Security Council Presidential Statement Welcomes Bonn Declaration of ‘Transition Process’, ‘Transformation Decade’ for Afghanistan

19 December 2011
SC/10494

Security Council Presidential Statement Welcomes Bonn Declaration of ‘Transition Process’, ‘Transformation Decade’ for Afghanistan

19 December 2011
Security Council
SC/10494
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6690th Meeting* (AM)

Security Council Presidential Statement Welcomes Bonn Declaration

 

of ‘Transition Process’, ‘Transformation Decade’ for Afghanistan

 

Speakers Underline Need to Train Security Forces,

Importance of Cooperation with Regional Neighbours, United Nations Role

The international community’s commitment to enduring engagement with Afghanistan through its transition and transformation — voiced at the Bonn Conference on 5 December — was the subject of a presidential statement and a debate in the Security Council today.

In the statement, read out by Council President Vitaly Churkin (Russian Federation), the 15-member body welcomed the declaration in Bonn that the so‑called Process of Transition, to be completed by the end of 2014, should be followed by a Decade of Transformation (2015-2024), in which Afghanistan would consolidate its sovereignty by strengthening a fully functioning, sustainable State in the service of its people.

The Council welcomed the “strategic consensus” between Afghanistan and the international community on a renewed and sustained partnership for the Transformation Decade, which would entail firm mutual commitments.  It noted that the transition process would involve the assumption of leadership by the Afghan Government, while underlining the crucial role of the United Nations.

Further, the Council commended the outcome of the “Istanbul Conference for Afghanistan: Security and Cooperation in the Heart of Asia”, held on 2 November, while welcoming an upcoming ministerial conference to be hosted by Japan in June 2012.  It underlined the crucial role of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and expressed its gratitude to Staffan de Mistura, outgoing Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of that Mission, for his outstanding contribution to its work.

Addressing the Council via video conference today, Mr. de Mistura said UNAMA had assisted Afghanistan’s democratic process, noting that there were now 69 women in a functioning Parliament.  The legislature was preparing for future elections and supporting Government institutions, as well as the regional process.  Human rights were at the forefront of those efforts, as was support for women and children, and for political reconciliation.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in Afghanistan was Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, who declared: “The United Nations is committed to supporting the Afghan Government and its people for the long term.  We have been in Afghanistan for more than half a century assisting the Afghan people and we will be there far beyond 2014 as long as the Afghans need us.”

He said that with the clear message of support from the international community and the Afghan Government in Bonn and Istanbul for the crucial role of the United Nations in Afghanistan, “it is time to look again at that role and refocus our mandate, adjusting it to the evolving situation on the ground”.  As for the transition of responsibility for security from the international presence to national forces, he said that key component of the transition was “proceeding apace”.  However, “we mustn’t deceive ourselves”, he cautioned, noting the large-scale attacks of recent weeks and the still-volatile security situation, which was impacting the work of the United Nations in Afghanistan, constraining operational access and perpetuating high levels of risk for its staff and the Afghan people.

Indeed, said Afghanistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Jawed Ludin, “as Afghanistan moves from transition to the Transformation Decade, this Council’s guidance, and the international community’s commitment, remain as crucial for our future as ever before”.  It had been a year of significant milestones, but achievements had come at a price.  Terrorism remained a strong threat, but with the ongoing transition process, Afghan forces were taking charge of security and had already done so for more than half the country’s population.  “Transition is truly the manifestation of our determination to succeed, and to stand on our own feet.”

That transition, he explained, went beyond security, as Afghanistan was also assuming greater ownership of affairs on the civilian front, including the political process and the development agenda.  While acknowledging that peace efforts aimed at reconciling members of the armed opposition had hit some setbacks, he emphasized nevertheless that the region remained central to peace in Afghanistan.  Shared threats, including terrorism and narcotics, would not be defeated without constructive, result-oriented cooperation, he added.  To that end, the Istanbul Conference on Afghanistan had been a “visionary step”, he said.  Beyond those efforts, Afghanistan needed continuing reassurance of support from friends in the region as well as the international community, which had been provided most lately at the Bonn Conference.

Council members stressed that the focus must be on security, political and economic development and regional relations.  Though buoyed by earnest Government efforts to sustain peace and stability, many expressed serious concern about the security situation, pointing to reports of insurgencies across the country’s borders, the high incidence of civilian casualties, high-profile assassinations and the wave of bombings and atrocities reflecting the undercurrent of ongoing violence.

Against that backdrop, many speakers said the focus should be on sustained training of the Afghan security forces by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and progress towards national unity.  Boosting the country’s economic base and improving dialogue with neighbouring countries were also crucial components of a successful transition, they said.

Also speaking today were representatives of Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lebanon, Colombia, United States, India, Nigeria, France, Gabon, China, United Kingdom, South Africa, Portugal, Brazil, Russian Federation, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Norway, New Zealand, Japan, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Pakistan, Iran and the European Union.

The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 1:50 p.m.

Presidential Statement

The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2011/22 reads as follows:

“The Security Council welcomes the International Afghanistan Conference ‘Afghanistan and the International Community: From Transition to the Transformation Decade’ in Bonn on 5 December 2011 and its conference conclusions (S/2011/762).

“The Security Council welcomes also the declaration in Bonn that the Process of Transition, to be completed by the end of 2014, should be followed by a Decade of Transformation (2015-2024) in which Afghanistan consolidates its sovereignty through strengthening a fully functioning, sustainable State in the service of its people.

“The Security Council welcomes furthermore, against this background, the strategic consensus between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the international community on a renewed and enduring partnership for this Transformation Decade, which entails firm mutual commitments.

“The Security Council notes that the Process of Transition entails the assumption of the leadership responsibility by the Government of Afghanistan.

“The Security Council commends the outcome of the ‘Istanbul Conference for Afghanistan: Security and Cooperation in the Heart of Asia’ of 2 November 2011.

“The Security Council underlines the crucial role of the United Nations in Afghanistan, expresses its gratitude for Staffan de Mistura’s outstanding contribution to UNAMA’s work, and looks forward to working with the Secretary-General’s incoming Special Representative, Ján Kubiš.

“The Security Council welcomes the intention of the Government of Japan to host a ministerial conference in Tokyo in July 2012.”

Background

For its meeting today, the Security Council had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan and its implication for international peace and security (document A/66/604-S/2011/772) dated 13 December.  It focuses on developments of the last few months, including the 20 September assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of the High Peace Council, Chair of the party Jamiat-i-Islami and former President of Afghanistan, by a suicide bomber posing as a Taliban peace envoy.  The assassination has had significant political and security implications, but there has been no formal statement claiming responsibility, the report says, adding that there have been calls, including by the National Assembly, for international cooperation in investigating the attack.

The assassination as well as ongoing regional anxieties and global economic crisis point to the need for greater predictability in Afghanistan’s transition, the report says.  It is critical that Afghanistan, with the support of its partners and the United Nations on the ground, make a concerted effort to forge a national consensus on key issues.  Although Mr. Rabbani’s killing was a setback, it should not and cannot deter efforts towards Afghan-led reconciliation.  Rather, it should provide an opportunity for all Afghans to come together in a moment of national unity and make a renewed commitment to peace through dialogue.

Redoubled efforts are required to address the trust deficit, build mutual confidence and advance a comprehensive and inclusive peace process.  It is essential that all sides, including the insurgency, commit to peaceful engagement in the dialogue process and undertake preventive measures against actions that may undermine the process.  A proper investigation of the assassination would help restore confidence and prevent any further loss of momentum, the report stresses, noting that the loya jirga marked a first step towards continued dialogue by reaffirming support for negotiations.

According to the report, the Istanbul Conference presented a clear vision and commitment to work in a results-oriented process towards greater stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and the region as a whole.  The Istanbul process provides a basis for regional actors to move forward in a structured manner, with articulated tools and clear principles, towards strengthened regional cooperation on a range of issues, including security.  It is now up to the members of the region to ensure that the process moves forward constructively and pragmatically while remaining regionally owned but with international supporters.  Given the inclusion of counter-narcotics efforts in the confidence-building measures, the Secretary-General encourages the donor community to mainstream them into national priority programmes, developing concrete indicators and providing sufficiently funded budgets.

The report also emphasizes that the need for Afghanistan and Pakistan to strengthen their bilateral relations remains paramount in furthering peace, reconciliation and stability, as does the importance of protection of civilians, which remains a pressing concern of both Afghans and the international community.  Regrettably, civilian casualties remained at high levels during the reporting period.  Anti-Government elements continued their indiscriminate use of pressure-plate improvised explosive devices and assassinations, which killed more civilians than any other.  Although there remains a long way to go, the Government has increasingly acknowledged the need to take serious measures to ensure adequate protection for women and detainees, including by observing basic legal protections and enforcing institutional accountability.

Efforts to improve security must be matched by improved living conditions for the Afghan people, the report stresses.  While the Human Development Index report illustrates that the Government and the international community are making progress in improving socio-economic conditions, it also points to the remaining challenges of poverty and social inequalities.  Complacency is not an option, the report states, underlining that the long-term challenges of balancing the economic dimensions of the security transition within the broader Kabul Process must be linked to the delivery of real and tangible improvements in the lives of ordinary Afghan citizens.  For example, investments in promoting literacy and equal access to education will contribute to helping to unlock the country’s economic potential and attaining the Millennium Development Goals.

Recalling that the recent International Conference on Afghanistan in Bonn reaffirmed the long-term commitment of the international community to support Afghanistan beyond 2014, the report says that in shifting the strategy from stabilization to long-term development cooperation, participants recommitted to aligning assistance with Government priorities and to improving the efficiency of aid resources, including through the channelling of a growing share of assistance through the Government budget.  Partners insisted upon continued reforms in the governance and anti-corruption sector so as to ensure the transparent and accountable use of resources.

Cautioning against losing sight of the more immediate humanitarian concerns that many Afghans face on a daily basis, the report says that, given the nearly 3 million Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries and the more than 5.7 million returnees, the United Nations is planning, with the Governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, an international conference in early 2012 with the aim of exploring a comprehensive, multi-year strategy for this long-standing issue.  Meanwhile, the 2012 consolidated appeal for Afghanistan launched by the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator calls attention to immediate humanitarian needs, but they can only be met if the right to assistance, as well as access to those in need, are forthcoming, the report stresses.

It goes on to note that following the tragic loss of staff working for the Office of the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kandahar on 31 October, and the routine intimidation of, and threats directed at, humanitarian workers, the Secretary-General again calls upon all parties to the conflict to respect the impartiality and neutrality of humanitarian actors as well as the right of the most vulnerable communities to receive assistance.  The Secretary-General underscores the importance of ensuring the security and safety of United Nations staff as the United Nations remains a committed partner to the Government and people of Afghanistan.

Briefings

HERVÉ LADSOUS, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said the future role of the United Nations — focused and adjusted to the evolving priorities of the Afghan transition and transformation — had been discussed intensively at the ministerial level during his recent visit to the country.  All had acknowledged the Organization’s essential role so far, and the need for it to continue.  They had also shared the view that the success of the Kabul Process would depend upon Afghan institutions successfully taking on greater responsibilities.  How the United Nations could best assist would be thoroughly explored within the ongoing comprehensive review, he said, noting that representatives of Afghan civil society and the international community had also spoken in favour of a sustained, if not strengthened, United Nations presence.

He said that from Kabul, he had travelled to Bonn to attend the International Conference on Afghanistan.  Ten years after the Bonn Agreement, the recent event had been an opportunity for the international community to take stock of its partnership while reaffirming and broadening it during the transition period and beyond 2014.  One key message of the Secretary-General in Bonn had been that the Afghan Government and its international partners must focus on the transition’s non-military aspects, including strengthening institutions and advancing economic development, the rule of law and respect for human rights.  Those processes would take time in the best of conditions, he cautioned.

That was why the commitment of the international community, voiced in Bonn, to enduring engagement with Afghanistan through the transition and transformation, was so important, he continued.  The Secretary-General had outlined three main priorities for the United Nations in that regard: to help link security and development; to assist an Afghan-led, inclusive reconciliation process; and to advocate for human rights, in particular the rights of women and children.  “We have been in Afghanistan for more than half a century assisting the Afghan people, and we will be there far beyond 2014, as long as the Afghans need us,” he stressed.

Noting that the “Istanbul Process” had been launched during another international meeting since the Council’s last debate on Afghanistan, on 2 November, he said 13 participating countries had reaffirmed not only prior commitments, but also common principles to guide their support for a “secure, stable and peaceful Afghanistan” in facing up to challenges, including threats from terrorism and illicit narcotics, and the need for peace and strengthened trade ties.  He said he looked forward to the concept paper that Afghanistan would produce early next year ahead of the ministerial-level meeting it would host in July 2012, as more evidence of the country’s ownership of processes vital to its future.

Politically, there had also been several important steps, including the conclusion at the November loya jirga that there was no alternative to peace through dialogue, he continued.  Such a dialogue should involve known and verifiable interlocutors who could take responsibility and be held accountable, and who respected the rights and aspirations of all Afghans, especially Afghan women.  In another positive development, the Lower House of Parliament had resumed its legislative work and approved, in mid-October, a supplemental budget to recapitalize Kabul Bank.  That had had a positive domino effect, helping to dissolve a major blockage within the development agenda.  In terms of counter-narcotics, the 2011 Afghan Opium Survey, released in October, revealed an increase in poppy cultivation, but in the past month important steps had been undertaken at the regional level — where that issue must be fought.

Turning to the transition in responsibility for security, he said he had seen for himself that it was “proceeding apace”.  At the end of November, a second tranche of areas was to have been handed over, but there was no room for complacency, he stressed, cautioning that for the transition to be sustainable, security must be linked to development and the Kabul Process.  The Afghan people must see tangible improvements to their daily lives, especially in terms of economic activities.  “It is more urgent than ever, therefore, that the civilian side of transition proceed equally strongly and briskly.”

Also noteworthy and promising, if sustained, were recent signs of a relative decline in the number of security incidents, he continued.  To date, there had been a 21 per cent rise in such incidents as compared to 2010, but that was mainly due to the elevated number of incidents in the early part of the year.  In September, October and November, the number had fallen.  “Nevertheless, we mustn’t deceive ourselves,” he warned.  “We have witnessed large-scale attacks over the recent weeks.”  Thus, great caution and vigilance must be exercised as the volatile security situation continued to impact the work of the United Nations, constraining operational access and perpetuating high levels of risk for staff as well as the Afghan population.

Citing the title of a recently released United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) human rights report on implementation of a law aimed at eliminating violence against women, he said: “We still have a long way to go with our work.”  Regrettably, there was also a long way to go with regard to the protection of civilians, among whom casualties remained high, with nearly 800 deaths over the last three months, he said.  Dozens of innocent worshipers had been killed on a single day in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif on 6 December, an important religious day of commemoration.  Such attacks deserved the strong condemnation they had received from the widest range of voices, he added.

Unfortunately, Afghans had become all too familiar with such pain and hardship, he continued.  “We must keep our eye on the pressing humanitarian concerns which continue to afflict this country.”  This year’s drought had also had a devastating impact, he pointed out, adding that the appeal for 2012, launched last week, was a reminder of the importance of bridging the gap between humanitarian interventions and development.  In that area, too, the Government was taking a strong leadership position and needed international support as part of the international community’s commitment to long-term engagement.

Indeed, with the clear message of support from the international community in Bonn and Istanbul, “it is time to look again at that role and refocus our mandate, adjusting it to the evolving situation on the ground”.  To that end, and in line with the Council’s instructions and the call from the Government, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was leading a review of UNAMA’s mandated activities and United Nations support in Afghanistan, he said.  An inter-agency team, appointed by the Secretary-General, had just returned from the country and would now conduct a series of debriefings before compiling its findings and recommendations with a view to informing the Council’s discussions relating to the renewal of the Mission’s mandate in March 2012.

JAWED LUDIN, Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, said 2011 had been a year of significant milestones, but achievements had come at a price.  Terrorism remained a strong threat, but with the ongoing transition process, to date, Afghan forces were taking charge of security for more than half the country’s population.  “Transition is not an imposed deadline, or a mere operational benchmark,” he stressed.  “Transition is truly the manifestation of our determination to succeed, and to stand on our own feet.”

He went on to underscore, however, that transition went beyond security, as Afghanistan was also assuming greater ownership of affairs on the civilian front, including the political process and the development agenda.  Peace efforts aimed at reconciling members of the armed opposition had hit some setbacks, including the assassination of former President Rabbani, head of the High Peace Council, he noted.  However, the peace process would benefit from the establishment of an office, within and outside the country, where formal talks between relevant Afghan authorities and representatives of the armed opposition, including the Taliban, could be facilitated, he said.

Emphasizing that the role of the region remained central to peace in Afghanistan, he said shared threats, including terrorism and narcotics, would not be defeated without constructive, result-oriented cooperation.  To that end, the Istanbul Conference on Afghanistan held last month was one “visionary step”, he said.  Beyond those efforts, Afghanistan needed continued reassurance of support from friends in the region and the international community, which had been provided most lately at the Bonn Conference, he said.

He went on to describe the Kabul Process as the framework for the international community’s cooperation with Afghanistan as it continued to transform itself from a war-dependent economy towards self-reliance.  The loya jirga consultations last month had reaffirmed the unanimity among Afghan people in favour of partnership with the international community.  A strategic partnership agreement had been finalized with India and similar agreements were being established with other partners, he added.

The United Nations remained crucial to the country’s partnership with the international community, he continued, adding that he expected that the ongoing review of UNAMA’s mandate would produce a more coherent and responsive role for the Mission.  Noting the tenth year of the historic collaboration between the Afghan people and the international community, he said tremendous achievements had been accomplished amid challenges along the way and with others still ahead.  “As Afghanistan moves from transition to the transformation decade, this Council’s guidance and the international community’s commitment remain as crucial for our future as ever before,” he added.

STAFFAN DE MISTURA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of UNAMA, delivered his final briefing to the Council via video conference.  He said the Mission had been helping the democratic process and there were now 69 women in a functioning Parliament.  The legislature was preparing for future elections and supporting Government institutions such as the Independent Electoral Commission, as well as the Istanbul Process.  Human rights were at the forefront in those efforts, as was support for women, children and overall political reconciliation.

Support for the transition was also moving forward in the right direction, he continued.  Expressing gratitude to representatives of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and the European Union, as well as those of regional bodies for their “excellent cooperation” in the past two years, he said that while they may have had different agendas at times, they were all headed in the same direction.  For his own part, he had welcomed every opportunity to revisit the aims, including for the future, in order to better serve the Afghans and be more efficient with regard to the Council’s directives.

As far as aid coherence was concerned, UNAMA had been able to partner with the Afghan authorities in creating a body that could move forward on the Kabul Process, he said.  Recent conferences, including the one in Bonn last month, had been opportunities to see the process and progress moving in a good direction, he said, adding that during his tenure, he had had moments of “great satisfaction” in seeing the achievements made by the Afghan people.  There had also been “setbacks and terribly sad moments”, but he had “never, never felt alone — because Afghans were with us”, showing their determination and resilience, as had the Security Council and the Secretary-General.

Statements

PETER WITTIG (Germany) said Afghanistan was on its way to full sovereignty and soon more than half of its territory would be transition areas.  The truly remarkable message from the Bonn Conference was clear: the international community had adopted long-term perspective with firm commitments.  For its own part, Afghanistan had committed to enhancing democracy, human rights and governance.  “The international community stands by Afghanistan,” he said, adding that capacity-building would remain a priority.  However, sustainability was a key concern, he noted, stressing that an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process should combine the legitimate interests of all groups, including Taliban wishing to break with their past.

Regional support was essential, he said, expressing support for the Istanbul Process in renewing and building regional trust.  While optimizing the United Nations footprint in the transition process, it was clear that the Organization would be needed long after 2014.  He also emphasized the essential importance of safety and security, and expressed condolences to the victims following the attack on a United Nations compound.  He said he was concerned about volatility and the persistence of violence, noting that civilian leadership was critical in efforts to address those issues.

IVAN BARBALIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) noted that violence had increased during the reporting period, unfortunately impacting progress.  Concerned about civilian suffering, he reiterated that reconciliation was the only way forward.  The transition for security responsibility was another concern, but strong attention must also be paid to socio-economic aspects.  Regional cooperation was of crucial importance for peace and stability in Afghanistan, and hopefully the Istanbul Process would help in that regard.  The Bonn Conference would enforce the Kabul Process, he added.  Expressing concern about reports of torture in Afghan prisons, he also commended efforts by the Government and the United Nations to prevent the involvement of children in armed violence.  Regarding displaced persons, he called upon the international community and the Afghan authorities to facilitate their reintegration.

NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon) condemned the casualties among civilians and attacks targeting international forces, United Nations employees and those of humanitarian organizations.  All parties to the conflict must abide fully by international humanitarian law, he demanded, stressing that success in Afghanistan required national reconciliation among all the different elements of society, and that their future was contingent on coexistence.  Diversity in the framework of national unity was a realistic formula for peace, he said, calling for the conclusion of confidence-building measures between the relevant stakeholders, in order to reinvigorate dialogue, especially after the recent assassination.

He said Afghanistan’s multilateral and regional relations would contribute to a successful transition and ensure stability for the country and its neighbours.  That would also support economic integration and help to end terrorism and the drug trade.  Economic development must also be pursued, as well as transparency, the struggle against drugs and terrorism, and the elimination of illiteracy, especially among young Afghan women.  The latter step would help achieve a modern Afghan State, he said, calling also for an end to the torture of detainees and the abuse of children.  Lebanon also welcomed the agreement reached in Istanbul, which had led to the adoption of the Istanbul Process for regional security and cooperation, he said, welcoming also the commitments made at the Bonn Conference at the beginning of December.

NÉSTOR OSORIO (Colombia) said it was vital to move firmly forward in the transition towards Afghanistan’s assumption of responsibility for security, in accordance with the agreed schedule, emphasizing the importance of ISAF and NATO in helping to increase the competence and professionalism of the Afghan security forces.  He said he was grateful for UNAMA’s efforts to stabilize the country and bring about democracy, stressing that the Mission must continue to concentrate on such critical aspects.  The United Nations overall must continue to play a central role in coordinating international endeavours with those of the national authorities to ensure consistency in priorities and avoid duplication of efforts.

Agreeing with the Secretary-General on the need to broaden the goals of the transition and with the notion that security would be weakened by poor governance and inattention to the rule of law, he stressed it was imperative to ensure a balance by not looking only at security, but also improving living conditions.  Although the number of security incidents had declined, there had been an increase in the number of civilian victims and humanitarian workers involved, he noted, calling on all parties to take all necessary measures to ensure civilian protection.  Noting the international community’s renewed commitment in Bonn to work towards a stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, he welcomed the mutual agreement that an inclusive peace and reconciliation process must be based on the principle of Afghan leadership and ownership, and the rejection of violence and terrorism.

ROSEMARY DICARLO (United States) said the Government of Afghanistan was increasingly exercising its sovereign authority, and the commitments made in Bonn had reaffirmed international support for helping Afghanistan set out a “blueprint” for its future.  The international community and regional partners must pledge support for an inclusive, Afghan-led reconciliation process, she said, adding that reconciliation must contain the reaffirmation of a stable Afghanistan and a rejection of violence.  The international community would continue its efforts to support the Afghan people, she said, noting that her country’s post-2014 presence would be determined in close consultation with the Afghan Government.  The United States was not seeking a long-term presence, she added.

It was important to recognize that much had been accomplished in efforts to improve the lives of the Afghan people, she said, citing recent World Health Organization (WHO) statistics showing that more children were living past their fifth birthday than ever before, and that improved maternal health had led to a decline in female mortality rates.  Household living standards had also improved, she added.  Life expectancy had increased to 62 years and the death rate among men had halved over the last decade.  Most Afghans now lived within two hours’ walking distance from a health authority, she noted.  Emphasizing the importance of improving and continuing United Nations efforts in Afghanistan, she said UNAMA’s role would continue to evolve, but there could be no doubt about the continued importance of the world body’s work.  For its part, the United States remained committed to supporting Afghanistan through 2014 and beyond.

MANJEEV SINGH PURI (India) noted that in the wake of the Bonn Conference, as the Afghan Government took on even more responsibilities, it would need support for economic development.  India hoped that upcoming conferences on security (June) and development (July) would ensure continued engagement in the country’s growth.  Afghanistan faced several deficits, he said, citing the areas of security, governance, development and investment.  It would require an enormous amount of assistance over an extended period if it was to address those ills adequately.  “There is a real danger that as international forces withdraw from their combat role and numbers, there will be a ‘transition recession’,” he cautioned, noting that aid and attention might diminish just as the Afghan Government’s needs increased.

To keep Afghanistan from losing any ground, he said, it would be important to draw the right lesions from the past and to ensure that the country’s post-2014 needs were addressed and its security assured through non-interference in its internal affairs.  It was also important that the unfolding transition process remained Afghan-owned and was carried out in a systematic manner, taking the ground realities into account and ensuring the protection and promotion of human rights.  Concerted action would also be needed to isolate and root out the “syndicate of terrorism” in Afghanistan, which included elements of Al-Qaida, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other terrorist and extremist groups operating mainly from outside the country.

“We need to be resolute in our determination and political will to firmly deal with safe havens for terrorist groups outside Afghanistan’s borders in the region,” he continued.  Efforts to strengthen the Afghan national security forces must go hand in hand with efforts to ensure that those forces were well-trained and better equipped, including beyond the transition period, he said underscoring his country’s belief in a strong, independent and sovereign Afghanistan, at peace with its neighbours.  India had pledged nearly $2 billion in development and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, he pointed out, adding that it had offered to open its growing market to Afghan goods and products.  Indian companies were prepared to invest some $10 billion in mining and related infrastructure, he said, adding that those were but a few of the concrete manifestations of his country’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan.  “If others do the same, we can set off a virtuous cycle of healthy economic development that benefits Afghanistan and the region,” he said.

JOY OGWU (Nigeria) emphasized the need to focus on security, political and economic development as well as regional relationships.  She said she was buoyed by the concerted efforts made to sustain peace and stability, but the security situation remained a cause for concern.  Recent reports of insurgencies across the country’s borders, the high incidence of civilian casualties and the targeted high-profile assassinations threatened the fragile peace and stability, she said, adding that the wave of bombings and continuing atrocities reflected the ongoing undercurrent of violence.  Against that backdrop, the 20 November World Bank report had drawn the correlation between the withdrawal of foreign troops in 2014 and the potential for Afghanistan’s economic collapse.

Advocating for a compromise between the planned withdrawal and security support well into 2014 and beyond, she said the strength of the Afghan security forces and the preservation of the fragile peace could not be overemphasized.  The interim period should therefore focus on sustained training of the security forces by ISAF, as the national Government must ensure that the necessary safeguards were in place to enable it to exercise full control over Afghan security and ensure success in the fight against terrorism.  Meanwhile, progress towards reconciliation, despite the cyclical violence, was welcome, she said, emphasizing that the peace process must be Afghan-driven to forge greater national unity.

GÉRARD ARAUD (France), endorsing the statement of the European Union, said the regional climate had deteriorated even while progress had been achieved in Afghanistan.  Among the gains were the peace jirga, which had been held in an atmosphere of calm, the resumption of Parliament, the ongoing transition and the recapitalization of Kabul Bank.  Since 2008, France had staunchly defended the need for regional cooperation and the notion that Afghanistan must become a centre of fruitful economic exchanges, as in the past.  There was also a need for a collective security system in the region to combat terrorism and ensure confidence-building measures between Afghanistan and its neighbours.  Binding security commitments must be made, with a view to meeting the schedule set for June 2012.

The international community’s goal must be to help ensure Afghanistan lasting stability and the ownership of its people.  The withdrawal of the foreign presence would necessitate sustained aid to the Afghan security forces, he said, noting that his own country would reduce and redeploy its contingent.  However, France remained determined to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for international terrorism.  Of particular concern were activities occurring between Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan, he said, emphasizing that attacks must cease and their perpetrators must be brought to justice.  However, there was room for those wishing to lay down their arms and to sign onto the Constitution, he said.  As for the role of the United Nations and UNAMA, the success of Afghanistan’s transformation would depend on the Mission’s success, he stressed.

NELSON MESSONE (Gabon) said that as Afghanistan took responsibility for its own affairs, it would be faced with additional challenges when United States and other international forces withdrew.  He applauded the progress made despite terrorist threats and even though participation by all groups remained elusive.  Condemning recent terrorist attacks, he encouraged the Government and people of Afghanistan to continue to show determination and resilience in their pursuit of peace.  He also encouraged dialogue within the current mechanisms, notably the High Peace Council.  The Afghan police force should be bolstered to better protect civilians, he said, expressing hope that the Government would continue its efforts on good governance, confidence-building and in the economic and social field.

LI BAODONG (China) said the Bonn Conference had achieved positive results, and the comprehensive realization of peace and stability would be a long-term process requiring efforts by the Government and help from the international community.  China supported the peaceful reconstruction of an Afghanistan run and owned by Afghans, he said, adding that the gradual takeover of responsibility was in line with that notion.  However, the parties withdrawing from the country must proceed in a responsible manner, he emphasized.  He went on to express support for Afghanistan’s efforts to establish external relations, especially with countries in the region.  China also appreciated United Nations efforts for the peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan, he said, adding that he hoped the Organization would strengthen coordination with Afghanistan while listening to and respecting its views.  China was committed to developing good neighbourly relations with Afghanistan and would play an active part in reconstructive efforts, he pledged, adding that his country would continue to provide assistance and contribute to the early realization of peace and stability in the country.

MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom), describing the landscape up to and beyond 2014, said the international community must not allow recent acts of terrorism to undermine its efforts.  In Bonn, the international community had sent a strong signal of its long-term commitment beyond the transition.  Highlighting some key elements of the blueprint agreed there, he cited the international community’s reaffirmation of its readiness to support the Afghan Government in developing its economy.  International partners would provide financial support for development and work with the Government and international partners in evolving detailed plans, to be discussed in Tokyo in July 2012.  The Afghan Government’s commitment to revitalizing the reform process had been welcomed in Bonn, he added.  A further agreement concerned an intention to produce a clear plan on structuring and funding for Afghan security forces.  Also agreed had been a set of guiding principles for reconciliation and regional engagement, the latter building on the success of the Istanbul Conference in November.

Combined, those elements provided a clear framework for the Government and international community beyond 2014, he continued, adding that those commitments must be honoured in order to enable Afghanistan to build on the hard-won gains of the past 10 years.  Underpinning those gains was the transition process, he said, adding that a second set of provinces and districts were embarking on the process, and that the country was on track to take the lead in security by the end of 2014.  Civilian protection was at the core of its efforts, he said, pointing out that 70 per cent of civilian deaths were caused by the insurgents.  ISAF placed a high priority on reducing and preventing civilian casualties while the insurgents, in contrast, targeted civilians indiscriminately.  It was also crucial to enable key economic reforms, he emphasized, noting that the Afghan Government had made considerable progress in reassuring donors and Afghans alike of its seriousness in providing an appropriate business environment.  It was also critical for UNAMA to continue playing a key role in supporting emerging security challenges to the Afghan State.

BASO SANGQU (South Africa) said Afghanistan continued to face numerous challenges, including insecurity, and therefore required the international community’s sustained assistance.  The Bonn Conference had signalled international support beyond 2014 in consolidating the country’s transition to peace and stability, he said, adding that the conclusion of the peace jirga had reaffirmed the importance of continued dialogue.  Expressing concern about security-related incidents, including the assassination of the former President, he rejected attempts to derail the peace process and commended the Government’s response in the face of that provocation.  He condemned the bloody October attacks which had claimed the lives of United Nations personnel, and deplored attacks against civilians.  South Africa hoped the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

Despite some progress, the current situation had a negative impact on civilians, especially women and children, he said, also expressing concern about the number of displaced persons and stressing that the international community must actively support Afghanistan in addressing that important issue.  There was unquestionably a link between development and security, he said, encouraging the Government to exert greater efforts to improve institutional capacity, including in combating illicit drug cultivation and trafficking.  Sustained peace would also be enhanced by regional cooperation, he said, hailing recent regional initiatives.  The international community must continue to support Afghanistan’s progress from conflict to stability, he said, adding that South Africa would continue to work with its partners to that end.

JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal) said regional cooperation remained a fundamental pillar for a new Afghanistan, a message reinforced at recent conferences.  The Bonn Conference had offered an important plan for the future, focusing on economic development and the peace process.  Commitments made there were important, and the recent meeting of civil society had marked the strength of the Afghan people.  Areas under Government control showed no increases in violence, he said, noting, however, that the humanitarian situation was a major concern, with anti-Government forces attacking civilian populations.  Reform was also needed in the prison sector following reports of torture.  Welcoming the report on the 2009 law seeking to eradicate violence against women, he said it should be implemented fully, alongside the empowerment of women.  As transition gathered momentum and reached more of the population, social and economic development, especially in education and the social promotion of women, must be considered a strategic plan for the development of the entire country, he said.

REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP (Brazil) said areas already under Afghan Government control remained relatively stable as UNAMA continued to work in important areas, including development and human rights.  It was to be hoped that the international community would continue to support Afghanistan beyond 2014, she said, stressing that commitments made in Bonn should be swiftly translated into tangible actions.  Linking security and development was essential, and Brazil had formed an approach that blended the two approaches, she said.  The international community should step up action on job creation, public administration and other areas, in line with the priorities outlined by Afghan stakeholders.  A political solution was indispensible for achieving a durable peace, she emphasized.  Dialogue among all stakeholders would lead to a united Afghanistan capable of facing the threat of terrorism.  Brazil expected the United Nations to be a central actor during the transition period and beyond, and countries in the region should be increasingly engaged in strategies to stabilize Afghanistan, she said, commending efforts at the Istanbul Conference to establish cooperation among those countries.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation), Council President, spoke in his national capacity, saying Afghanistan had achieved a “great deal” in the past decade, but the current situation did not inspire optimism.  Instability was prevalent throughout the whole country and terrorist attacks and assassinations were continuing.  ISAF must take more decisive steps to curb the threat posed by the Taliban and Al-Qaida, he stressed, adding that it was important to respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty and that of other States when planning such operations.  The Russian Federation trusted that ISAF would be more effective in future in its effort to minimize casualties.  The decrease in the number of foreign troops must be accompanied by an increase in the combat readiness of the Afghan forces, he continued.  Training them was crucial and an objective of ISAF’s Council-authorized mandate, he said, underscoring that the international military presence must leave after reporting to the Council that it had fulfilled its mandate.

Terrorism was closely linked to the drug trade, which had become a main source of terrorist activities as well as a threat to the international community, he continued.  Thus, the drug threat must receive a comprehensive international response to all its aspects, including listing on the Council’s drug bans and identifying the drug routes.  The national reconciliation process remained key to Afghanistan’s settlement, and insurgents must comply with the agreed conditions.  That would ensure their automatic removal from Security Council sanctions lists.  Also critical was boosting Afghanistan’s economy, he said, adding that in that and other areas, regional cooperation was crucial.  UNAMA should continue to play a coordinating role, he said, adding that the United Nations overall had an important part to play in the electoral process and in national reconciliation, while taking care to coordinate the aspirations of the Afghans themselves.

GILLES RIVARD (Canada) said it was clear that the United Nations must have an enduring role in working with the Afghan institutions to help promote and protect human rights and to build on the integrity of the country’s representative democracy.  He said his country would continue to build on the expertise and experience it had developed over the last decade to provide strong support, and would be investing $360 million in development programming, including education, health and advancing security and the rule of law.  Canada would also continue encouraging regional cooperation and delivering humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, while also paying careful attention to women and girls.

Emphasizing that his country’s ultimate aim would remain helping Afghans rebuild their country, he noted that challenges remained, including cementing security gains to ensure economic development, stability and peace.  Support for transparent governance, a more robust rule of law and regulatory reforms were also needed, he said, stressing that Afghan civil society had a central role to play in the Afghan-led transformation process.  The full and equal participation of women at all decision-making levels was also essential to the development of a stronger society, as was the right to practise one’s faith, he said, expressing regret for the recent attacks on Shiite worshippers.  Afghanistan’s humanitarian situation was troubling, notably deliberate attacks on civilians, he added.

ERTUĞRUL APAKAN (Turkey) said Afghanistan had attained significant progress in the last 10 years, and despite remaining challenges, had continued to invest in a better future for its people.  By the end of February 2012, half the population would be under Afghan security responsibility, but equal focus must be on sustainable development and building institutional and civilian capacity, he stressed.  The country’s development needs were “immense”, and the international community’s continued assistance would be required over the long term.  A strong focus on education was also imperative for future generations of Afghan boys and girls, he said, emphasizing the need for intense efforts to empower Afghan women.  He also advocated the strengthening of institutional capacity to enable the Afghan forces to fight terrorism and drug trafficking.

Regional cooperation was also essential, he said, calling attention to the Istanbul Conference held in November.  There, neighbouring countries had reaffirmed their strong support for a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan in the region.  They had recognized the central role of the United Nations and welcomed Afghanistan’s willingness and determination to “use its regional and historical position” to help promote security, peace and economic cooperation.  By launching the Istanbul Process, the countries involved had announced their determination to lead and develop efforts for enhanced cooperation, he said.  Turkey looked forward to the follow-up meeting in Kabul in June 2012.  As for the eventual withdrawal of international military forces, he said it would become “much more essential” for the international community to continue its activities and strong support for the Government in order to prevent it from sliding into further instability once again and help it avoid setbacks in reconstruction.

GARY QUINLAN (Australia) said the year was ending with a number of positive factors, including renewed National Assembly activity, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, as well as the loya jiga and Bonn meetings.  The latter meeting had laid the groundwork for two important issues — sustaining the national security forces and donor coordination.  Australia supported a strong United Nations role, the establishment of a broad-based peace dialogue and concerted efforts to forge national consensus to achieve such a dialogue, he continued.

Sustaining the momentum of the Istanbul Process was an indispensible part of the international community’s efforts to strengthen Afghan institutions and promote regional stability.  Ensuring a transparent and suitably prioritized economic and development agenda was also essential, and the international community should underwrite the development of long-term post-2014 partnerships with Afghanistan.  UNAMA’s efforts would be vital for strengthening electoral processes, and cooperative action was also essential in the area of economic challenges and in encouraging long-term growth.

He said that his country, as the ninth largest contributor of troops to Afghanistan, would maintain special forces there beyond 2014 if that was what the Afghan Government wished.  Australia would also begin negotiations on a long-term framework agreement with Afghanistan.  Aid to Afghanistan was estimated at $165 million, and Australia planned to increase development assistance in the coming years.  The message from the Bonn and Istanbul Conferences was clear, he said.  “We are not only with you as the transition process unfolds, but will also be with you long after 2014 as you put Afghanistan on the path from transition to transformation.”

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of the European Union Delegation, said the tragic recent attacks on worshippers marked a moment to recall the importance of protecting the value of tolerance.  Afghanistan was entering a significant period, with the international engagement evolving, he said.  It was important that the international community and the country be unambiguous about their mutual commitments for the decade ahead.  Pleased with the Bonn Conference, he said he was also encouraged that the Afghan Government had emphasized the importance of governance reform and recognized that democratic institutions at the central and provincial levels needed decisive strengthening, including the independence and effective operation of oversight bodies.

Afghan society had made its voice heard at the Bonn Conference, the conclusions of which reaffirmed the principle that peace and reconciliation process must be inclusive, he said.  Afghan women should be able to participate in all aspects and at all levels of that process.  The Bonn conclusions also emphasized the importance of strengthening and improving the electoral process, another crucial step forward in the country’s democratization.  The conclusions also addressed counter-narcotics efforts, given the rise in poppy cultivation and potential opium production.  The European Union would continue to help the Afghan Government combat the narcotics industry, and welcomed UNAMA’s efforts in that regard.  The European Union remained committed to engaging as a strong and reliable partner, he said, noting that it had extended its police mission mandate until the end of 2014.

The Istanbul Conference outcome required further progress to translate its promises into the tangible benefits of improved security and economic development in the region, he said.  Therefore, it would be important to work towards the Kabul ministerial meeting in 2012 with the aim of firming up commitments made in Istanbul.  All countries in the region stood to benefit from a stable and prosperous Afghanistan, and should be encouraged to open up trade and transit, while encouraging cross-border investment.  The United Nations could play a central role in helping to implement commitments entered into by countries of the region and members of the United Nations family, while the Bretton Woods institutions could give much needed concrete assistance to integration in the heart of Asia.  The role of the United Nations on that path would remain vital for years to come, and would include coordinating the international community and holding the Afghan Government accountable for its commitments in the Kabul Process and the Bonn conclusions, he said.

MORTEN WETLAND (Norway) said that after a decade of the international military presence, scaling it down would include the withdrawal of Norwegian combat troops in 2013, but Norway would remain a friend of Afghanistan.  He said he foresaw a shift from military to long-term political processes and development, as only a political process could solve the current conflict.  Challenges were serious and needed support from the international community.  The Afghan security forces were among the keys to a stable society, alongside the Government’s ability to perform its functions properly.  The responsibility for governing and securing Afghanistan rested with the Government, he said, adding that Norway, for its part, had pledged $125 million annually for civilian purposes until 2013, and was prepared to continue support at a high level in the future.

JIM MCLAY (New Zealand) welcomed the progress made under the Kabul Process and said he was encouraged by the Afghan Government’s work to resolve the Kabul Bank situation while achieving a successful outcome to its negotiations with IMF.  However, he also pointed out that the Secretary-General’s latest report identified challenges still to be confronted.  Expressing his country’s commitment to working with partners in addressing them, he said that, going forward, it would be important for the Afghan Government to address the needs of Bamyan Province, explaining that transition imposed greater responsibility on provincial officials.  The central Government must support them by providing adequate resources, delegating authority and, above all, by demonstrating a willingness to replace the few corrupt or incompetent actors with merit-based appointees.  Otherwise, the population of Bamyan would continue to look past the provincial government to the donor and non-governmental organization community to deliver basic services, he warned.  “The transition process is fragile, but we should not underestimate the capacity of Afghan institutions to respond to the needs of their communities,” he said.  New Zealand was “very concerned” about UNAMA’s October report on the widespread mistreatment of detainees in Afghan Government facilities, and was grateful for the United Nations investigation, while applauding the Mission’s careful handling of the report’s conclusions.  He also welcomed UNAMA’s report on implementation of the 2009 law on the elimination of violence against women.  However, despite some progress, New Zealand’s own experience of the law’s application by Afghan judges, prosecutors and police accorded with many of UNAMA’s findings, he stated.

KAZUO KODAMA (Japan) said that despite the past decade of Afghan-led nation-building, supported by the international community, numerous challenges remained and it was vital to ensure a political process that would make the security transition stable and irreversible.  Welcoming the Afghan led transition, the second phase of which had been launched last month, he underlined that national reconciliation was indispensible to ensuring that the transition continued apace, and to speed up reintegration so that reconciliation could be consolidated.  Going forward, it would be crucial to ensure that Afghanistan achieved sustainable growth, he said.  That would require a strong partnership between the Afghan Government and the international community, which would promote, among other things, cooperation towards strengthening the sustainability and self-reliance of its economic and fiscal management and thus alleviate the transition’s expected macroeconomic impact.  It was also important to bolster regional cooperation, which was indispensible to ensuring Afghanistan’s enduring stability.  “We need to further consolidate the transition process and make our utmost efforts to draw a clear picture for the transformation decade,” he said, adding that the areas of governance, security, the peace process, economic and social development and regional cooperation should be addressed in a well-coordinated manner.  Finally, he announced his country’s intention to host a ministerial conference in Tokyo next July to address, among other subjects, the coordination of international assistance to Afghanistan through the transition period, and the Afghan strategy for sustainable development, including regional cooperation.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said Afghanistan was progressing in a transition that would result in full Afghan ownership and sovereignty, and a political system founded on the Constitution, based on the rule of law and in accordance with international human rights obligations.  One aspect of particular importance and sensitivity was the situation of women, both in the areas of fighting all forms of gender discrimination and ensuring their effective participation in the country’s political process, in keeping with the Security Council’s “women, peace and security agenda”.  With the renewal of UNAMA’s mandate due in March 2012, it was timely to discuss that dimension of the situation in Afghanistan in order to ensure an informed negotiation in the framework of the mandate renewal.  In that regard, the Government of Liechtenstein, in partnership with the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-determination at Princeton University, was offering to host a workshop on “implementation of the women, peace and security agenda in Afghanistan”, from 20 to 30 January in Liechtenstein.  Its outcome would feed into the negotiating process for renewal of the UNAMA mandate, he said.  Participants would include Afghan women leaders, both from Government and civil society, senior United Nations officials, non-governmental organization representatives, academics as well as representatives of States, in particular all members of the Security Council.

MOHAMAD SADIK KETHERGENY (Malaysia) said that with the transfer of security responsibilities from ISAF to national security forces, the international community must remain committed to ensuring stability.  To that end, Malaysia joined the Security Council in condemning the “horrific” 6 December attacks in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif, and remained concerned by the targeted assassinations of high-ranking Government officials, members of the security forces and high-profile political and religious leaders.  Of no less importance was the increasing number of civilians being killed in Afghanistan, he said, adding that it was particularly disturbing that NATAO-led ISAF troops might be responsible for a large percentage of those deaths.  He called on all parties to respect the letter and spirit of international law in order to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

Besides deploying a contingent of medical personnel in Bamyan Province, the Government of Malaysia was also actively supporting both the reintegration and political reconciliation processes in Afghanistan, he said.  “We should now concentrate on non-military options in order to complement and subsequently seal the gains which Afghanistan has achieved.”  Emphasizing Malaysia’s belief that human capacity-building was a major part of nation-building and promoting sustainable growth and development, he said the Malaysian Government would continue to assist Afghanistan to that end, under its various technical training and capacity-building programmes.  As of October 2011, nearly 400 Afghans had benefitted from such programmes in areas such as public administration, engineering and banking, he noted.

RAZA BASHIR TARAR (Pakistan) said his country valued UNAMA’s role in coordinating a comprehensive international effort, and hoped that its mandate would enable the United Nations to make more meaningful contributions to peace and development.  Pakistan, for its part, was committed to peace, stability and development in Afghanistan, he said, recalling that on 15 December, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani had stated in Parliament that his country had extended a “hand of friendship to the people and Government of Afghanistan” as immediate neighbours.

Recalling that the Secretary-General’s report described Pakistan’s relationship with Afghanistan as paramount in furthering peace, reconciliation and stability, he said that was a role to which his country was committed.  “Pakistan looks forward to contribute, as effectively as possible, in an environment free from recrimination and blame game, and on the basis of mutual respect and trust,” he said.  “Speculative statements made in a knee-jerk reaction vitiate the atmosphere and erode mutual trust,” he added.  “Such blame game must stop.”

He went on to emphasize that his country could not be held responsible for the problems and challenges afflicting Afghanistan.  Instead, the international community, Pakistan and Afghanistan must work closely as responsible partners, in a cooperative manner, and not rush to judgment or question each other’s intentions.  “We are not preaching something that we do not practise,” he stressed.  “Pakistan has never resorted to blame game, even when militants cross over from the other side and attack our troops and innocent civilians.”

Describing the 26 November attack on Pakistan’s border post as a grave incident constituting a transgression of his country’s territorial integrity and a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter, he said that as a result of that attack, Pakistan had been constrained to absent itself from the Bonn Conference.  Still, when its Federal Cabinet had taken that decision, it had also expressed hope that the international community would reaffirm its support for peace and development, he said, adding that Pakistan had looked forward to the meeting’s success.  “We want the international community to succeed in Afghanistan because this success is in Pakistan’s own national interest,” he added.

MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE (Iran) highlighted important developments in Afghanistan from his own country’s point of view, saying Iran had always warned about the negative consequences of having foreign forces in Afghanistan.  Among Iran’s concerns was the possibility of spy missions being launched into his country from foreign military bases in Afghanistan, including the United States drone that had been brought down by Iran’s armed forces after entering its airspace.  Another recent drone-like operation involved Iran’s identification of a United States spy and a member of that country’s military intelligence forces as they had entered Iran.  “These are clear examples that the United States uses its bases in Afghanistan for spying purposes,” he said.

Any analysis of the situation on the ground and discussion of longer-term international engagement must take into account the concerns of neighbouring countries, he continued.  “The long-term international engagement should not lead to long-term presence and the establishment of permanent military bases or military presence in Afghanistan.”  A decade had passed and according to reports, there had been an increase of insecurity over the last year.  The longer presence of foreign military forces would therefore not bring peace and stability to Afghanistan, but rather it would provide a breeding ground for terrorists and extremist groups to further continue their operations, he said.

Narcotic drug production was another concern, as it was a financial source of terrorism in Afghanistan, he said.  Afghan refugees were another long-standing issue, and it was to be hoped that the July 2012 conference on the subject would produce concrete outcomes.  Iran had hosted 3 million Afghan refugees over the last three decades, and currently had 1 million registered, alongside many other unregistered refugees.  The international community should continue to strengthen and expedite its efforts to create conditions conducive to the sustainable repatriation of refugees and their rehabilitation and reintegration in their homeland.  Turning to regional issues, he said his country had continued talks with Afghanistan on the bilateral, trilateral and regional levels.  One bilateral agreement would see the near completion of a railway, and a trilateral summer meeting held last June in Tehran with Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan had stressed the three countries’ commitment to eliminating extremism, militancy and terrorism.

The Bonn Conference would help to develop measures aimed at addressing common challenges on political and security issues, as well as leading to concrete steps to pave the way for greater economic prosperity for Afghanistan, with the active participation of neighbouring countries.  Any initiatives elaborated in Bonn should strengthen the trust between Afghanistan and its neighbours, he stressed.  The continuing engagement between Afghanistan and its neighbours and regional partners in the area of trade, economic development and infrastructure development must be supported, he added.  He also emphasized the central role of the United Nations in coordinating international efforts in Afghanistan, saying it was of paramount importance.

Mr. LUDIN, Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, responded to comments made during the meeting by expressing gratitude to the Council for the attention paid to his country, and appreciation for the commitments made by some of the countries that had spoken today.  He described the Bonn Conference as an extremely important event on Afghanistan’s calendar this year, and welcomed the mention of that and the Istanbul Conference.

Responding to other comments, he expressed appreciation for the condolences offered to victims of the bombing attacks, saying they illustrated the type of challenges that remained.  Terrorism was the most important security obstacle, and suicide bombing was the most dangerous killer of Afghan people.  The only way to tackle that challenge was not through military means, but through regional intelligence and cooperation, he said.

Turning to human rights, he said that as soon as the UNAMA report on detention facilities had been issued, the national security institutions had begun an investigation.  That was not a systemic problem, he said, stressing the Government’s commitment to improving the prison system and reiterating that torture and abuses were “absolutely intolerable”.  Regarding the UNAMA mandate, he welcomed the review and said he was grateful for its positive response to Afghanistan’s desires.  However, that in no way diminished the role of the United Nations, he said.

Noting that the meeting’s focus on neighbouring countries had been extensive, he said that Afghanistan had reassured its partners that it would not allow its territory to be used against any country, including neighbours.  He went on to emphasize that Iran and the United States needed to maintain a balance. Afghanistan’s commitment to its neighbours was as strong as ever, and it was discussing the matter mentioned earlier and would follow up on it.  He concluded by saying he had been pleased by the reference to the “transformation decade” and the coming conference on security and development would establish a framework for that idea.

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*     The 6689th Meeting was closed.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.