War in Persian Gulf Area Ends; Iraq Accepts UN Cease-Fire, Demand for Reparations, but Calls Council Resolution 'Unjust.'

UN Chronicle, June 1991 | Go to article overview

War in Persian Gulf Area Ends; Iraq Accepts UN Cease-Fire, Demand for Reparations, but Calls Council Resolution 'Unjust.'


The diplomatic end to the 43-day war in the Persian Gulf area came quietly at UN Headquarters in New York after Iraq delivered identical letters to the UN Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council, accepting the terms of a permanent cease-fire arrangement.

In a four-and-a-half page document dated 6 April, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ahmed Hussein strongly criticized, but accepted, Security Council resolution 687 (1991). Adopted on 3 April, the complex, nine-part resolution set terms for a permanent cease-fire.

Among other things, Iraq was called on to accept a 1963 border agreement with Kuwait, to agree to compensate Kuwait for damages it had caused during the occupation and to destroy weapons of mass destruction. A UN observer unit was to monitor a demilitarized zone along a boundary between Iraq and Kuwait.

Mr. Hussein called the text "unjust", alleged it comprised "iniquitous and vengeful measures", and constituted "an unprecedented assault" on the sovereignty and rights of his country.

The UN, he claimed, was applying a "double standard" to Iraq, in the form of "criteria of duality" in international relations. Nevertheless, he stated at the conclusion of his missive (S/22456) that Iraq "has no choice but to accept this resolution".

Five days later on 11 April, Paul Noterdaeme of Belgium, President of the Security Council, formally acknowledged Iraq's acceptance--"irrevocable and without qualifying conditions"--of resolution 687, adding that Council members had asked him to note that conditions established in the resolution had been met and that the formal cease-fire was effective.

A crucial role

for the UN

The United Nations, in an unprecedented way, had played a crucial role throughout the eight-month international crisis, which began on 2 August 1990 when Iraq invaded, occupied and annexed its neighbour--the tiny, oil-rich State of Kuwait--calling it an "integral part" of Iraq.

During that period, the 15-member Security Council, acting in most instances with near unanimity, adopted 15 resolutions related to the crisis, among other things: condemning the initial invasion; calling for Iraqi troop withdrawal and protection of prisoners of war, diplomas and civilians; imposing strong, mandatory, comprehensive economic sanctions against Iraq until it complied with its demands; arranging for aid to innocent victims of the conflict and countries economically affected by the embargo; and setting a deadline before authorizing the use of "all necessary means" to restore international peace and security in the area.

The deadline passed. And a seven-week war took place--waged by a coalition of troops representing 34 nationalities--to oust Iraq from Kuwait.

But even after diplomatic formalities had been concluded, the devastating human, economic and ecological consequences of the crisis remained.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced persons streamed towards and across borders of neighbouring nations. Bloody civil strife ravaged cities and the countryside in Iraq. Oil well fires raged throughout Kuwait, blanketing that country day and night with polluting smoke. Environmental experts searched for solutions to the damaging consequences of the monumental, some say deliberate, oil spill into the Persian Gulf.

Special missions

Special UN missions were dispatched in early March to assess the situations in both Kuwait and Iraq regarding health conditions, environment, human rights abuses and damage to economic infrastructure.

The UN received reports during the war that at least 50,000 Iraqis had been taken prisoner by the coalition forces and some 33,000 Kuwaitis by Iraq. The release of these troops began in early March.

The return of Kuwaiti property seized by Iraq was also under way, with the Office of the UN Secretary-General arranging for the modalities.

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War in Persian Gulf Area Ends; Iraq Accepts UN Cease-Fire, Demand for Reparations, but Calls Council Resolution 'Unjust.'
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