United Nations Security Council Arria-formula meeting on Children and Armed Conflict

Statement by Foreign Minister H.E. Mr. Urmas Reinsalu at Estonia´s Arria meeting on the Peace Process in Afghanistan

Mr President,
distinguished ministers, briefers, ambassadors and
those watching us online,

Allow me now to make a statement in my national capacity.

The start of the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations on 12 September in Doha presented a historic opportunity to achieve the long-held aspirations of the people of Afghanistan for peace and reconciliation. We now have every reason to expect progress. However, every day, the headlines tell us a very different story, with increasing violence reaching alarming levels. We have called this meeting to show that the international community continues to take great interest in the negotiations, as well as in the situation on the ground.

Afghanistan has come a long way in the last two decades. Higher life expectancy, lower child mortality, more children in school and a greater representation of women in public life – those gains must be celebrated. With the support of the international community, the respect for democracy and human rights, especially women’s rights, have become a fundamental part of the new Afghan society. The government has taken concrete steps by committing to developing their country in an inclusive manner, by fighting corruption, and by working with the international community to guarantee accountability in their actions. There is, undeniably, still much room for improvement, notably with regard to corruption, but we insist that these gains must be preserved and built upon.

This will, in turn, directly affect the international support to the country. The 2020 Afghanistan Conference in Geneva next week is a valuable opportunity for both Afghanistan and the international community to commit to assisting Afghanistan on its way to a more peaceful, stable, and self-reliant state. Finland, together with the government of Afghanistan and the UN have done an excellent job in making this conference happen under the extraordinary circumstances of the global pandemic. We encourage every country to participate and show solidarity by pledging their support at this very important moment.

Having said that, we also emphasise today the firm conditionality of our assistance. It stems from our hope of seeing the situation on the ground to improve, and giving the Peace Process a real chance to succeed.

Firstly, before further concessions can be made, there needs to be an immediate and significant reduction of violence, leading to a permanent ceasefire. A global ceasefire has been repeatedly called upon by the entire international community, the Secretary-General and this Council. We stress once again that both parties, but especially the Taliban, must fulfil their commitments and work towards ending violence to save civilian lives. It is unacceptable that 9 months after the signing of the agreements in Doha and Kabul, the level of violence on the ground is the highest it has been in years. We condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly terrorist attacks, which remain the most serious threat to peace and security. There is no excuse for the deliberate attacks on healthcare personnel and educational facilities. It is essential that such crimes are investigated, and perpetrators are held accountable.

Secondly, the peace negotiations must move forward in good faith. These talks are the best chance for peace in Afghanistan in a generation, and it is the sole responsibility of Afghans themselves to lead their country out of years of violence and war. Both the negotiations and the following peace settlement must remain inclusive, with the meaningful participation of women, minorities and youth. Human rights and fundamental freedoms are universal and should be the highest priority on the peace negotiations agenda. The aim should also be to work towards a country of economic development and growth that provides new opportunities for its citizens, where their rights are upheld, and women, children, and marginalised groups are protected. We wish to see the peace talks succeed, and expect an equally cooperative spirit and strong will to advance the talks from all sides at the negotiating table.

Lastly, let me assure you that Estonia will remain committed to Afghanistan also as the member of this Council. We sincerely thank Germany and Indonesia for their masterful and diligent work as current penholders of the Afghanistan file in the United Nations Security Council.  Estonia, together with Norway, is ready and willing to take up this responsibility in 2021. We support a peaceful, stable and secure Afghanistan – our brave soldiers have lost their lives to make it happen. We stand prepared to cooperatively and effectively continue to contribute to this cause.

I thank you for your attention.

Event broadcasted: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTzpTb70xxU&feature=youtu.be&ab_channel=estonianmfa