UN Council adopts Afghanistan resolution, but no ‘safe zone’

The 15-member UN Security Council holds a special meeting on the situation in Afghanistan on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. (Screenshot/UNTV)
The 15-member UN Security Council holds a special meeting on the situation in Afghanistan on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. (Screenshot/UNTV)
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Updated 31 August 2021

UN Council adopts Afghanistan resolution, but no ‘safe zone’

UN Council adopts Afghanistan resolution, but no ‘safe zone’
  • The resolution was passed with 13 votes in favor and no objections, while China and Russia abstained
  • The Security Council ‘expects that the Taliban will adhere to these and all other commitments,’ the resolution says

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council adopted a resolution Monday requiring the Taliban to honor their commitment to let people freely leave Afghanistan, but the measure did not cite a “safe zone” mentioned by French President Emmanuel Macron.
The resolution — drafted by the United States, Britain and France, and seen by AFP — was passed with 13 votes in favor and no objections. China and Russia abstained.
The resolution says the council expects the Taliban to allow a “safe, secure, and orderly departure from Afghanistan of Afghans and all foreign nationals.”
It refers to an Aug. 27 statement by the Taliban in which the hard-liners said Afghans would be able to travel abroad, and leave Afghanistan any time they want to, including by any border crossing, both air and ground.
The Security Council “expects that the Taliban will adhere to these and all other commitments,” the resolution says.
“The eyes of all Afghans are watching this council, and they expect clear support from the international community. And this lack of unity is a disappointment for us and for them,” French Deputy Ambassador Nathalie Broadhurst said after the vote.
Still, British Ambassador Barbara Woodward called it “an important step toward a unified international response.”
The vote came shortly before the US moved its last troops out of Afghanistan, ending America’s longest war, and four days after a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport gate killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 US service members. The bombing has been blamed on an Daesh group affiliate.
“We cannot airlift an entire country to safety. This is the moment where diplomacy has to step up,” US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said after the vote.
But Chinese Deputy Ambassador Geng Shuang said the US and its allies have left behind a “huge catastrophe they have created while shifting the blame and responsibility to Afghans’ neighboring countries and the Security Council.”
Macron had raised hopes of more concrete proposals in comments published in the weekly Journal du Dimanche over the weekend.
He said Paris and London would present a draft resolution which “aims to define, under UN control, a ‘safe zone’ in Kabul, that will allow humanitarian operations to continue,” Macron said.
“I am very hopeful that it will be successful. I don’t see who could be against making humanitarian projects secure,” he said.
But the UN resolution on the table is far less ambitious. It is not clear whether another resolution proposing a “safe zone” will be circulated later on.
“This resolution is not an operational aspect. It’s much more on principles, key political messages and warnings,” a UN diplomat told reporters.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia complained that the resolution wasn’t specific enough about terror threats and didn’t speak to the “brain drain” effect of evacuating Afghans and didn’t address the economic and humanitarian consequences of Washington freezing the Afghan government’s US accounts following the Taliban takeover earlier this month.
China echoed some of Russia’s concerns and criticized the US for civilian casualties in a drone strike that American officials said hit a vehicle carrying multiple Islamic State suicide bombers.
Britain’s Woodward called the resolution a “first response,” noting that the council does have the leverage to lift existing sanctions or expand them.
Experts said the text was watered down to ensure China and Russia would not use their vetoes to block it, including softening some of the language related to the Taliban.
“This is a pretty thin text,” said Richard Gowan, UN expert at the International Crisis Group.
“Macron was guilty of overselling the idea of a safe zone at Kabul airport this weekend, or at least not communicating very clearly,” he told AFP.
“The resolution does at least send a political signal to the Taliban about the need to keep the airport open and help the UN deliver aid.”
The text calls for the Taliban to allow for “full, safe, and unhindered access” for the United Nations and other agencies to provide humanitarian assistance.
It also “reaffirms the importance” of upholding human rights, including of children, women and minorities and encourages all parties to seek an inclusive, negotiated political settlement with the “full, equal and meaningful representation of women.”
The text also calls for Afghanistan to “not be used to threaten or attack any country or to shelter or train terrorists, or to plan or to finance terrorist acts.”
The resolution comes as international efforts to airlift foreign nationals and vulnerable Afghans out of the country come to an end after the Taliban swept back into power on Aug. 15, with the US withdrawing from the country after 20 years.
France ended its evacuation efforts on Friday and Britain followed suit on Saturday.
US troops have been scrambling in dangerous and chaotic conditions to complete a massive evacuation operation from the Kabul airport by a Tuesday deadline.
(With AFP and AP)