Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on the sitiation in Afghanistan
It is symbolic that you are presiding over the Security Council’s meeting on International Women’s Day, Madam President, and we congratulate you and all the women of the world on this holiday. We remember your Permanent Representative’s appeal for seeing as many women as possible at today’s meeting, and we can see evidence of that in this Chamber. The absence of women in my delegation in no way signifies disrespect, let alone dislike. In Russia 8 March is an official holiday. Today all our women have the day off, and we are working for them.
We would like to thank Mr. Yamamoto for his thorough report on the current state of affairs in Afghanistan and Ms. Sarabi and Ms. Safi for their interesting briefings. For our part, we would like to make the following comments. We are still very concerned about the security situation in Afghanistan. The Security Council’s mission to Kabul confirmed the fact that the situation on that front continues to be very difficult.
Towards the end of January, unfortunately, the country was rocked by a series of bloody terrorist attacks that took the lives of around 200 Afghan civilians and injured more than 400. The various terrorist organizations have not slowed down. Their terrorist activity continues, they are mounting systematic attacks in various parts of the country and they have maintained full or partial control of a significant percentage of its territory. One of the serious factors in the deterioration of the situation is the activity of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Jihadists are consistently adding to the numbers of militants in the north of Afghanistan, turning the region into a springboard for further expansion, including into Central Asia.
One particularly alarming phenomenon is ISIL’s establishment in Afghanistan of an impressive network of militant training camps, whose trainees include citizens of Central Asian States and Russia. It is regrettable that there has still been no investigation of the fact that unmarked helicopters are transporting ISIL members and supplying them with weapons in the north of Afghanistan. This problem cannot be ignored. The situation should be thoroughly investigated and this practice ended immediately. Clearing the country’s northern regions of terrorist elements will need far more decisive measures. We supported resolution 2405 (2018), proposed by the Netherlands, on extending the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), taking into account the importance of the United Nations presence there. The Mission does a great deal for the country, but it is by definition incapable of being a panacea for all of Afghanistan’s problems.
We hope the resolution will improve its effectiveness. It is nonetheless regrettable that during the agreement on the text a number of the Russian delegation’s key concerns were ignored, particularly those relating to ISIL’s strengthening of its positions in Afghanistan, which I just mentioned. As experience has shown, attempts to minimize the scale of these problems can have disastrous consequences. The terrorist threat and the narcotics problem are inextricably linked.
Drugs represent a significant financial source for Afghan terrorists. According to the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2017 of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, last year there was a significant increase — more than 60 per cent — in the area under drug cultivation in Afghanistan, and opium production increased by more than 80 per cent, reaching a record level, including in the northern provinces. The drug trade also continues to be a serious problem in Afghanistan itself and in its neighbours.
We urge the military presences there to give greater attention to this issue, including by cooperating with regional organizations such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). We should remember that the Kanal operation, conducted under the auspices of the CSTO, has been blocking Afghan drug-smuggling routes since 2003, and thanks to it, hundreds of tons of illegally trafficked drugs and thousands of firearms have been seized. Law-enforcement agencies from more than 20 states and many international organizations worked together to make it happen. The fact unfortunately remains that the prolonged, large-scale presence of foreign contingents in Afghanistan has not led to an improvement in the military and political situation.
Moreover, the expansion of the authority of foreign military personnel has brought an increase in civilian casualties, and there is data on this in United Nations reports. We believe that putting the emphasis on force alone is a mistake. We see no alternatives to a political process aimed at achieving sustainable national reconciliation, and if that process is going to be effective, it should be inclusive. Attempts to marginalize specific countries in the region are counterproductive. The outside stakeholders should encourage a culture of good neighbourliness and cooperation, and an understanding of the importance of the regional dimension of the Afghan settlement.
We believe firmly that the key to stabilization in Afghanistan resides in negotiation efforts that can pave the way for the launch of a national reconciliation process, led by the Afghans themselves, as soon as possible, and we are ready to assist with this. The principle of honest and equal partnership, taking the interests of all regional stakeholders into account, which serves as a basis for the Moscow format and the mechanism of the resumed SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, is optimal for launching the negotiation process.
We support Uzbekistan’s initiative to hold a ministerial conference on the Afghanistan settlement in Tashkent on 26 and 27 March. We view it as part of the development of the Moscow format and the activities of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group. We note the results of the second meeting of the Kabul Process on 28 February and the call to the Taliban by President Ghani of Afghanistan to begin a dialogue.
We hope that the political appeals will be followed by practical steps to achieve that. Afghanistan is on the threshold of a new election cycle. We support ensuring that parliamentary and presidential elections, which should be a powerful unifying factor for the Afghan people, are held on time. In order to do that, all of Afghanistan’s political forces should hew to a balanced line that avoids polarizing society and infringing on national minority rights. Resolving the Afghan conflict, as with crisis situations in other parts of the world, requires that the key players ensure that their efforts genuinely intersect, and we are ready for that collaboration