Thank you, Madam President. We offer our condolences and solidarity to the people and government of Ethiopia who are responding to the crash. Our embassies in Addis Ababa and Nairobi are working tirelessly to offer all possible assistance. This tragedy was especially difficult for members of the United Nations community. With at least 19 UN workers from various agencies and offices among those dead, we mourn the lives of all 157 victims alongside the people and governments of the more than 35 countries from which they came.
Thank you to Special Representative Yamamoto for your briefing and for the continuing hard work that you and your team have undertaken in support of peace and economic development in Afghanistan. Thank you also to Ms. Tapesh for your briefing today, and for the important and courageous work that you do in support of human rights, women’s empowerment, and women’s participation in Afghanistan’s political process. Mr. Mohib, thank you for joining us in the Council today.
Madam President, we share the concerns expressed today about the many challenges facing Afghanistan, including the very difficult humanitarian situation. We recognize that over 6.3 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance there. That number is nearly double from last year, as severe drought in 2018 affected over 10 million Afghans. Moreover, Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous places for humanitarian workers to deliver assistance. The U.S. continues to step up to provide assistance to vulnerable populations in Afghanistan in response to this emergency. We continue to be the largest humanitarian donor in Afghanistan, and have contributed over 232 million dollars in life-saving assistance in the last year. We encourage our colleagues to continue to rise up to this challenge alongside us.
We also recognize the very difficult security situation in Afghanistan. At the same time, we believe that 2019 holds the promise to be a year for peace. The United States is committed to using its influence with all interested parties to make 2019 a year for peace in close consultation with the Afghan government.
The United States does not seek a withdrawal agreement. Rather, we seek a comprehensive peace agreement that would guarantee Afghanistan never again becomes a platform for transnational terrorism and that would codify an intra-Afghan consensus on a political roadmap for the future of the country.
Madam President, in January, we agreed in principle to a framework addressing the interconnected issues of counterterrorism and withdrawal, including agreement on enforcement mechanisms to guarantee implementation. The recent round of talks in Doha that just concluded clarified a more detailed understanding on these topics. We also have consulted extensively with the Afghan government and our international partners on these issues.
In mid-February, the Taliban took a step towards the type of intra-Afghan dialogue we believe is necessary by appointing and empowering a negotiating team lead by Mullah Berader. We’ve asked President Ghani to work across broader Afghan society to build an inclusive, national team.
All sides say there is no military solution. Consequently, we’re also pressing for an end to Afghans killing other Afghans – and specifically for the Taliban to implement a ceasefire or major reduction in violence that would create an enabling environment for an intra-Afghan dialogue to proceed.
As we’ve heard from Special Representative Yamamoto and his team over the past week, a peace agreement will only enjoy broad Afghan and international support if it preserves and strengthens the social and economic gains achieved since 2001. Afghanistan’s state institutions must survive and develop. Human rights must be respected, there must be a free press, and women and girls must be empowered.
We would prefer to see a peace agreement that brings the Taliban into the political process and facilitates a political framework for the future of Afghanistan. However, even if there is no progress on the peace track, elections need to take place.
Madam President, the United States is doing what we can to support the preparations for a credible election and to encourage Afghan government to move forward with preparations for presidential elections.
Building on lessons learned from the parliamentary elections and previous cycles, electoral reforms must have a realistic and firm timeline and be done in consultation with election stakeholders, including the presidential candidates.
Also, we’ve called on Afghanistan’s neighbors to lend their cooperation, participation, and facilitation to assist Afghans to come to the peace table and to make an honorable, just peace with each other.
We look forward to coming to an understanding on the shape of a regional mechanism that could facilitate the finalization of the peace agreement. Afghans deserve to live in peace and the United States welcomes the strong international support for efforts that we believe have a real chance to bring peace to Afghanistan after 17 years of war.
Finally, Madam President, we look forward to the renewal for another year of the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. The next twelve months will be a pivotal period for Afghanistan, and UNAMA will have a critical role to play in strengthening the legitimacy of Afghanistan’s election process, supporting the Afghanistan peace process, and in donor coordination.
I thank you.