Deborah Lyons, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, on Thursday spoke during a UN Security Council Open VTC (videoconference) and called for a humanitarian ceasefire. The conference was held as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban prepare to begin talks in Doha this week aimed at ending the deadly conflict that has gripped the nation for the past two decades.
Lyons highlighted urgent issues related to peace, human rights, and the humanitarian situation, as well as other pressing issues, stating that a humanitarian ceasefire was crucial to ensure that relief efforts can be conducted.
“I want to emphasize again the importance of the humanitarian ceasefire. This is a win-win for both parties to the peace talks and it is clearly a win for the Afghan people. We all need to be raising our voices to focus on the need for a humanitarian ceasefire,” said Lyons. She explained that a humanitarian ceasefire is not permanent but intended to allow civilian populations caught in the fighting to receive care.
She reiterated that holding the intra-Afghan negotiations is imperative.
“As I speak, Afghans representing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan are preparing to sit with other Afghans representing the Taliban to discuss, at long last, a political settlement to the conflict. This is truly a historic moment,” said Lyons. “The coming days will hopefully bring the formal launch of intra-Afghan negotiations.”
She stated that solutions will not be found on the battlefield and Afghans need to talk to each other. She said the level of violence on the battlefield remains deeply worrying.
On peace spoilers, she said: “The last few weeks have seen near-record numbers of security incidents, including egregious attacks by spoilers targeting civilians involved in the peace process.”
The UN envoy added that the conflict continues to kill and injure hundreds of Afghans every week.
Despite significant progress in the last two decades, Afghanistan remains one of the worst places in the world to be a woman, and one of the worst to be a child,” said Lyons.
On women’s inclusion in the peace process, Lyons said: “We have spoken as well, a great deal, in this forum about the necessity of including women in the process.”
“Women’s rights are already emerging as one of the most difficult issues confronting the conflict parties as they enter negotiations, and one where any compromises could pose, will pose, a difficult dilemma for member states,” Lyons added.
The UN envoy commended the work of Afghan media for peace.
On the role of regional nations on peace in Afghanistan, she said: “Peace will only truly take hold if it delivers material benefits for the Afghan people. This, too, will require substantial preparation by all parties: by the Government of Afghanistan; by regional countries; and by the international community.”
She said a stable Afghanistan will bring about a more prosperous neighborhood.
Meanwhile, US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Kelly Craft said that recent waves of violence were posing serious threats to peace and they need to be stopped.
“The United States condemns all acts of terrorism,” said Kelly Craft, referring to recent attacks on a number of scholars in Kabul city.
She said Afghanistan is closer than ever before to peace and spoilers must not be allowed to damage the process.
The UN briefing comes hours after the National Security Council confirmed that the government had released nearly all of the Taliban prisoners on the group’s list, except for a half dozen prisoners about whom Afghanistan’s international partners have reservations.
Sources close to the peace talks said that the travel plans of the delegation representing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan have been delayed until Friday.
There are unconfirmed reports that Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, and Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, as well as the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, will attend the opening ceremony of the intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha.