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.