As violence rages across Afghanistan, the European Union (EU) on Wednesday expressed its concern on the number of civilian victims, particularly of women and children.
This was stated by Andreas von Brandt, ambassador of the EU in Afghanistan, in a speech at the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) held in Kabul.
The JCMB is a decision-making body established by the Afghan government and international community that provides a platform for strategic coordination, joint policy formulation and problem-solving in Afghanistan.
"Afghanistan is facing one of its toughest challenges - militarily, politically, economically, socially and psychologically," he said.
Andreas said that every citizen of Afghanistan – anxious about the future, frustrated by corruption, tired of fighting – will have to be assured that a government under a democratic constitution offers the better alternative.
He said that Afghanistan has been for more than a decade the EU's single largest aid recipient, with 100 million euros per year as direct budget support by the EU Commission alone.
"We intend to continue our assistance. And it will, inevitably, have to react to the security situation. But it will remain conditional on the core principles, as agreed in Geneva last year, he added.
Andreas said that NGOs will continue implementing also government policies. "NGOs need space to operate. Media is not only about essential freedom of expression, but also about fiscal scrutiny or strengthening democracy," he added.
The ambassador said that the EU is extremely worried about targeted killings, carried out mostly by anti-government elements. "The EU calls for a full investigation of these attacks and stronger government efforts to ensure protection."
He said that the people of Afghanistan need assurances, that democracy and pluralism deliver better results.
"If the people feel more confident in their government, there will be continued confidence of the international community," he added.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told the session that political agreement is the only solution for the Afghan crisis and the only way to end the bloodshed in the country.
"The only solution for the Taliban is a political agreement, a political agreement supported by the people. Because without a national consensus and people's support, peace does not break out," he added.
"The departure of the international forces gives us the opportunity to frame and implement our sovereignty strategies in the manner suited to our unique conditions and history as well as the benefits of regional connectivity and global cooperation," Ghani said.
He also said that the Afghan government has cut the national budget by 5.2 per cent to eliminate waste, prioritise the use of condition-based assistance, ensure delivery of essential services and free resources for the Afghan national defence and security forces.
Deborah Lyons, special UN envoy and head of UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told the same meeting that donors were seeking a promise from the Afghan government "that it recognises the nature of the crisis and that it has a strategic outlook that addresses the current, worrying circumstances."
"For now, I am not talking primarily about the recent Taliban advances. They are cause for concern, as we all know, and which I will address later. For now, however, I am talking about the one number that concerns us the most. That number is 18 million. Eighteen million Afghans today are facing dire humanitarian needs," she said.
"Our humanitarian partners are here, and they are here to deliver. But three critical things are needed for this life-saving work: One, an immediate and lasting end to the violence is necessary, and humanitarian access must be unimpeded so that all areas of the country, all Afghans in need, can be reached," she noted.
With additional input from Xinhua
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