UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to visit Iraq, Kurdistan region this week: Iraqi sources

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to visit Iraq, Kurdistan region this week: Iraqi sources
For the second time since his taking office, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is scheduled to visit Iraq on Wednesday, in hopes to urge Iraqis to tackle environmental and political challenges.  
3 min read
28 February, 2023
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (C) delivers a speech during his visit to the Hasan Sham Camp, for Iraqis displaced by fighting with jihadists, on 31 March 2017, some 30 kms east of Mosul. [Getty]

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is scheduled to visit Iraq on Wednesday and to discuss environmental and political issues with top Iraqi officials, Iraqi sources told The New Arab's Arabic sister publication, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

This would be Mr Guterres's second visit to Iraq after assuming his role, he previously visited the country on 30 March 2017. 

The sources said that Guterres is expected to arrive in the capital city of Baghdad on Wednesday, where he will meet with the presidents of the republic, the parliament and the cabinet, as well as several Iraqi political leaders.

On Thursday, according to the sources, he is expected to visit Erbil, the capital city of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, and meet with senior Iraqi Kurdish officials.  

"The UN Secretary-General will discuss issues related to environmental, health, poverty, water crises, political and security issues, in addition to preparations for upcoming elections," the sources added. "He will also pay a tour to some camps of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) based in the Kurdistan region."

Amer Al-Fayez, head of the foreign relations committee in the Iraqi parliament, also told the Arabic publication that the visit indicates the "big international support for PM Mohammed Shia al-Sudani's cabinet that has balanced relations with all regional and international sides." 

"The visit is crucial for Iraq as the country suffers from big environmental and water issues," Al-Faiz said, indicating that the Iraqi government needs international support to deal with the dossiers of IDPs and refugees in the next stage. 

The political and security conditions in Iraq will also be discussed, the MP stressed.

Iraq is preparing to hold provincial elections by October; early general elections are supposed to be held this year. However, pro-Iran Shia political blocs, which have a majority in the parliament, want to extend the one-year tenure of Sudani's cabinet.  

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Iraq's security has deteriorated recently, especially in Diyala province, where pro-Iran militias allegedly massacred at least 19 civilians, including women and a prominent physician.   

According to the United Nations, Iraq is the fifth most vulnerable country in the world impacted by the climate crisis, which includes low rainfalls, repeated sandstorms and increased desertification due to severe drought caused by dams built by neighbouring Iran and Turkey. 

Iraq's Tigris and Euphrates rivers witnessed a sharp decrease in water levels in the south of the country, officials said on Sunday and pledged to implement urgent measures to ease water shortages.

Jassim al-Assadi, a leading marshlands activist and environmentalist, was kidnapped at the beginning of this month and held for two weeks by unknown gunmen.

Jassim al-Assadi, 65, head of an environmentalist group Nature Iraq, was taken on 1 February as he drove to the capital Baghdad on the main motorway from the south.