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15 April 1997

Press Release


19970415 Suggests 'Vacant Seat' Approach for Afghanistan's Representation; Afghanistan Says Pakistan Still Tries to Legitimize Taliban 'Mercenaries'

"It is high time that the Security Council should listen to the views of the Taliban in order to have a more balanced view of the situation in Afghanistan", the representative of Pakistan told the Security Council this afternoon, as it continued its general discussion of the conflict in that country.

Noting that the Taliban currently had representatives in New York, he went on to stress that the Council must begin an immediate dialogue and not take a position that might be perceived as one-sided. To address the issue of recognition of a legitimate government, the United Nations should adopt the "vacant seat" formula endorsed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Such an approach would reflect reality and encourage the factions to move towards broad-based representation in order to secure full international legitimacy and recognition, he said.

The representative of Turkey endorsed the necessity of bringing the Taliban into the negotiation and reconciliation process, adding that the current conflict threatened to partition Afghanistan along ethnic lines. In contrast, the representative of Tajikistan stated that the Taliban had obstructed every attempt to bring the Afghan factions together in a meeting. The representative of Iran added that international efforts in Afghanistan should be founded on respect for that country's sovereignty, and on respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Afghans, particularly women and girls.

The Permanent Observer of the OIC joined Pakistan in calling for a meeting of all the Afghan factions. Specifically, the OIC offered to co-sponsor a meeting of all the Afghan factions that were active both inside and outside Afghanistan, including the monarchy, in order to develop a commonly acceptable framework for addressing the country's political and security issues and a peaceful transfer of power.

During the extended meeting on Afghanistan, which began on Monday afternoon, 14 April, speakers have expressed growing concern about the possibility of resumed military offensives by the various factions, and a

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number have called for an arms embargo. Terrorism and the dangers of increased drug trafficking have also been a major focus of discussion. Many speakers considered the role of the United Nations crucial in bringing the factions together to renounce hostilities and to pursue negotiations for a broad-based and representative government. Several speakers said it was necessary for the Council to send a clear message to the parties in the conflict to cooperate with the United Nations Special Mission and begin negotiations.

The Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan this afternoon, reiterating support for a negotiated political solution, said his Government had never denied the Taliban any role in a government. The Taliban alone had obstructed any negotiated efforts. He expressed disappointment over the tone of the statement by Pakistan and its representation of the views of the Taliban. Pakistan still tried to give legitimacy to the "mercenaries" of the Taliban, who were being trained and equipped in Pakistani territory, he said.

Other statements were made by the representatives of the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Germany, Italy and Portugal.

The meeting, which resumed at 4:16 p.m., was suspended at 5:52 p.m. It will resume again at a date to be announced.

Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this afternoon to resume its suspended meeting on the situation in Afghanistan. (For detailed background, see Press Release SC/6356 of 14 April.)


JAN BERTELING (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, said that the warring factions in Afghanistan seemed to believe in a military solution to the conflict. They must cease hostilities and engage in political dialogue. He reaffirmed the Union's commitment to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and urged third parties to refrain from arming the factions. The Union had maintained an arms embargo on Afghanistan, he said.

He was concerned over persistent violations of humanitarian law in Afghanistan, especially the deteriorating situation for women and girls who had been deprived of their human rights. That was particularly true in areas controlled by the Taliban. Further, continuation of the conflict in Afghanistan increased the potential for international terrorism and drug trafficking. As the leading contributor of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, the Union was concerned about the possible repercussions of the violations of human rights on the beneficiaries of relief programmes. He looked forward to a dialogue on cooperation modalities, which would ensure that assistance reached the people of Afghanistan regardless of gender and ethnic background.

HUSEYIN E. CELEM (Turkey) said the Taliban must be brought into the negotiation and reconciliation process. Afghanistan now faced the possibility of increased Taliban military activity when favourable weather prevailed in the coming months. His Government had carried out contacts with each of the warring factions, exploring ways to bring them to the negotiating table. The immediate goal should be to convince the sides that military ascendency by one over the others would not serve the interests of the Afghan people.

The continuing supply of weapons to Afghanistan was an obstacle to convincing the faction leaders that a military solution in Afghanistan was both undesirable and unattainable, he said. As long as foreign interference continued, the parties -- and especially the Taliban -- would have no incentive to stop pursuing the military option. The national unity of Afghanistan was at stake. A very real threat of partition along ethnic lines existed. His Government was ready to host an intra-Afghan meeting, he said.

AHMAD KAMAL (Pakistan) said his country was adhering to a policy of strict neutrality and non-interference in Afghanistan. It did not support a

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military solution and continued to believe that a broad-based government was the only viable solution for a multi-ethnic Afghanistan. The Taliban, however, who now controlled Kabul and two thirds of Afghanistan, were a reality and could not be wished away. Given the support they undoubtedly had, it would be futile to indulge in name calling or in military confrontation. It would be far better to engage in constructive dialogue to get them to moderate some of their policies.

The Taliban had publicly proclaimed that they do not want to rule Afghanistan alone, he said. They had expressed their willingness to include all ethnic groups in the formation of a government. They denied that they only represented the Pashtoon tribe. They stated that their movement was neither a tribal nor national movement, nor at work for any foreign country. The stance of the Taliban was in contrast to the statement by Commander Ahmed Shah Massouod threatening to continue the path of military confrontation.

He said there were continuing and disturbing reports of the provision of weapons and ammunition and the presence of foreign military personnel in Afghanistan. An arms embargo should be imposed on the country. It was important to be equitable towards the Afghan factions. Regarding recognition of a legitimate government, the United Nations should adopt the "vacant seat" formula endorsed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference. It would reflect reality and encourage the factions to move towards a broad-based representation in order to secure full international legitimacy and recognition.

"It is high time that the Security Council should listen to the views of the Taliban in order to have a more balanced view of the situation in Afghanistan", he stressed. The Taliban currently had representatives in New York, and the sooner the Council engaged them in a dialogue, the better it would be for Afghanistan. The Security Council must not take a position that might be perceived as one-sided. The international community should take a more balanced and mature view of the ground realities in Afghanistan.

He went on to call for an intra-Afghan conference, under the aegis of the United Nations, with countries having contiguous borders with Afghanistan participating as observers. The agenda of such a meeting should include: an immediate cease-fire and exchange of prisoners; the formation of a fully representative political committee to decide on a future course of government; and the creation of a representative national force to collect heavy weapons and provide security. The outcome of such a meeting could then be endorsed by an international conference, followed by promised assistance for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

AHMET ENGIN ANSAY, Permanent Observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the OIC had focused unreservedly on the cessation of hostilities so that the necessary climate for a credible peace

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process could be created, leading to a broad-based, representative government. In contacts with the various factions, the OIC had emphasized the futility of resorting to the use of force and seeking a military solution. The apparent and overwhelming military successes of the Taliban had sketched a different scenario. More than ever before, hostilities must cease and the collective search for an honourable, workable and sustainable solution must be seriously resumed.

While the principal responsibilities for bringing peace rested with the people of Afghanistan, other affected and interested countries in the region and elsewhere also had a role to contribute to the peace process, he said. All those States that had influence over any particular political or military faction in Afghanistan must play a constructive role, by preventing the sale and supply of arms to any of the factions, preventing the training of militarists and eliminating the devastating drug traffic.

The OIC was endeavouring to complement the work of the United Nations and assist the diverse Afghan leadership in bringing back peace to their country, he said. The convening of a meeting of all the Afghan factions that were active both inside and outside Afghanistan, including the monarchy, had been proposed and actively pursued in order to explore and develop a commonly acceptable framework for addressing the country's political and security issues and a peaceful transfer of power. The OIC was prepared to co-sponsor such a meeting.

KAMAL KHARRAZI (Iran) said that military operations and bloodshed in Afghanistan were likely to intensify in the spring. The Security Council should tell the warring factions that "enough is enough". The Council should demand that they cease hostilities, renounce the use of force and take advantage of the United Nations, the OIC, regional States and other organizations to sort out their differences and engage in political dialogue aimed at achieving national reconciliation and a durable political settlement.

The people of Afghanistan had been condemned to a life of misery, he continued. They had been forced to engage in the illicit trafficking of arms, narcotics and even the bones of their dead, in order to sustain their families. Those activities were of grave concern to his country. As a neighbour that had been affected by developments in Afghanistan, Iran believed that the international community should use both the "carrot and the stick". While the Security Council should ensure that its resolutions were implemented, humanitarian aid and preparatory work for reconstruction should be explored at the same time.

All international, regional and other efforts in Afghanistan should be guided by the following principles: respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan; rejection of any military solution; rejection of foreign intervention; refraining from the provision of weapons

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and military personnel; respecting fundamental rights and freedoms of all Afghan people, particularly women and girls; and the cessation of hostilities and the beginning of national reconciliation through dialogue.

STEFFEN RUDOLPH (Germany) said that limited fighting in Afghanistan early in the current year had led to the displacement of 115,000 people. New and large battles in the wake of the snow-melt could have a serious political and humanitarian impact. The United Nations should request the Taliban to encourage the return of displaced persons to their homes.

By its resolution 1076 of 22 October 1996, the Council denounced discrimination against girls and women and other violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Afghanistan, he said. The General Assembly repeated that denunciation in its resolution 51/195 of 17 December 1996, which was adopted by consensus. The policies of the Taliban, which denied girls and women access to education and many forms of employment, were particularly disturbing. The international standing of any Afghan party could not be considered independently of its record in complying with international obligations.

The Secretary-General and the United Nations Special Mission should intensify contacts with regional and other interested States on the question of Afghanistan, he said. The international Afghanistan meeting planned for 16 April could be an important step in that direction. All concerned should closely coordinate their planned initiatives with the Special Mission. Any peace talks involving the Afghan parties should be chaired by the United Nations.

GIULIO TERZI DI SANT'AGATA (Italy) said that throughout its history the Afghan people had rejected international interference in their affairs. The lasting solution to the Afghan crisis would not be found at the military level. It would only be found through dialogue between the Afghan parties. For many years, Afghanistan's neighbours had hosted Afghan refugees. Those countries were the most interested in finding a lasting solution to the conflict. The Secretary-General's initiative to host a meeting of the most interested countries deserved widespread support.

The international community had expressed alarm at the human rights policies of the Taliban, he said. The human rights of women were entitlements under international law. International assistance should be equitably distributed to all aspects of Afghan society. The disintegration of central power had resulted in large segments of the Afghan population cultivating crops for illegal narcotics. He hoped that renewed stability in Afghanistan would allow increased levels of international assistance and a marked improvement in the lives of the Afghan people.

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RASHID ALIMOV (Tajikistan) said that in the territory controlled by the Taliban, the Afghan people were suffering from gross violations of human rights. The rights of women were being abused and ethnic groups were being persecuted. The international community must respond vigorously. He was concerned to see that the Afghan parties were engaging in a military buildup that threatened renewed conflict and threats to international peace and security.

Tajikistan had suffered real problems as a result of the conflict in Afghanistan, including arms and drugs trafficking. Together with its neighbours, his Government had taken concerted efforts to neutralize the regional impact of the intra-Afghan conflict. Tajikistan strictly pursued a policy of non-interference in Afghanistan and acknowledged the right of the Afghan people to choose their political system. The belligerent parties should explore ways and means of agreement that could restore civil peace while defending the interests of all ethnic and religious groups. The Taliban had resisted every effort towards a negotiated solution to the conflict.

ANTONIO MONTEIRO (Portugal) said that the Security Council should send a concise and clear message in support of the United Nations Special Mission in Afghanistan. For too long, Afghanistan had been subjected to outside interference, which had prolonged the conflict. He called for an end to such interference and for an end to the supply of arms and ammunition to the factions. Drug trafficking and the presence of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan were extremely worrying.

The fighting in Afghanistan had caused heavy casualties and had also forced thousands of civilians to flee their homes, he said. The factions should cooperate with the delivery of humanitarian aid to all the people of Afghanistan, irrespective of their ethnic group, race or gender. His Government was particularly concerned with widespread violations of human rights in Afghanistan, particularly the "intolerable measures" being imposed on the rights of girls and women.

ABDUL RAHIM GHAFOORZAI, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, said that his Government thanked all those countries that had defended the rights of women in Afghanistan against the "brutal, uncivilized and un-Islamic" practices of the Taliban. He had heard the appeals in the Council debate for a negotiated solution to the conflict. His Government had adopted a policy of respecting United Nations resolutions and was ready to negotiate a political settlement at any venue. It was the Taliban that had resisted the efforts of the United Nations in Afghanistan.

He had hoped that the Government of Pakistan would adopt a new policy regarding Afghanistan. But the representative of Pakistan in the Council today had made a statement unique in tone and spirit. That statement had made clear that the Government of Pakistan was still trying to legitimize the

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"Taliban mercenaries". His Government had submitted more than adequate documentation that the Taliban was being trained, armed and equipped in Pakistan.

His Government had never stated that the Taliban should have no role in the shaping of the political situation in Afghanistan. However, it was the Taliban that had continually rejected negotiation, he said. Pakistan proposed an "empty seat" for Afghanistan at the United Nations, but his Government still represented Afghanistan in both the United Nations and the OIC. Tolerance of the Taliban was tolerance for obscurantism, against the principles of democracy and human rights, he said.

Mr. KAMAL (Pakistan) said he would not respond to the statement of a representative who did not have legitimacy. He said the OIC had decided at a ministerial level to follow a "vacant seat" formula. Pakistan did not take a side. The Afghans must decide their own future. The representatives in the room did not have de jeure control of Afghanistan. They were trying to govern as a minority with little more than 15 per cent of the people. The root cause of the conflict was the insistence by the current regime to hold onto power in spite of their broken promises. The formula for peace in Afghanistan was to negotiate a broad-based representative government. In order for such a process to go forward, it must hear all the parties before any conclusions were reached by the Council.

Following a request by the representative of Afghanistan to continue the debate, ALFREDO LOPES CABRAL (Guinea-Bissau) said any further discussion between Afghanistan and Pakistan would perhaps not serve the purposes of peace. He appealed to both representatives to cease their debate so that the Council could consider the elements already heard and draft a presidential statement.

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For information media. Not an official record.