|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Meeting of International Contact Group
Emerging from a period of difficult transition into a “decade of transformation”, Afghanistan’s upcoming April 2014 elections represented a critical juncture that would have wide-ranging implications for the country’s long-term peace and security, its Deputy Foreign Minister said at a Headquarters press conference today.
Highlighting the recent work of the International Contact Group on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ershad Ahmadi said it was important for the international community to remain engaged and focused on Afghanistan, and to continue to lend support as the country moved towards the future. Today’s meeting of the Group, also at Headquarters, had provided an opportunity to review the progress made thus far, particularly in terms of encouraging Pakistan to play a constructive and positive role, and in assessing continued United Nations contributions.
Accompanying Mr. Ahmadi were Michael Koch, Chair of the International Contact Group and Germany’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan; Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA); and James Dobbins, Special Representative of the United States for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Mr. Ahmadi said the upcoming elections would be an important milestone for the new Afghanistan, and would entrench its fledgling democratic system. For that reason, he emphasized the commitments of the Government to insure a credible, transparent and fair electoral process in which all Afghans across the country would have the opportunity to vote.
Regarding the important role played by the United Nations family in Afghanistan over the past 12 years, he said the International Contact Group had discussed how the Organization might continue to play an effective role beyond 2014. After 12 years of “partnering with the international community”, Afghanistan was now trying to reassert its sovereign rights, he stressed.
Indeed, each of the Contact Group’s thrice-yearly meetings was held in a strategic location in order to draw attention to specific political intentions, he continued. Today’s meeting in New York highlighted the crucial role played by the United Nations in the region since 2001, when “the effort to create a new Afghanistan” had been undertaken on behalf of the country’s people.
Today’s meeting had also served to launch a debate on what the continuing role of the United Nations should be, he continued. Though no doubt bound for change, the world body’s participation would nevertheless remain relevant. The head of the Independent Elections Commission of Afghanistan had briefed the Contact Group extensively on the upcoming elections, discussing how the international community could help make them run as smoothly as possible.
Responding to a question, Mr. Kubiš said that, in order to put an end to the “campaign of bloodshed” in Afghanistan, political and other processes of transition must be strengthened. Democratic, timely elections and new leadership would instil confidence and empower Afghans to continue “full steam ahead” in stopping such “campaigns”.
He expressed the hope that the revival of the Doha peace process would help the parties move closer to peace and reconciliation, including through discussions between the Taliban movement and the United States, on the one hand, and between the former and Afghanistan’s High Peace Council on the other.
Asked about the safety of journalists covering the 2014 elections, he said new rules and regulations protected free speech for media in Afghanistan since free and critical media were vital to the integrity of the elections.
When asked about the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan, Mr. Koch emphasized the crucial importance of overseeing it, saying it would receive “very considerable” sums from the international community to finance the Afghan police force. Afghanistan was working towards autonomy after 2014 and had gained in competence, ability and capacity in recent years. He expressed confidence that proper oversight would be maintained.
Regarding oversight of Afghanistan’s transitional funds and procedures, Mr. Dobbins said the Contact Group was satisfied that the proper procedural steps were being followed. Legislation has been passed by the Afghan Parliament after vigorous debate. As for the upcoming elections, many hurdles and challenges remained, but the process was nevertheless in positive shape, he said, adding: “So far, so good.”
* *** *