27 August 1999


Press Release
SC/6718



SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS CALLS FOR END TO OUTSIDE INTERFERENCE IN AFGHANISTAN, WITH ACCESS FOR HUMANITARIAN AID

19990827

Continued Conflict Said To Cause Great Civilian Suffering; Taliban Urged To Cooperate in Peace Negotiations, Relief Efforts

Several speakers today called for an end to outside interference in Afghanistan, urging the provision of humanitarian access and compliance by the Taliban with international law, as the Security Council met to consider the situation in that country.

Kieran Prendergast, Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Council the political situation in Afghanistan was at a stalemate, with the continued conflict causing great civilian suffering. He said there was callous disregard by both sides for life and limb.

The representative of Afghanistan said the underlying objective of Pakistan in his country was strategic, to be secured through a subservient "government" which the Taliban would provide. Pakistan would eventually extend its influence towards petroleum-and-gas rich Central Asia; the implementation of its hegemonic design in Afghanistan continued to exact the price of systematic genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Pakistan's representative said it could be argued that the Taliban believed they were being unjustly treated by the international community, despite the fact they controlled 90 per cent of the territory, including the capital. They might wonder about the criteria by which international legitimacy and recognition were conferred by the United Nations and the international community. Pakistan, with around 1.8 million Afghan refugees, stood to gain more from peace and stability in Afghanistan than any other nation.

The representative of Iran said recourse by the Taliban to violence against ethnic groups tended to further polarize the multi-ethnic Afghan society and consequently aggravate the situation. The path taken by the Taliban might lead to a situation that could further destabilize the region. It required immediate attention by the Council.


Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6718 4039th Meeting (AM & PM) 27 August 1999

The representative of the United States her country was deeply concerned by the continued use of Afghan territory for the sheltering and training of terrorists and the planning of terrorist acts. The representative of Finland, on behalf of the European Union and associated States, called on all Afghan factions, and in particular the Taliban, to recognize, protect and promote all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Namibia's representative said a resumption of negotiations would resolve issues of contention and result in the adoption of a broad-based fully representative government acceptable to all Afghans. The representative of Turkmenistan said the international community, in dealing with the issue of Afghanistan, was lurching from one approach to another. It should be more active and focus on one goal.

Statements were also made by the representatives of the Russian Federation, China, Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Malaysia, Gabon, Gambia, Slovenia, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Norway, India, Japan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Egypt. The observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference also spoke.

The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and was suspended at 1 p.m. It resumed at 3:15 p.m and was adjourned at 5:51 p.m.


Security Council - 2 - Press Release SC/6718 4039th Meeting (AM) 27 August 1999

Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Afghanistan.

Statements

KIERAN PRENDERGAST, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said the United Nations mission in Afghanistan had no presence in areas of the country where there was fighting. The greatest impact of the fighting was on the civilian population, who had suffered greatly. The United Front claimed that Taliban aircraft had recently bombed civilians in northern Afghanistan. Recent Taliban attacks had also been reinforced by a large influx of recruits from religious schools.

He said the political situation in Afghanistan was at a stalemate. There had been no direct contact or meetings between the two warring sides since 19 and 20 July. Pakistan, in a separate initiative had sought to bring the two sides together. While the United Front had publicly rejected any Pakistani efforts at mediation, in private it had met with Pakistan.

Addressing the issue of human rights, he said that on 6 August the Secretary-General expressed alarm at reports of massive forced displacements of people. However, the party which had been responsible for many displacements had now turned to the United Nations for help with the displacement of its own people by a faction it referred to as the Afghanistan's "so-called leaders".

He said there were reports of the growing use of boy soldiers by both sides, particularly by the Taliban. Many of those boys were as young as 14. The Secretary-General had called on the warring parties to respect the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Forced displacements and the burning of housing and crops had also been confirmed. Those were alarming trends.

He said that thousands of internally displaced persons had been seen at the outskirts of Afghanistan's capital. The United Nations had also not yet received permission from the Taliban to conduct independent identification of such persons in the capital. In addition, the relative absence of young men among the groups of internally displaced was notable. The World Food Programme (WFP) was organizing emergency feeding for displaced persons.

He said the systematic destruction of agricultural bases in the Shomali valley was supposedly taking place for military reasons. Ancient irrigation systems, trees and food crops had all been destroyed. Such action would have a devastating impact on the livelihood of people, including those who had returned from Pakistan. Both parties to the conflict had with impunity bombed and rocketed places inhabited by civilians. There was a callous disregard by both sides for life and limb.

The fighting in Afghanistan had an almost ritual quality, he said. Outside support for the warring parties had not diminished. There was ongoing delivery of ammunition and there were thousands of non-Afghans involved in the fighting. The potential existed for the fighting to become more widespread and turn into a regional conflict. Hopefully today's debate would stimulate a return to the kind of international urgency that was needed to resolve the 20- year old conflict in Afghanistan.

A. ABDULLAH, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, said his Government once again drew the attention of the Council to the implications of the Pakistani-Taliban agenda -- an agenda which was neither restricted to time, nor confined to geography. Extremist elements from China, Burma, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, Algeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were ready and willing to die in what had abusively been labelled a "Jihad" -- in fact a struggle directed against humanity and civilization.

The Pakistani intervention in Afghanistan ran counter to the transparent and unambiguous disposition of the United Nations Charter, he said. Pakistan had continuously committed acts against the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan. In violation of resolution 53/108, adopted by the General Assembly on 8 December 1998, Pakistan served as a safe- haven for extremists. The Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan had organized recruitment and training of those terrorists, he said.

He said the underlying Pakistani objective in Afghanistan was its use for strategic purposes, secured through a subservient "government" as the Taliban would provide. Pakistan would eventually extend its influence, as the military planners of Pakistan thought, towards petroleum-and-gas rich Central Asia. The implementation of Pakistan's hegemonic design in Afghanistan continued to have the high price of systematic genocide, ethnic cleansing and scorched-earth policy in his country, he said. Pakistan's aggression and State-sponsored terrorism and activities, which served as a threat to the peace and security of the region and hampered regional development and cooperation, should be determined, condemned and dealt with by taking appropriate measures.

As contained in operative paragraph 15 of Council resolution 1214 (1998), dated 8 December 1998, the Islamic State of Afghanistan earnestly expected that the Security Council should consider the imposition of immediate sanctions against both the Taliban and their Pakistani mentor, he said.

GENNADI GATILOV (Russian Federation) said his country strongly opposed the escalation of fighting by the Taliban and expressed serious concern over

increasing external interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, especially by the forces of Pakistan and by fighters from other countries.

He noted with concern that yet another spiral of brutal armed resistance by the Taliban had led to increased suffering for the Afghan people, and to renewed violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The Russian Federation demanded that the Taliban immediately end such practices and that they grant access to the international community so that it could provide humanitarian assistance to those who needed it.

He said that Security Council and General Assembly resolutions on Afghanistan were always passed unanimously. At the fifty-third General Assembly session, the resolution had been co-sponsored by one third of the membership.

The "6+2 group" must increase its efforts at achieving a resolution of the conflict and the United Nations must support it in every way, he said. The Security Council should consider effective measures aimed at achieving the implementation of its resolutions.

SHEN GUOFANG (China) said that the Afghan people themselves held the key to the ultimate settlement of the issue of Afghanistan. To bring that issue to a just and lasting resolution, the Chinese Government encouraged the conflicting parties in Afghanistan to put the interest of their nation and country above everything else; to disregard their ethnic, religious and political differences; to stop fighting among themselves as soon as possible; and to establish a broadly based and stable government acceptable to all sides on the basis of mutual respect and extensive consultations. The international community should strive to create a constructive, favourable and relaxed external environment for the peaceful settlement of the Afghan issue.

He said that the international community, and especially countries having major influence on the various parties in Afghanistan, should work actively to persuade those parties to sit down and conduct negotiations in a calm and reasonable manner. Countries, especially those bordering on Afghanistan, should immediately stop the provision of military assistance to the various factions in that country. The United Nations may want to consider putting a severe arms embargo on Afghanistan and formulating a specific monitoring mechanism. The international community should also respect the final decision of the Afghan people about their future.

FERNANDO PETRELLA (Argentina) said the renewed military aggression in Afghanistan was proof that the question of that country was a pattern of continued repetition of chronic fighting that perpetuated political instability and exacerbated the misery of the Afghan civilian population. It was regrettable that the fresh military offensive by the Taliban was taking

place after the high-level meeting in Tashkent of the "6+2" group, which had been held under the auspices of the United Nations in March.

He said that meeting represented an important step because it had been the first time that parties had recognized that the question of Afghanistan did not have a military solution. It was important to note that in Tashkent governments had undertaken not to render assistance to the parties to the conflict. Tashkent was also a necessary step which had taught "us to be wary of excessively encouraging results", he noted. Perhaps another route should be sought.

His delegation requested that primary attention be given to respect for the human rights of the population, particularly women and children. His delegation also voiced its recognition of those men and women who were doing humanitarian work and making tremendous sacrifices to extend solidarity to those in need. Argentina condemned the new escalation of military action, he stressed.

JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) said that the Afghan factions must be convinced that there was no military solution to the civil war in their country. Once they were convinced of that, it would be up to States to redouble their efforts to ensure cessation of the conflict and to stop the supply of weapons to the factions.

Among the direct consequences of the conflict, he said, was the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and an increase in the number of landmines, which was an obstacle to the country's development and to the return of refugees.

He asked the donor community to increase assistance to the Afghan people and demanded that the warring factions lay down their weapons and find a way to reach a settlement to their dispute, so that they could pursue the social and economic development of their country. Only in that way would Afghanistan regain its place in the international community.

ROBERT FOWLER (Canada) said his country was concerned by the reports of the forced displacement of Afghan civilians to Kabul from the Shomali Valley by Taliban fighters. It also deplored the tactics being used to dissuade those civilians from returning to their homes, including the use of the scorched earth policy. Canada was also disturbed by reports that the Taliban had sought to separate displaced women and children from their male family members. The forced displacement of civilians and the destruction of civilian property represented a clear violation of international humanitarian law and an abuse of human rights. His country condemned such actions and called on the Taliban authorities to cease them immediately.

"We are dismayed by persistent reports of atrocities and by the systematic discrimination against women and girls which prevails in Afghanistan", he continued. Canada urged both sides in the conflict to ensure that the needs of the displaced and other war-affected populations were fully met. "We are concerned by reports of the use of child soldiers in the current campaign, including those under the age of 15", he said. His delegation called on Pakistan to use its good offices to encourage the Taliban to halt the forced displacement of civilians and to return to talks with the Northern Alliance.

NANCY SODERBERG (United States) said the most recent Taliban offensive had demonstrated the futility of any side's attempt to impose a military solution in Afghanistan. Only by the formation of a broad-based government representing the interests of all Afghans could a lasting resolution of the conflict be achieved. To end the cycle of violence, support to the warring factions by some neighbouring countries must stop. The Secretary-General had noted that, in addition to liberal quantities of arms, ammunition and other war-making materials supplied to the factions by their respective supporters, there were now thousands of non-Afghans engaged in the fighting. It was essential that the political process move forward. The factions were urged to return to the negotiating table.

She said that external interference was also eroding the human rights of the Afghan people. Kamal Hossain, the United Nations Rapporteur on Human Rights in Afghanistan, had noted that the Afghan people were "becoming hostages in their own land or refugees while externally armed forces seek to rule Afghanistan without the effective participation or consent of its people". Other human rights abuses, including the Taliban's deplorable practices towards women, must also end. If the leaders of the Taliban, or any other faction, wanted international recognition, they must respect the rights of their people.

Equally important in restoring Afghanistan's place in the international community was ending its support for terrorism, she said. The United States was deeply concerned by the continuing use of Afghan territory, particularly that under Taliban control, for the sheltering and training of terrorists and the planning of terrorist acts. The Security Council had on many occasions expressed its grave concern over the continued Afghan conflict, including the harbouring of international terrorists. If, in defiance of Council resolutions, the Taliban failed to end their protection of terrorists, the international community should bring increasing and certain pressure to bear on them.

YVES DOUTRIAUX (France) said there had been no progress in the internal situation in Afghanistan; in the past few weeks it had in fact deteriorated. His delegation condemned the resumption of hostilities. It also noted the refusal of the Taliban to engage in dialogue with the United Front. That was a major obstacle to the establishment of any peaceful solution. France condemned measures that violated human rights, especially those of women and girls. In that regard, it particularly condemned violations against various ethnic or religious groups.

He said his delegation reaffirmed its support for the fundamental principles on the settlement of the situation in Afghanistan. It also supported all attempts designed to promote a peaceful solution. France demanded that Afghan factions cease housing and sheltering terrorist organizations. It also demanded the cessation of all foreign interference in the Afghan conflict. His delegation called for the United Nations to continue all its initiatives conducive to peace and security in Afghanistan.

DAVID RICHMOND (United Kingdom) said the events of the last few weeks were further proof -- if any more were needed -- that there could be no military solution to the problems of Afghanistan. Reports of how the Taliban had behaved in the areas they had captured were disturbing. That men of fighting age had been separated from their families was particularly worrying. Afghanistan's neighbours and the wider world were also affected by the prospect of instability spreading from the conflict and the threat from terrorism and drugs, he said.

The failure of the latest offensive should have finally brought home to the Taliban and their supporters that further fighting was futile, he said. Afghanistan's neighbours should face these facts and commit themselves wholeheartedly to a negotiated settlement. The first step should be an immediate end to military support. All those with influence over the parties must do everything possible to encourage them to resume negotiations. Pakistan, with its unique influence over the Taliban, had a particularly important role to play, he said.

PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said the Tashkent Declaration constituted a good basis for a solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and may well be the best available prospect for peace. There was no military solution. It was of the utmost importance that the neighbouring countries, including Pakistan, strictly observe the commitment contained in the Declaration not to provide military support to either Afghan party and to prevent the use of their territories for such purposes.

He said the latest Taliban offensive had resulted in thousands of victims, especially among the civilian population. There were credible reports of such serious human rights violations as the use of child soldiers, arbitrary detention, deportation and forced relocation of civilians, the forcible separation of the menfolk from their families, the murder of innocent civilians and the burning of houses and crops. The Netherlands condemned those acts in the strongest terms possible and called upon the warring factions to respect human rights in general and show special consideration for the rights of ethnic minorities and women and girls, as well as for those of civilians in armed conflict.

The resumed fighting had led to large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons, he said. While the voluntary return of large numbers of refugees to Afghanistan in the past few years was welcome, there was serious concern over cases of forced repatriation in recent months. While understanding the burden refugees placed on available resources in countries of refuge, the Netherlands appealed to the governments of countries with substantial numbers of Afghan refugees to respect international refugee law.

He said that the resumption of fighting in Afghanistan and the lack of political will to work towards a real reconciliation process seriously undermined the capability of the international community to provide humanitarian assistance. However, the needs of the Afghan population justified continuation of that assistance, and the warring factions and neighbouring countries should facilitate the distribution of such aid.

He said the support within Afghanistan for "international terrorists like Osama bin Laden" was a matter of great concern; Afghan factions, especially the Taliban, should immediately halt support for terrorists, and cooperate in bringing them to justice.

The meeting, which was suspended at 1 p.m., was resumed at 3:15p.m.

HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said Malaysia, like other friends of Afghanistan, was deeply dismayed and saddened by the situation in that fraternal country and by the plight of its people. With scarce resources being channelled to the war effort, the entire country had been left in the backwaters of economic development. A new generation was growing up with little education other than in weaponry training, and with no memory of life in a peaceful State.

Any credible peace process would have to begin with a ceasefire, followed by the commencement of dialogue between the various belligerents, predicated on the common objective of attaining genuine national reconciliation and the establishment of a broad-based, multi-ethnic representative Government, he said. If Afghanistan was to continue as a sovereign State and not be reduced, eventually, to the fate of a "failed State", characterized by endless infighting and contending for power and positions among its leaders, it was imperative that its proud people seize the opportunity now to steer a clear course towards national reconciliation and unity.

DENIS DANGUE REWAKA (Gabon) said that while it was true that a settlement of the conflict was first and foremost the responsibility of the Afghan people themselves, the neighbouring countries could play an important

role by convincing the warring factions that dialogue was the only way to achieve a settlement.

He said that thousands of men, women and children had been displaced, while others were living as refugees in neighbouring countries. Gabon asked the factions to abide by existing human rights instruments and international humanitarian law. The Afghan factions were also asked to allow the personnel of humanitarian agencies access to those in need of assistance

BABOUCARR-BLAISE ISMAILA JAGNE (Gambia) said that in this situation of near paralysis, the Security Council should demonstrate its ingenuity and chart a new course in its approach to the Afghan crisis. That was why his delegation attached great importance to the "6+2" process, and was therefore appealing to all the parties to return to the negotiating table without further delay. A military solution should not even be contemplated, despite reality on the ground.

The greatest challenge facing the Council today was to persuade the parties back to the negotiating table, and to negotiate in good faith. That could be done, he said, only if sidelining, side-stepping or demonizing this faction or that faction was stopped.

SAMUEL ZBOGAR (Slovenia) said the current situation in Afghanistan was appalling. Continuing the deplorable "tradition" of an annual vicious cycle of resumed fighting, the Taliban had again ignored efforts by the international community to bring peace to Afghanistan. The situation was further aggravated by organized production of drugs and drug trafficking and by harbouring of international terrorism. Numerous and credible reports had established the Taliban's responsibility for those social, humanitarian and political ills.

It was regrettable that the "6+2" mechanism remained unsuccessful, but the flaws in the practice had not discredited the principles, he said. The key to ending the Afghan tragedy lay in resolving its external aspects. The conflict was perpetuated by continuous foreign interference in the form of providing active political and particularly military support to the Afghan parties.

Military advances by the Taliban did not, in themselves, constitute the legitimate basis of government, he said. The necessary legitimacy ought to include respect for basic norms of international law, including humanitarian and human rights law.

GELSON FONSECA JR. (Brazil) said the renewal of military actions in Afghanistan over this summer was especially worrisome, given the increasingly sombre humanitarian scenario in the country with thousands of innocent civilians displaced from their homes amid mounting evidence of widespread violations of human rights. Reports about participation of child soldiers in the conflict were particularly worrisome. It was undeniable, he said, that the Taliban was to blame for that deteriorating situation.

He said the Declaration that followed the Tashkent meeting of the "6+2" group last month offered the best way forward and therefore the best hope for a lasting peace. It was both necessary and urgent that its basic points be strictly adhered to: halting the flow of arms, putting into effect an immediate ceasefire and the exchange of war prisoners. To this end, he said, it was equally important that all forms of foreign interference in Afghanistan cease.

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said the recent reports about the dramatic deterioration of the humanitarian situation because of the war in Afghanistan should convince the warring parties to cease hostilities immediately and return to the negotiating table under the auspices of the United Nations. His delegation called on those responsible for the forced displacement of civilians and humanitarian abuses to immediately cease those practices and to adhere to international norms in that sphere.

He said his country did not believe that the Afghan problem could be comprehensively resolved through military means. A permanent solution for lasting peace could only be achieved through the resumption of negotiations. That would resolve issues of contention and result in the adoption of a broad- based fully representative government acceptable to all the people of Afghanistan.

He said the "6+2" group should be encouraged to reinvigorate their efforts to find a common approach to the settlement of the Afghan conflict. In fulfilling that role, it had also become necessary for the group to dispel the recent doubts raised as to its relevance in the Afghan peace efforts. In that regard, it was essential that the commitments of the recently concluded Tashkent Declaration be implemented fully.

MARJATTA RASI (Finland), speaking for the European Union, and for Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, as well as Cyprus, Malta and Iceland, said the European Union was dismayed that the Taliban had ignored the call in the Tashkent Declaration for the Afghan conflict to be settled through peaceful political negotiation and had instead launched a major offensive. Reports of forced deportation of civilians by the Taliban from their places of residence were profoundly disturbing.

She said the European Union called on all Afghan factions, and in particular the Taliban, to recognize, protect and promote all human rights and fundamental freedoms, and it denounced the continuing gender discrimination in Afghanistan. The Afghan factions, and in particular the Taliban, were urged to end discriminatory policies. In future decisions by the European Union regarding the supply of aid, and to support aid programmes in Afghanistan which integrated gender concerns and actively attempted to promote equitable participation of both men and women, she said, discriminatory policies would continue to be taken into account.

YERZHAN KAZYKHANOV (Kazakhstan) said the civil war in Afghanistan continued to pose a threat to the security and stability of other States in the region. Should the transnational aspect of the conflict be allowed to take root, it would be much more difficult to prevent the conflict from spreading beyond the Afghan borders. Any international efforts to resolve the situation in Afghanistan must take place under the auspices of the United Nations, on the basis of the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.

He said his delegation strongly condemned any external interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and supported the Security Council's appeal for an immediate cessation in the delivery of military supplies from outside and a halt to active support to the Afghan factions. The fulfilment by regional States of their obligations to refrain from providing military support, and to prevent the use of their territory, would greatly facilitate the speedy peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The continued armed conflict created conditions conducive to the illegal production and trafficking of narcotics and to the proliferation of terrorism, he said. There was a need to strengthen effective and coordinated measures to combat illicit drug trafficking.

ARNE HONNINGSTAD (Norway) said the recent escalation of military conflict in Afghanistan, and the suffering it had caused civilians, was cause for concern. No efforts should be spared in persuading the parties that the conflict could not be resolved through warfare. Regional cooperation was crucial in the process of resolving the continuing military confrontation, which posed a serious threat to regional and international peace and security. In that respect, the Tashkent Declaration was a step in the right direction. His delegation appealed to the parties of the "6+2" group, and in particular the Taliban, to respect the fundamental principles for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan, and to make good their stated commitment towards a political settlement of the conflict.

Likewise, he said, Norway called upon the countries of the region to uphold their common agreement not to provide military support of any kind to any of the parties to the conflict in Afghanistan. International aid to civilians was dependant on the presence and the free movement of United Nations personnel. As the Tashkent Declaration confirmed, the Organization must play a central and impartial role in international efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Norway urged all parties to ensure access for humanitarian organizations, and the possibility for relief agencies to provide assistance in an effective and efficient manner to all victims.

MEHDI DANESH-YAZDI (Iran) said Afghanistan was a multi-ethnic society, governed over the centuries through ethnic harmony and delicate mechanisms of power-sharing, in which all ethno-lingual groups could play a role. Therefore it should be recognized that the militarist policy adopted by the Taliban and its foreign supporters, which sought domination of one group over the Afghan society, was a naive policy that was the origin of the current situation in the country. The Taliban's all-out offensive in the North over the past few weeks, despite the large personnel and military reinforcement received from outside, did not result in any significant military victory. Most unfortunately, it only succeeded in creating a human tragedy by rendering thousands of Afghans homeless. The term "scorched earth" best described the brutal and ruthless policy of the Taliban against the inhabitants of the Shomali Plains which could be tantamount to ethnic cleansing.

He said the path taken by the Taliban might jeopardize Afghanistan's unity and lead to a situation that could endanger the national security of neighbouring countries and thus further destabilize the region. Regrettably, the Taliban continued to disregard the repeated demands of the international community to seriously engage in negotiations aimed at settling the conflict peacefully. The large-scale offensive launched by the Taliban immediately after the "6+2" meeting in Tashkent, which their own representatives attended, clearly demonstrated their contempt for the wishes of the international community as expressed in the Tashkent Declaration.

He said the Council needed to review the situation in Afghanistan with a view to taking a number of concrete measures in line with previous resolutions and aimed at compelling the Taliban to heed the demands of the international community concerning peace. Such measures would help save lives in Afghanistan and shield the region from the threats and problems stemming from the continuation of war in that country.

He said that after more than a year, the issue of the tragic murder of the staff of the Consulate-General of Iran and an Iranian correspondent in Mazer-e-Sharif by the Taliban forces was still pending and remained unresolved. The Taliban stubbornly disregarded the rules of international law, had yet to implement Council resolution 1214 (1999) condemning the crime and calling upon the Taliban to cooperate with the United Nations in investigations with a view to prosecuting those responsible.

KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said the unity, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan was vital for the Afghan people. It was also critical for peace, stability, security and economic development in the entire region. The international community must act purposefully to ensure that those who continued to imperil regional peace and stability through obscurantist ideology, extremist violence and the distortion of faith were prevented from doing so. The cessation of interference in Afghanistan from across its southern borders was essential for the return of peace in that country. The territories which the Taliban had occupied through military force had become a breeding ground for international terrorism. The international community could not remain indifferent to the dangers which emanated from the Taliban and their nexus with terrorism.

He said that a year ago the Taliban had murdered some Iranian diplomats. Even though that action was condemned by the international community, which asked the Taliban to bring the culprits to justice, there had been no substantial progress in investigations. Should the international community sit and wait while the perpetrators of that outrageous crime and their masters roamed about freely? A loud and clear message should go out from the Council today to the Taliban that the perpetrators of those crimes must be made to face the consequences of their acts. The Taliban-controlled areas had emerged as one of the largest producers of narcotic substances in the world. There was a close nexus between the Taliban and the mafias operating across Afghanistan's southern border and in the region in promoting that diabolical trade. The menace was growing and firm international action was the need of the hour.

YUKIO TAKASU (Japan) said the Taliban and the other warring factions should immediately cease fighting and resume their dialogue, the ultimate objective of which should be to establish a representative government which would ensure a durable peace throughout the country. Japan was ready to host a meeting where the dialogue could be held in neutral surroundings with the aim of finding a way towards achieving national reconciliation.

He said the countries concerned, and neighbouring countries in particular, should not interfere in the conflict, but rather use their influence to end the fighting. It was especially important that all concerned stop extending military assistance or supplying arms to the factions and that they refrain from any other measures that could prolong the hostilities.

In view of the tremendous human suffering of the Afghan people, he said, the international community should continue to provide humanitarian assistance. It should convey to the Afghan factions and people a clear message of its commitment to assist their reconstruction efforts once the fighting ceased, peace was restored and a broad-based, multi-ethnic and representative government was formed. It was hoped that such a commitment would encourage the factions to come to the negotiating table and settle their dispute peacefully.

RASHID ALIMOV (Tajikistan) said his country was seriously concerned at the situation in neighbouring Afghanistan; the Tajik people could "feel the hot breath" of the events in that country from across the border they shared with Afghanistan. Ties between the two countries were based on the historical, cultural and religious communality of their peoples. Tajikistan sincerely cherished those relations and also suffered from what was happening in fraternal Afghanistan.

Afghanistan continued to sink deeper and deeper into the abyss of war, he said. Disease, poverty, and starvation continued to be the lot of the Afghan people. They suffered ethnic cleansing, religious persecution, forcible displacement and other abuses, as well as gross violations of human rights, including the rights of women and girls.

He said there was open support in Afghanistan for international terrorism and drug trafficking which posed a threat to regional and international stability. Ideological devotion to extremist religious doctrines had been carried to the extent that subversive activities had been organized against neighbouring countries. The blame for the current impasse in the Afghan situation lay exclusively with the Taliban.

Tajikistan called for a halt to direct foreign military interference in Afghanistan, and urged the Security Council to give a "second wind" to international efforts towards the normalization of the situation in Afghanistan. There was need for an international conference to encourage the Afghan factions to engage in serious talks aimed at reaching a settlement.

VOLKAN VURAL (Turkey) said the crisis in Afghanistan impaired overall stability in the region. The launching of a large-scale military offensive by the Taliban just after the Tashkent Summit and reports of massive forced displacements of civilians from the areas where fighting had been raging were alarming. "We believe that all countries must refrain from complicating the already fragile internal balance in Afghanistan", he stressed. Turkey had appointed a Coordinator at the level of Ambassador for Afghanistan in September last year, with the objective of establishing contacts with the parties in Afghanistan and interested States, and contributing to the search for a peaceful solution to the Afghan problem.

Since then, he continued, that coordinator had visited Kabul, Mazer-e- Sharif, Kandahar, Taloqan and Badakshan, where he had held extensive talks with several representatives of the Afghan people. The Coordinator had also visited Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in order to meet the authorities concerned, as well as prominent Afghan personalities in those countries. The activities of the Coordinator had, so far, enabled Turkey to obtain first-hand information on the situation in Afghanistan and provide his country with the opportunity to convey its views to those concerned with the issue.

The infrastructure, land cultivation, industrial basis and medical services were totally destroyed in Afghanistan, he noted. A ceasefire must be established without delay. The country was in urgent need of rehabilitation. In spite of his country's relatively modest resources, it was currently working on launching a humanitarian aid programme which would directly target the Afghan people as a whole. "We believe in giving priority to the needy, among them the disabled, infants and the widows", he said.

ALISHER VOHIDOV (Uzbekistan) stressed that the Afghan conflict had grown from an internal problem into a conflict of regional scale whose dangerous consequences could be seen not only inside the war-torn country, but also beyond its borders, affecting practically all its neighbours.

He said one of the main concerns in that context was the use of Afghan territory for terrorist activities, for training and concealing international terrorists and their organizations. The consequences of that policy created a great danger not only for the region, particularly Central Asia, but also for international peace and stability.

Other issues of major concern, he said, included the increasingly dangerous involvement of mercenaries from other countries and the use of Afghan territory for the cultivation, production and trafficking of drugs. Afghanistan had become one of the main exporters of international terrorism and religious extremism, as well as the largest supplier of narcotics in the world.

He said the Tashkent meeting of the "6+2 Group" and its political declaration had provided a solid basis for the achievement of a regional consensus and an opportunity for the Afghan parties to renew the negotiating process.

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said the plight of civilians in Afghanistan had become a source of constant concern to the international community, particularly since reports had surfaced that one of the factions was carrying out a scorched earth policy. If true, that would undoubtedly represent a violation of the United Nations Charter and of commitments undertaken by the Afghan parties.

He said there was a tendency among terrorist groups, in the absence of a central authority, to take advantage of Afghan territory to export terror. The international community should condemn that situation. Egypt hoped that interested countries, including neighbouring countries, would succeed in establishing a detente that would restore Afghanistan to the international community.

The first stage towards resolving the situation in Afghanistan would be to end the supply of weapons to all parties. Strong pressure must be brought to bear to convince the factions of the need for a political dialogue in order to arrive at national reconciliation. Egypt underscored the importance of a broadened interim government to lay the foundations for peaceful coexistence among all Afghans.

AKSOLTAN ATAEVA (Turkmenistan) said her country had relationships with Afghanistan that were free of any short-term interests. The lengthy conflict there was a source of grief; all Afghans were dear to Turkmenistan and it was prepared to help them. She said Turkmenistan still had a permanent presence in Afghanistan -- two consulates. For her neutral country, the border between the two nations was not a fence but an instrument to carry out foreign policy. Turkmenistan would support relations with Afghanistan, irrespective of positions adopted.

The relations between Turkmenistan and Afghanistan were not an intergovernmental privilege but instead reflected a mutual attraction between two peoples. In terms of addressing the issue of Afghanistan, her country believed the international community was lurching from one approach to another. It should be more active and focus its efforts on one goal. Ongoing contacts between the warring parties were a step towards resolving the conflict. United Nations efforts should be undertaken by countries, such as the five permanent members of the Security Council, with specific responsibility for the safety of peoples. Turkmenistan was prepared to continue the process of seeking peace in Afghanistan.

INAM UL HAQUE (Pakistan) said that however ardently his country might wish to insulate itself from events in Afghanistan, it could not do so. The 2,500-kilometres long border between the two countries was in an extremely difficult terrain and had always been porous. Historically, there had always been tribal movements from Afghanistan to Pakistan during winter and summer. Millions of Afghan refugees also trekked to Pakistan after the Soviet occupation of their country and their movement to and from since then had been largely uncontrollable.

He said Pakistan had to cope with those realities. That was the fundamental difference between his country's situation and those of others who, sitting at a distance, found it easy to tender advice or to "level baseless allegations against us". The reality in Afghanistan was that the Taliban controlled 90 per cent of the territory, including its capital Kabul. Pakistan and the international community had to recognize and live with that reality.

He said there was no country that stood to gain more than Pakistan from the return of peace and stability in Afghanistan. Continuing conflict and instability there imposed heavy burdens on his own country. Around 1.8 million Afghan refugees, the largest group of refugees in any country in the world, continued to stay in Pakistan. "This august body is well aware of the major economic and social costs that Pakistan has had to bear in providing basic amenities like housing, education, medical facilities, drinking water and infrastructure to the Afghan refugees".

His country did not harbour any illusions about its ability to control or change the course of events in Afghanistan, he said. Pakistan did not lend any support to any side in Afghanistan. It knew, however, that some countries in the neighbourhood and beyond were doing so by various means and for reasons which were apparent and well known to the international community. Pakistan's advice to them was to desist from such efforts, since they would only prolong the agony of the Afghan people.

In order to promote intra-Afghan dialogue, he went on, it was imperative that all outside interference in Afghanistan cease. The most glaring aspect of that was the supply of military equipment which continued to stoke the fires of conflict in Afghanistan.

In the past, he said, Pakistan had proposed the imposition of a verifiable arms embargo by the Council applicable to the whole of Afghanistan. That proposal merited serious consideration, since it was the only way to limit the ability of the Afghan factions to wage war against each other. Such an embargo must be accompanied by a comprehensive national and international programme for the reconstruction of Afghanistan and the rehabilitation of refugees. A policy of castigating and isolating one or more Afghan factions could only feed the flames of war in the volatile situation in the country; the international community must not be seen to be taking sides in the conflict.

He said it was possible to argue that the Taliban believed that they were being unjustly treated by the international community. Despite the fact they controlled 90 per cent of the territory and had successfully restored law and order in the areas under their control, the international community continued to recognize another faction as the legitimate Government. The Taliban would be right to wonder about the criteria by which international legitimacy and recognition were conferred by the United Nations and the international community.

He said that in the wake of the recent outbreak of fighting in Afghanistan, it had been alleged that some Pakistani nationals had been participating in the fighting. That was a false and malicious allegation and Pakistan rejected it. It was possible that young Afghan refugees might have returned to Afghanistan and might well be participating in the fighting. However, they could not be given the status of Pakistanis by virtue of having stayed in his country as refugees.

MOKHTAR LAMANI, Observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the OIC, held in Ouagadougou, reaffirmed there could be no military solution to the crisis in Afghanistan. It invited the parties to refrain from using force and to take the path of dialogue.

He said continuation of the war in Afghanistan, and the worsening of fighting, was undoubtedly fuelled by the flow of weapons and military equipment into the country. The OIC had emphasized the need to halt the flow of arms and to end outside interference in Afghanistan. The crisis was characterized by instability, and the growing culture of drugs and their export.

The OIC was prepared to support every effort to end the tragedy and awaited the day when harmony would prevail, so that they could harness their resources for the country's development.

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