19 December 2012Statement by Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Permanent Representative of the UK Mission to the UN, at the Security Council debate on Afghanistan
I want to thank the Secretary-General for his report, the Special Representative Mr Jan Kubis for his briefing and for his leadership of the UNAMA mission, and Ambassador Zahir Tanin for his comments and contribution this afternoon. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Ambassador Wittig for his Chairmanship of the Afghanistan Sanctions Committee and for his guidance to the Council on the Afghanistan dossier.
I will focus my statement today on four key areas: the 2014 elections, the peace and reconciliation process, human rights and the role of the United Nations in Afghanistan.
As the Secretary-General’s report suggests, the 2014 elections are central to the success of the Afghan political transition.
These elections will bring many challenges. But we should not underestimate their importance. The United Kingdom looks forward to credible and inclusive elections, delivering a peaceful transition of power to a government chosen by the people of Afghanistan. The Afghan people will demand nothing less, and the international community should strongly support this objective.
The timetable for elections remains ambitious. The United Nations has an important role to play in supporting the electoral process, providing expertise and facilitating open dialogue. We fully support the analysis outlined in the Secretary-General’s report on this issue.
Turning now to the peace and reconciliation process.
A political settlement in Afghanistan remains a top priority for the international community, including the United Kingdom.
The offer to the Taliban and other armed groups remains the same: to sever ties to Al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks and participate in peaceful dialogue with the Afghan Government. The time for dialogue is now.
We welcome UNAMA’s work to date in supporting this peace process.
When the Council split the former 1267 regime last year, it sent a clear message. Resolution 2082 (2012), adopted on Monday, built on this. Introducing a highly flexible travel ban exemption procedure and greater consultation with the Afghan Government, it further reinforced the Council’s commitment to ensuring that sanctions work in support of the peace process, and never as a brake on it.
The United Kingdom will continue to do all that we can to support the efforts of Afghanistan and Pakistan in strengthening their bilateral relations. In the last few months, both nations have stepped up their engagement and taken practical steps towards a genuine partnership in the pursuit of peace. The United Kingdom has convened three trilateral meetings in the last six months and will continue to offer a forum for open dialogue.
Thirdly, improving human rights in Afghanistan.
We welcome the Afghan Government’s continuing commitment to protecting the human rights of the Afghan people, as enshrined in the Constitution.
But there is still much work to be done. The United Kingdom is deeply concerned by reports of serious violence against women and harmful traditional practices, as reflected in the Secretary-General’s latest report. We urge the Government of Afghanistan to continue its important work to ensure the full implementation of the Law on
Elimination of Violence Against Women.
The United Kingdom also noted with concern the figures on civilian casualties in the Secretary-General’s latest report. We note that the overwhelming - and increasing - majority of such incidents are caused by the insurgency. The United Kingdom condemns all such acts.
Finally, Mr President, the long-term role of the United Nations in Afghanistan.
UNAMA is doing an important job. The renewal of its mandate next March will provide a further opportunity for the Council to focus on the next steps in Afghanistan.
We will work to ensure that UNAMA continues to have a clear set of priorities and deliverables, aligned with adequate resources to allow it to deliver.
We note that transition of security responsibilities continues to make progress. With Tranche three now in place, 75 per cent of the population live in areas where the Afghan National Security Forces have the security lead. In line with this progress, the British Prime Minister today announced that UK force levels will reduce from 9,000 to around 5,200 by the end of 2013. This drawdown is in line with ISAF planning and the NATO strategy agreed at Chicago in 2012.
But even as this drawdown progresses, our commitment to supporting the Government of Afghanistan remains steadfast. The United Kingdom will deliver on all the commitments we made at Chicago and Tokyo to Afghanistan’s long-term security and development.
And we will continue to work in partnership with the Government of Afghanistan and the United Nations to meet our shared objective of a stable, inclusive and prosperous Afghanistan.
Thank you, Mr President.