Remarks by Ambassador Jürgen Schulz during the Security Council VTC Meeting on UNAMA, March 31

31.03.2020 - Speech

Check Against Delivery

First of all, thanks for the briefing by UNAMA and for the latest update, that was extremely helpful. I would like to comment on a few aspects of the briefing. First of all, about the recent violence, we feel it's extremely regrettable that violence has not subsided. We condemn all recent attacks. Continued Taliban attacks against security forces are very worrying and against the spirit of the agreement with the United States of 29 February.

This is not the environment to build the confidence necessary for a peace process, and these attacks must stop. Now, obviously, in our view, is the time for unity and cooperation and reconciliation and not for continued violence. Now, on the onslaught of COVID-19: as the Corona crisis has also spread to Afghanistan and we can't even estimate its true extent there yet, an end to violence is even more urgent. The Secretary-General's call for a humanitarian ceasefire was timely and vital and was also echoed by our German Foreign Minister Maas, who said the fight against this pandemic must become the priority. Medical service and humanitarian aid must not be hampered by conflict. Another aspect in this context that we are concerned about is the return of refugees, and that's something we need to keep an eye on in light of the current Coronavirus. Afghan refugees are already leaving Iran without the necessary medical facilities to treat them in western Afghanistan. The same is likely to happen with Afghan refugees from Pakistan. This is bound to exacerbate the health crisis.

A word on the peace process: we reiterate the importance of a sustainable peace, which can only be achieved through a negotiated and inclusive political settlement owned and led the people of Afghanistan. This will require a lot of work, time and flexibility on all sides. We welcome the agreement on the negotiation team with representatives of various political factions, among them one-fourth women as a vital step towards the start of the peace process.

At the same time, we continue to be concerned about the domestic standoff. We hope that the agreement on the joint negotiation team can also help to overcome the political impasse in Kabul, which remains a great concern to us. Parallel government structures lead to dysfunctionality. An inclusive political solution has to be found as soon as possible in order to prevent a dysfunctional government and a possible further escalation, which might even lead to fractures among the security forces. We urge all sides involved to display maximum flexibility. In these times, Mr. President, international consensus must be maintained. This requires this Council to remain united and unwavering in its support. This Council demonstrated this unity when we unanimously adopted the resolution endorsing the US-Taliban agreement on 10 March.

As the second largest donor and troop contributor, Germany remains firmly committed to Afghanistan. We will do our utmost to contribute to the facilitation of intra-Afghan talks and work closely with all sides involved. Even if the current Corona crisis makes physical meetings impossible, we now have to lay the institutional groundwork for the talks to happen soon. Any dialogue, talks and negotiations must ensure that there is no pushback on what has already been achieved and it must ensure the meaningful inclusion of women. Not only that, women need to be able to fully and effectively participate in all spheres of Afghan society, including the political sphere. The remarkable progress that has been achieved in the last two decades in this regard must be secured and built upon. We commend the Government of Afghanistan for its commitment and continue to provide our support.

Mr. President, also a word on the UN mission UNAMA: we commend the important role that UNAMA plays in monitoring the situation on the ground. The Council should continue to provide their support to this vital mission. Germany firmly supports the mandate that was adopted by consensus. Let me also say that the SRSG Yamamoto's turn at the helm of UNAMA has now ended, and we thank him for his years of very distinguished service. It's vital at this crucial moment to see the appointment of his successor as the new SRSG and we wish her all the best and our full support for the mission and for the future of the country.

Mr President, as the security situation remains volatile, Germany urges all parties to the conflict to refrain from using violence against civilians, in particular women and children. The conflict has caused immeasurable pain to the most vulnerable members of society. More than one hundred thousand have become victims over the last 10 years. We reiterate that all parties must respect their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law and take immediate measures to prevent civilian casualties.

Other important topics to keep on the agenda are climate and security and the fight against corruption. One example: the 2017 Afghan anti-corruption strategy expired on 31 December last year. We now urge the Afghan government to speedily pass a successor strategy.

In concluding, Mr President, one word on the economic and social aspects: economic development and job creation remains essential and have taken on further importance given the Corona crisis. Afghanistan needs continued and reliable international assistance to tackle the economic challenges and to reverse the current troubling trend of dramatically increasing levels of poverty. The 2020 Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, co-hosted by Afghanistan and Finland at the UN in Geneva, will be crucial for the continued support to Afghanistan. The international community must remain on board and continue to support Afghanistan in accordance with this commitment for the ongoing transformation decade. Continued funding is vital if we don't want to risk the progress made in Afghanistan, even more so because the economic aftermath of COVID-19 will strain national budgets. Such a commitment will be based on the joint understanding that Afghanistan will continue its path of reforms.

Mr. President, before concluding, let me also refer to the draft press elements that the co-penholders Indonesia and Germany have circulated. We very much hope that the Council can express itself on this important topic today.

Thank you very much.

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