UN talks in Bonn culminate in accord on interim Afghan government
After nine days of intensive negotiations, the United Nations-sponsored talks in Bonn, Germany, culminated today in the signing of an agreement on a provisional arrangement in Afghanistan pending the re-establishment of permanent government institutions.
The chief UN envoy for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, who chaired the talks, witnessed the signing of the text by the leaders of the four Afghan groups represented at the negotiations. Mr. Brahimi said he was delighted at the outcome but added that “the real work starts now. And the real difficulties are going to start when this Interim Administration that has been agreed upon here moves to Kabul.”
In New York, the agreement was met with high praise from Secretary-General Kofi Annan and members of the Security Council. In a statement released through his spokesman, Mr. Annan warmly welcomed the accord as "an important step" towards lasting peace and the return of legitimate authority in the country and assured the Afghan people that the UN "stands ready to help them reach peace, stability and prosperity."
In remarks to the press, the Secretary-General also congratulated Mr. Brahimi and the team for "a very good job" and stressed that he would now expect the Afghan parties to go back to Kabul and "work very, very closely together."
Meanwhile the current President of the Security Council, Ambassador Moctar Ouane of Mali, said in a press statement that the 15-member body welcomed the agreement and urged the parties to work together in good faith to implement it in full.
Council members also declared their willingness to support the implementation of the agreement and its annexes, but reiterated their concern about the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and emphasized the need to pursue efforts in that regard.
The final text of the agreement outlines the functions and responsibilities of the Interim Authority, which will be chaired by Hamid Karzai and include 28 other members who will direct the work of as many departments. The Interim Authority, to be officially established on 22 December, would run the country for six months. An Independent Commission would in parallel work on convening a Loya Jirga.
Speaking after the signing of the agreement, Mr. Brahimi congratulated all participants and the spirit of compromise that they had shown. He said that today's accord provided some "breathing space," during which the people of Afghanistan could take "the many steps" that would be necessary towards a broad-based, multi-ethnic environment.
Mr. Brahimi, who had been appointed two months ago by the Secretary-General as Special Representative with overall authority for UN political, humanitarian and human rights endeavours in the country, also underscored that "all the elements in the Agreement were proposed by Afghans, either here in Bonn or in Afghanistan, and Iran and Pakistan." He also stressed that the commitment of the international community to help and assist is "very strong, perhaps unprecedented."
Commenting on the make-up of the Authority envisaged by the agreement, UN officials drew attention to the fact that it included a Department of Women's Affairs and stressed that the equitable representation of women in government and political civilian life in Afghanistan was a strong focus of the UN.
That theme was reiterated yesterday in Brussels, where Angela King, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, delivered Mr. Annan's message to the Afghan Women's Summit for Democracy. In the message, the Secretary-General emphasized that Afghan women had the UN's "full and unstinting support" in their efforts to reassert the right to participate actively in all sectors and levels of society and in all stages of the work to bring peace and development to their country.