Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you Special Representative Yamamoto for your remarks today, UNAMA under your leadership continues to provide vital support to Afghanistan. I also want to thank Dr. Samar for your informative briefing today.
The United States is committed to a sustainable peace in Afghanistan that ensures it will never again be a platform for transnational terrorism. Special Representative Khalilzad is working in close coordination with President Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah, and other Afghan leaders – as well as Special Representative Yamamoto and Security Council members. Special Representative Khalilzad looks forward to briefing the Council sometime soon.
Mr. President, allow me to update the Council on progress made towards peace. As you are aware, the United States and Taliban reached an agreement in principle in January that any comprehensive peace agreement must address four interconnected issues – counterterrorism, foreign troop presence, intra-Afghan dialogue leading to intra-Afghan negotiations, and a permanent ceasefire.
Regarding terrorism, we have made progress and may soon be in a position to conclude a draft text outlining the Taliban’s commitments to ensure Afghan soil is never again used for international terrorism. Of course, we need to be mindful of the implementation and enforcement of these counterterrorism commitments.
In light of progress regarding ensuring that Afghan soil is not used for international terrorism, the time will soon come to begin discussions with the Taliban on foreign military presence, which remains conditions based. The United States has made clear to the Taliban that we are prepared to reduce our forces; however, we have not agreed to numbers or a timeline with the Taliban. The final disposition of foreign forces will be determined with the post-peace government.
In parallel to our discussions with the Taliban, we are conducting detailed discussions with the Afghan government. We are fully aligned in our approach, including on the importance of the Taliban committing to a reduction of violence leading to a permanent ceasefire. Afghans demand and deserve an end to the violence.
Let me outline what we see as the way forward. First, all parties agree that finalizing a U.S.-Taliban understanding on terrorism and the foreign troop presence will open the door for intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations. To that end, we welcome Germany’s commitment with Qatar to convene an intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha in early July, which is an opportunity for Afghans to endorse the urgent need for intra-Afghan negotiations.
Simultaneously, the United States is laying the groundwork for intra-Afghan negotiations to begin as soon as possible. The objective of those negotiations is for Afghans to agree on a timeline and a political roadmap for reaching a comprehensive peace agreement.
The United States joins other countries in supporting Afghans’ desire for a peace that sustains the social and human rights gains of the past 18 years. We insist, and indeed all should insist, that women, minorities, and other groups be represented in these talks.
Additionally, the United States is consulting with the region on how it can support peace. The trilateral consensus issued by the United States, Russia, and China, as well as the principles issued by the United States-Europe group, are important steps forward.
The United States claims no monopoly on the diplomacy of peace. We thank Ambassador Djani and the 1988 Sanctions Committee for supporting a temporary travel ban exemption for select individuals and a corresponding limited asset freeze exemption to facilitate intra-Afghan talks. We encourage Member States to fully implement their sanctions obligations in support of peace in Afghanistan.
Peace remains our priority. At the same time, we believe that election planning must go forward as we pursue the peace Afghans deserve. Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission, the IEC, has announced holding the presidential election on September 28. We urge the Afghan government, the IEC, and all political stakeholders to take the necessary steps to ensure the election is credible.
Preparations for the presidential election include the completion of voter registrations, refinement of voter lists, printing of ballots, and recruitment and training of poll workers. The United States is providing, and will continue to provide, financial and technical assistance through UNDP and other partners to the Election Commission.
Lastly, Mr. President, the United States views the UN Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, the JCMB, as an important tool for coordination between the Afghan government and donors. We call on UNAMA and the Afghan government to ensure the JCMB maintain a robust performance and accountability component. We also request that UNAMA and the Afghan government prepare a report on performance and accountability in advance of the September UN Security Council session on Afghanistan. That report should include an overview of the JCMB discussions on anti-corruption, government accountability, and ongoing efforts to ensure fair and credible elections.
Again let me repeat, peace is our highest priority. Thanks to the efforts of many Security Council members, this goal is within reach. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and the peace process will only end when Afghans reach a comprehensive understanding on a political roadmap to end the war. We commit to providing future updates.
Thank you, Mr. President.