Daily Archives: November 20, 2017

Global, Regional Partnerships Must Target Narcotics-Terrorism Nexus to Cement Hard-Won Gains in Afghanistan, General Assembly Delegates Stress

The security and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan remained precarious and required the support of regional and international partners, particularly in addressing the concerning nexus between terrorism and narcotics, the General Assembly heard today as it held its annual debate on the Central Asian nation.

Before the Assembly was the draft resolution “The situation in Afghanistan” (document A/72/L.8), tabled since 1980 and expected to be adopted on 21 November.  By the text’s terms, the Assembly would reiterate its grave concern about the security situation, stressing the need to continue to address the threats caused by illegal armed groups and criminals in the region.

By other terms, the Assembly would condemn all acts of violence and terrorist attacks and stress the need for the Government of Afghanistan and the international community to work together to improve coordination in countering such acts.  It would also note with great concern the strong nexus between the drug trade and terrorist activities by terrorist groups and call upon the international community to continue to assist the Government in implementing its national drug control strategy and national drug action plan.  The Assembly would also express concern over the recent increase in the number of internally displaced persons.

Also before the Assembly were two reports of the Secretary-General: “Special report on the strategic review of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan” (document A/72/312–S/2017/696) and “The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security” (document A/72/392–S/2017/783).

During the debate, delegates voiced broad support for efforts to confront pressing challenges, including the rising number of terrorist attacks against civilians and security forces.  Many mentioned expressions of that support in 2017 had come through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Resolute Support Mission, European Union‑Afghanistan strategy, Afghanistan High Peace Council’s Strategic Plan for Peace and Reconciliation, and the initiation of the Kabul process on peace and security.  Others pledged to assist ongoing efforts, including rebuilding Afghanistan’s infrastructure and boosting economic development, and commended important regional developments such as the Lapis Lazuli Transit, Trade and Transport Route agreement.

Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive of Afghanistan, provided a snapshot of the situation on the ground, reporting steady progress in the development of national infrastructure, including roads, industry, energy and transport.  While the security landscape had seen national forces effectively thwarting terrorist groups’ attempts to make gains or capture a major urban centre, he cautioned that “we are not dealing with one, but several terrorist outfits that either mirror each other under different labels or indirectly support overlapping agendas”.  Calling for a more focused and collective effort from the region and international community to address the dangerous nexus between terrorism and narcotic drugs, he said a core issue was resolving the problem of regional terrorist sanctuaries.  “We need to agree to fight all forms and shades of terror,” he said, adding that negative State rivalries and the use of violent proxy forces were counterproductive.  “We can and should no longer harbor or support one group while we fight another and claim to be fighting terrorism,” he said, emphasizing the importance of fostering stable and constructive relations with all neighbours, particularly Pakistan.

The representative of Pakistan said that apart from the Afghan people, her country’s citizens had suffered the most from decades of war in Afghanistan.  Pakistan had conducted the largest anti‑terrorism campaign in the world at its border, and in doing so had paid a heavy price, she said, adding that more than 27,000 Pakistanis, including thousands of soldiers, had been killed.  Terrorist groups posed a clear and present danger within and beyond Afghanistan’s border, she added, emphasizing that the protracted conflict had also prevented the region from recognizing its potential.

Many delegates raised concerns about a growing narcotics problem.  The Russian Federation’s representative noted a recent United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report that said opium production had nearly doubled, accounting for a large percentage of terrorist financing.  Echoing that sentiment, India’s delegate questioned where those drugs were going to and who was benefitting from such trade.  Noting that only a fraction of the revenue generated by the cultivation and trafficking of Afghan opiates reached Afghan trafficking groups, he asked: “If not the Afghan, who is controlling and benefiting from this nexus?”

Neighbouring countries shared their perspectives.  Iran’s representative said that underdevelopment, low income and lack of economic opportunities were providing fertile ground and recruitment opportunities for terrorist groups and drug networks.

Underscoring the need for enhanced economic engagement, Turkmenistan’s delegate noted that her country had provided Afghanistan with essential aid in energy, transport, education and health care.  Creating jobs and improving education would also positively impact the country, she said.

Concerns about security were also raised.  The representative of the United States, observing that it had been 16 years since his country had taken action in Afghanistan, cited a recent commitment among NATO allies to increase troop levels on the ground, in line with the goal of achieving an Afghan‑owned and Afghan‑led political settlement.  To all parties fighting against the Afghan army, he declared, “You cannot win on the battlefield — the only path to peace is negotiation,” calling on parties to cut ties with terrorist groups and advance talks towards peace.

Also speaking today were representatives of Germany, Australia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Canada, Uzbekistan, China, United Arab Emirates, Georgia, Lithuania, Belgium, Japan, Egypt, Italy, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, as well as the European Union.

In other matters, the General Assembly agreed to extend the work of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) until 30 November 2017.

The Assembly will reconvene at 3 p.m. today to elect a member to the International Court of Justice.  It will then convene on Tuesday, 21 November, at 10 a.m. to conclude its debate on Afghanistan.

Statements

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), introducing the draft resolution “The situation in Afghanistan” (document A/72/L.8), recalled that the annual text had been adopted since 1980 and mirrored the current dynamics of the conflict in an international endeavour to help restore peace and stability to the country.  In 2016, for the first time, the text had been revised considerably to reflect the relations between the international community and Afghanistan.  “In light of this achievement, our goal for this year was to update last year’s text and carry it into the future,” he said.  However, negotiations had proven to be particularly difficult, with divergence on several points, so Germany, as facilitator, had drafted a “chair’s proposal” reflecting those positions.  Presenting several oral revisions, he said illegal armed groups had increased the number of high profile attacks following their inability to make advances on the battlefield in 2017, and called on Afghan citizens to refrain from reacting to such provocations.

Pledging Germany’s support to the Afghan security forces through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Resolute Support Mission, he underscored the importance of supporting the security sector and matching such efforts in the areas of development, stabilization and diplomatic initiatives aimed at political solutions.  “An inclusive, Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned peace process involving the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban is the only pathway forward towards a sustainable resolution of the conflict,” he said.  Welcoming the Strategic Plan for Peace and Reconciliation presented by Afghanistan’s High Peace Council and the initiation of the Kabul process on peace and security in that regard, he called on all parties — especially the Taliban — to recognize their responsibility for peace and enter into direct talks without preconditions.  In addition, he welcomed the announcement to hold parliamentary elections in 2018 and encouraged the Government to continue its efforts in combating corruption.

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, Chief Executive of Afghanistan, providing an update on the situation, said that in recent months, national security forces had effectively thwarted terrorist groups’ attempts to make gains or capture a major urban centre.  “We are not dealing with one, but several terrorist outfits that either mirror each other under different labels or indirectly support overlapping agendas,” he said.  Commending international partners for equipping and training security forces, he said “L.8” reaffirmed the importance of that support.  For its part, Afghanistan had adopted measures to complement and better coordinate with new strategies of the United Nations, NATO and the European Union.

He said a conditions-based approach and a clear focus on resolving the problem of regional terrorist sanctuaries and support systems “would get us closer to peace and stability”.  They also formed the cornerstone of a new security strategy to defeat terrorism, work with affected States and protect people from politicized violence.  Negative State rivalries and the use of violent proxy forces were counterproductive, he said, adding: “We need to agree to fight all forms and shades of terror; we can and should no longer harbor or support one group while we fight another and claim to be fighting terrorism.”  Fostering stable and constructive relations with all neighbours, particularly Pakistan, remained a key component and changing the status quo could only be possible when terrorism subsided, infringement on Afghanistan’s territory ended and safe havens were shut down. “Failure to do so will have negative consequences and result in further tension or worse,” he warned.

Turning to the economy, which had suffered greatly with the 2014 removal of international forces, he said that since the formation of the Government of National Unity, domestic resources had seen important gains, helping the country shoulder its responsibility for security and development needs.  Afghanistan was also making steady progress in the development of its national infrastructure, including roads, industry, energy and transport, and was also becoming a hub for regional and interregional trade, transit and transport.  Energy transfers were a major component now and into the future.

The recent historic signing of the Lapis Lazuli Transit, Trade and Transport Route agreement between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and other regional countries was another important development in the advancement of economic and cultural links in the region.  The national strategy for combating corruption was among the initiatives that had made it clear to the Afghan people and international partners that the principle of accountability would not be compromised at any cost.  Afghanistan had also improved its financial systems in conformity with international standards.  Highlighting concerns, he underscored a need to address the dangerous nexus between terrorism and narcotic drugs, adding that the link demanded a more focused and collective effort from the region and international community.

VIKTOR DVOŘÁK, European Union delegation, said its members had approved in October a strategy on Afghanistan that focused on promoting peace, stability and prosperity while reinforcing democracy, the rule of law and human rights, supporting economic and human development and addressing migration-related challenges.  The strategy represented the latest illustration of the bloc’s strong commitment, following the European Union and Afghanistan Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development and the appointment of the European Union Special Envoy.  Fully committed to supporting an Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned peace process, the bloc also supported the Kabul process, which was expected to encourage further regional discussions to increase cooperation.

The European Union was also committed to working with Afghanistan to combat terrorism and its financing, he said.  On the 2018 parliamentary and district council elections, he noted that key decisions on electoral reforms must be urgently taken.  Lending support for the fight against corruption, he welcomed the adoption of Afghanistan’s anti‑corruption strategy in October and called for its implementation.  The new bloc’s strategy also included migration and would continue to cooperate on efforts within the framework of the European Union‑Afghanistan Joint Way Forward.  The bloc had also taken concrete actions to address migration’s key challenges, adopting two multi‑country regional programmes in 2016 and 2017.

CAITLIN WILSON (Australia) said support for Afghanistan had been seen throughout 2017, with the United States’ South Asia strategy, renewed NATO efforts, European Union strategy and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization engagement.  An integrated regional approach to challenges could help to improve the country’s prospects and chart a path towards credible peace.  Australia had announced, with international partners, a modest increase in its military commitment to train and assist Afghan security forces and had reaffirmed its pledge to development cooperation with a renewed bilateral partnership, which recognized the importance of empowering women and girls and meeting the needs of vulnerable populations.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), noting his delegation’s support of “L.8”, said the draft resolution sought ways to arrive at a comprehensive and long-lasting resolution to the situation in Afghanistan.  However, during the negotiation process, a number of his delegation’s concerns had not been considered, such as terrorist threats spilling over into Central Asia and the Russian Federation.  In the process of drafting the text in 2018, he expressed hope that delegations would receive more information about such issues as Afghanistan’s expanding opium production.  Citing a deliberate campaign waged against the Russian Federation by other States, including false accusations that it was funding the Taliban, he said his delegation would never accept any loopholes that would allow terrorists to shirk accountability.

He regretted to note decisions that had been taken to replace Russian aircraft and small arms in Afghanistan and to change age limits, disqualifying some Russian officers there.  Going forward, the Moscow consultations were the optimal platform for negotiations.  The Taliban continued to stage heinous attacks and engage in subversive activities and its Afghan branch now stood at some 10,000 members, replenished by foreign fighters.  Also, a recent United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report had indicated that opium production had nearly doubled, accounting for a large percentage of terrorist financing.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that apart from the Afghan people, her country’s citizens had suffered the most from decades of war and violence in Afghanistan.  Pakistan had also offered unprecedented hospitality and support to the Afghan people, hosting some three million refugees over the years.  Unfortunately, the security situation in Afghanistan had significantly deteriorated, with increasing numbers of civilian casualties.  “There is no justification for the indiscriminate attacks against women, children and men,” she stressed.  Terrorist groups posed a clear and present danger for Afghanistan and the region, she added, underscoring the nexus between terrorism and drug trafficking.  The protracted conflict had also prevented the region from recognizing its potential.

Pakistan had conducted the largest anti‑terrorism campaign in the world at its border, and in doing so had paid a heavy price, she said, adding that more than 27,000 Pakistanis, including thousands of soldiers, had been killed.  “We have a long border which is not easy to control,” she emphasized, noting various ways Pakistan was securing, strengthening and reinforcing security measures.  “Sixteen years of war waged by the world’s most powerful forces has not secured peace,” she said, highlighting that a political settlement and the pursuit of a military solution were “simply incompatible”.  Pursuing both would lead to more suffering and deep instability.  While the international community had a role to play in promoting peace in Afghanistan, the solution must be Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned.  She also called on the Taliban to abandon violence and come to the negotiating table.

MAHMADAMIN MAHMADAMINOV (Tajikistan) said peace, stability and socioeconomic rehabilitation in Afghanistan were crucial for regional development and prosperity, including in building a favourable environment for the transit potential of Central Asian countries and establishing necessary infrastructure for the free movement of goods and services.  Ongoing joint efforts included creating an electricity grid in joint cooperation with Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, a trade and transit agreement with Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the construction of the Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Turkmenistan railway.  Similarly, Tajikistan would implement national and regional projects on energy, transport and the establishment of free economic zones, he said, adding that the Government would provide up to 1,000 educational grants to Afghan citizens.

FERIDUN H. SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey), emphasizing the need to consolidate achievements of the last 16 years, said Afghanistan still needed support from the international community, which must live up to its commitments.   Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned reconciliation efforts were key to ensuring lasting peace and security.  The National Unity Government must be even more inclusive, which would solidify the impact of reforms and political stability while improving the security situation.  For its part, Turkey would continue to provide bilateral assistance in Afghanistan in addition to its contributions to NATO efforts.  Turkey, having provided $1 billion in official development aid from 2002 to 2016 for 850 projects, had a vision for Afghanistan to be a peaceful and stable country, he said, welcoming the signing of the Lapis Lazuli agreement.

TANMAYA LAL (India) said that not enough had been done to protect civilians and prevent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan.  The Security Council was still debating whether or not to designate new leaders or to freeze the assets of the slain leader of the Taliban.  Addressing global terrorism required a comprehensive and collective response from the international community.  Support for an Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned solution must be pursued authentically and ambitiously.  While the international community commitment to Afghanistan was renewed every year, respect for that country’s sovereignty and ownership of the peace process must be paramount.  Turning to the matter of the rise in opium production, he questioned where those drugs were going to and who was benefitting from such trade.  Noting UNODC research stating that only a fraction of revenues generated by the cultivation and trafficking of Afghan opiates reached the Afghan trafficking groups, he asked: “If not the Afghan, who is controlling and benefiting from this nexus?”  Unless there was effective action to address that, the United Nations was in danger of becoming marginalized.  Development in education, health, agricultural and renewable energy was vital in realizing peace.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), noting that his region continued to suffer from an alarming surge in extremist violence and a dramatic increase in drug production, said terrorist attacks had increased every year since the 2001 United States invasion of Afghanistan.  Emphasizing that Afghanistan’s deteriorating security situation could not be addressed solely through military strategies, he said the Afghan National Unity Government was at the forefront of the fight against terrorism.  The international community’s sustained support was required in that fight.  Support was also required regarding Afghanistan’s complex security, economic and development challenges.  Outlining efforts to strengthen regional cooperation with that country — including through connectivity, trade and transit — he voiced concern over UNODC’s recent findings revealing an 87 per cent growth in opium production in 2017.  Underdevelopment, low income and lack of economic opportunities were providing fertile ground and recruitment opportunities for terrorist groups and drug networks.  Recalling that Iran had hosted millions of Afghan refugees for decades, he said his Government was participating in the Tripartite Commission aimed at their voluntary, safe, dignified and gradual repatriation.

MARC-ANDRÉ BLANCHARD (Canada), concerned about the toll fighting had taken on the Afghan people, declared his country’s commitment to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for international terrorism.  He welcomed peace and reconciliation efforts and the roles being played by the Government of Afghanistan, States and civil society.  Having pledged $465 million in security sector and development assistance for 2017 to 2020, Canada placed particular importance on women’s and girl’s rights, in line with its feminist foreign policy.  He also emphasized Canada’s continued support for capacity-building efforts involving the Afghan police force and their important work.  Noting that 2017 marked the twentieth anniversary of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti‑Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Ottawa Convention), he expressed hope that Afghanistan would be mine-free by 2023.

BAKHTIYOR IBRAGIMOV (Uzbekistan), stressing that sustainable development in Central Asia was inextricably linked to the achievement of peace in neighbouring Afghanistan, expressed support for “L.8” and praised its focus on an Afghan‑led inclusive peace process backed by the international community.  The international community’s efforts must focus on rendering assistance to rebuild Afghanistan’s economy and infrastructure and its integration into regional economic processes.  For its part, Uzbekistan had hosted the international conference on ensuring security and sustainable development in Central Asia and had intensified bilateral dialogue with Afghanistan, he said, adding that in 2017, five agreements had been signed on collaboration on the economic reconstruction, and efforts were underway to upgrade bilateral relations to new levels.

DONALD CAMP (United States) observed that it had been 16 years since the United States and the international community had taken action in Afghanistan.  Since then, considerable blood and treasure had been spent, both by Afghans and their partners.  During the first half of 2017, more than 5,200 civilian causalities had been recorded, including many children.  In August, President Donald Trump had approved a new regional strategy for South Asia, reaffirming that Afghanistan’s security and stability was tied to that of the entire region.  The United States would continue to support the Afghan security forces to end the war and prevent the re‑establishment of any terrorist safe haven.  As well, the United States and its NATO allies — including more than two dozen nations — had recently committed to increasing their troop levels on the ground.  Such efforts were aligned toward the goal of achieving a political settlement that was Afghan‑owned and Afghan‑led, he said, noting that today’s draft resolution underlined that goal.  To all parties fighting against the Afghan army, he declared, “You cannot win on the battlefield — the only path to peace is negotiation,” calling on parties to cut ties with terrorist groups and advance talks towards peace.

WU HAITAO (China), noting the achievements of the National Unity Government, emphasized that Afghanistan still faced grave political and security challenges.  Maintaining that country’s peace and stability required an improved security environment.  The international community must continue to support capacity-building initiatives to effectively respond to terrorism, transnational crime and drug trafficking.  The reconciliation process must be achieved though political dialogue and must be Afghan‑owned and Afghan‑led.  In addition, political parties must narrow differences through cooperation and dialogue.  As well, the international community must continue to support Afghanistan while also respecting its sovereignty and the independent path of the Afghan people.  He called on the international community to honour its aid commitments.  As its neighbour, China would continue to support Afghanistan, he said, noting that both Governments had signed economic cooperation agreements in construction, trade and interconnectivity.

LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) expressed grave concern about escalating numbers of terrorists attacks targeting civilians and security forces, including one in 2017 that had killed her country’s ambassador, five other Emirati diplomats and 11 Afghan citizens.  While progress had been made, the road ahead was long.  “The international community must not repeat mistakes of the past, when disengagement and neglect of Afghanistan permitted extremists to take over the country,” she said, calling for continued action to establish a peace process, intensify support for Afghan security forces and promote development.  Outlining the United Arab Emirates’ history of support, including training nearly 20,000 Afghan imams to promote the values of tolerance and moderation in Islam, she said a number of projects were aimed at improving the position of women.

KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia) commended the efforts of the Afghanistan Government that were aimed at reconstruction, development, and the strengthening of the foundations of democracy.  Georgia was among the countries helping Afghanistan to rebuild, and its soldiers were also part of the NATO Mission in Afghanistan.  His Government had joined the anti‑terrorist coalition immediately after the 11 September terrorist attacks, providing airspace and airports for the transit of coalition forces and personnel to Afghanistan.  In 2004, it upgraded its engagement by committing troops, becoming the largest non‑NATO troop contributor to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).  After the completion of ISAF, Georgia, continuing its commitment to international peace and security, had joined the Resolute Support Mission.

AUDRA PLEPYTĖ (Lithuania), commending the National Unity Government for implementing substantial reforms, said that a stable security situation was vital for the development of the nation.  Ordinary Afghans were bearing the brunt of armed clashes, improvised explosive devices, suicide attacks and assassinations.  The international community must contribute to strengthening the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, she said, adding that reforming the electoral process should also stay high on the national agenda.  Noting that the reintroduction of the 25 per cent quota for women in the Parliament would serve as a much-needed impetus to securing women’s rights, she also called for concerted efforts to combat the problem of drug production.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), associating himself with the European Union, said despite economic, political and developmental gains, many challenges remained.  “L.8” was a unique opportunity for the international community to unite in its effort to build lasting peace and development.  Underlining the concept of sustaining peace, he said Belgium had decided to increase its presence on the ground and continue providing mine clearance assistance with the aim of making Afghanistan mine-free by 2023.  Underscoring the critical principle of national ownership in the peace process, including the Kabul process, he welcomed recent strides in the area of human rights and urged the Government to further investigate the situation of children in detention centres.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said despite achievements, a rollback in economic development and a deterioration of the political situation had occurred in 2017.  “Our ultimate test will be whether Afghanistan achieves self-reliance to the point where donors no longer need to announce multi‑year pledges,” he said.  Inclusivity was the key to political stability.  While the violent extremism that undermined social and economic stability was primarily rooted in weak governance, a lack of unity among regional stakeholders was exacerbating those challenges.  Pointing to recent research into the situation on the ground, he said it was time for the Security Council to consider how it could incorporate such findings into the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) mandate renewal.

TAREK AHMED MAHFOUZ AHMED MAHFOUZ (Egypt), underlining the United Nations vital role in Afghanistan, said his country had consistently supported efforts to combat terrorism and bring safety, security and development to all Afghan people.  Voicing support for planned elections in 2018, he cautioned that opium production posed a major risk to Afghanistan and all countries of the region.  Because narcotics financed terrorism, efforts to address drug trafficking could not be separated from counter‑terrorism strategies.  Better prevention was needed, including through a comprehensive, international strategic framework to counter extremist ideologies.  Egypt would continue to provide targeted support in that area and other sectors such as health, banking and agriculture.

EUGENIO CARLUCCI (Italy), echoing concerns over increasingly frequent terrorist attacks, said renewed international support was needed.  The best path to peace and security lay in an inclusive reconciliation process incorporating all actors, especially women.  Voicing support for the Kabul process, he said the region’s overall stability hinged on resolving the conflict and all stakeholders must converge around that common interest.  Strengthening the capabilities of the Afghan forces was essential, he added, pledging Italy’s support for NATO training, advising and assistance activities.  Emphasizing that Afghan citizens must be empowered so they would continue placing their trust in the country’s democratic institutions, he spotlighted the importance of legislative and district elections planned for 2018, the effective implementation of internal Government reforms and the fight against corruption.

GEORGI VELIKOV PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), associating himself with the European Union, expressed support for the National Unity Government and its aims to establish peace and stability.  A secure and prosperous Afghanistan remained vital to the entire region and the wider international community, yet the current volatile security and humanitarian environment remained to be addressed.  Commending Government gender and anti‑corruption reform efforts, he said regional support and cooperation was essential for the country’s security and development, and United Nations support for electoral reform, human rights and women’s issues remained crucial.  For its part, Bulgaria had been a long-term partner of Afghanistan, organizing training courses for diplomats, police officers and civil servants and supporting United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and International Organization for Migration (IOM) programmes.

AKSOLTAN ATAEVA (Turkmenistan), noting her country’s contributions in energy, transport, development, education and health-care sectors, said economic growth, creating new jobs, implementing social programmes and improving education all had positive impacts on Afghanistan and helped to entrench peace.  Turkmenistan had hosted a conference on regional economic cooperation that focused on the development of constructive partnership, particularly in transport and energy.  Noting that railway corridors were aimed at creating modern and diversified infrastructure that could reach east to west and north to south, she said the signing of the five-party agreement to establish an international transit corridor was particularly essential in that regard.

YASHAR T. ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said continued regional and international commitment and assistance was crucial for maintaining gains and fulfilling Afghanistan’s aspiration to achieve peace.  Pointing out that enhanced engagement between Afghanistan and its neighbours was essential, he said the Baku International Sea Trade Port and the recently opened Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad would help to develop transport and transit links and provide fast and reliable connections, increased trade and new business opportunities for Afghanistan and other countries in the region.  Azerbaijan would continue to support the stabilization, peaceful reconstruction and development of Afghanistan through bilateral cooperation and relevant multilateral international and regional frameworks.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan), welcoming intensified political efforts among national, regional and international partners, expressed hope that the Afghanistan‑Hizb‑i Islami agreement would lead to peace and reconciliation.  He also voiced hope that efforts to address regional concerns would now move more dynamically, given that India and Pakistan had recently been admitted as full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  Raising a concern over the emergence of terrorist groups in the north and the threats they posed in Central Asia, he said the situation in Afghanistan played a special role in ensuring long-term regional stability and voiced support for the Secretary-General’s focus on preventive diplomacy.  Other alarming trends were the rapidly expanding opium poppy cultivation and increased drug production, both requiring international efforts to achieve positive results, and Afghanistan’s deteriorating humanitarian situation, which called for security and development efforts to be pursued on parallel tracks.

Counter UAVs to drive enemy drones out of the sky

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DronesCounter UAVs to drive enemy drones out of the sky

Published 20 November 2017


mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;mso-bidi-language:HE”>Defense drones to seek out and bring down hostile military UAVs are being developed in Australia.
Military drones have changed the landscape of the modern battlefield in recent years, but the technology to counter them has not kept pace. Reacting to this gap in the market the startup is developing two models in Adelaide, South Australia. The first is a compact counter UAV drone with metal rotors that can be stored in a soldier’s pack and launched when an enemy drone is believed to be in the area.


mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;mso-bidi-language:HE”>Military drones have changed the landscape of the modern battlefield in recent years, but according to My Sky Technologies Director Steve Auch-Schwelk, the technology to counter them has not kept pace.


mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;mso-bidi-language:HE”>Reacting to this gap in the market the startup is developing two models in Adelaide, South Australia. The first is a compact counter UAV drone with metal rotors that can be stored in a soldier’s pack and launched when an enemy drone is believed to be in the area.


mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;mso-bidi-language:HE”>Using a range of sensors including RF, infrared, video and GPS, the 600-gram drone can quickly locate and reach an enemy UAV and then attack it with saw-like rotors to bring it down.


mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;mso-bidi-language:HE”>“We’ve created a man-portable, field-deployable fire-and-forget counter UAV solution,” Auch-Schwelk said.


mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;mso-bidi-language:HE”>“You can have a few of these in your pack and you pull them out, the blades snap open and it autonomously searches, classifies, tracks, engages and destroys.”


mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;mso-bidi-language:HE”>The counter-attack drone reaches speeds of up to 250kmh, can fly to an altitude of 5000m and has a range of about 8km.

“What people don’t realise is that these little walnut-sized motors on here are about as powerful as your average circular saw and we’ve got four of these so when you add metal props there are not many commercial drones it won’t cut through.”

The second model, which uses a similar suite of sensors and is just as portable, is designed to provide fast battlefield assessments.

“If you come under fire and you don’t know where it is coming from you can throw one of these things up into the air and it will go up about 200m to get a tactical picture of radio chatter, heat signatures and acoustic firing lines,” Auch-Schwelk said.

“If you are in a forward position, the same model can scan out a particular area and you can also strap wings to it to give it a longer range.”

Global Community Cannot Continue Failing Children, Says Secretary-General in Observance Remarks, Stressing ‘This Is Completely Unacceptable’

Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks on World Children’s Day, in New York today:

Thank you, Tony [Lake, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director].

As Secretary‑General, it’s my job to meet with some of the most powerful and important people in the world.  Presidents and prime ministers, scientists, military leaders, scholars and academics, captains of industry and business.

But none of these people are as important — or as inspiring — as the children I meet, like you.  Today, the day we celebrate the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, I want to speak directly to the children in this room, and through them, to all children around the world.

Dear young people, the future of our planet… the future peace of our world… is in your hands.  I am sorry to say that, try as we might, we adults are letting you down.  Millions of girls and boys like you are in danger, and we are letting them down.  They are fleeing deadly conflicts.  They are going hungry, or without the medicine they need.  They are separated from their parents.  Or making long, dangerous journeys to safety.

They are displaced and living in refugee camps far from home — like the children I have met in South Sudan, Greece, Central African Republic, Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere.  Many are being bullied online or in school.  Or suffer from discrimination because of their religion, the colour of their skin or their ethnicity.  And so often, they are victims of violence or exploitation at the hands of adults.

All this is completely unacceptable.  As a global community, we cannot continue failing all the children.  So here is my commitment to you:  I will spare no effort to make sure that the United Nations is working every day, every hour, every minute, for your best interests, and UNICEF is on the front line of this effort.

Every child has a right to a safe, healthy, peaceful childhood and to develop to their full potential.  Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders, tomorrow’s presidents and prime ministers, tomorrow’s teachers and innovators, tomorrow’s mothers and fathers, even tomorrow’s Secretaries‑General of the United Nations.

Every day, all of us at the United Nations ask ourselves:  how can we work together to best support and protect you, the children of the world?  And how can we benefit from your vision and your suggestions?  How can we shape a more sustainable future that will give every child, in every society, every opportunity not merely to survive, but to thrive?  I’m so glad to see so many young people who have travelled here today, because we must also ask ourselves: what do children think?  What kind of world do you want?  I want to hear your ideas and dreams for the future.

Whenever I meet children — including and especially those living in the poorest, most desperate situations, suffering terrible hardships — they never fail to inspire me with their smiles, their laughter, their vision and their hope.  In a world that can so often seem to be a hopeless place, we need children’s hope, more than ever.

And so today — World Children’s Day — the walls of the United Nations will echo with the voices, and the hopes, of children.  As Secretary‑General, I pledge to you that we will listen and do our best to honour that hope.

I feel inspired by the thousands of children from all regions who helped to design the Sustainable Development Agenda.  As we pursue the Sustainable Development Goals — which represent the promises the Governments of the world have made to shape a better world for every person, and for every child — we remain committed to being informed by your important views, your ideas, your suggestions, your plans.

The future of the world is in children’s hands.  But we can never forget that children’s futures are in our hands.  There is no greater responsibility.  No more important job.  And no better pathway to a better, healthier, more peaceful world for every person, every family and every child.

Speech by Michel Barnier at the Centre for European Reform on 'The Future of the EU'

Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank the Centre for European Reform, and its Director, Charles Grant, for inviting me today.

If I may say so, it is good to see that this UK-based centre is stepping up its presence in Brussels. Good timing!

It feels a bit unusual to speak about Brexit here.

Because this is a conference on the future of the EU.

And Brexit is about disentangling the UK from the EU, and settling the past.

But Brexit could prove to be a turning point in the European project.

For future historians, the year 2016 – with the UK referendum, the change of power in Washington, geopolitical tensions, terrorist attacks, and the rise of populist parties – will perhaps be seen as a time of awakening.

2016 could become the moment when the EU realised that it had to stand up for itself. And that nobody would do for us what we don’t do for ourselves.

In 2012, the UK Prime Minister published a table to show his strong support of the Single Market and incidentally his support for the Commissioner in charge of the Single Market.

It shows that, in 2050, there will be no European countries left in the G8. But by remaining together, the 27 will stay, in the long term, in the top 5.

We need to continue speaking with one voice in the world. Even though we speak many different languages, as the novelist Fernando Pessoa said. Otherwise we will not sit at the table where decisions are made.

And we also need to act together to build a stronger Europe.

  • The Eurozone needs a more complete Banking Union and a fiscal capacity with a finance minister. The EU needs a more integrated Capital Markets Union. Such increased risk sharing needs common rules and common enforcement.
  • The EU needs a stronger capacity to prevent and tackle internal and external threats – with stronger cooperation in fighting terrorism, but also with respect for fundamental rights.
  • The EU needs a truly common foreign policy and European defence.
  • The EU needs to lead on global challenges, from climate change to openness in trade based on its social market economy. And it needs to continue leading in global financial regulation, to make finance work for the real economy.
  • And we need more solidarity in our Union – with a humane and efficient migration policy, and a strong pillar of social rights, as agreed last Friday in Gothenburg.

This stronger European Union will want to have a close relationship with the UK.

We have a shared history – it started long before the last 44 years.

That is why the “no deal” is not our scenario. Even though we will be ready for it.

I regret that this no deal option comes up so often in the UK public debate.

Only those who ignore, or want to ignore, the current benefits of European Union membership can say that no deal would be a positive result.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There are three keys to building a strong partnership with the UK.

First, we need to agree on the terms for the UK’s orderly withdrawal.

The 27 Member States and the European Parliament have been always very clear on what this means.

And we have been consistent:

  • on citizens’ rights;
  • on settling the accounts accurately; we owe this to taxpayers as well as to all those benefiting from EU-funded projects, in the UK and the EU;
  • on Ireland.

Let me say a few words on Ireland specifically.

We need to preserve stability and dialogue on the island of Ireland.

We need to avoid a hard border.

I know that this point is politically sensitive in the UK.

It is not less sensitive in Ireland.

Some in the UK say that specific rules for Northern Ireland would “endanger the integrity of the UK single market”.

But Northern Ireland already has specific rules in many areas that are different to the rest of the UK.

Think of the “all-Island” electricity market, or of the specific regulations for plant health for the whole island of Ireland.

Think of rules that prevent and handle animal disease, which I know well as a former Minister for Agriculture.

There are over one hundred areas of cross-border cooperation on the island of Ireland.

Such cooperation depends in many cases on the application of common rules and common regulatory space.

We have nearly finished our common reading of the Good Friday Agreement. We have agreed on the principles for the Common Travel Area.

The UK and the EU have recognised that Ireland poses specific challenges. And that the unique circumstances there require a specific solution.

On the EU side, we must preserve the integrity of the Single Market and the Customs Union at 27. The rules for this are clear.

The UK said it would continue to apply some EU rules on its territory. But not all rules.

What is therefore unclear is what rules will apply in Northern Ireland after Brexit. And what the UK is willing to commit to, in order to avoid a hard border.

I expect the UK, as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, to come forward with proposals.

The island of Ireland is now faced with many challenges.

Those who wanted Brexit must offer solutions.

***

The second key is the integrity of the Single Market.

Public debate on what leaving the EU means needs to be intensified. Everywhere. Not only in the UK.

There are two contradicting sound bites from ardent advocates of Brexit:

  • The UK will finally “set itself free” from EU regulations and bureaucracy, some claim.
  • Others claim that – after Brexit – it will still be possible to participate in parts of the Single Market. Simply because we have been together for more than four decades, with the same rules, and we can continue to trust each other.

None of these views seems to offer a sound basis for going forward.

The same people who argue for setting the UK free also argue that the UK should remain in some EU agencies. But freedom implies responsibility for building new UK administrative capacity.

On our side, the 27 will continue to deepen the work of those agencies, together. They will share the costs for running those agencies. Our businesses will benefit from their expertise. All of their work is firmly based on the EU Treaties which the UK decided to leave.

Those who claim that the UK should “cherry-pick” parts of the Single Market must stop this contradiction.

The Single Market is a package, with four indivisible freedoms, common rules, institutions and enforcement structures. The UK knows these rules like the back of its hand. It has contributed to defining them over the last 44 years. With a certain degree of influence…

We took note of the UK decision to end free movement of people.

This means that the UK will lose the benefits of the Single Market. This is a legal reality.

The EU does not want to punish, once again.

It simply draws the logical consequence of the UK’s decision to take back control.

On financial services, UK voices suggest that Brexit does not mean Brexit –Brexit means Brexit, everywhere.

They say there would be no changes in market access for UK-established firms.

They say joint UK-EU Rules would be decided in a new “symmetrical process” between the EU and the UK, and outside of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

This would contradict the April European Council guidelines, which stress the autonomy of EU decision-making, the integrity of our legal order and of the Single Market.

The legal consequence of Brexit is that UK financial service providers lose their EU passport. This passport allows them to offer their services to a market of 500 million consumers and 22 million businesses.

But the EU will have the possibility to judge some UK rules as equivalent, based on a proportional and risk-based approach. And in those areas where EU legislation foresees equivalence.

The global financial crisis was not so long ago.

It destroyed value and millions of jobs.

It was the cause of social suffering, including in the UK.

Let’s not have a short memory! We will not compromise on financial stability – we will never compromise on financial stability – in the EU and in the Eurozone.

Globally, we will continue our regulatory cooperation in the G20, in the Financial Stability Board, and perhaps even through bilateral regulatory dialogues, like we have with the United States.

We will remain committed to convergence of global rules. And avoid fragmentation of financial markets.

Once again, the integrity of the Single Market is not negotiable.

The Single Market is one of our main public goods. It is the main reason why countries around the world – such as China, Japan, and the US – look to us as a strong partner.

***

Ladies and gentlemen,

The UK will, of course, have access to the Single Market. But this is different from being part of the Single Market.

And a good deal on our future relationship should facilitate this access as much as possible. And avoid a situation where trade would happen under the WTO rules for goods and services.

To achieve this, there is a third key: we need to ensure a level playing field between us.

This will not be easy. For the first time ever in trade talks, the challenge will be to limit divergence of rules rather than maximise convergence.

There will be no ambitious partnership without common ground in fair competition, state aid, tax dumping, food safety, social and environmental standards.

It is not only about rules or laws. It is about societal choices – for health, food standards, our environment and financial stability.

The UK has chosen to leave the EU. Does it want to stay close to the European model or does it want to gradually move away from it?

The UK’s reply to this question will be important and even decisive because it will shape the discussion on our future partnership and shape also the conditions for ratification of that partnership in many national parliaments and obviously in the European Parliament. I do not say this to create problems but to avoid problems.

Ladies and gentlemen,

If we manage to negotiate an orderly withdrawal, fully respect the integrity of the Single Market, and establish a level playing field, there is every reason for our future partnership to be ambitious.

This is our preferred option. This is why we have started internal preparations with Member States. To be ready to talk about the future, as soon as we will have agreed on how to settle the past.

The EU will of course be ready to offer its most ambitious FTA approach.

And the future partnership should not be limited to trade. It should be based on our common values. We need to work together to protect the security of our citizens, to combat crime and terrorism, in Europe and globally and logically we will need to cooperate on foreign and defence challenges.

But in none of these fields, the EU will wait for the UK. We must continue to advance.

We are negotiating new free trade agreements in addition to the ones we already have with 60 countries.

We will continue to develop our internal market and to make it fit for digitalisation; we will step up our investment in research and innovation; we will continue to use the strength of this internal market to shape globalisation.

We will continue to show solidarity to refugees, while better protecting our external borders and tackling root causes of migration, notably by continuing our development policy, in particular with Africa, where the EU and the UK will keep a mutual interest.

And we are developing our defence cooperation, with unprecedented steps taken to set up a European Defence Fund and, last week, to finally launch the Permanent Structured Cooperation on which I worked closely with Chris Patten at the time – a very different time.

Against the backdrop of global turmoil in an interconnected world, Europe is today more necessary than ever. The future of Europe is more important than Brexit.

But in all these fields, the EU is willing to cooperate with the UK. And it will be in the UK’s interest to have a strong EU as a close partner.

I hope that these ideas and orientations will help the discussion that John Bruton, Monique Ebell, Peter Mandelson and also Paul Adamson with now have on squaring the Brexit circle, in which I find myself.

Thank you for your attention.

European Parliament President promotes African Week at the European Parliament. On Wednesday he will open the high-level conference on ‘A new partnership with Africa’

Press Release

Brussels

20-11-2017

Antonio Tajani 
Antonio Tajani

European Parliament’s African week, an initiative promoted by President Tajani ahead of the EU-Africa Summit in Abidjan, has begun. Many Parliament committees and delegations will be involved in colloquia, meetings and debates with the aim of setting the terms of a new partnership with Africa.

The week’s main event is the high-level conference which will be held on the afternoon of Wednesday, 22 November in the Chamber and which President Tajani will open at 14.00. The speakers will include Faustin-Archange Touadéra, President of the Central African Republic, Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Roger Nkodo Dang, President of the Pan-African Parliament, Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank, Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the Commission, Abdoulaye Diop, Foreign Minister of Mali, European Commissioners Günther Oettinger, Karmenu Vella, Neven Mimica and Mariya Gabriel and African Union Commissioners Amani Abou-Zeid, Albert Muchanga and Josefa Leonel Correa Sacko.

Looking ahead to the conference, the President of the European Parliament said:

“In recent years we have lost sight of the fact that Africa’s problems are Europe’s problems too. We are not linked only by geography, but also by shared strategic interests, by major challenges and opportunities which we must address together. The time has come to put Africa at the top of the EU’s agenda.

“Ahead of the Abidjan Summit, Africa Week highlights the central role which the European Parliament intends to play in setting the terms of a new EU-Africa partnership. We must look towards Africa’s young people. We must involve them in a project which uses effective tools to offer them real prospects and the hope of a stable, secure and prosperous future in their own countries. If we fail, in the coming years not tens of thousands but millions of them will spare no sacrifice to seek a better future in Europe.

“We must act now, before it’s too late, through a Union which speaks with one voice. We must secure the political consensus needed to bring about a radical overhaul of our policies in Africa, starting with a properly funded multiannual budget. I am thinking of a Marshall Plan for Africa which can attract hundreds of billions of euros in investment and support Africa’s transition to a future founded on a sustainable manufacturing base, modern farming and network infrastructure. We can use that investment, channelled through a partnership between equals which involves the private sector and civil society, to promote real economic diplomacy, transfer technology, industrial know-how and professional skills and so help to create a climate conducive to entrepreneurship.”

The conference is one of a series promoted by President Tajani with a view to bringing Europe closer to its citizens, ahead of the 2019 European elections, through debates on topics of particular importance.

A press conference with EP President Antonio Tajani and other leaders is scheduled for 15.30 on Wednesday, 22 November in the Anna Politkovskaya Room. The event can be followed live here.

The detailed programme for the conference at the EP can be found here.

In July, Parliament gave the go-ahead for an EU investment plan intended to address the root causes of migration in Africa.

For further information:

europarl.president.press@europarl.europa.eu