Statement by Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, at the Security Council Debate on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (10 September 2019)

Mr. President,

Let me begin by thanking Secretary General Antonio Guterres for his report, and Special Representative, Tadamichi Yamamoto, for his briefing.

Mr. President,

The situation in Afghanistan remains a source of concern for the international community.

Persisting conflict, instability and turmoil, and a fragile economy continue to exacerbate the suffering of the Afghan people.

We share the Secretary Generalís concern at the continued fighting and its heavy toll on the civilian population. We are also concerned about the aggravating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.

We agree with his assessment that the war in Afghanistan has been long and brutal, and the path to peace will be challenging but we share his optimism about the progress achieved in the peace talks.

This of course was before the last weekend.

After decades of conflict, the framework for an eventual peace agreement seemed within grasp.

There were sufficient grounds to be hopeful that parties appeared closer to this goal than at any other time in the past 18 years.

Nine rounds of direct talks between the US and the Taliban over nearly a year had brightened prospects of putting in place the foundation or principles for an eventual settlement - one that could lead to intra-Afghan negotiations, and a negotiated end to the long drawn conflict.

As history is our witness, the path to peace, especially in protracted conflicts, is never linear or easy. Challenges have to be overcome, and hurdles crossed before a comprehensive agreement is reached.

Thus the recent set back should not set back our hopes and the resolve to persist.

We hope the suspension of the peace talks is only a pause and will resume sooner rather than later as the alternative is a surge in violence, which could push Afghanistan into an even more turbulent and uncertain phase than has been witnessed so far.

Pakistan has always condemned violence and called on all sides for restraint and a commitment to pursue the process. Let me reiterate that message.

We have been facilitating the peace and reconciliation process in good faith, and as a shared responsibility, and have encouraged all sides to remain engaged with sincerity and patience.

Pakistan will continue to monitor the developments. We reiterate our principled policy position that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

We urge both sides to re-engage, and look forward to an early resumption of talks.

Apart from Afghanistan itself, there is no country that has suffered more than Pakistan from the four decades of war and foreign interventions in Afghanistan. There is no other country which will gain more from peace in Afghanistan.

In his recent visit to Washington, Prime Minster Imran Khan assured President Trump of Pakistanís full support to bring the conflict in Afghanistan to a negotiated conclusion.

But Pakistan, at best, can only be a facilitator. It is up to the parties to the conflict to resolve their differences with patience, trust and continued engagement. Tough decisions have to eventually be taken by the Afghans themselves.

It is equally critical for the international community to recommit itself to supporting a negotiated peace in Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

On the bilateral front, during the visit of President Ashraf Ghani to Pakistan in June 2019, the leadership of the two counties committed to adopt a forward-looking approach, and move away from the distrust of the past. The need for enhanced trade and economic relations, and cooperation for regional connectivity was emphasized.

Our efforts in facilitating the Afghan Peace Process, opening of the Torkham crossing point for commercial traffic on a 24/7 basis, and opening of our air space have given further impetus to our bilateral relations.

Pakistan has provided significant assistance to Afghanistan in development aid in the education, health, reconstruction and infrastructure development sectors.

The Jinnah hospital in Kabul, a gift from Pakistan to the people of Afghanistan, was recently handed over to the Afghan authorities. Additionally, a 100-bed hospital in Logar is near completion.

My country has hosted millions of Afghan refugees for four decades, opening our homes and hearts to our brothers and sisters in their time of travail and tragedy. We are host even as I speak to the largest protracted presence of refugees anywhere in the world.

We remain committed to their safe, dignified and voluntary repatriation. My government recently extended the Tripartite Agreement and the validity of their stay in Pakistan to 30 June 2020.

Mr. President,

At the regional level, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan just concluded the Third Round of Trilateral Foreign Ministersí Dialogue in Islamabad only this past weekend. The Ministers reiterated their support for a politically negotiated settlement of the conflict, and underlined the need for an inclusive, Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process leading to a comprehensive agreement for durable peace and stability.

We are working with Afghanistan and our regional partners on many regional economic and energy corridors, including the Belt and Road Initiative, TAPI, CASA-1000 and others.

Peace and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan is intertwined. Pakistan has a vital interest in a peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Afghanistan.

My country stands ready to support the Government of Afghanistan in addressing the multiple challenges it faces and will assist in whatever way it is asked to do when it transitions from war to a peaceful future.