Negotiated settlement must for Afghanistan

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan told the U.N. Security Council that a negotiated peace in Afghanistan was the best and only hope for stability and prosperity for the country and the entire region.

Speaking in the 15-member Council’s debate on Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, said that it was gratifying that the international community had reached a firm consensus that a political settlement was the only way to achieve peace in Afghanistan.

This, she emphasized, was what Pakistan had consistently advocated and recommended to end the decades of war and suffering endured by the Afghan people.

Peace in Afghanistan, she reaffirmed, is in Pakistan’s vital interest. The Pakistani envoy said that “a promising beginning” had been made to foster a negotiating process for peace talks in the last couple of months.

Ambassador Lodhi described the positive momentum generated by the successful meeting of the Heart of Asia process hosted by Islamabad and jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Ashraf Ghani. This, she said, led to the decision by Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China to create a Quadrilateral Coordination Group to provide decisive impetus to Afghanistan’s peace efforts.

Dr. Lodhi explained that the success of this new mechanism was predicated on the shared commitment and shared responsibility of each of its four members. Each, she stressed, must “play its part in moving the process forward towards our common objective.”

The ambassador depicted the task ahead as complex and arduous and urged that expectations be kept realistic and strategic patience should be exercised. What was vital now is to create an enabling environment to operationalize and sustain a peace process that is Afghan-led. She identified a number of factors as critical to establishing such an environment:

First, there should be consistent and unified positions and declarations from the Afghan government affirming its commitment to work for a negotiated peace. She welcomed in this regard recent statements by the Afghan leadership and the revamping of the High Peace Council.

Second, there must be a demonstrated capacity by the Afghan security forces to hold their own. This would help create conditions for the Taliban to return to the negotiating table. Third, all four members of the QCG must use their respective influence and political capital to contribute to the success of the process.

Ambassador Lodhi assured the Council that Pakistan would play its due part. As a first step, it had offered to host direct talks between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban.

Cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan will be a vital component of the endeavor to realize peace and security within Afghanistan and the entire region. In this regard, she said, what was crucial now is greater cooperation on border management to stop the movement of terrorists.

She pointed to incursions by TTP terrorists across the international border from Afghanistan and expressed concern that despite repeated calls for cooperation by Pakistan, Kabul had not been forthcoming so far. Ambassador Lodhi then called on the Afghan government to respond positively to Pakistan’s efforts to manage the border.

She concluded by saying that Pakistan looked forward to “a relationship with Afghanistan based on shared values and interests and respect for each other’s sensitivities.”

“We stand committed to working with Afghanistan for the improvement of the relationship for the mutual benefit of our peoples”, she added. APP