Thank you Madam President,
I thank the Secretary-General for his report, and I thank Special Representative Kubis for his briefing and Ambassador Tanin for his remarks this morning.
As this is likely to be his last Council meeting, let me pay a particular warm tribute to Special Representative Jan Kubis, who for the last three years has worked tirelessly to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan. We wish him extremely well in future endeavours.
I will focus my remarks on four issues: the recent NATO Summit, the electoral process, the next steps for Afghanistan and the role of the United Nations and international community.
The NATO Summit in Wales earlier this month was an important opportunity to mark the achievements and sacrifices made by the ISAF mission. Afghan Forces are now leading 99% of combat operations across Afghanistan and are proving increasingly effective.
The Summit also demonstrated the international community’s enduring commitment to Afghanistan. We reaffirmed commitments made at Chicago in 2012 to sustain the Afghan Security Forces throughout the transformation decade.
The United Kingdom announced that it will continue to provide more than $100 million a year to support the Afghan National Security Forces for the next three years and work with international partners to train future leaders through the Officer Academy.
Turning to the electoral process, let me acknowledge the superb efforts of Special Representative Kubis and his team for their work over the past few months in support of the independent election institutions in Afghanistan. Together, after a challenging period, they have worked effectively to conclude the audit of Afghanistan’s Presidential election, but as the Permanent Representative of Afghanistan has made clear, the situation remains fluid and uncertain.
As we near the end of what has been a protracted process, this Council must send a firm message to both candidates, urging them to engage constructively over the coming days as they seek to calmly resolve their differences and work towards an agreement that establishes a new Unity Government.
They must continue to act in the best interests of the Afghan people.
The United Kingdom remains firmly committed to a lasting partnership with Afghanistan. Together we must set out a constructive approach and press ahead quickly on key reforms and priorities. We look forward to the signature of the Bilateral Security Agreement between the Government of Afghanistan and the United States and of the NATO Status of Forces Agreement as an important step to secure future international support.
Of course Afghanistan also faces significant domestic challenges. Urgent work is needed to stabilise the economy and to protect the important gains made on human rights, in particular those of women and children. An inclusive peace process remains essential. A new Afghan Government must also continue to engage with key regional partners, thorough initiatives such as the Heart of Asia process, to sustain the important progress made to date.
The United Kingdom looks forward to co-chairing the London Conference on Afghanistan later this year. This conference will provide a further platform for the international community to demonstrate solidarity with Afghanistan and for a new Government to set out its vision for reform and delivery of our shared priorities.
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.
This is an extraordinary time for Afghanistan. On the verge of a truly historic moment in their history, we urge all parties in Afghanistan to work in the interests of the Afghan people and we urge the International Community to offer their full support.