The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held its second meeting on Afghanistan in 10 days, as the country witnessed chaotic scenes over the weekend, with the Taliban taking over Kabul.
The video broadcast of the UNSC meeting, held in person, in the polished Security Council chamber in New York, was in sharp contrast to a video on social media of Afghan men holding on to the outside of a U.S. military aircraft getting ready to take off from Kabul or footage of men, women and children rushing towards the terminal of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, gunfire in the background.
Addressing the meeting, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked the insurgents to protect the rights of Afghans. “The world is following events there with a heavy heart and deep disquiet about what lies ahead,” he said.
“I remind all parties of their obligation to protect civilians,” he said. “I call upon the Taliban and all parties to respect and protect international humanitarian law and the rights and freedoms of all persons.”
Mr. Guterres said there were ‘chilling’ reports of “severe restrictions on human rights” emerging from across the country. He said he was particularly concerned about the rights of women and girls and that their “ hard-won” rights must be protected.
Afghanistan’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. Ghulam Isaczai said, “We are extremely concerned about Taliban not honouring their promises and commitments made in their statements at Doha and other international fora.”
India’s Permanent Representative T.S. Tirumurti said the situation was of great concern to India. “As a neighbour of Afghanistan and a friend to its people, the situation is of great concern to us in India. Everyone is concerned about the increasing violations of the fundamental rights of Afghan citizens,” he said.
Saying a dispensation with a broad representation would gain more ‘acceptability’ and ‘legitimacy’, Mr. Tirumurti called for the voices of Afghan women, the aspirations of its children and the rights of its minorities to be respected.
The Ambassador did not refer to the Taliban by name during his speech.
Afghanistan’s neighbours and the region would feel safer if there was zero tolerance for terrorism and if Afghanistan did not become a base from which terrorists could attack other countries, he said. India has especially been concerned that there could be attacks on its soil from terror groups linked to Pakistan, with the departure of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan.
On Monday, Mr. Tirumurti, called upon “the parties concerned” to maintain law and order and ensure the safety of diplomats and U.N. personnel.
American Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said civilians, including journalists and non-combatants, must be protected. The Biden administration is being widely criticised both at home and abroad for what appears to be an enormous miscalculation about whether and how quickly Kabul would fall following the withdrawal of western troops.
Ms. Greenfield-Thomas called on the Taliban to let humanitarian organisations do their work. She also said more than 500 tonnes of aid was stuck at border crossings manned by the Taliban.
“Humanitarian personnel and agencies must have safe, unhindered access to provide life saving assistance to the increasing numbers of Afghans in need. We are deeply concerned that right now aid is not flowing to people in crisis. According to the World Food Programme, more than 500 tonnes of aid is sitting at border crossings taken over by Taliban forces,” she said.
“These aid deliveries must resume immediately. And the World Food Programme must have immediate and sustained safe passage to deliver this much needed assistance.”
All Afghan and international citizens who wish to leave Afghanistan must be allowed to do so, she said.
The U.S. said Afghanistan cannot ever again be a base for terrorism. It was joined by China in this.
Its deputy representative Geng Shuang said terror groups had developed in Afghanistan and named IS, al-Qaeda and ETIM (East Turkestan Islamic Movement) as examples.
“China takes note of what was said by the Afghan Taliban on Sunday that war in Afghanistan had ended and that it would negotiate to establish an open inclusive Islamic government and it will take responsible actions to ensure the safety of Afghan citizens and foreign missions,” Mr. Geng said.
The Chinese Ambassador also said it was ‘regrettable’ that some countries which had asked to participate in Monday’s meeting were not permitted to do so, presumably referring to Pakistan.
The UNSC went into closed consultations following the opening remarks of members.
“They are looking to the international community for support — the same international community that assured them that opportunities would be expanded, education would be guaranteed, freedoms would spread and rights would be secured,” he said.
The Secretary-General asked the international community to unite to ensure that Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for terrorist organisations.
“I appeal to the Security Council — and the international community as a whole — to stand together, to work together and act together — and use all tools at its disposal to suppress the global terrorist threat in Afghanistan and to guarantee that basic human rights will be respected,” he said.
Mr. Guterres sad he was relieved that U.N. staff and premises had largely been respected and he called on the Taliban to “honour the integrity and inviolability” of diplomats and diplomatic premises.
“In a statement issued on Sunday, the Taliban said they would work with existing institutions. It is crucial that civil servant salaries continue to be paid, infrastructure is maintained, airports are reopened and health and education services continue,” he said. He also asked Afghanistan to comply with international agreements to which it is a party.