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Challenge of Afghanistan at ‘most urgent stage,’ Annan tells Security Council

Challenge of Afghanistan at ‘most urgent stage,’ Annan tells Security Council

Kofi Annan addresses the Security Council
The challenge that Afghanistan poses to the United Nations was now at its most “urgent stage” and the international community must be ready to respond, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Security Council today as it met to discuss the situation in that country.

Addressing the 15-member body at the outset of an open meeting this morning, Mr. Annan said the sustained engagement of the Council would be needed “if we are to help set Afghanistan on the path to a stable and lasting peace, and address the dire humanitarian needs of the Afghan people.”

Among the challenges lying ahead, the Secretary-General stressed that -- “first and foremost”-- everything must be done to help meet the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people, who have suffered from decades of conflict, repression, drought and famine.

“Next, the rapid march of events on the ground requires that we focus on the challenge we will face in a post-Taliban period,” he said. “This means taking urgent action so as to avoid a political and security vacuum.”

The Secretary-General noted that if all the Afghan parties – as well as the neighbours and the wider international community – gave their full support, there was a real opportunity to create the sort of broad-based, fully representative government which the United Nations had long been trying to help the Afghan people achieve.

“A stable Afghanistan, living in peace, carrying out its international obligations and posing no threat to any of its neighbours, must be our common objective,” he said. “To achieve it, any arrangement arrived at must reflect the will, the needs and the interests of the Afghan people, and enjoy their full support.”

Also addressing the Council, Mr. Annan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, outlined plans for a political transition in the war-ravaged country, beginning with a UN-convened meeting that would bring together the key players to agree on a framework for the changeover process.

“The strategic objective of our common efforts remain the same: it consists of the need to help the people of Afghanistan establish a responsible, representative, accountable and stable government which enjoys internal and external legitimacy, is committed to respecting and promoting the rights of all its men, women and children, enjoys peaceful and friendly relations with all its neighbours, and is able to ensure that Afghanistan never again is used as a breeding and staging ground for terrorism or for traffic in drugs,” he said.

In the debate which followed – involving representatives of over 30 countries – there was widespread support for this goal. Participants urged the implementation of Mr. Brahimi’s proposals without delay. Concurring that the solution to the crisis must come from the Afghans themselves, a number of speakers noted that a settlement would benefit not only Afghanistan and the surrounding region but would also serve the wider goal of international peace and security.