Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended to the Security Council to extend financing of the UN high-level Coordinator Gennady Tarasov's mandate on the issue of Kuwaiti prisoners for the next six months."In view of the potential for progress that lies ahead, I recommend that the Security Council extend the financing of the Coordinator's mandate until 30 June 2012 in order to continue to build upon the existing momentum towards the implementation" of the relevant Council resolution, Ban said in a report to the Council, addressed late on Friday."It appears that the search for missing Kuwaiti and third country nationals in Iraq is on track," he said.
"I welcome the cooperation shown by the Government of Iraq in this respect and encourage it to take further practical steps towards fulfilling its obligations ... I would like to acknowledge the support provided by the Government of Kuwait," he added in his report.Tarasov's mandate is paid for by the Iraqi oil revenues through a UN fund.Ban's recommendation to extend the financing of Tarasov's mandate came despite a letter last July by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who said his Government "did not see the need to extend the Coordinator's mandate after December 2011, since the Tripartite Commission and its Technical Sub-Committee ... should be able to work effectively on the humanitarian file for the benefit of Iraq and Kuwait".Ban recalled that Kuwaiti officials, whether in bilateral meetings with him or in various letters addressed to him "support the extension of the mandate of the High-level Coordinator in order to achieve substantive results that would help put a closure to this humanitarian file".
He mentioned, for instance, a letter addressed to him in mid-November by Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah who pointed out that "no progress had been made" since 2004 in discovering the fate of the 369 missing persons, and stressed Kuwait's support to the extension of Tarasov's mandate.Ban called on Iraq "to continue to work with Kuwait in the spirit of trust and confidence in order to achieve significant progress in the resolution of this humanitarian issue.This, along with other necessary steps by Iraq to comply with its remaining obligations under relevant Council resolutions, would enhance chances of getting it out from under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, he argued.Tarasov's priority is to facilitate the sending of joint exploratory missions to sites in Iraq where Kuwaiti and third country nationals may have been buried.Ban said three such missions were conducted up to date: to Nassiriah, southern Iraq in December 2010, and to a near-by site of Khamissiah in June and September of this year.
"Although no human remains have been discovered, ...these missions represent a promising format for their further work on the ground. These missions have the potential to become an effective functional mechanism to fully probe the fate of missing persons," Ban said.
These efforts have "established confidence that serious engagement is underway" and hold out a "prospect of gradually producing tangible results," he added, stressing that concrete progress will require "strong commitment, constructive collaboration and sustained professional effort".He noted, in this regard, that Iraqi Minister of Human Rights Mohammad Al-Sudaney informed Tarasov while in Baghdad that his ministry had prepared a plan of action for 2012 that accorded priority to more investigations at Khamisiyah, Ramadi, and Hilla in Iraq.Al-Sudaney also informed Tarasov, according to Ban, that Iraq has received the equipment purchased from the Kuwaiti grant, of close to one million dollars, to excavate the mass graves and identify missing persons, adding that Iraq needs to work with the UN on this humanitarian file "within a specific timeframe".In a related development, Ban said the remains of 32 Iraqi soldiers discovered by a mission of the Technical Sub-Committee (TSC) earlier this year were handed over to the Iraqi authorities last July, adding that a similar mission went to northern Kuwait at the end of November."Thus, the activities of the TSC have in fact become 'a two-way street,' dealing with missing persons both from Kuwait and Iraq," Ban noted.Ban finally said he "remains concerned that no substantial progress has been made in the search for the Kuwaiti national archive, and that no credible information about its whereabouts has so far emerged".He recalled that Iraq informed him in a letter late last month that it had found about 136 microfilm cassettes belonging to the official newspaper 'Kuwait today', and that it had sent a letter to the Kuwaiti authorities in this regard.The Council is scheduled to take up the report on December 15th and Tarasov will be invited to brief the members on the latest developments.