UN Chief convenes crucial Afghan conference

ISLAMABAD: United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres is convening another conference on Afghanistan in Doha next month as part of diplomatic efforts to follow coordinated international ef-forts in dealing with the de facto regime of Afghanistan.
This will be the third UN sponsored conference, which seeks consensus among the key stakeholders on the way forward for Afghanistan. The last meeting was held in February which was attended by special representatives of 25 countries besides civil society activists from Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban were invited for the first time at the conference but they boycotted it by raising objections over the invitation to other Afghan representa-tives and agenda of the conference. The Taliban government also opposed the proposal, part of the UN’s recommendations regarding the appointment of a UN special envoy on Afghanistan.
The February 18-19 conference could not make a serious headway as the UN Secretary General decid-ed to consult the Taliban and other stakeholders to develop consensus.
It is expected that the Taliban government may attend the upcoming meeting as many believed that its move to skip the last huddle was a mistake.
The February conference had delivered a clear message to the Afghan Taliban that any international recognition would require the de facto authorities in Kabul to fulfill key conditions that include not al-lowing the Afghan soil to be the ‘hotbed’ of terrorist activities, inclusive government and respecting the human rights particularly the rights of women and girls.
However, the two-day conference concluded in the Qatari capital without an agreement on the pro-posal regarding the appointment of UN special envoy for Afghanistan.
The conference was convened by the UN Secretary General and attended by special envoys of 25 countries including Pakistan.
The absence of the Taliban representative seems to have delayed the decision on the appointment of a UN special envoy on Afghanistan.
UN Secretary General Guterres told reporters in Doha that it was decided that he would initiate con-sultations on the proposal. The decision to appoint the UN special envoy would be taken in consulta-tions with stakeholders and the de facto Afghan authorities.
The proposal to appointment a UN Special envoy was part of the recommendation submitted to the UN Security Council by a special coordinator in November.
The UNSC adopted the resolution in December, endorsing the move. But two key players and veto wielding powers including Russia and China abstained from the process.
Russia declined to attend the civil society session, backing the Afghan Taliban stance that selection of Afghan representatives should have been done more transparently.
Pakistan, meanwhile, supported the idea of inviting Afghan civil society activists and at the same time the proposal to appoint a UN special envoy on Afghanistan.
Islamabad’s stance was in direct conflict with the Afghan Taliban’s position, who vehemently opposed the move.
The UN chief said there was complete consensus during the conference on the number of issues. He maintained that all countries agreed that Afghanistan should not be allowed to become a hotbed of terrorist activities again. He said participants of the conference agreed that there had to be inclusive government and respect for human rights including women and girls.
Without progress on these critical issues, the international integration of Afghanistan under the Tali-ban rule would be a daunting task.
The UN Secretary General said that despite reservations by the Taliban the current format would re-main in place and the group would meet often to have more coordinated international efforts on Af-ghanistan.
Meanwhile, Afghan Interim Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi described the upcoming Doha meet-ing on Afghanistan as positive in a meeting with the Japanese ambassador in Kabul.
He termed the proposal on appointing a special representative for Afghanistan as unnecessary. –Agencies