(translation of statement in French)
Mr. President, at the outset, let me express our deep gratitude to you for the manner in which you have guided our work. You have demonstrated talent and exceptional mastery under very trying circumstances. As you now prepare to leave New York, Sir, I would like to express to you our admiration and our gratitude and personally convey to you the expression of my friendship. I hope that, as we say in French, the winds will be favourable to you and that life will be beautiful for you, Ambassador İlkin.
The Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic will soon make a statement on behalf of the European Union. France endorses that statement. I would like to provide several additional comments, after also having thanked Ambassador Tanin for his presentation.
First, I would like to commend the tireless efforts of Mr. Kai Eide to ensure better consistency in the international efforts in Afghanistan under the auspices of the United Nations. He has greatly contributed personally to the momentum and the increased
mobilization of the international community, which has allowed the United Nations to engage itself, particularly since the Paris Conference, as a key player in coordination of international efforts.
The 20 August elections should be an opportunity for Afghans to freely and democratically express their choice with regard to the direction they want to give their country. In order to ensure the full legitimacy and universal acceptance of the candidates elected to lead the country, the electoral process must be transparent, fair and credible. To that end, every candidate should, in particular, be able to campaign while enjoying the same access to the media and the country. I know that is one of the Special Representative’s concerns. As Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner emphasized in Kabul in May during his meetings with the main candidates, they must also feel individually responsible for the proper conduct of the elections.
The responsibility for the holding of the elections belongs first and foremost to the Afghans themselves. But the United Nations has an important role to play in assisting them. We trust that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General will continue down the path he has embarked upon and provide his vigilant assistance to the electoral process.
Continuing the work to rebuild the country will depend upon the success of the elections. As the Special Representative has pointed out, significant progress was made in a number of areas in the course of the past year. That progress must now be consolidated. In particular, I should like to refer to the increased strength of the Afghan National Army. The progressive handover to Afghan forces of responsibility for security in the Kabul region, which began in August 2008 and in which the French contingent was especially involved, has led to an improvement of the security situation in that region. That is proof that "Afghanization" works and is continuing.
A new element has been the renewed effort to reform and strengthen the police. In that connection, President Sarkozy has taken the decision to involve the French Gendarmerie in tasks in Afghanistan related to training and mentoring the Afghan National Police. That effort is part of the future deployment of the European Union’s gendarmerie force, which will be particularly suited to provide operational training to the Afghan police to prepare it to take over military activities on the ground.
We have taken note of the progress referred to by the Secretary-General in the area of coordinating international assistance, even though there is still much to do. In that regard, we look forward with interest to the outcome of the work being done by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to develop benchmarks and criteria to measure results. Those indicators will be a useful tool in encouraging international partners and the Afghan Government to fully commit themselves to the effective implementation of the commitments undertaken in Paris and Bucharest, and later reaffirmed at The Hague.
We have also been interested to learn of the wish of the Secretary-General that new resources be allocated to UNAMA. We understand his desire to be able to count on the necessary capacities as soon as possible, especially with regard to the coordination of assistance. We shall therefore keep an open mind in considering the requests to be made by the Secretariat.
Developments in the area of human rights continue to be a source of great concern. Afghan authorities should, with the support of the international community, increase their efforts in that regard. I know that is a concern of the Special Representative as well. The issue of women’s rights in particular should continue to be a priority of the Afghan Governments.
I should also like to reiterate our ongoing concern about the issue of civilian casualties, primarily caused by deliberate attacks by the Taliban and other extremist groups. However, France continues to be aware that there is still a need to intensify efforts by both Government and international forces in that regard.
The momentum in strengthening regional cooperation was once again in evidence at the recent Trieste meeting on Afghanistan and its neighbours. We should collectively ensure the implementation of the commitments made in recent months in the areas referred to by the Special Representative at Trieste, in particular with regard to railway infrastructure and energy.
Despite the individual characteristics of both countries, there is also a need to develop a coordinated approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan that addresses the many common challenges that exist. Allow me to take this opportunity to commend the determination of Pakistani officials in the fight under way in the Swat Valley. The Government of Pakistan can count on France’s solidarity in that fight, which should focus on all armed extremist groups active on Pakistani territory and which we know must be part of a long-term comprehensive strategy.
The stabilization of Afghanistan and the region as a whole is a priority for us all. It is for that reason that, for two years now, France has worked to substantially strengthen its military commitment in Afghanistan. We are aware of the need to for a comprehensive approach, and we want to help to put one in place by committing as fully as possible. We have also significantly strengthened our political and civilian commitment by massively increasing our 2009 reconstruction assistance, which will amount to €45 million. Afghanistan can rely on France’s tireless commitment alongside the United Nations.