UN consulting with neighbouring countries on aid delivery to Afghanistan
Kenzo Oshima, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, met today with Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov, Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov and the country's Chairman of the Commission on Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan, spokesman Fred Eckhard said.
Mr. Oshima and President Niyazov agreed to several immediate steps that would facilitate the UN's ability to conduct cross-border deliveries of assistance from Turkmenistan, including the establishment of humanitarian offices in Attamurat and Imam Nazar, the spokesman said.
Mr. Oshima's deputy, Caroline McAskie, said the current visit by the Under-Secretary-General was similar to his trip in early October to Pakistan and Iran. "He's there now to talk to the governments, to assure them the international [humanitarian] response to the crisis includes assistance to them in dealing with the overflow into their countries and to work out modalities for the UN to use their space for access to Afghans who are suffering because of the crisis," she said at a press briefing in New York.
The UN was raising a number of issues with these countries, Ms. McAskie said, adding that Mr. Oshima was carrying letters from Secretary-General Kofi Annan seeking high-level cooperation. The UN has also been setting up modalities for its country teams to work with local authorities to set up offices on the border to assist in the passage of material.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the Taliban have abandoned the UN offices they were occupying after their supreme leader ordered the return of all looted assets to international aid agencies, a UN spokesman in Islamabad said today.
Last Thursday, Mullah Omar, the Supreme Leader of the Taliban, issued a decree instructing his followers to ensure the speedy recovery and return of all looted assets.
"The Taliban official who had earlier occupied the UNOCHA compound in Mazar left the compound on Saturday minutes after receiving a copy of the latest edict from Mullah Omer," said Hasan Ferdous, spokesperson for the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan.
As pressure continued to build at the border with Pakistan - particularly at the Chaman crossing point - from the growing number of Afghan refugees, UN officials said the Government of Pakistan indicated this morning that 11 locations would be ready before the end of the month in the North West Frontier Province, and that six sites would be ready in Baluchistan Province within the next couple of days.