Briefing Security Council, Special Representative Expresses Optimism Afghanistan Can Meet Challenges Despite Persistent Political, Stability Obstacles

SC/12412
21 June 2016
7722nd Meeting (PM)

Briefing Security Council, Special Representative Expresses Optimism Afghanistan Can Meet Challenges Despite Persistent Political, Stability Obstacles

Despite persistent political, economic and security challenges, Afghanistan could make significant strides towards peace and stability in 2016, said Nicholas Haysom this afternoon in his final briefing to the Security Council as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for that country.

There had been a number of positive steps in meeting the challenges confronting Afghanistan, he told the 15-member body.  Those included economic strides, such as progress in revenue collection and the management of public finances, as well as a deliberate response by the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces to the lessons learned over the past year.  The battlefield in many areas was in a state of flux, with gains and reversals, but with neither side effecting clear dominance.

Despite strides made, however, he remained concerned about the impact that the high level of violence was having on Afghanistan’s civilian population.  Expressing particular concern about the trend of targeted killing of civilians working in the judicial sector, and of journalists, he warned that the conflict could enter a new phase which might see retaliatory acts of vengeance and an escalating spiral of violence.

Progress on the economic and security fronts was imperative as the Government sought to secure a firm and longer term of international support at the upcoming North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meeting in Warsaw and the donors’ conference slated to take place in Brussels in October, he said.  What was expected of Afghanistan was not proof of the country’s considerable needs, but its demonstrable capacity to utilize resources effectively so that aid had a real impact.

The representative of Afghanistan, taking the floor following the briefing, said his country had shown greater resilience since the Council’s last deliberations in March.  Afghanistan’s re-emergence as a symbol of international cooperation and partnership was gaining momentum.  However, increased civilian casualties, internal displacement and the ramifications of the behaviour of the Taliban and its supporters had been alarming.

“Make no mistake, the proud Government and people of Afghanistan have not, do not and will not surrender to intimidation, violence and aggression,” he said, noting that the Taliban had resorted to highway banditry, killing and kidnapping.  The fact that terrorist leaders had been found and killed in safe haven in Pakistan was proof that it had violated the sovereignty of other nations, he added, calling for the urgent implementation of Council resolutions 1373 (2001) and 2255 (2015).

A number of speakers throughout the debate noted progress that had been made in Afghanistan in recent months, with the representative of Spain recognizing gains in combating corruption and identifying future development priorities.  He noted that Kabul had recently hosted the second European Union-Afghanistan Human Rights Dialogue, where constructive discussions had been held on a range of issues, including women’s and children’s rights, the death penalty, torture, access to justice, freedom of expression and the rights of vulnerable persons.

Others, however, underscored the magnitude of the challenges that still faced the country.  The representative of New Zealand pointed out that the modest progress made was more than offset by the enormous human toll that the conflict continued to take.  In addition, economic growth in Afghanistan remained low and outward migration continued.  “Whether we like it or not, the Government and people of Afghanistan need our continued support,” he said, noting that the upcoming conferences in Warsaw and Brussels could provide opportunities for such assistance.

Senegal’s delegate agreed that the situation in Afghanistan continued to be marked by increased fighting, drug trafficking and a weakened economy.  There were political divisions and a humanitarian crisis that made national reconciliation difficult.  In that challenging environment, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had done everything possible to support the peace and reconciliation process.  Noting that there were 1.2 million internally displaced persons in Afghanistan, as well as 2.6 million Afghan refugees living throughout the world, he reiterated his appeal to donor countries to demonstrate more flexibility in the way they dealt with Afghan asylum seekers.

The representative of Pakistan rejected the “untrue” and “gratuitous” comments made by the representative of Afghanistan about her country.  She recalled that efforts to revive negotiations had been well underway when a United States drone attack had killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, dealing a blow to the Afghan peace process and further complicating the situation.  That attack had been a breach of the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.

Also speaking were the representatives of Japan, Egypt, United States, United Kingdom, Angola, Russian Federation, China, Malaysia, Ukraine, Venezuela, Uruguay, France, Sweden, Italy, Germany, India, Iran, Netherlands, Australia, European Union, Canada and Turkey.

The meeting began at 3:15 p.m. and ended at 6:35 p.m.

Briefing

NICHOLAS HAYSOM, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, recalled that, in his last briefing to the Council, he had said the survival of the country’s National Unity Government in 2016 would be an achievement.  On that occasion, he had stressed the need for the Government to tackle a potent conflation of political, economic and security challenges, which would require securing medium-term financial and military assistance from the international community and making headway in laying the foundation for an effective peace process.  “Failure to overcome any one of these distinct hurdles could have significant consequences for the country,” he warned.

Since he last addressed the Council, there had been positive steps in meeting those challenges, he said.  On the economic front, there had been progress in revenue collection, in meeting International Monetary Fund (IMF) benchmarks and in developing thoughtful medium-term plans for reform and economic development under difficult conditions.  There had also been progress in the management of public finances, and he described a number of milestones reached on ambitious projects undertaken in collaboration with other countries of the region, including a trilateral economic agreement between Afghanistan, India and Iran.

On the security front, there had been a deliberate response by the Security Forces to the lessons learned from the dynamics and developments of the past year.  The battlefield in many areas was in a state of flux, with gains and reversals, but with neither side effecting clear dominance.  The Security Forces continued to face daunting challenges, including in addressing questions of morale, leadership, attrition and logistics.  The nominees for the positions of Minister for Defence and head of the National Directorate for Security had been confirmed by the Wolesi Jirga yesterday.

However, he continued, he remained deeply concerned about the impact that the high level of violence was having on the civilian population.  Only yesterday, an incident in Badakhstan had caused the death of 10 civilians, among them several children.  Expressing particular concern about the trend of targeted killing of civilians working in the judicial sector, and of journalists, he warned that the conflict could enter a new phase which might see retaliatory acts of vengeance and an escalating spiral of violence.  Reminding all parties to the conflict of their obligations to protect civilians from the impact of hostilities, he noted that progress on the economic and security fronts was imperative as the Government sought to secure a firm and longer term of international support at the upcoming North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meeting in Warsaw and the donors conference in Brussels.

He stressed that development assistance was a more effective way of dealing with migration than bearing the expense of integrating migrants into host countries.  What was expected of Afghanistan was not proof of the country’s considerable needs, but its demonstrable capacity to utilize resources effectively so that aid had a real impact.  Noting some progress in that regard, he said Afghanistan needed increasingly to appreciate the range of compelling demands from other countries competing for donor dollars.

With regards to the establishment of a viable peace process, he said that, with the failure of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group to midwife such a process, and the death of Taliban leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, “such a process seems unlikely in the short term”.  However, there were significant elements within the Taliban movement who were questioning whether they could win militarily in the short-term and wondered whether such an objective was a desirable outcome.  Even if a peaceful solution was unlikely in the immediate future, “peace is not a luxury, but a necessity”.

Finally, on the political front, slow progress in advancing electoral reforms and setting an election calendar was one indicator of a lack of political cohesion and an appreciation of a shared destiny by a fragmented political class.  Continued uncertainty about the electoral calendar would contribute to challenges to the legitimacy of both the National Unity Government and the Parliament, which had long overstepped its term of office.  An increasingly vocal opposition appeared to be coalescing around its common demand for a new Government arrangement.  The way forward was to implement promised electoral reforms, to restore confidence in the democratic process and allow it to take its course.

Statements

MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan) said that, since the Council’s last deliberations on his country in March, it had shown greater resilience.  Afghanistan’s re-emergence as a symbol of international cooperation and partnership was gaining momentum.  However, increased civilian casualties, internal displacement and the ramifications of the behaviour of the Taliban and its supporters had been alarming.  The Taliban had been expected to join the peace process, but, on 12 April, it responded with a spring offensive, during which it suffered heavy losses at the hands of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.

The fact that terrorist leaders had been found and killed in safe havens in Pakistan was proof that it had violated the sovereignty of other nations, he said, calling for urgent implementation of Security Council resolutions 1373 (2001) and 2255 (2015).  Since the failed spring offensive, the Taliban had resorted to highway banditry, killing and kidnapping.  Provocative actions had meanwhile taken place along the de facto separation line, including an attempt to build new infrastructure at Torkham Pass.  “Make no mistake, the proud Government and people of Afghanistan have not, do not and will not surrender to intimidation, violence and aggression.  Our history is testimony to this,” he said.  Islamic State and Al-Qaida continued to position themselves to remerge in Afghanistan, while other regional terrorist networks with links to Central Asian republics, Chechnya and China were highly active.  Tehrik-i-Taliban remained a long-term threat.  Most of those terrorist groups enjoyed support from within the State structure of Pakistan, he said, adding that it was imperative for the international community to establish objective criteria to identify and confront State sponsorship of terrorism.

Afghanistan remained committed to the peace process, but it was important to ensure that it was not misused to buy time to refuel the Taliban war machine, he said.  Welcoming the United States announcement of further ground and air support to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, he looked forward to the upcoming North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit in Warsaw that would review international support to Afghan Security Forces.  Afghanistan was also preparing a development strategy framework, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, to be presented in Brussels in October, and it remained committed to full implementation of the 2014 agreement on forming a National Unity Government.  The humanitarian situation remained fragile, with an increase in conflict-related displacements amid extreme weather conditions.  The flight of Afghans leaving the country was a cause for concern, while terrorist attacks on aid organizations hampered humanitarian assistance and made refugee resettlement more precarious.  The declining estimated gross value of opiates as a share of gross domestic product (GDP), from 13 per cent in 2014 to 7 per cent, demonstrated a commitment to curb the menace of narcotics.  Last year had been a year of survival for Afghanistan, but 2016 marked the start of an era of consolidation of gains made collectively in the past 15 years.

JUAN MANUEL GONZÁLEZ DE LINARES PALOU (Spain) said he recognized the progress that the National Unity Government had made in Afghanistan, including a reform agenda that covered anti-corruption measures and identifying future development priorities.  Recently, Kabul had hosted the second European Union-Afghanistan Human Rights Dialogue, he noted.  Constructive discussions had been held on a range of issues, including women’s and children’s rights, the death penalty, torture, access to justice, freedom of expression and the rights of vulnerable persons.  Despite those developments, however, it was unfortunate that the number of armed clashes and internally displaced persons had increased, he said, emphasizing the essential need for the international community to support the efforts of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Government of Afghanistan.

YOSHIFUMI OKAMURA (Japan) noted that a special exhibition in Tokyo had presented 31 ancient art works from Afghanistan.  “A nation stays alive when its culture stays alive,” he said, emphasizing that the preservation of Afghan culture was a major priority.  Describing 2016 as an important year, he said the next Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan would be held in Brussels in October.  Furthermore, the Government of Afghanistan was presently working with donors to consolidate a framework aimed at developing agriculture, enhancing connectivity and improving transparency.

OSAMA ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) said his country had always supported Afghanistan’s efforts to fight terrorism, ensure stability and promote development.  As a source of financing for militias and terrorists, drug trafficking continued to threaten security in Central Asia, he said, emphasizing the need for close cooperation among partners.  Egypt stood ready to provide training for Afghan police officers and would contribute to ensuring the country’s security and stability.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said recent developments in Afghanistan demonstrated that country’s continued political, security and humanitarian challenges.  The situation there continued to be marked by increased fighting, drug trafficking and a weakened economy.  There were political divisions and a humanitarian crisis that made national reconciliation difficult.  In that challenging environment, UNAMA had done everything possible to support the peace and reconciliation process.  He encouraged donors and other partners to continue to support reconstruction and development in the country, as well as the Government’s efforts to restore stability.  Describing substantial progress that had been achieved through regional cooperation, he said such efforts must be encouraged in light of the threat of terrorism, and called on Afghanistan and Pakistan to work together to address regional security.  Noting that there were 1.2 million internally displaced persons in Afghanistan, as well as 2.6 million Afghan refugees living throughout the world, he reiterated his appeal to donor countries to demonstrate more flexibility in the way they dealt with Afghan asylum seekers.

MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said Afghanistan continued to demonstrate resilience in confronting the challenges before it.  Recognizing the gains made by that country over the past 15 years, she said three key elements were necessary: security, reconciliation and reform.  Noting that the conflict continued to exact a high toll on civilians, she also expressed deep concern over continuing terrorist attacks taking place throughout the country.  UNAMA had recently held a high-level dialogue on civilian protection, which had led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding on that issue.  “There is no question that Afghan forces have become more capable and professional,” she said, pledging her country’s continued support.  The United States would keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan throughout the year and 5,500 thereafter, and it would continue to provide financial support.  On reconciliation, she said her delegation was committed to encouraging a peace process between the Taliban and the Afghan Government, noting that “there is no military solution to the conflict”.  Among other things, she noted that the Afghan Government was making tangible progress on the “self-reliance through mutual accountability framework”, and encouraged further progress in that important arena.

GERARD JACOBUS VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) said sustainable peace in Afghanistan remained elusive.  While some modest progress had been made, it was more than offset by the enormous human toll that the conflict continued to take.  That was underscored by the separate attacks which had killed more than 30 people yesterday.  Economic growth in Afghanistan remained low and outward migration continued.  “Whether we like it or not, the Government and people of Afghanistan need our continued support,” he said, noting that the upcoming conferences in Warsaw and Brussels could provide opportunities for such support.  In that regard, however, Afghan and regional actors needed to demonstrate that they were “brave enough” to confront the challenges before them.  He echoed support for a broad and collaborative approach in the ongoing political dialogue, and asked regional leaders to put aside their differences in countering the threat of terrorism.  Meanwhile, the Council should consider what practical steps it could take to support the reconciliation process.  In that regard, he said the 1988 sanctions regime could play a critical role, including by providing meaningful incentives for the peace and reconciliation process and by keeping pace with the changes in the Taliban’s leadership.

PETER WILSON (United Kingdom) said Afghanistan continued to face great political, security and economic challenges, describing international support as vital to improving the lives of the country’s people.  Commending the work of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, he noted that they had repelled the Taliban’s large-scale attacks and forced back Da’esh from expanding.  Development and security were mutually reinforcing, and the international community must continue to provide financial and technical assistance to Afghanistan.  On achieving political stability, he expressed support to the National Unity Government and called upon Pakistan to work towards a stronger relationship with Afghanistan.

JULIO HELDER MOURA LUCAS (Angola), acknowledging existing peace and security challenges in Afghanistan, expressed support to UNAMA for carrying out its work under difficult conditions.  While progress had been achieved over the past several months, wide-spread armed clashes and terrorist attacks continued to take place in the country, he said, calling upon all parties to respect international law.  “Long-term stability requires national reconciliation based on full respect to human rights and liberties,” he said, welcoming the reform agenda, particularly the fight against corruption.

VLADIMIR SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation), expressing concern about the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, noted that terrorist groups continued to expand their control over the territory.  As the Taliban systematically carried out high profile attacks, and the threat posed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) was growing, it was critical that regional and international efforts were combined.  Taking note of efforts by the National Unity Government, he stressed that only through a negotiated political agreement could Afghans attain the sustainable peace that they needed.  As such, direct talks between the Government and the Taliban remained essential.  Among other things, he welcomed that Afghanistan had formally asked to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

LIU JIEYI (China) said the Afghan Government of National Unity had been operating effectively.  However, it still faced “grim challenges” and required sustainable assistance from the international community.  The improvement of the security situation was the basis for progress in Afghanistan, he said, warning that armed clashes in the country had been escalating and that ISIL and other groups were seizing the opportunity to expand their presence there.  Welcoming the recent agreement between the Government and the Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan, he said the international community should fully support an inclusive national reconciliation process led and owned by Afghans.  He also underscored the need to promote comprehensive social and economic development in the country and invest in infrastructure, trade and human resources training in order to help integrate Afghanistan into the region’s robust development.  Recalling that Afghan leaders had recently visited his country to sign a number of important agreements, he said China would continue to support Afghanistan in strengthening its security capabilities, as well as the Quadrilateral Coordination Group in promoting the country’s reconciliation process.

RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) expressed support for Afghanistan’s efforts towards lasting stability and security.  However, it was worrying that the Taliban appeared to be gaining ground there.  The string of attacks yesterday was an example of that group’s continued barbarism, he said, stressing that the Taliban and similar groups must be dealt with in a comprehensive manner.  Efforts to “win the hearts and minds” of the Afghan people must be stepped up in order to deny the Taliban its base of support.  The recent killing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour appeared to have complicated the Quadrilateral Coordination Group’s efforts.  His delegation was pleased to note the Afghan Government’s commitment to the “self-reliance through mutual accountability” framework, he said, pointing to the upcoming Warsaw and Brussels conferences as an opportunity for Governments to complement and assist Afghanistan’s efforts in reconstruction and development.  Recalling that the Secretary-General’s report had spotlighted the increasing number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan — as well as the fact that children accounted for almost one third of the country’s casualties — he noted that some parties to the conflict continued to recruit children, and called on all actors to uphold their obligations with respect to the well-being of children.

YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine), noting the progress achieved by Afghanistan in stabilizing the political situation in the country, welcomed that it had filled key Government positions and promoted legislative reforms.  However, it was concerning that the preparations for the long-awaited parliamentary and district council elections were hampered by disagreements of power over the electoral process.  The prolonged delay would cause further fragmentation of political elite in Afghanistan, he emphasized.  It was unfortunate that the efforts of Quadrilateral Coordination Group had not resulted in moving forward the national reconciliation process and organizing direct peace talks between Taliban factions and Afghan Government representatives.  Further, the ongoing insurgency campaign by terrorist and violent extremist groups adversely affected the country’s political and economic stability.  In that regard, he called upon the United Nations and the international community as a whole to support Afghanistan in strengthening its counter-terrorism capacities.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), expressing concern about the current security situation in Afghanistan, noted that Taliban had increased its attacks and ISIL had established a presence in the country.  To move forward, it was essential that the National Unity Government and Taliban hold direct peace talks, and the international community redouble their efforts to support the process.  Commending the significant work carried out by UNAMA, he noted that the Mission continued to promote national reconciliation as well as economic and social development.  Further, he expressed hope for improved dialogue between Pakistan and Afghanistan to address problems affecting both countries.

LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay) while acknowledging the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, welcomed the Government’s efforts towards finalizing a peace agreement with the Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, and its commitment to hold democratic elections.  As the country’s path to stability was fragile, it was essential that UNAMA and the international community continued to provide assistance.  While expressing support to the work carried out by the Quadrilateral Coordination Group on the Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Process, he stressed the need for direct talks between Afghan authorities and Taliban.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity and associated himself with the remarks to be delivered by the European Union.  Welcoming the fact that Afghanistan continued to move forward in its transition process, he reaffirmed France’s commitment to support the country in line with their 2012 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation.  Beyond the necessity of instituting political and economic reforms, ending violence and ensuring Afghanistan’s security was a top priority.  The refusal by the Taliban to respond to the offer of direct talks with the Afghan Government had been a disappointment for the international community, he said, expressing his hope that dialogue would soon resume.  Further expressing support for the prospects of an economic opening towards Central Asia and Iran, he underscored the need for Afghanistan and its regional partners to combat such issues as trafficking and transnational crime.  The fragile context made the international community’s support to Afghanistan even more important.

ANNIKA SÖDER, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said together with the National Unity Government, the international community must continue to invest in building sustainable peace in Afghanistan.  “Success will require a holistic approach to peace, security and development, strong partnership and local ownership,” she added.  Drawing attention to the two important milestones in 2016 — namely, the Resolute Support Mission meeting in Warsaw and the donor conference in Brussels — she noted that they would determine the future support.  As predictable and sustainable funding was a prerequisite for success, her country had declared its substantial long-term commitment, which was to contribute $1.2 billion.  Continued implementation of essential reforms and respect for the Constitution were critical for building a viable democratic society and increasing confidence in the country.  On UNAMA, she noted that it played a crucial role in supporting the Government and efforts for peace, stability and development in the country.

VINCENZO AMENDOLA, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Italy, associating himself with the European Union, said his Government fully supported the efforts of the Afghan National Unity Government towards peace and stability in Afghanistan.  A long-lasting peace in that country would not be sustainable without a political solution, and to that end, effective collaboration with all regional players would be instrumental.  Italy supported all diplomatic efforts, such as those undertaken by the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, dedicated to creating the conditions for an Afghan-led and Afghan–owned peace process.  Those efforts towards peace and stability, however, must not endanger the achievements painstakingly gained over the years in the areas of human, civil and social rights, particularly for women and children.  He noted that Italy provided development aid to Afghanistan, with one of the major goals of that cooperation aimed at reducing the structural connectivity gaps in the country.

HEIKO THOMS (Germany) said Afghanistan needed to make substantial progress before the Brussels conference in October.  He stressed the importance of implementing electoral and economic reforms, saying visible progress was needed to justify the exceptional level of donor support.  It was also crucial to make quick progress on reducing migratory flows and for young Afghans to see a future in their own country.  An inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process was the only path to a sustainable solution to the conflict, and while talks with the Taliban remained elusive, it was critical that the doors stay open.  A successful outcome to negotiations with Hezb-i-Islami Hekmatyar would send a strong positive message.  He expressed concern at the high casualty toll among Afghan civilians, saying the Government could do more to protect children.  He also hoped to see more progress before Brussels on women, peace and security, including the swift roll-out of prosecution units specializing in violence against women and girls.

SYED AKBARUDDIN (India) noted that the security situation in Afghanistan had deteriorated, with armed clashes for the first four months of 2016 having increased by 14 per cent over the same period in 2015.  The situation had put a renewed focus on the need for enhanced engagement and action by the international community, and the Council should examine the means by which it could contain those challenges.  “Groups and individuals that perpetrate violence against the people and the Government of Afghanistan cannot have safe havens,” he said, and they could not be allowed to exercise control or wield influence over any part of Afghanistan’s territory.  The effective implementation of the Council’s sanctions regimes, including the 1267 ISIL/Al-Qaida sanctions regime and the 1988 Taliban sanctions regime, should also be carried out consistently in order to serve as a strong deterrent to the listed entities and individuals.  Anomalies could not be left unaddressed, he added in that regard.  Describing recent agreements and joint projects between his country and Afghanistan, he said the path to reconciliation in that country should be through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process.  That plan had to respect the “red lines” drawn by the people of Afghanistan and the international community — in particular the ones regarding the end of violence and abiding by the country’s Constitution.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) rejected, at the outset, the “untrue” and “gratuitous” comments made by the representative of Afghanistan about her country.  Ultimately, it was the responsibility of the Afghan Government to deliver on commitments made to its own people, she said, stressing that a negotiated peace was the only way to end the conflict.  She recalled that efforts to revive talks had been well under way when a United States drone attack had killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, dealing a blow to the Afghan peace process and further complicating the situation.  The attack, which had taken place in Pakistan, had been a breach of the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law, and had raised serious questions about whether the international community was ready to invest in war instead of peace in Afghanistan.  The use of force over the last 15 years had not led to peace, she said, advising against the continuation of such a strategy.  Other than Afghanistan, Pakistan had suffered more than any other country from the consequences of terrorism, she said, describing her country’s counter-terrorism operations — the largest in the world.  “Effective border management is the sovereign right of my country,” she said in that regard, stressing that there was nothing illegal about any construction on Pakistan’s side of the border.  She urged the Government of Afghanistan to avoid externalizing its problems by blaming others, and underscored the need for a political solution that would require compromises on both sides.

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran), expressing concern at the volatile situation in Afghanistan, emphasized that any cooperation with the Taliban and other terrorist groups would encourage their odious behaviour in ways that would be counterproductive to establishing peace.  Failure to address the emergence of Da’esh, its offshoots and other groups, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan, would signal more trouble in the future, he warned, stressing that the Government needed sustained international support to address terrorism and extremism as well as security, economic and political challenges.  Iran, seeing great potential in its economic cooperation with Afghanistan, stood ready to increase its bilateral cooperation, he said.  Having supported millions of Afghan refugees over the decades, it continued to do so, and would welcome a comprehensive voluntary repatriation and reintegration strategy.  Iran also supported UNAMA and other United Nations agencies, he said, adding that the Mission’s good offices mandate was needed to strengthen national institutions and capacities in priority areas, as requested by the Government.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), associating himself with the European Union, called the security situation in Afghanistan worrisome.  Commending the work of the Government of National Unity and the Security Forces, he said it was clear that international support remained necessary.  Durable peace could only be achieved through Afghan-led reconciliation, supported by a regional process, and the Netherlands stood ready to help in that regard, if so desired.  On the issue of development, there had been improvements in health care and education, and women and girls actively taking part in social life.  He called for a clearer commitment from the Afghan Government to implement reforms, and for the international community to offer support, taking into account the challenges the country faced.

GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) noted that the international community would soon meet in Warsaw and then in Brussels to recommit to Afghanistan and chart the way forward to the year 2020 and beyond.  In Warsaw, Australia would join international partners in committing to support Afghanistan’s National Defence and Security Forces, while in Brussels, her country would pledge its support to Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development.  She encouraged the Government of Afghanistan to use those opportunities to redouble efforts to implement its reform agenda, particularly in the area of countering corruption.  Australia welcomed Afghanistan’s support for gender equality, including steps towards addressing violence against women and implementing its National Action Plan on Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).  The protection of children was also paramount, and in that regard, Australia welcomed the recent progress made in preventing child recruitment by the Afghan National Army and Police.

IOANNIS VRAILAS, Head of the European Union Delegation, said that success in Afghanistan would require progress in State-building, sustained funding at or near current levels until 2020, and regional support for a political process towards stabilization, peace and reinforced cross-border economic cooperation.  The capacity of Afghanistan’s institutions to reduce poverty would be a determining factor in whether its people would be able to see a viable future, he said.  The Government should promote sustainable economic, social and environmental development, including job creation for men and women alike, while improving governance, tackling drug production and strengthening fiscal sustainability.

Emphasizing the importance of anti-corruption measures, he said that only a stable political and economic environment would help consolidate Afghanistan’s nascent democratic institutions.  Substantial cooperation would be needed to address large population movements and the issue of irregular migration, both of which posed challenges to the region, to transit States, and to the European Union, where Afghans had comprised the second-largest group of arrivals in 2015.  The bloc had offered a new political framework to address that problem, which it hoped to implement as soon as possible, he said.  A secure and prosperous Afghanistan offered the best reason for countries in the region to join forces, he said, advocating a multi-sided, results-oriented negotiation process that would lay the foundation for peace in the country and the wider region.

MARC-ANDRÉ BLANCHARD (Canada), expressing concern about the security situation in Afghanistan, stressed the need to support the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.  As the peace process remained fragile, the upcoming NATO Summit would provide an opportunity to the international community to stand against violence and support the Afghan-led process.  Welcoming the Government’s recent initiatives to empower women and eliminate violence against them, he noted that, for its part, Canada provided development assistance to Afghanistan with a view to advancing security in the country and empowering its citizens.

GÜVEN BEGEÇ (Turkey), while acknowledging the progress made in areas ranging from security to human rights, noted that Afghanistan continued to face significant challenges.  In order to maintain and build on its achievements, the international community’s continuing support during the country’s “transformation decade” would be critically important, he said.  Turkey, for its part, had hosted the International Contact Group meeting, where 54 delegations had reiterated their support for Afghanistan.  Describing the peace and reconciliation process as the country’s main challenge to overcome, he called upon Afghanistan and Pakistan to continue their confidence-building efforts, pointing out that the recent tension on their common border was, in fact, clear testimony to the need for good neighbourly relations between the two countries.

For information media. Not an official record.