U.S. Ambassador Says Iraqis Turning Away from Violence
Washington - The overall level of violence in Iraq continues to be low and Iraqis are showing a tendency to work within the political system as the January 16, 2010, parliamentary elections approach, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill says.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington — The overall level of violence in Iraq continues to be low and Iraqis are showing a tendency to work within the political system as the January 16, 2010, parliamentary elections approach, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill says.
Speaking to reporters at the State Department June 18, Hill also said U.S. forces will fully comply with the security agreement between Iraq and the United States that calls for the withdrawal of all remaining U.S. combat forces from Iraqi urban areas before July 1. Hill described the pullout as “one of the major milestones” of the agreement and said that in most Iraqi cities combat forces already have left. All U.S. forces are scheduled to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011.
The United States and Iraq will also be moving ahead on a strategic framework agreement “which will really govern our relationship for, we hope, decades to come,” he said.
That agreement will include educational exchanges, economic relations and political exchanges. “[W]e want to make this strategic framework agreement really the essence of the relationship. And to get to that, we need to get through the remaining elements of the security agreement,” he said.
Based on aggregate numbers from the U.S. military, “there is an overall trending down” of violent attacks and Hill said militia groups are not being re-created. Continued attacks against Shiite and Sunni communities are attempts to stimulate tensions between the two, but Hill said they have not accomplished that goal and the United States is working to maintain the dialogue among the political leaders of the various Iraqi communities.
Iraq has “gone through six years of very, very painful violence, where everybody has lost a loved one,” Hill said. “And you know, one never wants to predict when people are sick of this sort of thing, but since arriving there in the last couple of months, I do believe that people are trying to work their way through a political process.”
He welcomed efforts by sectarian and Kurdish political parties to reach out to each other in the interest of “jockeying for political positions” ahead of the January 2010 elections. “These sorts of things are actually healthy,” Hill said.
As part of the security agreement, Hill said the Obama administration is also working to improve relations between Iraq and its neighbors, including Kuwait, to help reach an agreement over the remaining United Nations sanctions and war reparations that were imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Hill also said the United States is training Iraqi prison authorities and helping them refurbish their facilities as part of the U.S. agreement to transfer detainees to Iraqi custody.
U.S. policymakers understand the need to respect Iraq’s sovereignty in order to have a long-term and successful relationship he said. “[W]e're very respectful of Iraqi territorial integrity and respectful of Iraqi unity. And that's been our policy, and that'll continue to be our policy. We will work very hard with Iraqi authority not to tell them what to do, but to express our views and to listen to their views.”
As a new ambassador in Baghdad, Hill said he will continue to “do a lot more listening” than speaking.
AMBASSADOR RICE PRAISES U.N.’S “VITALLY IMPORTANT WORK” IN IRAQ
In New York, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice praised the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq ( UNAMI ) for playing a “critical role” to promote Iraq’s long-term peace, security and prosperity.
In remarks at the United Nations June 18, Rice said UNAMI will be asked to provide technical assistance in the January 2010 parliamentary elections, as well as the Kurdistan Regional Government elections in July 2009. The United Nations is also continuing to promote “constructive dialogue” to address the country’s disputed internal boundaries.
UNAMI will also be facilitating the sustainable and voluntary return of displaced Iraqis by providing security and access to housing, jobs and basic services, which Rice said is “essential for the country’s long-term stability.”
Transcripts of Hill’s briefing on Iraq and Rice’s remarks at the United Nations are available on America.gov.
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