ERBIL – UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres warned on Friday(July 18th) that Iraq risks “full-fledged sectarian war and complete fragmentation” as Iraqis continue to flee their homes and minority groups are targeted.
Iraqi politicians and the international community are “running out of time to act,” he said.
In high-level talks in Baghdad on Wednesday, he urged leaders to move urgently to a political solution and to “seize this last chance to bring everyone together in a non-sectarian approach. Otherwise, we risk a true sectarian war.”
The UNHCR head encouraged regional and global governments to provide support. “Countries with influence also need to constructively work towards a solution,” he said. “This is a threat to everybody – nobody is safe.” Guterres witnessed the dire conditions facing some of the more than 650,000 Iraqis displaced by conflict since January. At the Khazair transit camp, midway between the Iraqi cities of Erbil and Mosul, he walked the dusty paths between some 500 tents provided by UNHCR where Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and others are now living.
Guterres noted the dramatic impact on the economy and society from the influx of more than 225,000 Syrian refugees and over 300,000 newly displaced Iraqis. He appealed to the international community to enhance support to the government and people in the Kurdistan region in this very difficult moment.
The High Commissioner said a forthcoming $500 million contribution by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will help the UN provide critical humanitarian aid to Iraqis. “Others need to come forward to help Kurdistan cope with this terrible challenge,” he said.
On Friday, the High Commissioner travelled to the new Arbat refugee camp in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah, now home to more than 3,000 Syrians who fled the civil war. Of almost three million Syrian refugees, 225,000 are in Iraq.-QNA