BAGHDAD (AFP) — The United Nations' priority in Iraq is to facilitate dialogue between neighbours of the war-ravaged country whose instability threatens the region, new UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said Friday.
De Mistura in a wide-ranging interview with AFP defended the world body's achievements in Iraq and said he would be able to "do more" within the extended mandate granted by Security Council Resolution 1770, passed in August.
The Swede, new representative in Iraq for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, arrived in Baghdad on November 11, replacing Pakistani Ashraf Qazi.
"In the context of the next 12 months which are crucial for Iraq, it must be shown that the UN can make a difference for peace in Iraq, and also for international stability," de Mistura said in his first media interview since taking up his post.
"My first priority is to facilitate regional dialogue and contacts between the regional protagonists," said Mistura. "We want to put in place 'ad hoc' working groups to follow up the work of the multinational meetings, such as that in Istanbul," he said.
"My second priority is to facilitate the negotiation of the provincial borders in the north of Iraq", de Mistura added, without wishing to elaborate.
The boundaries of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq have still to be delimited and the fate of the oil city of Kirkuk, which the Kurds want to incorporate into their zone, is a source of litigation between the Arab and Turkoman communities.
Resolution 1770 assigns to the UN the role of mediator between opposing parties in Iraq "as far as circumstances permit."
"The role of the UN will depend on what the Iraqis themselves and the principal protagonists ask us to do and will depend on those areas where we can be useful," the UN envoy said.
He said that 363 international personnel, many of them security guards, and 200 Iraqis currently work for the UN in Iraq. Others are based in neighbouring countries, the majority in Jordan.
"My principal concern is the safety of the Iraqis and that of UN personnel.".