17 November 2016
Seventy-first Session, 47th Meeting (AM)

General Assembly Adopts Resolution Supporting Afghanistan’s Efforts, as Speakers Vow to Help Conflict-affected Nation Achieve Untapped Potential

Unanimously adopting its annual resolution in support of the Government and people of Afghanistan, the General Assembly today heard expressions of alarm over recent spikes in civilian casualties and the influence of violent extremists, as speakers vowed to help the conflict-affected nation achieve its untapped potential.

By the terms of the text, titled “The situation in Afghanistan” (document A/71/L.13), the Assembly pledged its continued support, in particular as the Government rebuilt a stable, secure and economically self-sufficient State free from terrorism and narcotics while strengthening the foundations of its constitutional democracy.

Encouraging all partners to constructively support the National Unity Government’s reform agenda, including through the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework (2017-2021) and Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework, the Assembly expressed support for the continuing and growing national ownership of its reconstruction and development efforts.

The text touched on both progress and challenges in the fields of security, peace and reconciliation, democracy, rule of law, human rights and good governance, along with other critical areas.  Among other things, the Assembly reiterated its serious concern about Afghanistan’s security situation, stressing the need to address region-based violent extremists and other illegal armed groups, including those involved in the narcotics trade.

Speakers throughout the ensuing debate underscored their commitment to an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led peace process and vowed to bolster the country’s security and development.  Many pointed to the $15.2 billion raised at the recent Brussels Conference on Afghanistan as a strong demonstration of the international community’s continued support, while others welcomed commitments that had been made in July at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit, where members had agreed to extend their commitment to Afghanistan until 2020.

Afghanistan’s representative recalled that, seven decades ago, his country’s flag had been raised at the General Assembly for the first time.  Today, he said stood before the Assembly on behalf of a great nation whose stories of resilience and accomplishment against all odds could serve as a source of hope and inspiration.  Noting that the Brussels conference had marked a milestone and revitalized Afghanistan’s partnership with the international community, he nevertheless spotlighted a number of challenges, including a “thinly disguised declared war” by a neighbouring State that had used the Taliban and other groups to orchestrate attacks and stoke the flames of disunity.

Australia’s delegate urged all parties, including the Taliban, to seek further progress towards peace in 2017.  As insecurity and conflict continued to pervade every aspect of life and governance, securing public trust depended on law and order and effective policing.  The Afghan National Defence and Security Forces had fought bravely and resolutely, but the insurgency remained defiant.  Noting the important role of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), he nevertheless expressed concern that civilians continued to bear the brunt of war, stressing that “ordinary Afghans deserve better”.

Pakistan’s speaker, noting that large numbers of terrorists, foreign terrorist fighters and militant groups posed a threat to Afghanistan and the entire region, underscored the need to counter threats from Al-Qaida, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and other groups.  Afghanistan’s reconciliation was being frustrated by local and regional interests that were marginal to the global campaign against terrorist organizations, she said, stressing that “Afghanistan could once again become a source of global terrorism, with grave implications for the region and the world”.

Echoing those sentiments, the Russian Federation’s representative expressed concern over the broad use of the term “violent extremism”, including in the Assembly’s resolution, as it did not accurately reflect the situation on the ground.  “We can only call these scourges what they are:  terrorism,” he said.  Among other things, the Russian Federation supported efforts towards Afghanistan’s national reconciliation and would consider supporting the relaxation of sanctions that had been imposed under the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011).

The delegate from the United States, stressing that stability was critical to peace and security in Central Asia, welcomed development initiatives aimed at advancing regional cooperation.  Expressing her country’s willingness to work with the Government and people of Afghanistan in the years to come, she joined other speakers in emphasizing that the only way to end the conflict and establish conditions for stability was through a peace and reconciliation process between the Taliban and the Government.

On that point, however, a number of delegates disagreed, with Iran’s representative condemning any cooperation with the Taliban and other terrorist groups.  Calling on the international community to continue to support the Government of Afghanistan in its efforts to combat terrorism, he went on to describe hundreds of projects Iran had supported in Afghanistan, ranging from infrastructure to training and capacity building in human resources.

Also before the Assembly was a report of the Secretary-General, titled “The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security” (document A/71/616-S/2016/768).

Delivering statements were the representatives of Tajikistan, China, Maldives, New Zealand, Turkey, Japan, Canada, Slovakia, India, Spain, Belgium, Lithuania, Georgia, Italy, Egypt, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Bulgaria, as well as the European Union.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 21 November, to take up its agenda item on cooperation between the United Nations and regional and other organizations.


HEIKO THOMS (Germany), associating himself with the European Union and introducing a draft resolution titled “Situation in Afghanistan” (document A/71/L.13), said that text remained a vivid expression of support for that country and its people.  For the first time in years, Member States had managed to streamline the text, restructure some chapters and add others.  “We now have a resolution that reflects the relations between the international community and Afghanistan in a more concise yet comprehensive way,” he added.  The greatest concern expressed in the text referred to the still difficult security situation.  Deeply deploring the high number of civilian lives lost due to cowardly acts of terrorism and incessant fighting, he said the recent attack on the Consulate of Germany in Mazar-e-Sharif was among a long list of incidents.

Welcoming the outcome of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Warsaw, he noted its contributions to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.  Over 800,000 refugees had returned home to Afghanistan from neighbouring countries during the course of 2016, posing a great challenge for the Government.  At the same time, many Afghani nationals were still living in Europe — young, educated citizens who were badly needed for the reconstruction and economic development of their country.  Halting and reversing that trend should be in the interest of all.  Strongly encouraging the Government of Afghanistan to make further progress on its reform agenda, he underlined the importance of the implementation of political and economic reform and the fight against corruption.  The draft also emphasized the need to preserve and consolidate gains in the protection and promotion of human rights and the equal participation of all members of society, especially women.  He also emphasized the role of regional cooperation in the reconciliation process.

MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan) recalled that, seven decades ago, his country’s flag had been raised at the General Assembly for the first time.  Today, he stood before the Assembly on behalf of a great nation whose stories of resilience and accomplishment against all odds could serve as a source of hope and inspiration to all.  Indeed, Afghanistan had made significant strides, with almost all United Nations Member States having been involved in some way in its reconstruction since 2001.  Expressing gratitude for such support, he said the Brussels donor conference in October had marked milestone and revitalized Afghanistan’s partnership with the international community.  Stressing that his Government would continue to focus on strengthening State institutions, developing self-reliance and crafting social services, he said “it is imperative that we consolidate the gains as Afghanistan completes its Millennium Development Goals and embarks on the Sustainable Development Goals”.

Yet, he said, Afghanistan continued to face threats from violent extremism and terrorism, with 2016 being one of the bloodiest.  Afghanistan was facing a “thinly disguised declared war” whereby a neighbouring State, contrary to the United Nations Charter and the principle of good neighbourly relations, had used the Taliban — including the Haqqani Network, Al-Qaida, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and others — to orchestrate and conduct attacks aimed at overrunning provincial capitals and stoking the flames of disunity.  “Those who seek solace from the intention of keeping Afghanistan bleeding must remember that such actions would bleed them too and warrant international isolation,” he said, adding that the export of foreign terrorist fighters, including Da’esh, in parts of Afghanistan remained a serious concern.

Noting that national security forces had confronted those threats, he said Afghanistan required the international community’s support in addressing ever-evolving terrorist tactics.  He welcomed pledges of renewed support and NATO’s decision to maintain its Resolute Support Mission beyond 2016.  A joint international response to combating terrorism could only succeed if the world addressed the key enablers of that scourge, he said, stressing that without foreign planning, safe havens, the provision of training and weapons and logistical support, groups like the Taliban would not have the same destructive reach.  A renewed three-tiered approach to the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy was needed, with action at the debate, operational and implementation levels.  For its part, the National Unity Government had made unremitting efforts to advance the cause of a durable peace, including through a recently-signed peace agreement with the leadership of the Hizb-i Islami.

While the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States) could remain a useful platform to facilitate dialogue with the Taliban, he stressed that any success in that area required decisive action to honour commitments within the framework of the Group’s road map.  Describing the National Unity Government’s efforts to promote regional economic cooperation, work on improving social indicators and commitment to human rights, he said fighting corruption was another priority.  Combatting the narcotics trade and related crime also remained critical.  Afghanistan remained among the world’s leading origin countries for refugees.  Given that about half a million refugees had returned in recent months from Pakistan, he urged that country’s Government to engage in a meaningful dialogue on the issue.

MAHMADAMIN MAHMADAMINOV (Tajikistan) said it was encouraging that all United Nations members supported the peace process in Afghanistan, as stability and socioeconomic rehabilitation were crucial for the development and prosperity of the country and region.  Targeted assistance must be accelerated in the areas of economic rehabilitation, social programme implementation and job creation.  For its part, Tajikistan had been engaged in the rehabilitation of social and economic spheres and infrastructure in Afghanistan through connecting the transport arteries of regional countries, providing essential commodities and training specialists.  The construction of an electricity transmission line had been recently launched and would be implemented with Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and other development partners.  Through national and regional projects on energy, transport and establishing free economic zones, Tajikistan had contributed to engaging Afghanistan in regional economic integration.

JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, on behalf of the European Union, said Afghanistan had made considerable political, security, economic and developmental progress over the past decade, as highlighted in the resolution before the Assembly.  Recalling the international community recent pledge of $15.2 billion for 2017-2020 that had been made recently at the Brussels conference, he said the event was a clear sign of political support for the National Unity Government.  Stressing that joint State-building and development efforts could only be sustained if they reinforced regional cooperation, he said significant investments and further cooperation were needed to improve connectivity in the region and unlock Afghanistan’s growth potential.  Welcoming the Government’s undeterred willingness to engage with all armed groups in a political process, he said only a lasting political settlement could end the conflict and called on all parties to engage in such a process.

He welcomed the adoption of the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework and the Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework, which together paved the way for progress in poverty reduction and the provision of basic services.  Expressing alarm about the record-high levels of civilian casualties, he welcomed commitments in support of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces made at the NATO Warsaw summit.  Support for the sustainable reintegration of returning refugees was another area of joint commitment under the recently-adopted New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, he said, encouraging the Government to show leadership in meeting the needs of those displaced and returning to Afghanistan.  In an effort to address that issue, the European Union and Afghanistan had recently undertaken a joint commitment to step up cooperation on addressing and preventing irregular migration in full respect of international law and the principle of non-refoulement.

MICHELE SISON (United States) said the draft resolution recognized that while Afghanistan continued to face grave security and political challenges, the international community’s commitment to build a peaceful and prosperous country remained firm.  The only way to end the conflict and establish conditions for stability was through a peace and reconciliation process between the Taliban and the Government.  The United States had continued to demonstrate its strong support for Afghanistan, including at the recent NATO summit.  Stability was critical to peace and security in the region, she said, welcoming development initiatives to advance regional cooperation.  The international community would continue to look to the Government to combat corruption and protect human rights.  Meanwhile, the United States stood ready to work with the Government and the people of Afghanistan to advance security, political stability and government accountability in the years to come.

LIU JIEYI (China) commended the Government’s positive results in promoting socioeconomic development, as Afghanistan was at the start of its transformation decade.  Still, Afghanistan faced formidable economic, political and social challenges.  The international community must continue to pay close attention to the situation, providing support as Afghanistan embarked on the road to self-reliance and respecting its sovereignty and its people’s will.  Political factions must work together to resolve issues and advance the reconciliation process.  While the international community must provide an impetus to the peace and reconciliation process, the national forces must shoulder its primary responsibility to maintain peace and security and efforts should focus on strengthening their abilities.  Meanwhile, regional partners had a role to play mainly through economic cooperation and interconnectivity in the national development.  China had always supported Afghanistan’s national development and security and would continue to do so.

DAVID YARDLEY (Australia) urged all parties, including the Taliban, to seek further progress towards peace in 2017.  As insecurity and conflict continued to pervade every aspect of life and governance, securing public trust depended on law and order and effective policing.  The Afghan National Defence and Security Forces had fought bravely and resolutely, but the insurgency remained defiant.  The people of Afghanistan continued to bear the brunt of the war, he said, expressing concern for the extremely high numbers of civilian casualties in 2016.  “This has had a devastating impact on families and communities,” he said.  “Ordinary Afghans deserve better.”  Expressing support for major meetings on Afghanistan’s security and development and noting the role of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), he said coordination, assistance and close partnerships were critical.

VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation), expressing concern over the high number of civilian casualties and the influence of ISIL, emphasized a need to prevent foreign terrorist fighters from spilling into Afghanistan.  The draft resolution failed to duly qualify as terrorist groups both Al-Qaida and the Taliban.  Indeed, the broad use of the term “violent extremism” did not accurately reflect the situation on the ground.  “We can only call these scourges what they are:  terrorism,” he said.  Pointing to a drop in drug seizures, he said Afghan-produced opium remained a serious threat, with over 40 per cent of terrorist revenue stemming from narcotics trafficking.  Expressing support for the Government’s efforts to step up anti-narcotics operations, he called on the international community to assist it in such efforts and spotlighted a joint project of the Russian Federation and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  The Russian Federation also supported efforts towards national reconciliation and would consider supporting the relaxation of sanctions that had been imposed under the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011).

FARZANA ZAHIR (Maldives) expressed concern that the number of attacks by the Taliban and other armed groups was at its highest level since 2001, and that both security forces and civilian casualties had increased.  The long-term weakness in social, political and economic institutions that had persisted in Afghanistan had proven to be a fertile breeding ground for successive cycles of conflict.  A lasting solution thus required breaking that cycle.  The international community had a critical role in the peace and reconciliation process, capacity-building measures, anti-corruption initiatives, development assistance and strengthening civil society.  By fostering trust, resilience and cohesion across society, the root drivers of conflict could be resolved.  It was critical to redouble efforts in promoting a culture of peace and cooperation.  At the core of that process were the people of Afghanistan themselves, but they should not and cannot be alone in their efforts.

GÜVEN BEGEÇ (Turkey) said progress that had been made by the Government were still reversible, as the security situation was fragile and still at a critical juncture.  The international community would have to continue to support security and development efforts while bearing in mind that Afghanistan would eventually need to build its own capacities.  Its stability depended on improved security and lasting peace would only be achieved through the successful conclusion of the peace and reconciliation process.  The successful implementation of reform would bring further political and social cohesion.  In the meantime, Turkey would continue its bilateral assistance in security and development areas and contribute to NATO’s efforts.  Turkey’s official aid to Afghanistan since 2002 had exceeded $962 million and it would contribute another $150 million more for the 2018-2020 period. The people of Afghanistan deserved a better future, he concluded.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said improved security was the most important prerequisite for development in Afghanistan.  Japan called upon President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah to cooperate closely to strengthen the National Unity Government and achieve reconciliation.  Violent extremism was exacerbated by weak governance, he said, emphasizing the critical importance of the Government’s efforts on national reconciliation, administrative reform and fiscal consolidation.  The Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework had set out clear milestones for the Government, he said, strongly urged Afghanistan to achieve those targets.

MICHAEL BONSER (Canada) said his Government was committed to helping Afghans build a country that was well-governed, respected human rights and protected from rampant terrorism.  Canada had pledged $465 million in security support and development assistance to Afghanistan at the recent NATO summit.  Supporting an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process, he welcomed the constructive role neighbouring countries were offering to play toward greater regional cooperation.  Along with the Government of Afghanistan, regional actors had played an important part in ensuring the safety and dignity of refugees.  Nevertheless, peace and security could not be achieved without the active participation of women and girls.  Toward that end, Canada would continue to focus on women’s and girl’s rights in all of its health, education and human rights programming in the war-torn countries.

FRANTIŠEK RUŽIČKA (Slovakia), endorsing the European Union’s statement, said Afghanistan was one of three priority countries for his Government’s development aid, receiving €300,000 annually in addition to its contribution of €500,000 at the recent Brussels conference.  Slovakia focused its assistance on education, agriculture and health care since it firmly believed in the sustainable nature of development and its ability to tangibly improve the quality of people’s lives.  Because education was an essential part of any development, Slovakia’s contribution included building two schools and scholarships for foreign students.  In the area of agriculture, Slovakia aimed at helping its partners in Afghanistan to produce enough food for internal consumption and potentially profit from exporting.  Supporting Goal 3 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Slovakia’s assistance provided improved access to health care.

SYED AKBARUDDIN (India) expressed alarm at the expansion of the theatre of war in Afghanistan and increasing casualties suffered by the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.  As the draft resolution promoted regional cooperation, India was committed to work with neighbouring countries to restore Afghanistan’s role as the land bridge of the region.  On combating terrorism, he said that the United Nations had to do more to send the right message.  “Inconsistent implementation of sanctions on some terrorist outfits eats away at the United Nations authority,” he said, adding that unless the Security Council and its organs were part of a cohesive response to global terrorism, it could become marginalized from the most fundamental security priorities of Member States, whose societies were being torn apart by terrorism.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan), noting that the annual resolution on Afghanistan continued to be a signal and embodiment of international support to its Government and people, expressed concern about increasing insecurity, escalating violence, growing civilian casualties and rising threats.  In particular, the presence of large numbers of terrorists, foreign terrorist fighters and militant groups posed a threat to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the entire region.  “Afghanistan could once again become a source of global terrorism, with grave implications for the region and the world,” she stressed.  While Pakistan had turned the tide against terrorism, having conducted the world’s largest and more effective counter-terrorism operation, such campaigns were being threatened.  In particular, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan continued to enjoy a safe haven in Afghanistan.  There was a need to counter the threats from that group, Da’esh and Al-Qaida, she said, noting that Afghanistan’s reconciliation was being frustrated by local and regional interests that were marginal to the global campaign against terrorist organizations.  Recalling that Pakistan had welcomed over 3 million Afghan refugees over recent decades, she expressed support for their safe, dignified and voluntary return.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) encouraged the National Unity Government to continue to take resolute steps forward.  Highlighting its significant efforts in fighting corruption and improving the freedom of civilians and the rights of women, he welcomed the success of the Brussels conference.  Security continued to be a top priority, he said, recalling that NATO had recently extended its commitment in that area until 2020.  Less than a year ago, Spain had suffered a deadly attack on its embassy in Kabul and his Government would continue to provide security assistance, advice and training to Afghan forces.  Expressing support for Afghan-led efforts towards peace and national reconciliation, he recalled Spain‘s longstanding friendship with and commitment to Afghanistan.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) said that for the past 15 years, Afghanistan had been on a long and difficult path scattered with obstacles.  There had also been some progress due to encouraging developments in primary education and a decrease in infant mortality.  The overall framework, however, remained fragile and the spate of deadly attacks had testified to the precarious nature of the security environment.  In that context, ongoing international presence in the country through UNAMA and financial support were critical.  However, international support alone could not do it all, he said, underlining the importance of fostering an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process.  Too many Afghan citizens continued to suffer in poverty and despair and so many of them, especially young people, had opted to emigrate.  The only way to stem that trend was to offer opportunity and prospects for a better life.  Women had a leading role to play in all aspects of social, economic and political life and a major part in national reconciliation and peacebuilding.  For its part, Belgium would continue to partner with Afghanistan in the area of women’s empowerment and the protection of children.  It was particularly essential to combat the recruitment of children and youth in armed forces.

RAIMONDA MURMOKAITÉ (Lithuania), associating herself with the European Union, said a collective commitment to Afghanistan was critical in order to keep the country on a path to political and economic stability.  Broad consensus among Afghanistan’s leaders was needed to pursue reforms, fight corruption, strengthen human rights and combat trafficking.  Emphasizing the role of women, she said progress had been uneven.  Women activists were still being threatened, targeted and killed.  Women were also being physically punished or executed under the pretext of so-called moral crimes.  She encouraged the Afghan authorities to do more to investigate attacks against journalists and to bring perpetrators to justice.  She welcomed the Government’s peace agreement with Hizb-i Islami, but added that the overall security situation remained worrying.  Helping Afghanistan to provide security for its people could not be more important, she added, welcoming NATO’s decision to extend its Resolute Support Mission beyond 2016.

INGA KANCHAVELI (Georgia), associating herself with the European Union, said her country despite its small size and own challenges had contributed to strengthening Afghanistan and regional security.  Georgia’s soldiers had been part of the international forces and continued to thwart attacks and save lives.  Georgia was determined to continue its support of international efforts in Afghanistan beyond 2016 and would stand ready to offer training and exercise opportunities at its military centres and share its experiences in defence-sector transformation and reforms.  Besides contributing troops, Georgia was also committed to continue supporting the financial sustainment of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.  While the road to peace was not an easy one, the international community must continue building on gains and further advance hard-won progress.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) said every effort was needed to fight corruption, complete election reform, make economic governance more efficient and continue to improve women’s living conditions by promoting their rights and empowerment throughout every sector and level of society.  The Government of Afghanistan had expressed its strong commitment to those goals and could count on Italy’s full support.  Security conditions were a decisive factor in defending and expanding the progress achieved over the past 15 years, he said, highlighting that the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces were deeply engaged in fighting hostile terrorist insurgent groups.  Italy concretely supported the Government’s efforts to secure the security and stability of its country.  To ensure a lasting peace in Afghanistan, national reconciliation remained the primary political objective.  The start of a possible peace process would benefit from cooperation and a convergence framework among those who played a positive role in achieving those goals.  Diplomatic efforts must be renewed to create a constructive collaboration among the main regional stakeholders, which could create conditions for a peace process and trigger a cycle of stability and development to benefit Afghanistan and the region.

IHAB MOUSTAFA AWAD MOUSTAFA (Egypt) said his Government had always supported peace in the Middle East and Central Asian regions, which went hand-in-hand.  Security in those regions — and in Afghanistan in particular — was threatened by narcotics drugs trafficking, which was inextricably linked to terrorism.  Commending UNODC efforts, he said the international community was also acutely aware of the growing threat posed by the presence of Da’esh, which had extended its tentacles to the east of Afghanistan.  “We must fight against this phenomenon and presence wherever it is found,” he stressed, pledging Egypt’s readiness to contribute to training programmes for Afghanistan’s national security forces.  “We have one goal to meet: to build the capacity of this country that has suffered so much over the decades,” he said.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) said international terrorist groups and foreign terrorist fighters must be denied opportunities to gain footholds in Afghanistan.  It was also crucial to combat transnational organized crime, particularly drug trafficking, by enhancing regional cooperation in surveillance, intelligence, investigation and prosecution.  He urged the international community to extend support to Afghanistan to address the threats posed by improvised explosive devices and explosive remnants of war.  Bangladesh stood ready to assist Afghanistan in areas such as women’s empowerment, education, community health care, water and sanitation, human resource development and judicial system reforms.  It was also willing to develop customized training and capacity-building programmes for professionals and experts in areas including banking, financial sector reform, disaster management, agricultural infrastructure and youth development.

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran) condemned any cooperation with the Taliban and other terrorist groups, emphasizing the emergence of Da’esh and its affiliates in Afghanistan.  The National Unity Government was at the forefront of fighting terrorism and undertaking efforts to stabilize the country.  The international community must continue to support the Government.  For its part, Iran had spent hundreds of millions of dollars to help Afghanistan complete hundreds of projects, ranging from infrastructure to training and capacity building in human resources.  Iran and Afghanistan, through various regional projects, had committed to increase their connectivity.  Narcotics continued to be a real threat in the region and any increase in their use was a direct reflection of prevailing insecurity and poverty.  While supporting voluntary repatriation programmes, Iran had continued its support to hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees in Iran.  Last year, it enrolled nearly 400,000 Afghan students in Iranian schools and universities.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan), reiterating his Government’s unfailing commitment to peace and stability in Afghanistan, expressed support for the frameworks on national peace and development and on self-reliance through mutual accountability.  Stressing that Afghanistan’s potential would transform it into a key country in the region, he called on Member States to bolster their investments, play a proactive role in combating the terrorist threat and support such projects as the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative to create favourable conditions for Afghanistan’s economic growth.  Kazakhstan, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Japan, had supported a project to build capacity and enhance gender equality in Afghanistan and continued to offer extensive scholarships for Afghan students to study medical science, engineering and other fields at Kazakh universities.

TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan) said that his Government’s efforts had included delivering assistance to Afghanistan in the military, security, law enforcement, education and other spheres and by providing troops, training and financial aid.  It also supported Afghanistan’s efforts towards integrating into the regional and global economy and reviving trade with its neighbours and beyond through increased regional connectivity.  Over the years, Azerbaijan had fostered cooperation and developed trans-regional infrastructure with multimodal capabilities along the East-West and North-South axes.  The well-being and prosperity of Afghanistan and regional development and growth were interlinked and dependent on the security situation in the country.  Hence, it was of utmost importance to demonstrate resolve and strong will to continue to jointly address security challenges.  Afghanistan’s strengthened dialogue and cooperation with its immediate neighbours remained essential for a peaceful and stable region.

GEORGI PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria) noted that July’s Warsaw Summit had sent a clear message of support for Afghanistan’s long-term security and stability.  Bulgaria remained committed to NATO efforts in that country, including through participating in the Resolute Support Mission beyond 2016 at current troop levels and locations as well as through financial contributions to the Afghanistan National Army Trust Fund for the period 2018-20.  A more secure and stable Afghanistan could be expected to reverse its migrant flow to Europe, he noted, stressing that Bulgaria was a European Union border nation exposed to significant migratory pressure.  As such, it attached high importance to the Joint Way Forward political document which would pave the way for solutions to the migration problem.  Within the framework of Bulgarian Official Development Assistance, his country would continue supporting Afghanistan in order to increase its administrative capacity, combat drug trafficking and protect the rights of women and children.

For information media. Not an official record.