Delegates Urge Stronger Cooperation in Targeting Terrorist Sanctuaries, Building Government Capacity, as Security Council Considers Afghanistan

SC/12747
10 March 2017
7896th Meeting (AM)

Delegates Urge Stronger Cooperation in Targeting Terrorist Sanctuaries, Building Government Capacity, as Security Council Considers Afghanistan

Pakistan Uses Terror as ‘Foreign Policy Accessory’ in Undeclared War, Representative Says, as Counterpart Rejects ‘Baseless’ Claim

Condemning the recent surge in “abhorrent” terrorist attacks across Afghanistan — including one that killed 30 people at a Kabul military hospital on 8 March — speakers in the Security Council today urged that country’s international partners to deepen their cooperation, target terrorist sanctuaries and help to build up the capacity of the National Unity Government.

As the Council held its quarterly debate on the long-troubled nation, many delegates praised Afghanistan’s new anti-corruption measures, its efforts in planning for the 2018 parliamentary elections and other recent progress.  However, some warned against the temptation to gloss over the deteriorating security situation.  Indeed, many observed that 2016 had seen the highest number of Afghanistan security incidents ever recorded in a single year.

Following a moment of silence for the victims of the recent terrorist attacks, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), briefed on recent developments there, emphasizing “now is the time for action” to improve Afghan lives.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation (document S/2017/189), he said that despite some notable progress, Afghanistan’s deteriorating security situation was making service delivery and economic growth more difficult.  Access to health clinics and education was trending downwards, and some 9 million people — about one third of the population — still lived below the poverty line.  “Developing a nation while fighting an insurgency is an uphill struggle,” he said.  The National Unity Government — which was nearly halfway through its five-year term — must pursue both economic growth and an inclusive peace process, against the backdrop of deteriorating security, he added, noting that strong international political as well as financial support would be needed.

The Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said that, with its strong and modern Constitution, the country had been able to realize a real and meaningful review of its laws, approve new legislation in support of human rights and develop policies promoting human rights.  She also welcomed meaningful steps towards peace, but cautioned against negotiating with terrorist groups, including the Taliban, while stressing that the recent terrorist attacks demonstrated that such groups lacked any regard for basic human rights.

However, a number of speakers throughout the ensuing debate disagreed strongly with that view, calling instead upon the Taliban to join peace talks without delay.  Many delegates voiced support for the proposed extension of UNAMA’s mandate, planned for next week, while others focused on the need for stronger neighbourly relations among States in the region.

Several speakers expressed deep concern over heightened tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the former’s representative pointing out that the recent attacks had generally been plotted beyond the Durand Line, in Pakistan.  The conflict in Afghanistan was not home-grown, he continued; rather, it was the nexus of illicit narcotics, violent extremism and State-sponsored terrorism, suffering an “undeclared war” by a neighbouring State acting through proxy forces and more than 20 terrorist networks.  He called upon Pakistan to desist from using such groups as a “foreign policy accessory”, and genuinely join the international fight against terrorism.

Pakistan’s representative rejected those “baseless allegations”, saying that shifting the blame to his country would not help Afghanistan resolve the challenges confronting it.  That country had consumed millions of dollars in international assistance and had little to show for it, he noted, cautioning its representative not to misuse the Council to deliver “gratuitous sermons”.  Despite having paid a staggering human and financial cost as a result of Afghanistan’s crises, Pakistan had nevertheless successfully broken the back of terrorist groups within its own borders, he said.  While some complained that Islamabad’s strong actions had pushed terrorists into Afghanistan, the truth was that Kabul’s weak border management was actually at fault.

The representative of the United Kingdom, which holds the Council Presidency for March, spoke in his national capacity, noting that the violence in Afghanistan was likely to increase in the coming weeks as the winter weather receded.  In that context, all actors must work together for peace, he said, adding that targeted efforts were needed to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries and cut off their financing.  Sustained efforts were also needed to improve human rights in Afghanistan, he said, pointing out that while the human rights situation was unrecognizable compared to that of 2001, “being better than 2001 is not the benchmark to aspire to”.

Kazakhstan’s representative was among the speakers who underlined the importance of fighting the illicit production and trafficking of narcotic drugs.  In particular, there was need for closer regional cooperation to combat poppy cultivation and opium production, he said, warning that counter-terrorism efforts would fail unless development issues were addressed properly.

Also speaking were representatives of Japan, Ethiopia, Italy, Sweden, France, China, Senegal, Bolivia, Egypt, Uruguay, United States, Ukraine, Russian Federation, Germany, Turkey, Netherlands, India, Iran, European Union, Australia, Belgium, Spain and Canada.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 1:11 p.m.

Briefings

TADAMICHI YAMAMOTO, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), noted that the country’s National Unity Government was nearly halfway through its five-year term, and while some of the fruits of its efforts had been seen, much remained to be done.  “Fortunately, the ground is being prepared to make Afghanistan a success,” he said, adding that “now is the time for action” to deliver concrete outcomes and to improve Afghan lives.  “A major challenge is at hand,” he emphasized, noting that the Government must pursue both economic growth and an inclusive peace process against the backdrop of a worsening security situation.  Strong international support, both political and financial, would be needed, he said.

Describing recent Government efforts to “break with the past” by taking new steps in addressing corruption, he said UNAMA would soon launch its first anti‑corruption report, highlighting progress made in that area.  Additionally, the Government had committed, at the highest levels, to holding fair, inclusive and transparent parliamentary elections, he said, adding that it had also launched the Women’s Economic Empowerment National Priority Programme.  However, service delivery had become increasingly difficult in the area of development and economic growth due in part to the worsening security situation, he noted, citing a downward trend in several key indicators, such as access to health clinics and education facilities.

He went on to state that some 9 million people, about one third of Afghanistan’s population, currently lived below the poverty line.  “We need to act now to reverse this course,” he said, stressing that fulfilling commitments made at the Brussels Donor Conference were crucial in that regard.  “Developing a nation while fighting an insurgency is an uphill struggle,” he said, adding that armed clashes had continued unabated in early 2017, and that reports pointed to an intense spring fighting season.  There was also need to remain vigilant for the presence of such foreign fighters as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).  Recalling that UNAMA had, in 2016, recorded the highest number of civilian casualties in a decade, he underlined the need to reverse that trend.  Greater efforts must be made to protect civilians, he said, expressing optimism about the forthcoming adoption and implementation of a national policy in that respect.

The deteriorating security situation had also led to the internal displacement of more than 650,000 people in 2016, the highest number recorded, he said, emphasizing that such a trend demanded a major, sustained international humanitarian response.  “There can clearly be no military solution in Afghanistan,” he added, urging countries in the region to support Government efforts to restore peace.  He cautioned that, while he had sensed a general readiness in that regard, he remained deeply troubled by heightened tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and called for dialogue to reduce them.  The path of peace must be pursued through Afghan-owned and Afghan-led negotiations that were, he said, urging the Taliban to enter peace talks without preconditions.  “Endless conflict and violence is simply not acceptable,” he said, adding that UNAMA stood ready to move the peace process forward, and looked forward to having its mandate renewed by the Council.

SIMA SAMAR, Chairperson, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said that, with its strong and modern Constitution, Afghanistan had been able to achieve a real and meaningful review of its laws, approved new legislation in support of human rights, and developed policies promoting human rights.  Progress had also been made in addressing violence against women, including through Government steps to give women opportunities to apply for high office and key Cabinet positions.  Despite such progress, however, women remained victims of violence at home and in society, she said, adding that the Taliban continued to kill, stone and mutilate them.  The absence of strong rule-of-law systems, as well as the prevalence of harmful traditions, corruption and persistent culture of impunity remained contributing factors in the violence against women.

Highlighting improved access to education, she said more than 8 million children were now enrolled in schools, at least 30 per cent of them girls.  However, war and threats by terrorist groups remained a real barrier to education, she added.  “They continue to close girls’ schools and do not allow modern education for boys.”  Four decades of war had destroyed the foundation of justice in Afghanistan, and support for Government efforts to ensure justice and the rule of law by respecting the judiciary’s independence and fighting corruptions was of key importance.  As for the forthcoming vote, she noted that Afghanistan’s elections had always been chaotic and it was important that UNAMA continue to assist and support the electoral system.  The Government must prevent any interference in the electoral process so as to build confidence among the public.

Lack of security continued to cause mass displacement, a refugee crisis and poverty, she continued, emphasizing the role of international security forces in that regard.  The Independent Human Rights Commission was also concerned about mounting threats and intimidation tactics aimed at civil society, especially groups advocating human and women’s rights.  Emphasizing that economic development remained critical to empowering the people, she said more than 40 per cent of them lived below the poverty line and more than 60 per cent faced food insecurity.  The international community and the Afghan Government must continue to invest in the economy and in trade, she stressed, pointing out that the Pakistan’s closure of their common border had had an adverse effect on every-day people.

While welcoming meaningful steps towards peace, she asked:  “If Da’esh and other terrorist groups are not to be negotiated with, then why are some countries talking to the Taliban?”  Describing the Taliban as terrorists, she said the Government must do more to protect the Hazara ethnic group, which continued to face systematic targeting by the Taliban and by Da’esh.  The recent attacks in front of Parliament, the Supreme Court, a police station and a hospital in Kabul demonstrated that terrorists continued to kill innocent people with no regard for basic human rights, she said, recalling that more than 11,000 people had been killed and injured in in 2016.  Afghanistan must fight human rights violations and torture, she said, cautioning that the creation of parallel structures for short-term “quick fixes” that undermined the actual responsibilities of formal institutions would not solve the problem.  Human rights, development, peace and security were interconnected and required stable, strong, transparent and accountable institutions, as well as inclusive participation by citizens, she emphasized.

Statements

MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan), recalling the dozens of terrorist attacks that had occurred across his country in recent months, claiming scores of innocent lives, said they had generally been plotted beyond the Durand Line.  “This, Mr. President, is the fundamental factor which needs to be addressed,” he emphasized, noting that Council condemnations of those attacks urged States to cooperate actively with the Afghan authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.  Nevertheless, impunity continued.  “Let me be very clear,” he stressed.  “The conflict in our country is not home-grown, as some desperately and deceptively try to portray.”  On the contrary, Afghanistan was the nexus of illicit narcotics, violent extremism and State-sponsored terrorism with regional and global consequences.

Tragically, he continued, those factors had morphed into an “undeclared war” by a neighbouring State that for many years had facilitated — and continued to facilitate and orchestrate — violence through proxy forces and more than 20 terrorist networks.  “These groups benefit from a full-fledged external infrastructure to keep Afghanistan off-balance,” he said.  Against that backdrop, a series of unfortunate terrorist attacks in Pakistan had killed dozens and wounded many more innocent men, women and children in February, yet that country’s Government had immediately, and without regard for investigative process or clear facts, blamed Afghanistan.  It had resorted to increased breaches of Afghan territorial integrity, closing its main border crossings, blocking trade and transit, and harassing Afghan nationals in Pakistan.  Since January to date, at least 59 violations of Afghan territory by Pakistani military forces had been recorded.  That country’s Government had also issued a list of 76 suspected terrorists inside Afghanistan, which, after inspection, had been found to be in “desperate need of verification”.

Afghanistan called upon Pakistan to desist from using radical terrorists as a “foreign policy accessory”, and to genuinely join the international fight against all forms and shades of terrorism, he said.  Underlining that talks leading to a peace process would only succeed when that country revised its policies, prohibited the use of sanctuaries, curbed terrorist financing and renounced violence, he went on to call for “healthy interactions” between the two countries.  The Quadrilateral Cooperation Group and the recent six-party Moscow Conference on Afghanistan could prove useful in that regard, but any prospect for success in peace efforts rested on a number of important principles:  the existence of political will and an impartial, agreed international arbiter; agreement among all sides on the scope of dialogue and negotiations, eventually to be guaranteed by the international community; willingness on the part of all sides to address the root causes of conflict; agreement by all actors to take the complex and evolving regional and global security architecture into account; and observing the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in relation to Afghanistan.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said 2017 would continue to present grave challenges for Afghanistan’s security and urged concrete results to counter negative trends.  There must be progress on the anti-corruption and reform agenda, and it was also of key importance to strengthen socioeconomic development and provide employment, he added, emphasizing the need to strengthen society’s resilience.  That would entail supporting core industries like agriculture through market rehabilitation, as well as the Government’s National Comprehensive Agriculture Development Priority Programme.  As for the need to address imminent security threats, he said UNAMA must continue to coordinate various regional cooperation efforts on that front.  Afghanistan required a combination of short-term efforts and mid- to long‑term engagement, he said, while emphasizing that only actual implementation and outcomes would bring hope to the Afghan people.  That meant fewer casualties, higher employment, better training and more land for improved agricultural production.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), noting that Afghanistan’s security situation had been worse in 2016 than in 2015, said the increasing number of terrorist attacks clearly indicated a further deterioration.  Illegal trafficking of drugs had been further complicating the security situation in Afghanistan and the wider region, he added, noting the increase in poppy cultivation and opium production.  Terrorists and other armed groups had certainly been profiting from the production and trafficking of narcotics, and Government anti-trafficking efforts must be supported by the international community, including the and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  Only an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political process could ensure long-term security, he emphasized.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) said Afghan security forces must have the capacity to address challenges more effectively and autonomously.  Expressing concern over the increase in the number of civilian casualties and the alarming numbers of the internally displaced, he said that in order to increase opportunities for dialogue involving all sides, it was vital first to improve conditions within Afghanistan, and for the Government to meet the needs of its people.  It was crucial that reform efforts ensure long-term gains since consistently failing initiatives would break any trust between the people and the Government, he cautioned.  Concerned that the deteriorating security situation continued to harm progress on education, he stressed that, although the Government could count on the international community’s full support, it must be in the “driving seat” and continue to be held accountable to its people.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) declared his country’s commitment to supporting the Afghan people on their path to a democratic, prosperous and peaceful society.  While there had been progress in some areas, the economic, political and security outlook remained bleak, he noted, adding that moving forward would require that the Government implement the economic and political reforms outlined at the Brussels Donor Conference last October.  Welcoming UNAMA’s support for Afghanistan’s assumption of responsibility for security, governance and development, he urged the international community to support equitable growth that would deliver employment and prosperity for all Afghans.  Furthermore, the Government should take steps towards holding free, inclusive and transparent elections in which women would participate fully, he said, emphasizing that UNAMA should pay greater attention to their participation in electoral and political processes.  Additionally, women’s inclusion in the peace process, especially the peace agreement with Hizb-i Islami, was vital.  Calling upon the parties to end attacks against civilians, he said Sweden supported Afghan-owned and Afghan-led efforts for unity and cooperation.

ALEXIS LAMEK (France), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, while categorically condemning all the recent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, said the Brussels Donor Conference had been a reminder that “the international community is still standing by Afghanistan”.  While the deteriorating security situation remained deeply troubling, “we must not falter” in countering violence and protecting civilians, he emphasized.  Resuming dialogue with the Taliban was of critical importance, he said, calling upon all States of the region to exert their influence to help restore peace.  Drug trafficking continued to finance terrorist activities in Afghanistan and must also be addressed, he said, adding that the United Nations and its partners must continue to support refugees and internally displaced persons in the country.

WU HAITAO (China), noting that Afghanistan was currently in a crucial transitional stage, said the international community must provide support in a number of key areas.  First, it should vigorously support the security situation, including by helping its security forces respond better to terrorism, transnational organized crime and trafficking, he said.  It must also steadfastly promote the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led national reconciliation process, the only path to long-term peace.  The international community must also provide substantive assistance to help the Government build up its capabilities, while fully respecting the Afghan people’s right to choose their own system of governance.  Additionally, the international community must effectively help Afghanistan on its path towards regional economic cooperation, he stressed.  Noting that China and Afghanistan had long been good friends and close neighbours, he pledged to support the latter, both bilaterally, through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and through the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, as well as other regional processes.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) expressed concern about the lack of progress in reconciliation talks between the Government and the Taliban.  Noting that the security situation had deteriorated significantly, he said that, against the backdrop of persistent terrorist actions, the international community’s role in tackling Al-Qaida and Da’esh remained critical.  The human rights situation was also a source of alarm, he said, noting that women and children continued to pay a very heavy price.  Senegal was also concerned about the large number of refugees and internally displaced persons, he said, emphasizing that the Afghan Government could not shoulder their needs alone.  Welcoming regional cooperation agreements as vital in ensuring progress in the political, economic and human rights spheres, he called on the international community to maintain its solidarity with and support for Afghanistan.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) condemned the recent attack on a hospital in Kabul, expressing alarm at the targeting of civilians, particularly women and children and noting a particular spike in the number of child victims.  Prospects for women’s progress remained bleak, he said, urging the international media “not to sweep this under the carpet”.  It was vital to remain aware of attacks suffered by the Afghan people, he said, calling also for continuing concrete initiatives to support reconciliation efforts and combat drug trafficking.  Bolivia also called upon the international community to support the humanitarian response plan for some 5.7 million Afghan people, he said.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) urged the international community, particularly UNAMA to mediate between the Government and the Taliban, adding that the Government, for its part, must reach its own internal agreement.  As for Government anti‑corruption efforts, he said that creating a centre for justice was a step on the right path.  Egypt condemned the latest barbaric terrorist attacks, and was concerned about their rise over the past year.  The narcotics trade threatened security in Afghanistan and Central Asia as a whole, he said, expressing concern over the recent spike in opium production.  “Drugs are one of the main sources of armed militia and terrorism groups,” he noted, pledging his country’s continuing support for Afghan efforts to combat terrorism and realize stability and peace.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay), categorically condemning Wednesday’s brutal terrorist attack against a medical facility in Kabul, called for full compliance with Council resolution 2286 (2016), stressing that “those crimes cannot go unpunished”, and that the perpetrators must be brought to justice.  Expressing support for the upcoming extension of UNAMA’s mandate, he said the Mission had made progress in planning for the 2018 elections and in combating corruption.  While noting that both the security and human rights situations had deteriorated over the last year, with children bearing the brunt of the violence, he welcomed Afghanistan’s country’s recent decision to criminalize child slavery and called for the full eradication of that abominable practice.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), commending the Afghan leadership’s continuing efforts in proactive engagement with opposition political parties, said the newly established Independent Election Commission must introduce reforms to ensure impartial and successful parliamentary and regional elections.  The exclusion of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the Islamic Party of Afghanistan, from the Security Council Sanctions List could encourage opposition parties and the Taliban to engage actively in the peace process, he noted.  Afghanistan remained fragile and unstable, posing security threats to the wider region, including Central Asian States, he said, commending the efforts of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Afghan army and police.  He emphasized the critical need to combat poppy cultivation and opium production through closer regional cooperation and cooperation among origin, transit and destination countries involved in drug trafficking.  Cooperation was also critical for Afghanistan’s economic revival in terms of regional trade, as well as economic and transit-transport matters, he said, emphasizing that counter-terrorism efforts would not be effective without properly addressing development issues.

MICHELE SISON (United States) spotlighted the recent progress achieved in strengthening the National Unity Government, reforming the electoral system, countering corruption and accelerating efforts towards an inclusive, Afghan-led reconciliation process — all in spite of the recent brutal terrorist attacks.  Calling on the Taliban to enter into negotiations with the Government, and on neighbouring countries to increase pressure on the group to do so, she outlined a number of serious challenges, including the escalation of attacks by the Taliban, the Haqqani network, ISIL and other terrorist groups, and the massive displacement of people fleeing their homes.  The United States strongly supported the extension of UNAMA’s mandate, she said, noting that the Mission’s provincial offices were the only international presence in many places throughout Afghanistan.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine), endorsing the European Union’s statement, said his country was committed to supporting the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led national reconciliation process, urging regional players to set aside differences and exert influence on the Taliban by depriving them shelter and forcing them to renounce aggression.  Suicide attacks by the Taliban, ISIL and their affiliates continued to claim a high death toll and he expressed concern about such violence against diplomatic, humanitarian and medical personnel, as well as summary executions, discrimination against women and girls, and the use of child soldiers.  Sanctions against Taliban leaders could help persuade terrorists to participate in peace talks, he said, welcoming efforts by Afghan officials to preserve the Government’s unity and urging them to do their utmost to fight corruption and impunity.

VLADIMIR SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said his delegation would be ready to agree to the extension of UNAMA’s mandate, with a few slight changes.  Afghanistan, long a good friend and neighbour, was today going through hard times, with increasing terrorist attacks hampering international efforts to support the country, and civilians suffering at record rates.  Addressing Afghanistan’s complex problems would require a collective regional and international effort, he said, urging stakeholders to avoid “glossing over” ISIL’s ambitions in the country.  Noting that “tried and tested” regional structures were needed to assist Afghanistan’s counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics efforts, he highlighted the Russian Federation’s support for the national reconciliation process.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom), Council President for March, spoke in his national capacity, saying the recent abhorrent attacks in Kabul underscored the need for all actors to work together to bring peace to Afghanistan.  Noting that the violence would only increase as the winter weather receded in the coming weeks, he called for targeted efforts to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries and cut off their financing.  Sustained efforts were also needed to improve the human rights situation, he said, adding that, whereas the current situation was unrecognizable compared to that of 2001, “being better than 2001 is not the benchmark to aspire to”.  Further efforts were needed to ensure that human rights were a “given” and not a question, he said.  He went on to outline his country’s assistance in such areas as women’s empowerment and human rights monitoring and training.

HARALD BRAUN (Germany), endorsing the statement by the European Union, welcomed the peace agreement with Hizb-i Islami, the Afghanistan Government’s openness to peace negotiations with the Taliban and progress made in electoral reforms, especially the 1 March nomination of a Chief Electoral Officer.  A timetable should be made for the remaining reforms and the holding of credible, fair and free elections.  The fragile security situation remained the main challenge, amid a 24 per cent rise in child casualties since 2015.  Further, 1.5 million Afghans had been displaced internally or returned to Afghanistan from neighbouring countries in 2015.  Germany would support Afghan efforts to reintegrate refugees and was finalizing financial assistance agreements with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), World Food Programme (WFP), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).  He called on all parties to ensure that the return of refugees was conducted in a dignified manner and considered Afghanistan’s “absorption capacity”.

NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) rejected “baseless allegations” against his country by the representative of Afghanistan, emphasizing that the latter should deal with its many challenges instead of casting blame on others.  Afghanistan had consumed millions of dollars in international assistance with little to show for it, he pointed out, adding that shifting the blame to Pakistan would not help to resolve its challenges.  “This forum should not be misused for gratuitous sermons,” he stressed.  Despite having paid a staggering human and financial cost as a result of Afghanistan’s crises, Pakistan had nevertheless successfully broken the back of terrorist groups operating within its borders.  Some complained that its strong actions had pushed terrorists into Afghanistan, but the truth was that the latter’s weak border management was actually at fault, he said.

He went on to stress that Pakistan had exercised maximum restraint against that backdrop, adding that, although his country had been forced to close its borders temporarily, it had reopened them on purely humanitarian grounds.  “Singling out Pakistan and pinning the blame on it for everything that goes wrong in Afghanistan is neither fair nor accurate,” he said, underlining his country’s sincere engagement in the work of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group.  Pakistan also remained open to the repatriation of refugees, and deserved praise for having hosted more than 3 million Afghan refugees for some 40 years.  Furthermore, Pakistan was committed to regional efforts to combat terrorism and drug trafficking, he said, expressing hope that other partners would share its zeal on those issues.

GÜVEN BEGEÇ (Turkey) said his country would continue to support Afghanistan in its fight against terrorism.  Turkey also had maintained its contributions to development, having pledged another $150 million for the years 2018 to 2020 and $60 million for sustaining the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces during that period, in line with the decisions of the 2016 Warsaw Summit of NATO.  Turkey would continue to support Afghan security and development bilaterally and on multilateral platforms, he said, adding that the international support should encourage the various parts of the Afghan Government to work in harmony.  He welcomed efforts by the Afghan forces to fight terrorism and expressed hope that the agreement with Hizb-i Islami would serve as a model for others.

LISE H.J. GREGOIRE-VAN-HAAREN (Netherlands), endorsing the statement by the European Union, underscored the need for women’s meaningful participation in a peace process and welcomed the peace deal between the Afghan Government and Hizb-i Islami as an important step towards reconciliation.  However, armed clashes between Afghan security forces and the Taliban continued, and the Netherlands would continue to support the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces through the Resolute Support Mission.  Expressing concern about suffering among children, he said Afghanistan’s limited capacity to absorb internally displaced persons and returnees could lead to a growing number of people joining insurgency groups.  In response to the flash appeal in 2016, the Netherlands contributed €4.5 million in assistance to the most vulnerable groups, he said, expressing support for extending UNAMA’s mandate and welcoming efforts to enhance the position of women in Afghanistan.

SYED AKBARUDDIN (India), noting the success of terrorist groups in capturing and holding territory, said his country would stand with Afghanistan and support its capability to fight terrorism and violence.  There was no need either to differentiate between “good” and “bad” terrorists, or to play one group against the other, he said, emphasizing that all terrorist organizations, including the Taliban, Da’esh and Al-Qaida, must be treated as such, and their activities universally opposed.  It was obvious that the political process started by the United Nations and the sanctions regimes that the Council had split had not quite worked, he said, adding that the Council’s failure to act against Taliban leaders, as it had vowed to do, was now well documented.  Afghanistan was seeing almost a million Afghans return, many involuntarily, to the most difficult security and economic situation their homeland had ever witnessed, he said, urging the international community to take concrete action to protect millions of Afghans.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) said sustained international support was needed now more than ever to support the Government’s fight against terrorism.  Recent attacks perpetuated by Da’esh were clear indicators of the emerging security threat for Afghanistan and the wider region.  Security in Afghanistan directly and indirectly affected security on its border with Iran border, and strengthening regional cooperation with Afghanistan was therefore a priority and a major pathway towards peace, economic development and stability in the region.  The Trilateral Chahbahar Agreement involving Iran, India and Afghanistan would make it possible for Afghanistan to access world markets, he said, noting that such access could potentially have a lasting economic impact.  On the increase in opium production, he said any rise was a reflection of the prevailing insecurity and poverty.  Stronger international cooperation and commitment on the part of donors would be essential in reversing that trend, he emphasized.  As host to some 3 million Afghan nationals, Iran would continue to provide them with basic commodities, health and education, he added.

JOÃO VALE DE ALMEIDA, Head of the European Union Delegation, said all international security, political, economic, development and regional efforts should be aligned to further a process towards peace.  Stressing the bloc’s full support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process that included all Afghan citizens and preserved the country’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said the Hizb-i Islami peace accord must be implemented and welcomed, in that regard, the Council’s decision to delist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.  The bloc would continue to support Afghan authorities in efforts to increase women’s participation in society, he said, noting that 53 per cent of all European Union programmes had gender equality as an objective.

Further, he said efforts to combat corruption should be strengthened, while security sector reform should advance civilian policing, building on the achievements of the European Union Police Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL).  He also advocated for political will and leadership among Afghan stakeholders as necessary for delivering credible elections, expressing support for early engagement with electoral management bodies.  The Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development, signed by the European Union and Afghanistan on 18 February, would provide the basis for a mutually beneficial relationship in such areas as the rule of law, health, rural development, education and science and technology.  Regional cooperation was also essential, especially in confronting terrorism and addressing protracted displacement.  UNAMA must continue to work with Afghanistan on the inclusion of internally displaced persons and returnees.

GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) said that, despite declines in a number of indicators, as shown in the Secretary-General’s report, 2017 could be a year of substantive progress in Afghanistan if the success of the Warsaw and Brussels conferences could be capitalized upon.  Welcoming that country’s efforts to combat corruption, and to reach out to opinion leaders within and beyond the Government, she stressed that a stable Afghanistan remained central to the region’s stability.  “Violent extremism has never respected national boundaries,” she said, encouraging all countries in the region to build on the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process by engaging in dialogue and cooperation to advance peace and stability.  In Warsaw, Australia had extended its deployment of around 270 personnel to the NATO Resolute Support Mission, she said, noting that it also remained among the top five donors contributing to the sustainment of Afghan forces and had contributed almost $19 million to the country in humanitarian assistance in 2016.

PASCAL BUFFIN (Belgium), associating himself with the European Union, condemned the recent attacks in Kabul.  Targeting a hospital was a particularly vile, cowardly and barbaric.  The targeting of children was appalling.  He urged that hospitals and schools must never be military targets.  The Afghan people who had been worn out by years of war deserved stability and prosperity.  The return to peace would not only benefit the Afghan people, but also their neighbours.  It was vital that the peace and reconciliation process bring together all sectors of society including those who oppose the Government.  The process must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.  Women must be fully involved in the process, he added, calling on all regional actors to encourage the resumption of peace talks.  Economic development would mean that the country would be less dependent on international aid and illicit trade.  Resources allocated to war could not be allocated in development, he added, commending the contributions of the United Nations staff in Afghanistan.

JUAN MANUEL GONZÁLEZ DE LINARES PALOU (Spain) condemned the recent attacks on civilians and stressed the need to respect international law and protect civilians in the event of armed conflict.  The promotion and protection of human rights was inseparable for the well-being of any country.  It was crucial for the Council to maintain its spirit of commitment and consensus on supporting UNAMA.  The Afghan people, however, must be the true owners of their future.  There had been much progress in the areas of combating corruption and promoting the rights of women, however, it was important to acknowledge that the security situation remained grave.  All Afghan political actors must be united to show their commitment to democracy and progress.  In addition to Afghanistan consolidating the democratic system of governance, neighbouring countries must work with renewed efforts towards Afghan reconciliation.  No effort must be spared, he added.

MICHAEL GRANT (Canada), commending progress made to date by the Afghan National Unity Government, nevertheless voiced concern over the continuing deterioration of the country’s security situation.  Echoing UNAMA’s statement to the effect that all parties to the conflict must take urgent steps to halt the killing and maiming of civilians, he said Afghanistan’s neighbours should continue to work with the Government to better coordinate and manage the return of refugees in order to support increased regional stability and decrease violence.  Commending the Government for launching its strategy and action plan for eliminating violence against women for the period 2016-2020, and urging it to make operational the dedicated trust fund aimed at providing emergency services to women survivors of life-threatening acts of violence, he said Canada’s programming in the country supported women’s empowerment and inclusion in development.

For information media. Not an official record.