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 Permanent Representative of Afghanistan for his statement. I also thank all delegations that have participated in the consultations on the draft resolution, and particularly the German team for facilitating the negotiations. We are looking forward to its adoption once again by consensus.
Before I start my statement, let me underline the EU condemnation of the coward terrorist attack against a UN-marked vehicle that killed an American citizen and wounded two others, all working to help and protect the Afghan people.
The EU strongly acknowledges the crucial role played by UNAMA and the UN agencies in supporting the Afghan people by encouraging peace and reconciliation, monitoring and promoting human rights, and implementing the commitments from the 2018 November Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan. The EU strives to have the closest possible relationship with UNAMA, in a spirit of cooperation on the ground and in international fora for the ultimate benefit of Afghanistan and its citizens.
The suspension of bilateral talks between the US and the Taliban in September led to the suspension of the process and postponing the next phase, i.e. the intra-Afghan negotiations between the Government and the Taliban. They were due to start later that month. The current pause, however, is being used, and to prepare the launch of a genuine peace process that could and should be accompanied by a ceasefire.
The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini and the Foreign Ministers of the European Union member states discussed Afghanistan in the Foreign Affairs Council on 9 November, and recalled the principles that frame EU engagement in Afghanistan in the current phase:
• Direct intra-Afghan talks, between the Government of Afghanistan and Taliban, remain the only way to reach lasting peace in Afghanistan. The conflict needs a political settlement. The EU supports the resumption of talks between the US and the Taliban as a step towards the launch of a genuine intra-Afghan peace process, with direct negotiations between the Government and the Taliban. The intra-Afghan negotiations must take place in an environment that is conducive to reaching a balanced peace agreement that respects the constitutional order and fundamental values of Afghanistan.
• The EU believes that a ceasefire should accompany the start of these intra-Afghan negotiations. Up to that moment, from now to the intra-Afghan talks, significant reduction of violence ought to take place as a concrete signal towards peace. It will also stop unnecessary suffering and facilitate the upcoming peace process. Afghan citizens are longing for peace. It is important all sides take this historic opportunity. Too many opportunities have already been missed through the last 18 years;
• The international community can play a supportive role, but always needs to respect the principle of an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process, respecting the independence, integrity and the sovereignty of the Afghan State.
• Finally, as the European Union has repeatedly stated, the peace process must consolidate rather than erode the achievements of the last 18 years, including the improvement of rights of women, children and minorities. Particular attention should be on the full involvement of women in line with UNSC resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security, the protection of their constitutional rights, and the preservation of rights and democratic advancements of Afghanistan. The EU is ready to support an inclusive political process.
As HRVP Mogherini stated at the Geneva Ministerial Conference a year ago, the European Union stands ready to contribute at all stages of the process politically and financially, to the future of Afghanistan, to post-conflict reforms, and to the implementation of a peace settlement that embodies these principles.
The EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan is working hard, together with the Special Envoys and Representatives of the EU Member States, and in close cooperation with the US Special Representative for Afghanistan to make this peace settlement a reality.
The EU strongly believes that the pursuit of peace must not come at the expense of Afghanistan's fundamental values and democratic development. Elections and peace go hand in hand.
The Afghan Presidential elections that took place on 28 September have demonstrated once again the determination of the Afghan citizens to support the democratic development of their country, even if this meant putting their lives at risk when casting their votes.
The legitimacy of the election results will be linked to the ability of the Afghan electoral management bodies to fulfil their mandate impartially, efficiently and transparently and in full respect of the constitution, electoral laws and procedures, including the correct management of complaints and appeal proceedings.
We trust that the preliminary and final election results can be released without much further delays. The European Union expects that all candidates exercise restraint and exercise a constructive attitude towards the Independent Electoral Commission.
The European Union supported both the 2018 parliamentary and the 2019 presidential elections with a total contribution of EUR 31 million through the UN-implemented Electoral Support Project and grants to civil society and has deployed a small election expert team on both occasions.
The European Union will stand ready to continue its long-term commitment to Afghanistan after the signing of a peace agreement. The EU welcomes all opportunities to provide substantial financial, political, diplomatic, and development support as required at all stages of a peace process, including after the successful conclusion of a peace agreement.
This year has been important for EU-Afghanistan bilateral relations with the visit of HRVP Federica Mogherini to Kabul at the end of March and several bilateral meetings in the framework of the EU-Afghanistan Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development (CAPD) in May.
As the process continues towards a political settlement, the coordination between development, security and political actors is crucial. The European Union continues its close cooperation with key international partners. In this regard, we reiterate our support to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission’s efforts to provide training, advice and assistance for the Afghan security forces and institutions.
The European Union and its Member States will continue to be strong development partners of Afghanistan. We are currently starting the preparations for our next programming cycle for Afghanistan, for the period from 2021 to 2027. It is our conviction that all donors should already seriously reflect about the many peace dividends that would be available to all Afghans if the parties to the conflict eventually reach an agreement on lasting peace.
This will require a shared analysis and vision for development, a sustained and demonstrable commitment to poverty reduction, renewed commitment, at the highest level, to tackling corruption and a conducive and enabling environment for all development actors.
The European Union remains deeply concerned about the high level of civilian casualties and the increasing number of displaced people and reiterates the need to protect the civilian population, especially women and children. The European Union supports the economic empowerment of Afghan women. In addition, the European Commission has reinforced humanitarian support with €40 million to aid the most vulnerable families in Afghanistan, as well as for Afghan refugees in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.
To conclude, Mr. President,
This is a crucial moment for Afghanistan’s future.
The European Union is convinced that any final peace agreement to end the Afghan conflict will only be viable and accepted by the various layers of the Afghan population if it supports and maintains the values and achievements of the past two decades or, in other words, if the process and ensuing agreement project Afghanistan into the future and builds on the evolution of the country in the XXIst century. The democratization of Afghanistan should continue along with the better protection of the rights of all Afghans and safeguarding the country's democratic institutions. For peace to be enduring in Afghanistan, it will need the full support of all states involved. The EU has played its part, and remains fully ready to carry on with the work to accompany Afghanistan.
Thank you very much.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.