The UN has urged warring parties to redouble efforts at protecting civilians from harm and to de-escalate the conflict in order to “save lives and create a conducive environment for the upcoming talks in Doha,” the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a statement on Thursday.
The UN is concerned by a recent spate of violent incidents in which members of Afghanistan’s civil society have been targeted, the statement said.
“Deliberate attacks against religious leaders, healthcare workers, members of the judiciary, civil society activists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and journalists are both shocking and criminal,” it said, adding: “The UN looks to the authorities to bring those responsible for the attacks to account and emphasizes its determination to continue support to Afghanistan’s flourishing civil society sector.”
“It’s taken enormous work and some brave decisions for Afghans to reach the point of being on the eve of unprecedented intra-Afghan negotiations,” said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. “I encourage parties to lay the necessary foundation for the talks by showing their commitment to peace through immediate and concrete actions to protect civilians and reduce violence.”
“There are spoilers who do not wish to see an end to war,” said Lyons, who is also head of UNAMA. “No matter what tactics they employ to de-rail the peace process, they cannot be allowed to succeed.”
The statement also said that in the first six months of 2020, preliminary figures indicate more than 800 civilians were killed and injured in deliberate attacks against civilians. “UNAMA attributed responsibility for approximately half of these civilian casualties to the Taliban.”
“UNAMA draws attention to the continued harm to civilians from the use of indirect fire during ground engagements in civilian-populated areas that has caused roughly 25 per cent of civilian casualties in the second quarter of 2020,” according to the statement.
The UN's continued call for an end to violence is also "immediately linked to the need for all parties to provide the necessary focus and resources to combating the COVID-19 pandemic, a serious threat to everyone in Afghanistan," the statement said.