Thank you, Mr President.
Let me first thank Special Representative Kubis for his update to the Council and to Mr Fedetov for his briefing. I also thank Ambassador Tanin for his remarks.
I will focus my remarks today on 4 areas: the elections, security, engagement with the Government of Afghanistan, and counter narcotics.
Since this Council last met to discuss Afghanistan in March, we have seen some extraordinary moments of courage from the Afghan people.
In April and again earlier this month, they showed the world their desire to have a say in their country’s future by turning out to vote in the Presidential elections. “They voted for peace” as Ambassador Tannin said. This is a huge achievement. As the electoral process enters the final stages, it is essential that all stakeholders act in the interests of stability and national unity. Special Representative Kubis has underlined the need to find a way forward. We urge both presidential candidates and their teams to demonstrate the same patience and respect with the electoral authorities as they did during the first round.
At this critical time in the process, both candidates need to work with the Independent Election Commission and Independent Electoral Complaints Commission and their established legal mechanisms for investigating and adjudicating complaints, as Australia and others have said. We also urge the electoral institutions to conduct their investigations thoroughly and transparently.
The fighting season in Afghanistan is underway and security is a challenge for all concerned. Over the last 3 months, as the Secretary-General’s report highlights, a high number of incidents have been reported. Innocent civilians have been targeted and killed. These attacks must be strongly condemned.
We pay tribute to the courage and sacrifice of the security forces operating in Afghanistan at this challenging time. Their dedication has allowed the Government of Afghanistan to build the foundations for a stable and democratic country. In particular, we recognise the contributions of the Afghanistan National Security Forces. Their security plans, implemented against a backdrop of insurgent attempts to disrupt the elections, were a testament both to their confidence and capability.
The support of NATO and the international community will be vital to ensuring that security in Afghanistan lasts. The NATO Summit to be hosted by the United Kingdom later this year will be an opportunity to support the establishment of NATO’s military, financial and political support to Afghanistan beyond 2014, and to mark the achievements of ISAF. Regional initiatives, such as the Heart of Asia process, for which China will host the next meeting in Tianjin at the end of August, will continue to play a vital role.
Once a new President and his team are in place in Afghanistan, the United Kingdom will work in close cooperation with partners on this Council and the wider international community to pursue shared aspirations. Together we must set out a constructive approach, that allows the new Afghan President and his team the ability to formulate their own vision for the future, whilst pressing ahead on the key reforms and priorities we know must happen quickly.
For the United Kingdom, signature of the United States/Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement and the NATO Status of Forces Agreement is key. Subject to these agreements, the Resolute Support Mission will be a vital part of NATO’s engagement in Afghanistan beyond 2014. President Obama’s announcement of the United States contribution, that the United States just referred to a moment ago, is a significant step forward.
We also want to signal the importance of a peace process and engagement with key regional partners on how best to sustain progress made in the region.
On the economy, steps to shore up longer-term confidence in Afghanistan’s economic future will be vital, including by passing and implementing important economic legislation. The support of this Council and the work of UNAMA will be essential in this effort, both in signalling our expectations and delivering key assistance on the ground.
Finally, Mr President,
As Mr Fedetov has outlined to the Council, the challenge posed by drugs to Afghanistan and the wider region is serious. The United Kingdom recognises the importance of tackling the drugs trade and the significant challenges that remain. This is a complex problem which needs a comprehensive approach, combining tougher law enforcement, economic development initiatives and the promotion of alternative livelihoods. The United Kingdom will continue to work with the United Nations and international partners to support the Afghan Government in this effort.
For all the challenges that lie ahead, we see many reasons to be hopeful in Afghanistan. The United Kingdom will continue to play a strong and committed role in supporting the Government of Afghanistan to build a more peaceful and prosperous future for all Afghans.