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December 6, 11

NEWS / Iraq: UN calls for more time to resolve issue of camp residents

6 December 2011 –
The United Nations envoy for Iraq today voiced concern over the situation in a camp housing several thousand Iranian exiles and urged the Iraqi Government to extend the deadline for closing down the settlement as efforts continue o find a peaceful solution that conforms with international law.

Situated in the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala, Camp Ashraf houses members of a group known as the People’s Mojahedeen of Iran. The Iraqi Government has repeatedly stated its intention to close down the camp by 31 December and to transfer residents to another location until countries willing to accept them for resettlement are found. Residents want to remain in the camp until a resettlement solution is found.

Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), told the Security Council in a briefing on the situation in the country that the UN is making efforts to facilitate a peaceful and durable solution.

“Lives are at stake and must be protected,” said Mr. Kobler. “The Government has a responsibility to ensure the safety, security and welfare of the residents. Any forced action that results in bloodshed or loss of life would be both ill-advised and unacceptable.”

Mr. Kobler noted that any workable solution must be acceptable to both the Iraqi Government and residents of Camp Ashraf. A solution must respect Iraqi sovereignty, on the one hand, and be in line with international humanitarian, human rights and refugee laws, on the other.

Progress has been made in recent discussions, but there are still major obstacles on arriving at a plan that would meet the concerns and requirements of all, he said.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is ready to begin a process of refugee status determination in the camp, but the exercise will require more time, he added, stressing that the principle of non-refoulement must apply.

Mr. Kobler urged the camp’s leadership, and well as all residents, to engage “constructively and open-mindedly” in the process of finding a solution, appealing to them to give serious consideration to all proposals under discussion. He warned them against any provocative acts or violence.

Mr. Kobler also urged the international community to do more to help find a peaceful solution to the problem, stressing that a lasting settlement cannot be found unless governments are willing to accept Camp Ashraf residents who wish to be resettled in other countries.

“The situation of Camp Ashraf is a complex problem, but not an insurmountable one. A process is underway, and if all concerned act responsibly at this time it is possible to arrive at a peaceful, durable solution that respects both the safety and welfare of the residents and Iraq’s understandable desire to assert its sovereignty,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kobler strongly condemned yesterday’s terrorist attacks targeting pilgrims marking the festival of Ashura in central Iraq. Dozens of people died in the attacks.

“I am deeply saddened by the horrific attacks that continue to shatter the lives of Iraqis across the country,” he said.

“Yesterday’s attack of pilgrims who gather on Ashura to practice their religious rights is particularly appalling. The Iraqi religious and ethnic diversity is the ultimate strength of this country. This diversity is at the heart of the country’s efforts to establish a peaceful, prosperous and all inclusive society.”

He extended his condolences to the bereaved families and his wishes for the full and speedy recovery of those wounded.




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