UNITED NATIONS: The UN General Assembly approved a resolution over Russian objections on Thursday commending progress in peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban while urging stepped-up efforts to tackle attacks by the Taliban, Al Qaeda, the militant Islamic State (IS) group and their affiliates.
The vote in the 193-member world body was 130 in favour, Russia against, and China, Pakistan and Belarus abstaining. Fifty-nine countries did not vote.
The 15-page resolution titled “The Situation in Afghanistan” covers a wide range of issues including peace and reconciliation, democracy, the rule of law, good governance, human rights, counter-narcotics, social and economic development and regional cooperation.
While welcoming progress in the intra-Afghan talks, including the Dec 2 agreement on rules of procedure for negotiations, the resolution condemns the high rate of continued violence. It says “this is contributing to an unacceptable number of casualties” and calls for an immediate cessation of violence and strongly encourages the Afghan government and the Taliban to pursue confidence-building measures and to reduce violence.
The resolution reiterates the General Assembly’s “serious concern” about the security situation in Afghanistan and stresses the need to continue to address the threat to the country’s stability from violence committed by the Taliban, including the Haqqani Network, as well as Al Qaeda, IS, their affiliates and other terrorist and criminal groups.
Afghanistan’s UN ambassador, Adela Raz, expressed regret that despite her government’s strong support for the resolution it wasn’t adopted by consensus, saying the measure reflects developments that are taking place on the ground and particularly the progress in the peace process.
Raz said the goal of the government, Afghanistan’s neighbours and the General Assembly “is to incorporate the Taliban as a political party. It is our utmost aim to see the Taliban as a constructive political party in the country, without the relationship with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, working for prosperity and peace in Afghanistan”.
Noting that UN experts monitoring sanctions against the Taliban say it maintains ties to terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, Raz said the resolution is balanced regarding the Taliban’s willingness to take firm steps towards peace and reconciliation and its continuing attacks and terrorist ties.
German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, whose country led negotiations on the resolution, said that out of all the ‘special years’ for Afghanistan declared in the past two decades, 2020 was indeed singular. Most important was the start of Afghan peace negotiations in September, he said after detailing all the events leading to the talks, starting with the US-Taliban agreement in February.
He said the resolution is constructive and forward-looking and the vote signals that the General Assembly “stands behind the Afghan people in a very difficult period of the country”.
Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Anna Evstigneeva, sharply criticised Germany’s role in the negotiations, saying there was blatant disregard for Moscow’s concerns. She also said it was an attempt to conceal the true scope of threats from IS and drug issues threatening the country’s security.
For his part, Pakistan’s Ambassador Munir Akram lauded the progress made in the peace talks but warned against “spoilers’ ploys” to undermine efforts for a peaceful settlement in the war-torn country.
“Spoilers, from within or without, must not be allowed to subvert the success of these negotiations and prevent a comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan,” he said. “The machinations of such spoilers must be defeated.”
Turning to the issue of violence in Afghanistan, Ambassador Akram said that Pakistan shared the international community’s determination not to allow Afghan soil to be used by Al Qaeda, IS or other groups to threaten or attack other countries.
Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2020