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Special Representative Warns against Underestimating Task Ahead, Especially On Security Front; Seeks Extended Deadline for Resettling Camp Ashraf’s Residents

Noting that Iraq had requested United Nations assistance in facilitating a peaceful and durable solution to the situation of Camp Ashraf, he said the Organization was working exhaustively to do so. However, the positions of the Government and the camp’s residents and leadership remained far apart. The 31 December deadline set by the Government to relocate the camp’s residents to another location until third-party resettlement countries were identified was fast approaching. The residents, who hoped to remain in the camp until the third-party countries were found, did not agree to be transferred to a location “without the protection of blue helmets”. 

“There is real danger of confrontation and even violence unless a mutually acceptable solution is achieved,” he said, noting at the same time that the Government had agreed to give UNHCR its mandated role. It had also given assurances of its commitment to the principle of non-refoulement. He called on all concerned to act with restraint and flexibility to ensure that a peaceful solution was found. 

To that end, he said UNAMI and UNHCR had formed a working group on Camp Ashraf that had frequently met with the Iraqi Government in recent weeks. UNAMI also continued to visit the camp on a regular basis, and the Secretary-General had spoken to Prime Minister Maliki on the matter. For its part, the United Nations was emphasizing that lives must be protected and that any forced action that resulted in bloodshed or loss of life would be ill-advised and unacceptable. Any workable solution must be mutually acceptable and respect Iraqi sovereignty and relevant international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. It must also respect the principle of non-refoulement.