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Excellencies, distinguished colleagues,
Germany aligns itself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union later in this debate.
Out of all the “special years” for Afghanistan declared in the past two decades, 2020 was indeed singular.
Most importantly, it saw the start of the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations on 12 September. For the first time, representatives of the Republic of Afghanistan and of the Taliban sat together discussing ways to end the conflict and to work towards a peaceful future of the country. This became possible because important milestones had been reached in the preceding months: in February, the US-Taliban agreement and the Joint Declaration of the US and the Republic of Afghanistan. In May, the agreement between the two pre-eminent political leaders of Afghanistan after conclusion of the presidential elections. And not to forget the two – albeit short-lived – ceasefires and the release of thousands of prisoners, giving proof of the sincere commitment to peace particularly of the Republic of Afghanistan. A little more than two weeks ago, we witnessed the Afghanistan Conference 2020 in Geneva, which once again confirmed that the international community stands firmly behind the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and its ongoing quest to achieve self-reliance. Donors pledged more than 13 billion dollars in foreign aid and stabilization. Finally, as this extraordinary year draws to the end, we witnessed the agreement between the Republic Negotiating Team and the Taliban on rules of procedures on 2 December and the first session of the High Council for National Reconciliation three days later.
All this is happening against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having a devastating impact in Afghanistan with profound challenges to the country’s health system as well as its socio-economic and humanitarian situation. And it is happening against the background of a tense security situation, with a severe spike of violence in the fall and several high-profile attacks in the last few months. An immediate, permanent and comprehensive ceasefire is an indispensable necessity for the peace negotiations to proceed and to eventually succeed.
The draft of the UN General Assembly resolution “The situation in Afghanistan” before you has taken all these issues on board – and indeed many more, among them democracy, rule of law, good governance, counter-narcotics, social and economic development, refugees, regional cooperation and human rights. I want to underline the fact that human rights play a very important role in the resolution – I want to say this today on the international day of human rights.
As its long-standing facilitator, Germany has thoroughly updated and streamlined the draft. We have not done so alone, but together with the entire plenary, giving every country a voice while listening carefully to the concerns of countries from the region, international donors and troop contributors, and those closely accompanying the peace process. Most importantly, we have listened to what the Republic of Afghanistan itself has to say about “the situation in Afghanistan”. After all, we unanimously support an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process.
Negotiations this year were rather unusual, as was the case with so many 2020 UNGA resolutions: we opted for the full virtual experience, with delegates working from their living rooms and writing in the chat box what they would normally have written on a piece of paper to pass to the chair. This made the consultations more efficient, but also less personal. We all missed the cookies and the coffee breaks. We promise to go back to the German House as soon as we have left the pandemic behind us.
While the draft before you will find the support of many delegations – so far, more than 60 member states have co-sponsored it, out of which 27 are original co-sponsors – it will not please everyone. This is mainly due to our streamlining efforts. The resolution had grown over the years, reaching a full 16 pages last year. It had become impossible to go through the entire document in one single reading. As the facilitator, we were compelled to act and cut out some of the long enumerations of organizations, projects and ministerial meetings that had the only merit of pleasing some of us. For Afghanistan, it is important to look towards the future. This is why our focus in this year´s resolution has moved away from dwelling on past achievements.
It is also the reason behind our long-announced and carefully weighed decision to turn this resolution into a biannual document. This has become the norm for many UNGA resolutions, and it will give us some time to think long and hard about what we collectively would like to see in this resolution. It is also an opportunity to craft a more strategic, forward-looking document. We need to be bold, especially in these final remaining four years of Afghanistan’s Transformation Decade. Now is the time!
Of course, we would have liked to go back to consensus. However, we are not ready to do so at any price. I ask you to vote in favor of this draft resolution. Despite what some delegations will say later on, it is a constructive and forward-looking draft. Our experts worked hard on it, often finding a compromise only after hours of debate. Please reward these unrelenting efforts by lending your support to the resolution. It remains first and foremost an important expression of support for Afghanistan and its people by the entire membership of the United Nations.
Thank you, Mr President.
December 10, 2020
Right of Reply by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen at the UN General Assembly Meeting following the Adoption of the Resolution on the Situation in Afganistan, December 10
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As Germany has been specifically mentioned I use my right of reply. First, to the US representative who in his intervention, said that we had worked in getting this resolution “on autopilot”. I want to clearly reject that. We had a record number of consultations with member states preparing the resolution. I described this in my first intervention. I would also like to ask the US representative to look in the record of this meeting and to the many speakers who praised the facilitation of this process.
I would like to also respond to the positions expressed by Russia and also by others. I would like to ask the delegates if they have actually read the resolution, because in this resolution, large parts are on ISIL and the concern about ISIL is expressed in several sections – also that the territory of Afghanistan should not be used by ISIL.
Number two is the issue of regional cooperation. This is highlighted on several occasions in the resolution. Understandably not each and every initiative is mentioned. Germany has been one of the driving forces in Afghanistan for the peace process for years and we do not specifically mention our efforts either.
I also wonder if colleagues have read the whole text, because there is a whole section on drugs and the dangers of drugs.
The vote that we just witnessed was overwhelming. There were 130 countries in favor of this resolution. There was one negative vote and three abstentions. This is a very strong signal that this General Assembly sends to the Afghanistan people. This General Assembly stands behind the Afghan people in a very difficult period of the country.
I very much regret that, for the first time since we have been voting on this resolution, Russia has voted against it. We heard the plea of the ambassador from Afghanistan to vote in favor. To send this strong message of support to the Afghan people. Despite this repeated plea of the ambassador of Afghanistan, who speaks for her country, Russia voted against.
What message is Russia sending to Afghanistan? It sends the message that Russia is not standing behind the people, is not responding positively to what the ambassador of Afghanistan asked everyone to do. Russia today let down the Afghan people who go through such a difficult period. They have to cope with continued fighting. They have to cope with climate change. They have to cope with COVID-19. They have embarked on this very difficult endeavor of peace talks – where all hope and we all insist that what has been achieved in the last years in terms of human rights, in terms of respect for women, for children and for the peaceful development of this country, cannot be put in jeopardy at this critical moment.
All of us should have voted in favor and should have sent a strong signal to the Afghan people. In these difficult times, we stand behind you