Speakers today warned of escalating violence as the General Assembly adopted its annual resolution pledging to support the people and Government of Afghanistan.
The Assembly held its annual debate on the situation in Afghanistan during which it adopted the resolution on the matter (document A/73/L.44) by a recorded vote of 124 in favour to none against, with 3 abstentions (Libya, Russian Federation, Zimbabwe) — reversing its trend to adopt the text by consensus.
Through the terms of the draft, the Assembly pledges its continued support to Afghanistan as it rebuilds a stable, secure and economically self‑sufficient State, free of terrorism and narcotics. It further encourages all partners to support constructively the Government of Afghanistan’s reform agenda and emphasizes that threats to stability and development in the country and the region require closer and more coordinated cooperation.
“Violence has brought untold suffering and devastation for our people,” said the representative of Afghanistan as the Assembly began its debate. While denouncing foreign meddling, he said security forces have inflicted heavy losses on the Taliban and other transnational terrorist networks.
Recent developments in the context of the Afghan peace process provide hope, he stressed, pointing to talks with the Taliban, a three‑day ceasefire and an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference in July which denounced war and left “no grounds of religious justification for the war” as positive steps forward. He said the draft “exemplifies the international community’s commitment to improve the situation on the ground” and highlights the direct link between regional economic cooperation and peace.
The representative of Germany, who introduced the draft, said the preeminent concern in Afghanistan is the fragile security situation. The only path towards a sustainable resolution to the crisis is an Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned peace process. He said the draft calls on all parties to the conflict to recognize their responsibility to enter direct peace talks without preconditions.
Explaining his country’s position, the representative of the Russian Federation called for a recorded vote as the draft “failed to account for current realities and reflect the collective approaches of the international community to find a settlement in Afghanistan”. The draft ignored Moscow’s concerns and as such he could not vote in favour of the text. Stressing that the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating due to the activities of certain States, he regretted that the draft ignored the regional threat posed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).
Throughout the debate speakers lauded recent parliamentary elections as a step towards the consolidation of democracy but warned of escalating violence across the country.
“Insurgent attacks and coalition air strikes have resulted in civilian casualties,” said Pakistan’s representative, calling for a negotiated political settlement to the conflict. “The global community has remained steadfast in its support for the Afghan people,” she said, adding that Pakistan has suffered from the situation in Afghanistan.
The presence of foreign forces, which gave an impetus to extremist recruiting, is one of the underlying causes of instability in the country, said Iran’s representative. “That’s why we have never believed that such forces have contributed to Afghanistan’s peace and stability,” he said, stressing that Iran’s support for draft resolution must not be misinterpreted as according any support for the continued presence of foreign forces in that country.
A delegate from the European Union said there have been internal reforms in many areas, but they need to be translated into visible progress, contributing to a solid democratic and peaceful society. Such a society must respect human rights as well as the rule of law and be conducive for economic development.
The representative of Belgium called on the Government to hold orderly, inclusive and credible presidential elections in 2019 to build on the successes of parliamentary polls. To pursue inclusiveness within Afghan society, he said Belgium contributed €2 million to the Afghanistan country office of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women).
The common theme that emerged throughout the debate was the assertion that peace initiatives will only succeed if they are Afghan-led, with delegations calling on the Taliban to participate in unconditional talks.
The representative of the United States said that an inclusive peace in Afghanistan will benefit all Afghan men and women, accelerate the country’s economic growth and ensure that its territory is no longer exploited by terrorists. He called on the Taliban to commit to a peaceful outcome and appoint an authoritative negotiating team. “Peace in Afghanistan is possible”, he said, and the international community must seize this opportunity.
For the matter, the Assembly had before it a report of the Secretary‑General titled “The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security” (document A/73/374–S/2018/824).
Also speaking today were the representatives of Australia, India, Maldives, Norway, Turkey, China, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Bangladesh and the United Kingdom.
The Assembly is scheduled to reconvene at 4 p.m. today to consider the situation in the Middle East.
Introduction of Draft Resolution
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), introducing a draft resolution titled “The situation in Afghanistan” (document A/73/L.44) and associating himself with the European Union, said the text represents a “consensus draft” and remains an expression of support for Afghanistan by the entire United Nations membership. “Our preeminent concern remains the fragile security situation,” he said, noting recent attacks targeting religious scholars. He called on all Afghans to stand united in the face of terrorist acts. Germany will continue to support the Afghan National Defence and Security Force through North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) missions. He said the situation in Afghanistan will not improve without support for civilian development and the building of functioning institutions. The only path towards a sustainable resolution to the crisis is an Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned peace process. He said the draft calls on all parties to the conflict, particularly the Taliban, to recognize their responsibility to enter direct peace talks without preconditions.
MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan) said his country’s location in the heart of Asia has led to vested interests, aimed at meddling and interference, which benefit nobody. “Violence has brought untold suffering and devastation for our people,” he asserted, pointing to a “new era of meddling” following the end of Soviet occupation. Despite its troubled past, Afghanistan has made progress in becoming self‑reliant and the current draft resolution on the situation in the country “exemplifies the international community’s commitment to improve the situation on the ground”. He said Afghan security forces have inflicted heavy losses on the Taliban and other transnational terrorist networks. “The Taliban have failed to capture any province or city and assert control anywhere in the country.”
He said recent developments in the context of the Afghan peace process provide hope. Efforts over the past months include the presentation of a peace plan in February that featured unconditional talks with the Taliban and conferences in Kabul and Jakarta which resulted in a three‑day ceasefire. Further, an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference in July denounced war and left “no grounds of religious justification for the war”. However, he warned that the Taliban continue to pursue a policy of violence and terror. Domestically, a consultation process is underway to ensure that peace efforts have the full support of society, he said, adding that a road map for peace was recently introduced in Geneva. “The road map aims for a peace agreement that will uphold the constitutional rights of all citizens, especially women,” he said, calling for regional support to the process.
“We have focused on security sector, civil service and fiscal reform, improved governance and anti‑corruption,” he noted, adding that such measures strengthen the rule of law. He said this year’s draft resolution highlights the direct link between regional economic cooperation and peace. Afghanistan looks forward to working with international partners to advance cooperation in the fields of security and social and economic development. The year 2001 — when countries converged in Afghanistan to defeat international terrorism — signalled that cooperation and collaboration serve the interests of all. “It is imperative to regenerate and solidify consensus for the goals at hand,” he said, calling for closer coordination by all stakeholders to advance peace, security and prosperity in the country.
JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, Head of the European Union delegation, noting that the security situation in Afghanistan remains fragile, said innocent civilians continue to be victims of terrorist attacks. There have been internal reforms in many areas, but they need to be translated into visible progress, contributing to a solid democratic and peaceful society. Such a society must respect human rights as well as the rule of law and be conducive for economic development. Increased efforts are also needed to combat corruption, which will have a positive impact on the economy and private sector development.
Regarding migration, he said decreased returns from Pakistan are encouraging, as they will allow proper reintegration of these individuals in Afghanistan. However, the Union remains deeply concerned about the high level of civilian casualties and increasing number of displaced people, he said, calling on all parties to protect civilians, especially women and children. Conflict‑related violence must not destroy another generation’s livelihood, homes and property, displacing families and limiting access to education, health and other services. In addition, the international community must continue to protect humanitarian agencies and respect their impartiality in addressing the most urgent needs of the most vulnerable.
TEGAN BRINK (Australia), reaffirming commitment to the Resolute Support Mission, which is building the capacity of Afghan security forces, highlighted the Afghanistan Government’s determined pursuit of peace in 2018, from its February offer to the Taliban to negotiate without preconditions to its November announcement of the formation of a negotiating team. Calling on the Taliban to commit to a ceasefire and join fellow Afghans at the negotiating table, she stressed that the country’s neighbours will have an especially important role to play. Welcoming the Heart of Asia‑Istanbul Process that aims to facilitate regional cooperation, she also encouraged enhanced engagement between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
EENAM GAMBHIR (India) said that despite mounting challenges to security and development, there has also been considerable progress in Afghanistan in the last 17 years, especially in the fields of education, health care, women’s rights and the generation of livelihoods. Democracy in Afghanistan is taking deeper roots, she said, noting the enthusiastic participation of its people in the Parliamentary elections held in November despite terrorist violence. Highlighting the recently released Global Terrorism Index reports, according to which Afghanistan is now the world’s deadliest country for terrorism, she expressed support for an Afghan‑led, Afghan‑owned and Afghan‑controlled peace and reconciliation process.
FARZANA ZAHIR (Maldives), noting the extraordinary resilience and determination of the people of Afghanistan in rebuilding their country, lauded President Ashraf Ghani’s leadership and courage in promoting democratic values. Through the ballot box, the people of that country have chosen the path to peace and tolerance over extremism, she said, welcoming the continued implementation of overlapping ceasefires between the Afghanistan Government and the Taliban. Noting the relatively high level of participation of women in the October general election as an encouraging sign, she called on all regional partners to commit to greater economic integration and cooperation.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said the people of Afghanistan have experienced violence and turmoil that undermines national and international peace and security. “The global community has remained steadfast in its support for the Afghan people,” she said, adding that Pakistan has suffered from the situation in Afghanistan. “We opened our hearts and homes to millions of Afghan refugees,” she said, noting that 2 million Afghans reside in Pakistan. She said the Afghanistan‑Pakistan action plan aims to foster closer security cooperation and that financial assistance is being provided for infrastructure projects. Pakistan is committed to regional projects that contribute to economic integration and promote South‑South cooperation, she said.
She warned that violence in Afghanistan has escalated sharply over the past few months. “Insurgent attacks and coalition air strikes have resulted in civilian casualties,” she asserted, calling for a negotiated political settlement to the conflict. She pointed to international consensus around the notion that a negotiated settlement is the only way forward and to the willingness of the Afghanistan Government to pursue such a settlement as a positive step forward. The decision by the United States to engage in direct talks with the Taliban is another positive development, she said, adding that Pakistan will support those talks. “Sustainable peace requires endorsement of all regional partners,” she said, adding that Pakistan will do whatever it can to launch a sustained peace process.
TORE HATTREM (Norway) noting the broad international agreement that the conflict in Afghanistan can only be resolved by political means, applauded President Ghani’s brave offer to the Taliban of peace negotiations without preconditions in February. He noted the efforts by the United States to engage with the Taliban in exploratory talks as well as the support of regional partners to negotiate a solution. “Nothing will succeed unless the Afghan parties dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to reach a peaceful settlement”, he emphasized, urging the Taliban to engage in negotiations. The international community must stand ready to offer necessary assistance, he said. Women play an important role in reaching a peaceful solution, he continued, adding that the protection of their rights should be a priority in a settlement. On the security situation, he noted the Taliban gaining ground, condemning the terrorist attacks which caused the loss of civilian lives, stressing the importance of international military and civilian assistance to provide stability and prevent violent extremism to spread. Significant improvements must be made before the Presidential elections in April 2019, he said. “Afghanistan must be able to take care of its own security and defend itself with its own defence force”, he emphasized.
FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) called for the draft resolution on Afghanistan to be adopted by consensus. “The resolution highlights the achievements and responsibilities of Afghanistan and the international community,” he said, adding that the draft represents a display of support to the country’s people. He praised Afghanistan’s achievements in the fields of security and governance over the past decade and said that the Parliamentary elections of 20 October were an important step forward. He said the region demonstrates its readiness to resolve its own problems and that Turkey supports regional connectivity projects. The Istanbul Process represents an effective cooperation model, he asserted, adding that it can bring practical solutions to challenges in the heart of Asia. He noted that Turkey’s assistance to the Afghan people is the country’s “most comprehensive development aid programme” and that 1,056 development projects have been completed.
WU HAITAO (China) said peace and stability in Afghanistan affects regional security, development and prosperity. “The recent situation offers no optimism,” he warned, calling on the international community to continue supporting reconciliation efforts in the country. States must support an Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned peace process and urge the Taliban to enter unconditional talks. Conflict has continued unabetted in the country, he said, adding that drug‑related crimes are on the rise. The international community must build the capacities of Afghan security forces to combat transnational crime. Priority must be given to improving the quality of life of the Afghan people and to improving the humanitarian situation, including in response to recent drought. Afghanistan’s neighbours must address the return of the 5 million Afghan refugees in the region, he said.
Ms. ALHEFAIEI (United Arab Emirates), stressing the importance of dialogue, expressed support for the political reconciliation process led by the Government of Afghanistan and President Ghani. Lamenting the deteriorating security situation in the country, she recalled the attack on Emirati delegates in Kandahar. Her country has organized several training courses and capacity‑building efforts for the Afghan people, she said, noting also humanitarian assistance in the fields of education, health and women’s empowerment.
JEROEN COOREMAN (Belgium), associating himself with the European Union, said the draft resolution highlights Afghanistan’s progress in the fields of security and development. Congratulating the country’s authorities for recent parliamentary elections, he called on the Government to hold orderly, inclusive and credible presidential elections in 2019. He said the draft stresses the importance of an Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned peace process and asserted that amid several peace processes, the Kabul process is the only one that can act as a central framework for peace. Belgium calls on the Taliban to respond to the Government of Afghanistan’s peace offer and to enter in peace talks. He said Belgium recently contributed €2 million to the Afghanistan country office of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women) to help with the implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions. Warning that 2018 has been the deadliest year for civilians in Afghanistan, he affirmed his commitment to peace in the country.
CATHERINE BOUCHER (Canada) stressed the importance for the international community to stand side‑by‑side with Afghanistan while creating a sustainable future. He emphasized his country’s commitment to Afghanistan’s peace and reconciliation process. By helping Afghanistan to build a more stable, safe and democratic country, he said, the international community will also create a safer and more prosperous world. Noting the October 2018 parliamentary elections, he applauded “the bravery of the Afghan people who, defying intimidation and threats of violence, went to the polls to cast their votes”. The presidential elections in 2019 will be another major milestone for that country, he said. He expressed support to ensuring the meaningful participation of all Afghans in the electoral process as well as for an inclusive Afghan‑led, Afghan‑owned peace process with women playing a meaningful leadership role.
ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), noting the renewed efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, called on the international community to facilitate the intra‑Afghan dialogue by helping to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table with the Government for inclusive and comprehensive talks. The presence of foreign forces, which gave an impetus to extremist recruiting, is one of the underlying causes of instability in the country. “That’s why we have never believed that such forces have contributed to Afghanistan’s peace and stability,” he said, stressing that Iran’s support for the annual Assembly resolution on the situation in Afghanistan should not be misinterpreted as according any support for the continued presence of foreign forces in that country.
TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), recalling the November 2018 Geneva Conference on Afghanistan where that country’s Government reaffirmed its commitment to reform and democracy, welcomed the joint communiqué and the Geneva Mutual Accountability Framework. Condemning all terrorist attacks on the country, he expressed concern about the presence of terrorist groups aiming to spread and consolidate their network across the region and beyond. Noting alarming signs such as the reported presence of foreign terrorist fighters and the involvement of terrorist groups in narcotics cultivation and trafficking, he lauded the valiant role played by the Afghan defence and security forces in the face of such risks.
Mr. CAMP (United States) said that an inclusive peace in Afghanistan will benefit all Afghan men and women, accelerate the country’s economic growth and ensure that its territory is no longer exploited by terrorists. Noting encouraging signs, such as the Government’s invitation to the Taliban to enter peace talks without preconditions and the Eid al‑Fitr ceasefire, the first of its kind in 17 years, he called on the Taliban to commit to a peaceful outcome and appoint an authoritative negotiating team. “Peace in Afghanistan is possible”, he said, and the international community must seize this opportunity.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) affirmed his country’s commitment to the people of Afghanistan and said the draft recognizes the importance of an Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned peace process. “The bravery of the Afghan people in participating in parliamentary elections confirms the demand by citizens to have a say in their Government.” He called on the Government to address technical issues during those elections ahead of presidential polls set for 2019. “For peace to be sustainable it must be inclusive,” he said, pointing to numerous references to women and children in the draft resolution. He urged full support for the draft resolutions and for a political settlement to end violence in Afghanistan.
Action on Draft Resolution
The representative of the Russian Federation, explaining his country’s position prior to a vote on the draft, said the text must account for current realities and reflect the collective approaches of the international community to find a settlement in Afghanistan. However, he said recent versions of the draft ignore Moscow’s concerns and as a result he called for a vote on the text. The Russian Federation cannot support the text, he asserted, adding that the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating due to the activities of certain States. He regretted that Member States ignored the regional threat posed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)/Da’esh when drafting the text. Failing to reflect the situation on the ground will undermine General Assembly efforts, he warned. “Russia and Afghanistan are bound by time‑tested, friendly relationships,” he said, while also paying tribute to Afghan forces that have died at the hands of terrorists.
The representative of Afghanistan, speaking in a point of order, expressed deep regret at the Russian Federation’s request for a vote and said the draft has always been adopted by consensus. “The text reflects the international community’s efforts to assist our people,” he said, asserting that Germany led an open negotiation process for the draft. He said Afghanistan welcomes all peace processes while asserting that any such effort must be founded on Afghan‑led initiatives. “Afghan forces are on the frontline in the fight against foreign terrorist groups,” he said, noting that the presence of such groups in the country has diminished. The Government continues to work with international partners, including NATO, he said, noting that Moscow has pledged to work with the Security Council to coordinate initiatives related to Afghanistan. He called on all Member States to vote in support of the draft.
The representative of Germany, also speaking on a point of order, voiced support for Afghanistan’s position on the text and voiced his regret that the text was being put to a vote. He called on all States to support the draft and the Afghan people.
The Assembly then adopted the draft titled “The situation in Afghanistan” (document A/73/L.44) by a recorded vote of 124 in favour to none against, with 3 abstentions (Libya, Russian Federation, Zimbabwe).
Speaking in explanation of vote after adoption, the representative of China said that the resolution would encourage the National Unity Government and contribute to enhancing regional economic cooperation. His delegation is not fully satisfied with the text, he said, expressing concern that due to some important issues, the text fails to maintain the consensus reached in the past. Despite that disappointment, China had voted in favour of the draft to express its support for the achievements of Afghanistan.