UN has a clear role to play in Afghanistan, says UNGA President-elect Abdulla Shahid

Maldives’ Foreign Minister, who will steer UNGA’s upcoming session, condemns terrorism

Published - July 23, 2021 09:07 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar wtih UNGA President-elect Abdulla Shahid during their meeting in New Delhi on July 23, 2021.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar wtih UNGA President-elect Abdulla Shahid during their meeting in New Delhi on July 23, 2021.

The United Nations has a definite role to play in Afghanistan, said Abdulla Shahid, President-elect of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday. Addressing an interaction at the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) here, the veteran Maldivian diplomat, who also serves as the Foreign Minister of the Maldives, condemned terrorism and said the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) is a “collective responsibility”.

“Maintenance of international peace and security is mandated to the Security Council of the United Nations. Therefore, the United Nations has a very clear role in what is happening in Afghanistan. The people of Aghanistan are resilient and their government is democratic. We in the international community should help the Afghan people in whatever way they so desire,” said Mr. Shahid, who will steer the Geneal Assembly during the upcoming session of the UNGA in September.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has a Personal Envoy for Afghanistan in French diplomat Jean Arnault but the current phase of the peace process has been dominated by the United States, the Taliban, the government of the President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani, and regional stakeholders. The comments from Mr. Shahid indicate that under his stewardship of the UN, Afghanistan is expected to receive due attention at the UNGA as the Taliban continue to march ahead.

Mr. Shahid defeated former Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul in the election for the top post at the UNGA.

Mr. Shahid was elected President of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in June with a large majority. His candidature received 143 votes out of 191 ballots. The victory was viewed also as an affirmation of the India-Maldives partnership in multilateral global platforms. India, currently serving a stint as a Non-Permanent Member at the United Nations Security Council, had strongly supported Mr. Shahid’s candidature as President of the UNGA’s 76th session. The upcoming session of the UNGA in September will witness debates over several important issues, including the pandemic, terrorism, and vaccine diplomacy.

In his speech at the ICWA, Mr. Shahid referred to his responsibilities at the UNGA, and said a key agenda during his tenure would be the current pandemic, which requires the world to unify. He also spoke forcefully on the CCIT and said the world should come together to fast track the proposed anti-terrorism treaty.

“The political leaderships of the world need to come together. The best message we can send to the terrorists is the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. Once we can at least agree on the definition [of terrorism], the terrorists will know that the world has spoken against them,” Mr. Shahid said.

India proposed the CCIT in 1986 and the international convention has been on the agenda of the UN since then. Mr. Shahid recollected that the proposed convention was part of a discussion during the late 1980s to early 1990s, when he served at the UN as a Maldivian diplomat. “I would urge the membership of the United Nations to do their utmost to come together because it is a collective responsibility that has been tasked to us all,” said Mr. Shahid, who also called upon the world to fight other emerging challenges like climate change and the pandemic.

Soon after being elected as President of the UNGA, he had taken “hope” as the theme of his tenure, in which the UNGA will convene in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. “My immediate priority will be recovery from COVID-19. The impact has been immense. We are still unclear about the long-term health consequences. The United Nations can and must do more,” Mr. Shahid said.

The visiting dignitary met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday evening as part of his consultation with the members of the UN before he took charge. “Delighted to meet President-elect of the 76th UNGA and Foreign Minister of Maldives Abdulla Shahid. I wish him all success during his ‘Presidency of Hope’. Also reiterated India’s commitment to Maldives, as a key pillar of our ‘Neighbourhood First policy’,” Mr. Modi said after the meeting.

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