Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- The deputy secretary general of the Arab League, Ambassador Ahmed Bin Hilli, has disclosed that Dr Mustafa Othman Ismail will visit Iraq as an envoy to represent the Arab League secretary general to complete preparations for the Iraqi national accord conference. The conference is scheduled to take place 20-22 June, in Baghdad.
In a statement, Bin Hilli said Amr Musa would welcome Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, when Al-Maliki decides to visit the Arab League. He said the Arab League is open to everybody.
Bin Hilli stated that an agenda has been set for the conference. There may be some amendments made to the agenda in view of any developments in Iraq. There are six items on the agenda, the first of which concerns expanding the political process to include all parties, provided they embrace a democratic approach. The second item deals with the issue of Iraq’s integrity, independence, and sovereignty. It also deals with drawing up a plan to take over the duties of the multinational forces. The other items include the security situation and the equality of citizens in “rights and duties.” The fifth item deals with areas of necessary support so that the national accord process is successful. The last item deals with the issue of debt and the reconstruction of Iraq.
Concerning the forces that have been designated to participate in the Iraqi national accord conference, Bin Hilli explained that the list would be extensive enough to include representatives of the heads of tribes, religious authorities, and representatives of civil organizations.
Bin Hilli stressed that he will not exclude any Iraqi who wants to join the political process from participating in the conference, including fighters, trade unionists, judges, and teachers.
In response to a question regarding the participation of Iraqi insurgents in the accord conference, whether this was final, and whether it would not face any opposition from the Iraqi government, Bin Hilli said that the preparatory conference in Cairo considered them part of the Iraqi forces. The Arab League, for its part, is trying its best for the conference to be comprehensive and to embrace all active forces in Iraq. He added that the Cairo conference has already set the standards of participation for the national accord conference in four points. These are the necessity of an inclusive and balanced representation of Iraqi political parties and forces that represent all components of the Iraqi nation including tribes, civil organizations, and women. The other condition is that participants should commit themselves to seeking to realize the objectives of the political process through peaceful means. They should also respect different viewpoints and believe in Iraq’s integrity, sovereignty, freedom, and independence in a way that realizes the country’s security, stability, and its Arab and Islamic surroundings.
Ambassador Bin Hilli explained that within this context, the follow-up committee for the preparation of the Iraqi national accord conference is engaged in a process of confidence building between members of Iraqi society. The process involves distancing people from making accusations. It calls upon Iraqi and Arab media to bridge the gap between Iraqi people. It also calls for refraining from using religious, political, and media forums to incite hatred and division. The process tries to find a mechanism for regular meetings between the political forces. The aim is to create an atmosphere in which national accord can be realized in Iraq. Moreover, the process tries to find means to review the situation of the detainees as soon as possible and to release those against whom no charges have been raised. Furthermore, houses should not be raided and there should be an end to arrests. The follow-up committee is consists of Iraqi political forces and the Arab League and works in cooperation with the United Nations. Ambassador Ahmed Bin Hilli stressed the role of the Arab League as a link between the Arab countries and Iraq at this stage.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry, on the other hand, stated Sunday, 13 May that invitations would be sent through the Arab League to all participants. The ministry added that an invitation might be sent to Iran. A statement issued by the ministry said invitations would also reach UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council, the European Union, Turkey, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
The first Iraqi reconciliation conference was held in Cairo last November under the sponsorship of the Arab League but had little success. However, it encouraged the leaders of the main groups of Sunni Arabs and some Sunni armed groups to participate for the first time in the parliamentary election that took place the following month. As a result, there is Sunni representation within parliament.