Global Policy Forum

Iraq Sanctions Panel Chief Says it Unbowed


By William M. Reilly

United Press International
October 5, 2000

The chairman of the Iraq sanctions committee said Thursday recent flights to Iraq has not broken the panel's authority, but added, "it's not a healthy situation."

Peter Van Walsum, the Netherlands ambassador who chairs the Security Council panel, said it has agreed to reconsider how flights to Iraq are handled since France and Russia flew passenger flights into Baghdad last month without awaiting authorization of the sanctions committee.

They maintain, he has said, all they have to do is to notify the committee of its intention and not seek its authorization. Since then, France has offered the committee a proposal for revising procedures which, according to Van Walsum, members of the committee have agreed to study.

After a meeting Thursday evening, he was asked why a 10-year practice would have to be altered after only two breaches. "Some people do say that apart from Russia and France no one else has done this," the ambassador said, referring to breaching the sanctions. "Everyone else has accepted, even (the) three or four flights after France and Russia that also used the terminology of 'notification.'

"I replied, in one case I remember very clear, I said, 'Sorry, I need more time for the no-objection procedure. Please wait,' and they did wait," Van Walsum said. "So, so far the authority of the committee is not entirely broken by this, but it is not a healthy situation that France and Russia can do what other countries do not dare do. It's not healthy. I feel somehow we have to at least look at it (the French proposal)."

The committee chairman added, "I think it would be a tragic mistake if Iraq concluded from this that right now the whole sanctions system is under pressure. That is clearly not so. This is an old problem we've been living with for a long, long time."

That problem, he explained, was disagreement on the interpretation of the original 1990 sanctions resolution, and not the most recent resolution regarding sanctions, from December 1999.

"We all believe that the way out of the sanctions is through Iraq's acceptance" of the most recent resolution, said the Dutch envoy. "If all this noise about passenger flights should lead to the misunderstanding in Iraq that the sanctions are about to crumble and that they will get rid of the sanctions without complying with (the resolution), I think they are making a tragic mistake. "What was interesting in the committee was that France, Russia, China all stressed that they were all talking about passenger flights and that cargo flights should continue to be prohibited," he said. "They, all three, said that and that is very important that Iraq realizes that we are not talking about collapse of the sanctions system."

Since the Dutch envoy is leaving Friday as a member of the Security Council mission to Sierra Leone, the next meeting of the committee will not be for about 10 days, which will allow time for the French proposal to be studied and possible counter proposals offered."

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