By Santo D. Banerjee
NEW YORK (IDN) – Ambassadors from Central Asia and UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Tadamichi Yamamoto met at Kazakhstan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations on December 14, two weeks ahead of the Central Asian state’s non-permanent membership of the Council coming to an end.
They discussed the outcomes of the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan on November 27-28, 2018, and contribution of the Central Asian states to ensuring security and promoting development in the country.
Ninety-six countries and organizations participated in the Conference. The international community reconfirmed that it will continue to assist Afghanistan to achieve self-reliance on the basis of mutual accountability between the development partners and the Government.
Yamamoto said the Conference acknowledged the need to improve on reform while recognizing the commitment of the Government to mutual accountability and a real reform agenda, in particular to counter corruption. The importance of the private sector and regional economic connectivity were underlined. A joint communique and the Geneva Mutual Accountability Framework were unanimously adopted at the end of the Conference.
Another key outcome of the Geneva Ministerial was the assurance of continued international support in the post-peace phase, noted the UN envoy The international community expressed their commitment to continue providing assistance to Afghanistan in the event that a peace agreement is reached with the Taliban.
This meeting at the Kazakh Mission Kazakhstan was continuation of Kazakhstan’s keen interest in stressing the importance of the contribution of the Central Asian states to ensuring security and promoting development in the Afghanistan.
During the Kazakh membership of Security Council as non-permanent member, the 15-nation body has reiterated its commitment to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and the Central Asian States.
Knowledgeable sources recall that the Council adopted a presidential statement by Kazakhstan on January 19, 2018 when the country held the Chair of the Council beginning of the year. The statement expressed continued support to the UN Secretary‑General’s call to action to avert threats.
The presidential statement S/PRST/2018/2, presented by Kazakhstan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kairat Abdrakhmanov, reiterated the Council’s concern over the continuing threats to the security and stability of Afghanistan.
These threats, the presidential statement said, were being posed by the Taliban, including the Haqqani Network, as well as by Al‑Qaida, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh) affiliates and other terrorist groups, violent and extremist groups, illegal armed groups, criminals and those involved in the production, trafficking or trade of illicit drugs.
With this in view, the Council called upon all States to effectively implement all relevant Security Council resolutions. While stressing the importance of preventive diplomacy through engaging constructively with Member States to ensure long‑term stability, security and development, the Council encouraged making conflict prevention and resolution central to the work of the United Nations system in the region.
The Council reiterated the importance of increasing the full and effective participation and leadership of women in decision‑making, including in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention and resolution of conflict.
It also underlined the need to pay due attention to child protection concerns within peace and reconciliation efforts and calls on all parties to take the necessary measures for the purpose.
The Council further emphasized that, in order to support Afghanistan emerging sustainably from conflict, there was need for a comprehensive and integrated approach that incorporates and strengthens coherence between all sectors, and stresses the importance, where appropriate, of advancing a regional approach as a means to minimize conflict and enhance effectiveness and efficiency of interventions.
At the outset of the meeting, Secretary‑General António Guterres emphasized the benefits of regional cooperation, stressing the important role Afghanistan and neighbouring countries played in forging coordinated partnerships in a range of sectors, from energy to transportation.
Despite grave security challenges, with greater regional collaboration and investment Central Asia and Afghanistan had the potential to become symbols of dialogue, peace and the promotion of contacts between cultures, religions and civilizations. (Read extensive excerpts from Guterres’ remarks at the Security Council meeting.)
Kazakh Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdrakhmanov said that President Nursultan Nazarbayev in his policy address to the Security Council in 2017, had presented his vision of creating a zone of peace, security and cooperation in Central Asia.
He underlined the importance of an inclusive Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned peace process and reconciliation and recognized the ongoing international efforts in that regard, such as the new United States strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia, the efforts of the Moscow format on Afghanistan, and the Belt and Road Initiative of China.
As a country geographically located in the wider region surrounding Afghanistan, Kazakhstan also had a legitimate interest in solving common threats and challenges and reaping common benefits, he said. Growing efforts had created mutual understanding and trust in the region.
Central Asian Foreign Ministers had held several five‑sided meetings in 2016 and 2017, which led to the adoption of their first‑ever joint ministerial statement and joint programme of cooperation for 2018‑2019. He expressed the hope that the increased dialogue and connectivity would help solve common problems and challenges, such as the intensification of the activities of terrorist groups.
He was also concerned about the threat posed from narcotics production in Afghanistan. However, it was a mistake to consider Afghanistan solely as a source of insecurity and instability. With its immense potential, favourable geography and considerable human capital, it could be viewed as a strong partner for joint economic efforts, he said.
Long‑term stability and prosperity in the region should be guided by the principles of an integrated approach based on three pillars, Abdrakhmanov said. The first of those was the recognition and strengthening of the security‑development nexus.
That meant that investments into trade, transit routes, transport and infrastructure development should also be viewed as assets that had a stabilizing effect. There should be a regional approach, and regional cooperation was imperative, given the threats that did not recognize borders. The third pillar would be a coordinated and transparent approach led by United Nations agencies.
Streamlined operations under a “One UN” approach would be vital in light of rapidly diminishing development aid, he said, reiterating the importance of maximizing the efficacy of the UN’s work in Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Afghanistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai said a new dynamism had taken shape in Afghanistan’s relations with Central Asian countries. Emphasizing that prosperity was not possible without security, he said Afghanistan was fighting terrorism on behalf of the region and the world at large, with its forces making progress against the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Al‑Qaida, Daesh and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, among others.
Related initiatives should reinforce Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned peace efforts, with the Kabul process remaining the overarching framework, he said, adding that the first meeting of the C5+Afghanistan – an important new regional initiative involving Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – would be held on the margins of the upcoming Tashkent meeting.
Meanwhile, Karzai added, the Afghan‑led Heart of Asia‑Istanbul Process would remain a key focus in strengthening regional cooperation. Projects such as the Lapis Lazuli Corridor and the Five Nations Railway Corridor would have a profound impact on the movement of people, goods and ideas, he said, adding that Afghanistan would strive in 2018 to further progress on other mega‑projects.
There was a unique opportunity to shift the dynamic and transform the nexus of regional threats towards a nexus of peace, security, and economic growth and development. A new start towards regional engagement and convergence had begun, the Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister said, adding: “It is up to us to do our share and transform this new vision into reality.”
The debate was preceded by a visit of the Council members to Afghanistan from January 13-15. (Read IDN report.)
During the debate, the participants expressed firm support for ongoing efforts to boost economic growth, sustainable development and to target initiatives aimed at stamping out terrorism. Some expressed concern about the illicit drug trade and its destabilizing effects across Afghanistan and the region. But the Russian Federation and the United States, among other Council members, pledged support for ongoing peacebuilding efforts.
Several representatives of countries of the Central Asian region described ongoing initiatives and challenges, with resounding support for pursuing a political solution to the persistent violence and instability.
Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Erlan Abdyldayev, said the region’s countries stood ready to become actively involved in the process of building peace and stability in Afghanistan. Yet, challenges remained, he said, stressing that despite significant investments in improving rail and road infrastructure, the existing trade barriers, lack of political confidence and other factors meant that opportunities were missed to solve common problems by coordinating efforts at the regional level.
Highlighting security challenges, Sirodjidin Aslov, Tajikistan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that given his country’s shared border with Afghanistan, regional cooperation in that regard was vital. It played an important role in both combating cross‑border crimes such as drug trafficking and strengthening stability in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the joint promotion of projects in the fields of transport, communications, energy, investment, education, human resources, border management and other areas could become the basis for the rehabilitation and sustainable development of Tajikistan’s neighbour.
Uzbekistan’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Abdulaziz Kamilov, said peace in Afghanistan would indeed bring benefits to all countries of the vast Eurasian continent, and would promote the construction of roads and railways, and the development of regional and trans‑regional trade in all directions. [IDN-InDepthNews – 17 December 2018]
Photo: Tadamichi Yamamoto, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan (left), and Ambassador Kairat Umarov, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations (centre). Credit: Kazakh Mission to the UN in New York.
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
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