UN backs Afghan peace talks in resolution, Russia votes ‘no’

The UN General Assembly approved a resolution over Russian objections Thursday commending progress in peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban while urging stepped-up efforts to tackle terrorist attacks by the Taliban, al-Qaida, the Islamic State extremist group and their affiliates.

The vote in the 193-member world body was 130 in favour, Russia against, and China, Pakistan and Belarus abstaining.

Fifty-nine countries did not vote.

The 15-page resolution titled The Situation in Afghanistan covers a wide range of issues including peace and reconciliation, democracy, the rule of law, good governance, human rights, counter-narcotics, social and economic development and regional cooperation.

While welcoming progress in the intra-Afghan talks, including the December 2 agreement on rules of procedure for negotiations, the resolution condemns the high rate of continued violence.”

It says this is contributing to an unacceptable number of casualties” and calls for an immediate cessation of violence and strongly encourages the Afghan government and the Taliban to pursue confidence-building measures and to reduce violence.”

The resolution reiterates the General Assembly’s serious concern” about the security situation in Afghanistan and stresses the need to continue to address the threat to the country’s stability from violence committed by the Taliban, including the Haqqani Network, as well as al-Qaida, Islamic State, their affiliates and other terrorist and criminal groups.

Afghanistan’s UN ambassador, Adela Raz, expressed regret that despite her government’s strong support for the resolution it wasn’t adopted by consensus, saying the measure reflects developments that are taking place on the ground and particularly the progress in the peace process.

Raz said the goal of the government, Afghanistan’s neighbours and the General Assembly is to incorporate the Taliban as a political party.

It is our utmost aim to see the Taliban as a constructive political party in the country, without the relationship with al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, working for prosperity and peace in Afghanistan, she said.

Noting that UN experts monitoring sanctions against the Taliban say it maintains ties to terrorist groups such as al-Qaida, Raz said the resolution is balanced regarding the Taliban’s willingness to take firm steps towards peace and reconciliation and its continuing attacks and terrorist ties.

German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, whose country led negotiations on the resolution, said that out of all the `special years’ for Afghanistan declared in the past two decades, 2020 was indeed singular.

Most important was the start of Afghan peace negotiations in September, he said after detailing all the events leading to the talks, starting with the US-Taliban agreement in February.

Heusgen also pointed to pledges of more than USD 13 billion in foreign aid and stabilisation for Afghanistan at a donors conference in Geneva just over two weeks ago as evidence that the international community stands firmly behind the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and its ongoing quest to achieve self-reliance.

He said the resolution is constructive and forward-looking and the vote signals that the General Assembly “stands behind the Afghan people in a very difficult period of the country.

Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Anna Evstigneeva, sharply criticised Germany’s role in the negotiations, saying there was blatant disregard for Moscow’s concerns.

She also said it is an attempt to conceal the true scope of threats from the Islamic State extremist group and drug issues threatening the country’s security.

She accused Germany of having a pre-established biased position favouring one group of states, which she didn’t name, and said it should no longer facilitate negotiations on the Afghanistan resolution in the General Assembly.

Nonetheless, Evstigneeva said, we continue to support Afghanistan during this crucial period.

Germany’s Heusgen responded by saying Russia’s no vote sends the message that Russia today let down the Afghan people.”

All of us should have voted in favour and should have sent a strong signal to the Afghan people: In these difficult times, we stand behind you, he said.

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