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19 March 2009 - Security Council debate on the situation in Afghanistan, Statement by H.E. Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(UN translation)

At the outset, I would like to extend France’s condolences to the families of the victims of the attack that today killed the Afghan member of parliament Dad Mohammad Khan and four other individuals. France firmly condemns this assassination.

The Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic will later make a statement on behalf of the European Union, with which France, of course, associates itself. At this stage, I would like to make a few additional comments.

As others have done before me, I would like to express my gratitude to Mr. Kai Eide for his briefing and in particular for the untiring efforts he has undertaken since his appointment to ensure better overall cohesiveness in the international community’s work in Afghanistan under United Nations auspices. These efforts are beginning to bear fruit.

The international community firmly reiterated its support to the people and Government of Afghanistan in June 2008 in Paris. The following Moscow and The Hague conferences will provide us with an opportunity to reiterate this common and lasting commitment and to take stock of the implementation of commitments undertaken and of the priorities for the coming months.

These conferences are part of the general trend of increased involvement by the international community. This momentum is something that the Special Representative has done a great deal to nurture by actively contributing to the implementation of the comprehensive approach, which brought together political, security, reconstruction and development efforts.

I would highlight in particular the essential issue of aid effectiveness and coordination, where progress unfortunately remains insufficient. The most pressing issue in this regard is transparency in terms of aid. To ensure that the United Nations is able to carry out its coordination mission, it must be able ensure that it and the Afghan authorities are in a position to have a clear overall picture of the efforts of all donors. This is something the Special Representative referred to earlier.

The United Nations must also continue, through its Special Representative, to symbolize the voice of the international community to the Afghan authorities and people. Mr. Eide has been successful in playing this role in an impartial manner. He has addressed a number of difficult topics such as good governance, corruption, human rights and the problem of civilian victims with the political, democratic authorities and civil society in Afghanistan and with international stakeholders.

I would like to again reiterate France’s full confidence in Mr. Eide in the period leading up to the elections, which is particularly critical to the democratic future of the country.

The upcoming presidential and legislative elections are in fact a major step in the process of Afghans taking ownership of their own democracy. All Afghan political officials must work to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections throughout the country and to preserve stability and security throughout the electoral process. The United Nations has an important role to play, at both the technical and the political levels, to help them.

But the elections should not distract us from the other pressing problems facing Afghanistan. The Special Representative has drawn up a convincing list of these. Significant progress has been achieved in various fields over the past year, progress that now needs to be consolidated. In the field of security, the Afghan National Army has been considerably strengthened and is increasingly in a position to take over from international forces.

The police remain the weak point in the security system. Since his appointment as Interior Minister, Mr. Atmar has started an in-depth reform of the police that the international community must back via initiatives in keeping with the stakes. France is committed to participating actively with its European partners in this effort.

Encouraging developments have also taken place in the fight against drug trafficking. They remain to be confirmed, including in the fight against the diversion of the chemical precursors of heroin, which is subject of resolution 1817 (2008).

The situation in the field of human rights is a serious topic of concern, especially because of the increase in attacks against the media and civil society. Significant progress made since 2001 remains precarious. The authorities must, with the assistance of the international community, act more firmly to guarantee journalists and representatives of civil society conditions that enable them to engage in their activities freely and safely.

I would also like to reiterate our concerns regarding the issue of civilian casualties, which — we need to underscore this point — are mainly the result of deliberate attacks by the Taliban and other extremist groups that display thereby their absolute disdain for human life. At the same time, France is aware of the need to continue, with its partners and its allies, significant efforts achieved by Government and international forces to avoid civilian casualties.

The President of the French Republic, Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, has reiterated on numerous occasions the priority that the stabilization of Afghanistan and the region as a whole has for France. Over the past two years, France has carried out a major reinforcement of its military commitment in Afghanistan. Anxious to ensure that we have a comprehensive approach, we have also significantly strengthened our civilian and political commitment since 2008. But over and above that, the depth of the Afghan crisis, the evolution of the international commitment and the increasing interrelations among the problems that affect Afghanistan and its neighbours have led France to further integrate the regional aspects of the problem in its approach.

It is in this context that the President of the Republic, on 26 February, appointed a Member of Parliament, Mr. Pierre Lellouche, as his Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. This decision is in line with France’s belief that the Afghan crisis cannot be dealt with in isolation from the situation in the region, and primarily in Pakistan. Our priorities are to promote the emergence of a stable, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan, to contribute to the stabilization of democratic Pakistan and to reduce the terrorist threat of which this region has become the epicentre.

It is also to lend political momentum to the theme of strengthening regional cooperation that our Foreign Minister, Mr. Bernard Kouchner, invited Afghanistan, its neighbouring States and the key cooperation partners of the international community to France in December 2008 for a ministerial meeting, held in La Celle Saint-Cloud under the co-chairmanship of the United Nations. We welcome the will demonstrated by Afghanistan and its neighbours during this meeting to make concrete progress to strengthen their cooperation against drug trafficking and terrorism, as well as to develop regional economic cooperation. We hope that the positive trends in relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan will contribute to achieving concrete results during the upcoming Regional Economic Cooperation Conference in Islamabad.

UNAMA will have to face many challenges in the coming year. It will require our full support. I therefore welcome the proposal to hold Security Council meetings every three months. That will enable the Council to provide more active follow-up to the implementation of the mandate entrusted to UNAMA and thereby to provide more effective support for the action of the Special Representative. /.

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