The Security Council this afternoon urged all parties to the continued military confrontation in Afghanistan to agree immediately on a ceasefire and to engage in dialogue aimed at achieving a lasting political settlement.
In a statement read out by its President, Fernando Berrocal Soto (Costa Rica), the Council deplored the unwillingness of the Afghan warring factions to lay down their arms and cooperate with the United Nations for peace. It insisted that the United Nations -- as a universally recognized and impartial intermediary -- be given all necessary support in its efforts to coordinate international efforts towards peaceful resolution of the Afghan conflict.
The Council expressed its belief that peace and stability could best be attained through intra-Afghan political negotiations under United Nations auspices and with the active assistance of all countries concerned. To that end, the Council reiterated its full support for the activities and mandates of both the United Nations Special Mission in Afghanistan and the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to that country.
Deploring the fact that foreign military support to the Afghan parties continued unabated throughout 1997, the Council called on all States to end immediately the supply of arms, ammunition and military equipment to all parties. The Council also called on States to end training or any military support to Afghan parties, including the involvement of foreign military personnel. The Council encouraged the Secretary-General and Member States to study how an effective arms embargo could be imposed and implemented.
Further, the Council expressed its support for the efforts of the Secretary-General to establish an international framework to address the external aspects of the Afghan question. In that context, the Council welcomed the convening of meetings of concerned countries, as well as those of immediate neighbours and other countries.
The meeting of the Security Council, which began at 1:09 p.m., concluded at 1:18 p.m.
The full text of the presidential statement, which will be issued as S/PRST/1997/55, reads as follows:
"The Security Council has considered the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security of 14 November 1997 (A/52/682-S/1997/894), which was also considered by the General Assembly.
"The Security Council reiterates its grave concern at the continued military confrontation in Afghanistan, which has caused human suffering and material destruction, which threatens to lead to the disintegration of the country and which represents a growing threat to regional and international peace and security. It deplores the unwillingness of the Afghan warring factions to lay down their arms and cooperate with the United Nations for peace.
"The Security Council stresses that the Afghan conflict has no military solution and that the primary responsibility for finding a peaceful settlement lies with the Afghan parties themselves. It urges all Afghan parties to take genuine confidence-building measures, to agree immediately on a ceasefire, and to engage without preconditions in a political dialogue aimed at achieving national reconciliation, a lasting political settlement of the conflict and the formation of a broad-based, fully representative government that will protect the rights of all Afghans and abide by Afghanistan's international obligations.
"The Security Council deplores the fact that foreign military support of the Afghan parties continued unabated through 1997 and reiterates its call to all States to end immediately the supply of arms, ammunition, military equipment, training or any other military support to all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan, including the involvement of foreign military personnel.
"The Security Council encourages the Secretary-General and Member States to undertake preliminary studies on how an effective arms embargo could be imposed and implemented in a fair and verifiable manner.
"The Security Council insists that the United Nations, as a universally recognized and impartial intermediary, must be given all necessary support so it can continue to play a pivotal, central role in coordinated international efforts, including the efforts of interested countries and organizations, towards a peaceful resolution of the Afghan conflict. It believes that peace and stability in Afghanistan can best be attained through intra-Afghan political negotiations under United Nations auspices with the active and coordinated assistance of all countries concerned. The Council reiterates its full support for the activities and mandates of the United Nations Special
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Mission to Afghanistan and those of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan.
"The Security Council supports the efforts of the Secretary-General aimed at the establishment of a solid international framework in order to address the external aspects of the Afghan question and, in this context, welcomes the convening of meetings of concerned countries, as well as those of the immediate neighbours and other countries.
"The Security Council remains deeply concerned at the continuing discrimination against girls and women and other violations of human rights, as well as at violations of international humanitarian law in Afghanistan.
"The Security Council notes with deep concern the reports about mass killings of prisoners of war and civilians in Afghanistan and supports the Secretary-General's intention to continue to investigate fully such reports.
"The Security Council expresses serious concern over the looting of United Nations premises and food supplies and deliberate restrictions placed on the access of humanitarian organizations to some parts of the country and on other humanitarian operations, and urges all parties to prevent their recurrence.
"The Security Council reiterates that the continuation of the conflict in Afghanistan provides a fertile ground for terrorism and illegal drug production and trafficking which destabilize the region and beyond, and calls upon the leaders of the Afghan parties to halt such activities.
"The Security Council requests the Secretary-General to continue to keep it regularly informed about the situation in Afghanistan and his efforts.
"The Security Council will remain seized of the matter."
Report of Secretary-General
Reporting to the Security Council on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (document S/1997/894), the Secretary-General states that the military balance between the Afghan warring factions see-sawed wildly in 1997. During that time, the factions fought hard for control of northern Afghanistan and the northern approaches to Kabul.
The Afghan antagonists are the Taliban and the five-party Northern Alliance, formally known as the Islamic and National Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan. The Taliban continued to control most provinces in the south, south-west and south-east, including Kabul and the cities of Kandahar, Herat and Jalalabad. The Northern Alliance, which operated from the provincial
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capitals of Mazar-i-Sharif, Bamyan, Taloqan and Maimana, was in control of the provinces in northern and central Afghanistan.
Despite the expenditure of large quantities of externally supplied ammunition and equipment, and the loss of many lives and the displacement of civilian populations, neither side succeeded in recording sizeable gains of territory or significant political advantage. By early November, the predominantly Pushtun Taliban continued to hold approximately two thirds of the country, but had not been able to capture the territories in the north, which are largely populated by the Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara ethnic groups.
As the fighting continued, the political situation in Afghanistan remained deadlocked, the Secretary-General states. The deepening division of the country along ethnic lines, reinforced by external military and political support, continued to inhibit efforts to engender political dialogue among the factions. Throughout 1997, despite the persistent peacemaking efforts of the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan (UNSMA), the Afghan factions have made it clear that they preferred to pursue an elusive military "victory" over their adversaries, rather than consider a political solution to the conflict.
Member States, in particular the countries surrounding Afghanistan, continue to express concern and frustration about the continuing civil war, the Secretary-General continues. At the same time, foreign military support to the two sides continued unabated throughout 1997. Reliable eyewitnesses reported numerous military deliveries in unmarked aircraft to bases of the Northern Alliance, and similar deliveries of arms, ammunition and fuel by truck caravans to Taliban-controlled territory. United Nations employees also reported an encounter with an unidentified foreign military training unit of several hundred persons near Kabul.
Afghanistan, which was once a flashpoint of super-Power rivalry, has since become a typical post-cold-war regional and ethnic conflict, where the major Powers no longer see a strategic incentive to get involved, the Secretary-General continues. It has also become a place where even responsible local political authorities, let alone a central government, have virtually ceased to exist. Since the early 1990s, the Afghan factions have failed to show the will to rise above their narrow factional interests and start working for national reconciliation. Meanwhile, although major the Powers that have potential influence in Afghanistan have recently started to show interest, they have yet to demonstrate the necessary degree of determination to move the situation forward and continue to provide material, financial and other support to their respective clients inside Afghanistan.
In such circumstances, the Secretary-General states, it is illusory to think that peace can be achieved. "How can peace be imposed on faction leaders who are determined to fight it out to the finish and who receive seemingly
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unlimited supplies of arms from outside sponsors?" he asks. That continued support from some outside Powers -- combined with the apathy of the others who are not directly involved -- has strengthened the belief among the parties that they could achieve their political, religious and social goals by force. Peace would become possible when -- and only when -- the parties truly desired it and started to work seriously for it.
The external players might have their own reasons for continuing to support their respective Afghan clients, the Secretary-General continues, but they must be held responsible for exacerbating the conflict. They must also be held accountable for building a fire which, they should be aware, was unlikely to remain indefinitely confined to Afghanistan. Indeed, that fire was already spreading beyond the borders of Afghanistan, posing a serious threat to the region and beyond in the shape of terrorism, banditry, narcotics trafficking, refugee flows, and increasing ethnic and sectarian tension.
Due to the unabated supply of arms and the divergent ways in which the countries concerned seemed to be dealing with the conflict, the Secretary- General concludes that a solid international framework must be established in order to address the external aspects of the Afghan question. Such a framework would provide the neighbours of Afghanistan and other countries with an opportunity to discuss the question of foreign interference in a coherent manner. The main objective would be to debate how those countries could help the United Nations bring the Afghan parties to the negotiating table, including effective and fair ways to curb the flow of arms and other war-making materials into Afghanistan.
The Secretary-General urged the United Nations and Member States to study how a mandatory arms embargo could be implemented in a fair and verifiable manner. If the cost estimates for such an embargo proved to be too high, other ways would have to be found to end, or at least significantly reduce, the supply of arms and other materials to the warring factions. Noting past meetings in New York of countries with influence in Afghanistan ("the Group of 21") and the immediate neighbours and other countries ("the Group of Eight"), the Secretary- General states his intention to continue to convene informal meetings involving representatives of the neighbours of Afghanistan and other countries with influence in Afghanistan.
Also, the Secretary-General states he will maintain, through UNSMA and at United Nations Headquarters, close contact with the warring parties, as well as with other influential Afghan individuals and organizations, with a view to preparing the ground for an intra-Afghan dialogue. Such a dialogue, if realized, should focus at first on a ceasefire, to be followed by political negotiations leading to the establishment of a broad-based representative government.
The UNSMA will continue to play the primary role in conducting the United Nations peacemaking activities in Afghanistan, the Secretary-General states. The
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Secretary-General recommends that the current structure, composition and strength of UNSMA be maintained for the time being, while not excluding the possibility that, should a ceasefire and other measures be agreed, additional personnel might be required. The Special Mission will maintain its temporary headquarters in Islamabad, until conditions permit it to return to Kabul, and the possibility of opening a small office in Turkmenistan to enhance its information-gathering, and liaison capabilities will be explored.
"A peaceful settlement in Afghanistan remains elusive, notwithstanding the untiring efforts of the United Nations to broker peace among the country's warring factions", the Secretary-General states. The Afghan parties and their external supporters, while continuing to pursue military solutions, often also profess support for resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council calling for a peaceful settlement. Regrettably, their actions seldom seem to be motivated by a desire to contribute to the implementation of those resolutions.
Similarly, the Secretary-General continues, it was discouraging that, with few exceptions, the international community as a whole had shown only limited interest in discouraging the Afghan parties and their outside supporters from pursuing their bellicose aims and objectives. As long as governments that could encourage the Afghan parties to seek a peaceful settlement choose not to exercise their influence, the efforts made by representatives of the Secretary-General, however dedicated and skilled, would not suffice to bring peace. Sadly, it could be argued that, in such circumstances, the role of the United Nations in Afghanistan was little more than that of "an alibi to provide cover for the inaction -- or worse -- of the international community at large".
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