Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I commend the Secretary General for his report on the situation in Afghanistan. The UN and its assistance mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, have vital roles to play in the efforts to promote peace and development. We welcome this opportunity to discuss the way ahead for Afghanistan.
There is broad international agreement that the conflict in Afghanistan can only be resolved by political means.
We commend President Ghani’s brave offer to the Taliban of peace negotiations without pre-conditions in February. We were encouraged by the fact that during the Eid celebrations in June, the two Afghan parties declared unilateral, partly overlapping ceasefires. The ceasefires reduced the suffering of the Afghan people and were largely welcomed by them.
We have noted with great interest the efforts by the United States to engage the Taliban in exploratory talks about a peaceful solution to the Afghan conflict. We have also noted the efforts by regional partners to support a negotiated solution. Countries in the region have a vital role in securing long-term stability and development. Norway will continue our efforts to bring the different parties and other relevant actors together to find a political solution. However, nothing will succeed unless the Afghan parties dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to reach a peaceful settlement. We urge the Taliban to engage the Afghan government in negotiations. If a settlement is achieved, the international community must be ready to offer necessary assistance, financially and otherwise, to support its implementation.
Women play a vital role in reaching a peaceful solution, and we trust that protection of women’s rights will be priority in a settlement. Women must be included in all efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement and in its implementation. We note with satisfaction the activism for peace among an increasing number of Afghan women, from the grassroots level all the way up to H.E. First Lady Rula Ghani.
At the present time, the security situation remains precarious. The Taliban has gained ground. The recent drought has brought great hardship, misery and displacement. We condemn in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks that have caused the loss of so many civilian lives in Kabul and elsewhere. International military and civilian assistance remains essential to provide stability and prevent the spread of violent extremism that also poses a threat to international security.
The Geneva conference last week recognized that some important progress has been made regarding good governance, anti-corruption, women’s rights and other important areas. The conference also brought attention to the vast challenges and room for progress that remain.
Norway commends the brave people who went to the polling stations during the recent parliamentary elections, as well as the Afghan Security and Defense Forces who worked hard to provide security. However, we cannot disregard that there were significant shortcomings. The large number of complaints and the recent news that the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission has invalidated the election for the city of Kabul is disturbing. Significant improvements must be made before the Presidential elections in April 2019.
Our focus should be on securing a sovereign, independent Afghanistan, as enshrined in the Afghan Constitution. Afghanistan must be able to take care of its own security and defend itself with its own defense forces, without the need for a continued foreign military presence.
The Afghan people deserve to live in peace. Let us all contribute to this. I thank you for your attention.