I thank the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for his briefing and his work at the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), as well as Ambassador Tanin for his statement. I align myself with the statement to be delivered by the observer of the European Union.
In my national capacity, I will address only three subjects: the transition, the elections and reconciliation. First, the transition is continuing and now involves 75 per cent of the Afghan population. We have seen no deterioration in the situation since the transfer of responsibility for security in Surobi and Kapisa, where we have seen the third Afghan Army brigade reveal its combat capacity in the field.
The Secretary-General notes the important drop in incidents, as compared to figures from 2011, and we welcome that. However, we share his concern about the increase in civilian victims in the last quarter, 80 per cent of whom were targeted by the insurgents. It is essential that UNAMA continue to carry out its impartial work of counting the civilian casualties, without any threats or interference.
In accordance with the announcement of the President of the French Republic in May at the Chicago Summit, our last combat forces withdrew on 15 December. We must now move towards another sort of long-term commitment. France will remain engaged in supporting and training the International Security Assistance Force until the end of the transition, on the understanding that this participation will involve no further combat.
Beyond its military presence, France will continue to stand with the Afghans, including after the transition period, in accordance with the international community’s commitment, as stated at the Bonn and Tokyo Conferences. A treaty of friendship and cooperation was signed and ratified between our two countries. It establishes the long-term relations between France and Afghanistan over the next 20 years, on the basis of our 10 years of military engagement. On 8 July, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs announced at the Tokyo Conference a 50 per cent increase in our cooperation with Afghanistan over the next five years, totalling €308 million for the period from 2012 to 2016. Secondly, the presidential elections of 2014 will mark an important moment for Afghanistan. They will mark a political transition after the two terms of President Hâmid Karzai and will therefore be a test of the strength of democracy in the country. They will be a milestone for the international community and its long-term support of Afghanistan, in accordance with the framework agreed in Tokyo.
From our point of view, it is vital that the Afghans be able to organize credible, free and transparent elections that will endow the leaders to be elected by the Afghans with a strong democratic legitimacy. We therefore call upon the country’s authorities to ensure that they have the tools necessary to carry out the polling, count the results and follow up on possible complaints. That will require, in particular, revising and modernizing electoral lists.
We welcome the fact that the Independent Election Commission has decided upon a date, 5 April 2014, for holding the next presidential elections. The Commission has asked for help from the United Nations. We are obviously in favour of that, given that support for the electoral process is one of the priorities established by the Council for UNAMA. The international community must be duly informed about the electoral process on a regular basis.
Thirdly, only a genuine intra-Afghan reconciliation will make it possible to see the emergence of a stable and peaceful Afghanistan after 2014. In Bonn in December 2011, the international community announced its support for an inclusive, Afghan-led peace process open to the insurgents willing to forswear violence, sever all ties with international terrorism and respect the Constitution of Afghanistan, particularly with regard to women’s rights.
This reconciliation process must be supported by the States of the region, and I welcome the most recent contacts and statements of the Afghan and Pakistani authorities on bilateral relations. However, the reconciliation process must, above all, be led by the Afghans, together with all the components of Afghan society.
It is in this context that the Security Council has renewed its sanctions regime against all persons and groups associated with the Taliban that constitute a threat to peace, security and stability in Afghanistan. Together with the delisting and listing decisions, the establishment of a more f lexible travel ban exemption procedure should facilitate contacts in Afghanistan while observing Security Council rules.
Allow me to conclude by paying tribute to the men and women serving in Afghanistan under the United Nations f lag, who today, under the leadership of the Special Representative, are doing excellent work in sometimes difficult conditions in the service of the Afghans and at the invitation of the Afghan Government.
Learn more on Afghanistan.