14 April 1997


14 April 1997

Press Release


19970414 Speakers Alarmed by Reports of Renewed Military Offensives; Concern Also Expressed over Presence of Terrorists, Growing Narcotics Trade

Alarmed by reports of possible renewed military offensives in Afghanistan, speakers in the Security Council this afternoon urged the warring parties to cease military activities and engage in a political dialogue to form a broadly based, fully representative Government.

As the Council began an exchange of views on the situation in Afghanistan that will continue on Tuesday afternoon, 15 April, representatives called for the cessation of international interference in Afghanistan and urged the parties to eschew the idea of a military solution to the conflict. Several speakers also expressed concern over the presence of international terrorists and the growth of the narcotics trade in Afghanistan, as well as the treatment of women in the territory under the control of the Taliban.

The Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Abdul Rahim Ghafoorzai, said that Taliban soldiers, heavily reinforced from outside Afghanistan, were preparing a new offensive in northern Afghanistan. Since a "positive regional atmosphere" was important to the cessation of the current crisis, he called on the newly-elected Prime Minister of Pakistan to shift his country towards the path of mutual respect and neighbourliness.

Joining a number of speakers in expressing particular concern about the situation of women in Afghanistan, the representative of Chile urged that the human rights of women not be "sacrificed on the altar of peace". The Security Council should not endorse a peace settlement which consolidated condemnable practices against women, he said.

While calling for an immediate end to the conflict and a practical dialogue, the representative of the United States stressed that, contrary to some reports, the United States had not supported the Taliban or any other group. On the other hand it did not blame the Taliban for the ills of Afghanistan, for which all parties were responsible. He expressed deep concern, as did other speakers, about terrorist/military training camps, narcotics production and drug trafficking and human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls.

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On regional efforts to respond to the situation in Afghanistan, the representative of the Russian Federation highlighted the efforts of the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in pursuing peace. The United Nations should play a crucial role in resolving the conflict and the Council should follow up the discussion with a presidential statement, he said. Also supporting the central role of the United Nations Special Mission in Afghanistan, the United Kingdom stressed the need to end arms supplies to the warring factions and called attention to the arms embargo implemented by the European Union. Other countries should follow suit, he said.

Statements were also made this afternoon by the representatives of China, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, France, Poland, Republic of Korea, Kenya, Japan, Costa Rica and Sweden.

The meeting, which began at 4:20 p.m., was suspended at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will resume Tuesday afternoon.

Work Programme

The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in Afghanistan.

The Council had before it a report on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (S/1997/240). The report states that since the beginning of 1997, the Taliban forces had swept through more of the positions held to the north of Kabul by the opposition coalition called the Supreme Council for the Defence of Afghanistan (SCDA), which is composed of: the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan, led by General Rashid Dostum; the Jamiat-i-Islami, led by Burhanuddin Rabbani and Commander Ahmed Shah Massoud; and the Hezb-i-Wahdat led by Karim Khalili. The Taliban seem to be intent on pressing ahead with their military effort to take the remaining areas still controlled by SCDA, says the report.

According to the report, the rival sides continue to seek political legitimacy for their military activities. The Taliban appear determined to gain military and political control of the whole of Afghanistan and to establish their vision of an Islamic State. Now controlling two thirds of the country, the Taliban has demanded formal recognition by the international community. The SCDA alliance opposes that effort. Both the Taliban and SCDA were widely believed to have been receiving material and financial support from external allies.

In response to that situation, the Government of Iran convened a meeting of the Afghan parties at Tehran on 25 and 26 January. The head of the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan, Norbert Holl, attended the meeting as an observer. However, the Taliban and Hezb-i-Wahdat did not take part. The Tehran meeting adopted a declaration urging the warring parties to abandon hostilities in favour of dialogue.

The United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan has continued to focus its efforts on an immediate cease-fire through negotiations, according to the report. From 13 to 15 January, the Special Mission convened at Islamabad an Intra-Afghan Working Group, which, for the first time, brought together the representatives of the Taliban and SCDA. The Working Group discussed: a cease-fire, including the establishment of an all-party commission to supervise it; the exchange of prisoners and bodies; the status of Kabul as a neutral city administered by a civilian authority; the deployment of a neutral police force; and the establishment of a broad-based Islamic government in Afghanistan.

The second meeting of the Intra-Afghan Working Group was held at the office of the Special Mission in Islamabad from 24 to 26 February. They discussed confidence-building measures, the draft of a cease-fire agreement prepared by the Special Mission, the exchange of prisoners and the situation

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in Kabul. Both sides agreed to continue negotiations.

The report observes that the military situation in Afghanistan was "dangerously fluid" and might soon deteriorate further with the onset of the spring thaw. The Secretary-General proposes the convening of a meeting of concerned countries using the formula that was used for the meeting held in New York on 18 November 1996. The aim of the meeting would be to reassess the situation following recent political/military developments and to discuss how best to promote a negotiated settlement of the conflict, including reinforcing the United Nations peace-making efforts.


ABDUL RAHIM GHAFOORZAI, Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, said that any effort aimed at legitimizing a mercenary group such as the Taliban posed a dangerous precedent to international relations. Independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity were fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter. The international community should condemn the recruiting, arming, training and dispatching of armed mercenary groups in violation of international law.

Every member of the Security Council knew that the Taliban had committed gross violations of human rights, he said, particularly the beating of women and the cultivation and export of narcotics. International observers, such as The New York Times, the head of the United Nations Special Mission, Norbert Holl, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Choong Hyu Paik, had noted that the Taliban had ethnically cleansed some areas, forcing out 140,000 non-Pashtun Afghans.

He said that reliable reports indicated that Taliban soldiers, recently heavily reinforced from outside, were preparing a massive attack against northern Afghanistan in the next few days. His Government had requested the Council to take appropriate preventive measures to halt the onslaught, which otherwise would negatively affect the peace process. A "positive regional atmosphere" was important to the cessation of the current crisis in Afghanistan. That desire had been well-received by all neighbouring States, except one. His Government was waiting to see a change in the stance and attitude of that neighbour towards cooperation, understanding and participation in the peace initiatives. He hoped that the newly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan would abandon the stance of the former administration and shift Pakistan to the path of mutual respect and neighbourliness.

The proposed development of gas and oil pipelines from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and perhaps India, through the territory of Afghanistan, had been characterized by the Far Eastern Economic Review as "a new version of Central Asia's nineteenth century great game", he continued. His Government was aware of the economic significance of that project and hoped that industrialized

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countries would see the pipeline as a complement to peace and security, rather than fuel for conflict. The pipeline could best be constructed by a consortium of multinational corporations. His Government would be ready to negotiate with a company that would not tie the project to any political conditions.

The report of the Secretary General had noted that the Taliban appeared determined to gain military and political control over Afghanistan, he said. His Government believed that the Security Council should take appropriate measures, including sanctions, against the Taliban and its supporters who were supplying arms and logistical support. Continuation of assistance to the Taliban threatened democracy, human rights and peace in Afghanistan and the region as a whole.

SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said the situation in Afghanistan maintained its alarming momentum. The political situation had deteriorated and the situation of women was particularly alarming. The warring factions of the country had not heeded numerous appeals. The Taliban movement continued its military initiative. Due to the intransigence of the Taliban, little political progress had been made, despite the efforts of the United Nations Special Mission. He called upon all parties to cooperate with the Special Mission. Resolution of the conflict was possible through the establishment of a broad-based, representative government. The warring factions must put aside the use of force in the interests of the Afghan people.

The United Nations must play a crucial role in negotiating a settlement, he said. The conflict in Afghanistan should not remain on the sideline in the work of the Council. The Council's decisions must be implemented, particularly in limiting arms supplies to the factions. The complex humanitarian situation required a major effort and should not be used as a bargaining chip. His Gobernment was making maximum efforts to help resolve the Afghan conflict, working with its partners in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The joint efforts of all concerned States could contribute to a resolution. Following the debate, the Council should issue a presidential statement.

WANG XUEXIAN (China) said that the Afghan conflict had destabilized the region. National reconciliation was the key to a peaceful settlement of the conflict and all sides should show sincere political will by immediately implementing a cease-fire. The attempt to use military means to settle the conflict would result in dire misery for the Afghan people. The parties should "bury the hatchet" and participate in negotiations that could lead to a broadly based Government. He hoped that the United Nations would continue to play a major role in the settlement of the situation in Afghanistan.

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NABIL ELARABY (Egypt) said that the situation in Afghanistan had devastated the country and was a cause of tension in the whole region. Terrorist activities were being carried out by extremists of various factions. Also, two camps for the training of terrorists had been opened in southern Afghanistan and personalities who led and financed terrorist groups in various countries were active there.

Practical steps should be taken to achieve compliance with the resolutions of the Security Council on Afghanistan, he said. Some meetings had led to a cease-fire, the exchange of prisoners and other confidence- building measures. The United Nations Special Mission should endeavour to expand those peace initiatives. The proposal of the Secretary-General for a meeting of the warring factions, outside of Afghanistan and under the supervision of the United Nations, could be a solid basis for peace initiatives. He hoped that the Secretary-General would present a clear plan in that regard.

The Non-Aligned Movement had expressed its concern over the situation in Afghanistan, he said. That concern -- as well as that of the CIS -- should be used to support those seeking peace. Some of the parties in Afghanistan appeared to lack the political will necessary for peace. The point of departure for any United Nations effort was the cessation of all outside military support for the conflict.

The tense situation of "no peace" in Afghanistan, as well as the continued presence of land-mines, refugees and the humanitarian crisis, had had grave repercussions on the people of Afghanistan. The national infrastructure needed rehabilitation, but economic assistance should be linked to the degree of flexibility demonstrated by the various parties towards the peace process.

Sir JOHN WESTON (United Kingdom) said he hoped that spring would be the season for a peace offensive, not renewed military action. He endorsed the role of the United Nations Special Mission and lauded its success in establishing contacts among the parties. All nations and parties should cooperate with those efforts and other competing initiatives should not be encouraged. He expressed concern about continued supplies of arms for the factions. The European Union had adopted an arms embargo and other nations should follow suit. There could be no peace through a military solution. The United Nations priority must be an immediate cease-fire and the establishment of a broad-based and representative government. All factions must be open to working with others and in respecting the rights of all faiths.

He said that among the most immediate issues were demining and economic reconstruction. Also of particular importance were efforts to root out the drug trade. His country had supported United Nations effforts to eradicate the problem and remained a major donor for humanitarian aid. He emphasized

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the necessity of a non-discriminatory approach and respect for the equal rights of women. It made sense for the United Nations relief efforts to be carefully coordinated. The international community must cut off military aid to all factions and, at the same time, continue humanitarian assistance.

ALFREDO LOPES CABRAL (Guinea-Bissau) said that for many years Afghanistan had been in the forefront of international concern. He outlined the historical efforts to establish a broad-based government, which had fallen prey to foreign interests and interference. The evolution of events that crushed the Afghan people had only become more severe. Many efforts had been made to seek a negotiated solution to the conflict. War continued because the factions had been unable and unwilling to reach any agreements. The latest reports from the country were more and more alarming. The international community had a duty to act. The situation was imperiling peace in the region. A cease-fire, including the demilitarization of Kabul, was vital.

He expressed gratitude and admiration for the efforts of the United Nations Special Mission. For the Council discussion to be useful, it must take into account the views and stakes of all the parties involved. The countries of the region must convince the factions to negotiate without delay. Those countries could play a decisive role in the search for peace. National reconciliation depended on the participation of all the Afghan factions. New political, social and economic structures were needed that respected all groups and genders. The continuation of discriminatory laws for Afghan women and girls was not acceptable. Furthermore, the country could not be allowed to be a major route in the international drug trade.

ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) said that little progress had been made in the formulation of solutions to the crisis. The warring factions had not acted upon repeated United Nations appeals for peace. They seemed resolved to seek a military solution. Foreign interference continued in Afghanistan, as did serious humanitarian problems, including discrimination against women.

He supported the efforts of the Special Representative of the Secretary- General. His efforts could only bear fruit, however, if all States acted in compliance with the principles of the United Nations Charter. No international players should act preferentially towards any warring faction. International governments should also refrain from supplying weapons to the conflict. France was maintaining an embargo in that regard. The international community should make clear that international calls for peace and security were unanimous.

ZBIGNIEW MATUSZEWSKI (Poland) said the continuation of attempts to resolve the Afghan conflict by military means only perpetuated the present ordeal and aggravated the catastrophic humanitarian situation of the civilian population. Only genuine national reconciliation and respect for the interests of all ethnic and religious population groups in Afghanistan, as

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well as the long-standing tradition of the Afghan statehood, could provide a true basis for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The warring factions should finally acknowledge the fact that their country was the common heritage of all Afghans.

The parties throughout Afghanistan should respect the human rights of their people and demonstrate tolerance and moderation in their exercise of control over various parts of the territory, he said. Humanitarian problems and human rights abuses resulting from the protracted armed struggle constituted an additional destabilizing factor. The dramatic deterioration of the social and economic status of women in the country remained a source of particular deep concern. Political settlement and peace could have real impact on the humanitarian situation.

While some humanitarian activities were encouraging, he said a cessation of armed hostilities and political stability were indispensable if reconstruction measures were to have a lasting effect. The United Nations had an important role to play. In view of the possible intensification of military confrontation, international efforts to impress upon the Afghan parties the need to solve the conflict in a peaceful way must be increased.

JUAN SOMAVIA (Chile) said that it was always painful to witness a situation where political leaders seemed indifferent to the suffering of their people. In the situation in Afghanistan, it was very seldom the leaders that suffered. Those who sought a military solution were deceiving themselves. It was ominous to see that new military initiatives were under way. Once the snows melted, it seemed that a "violent spring" would ensue.

If one of the factions used force to seize control of the territory of Afghanistan, it might seek to be legitimized through recognition at the United Nations, he said. The international community did not seem to be offering an incentive to those who would resolve the matter through negotiation, rather than force. The current international situation seemed to be paradoxically favouring those who would resolve the matter by force.

In the contemporary world, no faction would engage in a civil war without outside assistance, he said. The supply of arms, terrorism and drug trafficking were all forms of interference in the internal situation of Afghanistan. Those activities threatened to spread the conflict to the entire region. He was also concerned over human rights abuses, whether committed by the Taliban or any other faction.

There was no justification for the denial of education and human rights to women, he continued. Women who did not comply with the dress code of the Taliban had been subjected to beatings. That was not an obsession on the part of some international observers; it was a reality in the territory under the control of the Taliban. Religion was no justification, as many Muslim

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countries defended the rights of women. The human rights of women should not be sacrificed on the altar of peace. He did not want the Council to look the other way if a peace agreement was put into place that consolidated condemnable practices against women.

SUNG HONG CHOI (Republic of Korea) called for an immediate end to hostilities in Afghanistan. The dire humanitarian situation of that country was a concern for all, as were the ongoing human rights violations attributable to the religious intolerance of the Taliban, including their discrimination against women. A military solution to the conflict was impossible. There was no alternative to a negotiated political settlement.

He said any settlement should include an immediate cease-fire, the demilitarization of Kabul and the establishment of a broad-based transitional government of national unity and reconciliation. The unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Afghanistan should be respected by all States. Outside arms flows undermined peace and added to the intractability of the conflict. An arms embargo was in order.

Any political settlement in Afghanistan should take into account the political and military realities on the ground, he continued. The Taliban was an important player to be reckoned with, as it controlled two thirds of the country. As a practical measure, it made sense for the United Nations to engage the Taliban in constructive dialogue. That should not, however, be taken as acknowledgement of the Taliban's claim to represent Afghanistan at the United Nations. That was an issue to be considered once the transitional government of national unity and reconciliation had been organized. The Afghan warring parties, in particular the Taliban, must prevent the areas under their control from being used for drug trafficking and for the training and sheltering of terrorists.

NJUGUNA M. MAHUGU (Kenya) said that six principles guided his Government's assessment of the situation in Afghanistan: sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country was paramount; non-interference in internal affairs must be maintained; disputes should be settled through negotiations; equal rights and opportunities should be available to all, including women; the Afghan people should determine their own destiny; and the United Nations should play a central mediating role.

His Government's fears of a spring offensive by the Taliban had been justified, he said. That upheaval exacerbated an already tenuous political and humanitarian situation. His Government noted with apprehension that the Taliban was in almost total military control of Afghanistan, and that they lacked the incentive to concede anything in negotiations. That military advantage had made it almost impossible for the United Nations Special Mission to obtain meaningful concessions from the Taliban. The spring offensive of

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the Taliban was a clear attempt to solidify military gains and extend its hegemony. It was not the action of an entity willing to negotiate.

Continued material and financial support for the Taliban and for the Supreme Council for the Defence of Afghanistan (SCDA) were aggravating an already volatile situation. All "meddlers" should assist in de-escalating the conflict by stopping the supply of weapons and military personnel.

HISASHI OWADA (Japan) said maintaining the territorial integrity and unity of Afghanistan as a stable sovereign State was important for the sub- continent of Asia and for the Asian regions adjoining it. The hostilities in Afghanistan were hampering efforts to tackle such vital problems as narcotics and international terrorism. His Government would, therefore, continue to support the United Nations in its central role in international efforts to achieve an early and peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Despite the efforts of the Special Mission, the situation remained serious, he continued. Any attempt to resolve the conflict by military means would not bring about a durable peace in the country. All factions should be brought to agree to an immediate cease-fire and begin negotiations on the establishment of a government of national unity.

He said his Government would be willing to consider hosting a meeting among the parties, in cooperation with the United Nations, if such an offer could assist in bringing the parties to the negotiating table. An impartial third party had a role to play in complementing the activities of the Special Mission and inducing the parties in the conflict to agree on a cease-fire. Japan was assisting the efforts of the Special Mission to promote direct contacts among the four major parties. Humanitarian assistance must continue and an integrated process of economic cooperation and national reconstruction must also begin. The United Nations should examine the possibilities of extending assistance in reconstruction and rehabilitation. His Government was also interested in cooperating with the United Nations in organizing an international conference to address the problem of post-conflict reconstruction.

EDWARD GNEHM (United States) said the Taliban's military advance north of Kabul and its extremely conservative social policy had greatly alarmed Afghanistan's neighbours. Opinions varied on whether the Taliban could prevail over the forces of General Dostam and Commander Massoud, but it remained a possibility. His Government had repeatedly urged an end to the fighting and a practical dialogue in the spirit of compromise. Stability could not be achieved if one group tried to rule all of the country on its own. All groups must work towards a broadly representative government acceptable to all Afghans.

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He went on to stress that, contrary to some reports, the United States had not supported the Taliban or any other group. On the other hand, it did not blame the Taliban for the ills of Afghanistan, for which all parties were responsible. Deep concerns had been expressed about terrorist/military training camps, on narcotics production and on drug trafficking and human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls. The United States had reminded the Taliban of their responsibility to reassure their neighbours that they had no intention of challenging their territorial integrity or exporting Taliban ideology.

The Council should remain concerned about the unrelenting flow of weapons and equipment to the warring parties by outside powers, despite disclaimers by all, he said. The United States stood fully behind the efforts of the United Nations Special Mission. The Afghan people should not be faced with a stark choice between security with political constraints and social intolerance, or no security at all.

MELVIN SAENZ BIOLLEY (Costa Rica) said that the Taliban and the Supreme Council should participate in good faith in the peace process. It was necessary to initiate negotiations among the parties. The United Nations and friendly neighbouring States should also take part in a negotiated solution to the conflict.

The parties to the conflict had an obligation to comply with international humanitarian law and to recognize the rights of the people under their control, he said. His Government placed particular importance on the rights of women and girl children. The humanitarian work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other non-governmental organizations was commendable. All parties should desist interfering with their work. Further, all States with influence over the parties should desist from importing weapons into Afghanistan. Finally, the trade of narcotics and of the artistic and cultural patrimony of Afghanistan to finance the conflict was both illegal and immoral.

PETER OSVALD (Sweden) said that the only acceptable road to peace in Afghanistan led through negotiated settlement, beginning with an immediate cease-fire and the formation of a broad-based transitional Government, followed by democratic elections.

Outside involvement and interference in the conflict, including the continued supply of arms to the warring parties, must cease, he said. All States should commit themselves, as the European Union had done, not to deliver arms to Afghanistan. The United Nations was the most appropriate and credible facilitator for a political settlement between the Afghan parties. All possible support should be given to the United Nations Special Mission. It was in the interest of all States, in the region and elsewhere, that

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contributions to the peace efforts be channelled through or coordinated with the Special Mission.

Continuing violations of human rights and increasing discrimination against women and girls was a cause of great concern, as was the continued use of Afghanistan as a training base for terrorist activities, he said. Drug trafficking had far-reaching negative effects both inside and outside Afghanistan. Concerted international efforts were necessary to confront that dangerous threat. Continued international humanitarian assistance contributed positively to the peace process and to national reconciliation in Afghanistan.

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For information media. Not an official record.