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Ambassador Hamamoto’s Opening Remarks at Governing Council: UNCC is a UN Success Story
June 9, 2015

Two statements by U.S. Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto At the 79th Meeting of the UNCC Governing Council

Nomination of Spain as UNCC Governing Council President

In my first Governing Council meeting, I would like to break with tradition in one particular way.   Since the UNCC was established in 1991, this Council has chosen its President twelve times.  None of the twelve previously chosen Presidents was a woman.   I submit that it is long overdue for us to end that omission.  I am proud to be able to nominate Spain, and in particular the Spanish Ambassador, my friend Ana Maria Menéndez Pérez, to serve as President of this Governing Council for the 2015-16 term.  Ambassador Menéndez Pérez is an extremely talented diplomat.  I am certain she will be an excellent leader of this body.

Thank you, Madam Vice President.

Opening remarks

Thank you, Madam President.

Distinguished representatives of Iraq and Kuwait, and distinguished members of the Governing Council,

The United States looks forward to this 79th Governing Council session.  This will be a one-day meeting, unlike the previous meetings that were longer, but it promises to be one busy and productive day.

Before discussing the work ahead of us, let me take this opportunity to express the deep sympathy of the United States for the people of Iraq who are going through a tragic period of violence at the hands of a common enemy of all of us.  We stand in solidarity with the Government of Iraq during this difficult time and look forward to the day when the suffering of your people will come to an end.

To start, let me congratulate Spain on being chosen as President of the Governing Council for the 2015-16 term.  Or I should say, chosen again, because Spain previously served as the second President of the Governing Council, from 1993 to 1994.  Heartfelt thanks to Ambassador Menéndez Pérez for agreeing to accept this responsibility.  I look forward to working closely with you and your Mission on UNCC matters during the Spanish Presidency.  Let me also congratulate and thank Malaysia, on your selection and service as Vice President.

The UNCC is a little-known UN success story.  Established by the Security Council after Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime illegally invaded Kuwait, the UNCC showcases the UN’s work to discourage future unlawful acts of aggression, and to contribute to the post-conflict restoration of justice and peace between neighboring states.

We appreciate Iraq’s long-running cooperation with the UNCC, in fulfillment of its Security Council obligations.  We further welcome Iraq’s constructive participation in this meeting, particularly that of its Committee of Financial Experts, or COFE.  I would like to thank COFE’s head, Dr. Abdulbasit, for coming to Geneva to attend this meeting.

I similarly appreciate Kuwait’s willingness to support Iraq in its neighbor’s hour of difficulty, and I recognize the presence of Chairman Al-Mudhaf of Kuwait’s PAAC.

The UNCC has carried out much of the historic and enormous task that the Security Council gave it.  Out of more than $52 billion awarded by the UNCC for over a million claims, all have been paid except for less than $5 billion of one claim to Kuwait.  One year ago, we expected that at this time the UNCC would be on the verge of completing its task.  But in December 2014, we took a decision in light of Iraq’s extraordinarily difficult security circumstances and unusual budgetary challenges.  At the request of Iraq and with the support of Kuwait, we then decided to postpone Iraq’s payment requirement until January 1, 2016.

One issue we will discuss today is what will happen when that postponement ends on January 1, 2016.

If we receive another Iraqi request, important considerations for the United States would include the following.  First, we would have much respect for any agreement between Iraq and Kuwait.  Second, we must have a clear future plan leading to completion of the UNCC’s mandate in a reasonable time.  And third, the UNCC has earned a good reputation, and we need to maintain it.  In light of these considerations, we could support some form of continued relief, but we are NOT inclined to support a solution that postpones indefinitely or into the distant future Iraq’s completion of its payment obligations.  We have previously praised the UNCC as a rare example of a UN agency that is completing its mandate and then closing down.  We still expect that to happen – no longer in 2015, but certainly within a small number of years.

This leads to another topic on today’s agenda, plans for the prompt and orderly wind-down of the UNCC, which is an important U.S. objective.  To be clear, we see no need to close the UNCC before Iraq’s payment obligation has been fulfilled.  But we see no reason to keep it open beyond that time.  The UNCC’s staff has dropped from a high of 257 to its current level of five, and that number will soon be four.  Although we have previously argued for promptly reducing staff numbers, the staff level is now reaching a bare minimum, and we would not press for any further reductions at this point.

I said at the opening that the UNCC is a UN success story.  In today’s meeting my delegation will seek to preserve that success story, and to bring it to a successful conclusion in the relatively near future.

Thank you, Madam President.