SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS OPEN BRIEFING ON SITUATION IN TAJIKISTAN

21 March 2000
SC/6827

SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS OPEN BRIEFING ON SITUATION IN TAJIKISTAN

21 March 2000

Press ReleaseSC/6827

SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS OPEN BRIEFING ON SITUATION IN TAJIKISTAN

20000321

Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Briefs Council on Anticipated Withdrawal of UNMOT

For the first time in the history of the newly independent Tajikistan, pluralistic multi-party elections had been held, signifying a further step towards democratization, the representative of that country told the Security Council this afternoon. His remarks followed an open briefing by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi, acknowledging the anticipated withdrawal of the United Nations Mission in the country following the 15 May expiration of its mandate.

The Tajik representative said the elections had been a victory for all voters. The elections had cemented the achievements of the peace process and laid a firm foundation for the country’s sustainable development. Hopefully, support would grow for the country's need for "all kinds" of international assistance. In conjunction with the anticipated withdrawal of the United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT), the Secretary-General should identify a future United Nations role, focusing on the needs of a country whose peace and stability depended on its socio-economic revival.

The Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Annabi, noted the significant inclusion of warring parties in the election process, as well as the holding of the country's first-ever multi-party election in an atmosphere free from violence. Despite the significance of the elections, however, the election commission had failed to meet the minimum standards of transparency, and there had been widespread voting violations. Nevertheless, the Tajik parties had overcome the obstacles of the transition period and placed their country on the path to national reconciliation.

He said the successful completion of the transition period marked a significant achievement and the United Nations and UNMOT had played an important part. At the same time, much remained to be done to consolidate national reconciliation. The Tajik President had confirmed the need to establish a post- conflict peace-building office, following UNMOT’s withdrawal on 15 May, and had emphasized the value of the United Nations job creation projects, which had shifted attitudes from confrontation to reconciliation. The Government had also stressed the need to reduce the strength of the armed forces through demobilization programmes.

Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6827 4115th Meeting (PM) 21 March 2000

The representative of the Russian Federation shared the view that the parliamentary elections had been a landmark event and that the overall campaign had been positive. A number of violations had occurred, but reproaching Tajikistan was unjustified. The lofty yardstick of international democratic standards could not be used to measure the first free elections in the country’s history. What the international community had witnessed in Tajikistan would serve as a positive example of United Nations peacekeeping efforts. A continued United Nations presence there, through the establishment of an office, would promote post-conflict peace-building.

Similarly, the representative of Ukraine said the parliamentary elections had been a crucial event and marked the last major step in the transitional period. Peaceful reconciliation had become possible through the political will and tireless efforts of the parties, the country President and the international community. Indeed, the military opposition had sought, by political means, to take its place in society and the political structures of the country. That choice would resonate positively throughout the entire Central Asian region.

Council President Anwarul Karim Chowdhury (Bangladesh), speaking in his national capacity, said that consolidation of the peace process would require the reintegration of ex-combatants into society. That priority should not be viewed as a sequential event following their disarmament: the two processes were intertwined. Also, more projects geared towards job creation should be undertaken and funding should be made available for them.

The representatives of the United States, Namibia, France, China, Argentina, United Kingdom, Jamaica, Malaysia, Tunisia, and the Netherlands also made statements this afternoon.

The meeting began at 3:15 p.m. and adjourned at 4:20 p.m.

Council Work Programme

When the Security Council met this afternoon to discuss the situation in Tajikistan and along the Tajik-Afghan border, it had before it an interim report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Tajikistan (document S/2000/214), submitted pursuant to Council resolution 1274 of 12 November 1999. It relates developments in Tajikistan and the activities of the United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT) since the last report of 4 November 1999, covers details of the first multiparty election, and describes the reintegration of former opposition fighters.

According to the report, the Secretary-General intends to withdraw UNMOT when its mandate expires on 15 May, since, with the holding of the first multi- party parliamentary election in Tajikistan, the transition period envisaged in the General Agreement on the Establishment of Peace and National Accord in Tajikistan (document S/1997/510) is coming to a close, as is the process that UNMOT was set up to support. This marks a significant achievement. The military observers are gradually being drawn down.

The report states that, after years of fighting, the transition had been difficult and threatened by several serious crises. Nevertheless, the Tajik parties managed to overcome the obstacles and put their country on the path to national reconciliation and democracy. The United Nations had played an important part in this success. The General Agreement had been reached under its auspices and with its active involvement, and UNMOT, supported by the Contact Group of Guarantor States and International Organizations, had been instrumental in the implementation of its provisions.

While there is cause for satisfaction, the report continues, there can be no doubt that the move towards a stable democracy has only just begun, and that it is important for the international community to stay engaged. Also, too many men are still under arms for a country that is at peace, and more should be encouraged and helped to return to civilian life. In this regard, much can be achieved with relatively modest means.

The Secretary-General is currently consulting with the Government of Tajikistan about a possible role for the United Nations in the period of post- conflict peace building and consolidation. He will inform the Council about the outcome of those consultations.

Statements

HÉDI ANNABI, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Tajikistan described developments in the country since last November. Apart from the presidential election held on 6 November 1999, the key event during the reporting period had been the holding of elections to the newly established National Assembly of Parliament on 27 February. According to the central elections commission, the ruling People’s Democratic Party had won a majority of seats, followed by the Communist Party. On 12 March, run-off elections were held, and on 16 March, the elections commission established a commission to examine the results of the second round of voting. The United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had jointly monitored the election. Continuing, he said that the Joint United Nations/OSCE observer mission had noted the significant inclusion of warring parties in the election process, as well as the fact that Tajikistan had held its first-ever multi-party election in an atmosphere free from violence. The observer mission had also pointed out, however, that the election commission had failed to ensure its independence, and the transparency of the process had not met the minimum standards. There had also been widespread proxy voting and voting without proper identification. Despite its shortcoming, the election had been the final act in the transition period foreseen in the peace and reconciliation agreement signed by the President and the United Tajik Opposition leader in June 1997, under United Nations auspices.

After years of fighting, he said, the transition period had been difficult and several serious crises had occurred along the way. Nevertheless, the Tajik parties had overcome the obstacles and put their country on the path to national reconciliation and peace. The successful completion of the transition period had marked a significant achievement in which the United Nations and UNMOT had played an important part.

At the same time, he said, much remained to be done to consolidate the national reconciliation process. The President had confirmed the need to establish a post-conflict peace-building office, following UNMOT’s withdrawal on 15 May. He had emphasized that the United Nations job creation projects had been an example of how the international community could contribute to the consolidation of peace by shifting attitudes from confrontation to reconciliation. He had also stressed the need to reduce the strength of the armed forces through demobilization programmes.

ANDREI GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) said that the Secretary-General’s report contained some important assessments. He shared the view that the Lower House elections were a landmark event and that overall the campaign had been positive. A number of violations had taken place, which should not be neglected, but reproaching Tajikistan was unjustified. The lofty yardstick of international democratic standards could not be used since elections had been conducted for the first time in the history of the country.

The fact that elections had been held and that former belligerents had taken part in them was very significant. This was to the credit of the entire international community, which had provided vigorous assistance to the peace process in Tajikistan.

He said the elections had been held in a free atmosphere in which six parties took part plus some independent candidates. Virtually all Members of Parliament had now been replaced. The international community was witnessing the progress of Tajikistan towards a multi-party political system, and it had every chance of becoming a positive example of United Nations peace operations. He supported establishing a United Nations office in Tajikistan after UNMOT’s mandate expired to help with post-conflict peace-building.

MARK C. MINTON (United States) said that the elections had been a significant step towards democracy. A joint election observer mission had reported some serious problems during the election period. Those irregularities could certainly be overcome in future elections and the flaws could also be corrected for elections for the Upper House. However, a good start had been made.

He hoped that the Government of Tajikistan would take further steps to consolidate the gains of the peace process to encourage the incipient democratization of the country and ensure that all groups in Tajikistan felt that they had a voice in the country’s political system.

Since the transition period would come to an end, the process that UNMOT had been set up to support was now over, he said. Follow-up measures to enable Tajikistan to embark upon post-conflict peace-building and consolidation would be necessary, and he looked forward to hearing from the Secretary-General in that regard.

SELMA NDEYAPO ASHIPALA-MUSAVYI (Namibia) said that the weakness in the elections could only be improved over time. Democratization was a process -- it did not take root with one election. She was encouraged that, despite the obstacles, the parties had embarked on the path to democracy.

It was up to the international community to provide assistance to Tajikistan, she said. In that context, the ongoing consultations with the Government of Tajikistan were appreciated. Reaching the end of the transition period was a significant achievement, and the United Nations had played a commendable role. Particular praise had to go to UNMOT for its instrumental role in ensuring the implementation of the provisions of the General Agreement.

With regards to the possible role for the United Nations in the period of post-conflict peace-building and consolidation, she said she appreciated the ongoing consultations with the Government of Tajikistan.

YVES DOUTRIAUX (France) said stability was important not just for the Tajik people, but for the entire region. Under particularly difficult circumstances and often dangerous conditions, the United Nations, with the assistance of the OSCE, had been able to set the country on the path towards democracy. Much remained to be done, however. As Mr. Annabi had noted, the elections had been flawed, and the reintegration of former combatants required further efforts. Nevertheless, the country had held its first pluralistic elections. The proportion of women in the new Assembly had risen to 15 per cent. The new Parliament could become a driving force in the democratic process.

He said, however, that military protocol had not been fully implemented in terms of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. There was, thus, a need to pursue action that was adapted to the new prevailing conditions in the country. He supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to create a small office similar to the one established in the Central African Republic and Guinea- Bissau. He wished to be informed by the Secretariat about the consultations with the Tajik authorities on the installation of that office. He also fully supported the Russian proposal for a statement to be read by the Council President. The transition of the United Nations presence in Tajikistan from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to the Department of Political Affairs had been, once again, another example of the kind of smooth transition seen in the Central African Republic and Haiti.

CHEN XU (China) said the peace process in Tajikistan had yielded significant progress. The UNMOT had become another success story and an indication of the political will of the concerned parties, as well as of the support of the international community -- the indispensable prerequisite for any peacekeeping success. The peace process had not been a smooth one; grave crises had occurred. However, the Government and the political parties had demonstrated their commitment to the peace agreement, solved their difficulties through dialogue, overcome many obstacles, and eventually embarked on a path towards national reconciliation and democracy.

He said that such cooperation had been particularly precious for the Tajik people, who had suffered for many years. His delegation recognized the enormous efforts made by the international community, in general, and the United Nations, the Contact Group and the Russian Federation, in particular. With UNMOT’s mandate due to expire soon, he supported the Secretary-General’s continued consultations with the Tajik Government to explore a future United Nations role in the post-conflict peace-building and consolidation process. The draft presidential statement, submitted by the Russian Federation, also had his support.

LUIS ENRIQUE CAPPAGLI (Argentina) said UNMOT deserved special tribute. After years of fighting, the transition period had been completed. The United Nations role in that process had been central.

The international community had witnessed the first multi-party elections in Tajikistan, he said. While it was clear that the elections had been far from transparent and legitimate, they could be interpreted as a significant milestone on the path to democracy.

He concurred with the assessment that much remained to be done. There were, for instance, still many people under arms. He endorsed the proposal that UNMOT be replaced by a small office for the purpose of post-conflict peace- building.

ALISTAIR HARRISON (United Kingdom) said he was pleased that UNMOT’s task was drawing to a close. The main task now was to consolidate peace and prevent any further breakdown. The UNMOT had provided critical support to the peace process. The first multi-party elections had been held in an atmosphere free of violence and had been successful. Nevertheless, the elections had failed to meet the minimum democratic standards for free, transparent, and accountable elections.

All political forces in the country were urged to work towards free and fair elections in the future, he said. He would await the outcome of the Secretary-General’s consultations with the Government on a follow-up United Nations presence. Meanwhile, he supported the Secretary-General’s conclusion that it was important for the international community to remain engaged in Tajikistan.

CURTIS WARD (Jamaica) said that the resolution of the conflict and the establishment of peace in Tajikistan was an important step towards stability in Central Asia. The electoral process had not been without problems. An examination of the reason the elections in Tajikistan had “failed to meet minimum international standards” was needed. Existing political institutions must be strengthened to ensure that they were capable of undertaking the important task of governing with the support of the Tajik people.

He commended UNMOT for the success it had achieved in implementing its mandate, but noted that one had to move quickly to cement the gains made in the peace process and to foster greater democracy in the region. The attention had now to be turned to the future role of the United Nations in light of the positive developments in Tajikistan.

He said that a change in the Mission’s mandate and composition was inevitable. A peace-building United Nations mission after the withdrawal of UNMOT was essential to prevent a return to civil war conditions and to facilitate national reconciliation and the creation of a sustainable system of governance. Humanitarian efforts must be given prominence in light of the gains made in the peace process, and increased emphasis must be placed on ensuring the return of internally displaced persons and refugees. It was also prudent to continue the patrol of the Tajik-Afghan border in order to control the influx of drugs and arms into the territory.

MOHAMMAD KAMAL YAN YAHAYA (Malaysia) said he was pleased with the significant progress of the peace process in Tajikistan, which had been increasingly recognized as a United Nations success story. Indeed, the United Nations had played a crucial role in that process through the deployment of UNMOT and the active involvement of the Secretary-General and his Special Representative. The constructive role of the Contact Group of guarantors and the OSCE had been similarly instrumental in that success. All parties should be congratulated for their commitment and determination to achieve peace and promote national reconciliation after the devastating civil war. The holding of the first multi-party parliamentary election, in an atmosphere free of violence, had been another import step forward towards the establishment of lasting peace and stability.

He said that despite the election's shortcomings, it had been a crucial event. At the same time, such flaws should be avoided in all future elections. As the Secretary-General had stated, there were still too many men under arms. In that context, he fully supported efforts encouraging their return to civilian life. The Government and all political forces should be strongly urged to consolidate the achievements made thus far and continue such efforts beyond the transition period envisaged in the general agreement, to ensure that peace was irreversible. The international community, in particular the United Nations, should remain engaged in Tajikistan, especially in the provision of comprehensive assistance to social, economic and democratic reforms.

SAID BEN MUSTAPHA (Tunisia) said his country had taken note of the first democratic elections in Tajikistan. The process towards a stable democratic regime had just started, and the international community had to keep lending assistance.

An ongoing United Nations process would make it possible to secure the gains achieved, he said. He expressed his satisfaction at the role played by UNMOT. He agreed with the Secretary-General on ending UNMOT, but the role of the United Nations in the post-conflict period in Tajikistan would remain important, especially with regard to aiding the country further on the path toward democracy and to facilitate the re-integration of ex-combatants.

VOLODYMYR YU. YEL’CHENKO (Ukraine) said the recent parliamentary elections had been a crucial event in the life of the country and marked the last major step in the transitional period outlined in the general peace agreement. The elections had underscored one of the most difficult conflicts of newly independent States, which had re-emerged on the political map. After years of fighting, peaceful reconciliation had become possible due to the political will and tireless efforts of the parties, the President and the entire international community, in particular the United Nations and the OSCE. The parliamentary elections had been held on the basis of a new law adopted after the national referendum in September 1999. The most significant accomplishment in that peace-building step had been the inclusion of the former warring parties in the electoral process.

Indeed, the military opposition had chosen to say “farewell to arms” and to seek, by political means, its place in society and the political structures of the country, he said. That had been an outstanding event, which would have a positive impact on the whole region of Central Asia. The joint United Nations/OSCE observer mission had provided a critical assessment of the elections' shortcomings, but those had taken place in a country emerging from years of armed conflict and making its way towards democracy. As the Secretary- General had stated in his report, the move towards a stable democracy had only just begun, and it was of crucial importance that the Government had the continued support of the international community. His country, with its long- standing friendly relations with Tajikistan, would actively participate in the process.

ALPHONS HAMER (Netherlands) said that, although the overall progress in the peace process had been encouraging, the process had only just begun. The elections had been marred by significant flaws. Despite the shortcomings, however, the trend had been encouraging. The international community must remain engaged in the process of democratization. He called on the Tajik authorities to ensure that the coming elections would be held in a free manner.

ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh), Security Council President, speaking in his national capacity, said that the holding of parliamentary elections on 27 February had been a significant step forward in Tajikistan. There had been a number of areas where the electoral process did not meet the full satisfaction of the international community, but this was the first multi-party pluralistic election in Tajikistan with the participation of former warring parties, and the voter turnout had been quite good. The holding of the elections without violent incidents had been a success.

The country had emerged from a prolonged and difficult conflict situation, he said, and he considered the elections a transitional phase in the peace process. But the holding of elections could not guarantee consolidation of democracy. Elections were only a starting point. The government of Tajikistan and the international community should focus on carrying forward the process of national reconciliation and democratic institution building.

In order to consolidate the peace process, he said, the reintegration of ex-combatants in society should be given high priority. It could not be viewed as a sequential event which would follow their disarmament: the two processes were intertwined. Also, more projects geared to job creation should be undertaken and funding should be made available for them.

The international community had a responsibility to see that the gains achieved in Tajikistan were not lost or waning after the acute conflict phase was over. The world should come forward with assistance to help the fledgling democracy take root. It would be worthwhile for the Council to consider some viable and convincing options for future United Nations involvement in Tajikistan.

RASHID ALIMOV (Tajikistan) said he had appreciated the exchange of views on the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in his country. Each comment and proposal was of real value to his country, and his Government would study them carefully. The period that had elapsed since the submission of the Secretary-General's previous report in November 1999 had been marked by major political events for Tajik society. Decisive steps had been taken to consolidate all of the achievements made during the nearly three-year peace process. For the first time in the history of the newly independent Tajikistan, pluralistic multi-party elections had been held, in a very serious test of the peace process and a qualitatively new step towards democratization. Clearly, that democratic breakthrough had been won by the Tajik people.

He said that the elections had been a victory, not just for the burgeoning Tajik democracy as a whole, but for each individual rank-and-file voter right up to the political parties. They had taken place in keeping with the law adopted on the basis of constitutional amendments, and had reflected the current state of Tajik society. The elections had signified that the Tajik people themselves could decide their direction. The country was developing a democratic, secular, and pluralistic society, which respected the views of its people and observed fundamental human rights and freedoms. Indeed, the outcome of the elections had “cemented” the achievements of the peace process and laid down firm foundations for the country’s sustainable development.

Now, the country had special need for all kinds of international support, he said. Hopefully, that support would grow. The transition to a peaceful development and the current socio-economic reform would gradually lead to increased confidence by investors. The Secretary-General would soon submit recommendations about the new role of the United Nations in Tajikistan after UNMOT completed its mandate. His Government would continue to cooperate on the basis of joint experience in leading the country out of a most difficult internal conflict. That experience deserved thorough analysis. Future action

should enhance the United Nations' authority and serve the interests of all Member States. In preparing his proposals, the Secretary-General should focus on the real needs of the country, whose peace and stability could best be consolidated by a revival of its the socio-economic sphere.

Mr. ANNABI, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said in response to the members' statements that not much needed to be added. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative had met yesterday with President Rakhmanov to discuss the follow-up presence of the United Nations in Tajikistan. The President had confirmed his support for that presence. The Secretary- General would now prepare recommendations for that presence, which would be brought to the attention of the Council.

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For information media. Not an official record.