UN Chief visits Iraq, calls for humanitarian support

Published April 1st, 2017 - 05:00 GMT
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' visit comes at a critical time for Iraq. (AFP)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' visit comes at a critical time for Iraq. (AFP)

UN chief Antonio Guterres has voiced support for Iraq’s ongoing fight against Daesh in the face of a humanitarian crisis following the months-long operation to recapture the strategic city of Mosul.

Speaking at a Thursday press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad, Guterres condemned Daesh crimes against civilians and pledged continued assistance for nearly three million civilians displaced as a result of the clashes.

Abadi, for his part, said Iraqi forces were doing their “utmost” to protect civilians and lashed out at the extremists for intentionally putting civilians at risk while also “intensifying their propaganda machine to spread rumors.”

On the second day of his visit to Iraq, Guterres also visited Hasan Sham refugee camp in the village of Hasan Sham, some 30 kilometers east of Mosul, on Friday.

Speaking to reporters, the UN chief appealed for more aid and international solidarity for the people of the war-ravaged city.

“We do not have the resources that are necessary to support these people and we do not have the international solidarity that is needed,” Guterres told journalists.

“Unfortunately, our program here is only funded at eight percent; that shows how limited our resources are,” said the UN chief, adding, “These people have suffered enormously, and they go on suffering. We need more solidarity from the international community.

Iraqi army soldiers and pro-government fighters launched their offensive to retake Mosul last October and since then they have made sweeping gains against the Takfiri elements.

Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19.

Guterres’ visit to Iraq comes as Iraqi government forces, backed by allied fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units, have liberated more areas in and around Mosul, including Sabouniya village and its train station west of Badush region and Qazibban neighborhood in western Mosul.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians remain trapped in Mosul amid army clashes with the remaining Daesh extremists in the western part of the city.

Apart from the civilians caught in the crossfire in west Mosul, over 200,000 civilians have fled their homes since the operation to recapture the areas started last month, Iraqi officials say.

The visit comes several days after a reported US-led airstrike left over 230 civilians dead in western Mosul.

On Tuesday, high-ranking US commander Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend admitted that there was a “fair chance” that a US-led airstrike caused the civilian deaths.

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