Afghan Government Must Bolster Steps to Ensure Transparent, Inclusive National Elections Next Year, Top United Nations Official Tells Security Council

20 June 2013
SC/11041

Afghan Government Must Bolster Steps to Ensure Transparent, Inclusive National Elections Next Year, Top United Nations Official Tells Security Council

20 June 2013
Security Council
SC/11041
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6983rd Meeting (AM)

Afghan Government Must Bolster Steps to Ensure Transparent, Inclusive National

Elections Next Year, Top United Nations Official Tells Security Council

Speakers Deplore Spiking Violence against Civilians,

Hail New Taliban Office, Stressing Need for All to Engage in Peace Talks

The United Nations top policy official on Afghanistan today called on the Afghan Government to bolster steps to ensure next April’s presidential and provincial council elections were transparent and inclusive, while deploring the spike in violence against civilians in recent months.

Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, briefed the Security Council on political, security and economic developments in Afghanistan over the past three months.  Lauding Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s stated commitment to create a robust, credible architecture to transfer power next April, he expressed concern, however, that two crucial pieces of electoral legislation had yet to be approved, casting doubt over whether the elections would occur in a timely, acceptable fashion.  As well, more effective voter registration was needed to ensure against electoral fraud.

“Orderly and timely preparations for the polls promulgation is necessary before the summer recess of the National Assembly,” Mr. Kubiš said, calling for “compromise and goodwill on all sides, notably proactive engagement of the Government”.

He said that the Afghan security force had entered the fifth and final phase of assuming lead responsibility for security nationwide, but that anti-Government elements sought to undermine that through increasingly brutal, complex assaults on high-profile targets.  In the first half of 2013 alone, more than 1,000 civilians had been killed and 2,031 injured — one quarter more than in the same period in 2012.

Furthermore, he noted, Afghanistan’s relations with neighbouring Pakistan had suffered a setback following clashes between the two nations’ security forces.  It was, however, encouraging that President Karzai and newly installed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif continued to have positive exchanges and high-level military contacts with the participation of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Afghanistan’s representative noted that his country was at a “critical juncture”.  In recent months, it had worked extensively with the United States and other stakeholders to begin direct talks with the Taliban as part of the peace process.  As a result, a Taliban office had been set up two days ago in Doha, Qatar, to facilitate talks between that group and the Afghan High Peace Council based on a concrete set of principles.

Unfortunately, the statement by the Taliban representative in Doha lacked a clear commitment to those talks, he said.  Moreover, the Afghan Government did not recognize the “Emirate of the Taliban”, whose flag had been raised over the office.  The Afghani Government would not engage in peace talks under those circumstances, nor continue its negotiations on the bilateral security agreement with the United States.  His country’s ownership of the peace and reconciliation process was indispensible and would not be compromised.

Pakistan’s representative, saying the Afghan people were like sisters and brothers, emphatically rejected the Afghan representative’s statement that terrorist factions were rooted in Pakistan.  Rather, because terrorists planned attacks from both sides of the border, the two countries must work together to combat those threats.  He also noted the meeting recently held between his Government, Afghanistan, and the ISAF towards that end.

Council members expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation and condemned the spike in civilian casualties.  They underscored the need for fair electoral legislation and planning ahead of the 2014 elections, and welcomed the confidence-building steps in counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, trade, commerce and investment opportunities, infrastructure and education, as part of the Istanbul Process.  Several speakers, stressing the need to engage the Taliban in negotiations, lauded the opening of the Taliban office in Doha.  Others called for greater efforts to combat opium production and trafficking.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Australia, Republic of Korea, United States, China, Azerbaijan, Luxembourg, Morocco, France, Argentina, Rwanda, Guatemala, Togo, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, India, Turkey, Japan, Italy, Iran, Spain, Latvia, Canada and Germany.

A representative of the European Union delegation also spoke.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and adjourned at 12:45 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met today to take up the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (document A/67/889-S/2013/350).

Briefing

JÁN KUBIŠ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, said there was a clear need for sustained, predictable international support through 2014 and beyond, as Afghanistan’s political, security and economic transition process continued.  Afghan security force had entered the last phase of assuming the lead responsibility for security throughout the country.  However, anti-Government elements sought to counter that by targeting security personnel and terrorizing civilians.  There were increasingly brutal, complex assaults on high-profile targets that caused high levels of civilian casualties, yet did not achieve military aims.

From 1 January to 6 June 2013, a total of 1,061 civilians had been killed and 2,031 injured — a 24 per cent increase in civilian deaths versus the same period in 2012, he said.  Anti-Government elements were responsible for 74 per cent of the casualties; pro-Government forces for 9 per cent.  Children under the age of 18 comprised 20 per cent of those killed or injured, up 31 per cent from the same period in 2012.  Afghan security institutions fought bravely and bore the brunt of losses, while showing increased courage, confidence and competence in countering the intentions of anti-Government elements.  Those forces, notably the National Army, still required critical enablers, such as air capacity, to ensure effectiveness and sustainability.  The international must help them.

He went on to say that Afghan President Karzai continued to reiterate his commitment to stand aside, in line with the Constitution, during the process of transferring power, and that the Government was committed to creating a robust, credible electoral architecture for the 5 April 2014 elections.  However, although there had been progress in many technical areas, he was concerned by continued delays in the passage of the two major pieces of electoral legislation.  “Orderly and timely preparations for the polls promulgation is necessary before the summer recess of the National Assembly,” he said, calling for “compromise and goodwill on all sides, notably proactive engagement of the Government”.

The continued lack of progress in that critical area, he continued, had already raised questions by some about the intention to hold elections in a timely, acceptable way.  Inclusive, transparent elections were vital for a legitimate political transition.  Almost a year before polling day, the Independent Election Commission had given security institutions a list of more than 7,000 proposed polling centres to allow for assessment and planning.  “This is unprecedented and I urge the full attention of the Afghan security institutions, which are in the lead,” he said.

With voter registration confined to a top-up exercise, he said, voter identification in 2014 and even in 2015 would likely not improve significantly and he called for renewed focus on a broad spectrum of anti-fraud steps.  In addition, political efforts had centred on setting up an office in Doha for talks between the Afghan High Peace Council and the authorized representatives of the Taliban.  He hoped the current controversies and legitimate concerns would be addressed and would pave the way for direct peace and reconciliation talks between the two sides.  UNAMA stood ready to support all peace and reconciliation efforts as prescribed by its mandate; facilitate an inter-Afghan Track II dialogue; and engage with the Taliban on issues concerning human rights, humanitarian law and reduction of civilian casualties.

Recent developments between Afghanistan and Pakistan, as noted in the Secretary-General’s report, were of concern, he went on to say.  They introduced elements of risk to an already complex, complicated political and security situation in Afghanistan and in the region.  He called on both countries to address those concerns and refrain from steps that escalated tensions and inflamed public sentiment.  He was encouraged by the positive exchanges between President Karzai and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif following the recent Pakistani elections, as well as the resumption of high-level military contacts between the two countries with the participation of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

A major conference in Kabul next month would assess progress on the mutual commitments to Government reform and global civilian assistance made one year ago in Tokyo, he said.  Frank discussion between the Afghan Government and global partners must result in a reinvigorated agenda in the coming year.  The international community agreed that half of the development funding would be delivered on budget; 80 per cent of it would be aligned with national programmes.

There were concerns, he continued, that the process this week of appointing new human rights commissioners to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission had not complied with global principles and standards, nor met the Afghan legal requirements of transparency, broad consultation and the selection of independent qualified individuals.  Such concerns currently were under review by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva and they would be further reviewed by the respective international accreditation body for such national human rights institutions.

He also said that key global donors had made clear that any erosion of Afghanistan’s commitment to women’s equal and meaningful participation in economic, political and public life, including its commitment to implement the Elimination of Violence against Women Law, would have a direct negative impact on future global aid.  Shrinking humanitarian space had further jeopardized Afghanistan’s already acutely low humanitarian indicators.  Aid organizations questioned how to stay and deliver following recent high-profile attacks, including on the Jalalabad office of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).  At the end of May, the $471 million humanitarian appeal for 2013 was 41 per cent funded.  That momentum should be maintained.

“I further call on Member States to ensure the alignment of their assistance with the strategic priorities agreed in the common humanitarian response plan,” he said.  Still, a humanitarian response alone would not suffice.  Greater attention was needed to durable solutions and Government capacity, including on creating disaster management systems, ensuring the voluntary return and sustainable livelihood of internally displaced persons and refugees, and sustaining the access and quality of the health system.

Statements

ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan) said that his country was at a “critical juncture”.  As foreign forces prepared to withdraw next year, Afghan national security forces were assuming full responsibility for the security and defence of their country.  Two days ago in Kabul, the fifth and final stage of security transition had been launched, which was a remarkable achievement and a source of pride for the Afghan people.

Over recent months, he said, Afghanistan had been extensively involved with various stakeholders, the United States in particular, to begin direct negotiations with the Taliban as part of the peace process.  An agreement had been reached with the United States on the opening of a Taliban office in Doha, Qatar, under assurances that peace talks would be conducted in accordance with a concrete set of principles, including that the office would not serve as an official representation of the Taliban in the form of a Government, embassy, emirate or “sovereign” entity.

Yet, two days ago, the Taliban office was inaugurated in a manner that contradicted those principles, he said.  The public statement by the Taliban representatives in Doha lacked any clear commitment to peace talks with the Afghan High Peace Council.  In that context, the Afghanistan Government had decided it would not engage in peace talks under those circumstances.  In addition, it would suspend negotiations on the bilateral security agreement with the United States.

His country, he continued, was committed to a peace process and a reconciliation that ensured a permanent end to the conflict.  However, pursuing a process that would undermine the hard-won gains of the past 12 years was not acceptable to the Afghan people.  The country did not recognize such a thing as the “Emirate of the Taliban”, he stressed, adding that “raising the Taliban flag […] in Doha was just a reminder of a dark and bloody past from which our country still struggles to emerge”.  Afghanistan’s ownership of the peace and reconciliation process was indispensible and it would not be compromised.

Furthermore, he said, the continuing campaign of violence endangered the prospect of a peace process.  In recent weeks, such acts had escalated, affecting all citizens and international personnel, including the recent attacks on the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Supreme Court.  There were also continued civilian casualties caused by counter-terrorism operations.

Despite all the challenges it faced, he went on to say, Afghanistan was confidently advancing towards next year’s presidential and provincial council elections.  Afghans viewed successful elections as a new and important benchmark of progress, which would allow the country to embrace the needs of the post-2014 transformation decade.  Preparations for the polls were well under way with voter registration and security preparations already started.

At the same time, he said, a “new regional order” was emerging, increasing the prospects for a more peaceful and stable region.  The Istanbul Process on Regional Security and Cooperation for a Secure and Stable Afghanistan had become a catalyst for results-oriented cooperation in the wider region.  Afghanistan was encouraged by the strong commitment shown by its partners, and looked forward, in particular, to working with the new Government of Pakistan.

However, as terrorism constituted a serious threat to the country’s peace and stability, he stressed that “so long as terrorist sanctuaries continue to exist on Pakistan’s soil and some elements continue to use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy, peace will not prevail, neither in Afghanistan nor in the region”.

Finally, he touched on matters related to funding for Afghanistan’s sustainable development, including the solidification of mutual commitments made at the Tokyo donor’s conference, which would take place throughout the transformation decade.  He looked forward, in that regard, to a Senior Officials Meeting in Kabul, slated for 3 July.

GARY QUINLAN (Australia), welcoming the final tranche of transition of the Afghan National Security Forces taking the lead for security, said that in the Uruzgan Province, where Australia had focused its efforts, the national forces were already doing so, and would assume full responsibility for security by the end of this year.  As well, a credible presidential election in 2014 would be indispensable to political transition.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ELECT II project provided valuable technical support aimed at maximizing voter participation and strengthening anti-fraud measures, and in that regard, The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also had an important role to play in supporting Afghan institutions prepare for elections.  As well, advancing opportunities for women and girls in Afghanistan was crucial.  The international community’s ability to sustain support depended on the Afghan Government delivering on its commitments in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework.  Australia, as Chair of the Council’s 1988 Committee, would work to ensure that the Taliban sanctions regime supported an Afghan-led process.  Effective support must be provided to the United Nations and its affiliated agencies in Afghanistan as transition moved forward.  To that end, “we must get UNAMA’s future mandate right.  This will require ongoing, adequate funding,” he concluded.

KIM SOOK ( Republic of Korea) welcomed Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s announcement launching the final phase of the transition.  However, the 25 per cent increase in civilian casualties during the reporting period was of grave concern.  The perpetrators must be brought to justice and all parties must take all feasible steps to protect civilians.  In that regard, increased efforts to train the Afghan national security forces were crucial.  The Afghan Government, as well, must develop a credible electoral framework that included the full participation of women.  He was encouraged by the Government’s initiative of peace negotiations with the Taliban and the opening of a Taliban office in Doha.  In the last two years, the Republic of Korea had given $150 million to the Afghan Army Trust Fund.  It would give would another $100 million this year to support capacity-building in the security and development sectors.

ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States) said the United States would continue to support Afghanistan through the critical transition period.  Afghanistan reached its 2013 milestones earlier in the week and was now in the lead for security nationwide.  She welcomed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) announcement of a detailed concept that would have a non-combat NATO mission train and assist the Afghan post in 2015.  Stating her support for the Afghan-led peace process, she called on the Taliban to join an Afghan political process.  The opening of a Taliban office in Qatar was an important first step.  In that regard, she said that she did not recognize the name Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and was pleased that Qatar had taken that name down.  Lastly, she stated her country’s continued commitment to stand strongly with Afghan women, ensuring their hard-won gains were sustained.

WANG MIN ( China) acknowledged Afghanistan’s preparations for the 2014 elections, its efforts to develop close international relations and cooperation, and its work towards peace and reconciliation.  China supported an Afghan-led peace process.  To that end, he said he hoped that all political parties would put the interests of the country above all other considerations and that the international community would continue its support.  A stable security situation constituted an important element for the country going forward.  Therefore, when handing over responsibility for the country’s security forces, a responsible, prudent approach should be adopted, and partners should work to build the capacity of that sector.  He stressed that the rebuilding and reconciliation of the country must be both Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country must be respected.  Finally, he said, lasting stability and development required the international community to provide sustained attention and support; international stakeholders should honour their commitments in that regard.

SAMIR SHARIFOV ( Azerbaijan) positively assessed the Afghan Government’s increasing assertion of ownership over peace and reconciliation in the country, as well as the ongoing public outreach efforts by the High Peace Council and its work with the political parties and civil society.  The Council’s activities and the implementation of the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme, with UNAMA’s continued support, were critical in taking forward a broad and inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process.  He noted with concern the reported increase in the security-related incidents compared to the last year, with unabated armed clashes, insurgent attacks and the use of improvised explosive devices.  In addition, the stability of the country and in the wider region required full-fledged cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours.  His country strongly supported Afghanistan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity, and was determined to stand by the country in its bilateral relations.  Azerbaijan had also been part of the international efforts in Afghanistan and would remain so in the post-2014 period, he said.

SYLVIE LUCAS ( Luxembourg), emphasizing the importance of the presidential and provincial elections of next April to the political transition, stated that such elections must be free and fair.  She called on the Afghan Government to create an electoral environment conducive to that transition as soon as possible.  National reconciliation was vital.  She lauded the opening of the Taliban office and stressed the importance of regional players in ensuring a peaceful, stable Afghanistan, and of upholding civilians’ rights.  More remained to be done in ensuring the latter.  She shared the Secretary-General’s concern over the significant increase in civilian casualties during the reporting period.  Vital support from the United Nations and the Afghan Government to support youth was vital.  UNAMA should keep open the Office for the Protection of Children.  She supported Afghan Government’s efforts to reduce poppy cultivation.

LOTFI BOUCHAARA ( Morocco) said it was important for UNAMA to organize workshops on mediation and conflict resolutions in many areas.  He expressed concern over the spike in civilian casualties in 2013.  National reconciliation was vital.  Welcoming the decision to extend the programme for ex-combatants from three to six months, he stressed the importance of scaling up cooperation to Afghanistan to support various sectors of its economy, including in energy and infrastructure.  It was important to continue to provide Afghanistan with financial aid to enable it to tackle the challenges before it.

MASOOD KHAN ( Pakistan), urging more resources and continued support for UNAMA from the Council, said that “the people of Pakistan consider the people of Afghanistan their brothers and sisters”.  Peace and stability in Afghanistan were key components of Pakistan’s foreign policy; they required reciprocity, trust and goodwill.  The high price paid in blood and resources over the past decade must not have been in vain, he said, emphatically rejecting the statement by the representative of Afghanistan that terrorist factions were rooted in Pakistan.  That was not true, nor was it good diplomacy to cast doubts on Pakistan’s sincerity or that it viewed terrorism as a threat.  He stressed that he was not rebutting that delegate’s argument as a tit for tat, but instead, showing that terrorists planned attacks from both sides of the border.  The two countries must work together to combat those threats, he stated, adding that a sense of “shared destiny” should help to usher in a new era of cooperation.

The Tripartite Commission — comprising Afghan, Pakistan and the International Security Assistance Force — had met earlier this month, he said, reiterating that security on both sides of the border was a mutual responsibility.  Any misunderstanding must be addressed through real-time communication and dialogue.  He agreed with the Secretary-General that “inflamed public sentiment is not helpful at all”.  Turning to recent events, including the transfer of security responsibility to Afghan forces, he said that the opening of a Taliban office in Doha had been a “flicker of hope” in relations between the Taliban and the Afghan Government.  “This is a time for diplomacy and statesmanship,” he said, calling for the parties to sit down at the negotiating table.  Finally, he said that the United Nations should prepare itself to play an even stronger role in Afghanistan after 2014.

GÉRARD ARAUD ( France), joining with the European Union statement to be delivered, said that the transfer of security responsibilities to Afghan national forces demonstrated that the country was slowly but surely taking control of its national defence.  France stood ready to support an Afghan-led and –owned peace and reconciliation process, he said, as supported by the Security Council.  He also said he hoped that the opening of the Taliban office in Doha would help to move dialogue forward.  However, noting the increase in violence, including attacks on civilians and international workers, he said that such attacks demonstrated the Taliban’s lack of concern for those groups.  France and Afghanistan were celebrating 90 years of diplomatic ties, he said, adding that French aid would soon reach almost €300 million, which aimed to help the country move from a place of war to one of peace.  Finally, he called upon Afghanistan to conclude credible and transparent elections, and speed up the elaboration of a framework for anti-fraud measures.

MARIO OYARZÁBAL ( Argentina) said that a transition ensuring Afghanistan’s full responsibility for its future must create the necessary circumstances to enable that country to no longer be dependent on donors.  Acknowledging the Secretary-General’s report and the progress made in training and building the capacity the Afghan security forces, he voiced deep concern over increased number of civilians killed in armed conflict.  He urged the anti-Government forces to end discriminate attacks against civilians.  Afghanistan’s long-term stability demanded a negotiated peace.  Because any process must be led by the Afghans themselves, he stated his support for the role of the Afghan High Peace Council towards that end.  However, expressing concern that the goals of women’s empowerment were not secured, he underscored that women’s full participation in all aspects of economic life was essential.

LAWRENCE MANZI ( Rwanda) recognized the tremendous progress thus far in Afghanistan.  He welcomed the formal transfer of responsibility by United States-led troops to Afghan forces.  That was an act of faith in the Afghan security forces and a major milestone.  However, the international community must continue to support those forces.  As well, the upcoming elections were a major opportunity for Afghanistan to translate commitments into concrete achievements.  The need for a credible, transparent election process was essential.  He expressed deep concern over the increased deaths of civilians, strongly condemning all acts of terror against civilians.  In addition, regional and international cooperation was needed to help the Afghan Government combat its opium production.

GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala), acknowledging the enormous challenges currently facing Afghanistan, stressed that "the will to overcome these challenges must be expressed in the preparation and the holding of presidential and provincial elections in 2014".  In that regard, with the country less than a year away from elections, he expressed concern about the current absence of an electoral framework.  Afghanistan should benefit from international assistance in that area, and work with UNAMA to strengthen the integrity of the electoral process.  He went on to express support for the work of the High Peace Council, with hopes that all parties would focus their efforts on the elimination of obstacles to the establishment of peace and reconciliation.  Further, troubled by the increase in the number of incidents and casualties among civilians during the quarter, he said that the capacity of Afghan forces should continue to be strengthened, and he called on all parties to respect international humanitarian law and to facilitate access of humanitarian assistance to displaced persons.

KODJO MENAN ( Togo) noted that, even if some progress had been made, Afghanistan remained in the grasp of violence and instability.  Security remained a major concern, as demonstrated by a number of recent attacks against civilians and international organizations.  He congratulated the special country team supporting the action plan on underage recruitment by the national security forces, but noted that such work must be carried out by all parties to the conflict, including the Taliban.  In addition, combating drug trafficking was a major challenge for the Afghan Government, especially in light of an increase, for a third straight year, in poppy cultivation.  The United Nations should continue its efforts to implement the road map and to ensure more effective action against money-laundering.  The success of the upcoming elections would depend on compromises reached between the country’s political parties, he added, also noting his hope that the opening of the Taliban office in Doha would constitute an impetus for national dialogue.

ALEXANDER PANKIN ( Russian Federation) said that, unfortunately, the situation in Afghanistan was still far from stable.  There was a consistent threat of terrorism, and several attacks on State institutions and representatives of the coalition force had been seen.  He was concerned by the continuing rise in terrorist activities from the north of Afghanistan, which was spreading into Central Asian countries — major partners of the Russian Federation.  There had also been a sharp exacerbation of the situation in the region bordering Pakistan, where there was one Afghan solider for every 10 Taliban fighters.  In light of all those challenges, there needed to be a long-term military presence in Afghanistan.  Meanwhile, the role of the NATO forces in the country after 2014 could only be mandated by the Security Council.  What was most imperative was compliance by armed fighters with the principles of reconciliation, and their definitive cutting of ties with Al-Qaida and other armed groups.

MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) condemned the recent attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in the country as reprehensible and unjustifiable.  He welcomed the announcement of the fifth and final tranche of the security transition, stating that he was confident the Afghan forces would be ready, willing and able to manage Afghan security after 2013.  An Afghan-owned and -led peace and reconciliation process was vital.  He welcomed the opening of the Taliban office in Doha, as it was right to engage the Taliban in the peace process and he called on the international community to do all it could to support that process.  He stated his support for the Istanbul process and other initiatives that encouraged security and he strongly urged the Afghan National Assembly to prioritize the passage of vital reforms.  He called on the Afghan Government to make significant progress against the accountability framework by the 3 July meeting.  Noting positive steps in the last year on women’s empowerment, he said, however, that more Government efforts were needed to end violence against women and ensure their political participation.

MANJEEV SINGH PURI ( India) said that Afghanistan was a traditional friend and partner of India.  The two countries had had a long-shared history, going back over millennia, and were natural strategic partners by virtue of geography and a common vision of peace and cooperation in the region.  Accordingly, India had taken a number of initiatives in pursuance of its strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan.  During the visit of President Karzai to India in May 2013, both sides had reviewed the status of ongoing Indian-assisted development projects in and for Afghanistan, which amounted to more than $2.5 billion.  India had also pledged continued development support for Afghanistan post-2014 under the Tokyo Framework.  Afghanistan’s stability and economic development depended largely on its neighbours and the region as a whole.  “We must expand, rather than hinder, trade, transit and transport ties, including overland transit and trade,” he said.

HALIT ÇEVIK ( Turkey) said that the appointment of the Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission and the adoption of relevant electoral legislation would help build a credible framework for independent, fair and free elections.  Pointing out that his country had supported, from the outset, the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process with the High Peace Council at its core, he expressed hope that the different perceptions regarding the reconciliation process would resolve into to “a sincere, inclusive and results-oriented dialogue”.  Despite positive signs, however, major political, economic and security challenges remained, noting the deplorable recent attacks.  “As Afghanistan moves forward towards political and security transition, we must remain in touch with these realities on the ground,” he said.  In addition, as the international presence was reduced, the importance of regional cooperation for achieving stability, security and prosperity was being increasingly recognized.  Finally, he said that further connectivity would facilitate economic development, stability and self-sustainability, and would help to create a more favourable business environment in Afghanistan.  In that vein, Turkey attached particular importance to the completion and maintenance of local railroad and land routes, the development of regional economic projects and the enhancement of civil aviation capabilities.

IOANNIS VRAILAS, representative of the delegation of the European Union, said that the bloc was assisting the preparations of the elections through technical advice to the Independent Election Commission.  As well, it was one of the major funders of the electoral assistance programme, ELECT II, which was being led by UNDP.  The Union felt that the Afghan Government needed to implement particular measures as a matter of absolute urgency ahead of the 3 July Senior Officials Meeting in Kabul, in which progress made in the implementation of the Tokyo Framework would be reviewed.  Those included the electoral legislative framework being adopted, including the regularization of the status of the Independent Election Commission, and the establishment of a credible electoral complaints mechanism, so that the elections were governed by law.  The Chief Justice should be appointed and the mining law, critical for attracting investment, should be enacted.

KAZUYOSHI UMEMOTO ( Japan) stressed the importance of the 3 July Senior Official Meeting, which would serve as a transparent instrument aimed at realizing mutual commitments made at the Tokyo Conference last July.  “The concept of mutuality is key,” he said, noting that Japan had already implemented more than $1.4 billion of assistance out of $3 billion pledged at that conference.  While acknowledging progress made by the Afghan Government, he urged it to address some urgent issues.  One such issue was to have a basic electoral architecture, namely the Independent Electoral Commission structural law and the Electoral Law, in place as soon as possible, so that fair, credible and inclusive presidential and provincial elections in 2014 could be ensured.  Turning to the ministerial meeting of the Istanbul Process in April and its adoption of the implementation plans for the six confidence-building measures, he noted that Japan, as a supporting country of confidence-building measures on disaster management, was pleased to share its experience and contribute to that regional initiative.

CESARE MARIA RAGAGLINI ( Italy), affirming his country’s continued assistance to Afghanistan, called on a greater commitment from the international community as a whole.  Starting in 2015, he pointed out that “our presence on the field” would shift its focus mainly to training activities through a new partnership.  Regarding the presidential elections, he urged the Afghan authorities to take all the necessary steps to guarantee an inclusive, transparent and credible process and to enact clear shared rules that would ensure the participation of the many components of civil society and the various political parties.  The more general mutual commitments made at the Tokyo Conference should guide future cooperation between the international community and the Afghan Government.  Italy attached great importance to the protection of women’s rights, to which Kabul made specific commitments in Tokyo, notably on effective and uniform law enforcement on the elimination of violence against women.  Internal reconciliation “is an unavoidable crossroads” on the path to the lasting stabilization of the country, he said.  Italy supported the peace process, recognized Afghanistan’s full ownership of it and looked forward to concrete follow-up soon.

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI ( Iran) supported the Istanbul Process and the plans to implement the six confidence-building steps defined therein.  Afghanistan’s neighbours had a shared interest in its long-term stability and they should promote its socioeconomic development.  Iran continued bilateral cooperation with Afghanistan in the areas of security, counter-narcotics, road, rail, energy, mining, minerals and agriculture.  During their tripartite meeting on 15 and 16 January, representatives of Iran, Afghanistan and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) formed several agreements to encourage a safer, more sustainable return of refugees.  He welcomed the 31 March agreement between the United Nations and the Afghan Government to set up a team to seek joint solutions and integrated approaches for refugees, and urged the global community to support those efforts.  Expressing concern over the spike in civilian casualties, he condemned all such attacks and called for them to end.  As well, the prediction, as reflected in the 2013 Opium Risk Assessment, of the possible increase in opium poppy cultivation in north and north-eastern Afghanistan was concerning.  He commended the initiatives of the Afghan authorities and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to eliminate opium cultivation fields.

FERNANDO ARIAS ( Spain) said, in the past 12 years, Spain had been a major contributor to the ISAF.  At present, 900 Spanish troops were still in Afghanistan, noting that Spain’s support for the Afghan transition process would continue.  He welcomed this week’s announcement on the achievement of “Milestone 2013”.  Most of Spain’s cooperation projects with Afghanistan were being managed now by Afghan personnel.  In July of this year, Spain’s successful seven-year cooperation with Afghanistan would end.   He stressed the need to strongly support a dialogue for sustained, inclusive reconciliation that involved the armed forces and all sectors of society.  The European Union could play an important role in capacity-building, good governance, transparency and the rule of law, particularly through programmes to train the police and judiciary, and to spur socioeconomic development.  He said that Spain strongly supported the European Union-Afghanistan Cooperation Agreement for Partnership and Development, which would guide its bilateral relations with Afghanistan in the next 10 years.  As well, his country also supported institutional reform of the Afghan Interior Ministry and the professionalization of the Afghan National Police through the European Union Police-Afghanistan Mission.

INESE FREIMANE-DEKSNE ( Latvia), joining with the European Union, said that regional cooperation was critical to achieving long-term stability and economic development in Afghanistan.  Initiatives, such as the “Heart of Asia” process and the third Ministerial Conference, held in Kazakhstan in April of this year, and the adoption of implementation plans for confidence-building measures between Afghanistan and its neighbours were part of a strong foundation for further regional cooperation.   With 2014 approaching, the international community must remain committed to Afghanistan’s long-term stability, he stated, adding that building public confidence in the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces was now critical.  In that vein, Latvia had already committed to provide financial support to the Afghan National Security Forces beginning in 2015.  Finally, he said that regional cooperation was also critical in tackling such global threats as terrorism and drug trafficking.  The NATO-Russia Council Counter-Narcotics Training Project, implemented with the close cooperation of UNODC, showed where common interests and common efforts paid off.

MASUD HUSAIN ( Canada) said that “down one path, a nation emerges from generations of war and bloodshed and steps forward into a future of freedom and prosperity.  Down the other lie the games of the past, of regional interests allied with the false promises of terrorists and their tyranny”.  Corrosive actors were the culprits of fragility, just as nation-builders were the pioneers for prosperous societies.  Noting that the law addressing the elimination of violence against women had been the subject of tremendous debate in recent weeks, he said that the Government of Afghanistan must embrace that law energetically.  However, it would only be fully implemented by a willing justice sector, including police who took allegations seriously and investigated them, prosecutors who were properly equipped and judges who understood the law and were prepared to hand down sentences.  It was also essential that the Afghani Government demonstrate an earnest commitment to a robust electoral process.  Finally, he said that Canada would continue to be resolutely focused on efforts made to improve financial accountability and combat corruption.

MIGUEL BERGER ( Germany) expressed concern about preparations for the presidential and provincial council elections in April 2014, such as the pending decisions on the legal framework for the elections and the establishment of a credible electoral complaints mechanism, as well as the pending appointment of a new Chairman to the Independent Electoral Commission.  He welcomed the announcement of talks between the Taliban and the United States and between the Taliban and the Afghan High Peace Council at the newly opened Taliban office in Doha.  “This could well be a new beginning — a beginning that will take years to unfold and will, no doubt, experience many setbacks,” he said.  And yet, he pointed out, there was no alternative to that path.

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