10 December 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 40th Meeting (AM)

Adopting Annual Resolution on Afghanistan, General Assembly Commends Progress in Peace Talks while Voicing Concern over Chronic Terrorist Violence

Citing the threat posed by chronic terrorist violence in Afghanistan, delegates commended fresh progress in peace talks and exchanged views on the best way to help the nation move into a new era of stability and prosperity, as the General Assembly adopted, by a recorded vote, its annual resolution on the situation in the country.

Adopting the resolution “The situation in Afghanistan” (document A/75/L.45), by a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 1 against (Russian Federation) with 3 abstentions (Belarus, China, Pakistan), the General Assembly pledged its continued support to the country’s Government and people as they rebuild a stable, secure and economically self‑sufficient State.  Also by the text, the Assembly reiterated serious concern about the continuing high level of violence and the security situation, stressing the need to continue to address these destabilizing threats caused by terrorist groups and their affiliates.

Germany’s delegate, in introducing “L.45”, said all stakeholders were considered in the resolution, which focused on an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned process.  Indeed, 2020 has been a singular year for progress in Afghanistan, he said, pointing to such milestones as the start of negotiations between the Government and the Taliban and support from the international community, which pledged $13  billion in development assistance.

A number of delegates expressed regret that for a third consecutive year, the resolution failed to win consensus, despite negotiations towards peace and signs of progress in the country itself.  The Russian Federation’s representative, explaining her delegation’s vote against “L.45”, said regrettably that the delegation of Germany, who facilitated discussions of the draft resolution, showed brazen disregard for the interests of regional States.

In the same vein, China’s representative said “L.45” did not reflect his delegation’s constructive proposals, which were supported by other Member States.  In addition, he said, the facilitator ended the process too early and refused to retain consensus paragraphs on the role of regional States.  The representative of the United States regretted to note that progress in the current peace talks was not reflected in the resolution, which also failed to make a distinction between the Taliban, Al‑Qaida and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh), despite efforts to raise these concerns with the facilitator.

Afghanistan’s representative said “L.45” reflects national progress and priorities, and the hopes and longings of the Afghan people.  However, concerns remain regarding security threats, she said, emphasizing that Kabul has prioritized action on a range of issues and has not lowered its guard or diminished efforts to fend off terrorist attacks.

A number of speakers echoed that caution, with the United Kingdom’s delegate deploring the senseless murder of journalist Malalai Maiwand and her driver by unidentified gunmen earlier in the day.  Summing up a common thread heard during the morning meeting, the representative of the United Arab Emirates said no one is safe until everyone is safe, recalling the death of her country’s ambassador, five humanitarian workers and several Afghan citizens in an attack in Kandahar in 2017.

Sharing concern at the high level of violence, Pakistan’s delegate echoed the international community’s determination not to allow Afghan soil to be used by Al‑Qaida, ISIL or other groups to threaten or attack other countries.  Emphasizing that an unstable Afghanistan will remain a threat to its neighbours, the region and beyond, an observer for the European Union said the bloc will remain vigilant.  Attacks by the Taliban are unacceptable and run counter to its declared commitment to peace and negotiations, he said, emphasizing that perpetrators today cannot be leaders tomorrow.

Other delegates pointed to gains made and the importance of consolidating them.  Oman’s representative welcomed initiatives between Afghanistan and its neighbours Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and China to open border crossings, which will spur economic exchange, reduce tensions and restore Afghanistan’s status as a hub and transit State for international trade.  He further called on the international community and Security Council to reconsider sanctions on the country under Security Council resolution 1988 (2011).

Also speaking were representatives of Turkey, Australia, India, Qatar, Canada, Norway, Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran and Uzbekistan.

The representatives of Germany and the Russian Federation spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Assembly will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 10 December to take up the reports recommended by its Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) and take action on the draft resolutions and decisions contained therein.

Situation in Afghanistan

VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, welcoming progress over the past year towards peace in Afghanistan, emphasized the nexus between peace and development.  He also noted the international community’s renewed interest and support for long‑term assistance to Afghanistan and the efforts of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).  He welcomed the growing role of women in the Government and private sector and the establishment of a technical committee on eliminating gender‑based violence.  Going forward, the benefits of peace in Afghanistan should be directed towards its people who have been waiting for 40 years for conflict to end.  “We cannot disappoint them once again,” he said.  Emphasizing that violence could still derail peace talks, he said the COVID‑19 pandemic and climate change are additional risks that must be considered to ensure that they do not undermine the progress that has been made.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, introduced the draft resolution “The situation in Afghanistan” (document A/75/L.45), noting that of all special years, 2020 has indeed been singular.  Citing several milestones, he pointed to the start of negotiations on 12 September, with representatives of Afghanistan and the Taliban sitting together for the first time to forge a peaceful future, alongside other gains, including the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the United States and the Taliban, the agreement in May between two Afghan leaders after presidential elections, ceasefires and the release of political prisoners.  Two weeks ago, the international community demonstrated its support, pledging $13 billion at the Afghanistan Conference 2020 in Geneva.

All this has been achieved despite the COVID‑19 pandemic and profound challenges to the humanitarian and security situations in Afghanistan, he said.  Citing the urgent requirement of an immediate, permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, he said “L.45” has taken into account such central issues as democracy, rule of law, counter‑narcotics, refugees and human rights.  All stakeholders have been considered, focusing on an Afghan‑led, Afghan‑owned process.  The entire process was done virtually, he noted, making it more efficient but less personal.  “L.45” has moved away from dwelling on past achievements and is now a biennial resolution, the norm for many General Assembly resolutions, offering time to reflect and craft a forward‑looking and bold document in these last four years of the Afghanistan’s decade of transformation.  Despite what some delegations may say, he said it is the fruit of unrelenting efforts for consensus.

ADELA RAZ (Afghanistan) said “L.45” reflects national priorities, progress, challenges and joint efforts towards prosperity and stability, echoing the hopes and longings of the Afghan people — unanimously supported and shared by all Member States — for security and a long‑awaited peace.  Highlighting several points, including the call for a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, expanding on past gains and focusing on the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of a democratic Afghanistan, she said “L.45” also summarizes shared achievements of the last 19 years, attained through international and regional support.  She also noted the important focus on promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and democratic processes — top priorities for the Government — and the centrality of an inclusive Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned peace process.

Emphasizing the role of regional cooperation to promote long‑term stability, sustainable development, peace and security, she envisioned Afghanistan becoming a regional hub for connectivity in transport, energy, digital communication, industry and trade.  However, concerns remain regarding security threats and terrorism against Afghanistan and the region by Al‑Qaida, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh) and other international terrorist organizations and their affiliates.  Afghanistan has not lowered its guard or diminished efforts to fend off terrorist attacks.  Underlining the serious threat of illicit opium cultivation and methamphetamine trafficking on security, development and governance, which helps to fund terrorism, she said Kabul has continued efforts to target and destroy illicit stockpiles and laboratories.  These efforts must be supported through comprehensive regional and international efforts to eliminate financial safe havens and reduce drug consumption and demand.  Despite recent developments with peace talks in Doha and other initiatives, she said violence continues to be the main hurdle, with an urgent need for a ceasefire at the top of the Government’s agenda.

SILVIO GONZATO, European Union delegation, said that only an Afghan‑owned and Afghan‑led process, supported by the international community, can lead to durable peace.  The European Union and its member States are committed to that effort, which must include respect for human rights and the participation of all Afghans.  Strongly condemning the horrific levels of violence, he called for an immediate, permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, emphasizing that an unstable Afghanistan will remain a threat to its neighbours, the wider region and beyond.  Going forward, the bloc will remain vigilant to ensure that terrorists and extremists do not use Afghanistan as a springboard for attacks.  Attacks by the Taliban are unacceptable and run counter to its declared commitment to peace and negotiations, he said, emphasizing that perpetrators today cannot be leaders of Afghanistan and partners of the international community tomorrow.  “The lifting of sanctions is not automatic,” he added, stating that sustained support from the European Union and its member States, including those on the Security Council, hinges on progress in the peace process.  He went on to underscore the need for progress on gender equality, the full enjoyment of human rights, improved governance and fighting corruption.

RAZIYE BILGE KOCYIGIT GRBA (Turkey) said Afghanistan is going through a crucial phase that should lead to a lasting and comprehensive peace agreement.  Achievements of the last two decades must be consolidated through a comprehensive approach which also addresses security, development and political issues, she said, adding that:  “We would all like to see peace in Afghanistan, but peace at the price of these achievements is no peace.”  At this critical juncture, a significant reduction of violence is necessary to create a conducive environment for talks.  Despite the COVID‑19 pandemic, continued international assistance for Afghanistan gives hope for a better future.  In that regard, Turkey has pledged $75 million for the next two years.  She also called for the Heart of Asia‑Istanbul Process to be used as an umbrella platform to assess post-peace stabilization efforts.

MITCHELL FIFIELD (Australia), welcoming ongoing talks and expressing support for an Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned process, said compromises are required.  Noting with great concern the unacceptably high number of casualties due to the conflict, he called on all sides to reduce the level of violence and observe a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.  While the international community recently pledged $13.5 billion in development assistance, that financial support is conditional, requiring Afghanistan’s commitment to democracy, human rights, gender equality and the rule of law.  He also called on all its citizens to fight corruption, which will ensure international resources are provided to those most in need.

NAGARAJ NAIDU KAKANUR (India) said Afghanistan is at a critical stage, and all efforts to bring peace and security should be honoured.  However, violence and threats to security by terrorist groups must be addressed.  “L.45” reiterates the importance of safeguarding past achievements, especially regarding democratic and social reforms, including the rights of women and minorities.  As contiguous neighbours, he recalled that India and Afghanistan share a long history, and cited such recent efforts as New Delhi’s $3 billion pledge for development and reconstruction, including the Shahtoot Dam, providing clean drinking water to 2 million Kabul residents, and the operationalization of air freight corridors.  However, peace process solutions must come from the Afghan people themselves.  It is crucial to ensure that its territory is not used by terrorist groups to threaten other countries.  As Afghanistan needs access to high seas, he said the international community must remove all barriers to transit, as called for in “L.45”.

SHANQUIN YAO (China) said the international community should fully respect the will of the Afghan people and create a favourable environment for smooth negotiations.  No outside forces should impose a solution or take the opportunity to manipulate the negotiations for their own selfish interests.  Foreign troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan in a responsible manner and criminal acts by those troops investigated, with the perpetrators brought to justice.  As a friend and close neighbour of Afghanistan, China will continue to support mediation efforts and facilitate the peace and reconciliation process.  Describing the security situation as worrisome, he said the international community should provide training, funding and technical support to help build the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces.  Emphasizing that development is the master key to solving all problems, he added the international community should support Afghanistan’s regional integration, bringing its geographical advantage into play.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL‑THANI (Qatar), noting Doha’s efforts in facilitating talks between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, said the two parties are approaching the peace process with wisdom and responsibility.  Qatar is proud to play a mediating role with the support of friendly countries, notably the United States.  The launch of intra‑Afghan negotiations was the product of an important peace agreement reached in Doha in February between the United States and the Taliban.  Despite pandemic‑related restrictions, Qatar pushed negotiations forward, including during Muslim holidays, culminating in an important prisoner exchange, she said, also emphasizing that the peace process cannot be sustained unless it is inclusive, with the participation of women, youth and minority groups.

MOHAMED AL HASSAN (Oman), recalling Afghanistan’s rich contribution to world history, commended recent achievements, including commitments to release political prisoners, the United States‑Taliban agreement and an agreed framework for negotiations.  With these and other gains, he expressed hope that Afghanistan can move into a new stage, ending long years of conflict and regaining its status at the international level.  Welcoming efforts with neighbours Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and China alongside the opening of border crossings, he said such initiatives will spur economic exchange, reduce tensions and restore Afghanistan’s status as a hub and transit State for international trade.  With this move towards self-reliance, he called on the international community and Security Council to reconsider sanctions under resolution 1988 (2011).

KRISTIN EMILY JANSON (Canada) said the past year has witnessed turmoil, with the COVID‑19 pandemic demonstrating the need for solidarity across borders by the entire international community.  Although 2020 has also brought new hope for peace with the launch of negotiations between the Government and the Taliban, she said cooperation from Member States will be essential to the processes going forward.  It is unfortunate, she noted, that the draft resolution could not be adopted unanimously for the third year in row.  Reiterating deep concern over targeted killings and casualties caused by the Taliban, she highlighted the importance of protecting past gains, including in the area of human rights and the rights of women, who must participate meaningfully in the peace process.  This is a critical moment for the international community to work together for the future of the Afghanistan people.

MONA JUUL (Norway), noting that 2020 brought a glimmer of hope that four decades of conflict in Afghanistan might come to an end, encouraged the Government and the Taliban to engage constructively, giving priority to ending violence.  The participation of women in the peace process is crucial, as inclusive agreements are more likely to succeed in the long run.  Talks should be Afghan‑owned and Afghan‑led, with the international community extending support if the parties so wish.  The recent donor conference sent a clear message that Afghanistan is expected to strengthen democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, alongside redoubled efforts to combat corruption.  As an incoming member of the Security Council, Norway will do its utmost to ensure that the organ supports the peace process.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said Islamabad and Kabul are linked by unbreakable bonds and their destinies are intertwined.  Pakistan has shared Afghanistan’s trials and tribulations and hopes to share its joy when peace is established.  With the intra‑Afghan talks in Doha rekindling hopes for peace, it is time for Afghanistan’s leaders to seize this historic opportunity and work constructively towards an inclusive and comprehensive settlement, without outside influence or interference.  Spoilers from within or without must not be allowed to subvert the success of the talks and the machinations of such spoilers must be defeated.   Expressing concern at the high level of violence in Afghanistan, he said that Pakistan shares the international community’s determination not to allow Afghan soil to be used by Al‑Qaida, ISIL or other groups to threaten or attack other countries.

DAVID KINNA (United Kingdom) welcomed agreements between Afghanistan and the Taliban working towards the rules and procedures for negotiations.  There remains a long way to go, he said, but these first steps show all sides can work together for lasting peace.  However, the road to peace is still immensely challenging, requiring compromise on all sides, as current talks represent a historic opportunity.  He stressed that terrorists must no longer be permitted to use Afghanistan to threaten and attack international community, calling for respect all human rights and upholding the rule of law.  The current level of violence particularly by the Taliban must stop, he said, deploring the senseless murder today of journalist Malalai Maiwand of Enikas Radio and TV and her driver by unidentified gunmen, and calling for permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.

KARTIKA HANDARUNINGRUM (Indonesia) said momentum for a new Afghanistan journey is here, spurred by formal negotiations in Doha in September.  Expressing support for an Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned peace process, she said all that has been achieved in development and human rights gains of the past two decades must be preserved.  She also noted deep concern over ongoing violence, which weakens the trust of the Afghan people in the peace process, and cited the continued presence of ISIL/Da’esh and Al‑Qaeda.  Peace is in best interest of international community, promoting stability and development for entire region, and also extinguishing organized crime.  Citing the role of UNAMA, she expressed support for the role of women in the peace process, and all citizens, religions and ethnicities in reconstruction and development.

NUR ATIQA MD AKIM (Malaysia), noting that his delegation co‑sponsored “L.45”, reiterated the call on all relevant parties to implement an immediate, permanent and comprehensive ceasefire in Afghanistan without any precondition. This agrees with the Secretary‑General’s call for a global ceasefire, as supported by Council resolutions 2532 (2020) and 2543 (2020) and the statement of support endorsed by 172 Member States in June.  Voicing continued support for the Government’s efforts regarding the peace and reconciliation process, which respects the Constitution, democracy and the rights of all Afghan people, he said an inclusive Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned peace process is the way resolve the conflict on a sustainable basis.

GHASAQ YOUSIF ABDALLA SHAHEEN (United Arab Emirates), recalling a 2017 attack in Kandahar that killed her country’s ambassador, five humanitarian workers and several Afghan citizens, said no one is safe until everyone is safe.  She called on the international community to continue to support the Government of Afghanistan’s efforts in combatting terrorism, including during the pandemic.  Reiterating her delegation’s commitment to supporting Afghanistan, she said efforts include training 20,000 imams in peaceful values, demining projects and $1.7 billion in humanitarian and development assistance, including medical supplies since the start of the pandemic.  Underscoring challenges faced by women, she also called on countries hosting Afghan refugees not to involve them in regional conflicts which do not concern them.  “Their rights must be respected,” she said.

MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran), while welcoming the General Assembly’s call for the preservation of the Constitution and its rejection of the restoration of the Islamic Emirate, said Tehran’s support for “L.45” does not mean his delegation acknowledges or agrees with the continued presence or activities of foreign forces in Afghanistan.  He regretted to note that, due to the objection of some Western countries, a call for an orderly and responsible withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan was not included in “L.45”.  Recalling Tehran’s efforts to combat drug trafficking in the region over the past 40 years, with nearly 4,000 law enforcement members killed and 12,000 others wounded, he said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime “World Drug Report 2020” places Iran at the top of the list of countries that in 2018 seized the largest quantities of opiates, accounting for 53 per cent of the global total.  At the same time, increased international support is necessary to economically develop Afghanistan.  For its part, Iran has hosted and supported more than 3 million Afghans, including by providing health services during the pandemic.  Despite the savage United States economic war against Tehran, he said his delegation still promotes such economic cooperation as the provision of electricity and support for transit initiatives addressing the difficulties of landlockedness, including developing the Chabahu Port and the Khaf‑Herat railway, inaugurated today to connect Afghanistan to Europe through Iran.  These efforts are taking place under the illegal United States economic terrorism targeting Iranians and Afghans alike, he said, emphasizing that Iran is determined to strengthen bilateral relations and support the Afghan people and Government.

The Assembly then considered the draft resolution “The situation in Afghanistan” (document A/75/L.45), by which it would pledge its continued support to the Government and people of Afghanistan as they rebuild a stable, secure and economically self‑sufficient State.  By its provisions, the Assembly would welcome the adoption of the Afghanistan Partnership Framework at the 2020 Afghanistan Conference in Geneva, stress the need for the Government, regional countries and the international community to continue to work together and to improve coordination in countering all unlawful acts of violence and terrorist attacks, and recall that women play a vital role in the peace process.

The representative of the United States, in an explanation of his delegation’s position, said “L.45” comes at a critical time amid ongoing negotiations.  When the Taliban agreed to enter into talks, it publicly and explicitly agreed that it would prevent Al‑Qaida and others from using Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.  The United States regrets that such progress is not fully reflected in the draft, which also fails to make a distinction between the Taliban, ISIL and Al‑Qaida, despite having raised these concerns with his counterpart from Germany.  With the level of violence in Afghanistan running too high, the assessment of the situation on the ground “cannot be on autopilot,” he said, adding that the recent agreement on rules and procedures for peace talks demonstrates that both sides are engaging seriously and capable of agreeing on tough issues.  Going into the next phase, the international community must acknowledge the significant progress made to date while pressuring both sides to work together with urgency.  The time has come for the Afghan people to embrace compromise and for the international community to unify to support the peace process.  Turning to references to climate change in “L.45”, he said the United States has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement on climate change and that such references are without prejudice to his delegation’s position.

The representative of Afghanistan, speaking on a point of order, expressed regret that a vote was requested.  It is the wish of the Afghan people, and the Government’s aim at the negotiating table, that the Taliban become a party that can be trusted.  “L.45” and other United Nations documents must reflect the current standing of that group as long as it engages with Al‑Qaida and other terrorist groups.  Noting that “L.45” represents the best interests of the people of Afghanistan, she expressed disappointment if some think otherwise.

The Assembly then adopted “L.45”, by a vote of 130 in favour to 1 against (Russian Federation), with 3 abstentions (Belarus, China, Pakistan).

The representative of the Russian Federation, explaining her delegation’s position, regretted to note that while traditionally supporting a consensus adoption, for the third year in row, facilitators showed brazen disregard for the interests of regional States, and certain delegations evinced a view of the situation that is devoid of reality.  This is especially true regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops, she said, as the continued presence of ISIL and drug‑related activities threaten the security of Afghanistan and neighbouring States.  The Russian Federation works to see that Afghanistan and regional players work from a single set of rules, and Member States could have reached consensus under a transparent, objective process.  The working methods of Germany’s delegation were beneath all criticism, as it favoured some States and blatantly ignored regional concerns.  As such, Berlin should no longer fill the role of facilitator for Afghanistan in the General Assembly.  Despite this, Moscow continues to support Afghanistan, she said, adding that her delegation’s vote against “L.45” was exclusively in objection to the facilitator’s working methods.

The representative of China said his delegation actively supports the peace and reconciliation process, having proposed constructive amendments which enjoyed support from other Member States.  This version of “L.45” fails to reflect those efforts and contributions.  He expressed regret that the facilitator ended the process too early and also refused to retain consensus paragraphs on the role of regional States.  Expressing hope that the facilitator will communicate more with Member States, he said China will continue to work to contribute to peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The representative of Uzbekistan said the intra‑Afghan negotiations are at an important stage, and the peace process must be inclusive going forward.  Calling on all Member States to take steps conducive to advancing the talks, he said his delegation supports “L.45”.

The representative of Iran, noting that his delegation’s vote in favour of “L.45” was not properly recorded, asked the Secretariat to make the correction.

The representative of Pakistan, which abstained, said that “L.45” omitted some important issues, such as regional economic initiatives, drug production and terrorist threats.  Consensus would have been possible if the facilitator had been more accommodating.

Right of Reply

The representative of Germany, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, rejected the United States claim that his delegation, as facilitator of the draft resolution, had worked on “autopilot”.  He invited his counterpart from the United States to review the record of today’s meeting, noting the many speakers who praised Germany’s efforts.  Turning to accusations made by the Russian Federation and others, he asked whether they had read “L.45”, which included sections on ISIL and the fact that Afghanistan must not be used to threaten or attack other countries.  Regional cooperation is also highlighted in the text, he said, though not every effort — including Germany’s own — is mentioned.  Moreover, an entire paragraph is dedicated to illicit drugs.  The overwhelming vote in favour of “L.45” sent a very strong signal that the Assembly stands behind the Afghan people at this difficult period.  It is regrettable that for the first time, the Russian Federation voted against the resolution, he added.

The representative of the Russian Federation said her German counterpart should listen more carefully to Moscow’s position on the vote.  That difficulty in understanding had led to the Russian Federation’s vote against “L.45”.  While Moscow continues to fully support the peace process, her delegation voted against the resolution due to an unproductive co‑sponsor.

Closing Remarks

Mr. BOZKIR, emphasizing that peace and prosperity in Afghanistan are the common desire of the entire United Nations system, said Member States now must translate their words into action and not disappoint the Afghan people.  While expressing serious concerns over ongoing violence and underlining the importance of promoting the safety and role of women, he said this is a time for success stories and to prove that the United Nations delivers.

For information media. Not an official record.