– As delivered –
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the EU and its Member States. The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Iceland+ and Serbia*, the countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the EFTA country Norway, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
I would like to thank the Secretary-General for his comprehensive report and Special Representative Ján Kubiš for his briefing. I also thank Ambassador Tanin for his remarks. Like others, I would like to extend my condolences to the US for the loss of 6 of their service men in a helicopter crash today.
We are approaching the start of a very important year for Afghanistan and the Afghan people. In April Afghans will elect a new President and by the end of 2014 the Afghan security forces will have exclusive responsibility for maintaining and increasing security across the country.
We are very much encouraged by the lively political debate and the progress made in preparing for the presidential and provincial elections, including the important technical roles played by the Independent Election Commission and the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission. It will be vital that the elections are inclusive and transparent leading to a legitimate outcome. The Afghan authorities must ensure that a comprehensive security plan is in place to enable as many Afghans as possible to have the opportunity to exercise their democratic right. It will also be important that appropriate measures are in place to minimise multiple voting, in particular men voting on behalf of women, ensure the security of ballot boxes, and combat electoral fraud. From our side we will continue to provide financial and technical support through the UN and other bodies to strengthen the electoral process.
A political solution and a genuine peace and reconciliation process are key to lasting stability and development. A genuine peace and reconciliation process should be Afghan led, inclusive and based on the constitution.
The security transition has been implemented successfully according to plan. However, we should not underestimate the remaining security challenges. Further strengthening the capacity to address these will be a prerequisite for progress.
In this regard we would like to emphasise the importance of the Bilateral Security Agreement between the Government of Afghanistan and the United States of America. It will both provide the basis for continuing international support to train and develop the capability of the Afghan National Security Forces and facilitate the continued provision of significant international development assistance to the Afghan people across the country.
The international community’s engagement must be matched by continued progress on Afghanistan’s agreed commitments under the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework. While recognising that important progress has been made there are continued concerns about the human rights situation in Afghanistan, in particular the situation of women and girls. The Government of Afghanistan needs to take all possible measures to tackle corruption and improve the business and investment climate, especially to address the concerns regarding the economic situation, as expressed in the current SG report.
Looking ahead to UNAMA’s mandate renewal in March, we would like to reiterate our full support for the important role played by UNAMA and all the UN agencies in supporting the Afghan people and coordinating the international community’s assistance to Afghanistan. UNAMA will play a key role as sounding board to Afghan authorities and civil society in preparation for the elections. But the role of the UN will be even more important after 2014 in ensuring that the international community’s assistance continues to reach people on the ground. It is critical, therefore, that the UN has enough resources to retain a broad countrywide presence and support the Afghan government in ensuring that development efforts gradually lead to self-reliance.
With these brief remarks we would like to conclude by underlining that the international community should remain strongly committed – for the long-term – to progress in Afghanistan. From our side we will remain firmly focused on supporting the people of Afghanistan to achieve their aspirations. Our goal remains clear, the emergence of a fully self-reliant, peaceful, democratic and prosperous society for the benefit of all Afghans.
Thank you, Mr President.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
+ Iceland continues to be a member of EFTA and the European Economic Area.