United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres called on the Afghan government and the Taliban to reduce violence and start the intra-Afghan negotiations.
In the latest quarterly report released on Saturday, Guterres said that despite the Eid ceasefires, violence has continued in Afghanistan.
“Despite brief periods of respite during the two Eid ceasefires, the level of violence in Afghanistan remains far too high, with devastating consequences for all Afghans,” he said.
“I call on all parties to reduce violence, immediately and without preconditions. This is necessary to protect Afghan lives and livelihoods.”
The secretary general said a ceasefire was also important for Afghanistan’s COVID-19 response.
“Above all, reducing violence will create much-needed space for peace negotiations, enabling the parties to the conflict to gradually build confidence in each other and reassuring the Afghan people that their interests will be taken into account as Afghanistan embarks upon the long journey towards peace,” he observed.
The UN recorded 3,706 security-related incidents from May 15 to July 17, with the highest number taking place in the southern region. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), in its mid-year update documented 3,458 civilian casualties where 1,282 were killed and 2,176 were wounded, with Taliban responsible for the majority of civilian casualties.
Guterres also called on the Afghan government and the Taliban to approach the intra-Afghan negotiations in a “spirit of commitment and conciliation.”
“The process will not be swift or easy,” he said, adding, “The issues at stake are complex and go to the very heart of Afghan society. It is for Afghans themselves to determine the content and nature of the negotiations.”
He wrote that the importance of the negotiation is that it should eventually lead to a peace agreement that “affirms the country’s commitments to international human rights standards, contributes to peace and security in the region and allows Afghan refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes in a dignified and orderly manner.”
The UN head said, “An inclusive peace process, in which women, young people and victims of conflict are meaningfully represented, offers the best hope for a sustainable solution.”
He also echoed the demands of the Afghan women to be given opportunities to participate actively at all levels of the peace process.
“I expect a significant number of women to be appointed to the High Council for National Reconciliation, including to senior positions, and I similarly urge the Taliban to include women in their negotiating team,” Guterres said.
“All parties are expected to do their part to ensure that women participate in a variety of roles and that the peace process reflects the experiences and expertise of Afghan women in all their diversity.”
He also condemned the use of indirect fire during ground engagement in civilian-populated areas and the use of pressure-plate improvised explosive devices.
Pointing to the high-profile killings and attacks on human rights defenders, media workers, and activists, he said, “They must not be a target.”
He also asked the government to ensure transparency and effectiveness of investigations into such attack, ensuring that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss the complete report on Sep. 3 with UNAMA head Deborah Lyons delivering the remarks.