The United Nations’ envoy in Iraq said it will take decisive action by the country’s political leadership to address a "grave" situation that has left at least 900 civilians dead and more than 1 million displaced.
Nickolay Mladenov, the secretary-general’s representative in Iraq, on Wednesday called for "the political process" to supplement military action in settling the conflict between Islamic militants and the Iraqi government’s security forces.
The armed group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, controls large areas of mainly Sunni provinces including Ninevah, Salahuddin, Diyala and some parts of Anbar. Several important northern cities have also fallen to its fighters.
The conflict "cannot be resolved only through military means," Mladenov said. "It can be resolved, however, through the political process. That includes sticking to the constitutional timetable here in Iraq" and electing a new president, speaker and government.
Mladenov added that Iraqis also "obviously need a security operation to deal with the security threat that ISIL poses."
Speaking from Baghdad, Mladenov said ISIL, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, is implementing strict Islamic law in areas it controls.
With its gains in the north, the group has become more bold, setting its eye on the prize of the capital. But Mladenov said the advance toward Baghdad has stalled.
"At this point, the city is well-saturated with Iraqi security forces,” Mladenov said of the capital. "I would not want to speculate as to whether it can or cannot be taken over. However, I believe that for anyone to attempt to take over Baghdad would be an extremely difficult enterprise."
Mladenov said since June 5, at least 900 civilians have been killed and 650 wounded in fighting in Ninevah, Salahuddin and Diyala provinces.
The chaos caused by ISIL’s advance has displaced more than 1 million people, causing a humanitarian crisis that the U.N. is having difficulty managing because of a severe shortage of funding.
The U.N. mission in Iraq (UNAMI) is focused on keeping the political process alive and urging that it be inclusive as it tackles the humanitarian challenges.