17 September 2015
7526th Meeting (AM)

Global Community Must Protect War-Weary Afghanistan amid Threats to Stability, Self-Reliance, Top United Nations Official Tells Security Council

As the threats faced by Afghanistan’s war-weary people did not all emanate from their own territory, they were entitled to international support, particularly from the region, in dealing with those pressing challenges, the top United Nations official in that country told the Security Council today.

“Afghanistan’s path to stability and self-reliance cannot be taken for granted,” Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told the 15-member body during his quarterly briefing.  The Council was also briefed by Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The refugee exodus reflected the despondency of many Afghans, Mr. Haysom said, emphasizing the need for a clear signal of international support to mitigate it.

Following his previous briefing, there had been many points of friction within the National Unity Government and between the Government and elements of the political elite, he said.  Since then, a number of positive developments had taken place, including signs of progress in the functioning of the Government.

With a few exceptions, all senior-level national posts had been filled and both the Council of Ministers and Cabinets were active.  He encouraged President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah to finalize the remaining appointments, particularly those of governors, Minister for Defence and Attorney General.  Electoral reforms were critical for the development of the country’s democratic foundation and they should be a source of stability bringing people together, not dividing them.

“The conflict continues to take a horrid toll on Afghan civilians,” Mr. Haysom said.  During the first eight months of 2015, UNAMA had documented the highest level of civilian causalities since it began recording that data.  This year’s conflict had been one of the most intense faced by the Afghan National Security Forces, he said, anticipating the intensification of the violence in the country to continue through 2015, which underscored the importance of renewing a viable peace process.

Reiterating his call for direct engagement between the Taliban and the Government, Mr. Haysom called on all neighbours to play a constructive role in suppressing the terrorism threat, including, but not limited to, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS), and in promoting an inter-Afghan peace process.  UNAMA would continue to engage, in the background, with the Government, the Taliban, neighbouring countries and the international community to promote a process that would allow Afghans to find an arrangement by which they could live in peace.

As requested by the Council, UNAMA, on behalf of the Secretary-General and in full consultation with the Government of Afghanistan and donors, had conducted an examination of the role, structure and activities of all United Nations entities in Afghanistan.  The discussions had clarified the needs and expectations of Afghanistan and allowed the United Nations to examine how it could better align its projects with Afghanistan’s priorities.  He expressed hope that the review would be useful to the Council in its future mandate.

Mr. Fedotov, in his briefing, noted that the present debate was taking place just days before world leaders would begin discussing a visionary and transformative development agenda — one that would link peace and security to sustainable development, highlighting the rule of law.  The situation in Afghanistan had made clear the need for such integrated approaches.  Last year, the country accounted for an estimated 85 per cent of global opium production and 75 per cent of global heroin production, with the gross value of the opiate economy estimated in 2014 at $2.84 billion.  “Illicit drugs are supporting instability, insurgency, corruption and organized crime,” he said.

Since his last report to the Council in December 2014, there had been new efforts by the Government to address opium production and trafficking, corruption and economic crime.  In June, UNODC and the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics had launched the Afghanistan Drug Reporting System and the National Mobilization against Narcotics initiative to involve communities, civil society, media and development agencies.  In addition, the Triangular Initiative of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, among other countries and stakeholders, served as an important platform for regional cooperation.

Among other initiatives, UNODC was planning a high-level meeting with Partners of Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries and the Programme for Central Asia.  UNODC was also working with relevant Afghan agencies on the cross-cutting issues of illicit financial flows.  The agency supported Afghanistan in its stated priorities of rooting out corruption by helping to review relevant legislation and revise the national anti-corruption strategy.  “Nevertheless, the situation remains undeniably difficult,” he said, adding that the rise in Afghan opiate production over the last years had been accompanied by a sharp increase in consumption.  Stressing the need for alternative development programmes in order to break the “vicious cycle” of opium production in the agricultural sector, he went on to say that today’s figures clearly indicated a decrease in cultivation, especially in critical provinces.  That was positive news, he said, especially in light of the results of last year’s survey, which had reported a sharp increase in opium poppy cultivation and heroin production.

Addressing the Council, Zahir Tanin (Afghanistan) said that, though much had been gained in his country, much remained to be addressed.  Afghanistan’s vibrant civil society, free media, improved social indicators and successful democratic transition of power had signalled a significant potential to leave the last three decades of devastation behind and move forward.

In the ensuing debate, Council members and invited Member States welcomed the Afghan Unity Government’s recent policy initiatives, while voicing concern at the escalation of violence.  The delegate from the United States said it was essential for Afghan leaders to engage regularly with all segments of society in order to achieve lasting peace and stability.

Peace and prosperity in Afghanistan were in the interest of the wider region, China’s representative said, stressing the need to build that country’s geographical advantages for collective well-being.  The speaker from Pakistan said the Afghan people themselves needed to pursue reconciliation and dialogue, as external parties could not impose a solution.

India’s delegate said there was a strong case for taking a fresh look at the manner in which the drawdown of the international military presence in Afghanistan was happening, given the critical phase of the political transition and the deteriorating security situation.

With the increasing emergence of Da’esh and its affiliate in Afghanistan, along with the vast spectrum of terrorist and extremist groups, international and regional Powers had a greater responsibility to assist the Afghan Government, the representative of Iran said.

In that vein, the speaker from the Russian Federation said special attention should be paid to Afghan borders with Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, where terrorist groups were stepping up their activities.

Also making statements today were the representatives of Spain, United Kingdom, Malaysia, New Zealand, France, Chile, Jordan, Chad, Angola, Venezuela, Lithuania, Nigeria, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Turkey and Slovakia, as well as the European Union.

The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 1:26 p.m.


ZAHIR TANIN (Afghanistan) said his country in recent months had witnessed increasing violence and heinous attacks by the Taliban and other terrorist and violent extremist groups.  The National Unity Government remained committed to make every effort to move Afghanistan along on a path of stability, peace and security.  The Government had reached out with a message of peace and reconciliation, not only to the Afghan Taliban, but also to neighbouring countries.  One of the first steps taken by President Ghani had been to embark on a process of ending the undeclared state of war between Afghanistan and Pakistan and start a new era of peace and cooperation.  That process had been largely supported by the Afghan people and the first rounds of peace talks with the Taliban had led to a surge of optimism.  Despite some apparent setbacks, Afghans were hopeful of a political settlement, which required responsible attitudes by all sides, mutual determination and real commitment.

The stability of Afghanistan was essential for the stability of the wider region, he said.  Integrating Afghanistan as the economic hub focused on transit, transportation and trade was imperative to achieve economic self-sufficiency and shared prosperity.  As the first anniversary of the National Unity Government approached, there had been greater attention focused on ensuring the effective implementation of vital reforms to strengthen economic growth, improve governance, eradicate corruption, bring electoral reforms and protect human rights, particularly women’s rights.  The Government’s effort against corruption had also included a series of important measures in dealing with the illicit drug trade with its overall implications.

The role of the United Nations had been pivotal in Afghanistan over the last 14 years to coordinate international civilian activities for peace and security and support the Government in all areas of political stability, good governance, human rights and coordination of humanitarian needs.  The recent review framework would allow the beginning of a new relationship between Afghanistan and the Organization, he said.  Though much had been gained in Afghanistan, much remained to be addressed.  The country’s vibrant civil society, free media, improved social indicators and successful democratic transition of power had signalled a significant potential to leave the last three decades of devastation behind and move forward.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) commended the progress made on political reconciliation at the central and local levels and other measures, noting that the Electoral Reform Commission had submitted the first package of recommendations.  His Government would fully support the National Unity Government in that regard.  Poppy crop production was a cause for serious concern, which required the attention of the international community.  Regarding the peace process, it was regrettable that the second round of talks had been postponed.  Spain was also concerned about a spike in violence, especially indiscriminate attacks against undefended civilians.  He welcomed the submission on 30 June of the National Action Plan, which entailed the greater participation of women in peace and reconciliation processes in line with Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), as well as the greater protection of children, who were still subjected to recruitment by armed groups, kidnapping and deprivation of education.  He also welcomed the completion of a tripartite review of United Nations activities and structures in Afghanistan, as that would inform the Council consideration of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) mandate extension.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) welcomed the tripartite review, while expressing concern about the deteriorating security situation, including a recent incident that killed 32.  A surviving teacher said that “death does not frighten me, but what happens to my children?”  Sadly, a United Nations report on the protection of civilians showed that children accounted for a fifth of casualties in Afghanistan.  The Security Council could redouble its efforts on three fronts — security, politics and people.  His Government would donate $110 million annually to support the Afghan National Security Forces through 2017.  But, security would count little without a political settlement underlining it.  The Council could help the National Unity Government deliver its ambitious targets, including the creation of jobs for women.  He looked forward to hearing more success stories from Afghan people, like a 41-year-old woman without formal education who started a small business and put her daughter in the educational system.

RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) expressed his firm support for the reconciliation process and commended the Afghan Government’s continued efforts to address economic and security challenges, as well as their determination to achieve national unity.  He also welcomed a presentation of recommendations by the Electoral Reform Commission.  Regarding peace talks, it was unfortunate that the second round of negotiations had been postponed since the peaceful political settlement was the only way to achieve peace and reconciliation.  The security situation had deteriorated, with violence expanding in geographic scope and intensifying.  He was also concerned about loss of civilians’ lives, especially children.  The current reporting period had recorded the highest child casualties since the start of UNAMA’s monitoring of such data.  It was imperative for the United Nations and the international community to support Afghan reconstruction and redevelopment, but their assistance must be aligned with Afghan national priorities.  On narcotics, he welcomed the establishment of a new reporting system for the illicit cultivation in Afghanistan.

GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) said that, in the current security environment, the pace of progress in Afghanistan had been difficult to sustain.  Leadership changes had complicated dynamics within the Taliban and made it much harder for the Government to pursue the peace process on which it had embarked.  It was important to maintain the integrity and effectiveness of the Taliban and Al-Qaida sanctions regimes, he said, urging the Council to think carefully about how to better use the resolution 1988 (2011) sanctions regime to better support peace efforts.  In that regard, he encouraged the greater use of the travel ban exemption procedures and encouraged Member States to submit listing requests for individuals who displayed “no genuine interest” in peace, but rather in profit from the country’s instability.

LIU JIEYI (China), noting that 2015 marked the beginning of Afghanistan’s transformation decade, lauded the positive steps the country had taken.  The complexity of the challenges required long-term international support based on respect for national sovereignty.  China supported the National Unity Government’s reform efforts and was encouraged by the results so far.  The international community needed to help Afghanistan’s reconciliation process and China always stood ready to play a positive and constructive role.  The international community should continue to help Afghanistan to improve its security capabilities and China supported regional efforts in that regard.  Peace and prosperity in Afghanistan were in the interest of the wider region and China supported building that country’s geographical advantages for the collective well-being.

MARIE AUDOUARD (France) said the reform efforts launched by the Afghan Government were encouraging, as were its efforts to build reconciliation and regional cooperation.  However, significant challenges remained, especially in the security sector.  In recent times, Afghan security forces had demonstrated greater capabilities in countering terrorism and extremism, but still required sustained international support.  Human rights were another area that required continuous attention, especially in terms of ensuring the rights of women and girls.  Renewed efforts were needed to combat the drug trade and the wider illicit activities it fuelled.  She expressed hope that the recently concluded tripartite review would guide better coordination of international support to Afghanistan based on the evolving situation on the ground.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said a safe, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan depended on a reconciliation process that safeguarded human rights.  Describing the first meeting between the Government and Taliban earlier this year as a positive step, he expressed concern at the recent escalation of violence.  Chile was extremely concerned by the continuing recruitment of child soldiers and attacks on schools.  Afghan women must be at the centre of all peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts, and reforms should draw the support of all segments of the population in order to ensure durable peace and stability.

MAHMOUD HMOUD (Jordan) commended Afghanistan’s efforts to reform its electoral system, fight corruption and enhance security, but stressed the importance of stepping up those efforts in the coming months.  Regarding the upcoming parliamentary elections, Afghanistan should commit to preparatory work to make polls transparent and democratic.  Turning to increased violence, he urged the importance of meeting the needs of the National Security Forces.  Equally important was to support the Afghan political reconciliation process.  Other nations in the region must work together in combating drugs and promoting economic projects.

MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad) stressed the importance for the international community to provide technical and financial support.  Fighting against terrorism and drug trafficking required all regional nations to cooperate, he said, welcoming a regional summit on 8 and 9 June in Tajikistan that had addressed issues related to security, development and water management.  The increased presence of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS)  and other terrorist groups required heightened vigilance as they had the ability to undermine security.  Turning to the humanitarian situation, civilians were increasingly falling victim to land mines.  All parties must clearly distinguish between civilian and military targets, he concluded.

JULIO HELDER MOURA LUCAS (Angola) commended the work of UNAMA to open a new chapter in the lives of Afghan people and supported the tripartite review of United Nations activities and structure.  The direct talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban were encouraging, he said, urging both parties to resume the dialogue.  He, however, expressed concern that civilian casualties had increased, reiterating his condemnation of violence against civilians.  Clashes between the Taliban and other groups loyal to ISIL were a matter of utmost concern.  He also stressed the need to address opium production because of its negative impact on the lives of people and on regional stability.  Remarkable progress had been made, but challenges were immense and a new level of cooperation must be reached.

MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said the international community was fully committed to the National Unity Government and supported its recent reform initiatives.  For the Government to achieve its promises, however, it was essential for leaders to engage regularly with all segments of society.  The United States supported the Afghan Government’s efforts to foster reconciliation with the Taliban and commended neighbouring countries for their support for that process.  Despite the progress made in key areas, the escalation of violence was a source of concern.  Terrorist attacks were not the only threat to peace, she said, commending the Government’s efforts to counter the illicit narcotics trade.  Moving forward, the international community must recommit to supporting Afghanistan as it moved towards building long-term peace and stability.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said the establishment of the National Unity Government after democratic elections last year had been a major step forward in a country ravaged by decades of conflict.  However, the recent upsurge in violence was a source of concern.  Pursuing sustained inter-Afghan dialogue was crucial to achieve the hopes and aspirations of the people.  Protection of human rights, including those of women and girls, was central to durable peace.  Women should become active participants in all aspects of peace and reconciliation efforts.  The Council should take measures to put an end to the flow of foreign armed fighters and the drug trade that fuelled terrorism.  The civilian population, including children, had borne the brunt of the conflict, he said, stressing the need to ensure respect for international human rights and humanitarian law.

DAINIUS BAUBLYS (Lithuania), aligning with the statement delivered on behalf of the European Union, stated that progress in Afghanistan had been marred by the fiercest fighting by the Taliban in many years, floundering regional integration and poor economic growth.  Echoing the call for bolder reforms, she urged the Government to focus on building the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces.  A North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led Resolute Support Mission providing further training and assistance would play a significant role.  Further, security challenges had undermined economic development, with every third Afghan living below the poverty line.  “Poverty goes hand in hand with illiteracy,” she stressed, adding that Afghanistan ranked as one of the worst countries for women in terms of access to education and health care.  Calling on the Government to restore confidence in the electoral system by setting the date for parliamentary elections, she concluded, “the responsibility for the future of the country rests with the Afghans”.

U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria) welcomed Afghanistan’s steady progress on many fronts, including an increase in the number of women appointed to ministerial posts, which showed the country’s determination to empower women.  She also commended the steps taken to promote electoral reform and the progress made in national reconciliation.  Regarding the security situation, she noted that the National Security Force had prevented insurgents from capturing provincial capitals.  There were still security gaps in rural areas, which would allow insurgents to destabilize those regions.  On narcotics, she welcomed the key indicators that had been set and the Afghan Government’s efforts to eradicate opium production.  Regional and international efforts were vital as considerable challenges still existed, she said, concluding that the work of the tripartite review should inform future efforts.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation), Council President, speaking in his national capacity, warned that the situation remained complicated, noting that civilian casualties had increased.  With the Taliban withdrawing from peace talks, the prospect for a political settlement was increasing fleeting.  Special attention should be paid to Afghan borders with Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, where terrorist groups, including the Taliban and ISIL, were stepping up their activities.  ISIL had created 10 training camps in the country.  He welcomed the newly formed Cabinet, which would now be ready to tackle many outstanding issues, and noted that his Government stood ready to strengthen relations with it.  On the security front, during its 12-year presence, NATO had failed to achieve its objectives and a new mission had not achieved its objectives either.  His Government would provide assistance bilaterally and jointly with other international partners.  Poppy production and drug trafficking in Afghanistan was the utmost concern for the Russian Federation.  According a 2015 national drug review, the number of drug users had doubled, with a million children among them.  ISIL was attempting to seize control of the drug trafficking in Afghanistan.  The Security Council must continue to monitor the drug situation in that country, he said.

ASOKE K. MUKERJI (India) stated that the patience and courage of the Afghan people had strengthened the country’s political transition.  On the security front, the Secretary-General’s report substantiated India’s view that it was terrorism, and not tribal differences or ethnic rivalries, that was the main source of instability.  Given the critical phase of the political transition and the deteriorating security situation, there was a strong case for taking a fresh look at the manner in which the drawdown of the international military presence in Afghanistan was happening.  President Ghani’s brave steps to launch a reconciliation process were being repeatedly rebuffed.  India continued to support a truly Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process.  Further, it would be useful for the Council to see how UNAMA could help Afghanistan achieve the objectives set out in the 2030 Agenda.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said the debate was taking place at another crucial moment for Afghanistan and the region.  In recent weeks, the security situation in that country had deteriorated significantly and Pakistan condemned all terrorist violence there.  Reconciliation and dialogue had to be between the Afghans themselves, she said, stressing that external parties could not impose a solution.  At the request of the Afghan President, Pakistan had facilitated dialogue between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban, which had later ruptured.  However, Pakistan was shocked when some in Afghanistan had chosen to blame her country for escalating violence.  Instead of responding to those allegations, Pakistan reaffirmed its desire to assist the reconciliation process.  Those who were working overtime to sabotage and poison bilateral relations were no friends of Afghanistan, she concluded.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) said that, in the few short months since the Council’s last meeting on Afghanistan, there had been “encouraging results”.  The first recommendations of the Special Electoral Reform Commission on adequate tax measures, for example, had led to an increase in internal revenue.  The concrete implementation of Afghanistan’s complex reform agenda under the Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework was now, more than ever before, a fundamental goal for the sake of the Afghan people.  Against that background, the promotion of the rights of women and children, and protecting them against any form of violence must remain a national priority.  A milestone was reached on 30 June with the adoption of the National Plan on Women, Peace and Security, pursuant to resolution 1325 (2000) of the Security Council.  It was Italy’s hope that genuine cooperation in the region — a prerequisite for ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan — could be immediately established to help in overcoming the current difficulties.

MOTOHIDE YOSHIKAWA (Japan) said that his country had provided $5.8 billion since 2001 to support Afghan’s path towards reform and self-reliance in areas including law enforcement, justice, infrastructure, rural development, human resources and agriculture.  As about 37 per cent of Afghan land was considered “barren”, a Japanese non-governmental organization had launched a project in the Gamberi Desert in 2005 to transform 16,500 hectares into fertile soil, using an eighteenth-century Japanese irrigation technology and traditional Afghan methods.  By 2012, it had turned into cropland with abundant greenery.  Wheat production had increased from almost zero to a level capable of feeding more than 600,000 people.  The number of farmers had increased from 30,000 to 150,000 in 12 years as the fertile land offered them a place to finally settle and make a stable living.  The international community and Afghanistan could work hand in hand to achieve similar achievements in other areas, as well, he concluded.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), aligning with the European Union, said the Secretary-General’s report described a worrisome increase in civilian casualties and displacement and a worsening overall security situation.  Stressing that lasting stability and peace was only possible through reconciliation, he expressed hope that the Afghan-led and -managed peace talks would resume quickly.  The Netherlands supported the recommendations contained in the report of the trilateral commission, in particular the emphasis on the United Nations to continue its work on building its good offices and the request to increase joint programming among the Organization’s entities.  The Netherlands had been a long-time partner of Afghanistan, having contributed significantly in both security and development, and would continue to stand by that country.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) said his country considered security in Afghanistan to reflect the security of its own borders and the region.  Iran fully supported the National Unity Government and its efforts to address the country’s political, economic and security challenges.  Afghanistan should be the focus of regional and international cooperation, rather than competition, in order to strengthen regional peace security and development.  With the increasing emergence of Da’esh and its affiliate in Afghanistan, along with the vast spectrum of terrorist and extremist groups, international and regional Powers had a greater responsibility to assist the Afghan Government.  Iran considered the expansion of political and economic ties with Afghanistan as a priority and stood ready to increase bilateral cooperation.  Iran hosted hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees and would continue to work for their voluntary, safe, dignified and gradual repatriation.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) welcomed the results of the UNAMA review done by the Tripartite Review Commission.  Afghanistan would need international support for the foreseeable future, and the Mission would continue to have a role to play in donor coordination, the facilitation of humanitarian access and support for capacity-building for humanitarian response.  Furthermore, it was essential that the Mission’s role in providing good offices on peace and reconciliation was maintained.  Recent events had seen a worrying number of civilian casualties and conflict-induced displacement.  Violence in the form of suicide attacks, targeted killings and abductions were common.  It was important that violations were brought to an end and mechanisms for ensuring accountability were strengthened.  Sweden also welcomed the recent senior officials meeting at which the Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework was endorsed.

HARALD BRAUN (Germany) said that the report from the Tripartite Review Commission, which was presented by the Secretary-General today, came at the right moment, as it helped to define the role of UNAMA during the “transformative decade”.  He urged the Afghan Government to continue its efforts to implement the reform agenda that had been presented at the London Conference in December 2014.  A recent meeting of senior officials in Kabul had been an important step as it had set benchmarks and timelines for deliverables in key priority areas.  The principles of mutual accountability and inclusiveness remained at the heart of that process.  Germany would remain committed to supporting Afghanistan during the crucial decade, and very soon, would introduce a new resolution in the General Assembly in support of Afghanistan, seeking approval from all Member States.

GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) said the past year had continued to see an insurgency in Afghanistan that had preyed on civilians, with attacks killing hundreds of non-combatants.  Her country was providing financial assistance of $300 million until 2017, she said, adding that over 25,000 Australian personnel had served in Afghanistan and 400 continued to do so.  She welcomed positive steps taken by the National Unity Government to advance peace and reconciliation efforts, including direct talks with the Taliban in Muree, Pakistan.  “Set against ongoing challenges, peace can only be achieved if reconciliation efforts are approached with a sense of purpose and pragmatism,” she said.  Australia was also pleased to join with international partners the Self-Reliance Mutual Accountability Framework in Kabul this month.  Finally, she encouraged Council members to consider the recommendations of the Tripartite Commission in the lead-up to the UNAMA mandate renewal in March 2016.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of the European Union Delegation, reiterated full support for the work of UNAMA and the United Nations agencies in Afghanistan.  He praised in particular their facilitation of dialogue and assistance with the creation of the new mutual accountability framework with indicators on institutional and electoral reform and human rights.  He awaited further progress in those areas.  Given the spike in refugees and migrants from the country, it was all the more urgent, he said, for the Government to provide for a secure and stable environment with international support.  Announcing that the European Union had accepted the invitation of the Government to co-host the next Ministerial Conference in Brussels, he looked forward to strong Afghan leadership and international solidarity to make it a success.

Condemning groups that continued to attack Afghan civilians and institutions, he expressed confidence that the Government would prevail against them with the necessary collective support.  He called on all countries, especially those in the region, to support an inclusive settlement that eschewed violence and respected human rights through the Afghan-led peace process.  It was particularly important to protect gains made by women since the fall of the Taliban regime.  Regional integration was also critical in many areas.  He pledged the Union’s continued support for and solidarity with the National Unity Government on all such challenges.

HALIT ÇEVIK (Turkey) said maintaining gains in Afghanistan required continued international support.  Cross-border problems, such as terrorism and organized crime, required regional cooperation and the Istanbul Process was an effective cooperation model in that regard.  Indeed, solidarity would allow countries to benefit from the region’s economic potential.  For its part, Turkey would continue to support the Afghan Government, contributing bilaterally and through both the United Nations and NATO.  In the security area, it would continue its capacity-building programmes within the NATO framework and bilaterally towards the national army and policy.

FRANTIŠEK RUŽIČKA (Slovakia), aligning with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, praised the Afghan Government of National Unity and the political leaders who he said had been working together constructively to address increasing political, economic and security challenges.  He also expressed appreciation for UNAMA initiatives that promoted inclusive dialogue.  Calling on all stakeholders to ensure the timely holding of next year’s polls, he expressed continuing concern over the security challenges that could impede them.  In that regard, he noted his country’s financial contributions to help sustain Afghan forces, as well as further development aid.  Awaiting details, in addition, on how the international community could assist the national drug action plan, he stressed the need for continued support for Afghan leaders during these crucial years as they faced all challenges, including the growth of terrorism in Central Asia.

For information media. Not an official record.