Peace in Afghanistan requires intra-Afghan dialogue: UNAMA chief

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Taliban aren’t ready to engage directly with Afghan govt, Nicholas Haysom informs UNSC

KABUL: Briefing the UN Security Council, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom, said that during his meeting with the Taliban Political Commission last week he urged the militant group to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government.

The head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said: “I again met with the Taliban Political Commission last week and reiterated that peace in Afghanistan requires an intra-Afghan dialogue that must, by necessity, involve Taliban and Taliban groups. They however reiterated that they were not yet ready to engage directly with the Government.”

He said that the UN would continue to energetically engage with all stakeholders offering support, assistance, advice, good offices and supplementary channels of communication. “Whatever the eventual path forward, the United Nations will also encourage the full participation of women in any peace process so as to ensure that women’s voices are heard and that their rights are protected,” Haysom said to the UNSC.

He further said that eleven thousand Afghans were killed or injured last year, civilian Afghans, as a result of the conflict. A quarter of these victims were children, adding that it is no longer sufficient for parties to the conflict to make public statements on the need to avoid civilian casualties. “They must change the way they conduct the war. The United Nations has recently expressed its concern at the disturbing pattern of attacks and raids on educational and medical facilities in contravention of international humanitarian standards. We do however welcome the government’s renewed commitment and recent steps to prevent the recruitment of children by parties to the conflict,” the UNAMA chief said.

In 2016, Afghanistan is being as severely tested as it was in 2015, by the task of managing its difficult transition with its interrelated political, economic and security challenges. To survive 2016, the National Unity Government will need to overcome five distinct hurdles: a contracting economy characterized by low growth and high unemployment; an intensifying insurgency regarded by some as an eroding stalemate; and an increasingly fractious and divided political environment, he pointed out.

“In addition, Afghanistan will need to secure significant medium term financial support from the international community at the Warsaw and Brussels conferences this summer. Finally, it will need to achieve progress towards a sustainable peace without which all the other gains are threatened. For 2016, survival will be an achievement for the National Unity Government. Some may criticize this benchmark as being low. Yet Afghanistan must overcome each and every one of these five hurdles to avoid severe consequences. Survival does not mean inaction, or treading water; it means active engagement in confronting these challenges,” he said. -AT

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