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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the EU and its 28 Member States.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia*and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
I would like to thank the Secretary-General for his comprehensive report. I would also like to thank Special Representative Yamamoto and Mrs. Sima Samar for their briefings. They all brought important elements to our attention.
The EU commends the UN, not the least through UNAMA, for the continuous important efforts carried out and deployed both in Kabul and at the international level to support Afghanistan on its way towards improved security and prosperity and also in implementing the commitments from the 2018 November Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan. We reiterate our full support for these on-going efforts, and pledge to strengthen EU-UN cooperation on Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The first half of this year has been important for EU-Afghanistan bilateral relations: HRVP Federica Mogherini paid a visit to Kabul in March, and the EU held several bilateral meetings in the framework of the EU-Afghanistan Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development (CAPD) in May. In all these discussions, the peace file had a prominent role, looking at how the EU could help that the peace process materializes. The EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan Roland Kobia has frequently visited Kabul and the region to support the peace process.
The EU strongly believes that all international partners need to strengthen efforts and coordination in the following weeks and months to capitalize on the current momentum on peace.
On 8 April the EU Foreign Affairs Council discussed Afghanistan and approved Council Conclusions, reiterating the EU's commitment to play an active role in Afghanistan's peace process and setting out in detail the EU's position and expectations on the peace process. On that occasion, all 28 foreign ministers also endorsed the offer that HRVP Federica Mogherini had made at the 2018 Geneva Ministerial Conference, namely: helping the government making the peace process more inclusive; supporting post-conflict reforms, including SSR; the reintegration of ex-combatants; a possible EU role as guarantor of the peace process; and supporting cross-border trade and infrastructure as well as regional connectivity.
It is in this framework that the EU engages in dialogue with the Afghan Government and international partners. The EU believes strongly that any future peace agreement must preserve the political, economic and social achievements of the last 18 years, in particular the rights of women, children and minorities. Work must also continue to enhance these achievements.
The EU supports and appreciates all international and regional actors, in particular the ongoing efforts by US Special Envoy Khalilzad, who try to bring the conflicting parties to the negotiation table.
Dialogue between the Government and the Taliban is a priority and should start as soon as possible. Current negotiations between the Taliban and the U.S should be integrated in intra-Afghan consultations. Peace can only be sustainable if it is shaped and accepted by all Afghans, including by women and minorities, and anchored in the communities across Afghanistan. A sustainable settlement requires compromises on all sides – including on how a dialogue could be set up and begin. The EU is ready to facilitate such a consultation process and a dialogue that will contribute to inclusivity by involving Afghan civil society including women´s and youth groups.
The EU supports the active participation of women in line with the resolution 1325. Inclusivity means addressing difficult but necessary issues of the peace process at the outset. Management of grievances and justice should not be overlooked and dealt with at the right moment.
A peace agreement is not peace in itself. Peace will take time. The implementation phase of the peace agreement will be the key for achieving lasting peace. The EU stands ready to continue its long-term commitment to Afghanistan after a peace agreement has been signed. If there are expectations from the EU to provide substantial financial, political, diplomatic and development support after a successful conclusion of a peace agreement, the EU needs to be involved at all stages of the peace process.
There is a continued need to strengthen Afghan ownership and leadership of the peace process, including intra-Afghan negotiations. The recent Consultative Loya Jirga (CLJ) could be seen as a useful contribution to this, especially if further consultations are enlarged to additional constituencies and endorsed by major political and civil society actors. Such intra-Afghan formats should be able to contribute to the current regional Track 1 negotiations.
We call on the Afghan political class – both the government as well as members of the opposition – to prioritize peace, and remain constructively engaged when it comes to the needs of the peace process. The EU strongly urges political actors in Afghanistan not to allow their differences on other issues, to divide them on the core question of peace. For the sake of sustainable peace, all political stakeholders in Afghanistan must do their utmost to achieve unity as regards ongoing efforts to end the conflict. In particular, elections and peace should remain two separate processes.
Despite the current on-going efforts to start a peace process, the conflict in Afghanistan continues and insecurity is affecting the lives of the Afghan people. During the last month we have witnessed a sharp increase in terrorist attacks both in Kabul and other regions of the country. The number of internally displaced people is on the rise and humanitarian needs are increasing, with 6.3 million people in need of assistance.
The EU remains deeply concerned about the high level of civilian casualties the conflict produces. According to UNAMA reported findings, the situation, when 1/3 of overall casualties were children, is deplorable and the need to protect civilians is of crucial importance. In this context, we reiterate once again our calls on all parties to protect the civilian population, especially women and children. Conflict-related violence must no longer destroy another generation's livelihood, homes and property, displacing families and limiting access to education, health and other services.
I have mentioned in the beginning the bilateral meetings the EU recently held in Kabul. One of these was the 2nd EU-AFG Joint Committee, which is the main body of our bilateral cooperation with Afghanistan and where the discussions covered the entire relationship under the CAPD and identified priorities for the future. On that occasion, the Afghan Government presented its Strategy for Growth and its plans to achieve budgetary self-reliance by 2024 and also announced significant progress on the GMAF indicators agreed at the Geneva Ministerial Conference.
Other important meetings were the Special Working groups on Human Rights, Good Governance and Migration and the one on Economic and Social Development, also in the CAPD framework. We had comprehensive discussions on many subjects but what I would like to stress is the outcome of the discussion on human rights and good governance, areas of particular interest for the EU.
The need that the legislation in force on human rights and democracy is properly implemented was widely recognized in the discussions. It is only in this way that the Afghan citizens will reap the full benefits of a democratic system. Moreover, in the context of peace efforts, there was agreement on the importance of preserving the Constitutional order of Afghanistan and to guarantee the protection of human rights and ensure women’s inclusion at all stages of the peace negotiations and of the peace process. We took note of the results of the consultative forum National Women Consensus for Peace. There is a need for an effective and credible platform to achieve a unified women’s voice in the future peace process and ensure their participation.
Promoting the rule of law and ending impunity for corruption will also be core elements of a future sustainable peace. The EU intends to organize in the near future the 5th Anticorruption Conference in Kabul, aiming at a realistic discussion on what has been done in this area and what concrete steps are still needed for the full implementation of the National Strategy Against Corruption and related legislation.
Migration and forced displacement were also part of our recent discussions. We have a good implementation of the EU-AFG Joint Way Forward on migration. At the same time, the local and regional dimensions of migration are high on the EU’s agenda. Sustainable reintegration of Afghan IDPs and returnees from the neighbouring countries, including lately from Turkey, remains a big challenge for Afghanistan and this is an areas where the EU will continue to enhance its support. Sustainable reintegration is also important in the context of future peace efforts where any lessons learned on successful reintegration will have a good added value.
The pursuit of peace must not be done at the expense of Afghanistan's democratic development. Peace will only be lasting in a democratic and prosperous environment. In this context, holding fair and transparent presidential elections on time (28 September 2019) is essential to strengthen the legitimacy of the state institutions, as well as the democratic development and the political stability of Afghanistan. The Afghan authorities have an obligation to ensure a level playing field. All candidates must take part in the elections in good faith. The EU sees no alternative to the holding of credible presidential elections in September. Afghans should face the elections as if there was no peace process and the peace process as if there were no elections.
The EU will continue the coordination with the Afghan stakeholders and the IC, providing support (over 18 million EUR) to address some of the technical difficulties of the previous (parliamentary) elections in October 2018.
The EU is a strong development partner for Afghanistan and the development cooperation responds to the officially defined and presented Afghan Government's priorities.
The EU will continue its strong commitment to on-budget support, based on the Afghan progress and impact in the implementation of its policies. The EU is currently starting to work on the next programming cycle for Afghanistan to cover the period from 2021 to 2027, and the potential priorities in the context of a peace agreement.
In this context, the EU would like to thank once again the UN for the good cooperation in the preparation of the Geneva Conference in November 2018 and its donor coordination efforts.
To conclude, Mr. President,
The EU believes that the following months are crucial for a peace process to succeed. But any peace negotiations and agreement will only be viable and accepted by the population if it supports and maintains the values and achievements of the past two decades. The democratization of Afghanistan should continue along with better protection of the rights of all Afghans and safeguarding the country's democratic institutions.
It is in this spirit that the EU will increase is efforts and support for peace, in coordination and cooperation with Afghanistan, UN, regional and international partners.
Thank you very much.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.