8555th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Afghanistan

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19-Jun-2019 03:19:20
Upcoming presidential election in Afghanistan ‘key moment’ to reaffirm legitimacy of democratic political structure, Special Representative tells Security Council at 8555th meeting.

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The road to peace in Afghanistan is still long, but with united support for the country’s ownership of the peace process, there is reason for cautious optimism, the Special Representative told the Security Council today, stressing that ongoing talks between the United States and the Taliban offer hope for ending years of fighting in the Central Asian country.

Tadamichi Yamamoto, who is also the Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said Afghans are focused on the need to reach a negotiated settlement. While some prominent actors already exchanged views with Taliban representatives in Moscow in May, all such efforts must aim towards one common objective: the start of formal negotiations between the Afghan Government and the Taliban. “The common message to the Taliban is clear: come to the table and negotiate directly with the Afghan Government,” he said.

The presidential election scheduled for 28 September will be a key moment to reaffirm the legitimacy of Afghanistan’s democratic political structure, he said. There are significant operational and technical challenges to be overcome. Furthermore, the first quarter of 2019 saw almost 1,800 civilians killed or injured — fewer than in previous quarters but still far too many — he said, stressing that the targeting of civilians by anti-Government elements is a war crime and must stop.

Sima Samar, Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said hope and optimism for protecting human rights has “never been higher”. At the same time, fear of returning to a time when people — especially women and minorities — were denied their freedoms “has never been greater”. Talks with the Taliban have ignited widespread debate over lasting peace, and the recently launched National Inquiry on Women, Peace and Security has given voice to the expectations of women across the country.

Following the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan witnessed some progress in the fulfilment of human rights. However, the conflict caused more than 11,000 civilian casualties in 2018 — a 19 per cent increase over the previous year. She urged the Government and the international community to support the presidential election by refraining from interference, safeguarding voter safety and providing financial support for a civic awareness programme.

In the ensuing debate, Afghanistan’s delegate said a Consultative Peace Loya Jirga held last month brought together 3,200 elected members nationwide to create a mandate for talks with the Taliban. A road map was adopted, which among other things, calls for an immediate permanent ceasefire, the start of direct peace talks and a feasible timetable for a withdrawal of international security forces.

Underscoring Afghanistan’s readiness to engage in comprehensive talks, she said the Taliban fail to show any commitment to peace. “Only a dual-track approach of pressure and incentives can ensure a conducive environment for a successful outcome,” she insisted.

The United States delegate, meanwhile, said his country and the Taliban agreed that any comprehensive peace accord must include provisions for counter-terrorism, intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire. The United States has made clear it is prepared to reduce its forces, but it has not agreed to numbers or a timeline, as those elements will be determined by the post-peace Government.

Expressing support for continuing the intra-Afghan dialogue launched in Moscow, the Russian Federation’s delegate suggested that international players active in national reconciliation should consider what has been achieved in both the Moscow format and the trilateral dialogue among the Russian Federation, China and the United States. Picking up that thread, Pakistan’s delegate expressed hope that the seventh round of United States-Taliban talks, expected early next month, can kick-start a genuine intra-Afghan dialogue. “This could lead to a potentially decisive phase in the peace effort,” she said.

India’s representative, however, warned that some parties are driven by a sense of urgency in setting timelines that are not intrinsic to the needs of the Afghan people. Voicing support for an Afghan-owned and -led peace and reconciliation process, he cautioned against ignoring the fact that groups enjoying support and a safe haven carry out terrorist activities from across borders.

Outlining her country’s readiness to contribute to the ongoing peace process through various regional formats, Kyrgyzstan’s delegate said confidence-building measures will help resolve the situation. She pointed to a recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Bishkek, where participants discussed the peace process and reviewed a draft road map for further action.

Iran’s delegate said peace must be established by and for Afghans, and their needs can neither be dictated nor ignored. He decried that the United States accuses his country of fomenting insecurity in Afghanistan, stressing: “The sole purpose of this unfounded claim is to cover the United States’ failed policy in Afghanistan for the last 18 years.”

Japan’s delegate recalled that in March his country announced a new $96 million commitment to Afghanistan, which has since been disbursed to such projects as refugee and drought assistance.

Also speaking were representatives of Germany, Indonesia, South Africa, Poland, Dominican Republic, France, Belgium, Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, China, Peru, United Kingdom, Kuwait, Turkey, Australia, Canada, Italy, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, as well as the European Union.

The meeting began at 3:30 p.m. and ended at 6:50 p.m.

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