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Cablegate: Un High Commissioner for Refugees Discusses Iraq,

VZCZCXRO3441
OO RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUCNDT #0995 3131937
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 091937Z NOV 07
FM USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3054
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS USUN NEW YORK 000995

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV IZ PHUM KREF
SUBJECT: UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES DISCUSSES IRAQ,
PROBLEMS WITH PM MALIKI

1. (SBU) Summary: On November 7, Antonio Guterres, UN High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), discussed the subject of
Iraq's internally displaced persons and refugees with
Ambassador Khalilzad. Later in the day, Guterres met with
members of the UN,s Humanitarian Liaison Working Group
(HLWG), which includes approximately 30 states, primarily
western donors. In both meetings, Guterres pointedly
criticized Iraqi PM Maliki for failure to address the plight
of Iraqi refugees in Syria and Lebanon. During the HLWG
meeting, Guterres noted that President Talabani and FM Zebari
have been helpful, but said that PM Maliki has refused to
provide Iraqi government assistance because the refugees are
Sunni. Guterres told these envoys that PM Maliki,s refusal
to "accept Iraqi government responsibilities" with regard to
its refugees is "very serious" and "dramatic," and blamed
Maliki's "strong sectarian agenda." End summary.

REFUGEES

2. (SBU) Guterres said UNHCR is active in Syria and Jordan,
and described the Iraqi refugees in both countries as the
largest urban refugee population in UNHCR,s history (more
than two million). He added that UNHCR has overcome its
"semantic" issue with Syria and Jordan. UNHCR will continue
calling the Iraqis "refugees," while Syria and Jordan will
refer to them as "guests," but both sides accept the other,s
designation. During the HLWG, he urged members to
acknowledge the burden Iraqi refugees place on the Syrian and
Jordanian governments. Despite political problems countries
may have with Syria and Jordan, said Guterres, "solidarity
and appreciation" for the two countries, efforts was
important. In both meetings, Guterres also noted recent
progress on obtaining Syrian visas for Department of Homeland
Security officers, who will shortly begin conducting asylum
interviews in UNHCR offices in Damascus. He also called the
resettlement of Palestinians who had been living in Iraq to
Brazil and Chile a "breakthrough," but expressed continuing
concern for the Palestinian community in Baghdad.

3. (SBU) "The key element missing" in the Iraqi refugee issue
is the Iraqi government, said Guterres. He shared his view
that President Talabani and FM Zebari have been fully
cooperative, and blamed PM Maliki for the Iraqi government,s
refusal to address the refugee issue. One example was the
refusal by the Iraqi government to disburse its 25 million
dollar pledge to aid the refugees. Guterres blamed PM Maliki
personally for this refusal. In follow-up questions during
the HLWG meeting, Guterres said PM Maliki and his advisers
believe that the Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan are
Sunni, and therefore they would not assist them. This was
problematic on two levels, said Guterres. First, a
significant number of refugees are Shia. Second, even if
many refugees are Sunni, they are still Iraqi. The Iraqi
government,s abdication of its responsibility towards the
refugees was "very serious" and "dramatic," said Guterres.
He concluded, "It is inconceivable that we create a new
Palestinian problem." The problem, said Guterres, is PM
Maliki,s "strong sectarian agenda."

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

4. (SBU) According to UNHCR, approximately 2.3 million Iraqi
citizens are internally displaced, with over a million Iraqis
displaced since February 2006. Guterres said the Iraqi
government is assisting IDPs, in stark contrast to their
noninvolvement with refugees. Lack of capacity was a
pressing issue, as well as the inability of the Iraqi
bureaucracy to handle these internal population transfers.

5. (SBU) In his meeting with Amb Khalilzad, Guterres admitted
that the effort of the UN,s humanitarian and reconstruction
agencies to address the IDP problem has been inadequate,
attributing its anemic performance to security limitations
(both the UN's ability to move around Iraq and ceilings on
staffing). He expressed strong support, however, for newly
appointed UNAMI deputy SRSG for economic and humanitarian
affairs, David Shearer, who is also serving as the UN's
Humanitarian Coordinator. Guterres said UNHCR ispressing to
expand its presence in Baghdad, and noted that it was
difficult to move the UN family from a risk-averse to
risk-management posture.
Khalilzad

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