty” while its nascent democracy was being threatened by sectarian conflict.  Despite this atmosphere Iraq has the potential to “go back to its humanitarian role” in the region but if allowed to return to the chaos and misery of the past it could also become a “living volcano in the region.”

Having recently returned from Iraq, Mr. Struan Stevenson MEP, chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq welcomed the sizeable delegation headed by Mr. Al-Nujaifi and expressed the sense of privilege he had felt in leading the Delegation to Iraq.  Nevertheless, he remained concerned over the failure to implement the articles of the Erbil Agreement associated with the Government of National Unity. The situation in Camp Ashraf continued to be one deep concern, but in other fields there was hope in the plan for a joint conference aimed at promoting economic development within Iraq and between Baghdad and European business interests.

Speaking as a member of the four-person delegation that had travelled to Iraq in April 2011, Mr. Mario Mauro MEP related to Mr. Al-Nujaifi that he had been “deeply impressed by the people of Iraq” during their visit. Taking advantage of the speaker’s visit Mr. Mauro asked for impressions on how Iraq was developing given the current questions over possible future elections, EU-Iraq Association Agreement, and ultimately the sharing of power within Iraq.  In response Mr. Al-Nujaifi noted that there was a need to “spread and sensitise” people in Iraq to democracy and just as reconstruction was key, so was the consolidation of the existing pillars of democracy in the country.

Although security had appeared to be improving and the death toll was nothing as in past years, Mr. José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra MEP noted that the “figures are still unbearable.” He asked what condition Iraq was in to ensure the security of its airspace and oil infrastructure and whether there was any discussion over extending the presence of American forces in Iraq until such security could be guaranteed. Responding, Mr. Al-Nujaifi reassured deputies that Iraq was well placed to expand its oil production to 6 million bpd and was keen to supply Europe’s energy needs through international companies working in the country.

Human rights concerns were raised by Mrs. Freida Brepoels MEP, citing reports from Human Rights Watch that highlighted the threats to freedom of the press and media.  The question of the violence against women and the death penalty, reintroduced in 2004 and which now placed Iraq fourth in the world of judicial executions, was also an area of concern for Mrs. Brepoels in her exchanges with Mr. Al-Nujaifi. Particularly of interest to Mrs. Brepoels were plans for the creation of a predominantly Sunni region centred on the city of Mosul, following the model of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Whilst Mr. Al-Nujaifi did not distance himself from the creation of such a region, he did emphasise that from the perspective of Iraq the death penalty was still considered necessary as a disincentive to those still wishing to perpetrate terrorist acts and that it was implemented only after the full course of judicial proceedings.

Sir Robert Atkins MEP observed that Mr. Al-Nufaifi’s remarks had not proved altogether positive and that it was hard to escape the perception that Iraqi parliamentarians were “fighting like cats in a sack.” He therefore asked what interest there was within the Council of Representatives for consensus, how the European Union could practically assist Iraq, and what had been done to safeguard the unique historical treasures looted or destroyed as a result of the chaos that overran Iraq in 2003. Taking each point in turn, Mr. Al-Nujaifi believed that finding a means of implementing the Erbil Agreement was indeed a “test of the…Parliament of Iraq” but committees had been established to address these issues. In this regard and others, the “partnership with Europe is key.” Mr Al-Nujaifi reassured Sir Robert that Iraqi ministries had established and were implementing projects aimed at protecting sites that had in some cases been trampled under tank tracks and rehabilitating museums and collections that had been damaged following Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The possibilities for deepening connections between the European Union and Iraq was highlighted by Mr. Tunne Kelam MEP who told Mr. Al-Nujaifi of the “enormous potential…for relations” he saw. However this would raise new demands on the role and capacity of the EU Delegation in Iraq, some resolution to the situation in Camp Ashraf and ultimately the consolidation of Iraq as a “reliable and efficient partner.” These were all shared by Mr. Al-Nujaifi who noted that Iraq “does not accept any use of violence” in connection with Camp Ashraf but there remained the need to find a third country to which camp residents could be relocated.

The influence of third countries and plight of the Christian community were of interest to Mr. Bastiaan Belder MEP. In his opinion, developments in Iraq pointed to a growing Iranian influence and the feeling that “there is no real future” for Christians in Iraq given the ongoing violence and intimidation. Mr. Al-Nujaifi was quick to reassure Mr Belder that the Iraqi Government was “providing them [Christians] with the minority [sic] of conditions” necessary for them to remain in Iraq. Moreover, Baghdad was working to set up a military force for the Christian communities and to pay compensation to those affected by violence or internal displacement. The refugee situation was a “disgrace and a crime” Mr. Al-Nujaifi conceded and Iraq was doing its utmost to encourage the return of Christians to the country.

Closing the meeting, Mr. Albertini welcomed the “free and open” discussion that is likely to continue as the European Parliament embarks on a hearing examining the situation of Iraqi Turkmen in the city of Kirkuk in October 2011 and delegation visits between Iraq and Brussels look set to increase in frequency.


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