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Afghanistan: neighbours agree to facilitate UN delivery of relief supplies

Afghanistan: neighbours agree to facilitate UN delivery of relief supplies

Afghanistan's northern neighbours have agreed to several measures that would improve the delivery of emergency supplies into the country as the humanitarian situation there remained "critical," the United Nations top relief coordinator said today.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kenzo Oshima, who has just returned from a mission to Central Asia, told a press conference in New York that the main purpose of last week's trip to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan was to look into ways to improve the provision of relief aid into Afghanistan from its northern neighbours.

"The northern and northeastern provinces of Afghanistan are among the most vulnerable areas in the country so increasing the flow of assistance into these areas is one of our top priorities at the moment," he said. "Certainly this region is not getting as much of the media attention as the refugee outflows into Pakistan and Iran."

Mr. Oshima said the governments of each country were "extremely supportive" of that objective and have agreed to several concrete steps to help the UN achieve its objective.

Turkmenistan agreed to the establishment of two humanitarian offices close to the Afghan border for logistical and management support purposes, Mr. Oshima said. This will allow the UN to support its Afghanistan operations easily and augment the delivery of aid supplies.

For its part, Uzbekistan agreed to allow the UN to use the Termiz River port for barges and the Termiz Airport for the stockpiling of goods. Meanwhile, Tajikistan agreed to open a river crossing into Afghanistan for the delivery of relief material as well as to allow air operations to be conducted from its territory.

In other news, Pino Arlacchi, Executive Director of the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP), called on the representatives of the countries belonging to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to join in a common effort to prevent opium poppy cultivation and heroin production in Afghanistan.

"A reduction in the availability of illicit drugs will address an important threat to human security in the region and in Europe," Mr. Arlacchi said in a speech in Vienna to the 55-nation OSCE Permanent Council. It would also affect the financial base of terrorism and organized crime, he added.