Zero Tolerance For Terrorism Need For Afghan Peace: India’s UN Envoy

Kabul: India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, TS Tirumurti, on Friday said that there should be zero tolerance for terrorism in all its forms and manifestations for enduring peace in Afghanistan and terrorist safe havens in the region must be dismantled.

Addressing United Nations Security Council (UNSC) briefing on Afghanistan, Tirumurti said, “It needs to be ensured that Afghanistan’s neighbours and the region are not threatened by terrorism, separatism and extremism.” “There needs to be zero tolerance for terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. It is equally important to ensure that the territory of Afghanistan is not used by terrorist groups to threaten or attack any other country. Those providing material and financial support to terrorist entities must be held accountable.”

The envoy said that the current situation prevailing in Afghanistan is of great concern to India. “The violence shows no sign of abating. The report of the UN makes it clear that civilian casualties and targeted killings have reached record levels. There have been targeted attacks on religious and ethnic minorities, girl students, Afghan security forces, Ulemas, women occupying positions of responsibility, journalists, civil rights activists and the youth.”

Making a reference to the recent killing of Indian journalist Danish Siddiqui and the attack on the Afghan Defence Minister, the envoy said, “More than 100 Afghan civilians were mercilessly killed in Spin Boldak. The rapid deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan constitutes a serious threat to regional peace and stability.” “It is, therefore, time for the international community and, in particular, this Council to take stock of the situation, and decide on actions that would help bring a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire and ensure an immediate cessation of violence.”

Anything short of this will constitute a serious threat to regional peace and security, Tirumurti added. Extending support for dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, the Indian envoy said, “If the peace process is to be successful, then it is necessary to ensure that the Taliban engage in negotiations in good faith, eschew the path of violence, sever ties with the Al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations, and commit itself towards reaching a political solution.”

Violence and military threat cannot be used to strengthen the negotiating position of any side. A tangible demonstration of this commitment is required, he added. Tirumurti further said that India wishes to see an independent, peaceful, sovereign, democratic, stable and prosperous Afghanistan. “I would like to reiterate our support for an inclusive, Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace process. Any political arrangement or settlement in Afghanistan must ensure that the gains of the last two decades are protected, and not reversed.”

He further said India supports a leading role for the United Nations and calls on the Secretary General to take an initiative towards finding a lasting and durable outcome. “We welcome any move towards a genuine political settlement that leads to these objectives. The only way forward are negotiations that will provide an acceptable compromise reflecting the Doha Process, the Moscow Format and the Istanbul Process.”

Lastly, he concluded by saying that India will continue to stand with Afghanistan in ensuring that peace and stability are restored through a legitimate and transparent democratic process that is essential for the long-term stability of Afghanistan and the region. “We will continue to provide all support to Afghanistan in realizing their aspirations for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future, free of terror, where the rights and interests of all sections of the Afghan society are promoted and protected.”

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Senior Advisor for Special Political Affairs, during the UN Security Council briefing said, “The United States strongly condemns the increase in violent attacks in Afghanistan, in particular, last week’s attack on a UNAMA compound in Herat and the suicide bombing targeting the home of Afghanistan’s Acting Defense Minister in Kabul. The alarming rise in violence and civilian casualties caused by the ongoing Taliban military offensive further erodes the advances the Afghan people made in democracy and the rule of law over the last 20 years. The Taliban must hear from the international community that we will not accept a military takeover of Afghanistan or a return of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate.”

“The Taliban will be isolated and an international pariah if they choose that path, which would most certainly push the country to further violence and destruction,” DeLaurentis said. We urge the Taliban to immediately halt their offensive, pursue a comprehensive and sustainable political settlement, and uphold their commitments to protect Afghanistan’s infrastructure and its people, especially women, girls, and other vulnerable populations. We also call on the Taliban to permit humanitarian organizations to continue their vital work in Afghanistan, she added.

DeLaurenti also listed out five principles for a just and durable political settlement- inclusive governance; the right of Afghans to elect political leaders; protections for human rights, including rights of women, youth, and minorities; committing to counter terrorism, including to ensure that Afghanistan does not again serve as a safe haven for international terrorists; and adherence to international law, including international humanitarian law.

Also, Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia said in a Security Council meeting on Friday, that Afghanistan risks slipping into a full-scale protracted civil war amid the absence of progress on peace negotiations. “It is clear that there is no military solution to the Afghan situation, but, in the current situation, given the absence of progress on the negotiation track, the prospect of Afghanistan slipping into full scale and protracted civil war, unfortunately, is a stark reality. Therefore, the most important goal today is to swiftly launch substantive negotiations”, Nebenzia said.

The Russian envoy voiced hope that the upcoming talks on Afghanistan in Doha as well as the extended Troika plus Pakistan format will give an additional impetus to the political settlement process. “We are convinced that now it is more important than ever to consolidate all international and regional efforts and every measure should be taken to find a sensible solution taking into account the interests of all ethnic and religious minorities”, he said.

At the same time, the Russian diplomat stressed that Moscow is worried about escalating violence in Afghanistan which may spiral out of control. The situation also prompted concern from Kabul’s neighbours in Central Asia. “The risk of fighters infiltrating the region under the guise of being refugees cannot fail to cause concern among our Central Asian neighbors. We are in regular contact with all five Central Asian nations”, the Russian diplomat said.

Special Representative Deborah Lyons, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said the advance of the Taliban in recent months, now targeting major cities, is reminiscent of the Syrian and Balkan wars. “Afghanistan is now at a dangerous turning point,” she said. “Ahead lies either a genuine peace negotiation or a tragically intertwined set of crises: an increasingly brutal conflict combined with an acute humanitarian situation and multiplying human rights abuses.”

Warning that the consequences could extend beyond the country’s borders, Lyons urged ambassadors to seize the opportunity and demonstrate commitment “to prevent Afghanistan from descending into a situation of catastrophe so serious that it would have few, if any, parallels this century.”

More than 1,000 casualties have been recorded in these three areas in the past month alone, while homes, hospitals, bridges and other infrastructure have been destroyed. Fighting has been especially fierce in Laskhar Gah, capital of Helmand province in the south, where at least 104 civilians were killed, and 403 wounded, over the past 10 days. “This is a different kind of war, reminiscent of Syria recently or Sarajevo in the not so distant past. To attack urban areas is to knowingly inflict enormous harm and cause massive civilian casualties,” she said.

The Taliban are not operating alone, according to Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Ghulam M. Isaczai. He told the Council that more than 10,000 foreign fighters are in the country, representing 20 groups including Al-Qaeda and ISIL. “There is mounting evidence that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which have pledged allegiance to ISIL, fought alongside the Taliban in Faryab, Jowzjan, Takhar and Badakhshan provinces where they are currently present with their families under the Taliban control,” said Isaczai, delivering a statement on behalf of Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister.

“The link between the Taliban and these transnational terrorist groups is stronger today than at any point in recent times.”

Lyons recalled that over the past three years, the Afghan authorities, as well as the international community, have held numerous discussions with the Taliban towards finding peace and a political consensus. Each time, the expectation was that violence would diminish, and that the same would happen when foreign troops exited the country earlier this year.

Ahead of talks in Qatar next week, and the Council’s next meeting on Afghanistan in September, Lyons urged ambassadors to seize the opportunity to address the deteriorating situation in the country. The Security Council must issue an unambiguous statement that attacks against cities must stop now, she said, while countries meeting with Taliban representatives should insist on a general ceasefire and resumption of negotiations.

“We as the members of the regional and international community, so well represented by this Council, must put aside our own differences on the question of Afghanistan and send a strong signal—not only in our public statements but also in our bilateral communications to both parties—that it is essential to stop fighting and negotiate, in that order. Otherwise, there may be nothing left to win.”

Then a Chinese envoy called on the international community to carry forward the Afghan peace process by preventing all-out war, advancing peace and reconciliation, and fighting terrorism. Afghanistan is at a historic conjuncture of war and peace. With the hasty withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces, Afghanistan has seen increased violence, rising civilian casualties and a deteriorating security situation, said Dai Bing, charge d’affaires of China’s permanent mission to the United Nations.

Two decades of war in Afghanistan has once again demonstrated that there is no military solution. Any external power interference in Afghanistan is doomed to fail, he told the Security Council. The international community should help avoid the expansion of fighting and prevent all-out war in Afghanistan, he said.

Foreign troops should consult fully with the Afghan government on post-withdrawal arrangements to ensure a smooth transition in Afghanistan. They should be more transparent with regional countries and avoid leaving behind all the problems. A political solution is the only way out for Afghanistan. No government should be established in Afghanistan by force. China welcomes the recent resumption of dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, and their agreement to continue high-level talks and to accelerate the negotiation process, he said.

“We hope that negotiating parties can show flexibility, seek common ground while managing differences, and chart out a roadmap and timetable for reconciliation as soon as possible. We look forward to the rebirth of Afghanistan and the establishment of a broad and inclusive political structure in pursuit of a moderate and steady Muslim policy, with a commitment to friendly relations with all neighboring countries,” said Dai.

China is willing to host intra-Afghan negotiations in due course to support and facilitate the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, he added. He also stressed the importance of preventing terrorist forces from gaining strength.

Terrorism remains a grave challenge for Afghanistan and regional countries. Terrorist organizations listed by the Security Council, such as the Islamic State, Al-Qaida, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, Pakistan Taliban, continue to launch frequent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. The international community must not allow Afghanistan to again become a place where terrorists congregate, and should rather continue to support Afghan security forces in strengthening counter-terrorism capacity, said Dai.

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