Building Regional Partnerships in Afghanistan and Central Asia
Security Council Presidential Statement Calls for Action to Avert Threats against Security, Stability In Afghanistan Ahead of Debate on Pressing Challenges
Reaffirming its commitment to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and the Central Asian States, the Security Council on January 19 adopted a presidential statement, expressing its continued support to the Secretary‑General’s call to action to avert threats, ahead of holding a debate on pressing challenges ahead.
Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, whose country holds the Council presidency for January, presented presidential statement S/PRST/2018/2, in which members reiterated their concern over the continuing threats to the security and stability of Afghanistan 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.
In that vein, the Council called upon all States to effectively implement all relevant Security Council resolutions. The Council further encouraged making conflict prevention and resolution central to the work of the United Nations system in the region while stressing the importance of preventive diplomacy through engaging constructively with Member States to ensure long‑term stability, security and development.
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 importance of paying due attention to child protection concerns within peace and reconciliation efforts and called on all parties to take the necessary measures to do so.
The Council further emphasized that, in order to support Afghanistan emerging sustainably from conflict, there was a need for a comprehensive and integrated approach that incorporates and strengthens coherence between all sectors and stressed 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 extolled 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.
Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, 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 — would be held on the margins of the Tashkent meeting.
Meanwhile, he went on to say, 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, he said, adding: “It is up to us to do our share and transform this new vision into reality.”
Likewise, during the debate, representatives firmly supported ongoing efforts to boost economic growth, sustainable development and to target initiatives aimed at stamping out terrorism. Some expressed worries about the illicit drug trade and its destabilizing effects across Afghanistan and the region. The representatives of the Russian Federation and the United States, among other Council members, pledged support for ongoing peacebuilding efforts.
However, many delegates raised concerns about continued violence and instability. On the heels of a Council visiting mission to Afghanistan earlier in January, France’s delegate highlighted the fragile humanitarian situation, particularly the precarious conditions facing women and children, who remained the majority of victims of the conflict. Noting that the presidential statement for the first time shed light on links between security and development in the region, he said efforts could be made to combat the spread of extremism and illicit drug trafficking. For economic development, Afghanistan must leverage its location in the region, including in energy and transit sectors, he said, encouraging neighbouring countries to “green” their energy sectors.
Elaborating on that point and shedding light on the situation on the ground, 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.
Summing up a common view, 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.
Also delivering statements were ministers, senior officials and representatives of Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Poland, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Equatorial Guinea, China, Sweden, Bolivia, Côte d’Ivoire, Peru, Ethiopia, Turkmenistan, Iran, Belgium, Germany, India, Turkey, Pakistan, Japan and Italy, as well as the European Union.
The meeting began at 10:13 a.m. and ended at 2:06 p.m.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, United Nations Secretary‑General, said Central Asian countries had an important role to play in peace, stability and development, including in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The region had made progress in recent decades, but countries there could never achieve their full potential alone, as all were landlocked. The Silk Road trading route had been prosperous for centuries, but trade had fallen to low levels since the region’s countries became independent 30 years ago. During his June 2017 visit to the region he was encouraged to see new bilateral and regional connections. New and ongoing efforts were better managing water resources, positive developments were benefiting energy cooperation, and bilateral programmes were flourishing across sectors. Such projects had enormous potential to spur economic transformation.
Yet, security challenges remained, he said. The Government of Afghanistan’s fight against violent extremism, terrorism and transnational organized crime had implications for the entire region and the world. Responding to those threats must not be the responsibility of the Government alone. Effective counter‑terrorism relied on regional and multilateral cooperation, based firmly on human rights, as demonstrated by the Joint Plan of Action for the Implementation of the United Nations Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia. Such cooperation offered opportunities to address common concerns, including countering terrorist financing, improving border security, fostering dialogue with religious institutions and leaders, and countering human trafficking and drug smuggling.
He said the upcoming meeting of the Kabul process for peace and security cooperation provided an opportunity for the Afghan Government to set out its vision for a more structured peace and security process coordinated with the wider region, including regional efforts to fight terrorism and violent extremism. 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. The United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) were cooperating closely and continued to seek out new ways to deepen their support, he said, adding that the entire United Nations family stood ready to assist in promoting greater cooperation and integration toward achieving the goals of peace, sustainable development, stability and security.
KAIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said that the President of his country, in his policy address to the Security Council last year, 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 hoped that the increased dialogue and connectivity would help solve common problems and challenges, such as the intensification of the activities of terrorist groups, particularly Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh) in the northern parts of Afghanistan, as well as the potential return of Foreign Terrorist Fighters to their countries of origin, including Central Asia. 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, he 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 Organization’s work in Afghanistan and Central Asia.
SHEIKH SABAH KHALID AL HAMAD AL SABAH, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kuwait, said that the holding of the meeting demonstrated the importance of bringing stability and security to Afghanistan and of developing a long‑term plan for that country. Cooperation with neighbouring States was essential and would help ensure sustainable peace. Kuwait had welcomed the Council’s visit to Afghanistan, which was a great demonstration of the international community’s support. He also noted the important role of UNAMA. Kuwait hosted the support office for UNAMA and wanted to continue working with that office to help it overcome any difficulties it might encounter. It was also important to strengthen regional partnerships.
He also highlighted the importance of preventive diplomacy through a range of instruments, including the constructive engagement of neighbouring countries. He noted the role of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, and encouraged Afghanistan to cooperate with the Centre. The deterioration of the security situation had slowed economic development, growth and the political process. He would like to see the elections take place in accordance with the timetable established, with parliamentary elections in July 2018 and presidential elections in 2019. Kuwait would also like to see a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone, and he commended the States of Central Asia in their commitment to non‑proliferation.
JACEK CZAPUTOWICZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland, stressed the importance of regional cooperation to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan. Investments would build prosperity and trust between neighbours. It must be remembered that even the most ambitious agenda might fail due to the security situation. A stable Afghanistan was a prerequisite to peace in the whole region. He was alarmed by the high level of violence in Afghan cities, as well as a high level of civilian casualties. He believed that an inclusive Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned peace and reconciliation process was the only viable long‑term solution to ending the conflict. He hoped that the Kabul process would bring much needed progress, and he underlined the need for inclusive negotiations. Another serious threat to Afghanistan and to the wider region’s security was narcotic production, he said. Despite the Government of Afghanistan’s efforts, drugs remained one of the biggest sources of terrorist income.
Poland also valued the work of UNAMA and the comprehensive support given to Afghanistan and its people, he said. Together with partners in the European Union, Poland had identified several areas to focus on in order to achieve progress, including the reinforcement of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights, as well as addressing challenges related to migration. Those were among the pillars of the new European Union strategy for Afghanistan, and he hoped that the Afghan Government would work with them on that vital strategy.
SERGEY V. LAVROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, raised grave concerns about illicit drug production and trafficking, which was spreading terrorist groups’ influence and triggering instability in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries. For his nation’s part, ongoing initiatives were addressing those and other pressing concerns, and continued assistance was, among other things, building the capabilities of the Afghan security forces. Stabilization hinged on sustainable socioeconomic development, with progress seen in pipeline and other infrastructure projects. Trade and economic ties with countries of the region were supporting further growth. Constructive dialogue must continue in relation to water resource management, energy, transportation and greater economic development. With regard to the latter, he said Central Asian nations must not be faced with a false choice, of either South or North, but instead must be supported with a view to improving prosperity for Afghanistan’s people.
The situation in Afghanistan required a complex approach and cooperation with all the neighbouring States, in particular Central Asian countries, he said. The international conference Parliamentarians against Drugs, held in Moscow in December 2017, focused on elaborating a complex strategy to counter illicit drug trafficking. The experience of the past 20 years had shown the inefficiency of solving those problems by the use of force. His country continued to develop cooperation with Afghanistan in the framework of regional organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
JOHN SULLIVAN, Deputy Secretary of State for the United States, said the international community was committed to Afghanistan, as demonstrated in ongoing efforts and the subsequent progress that had been made in areas such as education. Yet, the ongoing conflict in that country continued to pose serious challenges and solving them depended on the people of Afghanistan, who must — along with the Government — lead and own the process. The only way forward was through an inclusive reconciliation process, and any peace agreement must include the Taliban’s commitment to reject terrorism and cease violence while accepting women’s equality. All partners must work together to isolate the Taliban and eliminate their equipment, making clear that the only way they could achieve their goal was at the negotiating table, not on the battlefield. The United States was ready to work with partners, including Pakistan, to foster stability in the region, he said, emphasizing that “we all have a stake in Afghanistan’s success”.
ANDRE HASPELS, Vice‑Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, said that his country supported Afghanistan in its efforts to improve the lives of its people through an integrated approach, combining military, development and political efforts, and emphasizing security, good governance, the rule of law and accountability. True stability in Afghanistan could only be guaranteed through an inclusive peace and reconciliation process that was Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned, and in that regard, the Kabul process meeting in February would be of critical importance. He encouraged the Afghan Government to continue the path of reform and fight corruption while also strengthening good governance and the rule of law. Upholding human rights and holding credible elections were also of great importance, he said, adding that only a secure and stable Afghanistan could offer the people of that country the opportunities they so deserved.
MARK FIELD, Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific of the United Kingdom, said that regional partnerships were crucial to achieving long‑term peace and security. Afghanistan was making genuine progress in overcoming its many challenges. The international community had a crucial role to play in promoting that progress, as did the regional partnerships and initiatives. There was a clear appetite for regional cooperation, he said.
However, there was a long way to go until Afghanistan achieved its goal of building a more stable and prosperous country, he said. The United Kingdom had worked within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to support Afghanistan. The United Kingdom’s non‑combat troops had played a crucial role. The solution to long‑term peace and stability lay not within the military but within a peace process that was Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned. It took vision, courage and leadership to begin a conversation with your adversary after years of bloodshed and violence, but the time was now ripe. The people of Afghanistan deserved peace. Credible and timely elections were also essential, and he commended the work of various United Nations bodies that had helped the country prepare for upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.
DOMINGO MITUY EDJANG, Secretary of State of Equatorial Guinea, said security was the biggest obstacle to development in Afghanistan, located in a region with vast potential for economic growth. Those and other challenges were best addressed with a regional focus, including rooting out terrorist sanctuaries, alongside robust support from the international community. Stability in Afghanistan was critical to the region, he said, adding that the United Nations must continue to play its important role, including through UNAMA and the Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy. Development was a driver for stability and growth, and the international community must redouble support for the Government to implement relevant strategies and advance economic development and stability, as well as advance the illegal drug trade. Neighbouring countries also played a crucial role and should continue with their effective projects, he said, adding that the growth in Afghanistan translated into development for the entire region.
WU HAITAO (China) said the peace and stability of Afghanistan was crucial to the people of the country and the region. A comprehensive approach should guide the way towards development. Valuing the important actions of Afghanistan and the role played by neighbouring countries, he underlined that the international community should continue to provide staunch support to the Afghan Government and its efforts towards building peace and stability. Efforts should include boosting the Afghan security force capabilities and combating the illegal drug trade. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was among efforts aimed at development across sectors. Regional countries must play their role in fostering economic growth, as they had shared goals for peace and development. All parties in Afghanistan should build a community of a shared future, according to relevant Council resolutions. For its part, China had made a range of contributions, including hosting dialogue to help Afghanistan and Pakistan to discuss shared concerns and challenges.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) commended the countries of Central Asia for their efforts to invigorate and strengthen regional cooperation, including with Afghanistan. Concrete steps, such as resolving long‑standing border issues and easing border passages, strengthening people‑to‑people contacts and reducing barriers to trade were welcome. Long‑term peace and economic development for the individual countries of the region were intimately linked with regional security and development. The remaining challenges that were common to countries of the region, including security threats and radicalization, the management of shared water and energy resources and addressing the effects of climate change, could all be overcome through stronger regional cooperation. The road to regional progress ran through a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan, he said, emphasizing that the only viable option to reach such a settlement was through an inclusive Afghan‑owned and Afghan‑led peace process and the holding of inclusive, credible and transparent elections.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), raising concerns about continued instability and violence, encouraged the Afghan Government to focus on forthcoming elections and relaunching an Afghan‑led peace process, calling on all stakeholders to deliver on their commitment to the Kabul process. On the latter, he said immediate priorities were addressing the fragile humanitarian situation, particularly the precarious conditions facing women and children, who remained the majority of victims of the conflict. Turning to regional cooperation, he said the presidential statement for the first time shed light on links between security and development in the region. In the name of security, efforts could be made to combat the spread of extremism and illicit drug trafficking. For economic development, Afghanistan must leverage its location in the region, including in energy and transit sectors, he said, encouraging neighbouring countries to “green” their energy sectors. He also encouraged greater cooperation in United Nations efforts, including between UNAMA and the Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy. For its part, France would continue to support related efforts.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said a range of efforts should be supported with a view to promoting dialogue between countries of the region. That would in turn enhance trade, development and prosperity, as some regional challenges were better faced through cooperation, particularly considering the landlocked nature of the nations. The United Nations and the Security Council must stand for the sovereignty of Afghanistan, he stressed, highlighting a number of ongoing initiatives to address such common concerns in the region. Among those challenges were the spread of terrorism and extremism, he said, expressing support for the Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism and for the work of the United Nations Office of Counter‑Terrorism. The only way to achieve lasting peace was through a negotiated solution with countries of the region, which should be committed to robust diplomatic dialogue. Expressing support for the Kabul process, he underlined the importance of fostering development.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) said that the Afghan crisis had a marked regional and international dimension, and a global solution was needed. The situation was spawning grave concerns, owing to the complexity of the security, economic and humanitarian challenges that the country was facing. It was important to grasp the challenges and the stakes for stabilization in Afghanistan through several lenses: political, economic, and regional and international. At the political and security level, the conflict presented fertile breeding grounds for terrorism in all its forms. The means at the disposal of the international community must be scaled‑up to end the violence in Afghanistan. All parties to conflict should be aware of the responsibility to protect civilians, and he called for measures to reduce the number of civilian casualties.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said that the working trip to Afghanistan had made it possible to gain a closer look at the situation there. He underscored the importance of linking security and development in the framework of a broad approach with international support, particularly from neighbouring countries. Tackling the root cause of conflict required investment. He supported the conclusions of the strategic review of UNAMA to concentrate efforts on achieving sustainable peace and reducing the external dependence of Afghanistan. Investment in infrastructure projects and regional connectivity projects could have the potential to stop future conflicts. It was important to confront terrorism based on a broad and comprehensive approach. There were links with transnational organized crime. He was concerned that according to reports of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) the production of opium and poppies had increased over the previous year.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said the timeliness of the debate, after the Council’s visiting mission and meetings with stakeholders, provided an opportunity to meaningfully discuss the challenges at hand and ways to overcome them. Discussions had, however, not until today given due attention to regional cooperation and its vital importance for peace, security and development, as underscored in the Council’s most recent presidential statement, S/PSRT/2018/2. Recognizing the important role of the Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in assisting countries in addressing pressing challenges, he highlighted a recent meeting at which neighbouring nations had pledged to further boost joint efforts across sectors. Enhanced coordination and cooperation across the United Nations was also critical, he said, with efforts that aimed at reaching common goals in the region, including peace and development.
ABDULAZIZ KAMILOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan, said that despite remaining divergences over some aspects of the process, the international community was increasingly aware of the fact that there was no alternative to the peace talks between the Government of Afghanistan and the armed opposition, including the Taliban. Peace in Afghanistan would 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.
What needed to be achieved first was a regional and broad international consensus on the basic issues of the establishment of peace and security in Afghanistan, as well as national reconciliation through direct dialogue between the central Government and the armed opposition, he said. To that end, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan were organizing an international ministerial conference on Afghanistan in late March. That meeting would become a logical continuation of the second meeting of the Kabul process, which was scheduled for next month, and would consolidate the results achieved within the framework of the common international efforts at various levels. It was hoped that the meeting would, among other things, lead to the adoption of a final document which would define the basic principles and conditions for a peaceful settlement.
ERLAN ABDYLDAYEV, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan, said that the only way to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan was to resolve the current situation exclusively through political means, including holding peace talks and achieving national reconciliation. Yet, there was no noticeable progress in that regard, resulting in the further suffering and death of Afghan civilians. Security and development were closely interrelated in Afghanistan, he said, underscoring that the countries of Central Asia were ready to become actively involved in the process of building peace and stability in Afghanistan. There were a number of factors that negatively affected the implementation of legal trade, the development of private entrepreneurship and negatively affected the social and economic situation in the region as a whole, including the full functioning of checkpoints at the States borders of countries in the region.
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, he said. Kyrgyzstan supported initiatives aimed at establishing peace and achieving national reconciliation in Afghanistan, including strengthening confidence‑building measures among the countries of the region, the joint implementation of various projects in Afghanistan, among others. Along with measures to counter the illegal production and trafficking of drugs, combating terrorism and radicalism, it was vital to continue joint efforts to integrate the Afghan economy with economies of the countries of the region, including Central Asian States, by expanding cooperation and improving regional infrastructure, trade, investment, transit and transport projects.
SIRODJIDIN ASLOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan, said that given its shared border with Afghanistan, his State faced severe security challenges and could not remain indifferent to the current situation with its neighbouring country. Drug distribution and trafficking problems were of significant importance at the national level, and in almost all regions of the world, extending far beyond the social and criminal spheres. Combating drug trafficking and drug abuse were part of the fight against organized crime, as well as international terrorism and extremism. Tajikistan placed special emphasis on the strengthening and development of international cooperation and advanced initiatives aimed at joint and coordinated actions by all interested countries and international organizations. The fight against drug trafficking required the cooperative efforts of countries at the regional and international levels; however, despite the growing threat posed by drug trafficking, the appropriate amount of attention was not being paid to the scourge.
The complex military and political situation in Afghanistan required not only the mobilization of domestic resources, but also the improvement of military and security infrastructure at the border, provision of border guards with modern technologies and equipment and the prevention of undesirable incidents, he said. Regional cooperation was vital for strengthening stability in Afghanistan, while 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 for that country. Among the factors contributing to the maintenance of peace and stability in Afghanistan was the development of its education system, he said, emphasizing that that country’s economic revival and social development were the best tools for maintaining peace and security.
HEKMAT KHALIL KARZAI, Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, 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. Eliminating terrorism would require a comprehensive approach, he said, including efforts to prevent the radicalization of youth and to address cross‑border criminal activities. Joint and collaborative efforts must also be made to overcome the illicit drug problem in all its dimensions, he added.
Noting Afghanistan’s peace efforts with elements of the armed opposition, he said a second meeting of the Kabul process would be convened on 28 February, followed by the Tashkent conference on Afghanistan in March, he said. Such 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 — would be held on the margins of the Tashkent meeting. The Afghan‑led Heart of Asia‑Istanbul Process would meanwhile remain a key focus in strengthening regional cooperation, while there was scope for greater cooperation with the Regional Centre on Preventative Diplomacy, he said, adding that any regional approach should help consolidate existing international efforts for Afghanistan’s security and stability.
He went on to underscore the crucial way in which the development agenda helped propel security. That was a key principle guiding international efforts to stabilize conflict situations worldwide, and Afghanistan was no exception. The past year had seen many notable achievements, but none as striking as gains made in regional economic 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 megaprojects, including the CASA‑1000 and TAPI electricity and natural gas initiatives and the now‑operational Chabahar port. Concluding, he said 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, he said, adding: “It is up to us to do our share and transform this new vision into reality.”
AKSOLTAN ATAEVA (Turkmenistan) said that her country was participating in international efforts to strengthen peace and security in the Central Asia region. Turkmenistan had significant peacebuilding experience, which was needed to assist regional processes of disarmament and ensuring environmental well‑being, among other matters. Noting the importance of the role of preventative diplomacy and of dealing with the root causes of conflicts, her country attached great importance to the activities of the United Nations Centre for Regional Preventative Diplomacy for Central Asia. Over the 10 years of its existence, it has provided the Governments of Central Asia with a platform for dialogue on significant regional issues including the management of shared resources, and combating extremism, organized crime, drugs and human trafficking. There was a connection between security and development, and Turkmenistan was initiating projects to respond to challenges, including the strengthening of friendliness with Afghanistan.
ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran) said that security in Afghanistan had continued to deteriorate since the United States invasion in 2001, increasing each year exponentially. More than a decade after the invasion, Afghanistan and the region were not any safer. That was a fact and had been the case for all invasions that had occurred in the region. Afghanistan should become the objective for regional and international cooperation rather than competition. The world should regard the situation in Afghanistan as an opportunity to establish peace, security and stability through development. Iran was very eager to see a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan as its neighbour, as security and development in that country directly and indirectly affected security in its borders and the region. UNAMA also played a crucial role for Afghanistan and needed more support from the international community.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, said lasting peace in Afghanistan depended, among other things, on economic development, which was closely linked to regional cooperation. Afghanistan and Central Asia had everything to win from deeper cooperation, market integration and connectivity, he said, recalling the region’s historic role as a crossroads between nations. He emphasized the strong and active role that the United Nations must play in addressing the issue of returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters, as well as the importance of better coordination on the ground between UNAMA and the Regional Centre for Preventative Diplomacy. He welcomed the active engagement of Central Asian nations in stabilizing Afghanistan, warning however that peace talks would fall short without regional and international support.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, said Security Council unity on Afghanistan was encouraging. The drivers of conflict were multidimensional and so were the solutions, he said, underscoring the need for coherent approaches and well‑coordinated international and regional cooperation. He underscored his country’s strong commitment to Afghanistan, which included €430 million in civilian support and participation in the NATO Resolute Support Mission. However, the conflict in Afghanistan could only be resolved through an internationally backed intra‑Afghan peace process, he said. Germany stood ready to support the start of direct talks between the Government and the Taliban, and it supported regional formats to further stability in Afghanistan. For its part, the United Nations should play a major role in implementing common strategies. Going forward, he said the Council must find ways to promote sustainable political solutions by looking at the entire peace continuum.
SYED AKBARUDDIN (India) said that Afghanistan was the true heart of Asia and a linchpin for the regional economy. Security and development were closely connected and that linkage must drive the policies and actions of all stakeholders at a conceptual and operational level. In the case of Afghanistan, that link was skewed in one direction only — that from security to development. That the security situation weighed adversely on Afghanistan was reflected in the latest World Bank development update. From 2003‑2012, Afghanistan recorded a 9.6 per cent annual economic growth rate. In 2017, that figure was 2.6 per cent, which was better than the 2.2 per cent recorded in 2016, which in turn was better than the lower growth in 2014‑2015. In 2019, the projections for growth were that it would edge up to 3.2 per cent, assuming the security situation held. Those who were engaged in development and infrastructure projects in Afghanistan were aware of the disproportionate amount of resources that were diverted to protecting the projects and infrastructure that were created, rather than building more projects in the country.
GÜVEN BEGEÇ (Turkey) said that security and development in Afghanistan were closely linked. There was a need to enhance regional ownership and cooperation in order to achieve progress. He welcomed recent efforts and initiatives to strengthen the interactions and cooperation between Afghanistan and the Central Asian countries. Turkey’s vision for Afghanistan was as a peaceful, secure and stable society, which enjoyed good and cooperative relationships with its neighbours, while being at the centre of regional cooperation projects in infrastructure, trade and transportation. With that in mind, the recent signing of the Lapis Lazuli Corridor agreement would solidify the basis of regional cooperation by bolstering trade. Turkey would continue to contribute to the regional cooperation efforts, including through the Heart of Asia‑Istanbul Process, which it was pleased to co‑chair for the second time.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that despite the large presence of foreign military forces in Afghanistan and the large sums of development aid that had been provided to the country, security had deteriorated and economic growth had been anaemic. The people of that country had paid a heavy price for more than four decades of foreign invasions and bloody civil war. The entire region had been buffeted by the turmoil, drugs and instability radiating from Afghanistan. Strengthening bilateral relations was a priority for her Government, and Pakistan had undertaken a number of initiatives to promote the development of Afghanistan, including commitments totalling some $1 billion to various infrastructure development projects in Afghanistan. Yet, none of those efforts could be successful without the restoration of peace. With its safe havens and income from the narcotics trade, the insurgency in Afghanistan did not need outside support to sustain itself. Afghanistan needed to address the challenges inside the country rather than shifting the onus for ending the conflict to others. Sustainable peace would only be achieved through a negotiated settlement to the conflict, and in that context, she called on the Taliban to abandon the path of violence and join the peace talks, emphasizing that both sides needed to show the determination to pursue a path of peace.
JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union delegation, said reinforced regional cooperation was key to lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region. “Such cooperation is indispensable for sustainable development,” she said, underscoring the Union’s support for regional forums to facilitate economic and political cooperation. The United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia had an important role to play, she said, adding that the Union supported Central Asian efforts to facilitate trade and provide energy resources to Afghanistan. Projects such as the Lapis Lazuli Corridor railway, the TAPI pipeline, the CASA‑1000 transmission line and water management initiatives would have a positive long‑term impact, eventually leading to reduced international development aid and reduced migrant flows. Emphasizing the Union’s determination to combat terrorism, she recalled a 2017 decision of its Foreign Affairs Council to extend more support to Central Asia in the area of counter‑terrorism. Enhanced data protection and Internet governance were needed to address the use of information and communications technologies by terrorists, she said. Threats arising from the nexus between terrorism and organized crime could only be confronted through increased political, economic and security cooperation, she stated, citing the Union’s support for initiatives in that regard, including assistance to Afghan border police to better secure the country’s northern border.
KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that his country had been engaged in efforts to resolve the various problems that Afghanistan and Central Asia were facing. It was striving to achieve sustainable peace and development in the region. It was regrettable that the security situation in Afghanistan remained volatile, despite enormous efforts by the Government and assistance from the international community. Only genuine progress on an Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned peace process would be able to provide significant security improvements. He called upon Afghanistan and other regional stakeholders to be united in seeking tangible outcomes in the second round of the Kabul process in February. The main objective of long‑lasting Japan‑UNODC coordination was to establish border liaison offices on drugs and crime through the training of drug enforcement agents. He believed that trainees from Central Asia and Afghanistan would play a key role in preventing and countering violent extremism in the region.
ANDREA BIAGINI (Italy), associating himself with the European Union, noting the security threat posed by terrorists and violent extremist groups, said a broader strategy was needed to address the transnational nature of terrorism. The upcoming Kabul process meeting could be a source of political momentum, alongside a renewed commitment to an Afghan‑owned, Afghan‑led reconciliation effort. He also emphasized regional integration and economic development, with interconnectivity being a key to sustained growth in Afghanistan and the region. Italy was committed over the long term to helping to make that vision a reality, he said, underscoring the importance of a comprehensive approach linking security and development.
The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2018/2 reads as follows:
“The Security Council reaffirms its commitment to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and the Central Asian States.
“The Security Council expresses its continued support to the Secretary‑General’s call to action to avert threats in Afghanistan and Central Asia, encourages making conflict prevention and resolution central to the work of the UN system in the region while stressing the importance of preventive diplomacy, inter alia, through engaging constructively with Member States to ensure long‑term stability, security and development.
“The Security Council recalls its resolution 2344 (2017) and recognizes that there can be no purely military solution to Afghanistan, underlines the importance of an inclusive Afghan‑led and -owned peace process for the long‑term prosperity and stability of Afghanistan, and expresses its full support to the Government of Afghanistan to achieve peace and reconciliation, including through peace and security cooperation with the wider region, including the Central Asian States.
“The Security Council recognizes ongoing international efforts to advance peace and stability in Afghanistan and calls on all countries in the region and international community to renew their sincere efforts to achieve peace and reconciliation.
“The Security Council underscores the importance of continued progress on electoral reform and towards the holding of credible and inclusive parliamentary elections in 2018 and presidential elections in 2019. It commends efforts by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and UNDP in support of this area and encourages them to intensify their support to the Afghan electoral management bodies.
“The Security Council reiterates its concern over the continuing threats to the security and stability of Afghanistan posed by the Taliban, including the Haqqani Network, as well as by Al‑Qaida, ISIL (Da’esh) 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; notes in this regard the potential threats to the region, including to the Central Asian States; and calls upon all States in this regard to effectively implement all relevant Security Council resolutions, including those relating to counter‑terrorism, and to strengthen their international and regional security cooperation to enhance information‑sharing, border control, law enforcement and criminal justice to better counter the threats posed, including from returning foreign terrorist fighters.
“The Security Council takes note of the efforts of the Counter‑Terrorism Committee (established pursuant to resolution 1373 (2001)) and its Executive Directorate to assess and monitor implementation of resolutions 1373 (2001), 1624 (2005), 2178 (2014), 2396 (2017) and other relevant resolutions on terrorism by Afghanistan and countries of the region, and acknowledges recommendations provided by the Committee, including in the area of providing of technical assistance.
“The Security Council stresses the importance of advancing regional, interregional and international cooperation to achieve long‑term peace, stability and sustainable development in Afghanistan and Central Asia and supports the joint efforts of countries of the region towards the enhancement of a zone of peace, cooperation and prosperity including through the different platforms for cooperation.
“The Security Council welcomes the contribution of the Central Asian countries to ensuring the stability and development of Afghanistan and the intensification of long‑term cooperation, discussions and coordination among them, using various joint platforms and fora, including through regular meetings at a high level.
“The Security Council reiterates 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, as well as efforts to prevent and combat terrorism, and the importance of integrating gender perspectives across all discussions pertinent to sustaining peace in Afghanistan and the Central Asia region and supports commitments to the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and subsequent resolutions on women, peace and security in the region. The Security Council stresses the need to strengthen policies and mechanisms in Afghanistan to empower women politically and economically, to increase the number of women in the security forces in an environment conducive to women’s safety and development, and to mitigate violence against women by supporting the provision of services for survivors of sexual and gender‑based violence.
“The Security Council underlines the importance of paying due attention to child protection concerns within peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan and calls on all parties to take the necessary measures to do so.
“The Security Council commends the role of the UNAMA and the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), and their respective UN Secretary‑General Special Representatives, in the implementation of their mandates as per resolution 2344 (2017) and Security Council documents S/2007/279and S/2007/280, respectively and for collaborating closely to facilitate the bilateral and multilateral engagement of Central Asian States with Afghanistan.
“The Security Council welcomes the involvement of Afghanistan in the Central Asian regional mechanisms for cooperation on counter‑terrorism, including in implementing the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) for the implementation of the UN Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy and expresses its support for the roles of the UN Office of Counter‑Terrorism and UNRCCA in providing support to the practical realization of the JPOA and the Ashgabat Declaration of 13 June 2017.
“The Security Council underscores the importance of close coordination between Afghanistan and the Central Asian States in combating the significant increase in the cultivation, production, trade and trafficking of illicit drugs in Afghanistan, as reflected in the Afghanistan Opium Survey published by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on 15 November 2017, which continue to pose a threat to peace and stability in the region and beyond, and emphasizes the need for enhanced regional and international support of Afghanistan’s National Drug Action Plan.
“The Security Council in this regard appreciates the work of UNODC, calls upon States to strengthen international and regional cooperation to counter the threat to the international community posed by the cultivation, production, trafficking, and consumption of illicit drugs originating in Afghanistan which significantly contribute to the financial resources of the Taliban and its associates, and to act in accordance with the principle of common and shared responsibility in addressing the drug problem of Afghanistan, including through cooperation against the trafficking in illicit drugs and precursor chemicals, and welcomes cooperation between Afghanistan and Central Asian States and relevant regional and international organizations and initiatives.
“The Security Council commends the efforts of UNAMA and UNRCCA, in collaboration with the UNODC, and relevant regional organizations and fora, to help the Central Asian States and Afghanistan address the narcotics problem.
“The Security Council welcomes commitments to continued cooperation on border management and border security by Central Asian countries and Afghanistan, commends efforts by UN agencies to increase their capacities in this area, and encourages donor countries and regional and international organizations to intensify capacity‑building efforts.
“The Security Council welcomes the contribution of Central Asian States to non‑proliferation, including to the Treaty on a Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zone in Central Asia, and encourages their further cooperation in preventing, detecting and responding to illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials.
“The Security Council welcomes efforts taken in the region to enhance dialogue and collaboration and to advance shared goals of economic development and prosperity across the region and expresses its appreciation for national, subregional and regional initiatives and efforts to advance policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people‑to‑people connectivity in Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond.
“The Security Council emphasizes that, in order to support Afghanistan emerging sustainably from conflict, there is a need for a comprehensive and integrated approach that incorporates and strengthens coherence between all sectors, including political, security, development, and human rights, and encourages ongoing efforts in this regard, including to strengthen the rule of law, and stresses the importance, where appropriate, of advancing a regional approach as a means to minimize conflict and enhance effectiveness and efficiency of interventions.
“The Security Council encourages relevant entities of the UN system to work towards preventing conflict and notes in this regard the importance of addressing the conflict in Afghanistan in a comprehensive manner that seeks to use preventive diplomacy tools in support of durable peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and in the wider region.
“The Security Council notes in this regard the importance of maximizing the efficiency and efficacy of the work of the UN in Afghanistan and Central Asia, including through enhanced coordination across the UN system.
“The Security Council commends the efforts of the relevant UN agencies in promoting the Sustainable Development Goals regionally and supports the activities of the UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia, which Afghanistan has joined, and the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA), as platforms for cross‑border economic dialogue, and encourages intensified ownership and contribution by Central Asian States."