Envoys welcome Afghan govt, Taliban resolve to reach political settlement

They express concern over 'high levels of violence', stress urgency of reaching ceasefire agreement


News Desk July 24, 2021
Afghan National Army soldiers keep watch near the site of a blast in Jalalabad, Afghanistan February 11, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON:

The envoys of the US, EU, France, Germany, Italy, NATO, Norway, and the UK have welcomed the recent 'commitment by the Afghan government and the Taliban to accelerate negotiations toward an inclusive political settlement'.

"The special representatives and envoys met in Rome on 22 July 2021 to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the developments in Afghanistan peace negotiations after the latest round of high-level talks in Doha on July 17-18, 2021," read a communique of the US State Department on Saturday.

"We took due note of yesterday’s briefings by the representatives of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban and welcome the talks held in Doha on July 17 and 18 between senior leaders of the two sides. We further welcome the declared commitment of the two sides to accelerate negotiations toward an inclusive political settlement and to meet again in the near future."

We affirm that our countries and organizations are committed to a strong partnership with Afghanistan and will be closely monitoring ongoing developments in this new phase of transition with the withdrawal of international forces," the envoys said.

They noted that the people of Afghanistan have suffered for too long from conflict. "We are deeply concerned about the high levels of violence, the Taliban’s military offensive, and the number of reported serious human rights abuses and violations alleged in communities most affected by the ongoing armed conflict across the country."

The envoys called on all parties to reduce violence and protect civilians, respecting their obligations under international humanitarian law.

"We call on the Taliban to end their military offensive, and on both the Islamic Republic and the Taliban to engage meaningfully in the peace process," they said.

The representatives reiterated the urgency of reaching a ceasefire to ensure the success of negotiations, and we acknowledge the sacrifices of the Afghan security forces.

"We reaffirm that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, we stand by UNSC resolution 2513 (2020), and we do not support any government in Afghanistan imposed through military force."

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The envoys expressed "full support to an inclusive Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process with full and meaningful participation of women that leads to a just and durable political settlement".

"We also highlight five elements of a final settlement that are most critical: (1) inclusive governance; (2) the right to elect political leaders; (3) protections for human rights, including rights of women, youth and minorities; (4) commitments on counter-terrorism, including to ensure that Afghanistan does not again serve as a safe haven for terrorists; and (5) adherence to international law, including international humanitarian law," the statement added.

The representatives emphasised that international support to any future government will depend, at least in part, on adherence to these five elements.

"We intend to maintain our support for Afghan institutions, including defence and security forces, to address the country’s urgent needs," they said.

"We also reiterate that future assistance to Afghanistan is dependent on good governance and a commitment to the rule of law and human rights, including preservation of the gains made by women and girls over the past two decades, as well as the government taking meaningful steps to tackle corruption and to meeting commitments made at the November 2020 Geneva Conference."

The envoys said that they believed that the future meetings should focus on core issues that will be fundamental to reaching an inclusive political settlement.

"We acknowledge that reaching a final political settlement, including on the Constitution, will likely take time," they added.

The representatives urged the two sides to agree on a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire and on foundational principles for the future Afghan state and details of transitional governing arrangements until a final political settlement is reached.

"We emphasize that any transitional governing arrangements must be inclusive, respect the rights of all Afghans in line with Afghanistan’s international commitments and also uphold counter-terrorism commitments.:

"We call on the two parties to negotiate in good faith in order to reach a just and durable political settlement. To promote progress in the negotiations, we support any third-party facilitation or mediation welcomed by the two sides."

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"We seize this opportunity to reiterate appreciation to Qatar as host of the negotiations, and we commend it for bringing the parties together and for its overall contribution to the process. We also commend the United Nations for the essential and expanded role it is playing in support of the process."

The envoys reiterated that the Taliban and and the Afghan government must deliver on their commitments to prevent the use of Afghan soil by al Qaeda, ISIS or other terrorist groups from launching attacks against, or threatening the security of, any other country; and not to host members of these groups nor to allow them to recruit, train, fundraise or transit through Afghanistan.

"We urge the Taliban to reduce violence, uphold their commitments to protect Afghanistan’s infrastructure, protect civilians and cooperate on humanitarian assistance, particularly as the Afghan people suffer acutely from the effects of COVID-19 and drought, in addition to violence."

They called on the Taliban to allow and facilitate, without preconditions and consistent with international humanitarian law, access for delivery of humanitarian aid, to areas under their control.

"We believe that Afghanistan can contribute to regional and international stability and connectivity. We encourage Afghanistan’s neighbors to intensify their support to the Afghan people and to contribute to a lasting peace settlement and economic development in the interests of all."

The representatives also called upon all parties to ensure the safety of foreign embassies and other diplomatic missions, multilateral agencies, media representatives, airports and non-governmental organizations and their Afghan and international staff. We particularly appreciate Turkey’s readiness and commitment to assist with airport security as needed.

Concluding, they said, "We express our appreciation to Italy for organising these consultations and agreed to set the date and venue of the next meeting through diplomatic channels."

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