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UNSC Adopts resolution on Afghanistan, Russia, China abstained No "Safe Zone"

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By Anjali Sharma

UNITED NATIONS, UN Security Council today adopted a resolution on Afghanistan calling the Taliban to allow a "safe, secure, and orderly departure of Afghans and all foreign nationals from Afghanistan."

According to the draft resolution sponsored by three permanent members of the Council –US, UK and France required the Taliban to honour their commitment to let people freely leave Afghanistan, but the measure did not cite a "safe zone" mentioned by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The meeting of the Security Council on Afghanistan presided by Indian Foreign Secretary Mr. Harsh Vardhan Shringla as India chaired the presidency of the elite body for the month of August as non permanent member.

It was adopted by 13 votes in favor and no objections. China and Russia abstained.

Resolution also refers to an August 27 statement by the Taliban in which the hardline Islamists said Afghans would be able to travel abroad, and leave Afghanistan any time they want to, including by any border crossing, both air and ground.

It said that the Security Council "expects that the Taliban will adhere to these and all other commitments.”

According to the comments made by French President Macron published in the weekly Journal du Dimanche over the weekend, had raised hopes of more concrete proposals.

He said Paris and London would present a draft resolution which "aims to define, under UN control, a 'safe zone' in Kabul, that will allow humanitarian operations to continue," Macron said.

"I am very hopeful that it will be successful. I don't see who could be against making humanitarian projects secure," he said.

The resolution is far less ambitious. It is not clear whether another resolution proposing a "safe zone" will be circulated later on, according to some diplomats.

"This resolution is not an operational aspect. It's much more on principles, key political messages and warnings," a UN diplomat told media.

It called for the Taliban to allow for "full, safe, and unhindered access" for the United Nations and other aid agencies to provide humanitarian assistance.

It also "reaffirms the importance" of upholding human rights, including of children, women and minorities and encourages all parties to seek an inclusive, negotiated political settlement with the "full, equal and meaningful representation of women."

Resolution called for Afghanistan to "not be used to threaten or attack any country or to shelter or train terrorists, or to plan or to finance terrorist acts."

US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said that “The Security Council expects the Taliban to live up to its commitment to facilitate safe passage for Afghans and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan, whether it’s today, tomorrow, or after August 31,” shortly after the resolution was adopted in the Council.

“The Security Council expects the Taliban to live up to its commitment to facilitate safe passage for Afghans and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan today as well as going forward,” she said.

“Consistent with the right to leave any country, including one’s own, everybody must be allowed to safely leave Afghanistan, for whatever reason, whenever they want, by air or by land. This is of the utmost importance to us,” ambassador added.

French envoy to the UN, Nicolas de Rivière called for that commitment to be upheld.

“This resolution calls on everyone to make all efforts to secure the airport and the surrounding area,” he said.

He added that “And to create this safe passage and protection is a sine qua non condition to ensure that threatened Afghans who wish to leave can do so safely, but also to ensure that humanitarian assistance can reach all of those who need it through the airport, of course, but also over land borders.”

Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the UN, Ambassador Dame Barbara Woodward, said: “The immediate priority was to ensure all those who wish to leave Afghanistan can do so safely. We have today been clear that the Taliban must adhere to their stated commitments to ensuring safe passage.”

Russian envoy to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said Russia was forced to abstain because certain “principled concerns” were not reflected in the draft text, which was circulated on Friday.

He said that “Firstly, despite the fact that the resolution was proposed against the backdrop of a terrible terrorist attack, the authors categorically refused to refer to a passage on the fight against terrorism containing internationally recognized terrorist organizations ISIL and the East Turkistan Islamic Movement,” to the Council members.

“We see this as a reluctance to acknowledge the obvious, and a desire to divide terrorists into ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’; and that is to say, to downplay the terrorist threat coming from these groups,” Russian envoy added.

He said Moscow could not support the text because it did not mention the "brain drain" caused by Afghans leaving or the "harmful influence" of the freezing of Afghan financial assets.

Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun stated that given the fragile situation on the ground, and the uncertainties, any Council action should help ease tensions, and not intensify them.

“The recent chaos in Afghanistan is directly related to the hasty and disorderly withdrawal of foreign troops,” he said.

Ambassador Jun stated that “We hope that relevant countries will realize the fact that withdrawal is not the end of responsibility, but the beginning of reflection and correction.”

Richard Gowan, UN expert at the International Crisis Group, said the resolution "does at least send a political signal to the Taliban about the need to keep the airport open and help the UN deliver aid," but is "a pretty thin text."

He told French media that "Macron was guilty of overselling the idea of a safe zone at Kabul airport this weekend, or at least not communicating very clearly.”

Despite those criticisms, the French foreign ministry said that Paris "welcomes the adoption of the resolution. We got what we asked for, which was for the airport to be a safe place for those who want to leave Kabul."

"We regret the Russian and Chinese abstention, but will work with each to ensure the council's decision is implemented," the French statement added.

UN experts said the resolution was watered down to ensure China and Russia would not use their vetoes to block it, including softening some of the language related to the Taliban.

According to UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, Secretary General Antonio Guterres also met with the Permanent Members of the Security Council – P5 in the afternoon should be seen as an extension of his good offices in trying to get unity in the international community, unity in the Security Council on Afghanistan in the days forward.

He told reporters that “I think the Secretary‑General been very clear on what is needed from the Taliban and that is a Government that is inclusive with minorities and women being represented, a full respect for human rights, especially for women and girls, and also insurance that Afghanistan would not be used as a place to launch terrorist attacks.”

On the issue of the Kabul airport, spokesman said this is an important one. We are not involved, as far as I know, in any discussions on the operations of the airport, he told the media in Noon briefing.

Spokesman Dujarric said that SG will be discussing Afghanistan in general when he meets the five permanent members.

The resolution comes as international efforts to airlift foreign nationals and vulnerable Afghans out of the country come to an end after the Taliban came into power on August 15, with the United States withdrawing its troops from the country after 20 years.

France ended its evacuation efforts on Friday and Britain followed suit on Saturday.

Americans announced it had withdrawn just before midnight Kabul time Tuesday.

US troops had been scrambling in dangerous and chaotic conditions to complete a massive evacuation operation from the Kabul airport before the August 31 deadline.

Humanitarian aid to Afghanistan

World Health Organization said that a plane carrying its medicines and health supplies landed today in Afghanistan. This is the first shipment of medical supplies to land in the country since the Taliban took control.

The 12.5 metric tonnes of supplies are enough to cover the basic health needs of more than 200,000 people, as well as provide 3,500 surgical procedures and treat 6,500 trauma patients. They will be immediately delivered to 40 health facilities in 29 provinces across Afghanistan.

The plane, which was provided by the Government of Pakistan, flew directly to Mazar-i-Sharif. This is the first of 3 flights planned with Pakistan International Airlines to fill urgent shortages in medicines and medical supplies, according to WHO..

UN Food and Agriculture Organization also said that food production and agricultural livelihoods are under extreme pressure in Afghanistan.

FAO warned that if we fail to assist the people most impacted by the acute drought, large numbers will be forced to abandon their farms and be displaced in certain areas.

The agency added that Afghan herders and livestock owners also need urgent assistance to counter the impact of drought during the coming winter season. Three million animals are estimated to be at risk, making livestock protection urgently critical for herders and livestock owners across the country.

FAO, along with its partners, is working to ensure access to livelihood protection assistance and to strengthen resilience capacity of farmers and herders in Afghanistan.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, noted that the airlifts out of Kabul will end in a matter of days, and that the tragedy that has unfolded will no longer be as visible. But it will still be a daily reality for millions of Afghans.

Grandi stressed that we must not turn away and that a far greater humanitarian crisis is just beginning.

He pointed out that 3.5 million people have already been displaced by violence within Afghanistan, more than half a million since the start of this year, and that most have no regular channels through which to seek safety.


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