SECURITY COUNCIL EXPRESSES GRAVE CONCERN AT CONTINUING CONFLICT IN AFGHANISTAN AND ITS THREAT TO REGIONAL STABILITY

14 July 1998
SC/6548

SECURITY COUNCIL EXPRESSES GRAVE CONCERN AT CONTINUING CONFLICT IN AFGHANISTAN AND ITS THREAT TO REGIONAL STABILITY

14 July 1998

Press ReleaseSC/6548

SECURITY COUNCIL EXPRESSES GRAVE CONCERN AT CONTINUING CONFLICT IN AFGHANISTAN AND ITS THREAT TO REGIONAL STABILITY

19980714

Presidential Statement Calls on Parties to Engage In Political Dialogue to Achieve Lasting Political Settlement

Deploring the breakdown of the intra-Afghan talks in Islamabad and the unabated outside military support to the warring factions in Afghanistan, the Security Council this afternoon called upon the parties to stop the fighting and to return without delay and preconditions to the negotiating table. It also reiterated its call to all States, particularly those in the region, to cease such military support immediately.

Through a statement read by its President, Sergey V. Lavrov (Russian Federation), the Council expressed its grave concern at the continued conflict, which was a serious threat to regional and international security, and had caused extensive human suffering, further destruction, refugee flows and other forcible displacement of large numbers of people.

In that connection, it called upon the parties to engage in a political dialogue aimed at achieving national reconciliation, a lasting political settlement of the conflict and the formation of a broad-based full representative government. As an initial step towards those goals, the Council called upon the parties to agree immediately on a ceasefire, an exchange of prisoners, and the lifting of all restrictions on the shipments of humanitarian supplies throughout the country.

In reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Afghanistan, it reiterated its concern at the increasingly ethnic nature of the conflict. Further, the Council expressed concern about the continuing threat that situation posed to the unity of the Afghan State. In that context, the Council considered it necessary that more active efforts be undertaken under the aegis of the United Nations, and with the participation of interested countries, aimed at a peaceful settlement of the conflict, taking into account interests of all involved ethnic and religious groups and political forces.

Concerned at recent reports of harassment of humanitarian organizations and at the unilateral decision by the Taliban to relocate humanitarian organizations' offices in Kabul, it called upon all factions to facilitate the

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work of humanitarian agencies to the greatest extent possible. It urged all Afghan factions to cooperate fully with the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan and international humanitarian organizations, and it called upon them, in particular the Taliban, to take all necessary steps to assure the safety and freedom of movement of their personnel.

By a related term of the text, the Council acknowledged the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations and the Taliban on humanitarian issues, and it stressed the importance of its full implementation, including full respect for immunities of United Nations staff.

Noting that some of the obstacles to the provision of assistance to Hazarajat had been overcome, the Council nevertheless remained concerned at the continuing use by the Taliban of the United Nations humanitarian aid as a weapon against the Hazara and demanded the immediate cessation of that practice. Expressing concern at the lack of supplies coming from the northern route due to insecurity and looting, it called upon all Afghan factions to lift unconditionally any blockade of humanitarian relief supplies.

The Council reiterated its position that the United Nations must continue to play its central and impartial role in international efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the Afghan conflict, and extended its full support for the activities of the United Nations Special Mission and those of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan.

It commended the work of the "six plus two" group -- China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan as well as the Russian Federation and the United States -- and called upon them to continue to participate in good faith with the aim of elaborating a coherent approach to the peacemaking efforts in Afghanistan, including the problem of curbing the flow of arms and other related matériel into the country. It welcomed and encouraged the additional support of other Member States for that process.

By other terms, the Council remained deeply concerned at the continuing discrimination against girls and women and other violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Afghanistan. Reiterating its view that continuation of the conflict provided a fertile ground for terrorism and illegal drug production and trafficking, it called upon the leaders of the Afghan parties to halt such activities.

Also, the Council supported the Secretary-General's steps to launch investigations into alleged mass killings of prisoners of war and civilians in Afghanistan.

The meeting, which was convened at 1:04 p.m., was adjourned at 1:14 p.m.

Presidential Statement

The full text of the presidential statement to be issued as document S/PRST/1998/22, reads as follows:

"(1) The Security Council has considered the report of the Secretary- General concerning the situation in Afghanistan of 19 June 1998 (A/52/957- S/1998/532).

"(2) The Security Council reaffirms its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Afghanistan, and respect for its cultural and historical heritage. It reiterates its concern at the increasingly ethnic nature of the conflict, and at the continuing threat this poses to the unity of the Afghan State.

"(3) The Security Council expresses its grave concern at the continued Afghan conflict, which is a serious threat to regional and international security, and causes extensive human suffering, further destruction, refugee flows and other forcible displacement of large numbers of people.

"(4) The Security Council deplores the fact that military support, including the supplies of arms and other related matériel, from outside Afghanistan to the warring factions continues unabated, despite repeated pleas to halt it made by the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Secretary-General. It reiterates its call to all States, in particular those in the region, to cease such interference immediately.

"(5) The Security Council considers it necessary that more active efforts be undertaken under the aegis of the United Nations and with the participation of interested countries aimed at a peaceful settlement of the Afghan conflict, taking into account the interests of all ethnic and religious groups and political forces involved therein.

"(6) The Security Council deplores the breakdown of the intra-Afghan talks in Islamabad and calls upon the parties to respect the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Afghans, to stop the fighting, to return without delay and preconditions to the negotiating table and to engage in a political dialogue aimed at achieving national reconciliation, a lasting political settlement of the conflict, which has no military solution, and the formation of a broad-based fully representative government. As an initial step towards that goal, the Council calls upon the parties to agree immediately on a ceasefire, an exchange of prisoners, and the lifting of all restrictions on the shipments of humanitarian supplies throughout the country.

"(7) The Security Council reiterates its position that the United Nations, as a universally recognized intermediary, must continue to play its central and impartial role in international efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the Afgan conflict, and extends its full support for the

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activities of the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan and those of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan.

"(8) The Security Council takes note of the assessment of the Secretary-General that "Loya Jirgah" as an informal, time-honoured Afghan method of settling disputes, advocated by some leaders of non-warring Afghan factions, continues to deserve attention, and encourages the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan to continue to maintain useful contacts with them.

"(9) The Security Council commends the work of the "six plus two" group and calls upon all countries involved in the group to continue to participate in good faith with the aim of elaborating, on the basis of the agreed talking points, a coherent approach to the peacemaking efforts in Afghanistan, including the problem of curbing the flow of arms and other related matériel into Afghanistan in an effective and even-handed manner. It welcomes and encourages the additional support of other Member States for this process.

"(10) The Security Council urges all Afghan factions to cooperate fully with the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan and international humanitarian organizations and calls upon them, in particular the Taliban, to take all necessary steps to assure the safety and freedom of movement of such personnel.

"(11) The Security Council acknowledges the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations and the Taliban on humanitarian issues and stresses the importance of its full implementation, including full respect for immunities of United Nations staff, and for the assistance of the United Nations in health and education. Noting that some of the obstacles to the provision of assistance to Hazarajat have been overcome, it nevertheless remains concerned at the continuing use by the Taliban of the United Nations humanitarian aid as a weapon against the Hazara and demands that this practice cease immediately. The Council also remains concerned at the lack of supplies coming from the northern route due to insecurity and looting. It calls upon all Afghan factions to lift unconditionally any blockade of humanitarian relief supplies.

"(12) The Security Council is concerned at recent reports of harassment of humanitarian organizations and at the unilateral decision by the Taliban to relocate humanitarian organizations' offices in Kabul. It calls upon all factions to facilitate the work of humanitarian agencies to the greatest extent possible.

"(13) The Security Council remains deeply concerned at the continuing discrimination against girls and women and other violations of human rights as well as violations of international humanitarian law in Afghanistan.

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"(14) The Security Council supports the steps of the Secretary-General to launch investigations into alleged mass killings of prisoners of war and civilians in Afghanistan, the outcome of which will be submitted to the General Assembly and the Security Council as soon as it becomes available.

"(15) 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.

"(16) The Security Council will remain seized of the matter and requests the Secretary-General to continue to keep it regularly informed of the situation in Afghanistan."

Secretary-General's Report

For its consideration of the situation in Afghanistan this morning, the Security Council had before it a report of the Secretary-General on implications on that situation for international peace and security (document S/1998/532), covering developments since his last report of 17 March.

The Secretary-General reports that while fighting diminished in March and early April, flare-ups gradually increased along the front line north of Kabul and in the Kunduz region. A moratorium on new military offensives was accepted by the two sides and was fairly effective during the Steering Committee meeting, held in Islamabad from 26 April to 3 May.

However, fighting resumed shortly after the suspension of the Islamabad meeting, with the Taliban making fresh efforts to capture territory in the Kunduz area held by Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. Fighting erupted north of Kabul in late May, including one of the heaviest artillery and rocket duels in recent memory.

New fighting began between forces loyal to General Abdul Rashid Dostum and the Taliban in the north-western province of Badghis on 30 May. General Dostum, with the help of several commanders who had switched sides, was able to force the Taliban back across the Murghab River. A Taliban counter-attack recaptured some, but not all, of the lost ground.

The report draws attention to one particularly tragic episode that occurred on 17 May when Taliban aircraft bombed Taloqan, the provincial capital of Takhar, hitting a market and killing over 30 civilians and injuring many more. It was also reported that rockets apparently fired by the United Front hit residential areas of Kabul, killing civilians and destroying more of the already devastated Afghan capital.

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The flow of arms, money and other supplies into Afghanistan from outside the country has continued unabated during the past three months, the report states. United Nations officials witnessed a number of air deliveries of weapons and ammunition by unmarked aircraft to United Front bases in the north. Reliable sources stated that those resupply flights were occurring at a rate of five or more sorties per week. There were also persistent, though not fully confirmed, reports of deliveries of tanks and jet fighters to the northern forces. It was also widely reported that one United Front faction has been regularly allowed to use an airfield outside Afghan territory as a shelter base.

The political situation within the Afghan factions has further complicated prospects for the resumption of peace talks, the Secretary-General continues. There have been persistent reports about fighting between, and even within, the factions in the north. Fragmentation within the United Front has been one of the main barriers to effective peace talks with the Taliban. The inability to ensure security and safety also prevented the United Nations from resuming full-fledged activities in northern Afghanistan.

The report finds that the Taliban have so far appeared to be more united. However, there are also persistent reports about tensions within its leadership and battle fatigue among their ranks. The political situation outside Afghanistan offers a slightly more promising picture, as countries in the region started talking to each other more frequently.

The Secretary-General states that the key to ending the Afghan tragedy lies in whether or not the international community has the resolve to address the external aspects, namely the continuous foreign interference in the form of providing arms and other supplies to the warring factions. For such interference to end, the regional Powers need to talk to each other and build mutual confidence. Together with the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), other countries with influence in Afghanistan and the region should make even greater efforts to assist them in that regard.

The suspension of the dialogue in Islamabad in May between the warring factions and the start of a spring offensive are alarming developments, the Secretary-General states. Much to his regret, there is further evidence that the Afghan factions are either not ready for serious peace talks or, worse, are determined to pursue the mirage of a military solution. Also, it was impossible not to draw the conclusion that some countries in the region are supplying armaments to factions, despite repeated pleas from the General Assembly and the Security Council to halt the flow of arms into the country.

A major handicap to peacemaking efforts remains the absence of a coherent approach to the problem, as well as a lack of political will on the part of those countries with a determining influence on the warring factions,

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he states. Major global Powers have not participated in efforts to resolve the conflict since the end of the cold war. Since then, the regional players have become more assertive than before with the intent of filling that vacuum.

Those regional players have not been able to rise above their perceived national interests and view the Afghan question in terms of the interest of the region as a whole. That situation continues in spite of the overwhelming evidence that the conflict is causing immense damage to the fabric of society in many neighbouring countries, the report finds. The inability of regional countries to overcome their mutual distrust and agree on a common platform for the settlement of the Afghan conflict has resulted in the unabated supply of arms into Afghanistan. The warring factions have, in turn, frustrated repeated international mediation efforts by staying away from serious peace talks. The latest casualty of this is the Steering Committee meeting in Islamabad.

In addition to appealing, once again, to the Afghan factions to respect the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Afghans and return to the negotiating table without delay, the Secretary-General calls upon the regional Powers to intensify their bilateral contacts on Afghanistan, or through the United Nations and the OIC. He also appeals to those that are not directly involved, but are nevertheless concerned, to help the United Nations encourage the regional Powers to talk to each other.

Nevertheless, the Secretary-General notes a keen and growing interest among Member States about the formulation of a common political approach to resolving the conflict. Despite all the difficulties, the United Nations will continue addressing the Afghan question vigorously. In close cooperation with the Secretary-General's Special Envoy, Lakhdar Bralimi, the United Nations Special Mission in Afghanistan will maintain close contact with the Afghan parties and personalities to persuade them to agree to such measures as a ceasefire, an exchange of prisoners and the lifting of all restrictions on the shipments of humanitarian supplies throughout the country.

A sustainable and just peace in the country depends on, among other things, a coherent international approach in which political and assistance objectives reinforce one another. To respond to the complexity of the Afghan emergency, a strategic framework for Afghanistan is being formulated, as is a new working arrangement between the United Nations and its assistance partners.

The report also details the activities of the Special Mission which, during the reporting period, had focused on intra-Afghan dialogue between the warring factions, as well as those of the United Nations and the Secretary- General's Special Envoy. Also reviewed is the humanitarian situation and human rights. In that connection, the Secretary-General states that the serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law allegedly committed in the country in 1997 warrant urgent action on the part of the United Nations.

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