By J Nastranis
NEW YORK | KABUL (IDN) – For the first time since 2010, the UN Security Council undertook a visit to Afghanistan to reiterate the Council’s support for the Government and people of Afghanistan and their efforts to restore peace, stability and progress to the country.
The visit from January 13-15 was organized by Kazakhstan, which holds the Council Presidency for the month of January. Kazakhstan, as the first country of Central Asia elected to the Council as its non-permanent member for 2017-2018, is striving to promote strong cooperation among neighbours, which is critical for promoting stability and prosperity in and around Afghanistan.
It is doing this by emphasizing ways in which regional initiatives in support of economic development in Afghanistan could maximize mutual benefits and common security.
The Security Council delegation, headed by Ambassador Kairat Umarov, the Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the UN, was accompanied by representatives of the United States, Bolivia, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sweden, France, Russia, UK and China.
During the visit to Kabul, the delegation held meetings with the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and other senior Afghan officials, including the chairman of the High Peace Council Mohammad Khalili, and Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Finance, Agriculture, Economy, Trade and Commerce, among others.
The Council delegation also met with members of parliament, women’s NGOs, civil society organizations, representatives of political parties and the electoral management bodies, as well as the leadership of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission.
The visit came ahead of the Kabul Process meeting, scheduled for February 2018, where the Government is expected to present its plans for a more structured peace and security process, coordinated with the wider region. All parties underlined the importance of an inclusive Afghan-led and -owned peace process for long-term stability and prosperity in Afghanistan. Council members renewed their commitment to support efforts that aim at bringing peace and reconciliation.
Council members reiterated their support for the Government’s reform initiatives, in particular to counter corruption and accelerate regional cooperation. They expressed concerns about the security environment in Afghanistan, including the presence of Al-Qaeda, Taliban and ISIL-Khorasan Province-affiliated fighters, as well as about the nexus of terrorism and organized crime. All parties reiterated the need for greater international and regional security cooperation.
Members of the Independent Election Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission briefed the delegation on the preparations for the upcoming parliamentary and district council elections in 2018, including the development of an improved voter registry. Council members underscored the importance of continued progress on electoral reforms and towards the holding of free and fair, as well as timely, credible and inclusive parliamentary and presidential elections in 2018 and 2019, respectively. They reiterated the need to increase women’s participation in the election.
The Security Council mission also availed of the opportunity to reiterate its strong support for UNAMA and its Head, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto,
Security Council members emphasized the need to adopt a regional and integrated security and development approach, which Kazakhstan is proposing as the path to sustainable development, durable peace and stability in the region.
Discussions in Kabul stressed the need to view Afghanistan not as a threat to security in the region but as an important partner. It is critical to integrate the economies of Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, including Central Asian States, through enhanced interaction and connectivity, among others, by implementing regional infrastructure, trade, investment, transit and transportation projects.
The linkages between security and development were highlighted by stressing that security would allow the realization of regional economic projects, the intensification of investments, trade facilitation and infrastructure development, which would result in the creation of jobs, help diffuse tensions and counter incentives of conflict.
Government representatives noted that to this end further investment would be needed to boost regional projects for economic cooperation, including projects on electricity provision, trade facilitation, infrastructure development and transit. They expressed satisfaction with the recent increase of trade between Afghanistan and its neighbours.
Afghan authorities expressed hope for the rapid implementation of projects such as TAPI and CASA-1000 projects, the development of railway corridors from Central Asian countries, China and Iran to South Asia through the territory of Afghanistan, as well as the development of the ports of Gwadar and Chabahar to provide Central Asian countries with access to warm waters.
Both Security Council members and Afghan officials called for improved cooperation and coordination in the region, underscoring the need for the international community, particularly neighbouring countries, to support and cooperate with Afghanistan, especially in countering terrorism.
They also called for further streamlining of efforts between UN agencies on the ground and better cooperation between UN agencies and regional organizations operating in the region. [IDN-InDepthNews – 22 January 2018]
Photo: UN Security Council delegation, headed by Ambassador Kairat Umarov, the Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the UN, confers with Afghan leaders in Kabul. Credit: UNAMA.
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
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