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UN chief urges engagement with Taliban, inclusive Afghan govt


United Nations - Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls dialogue 'absolutely essential'


Published: Sun 12 Sep 2021, 9:46 AM

Last updated: Sun 12 Sep 2021, 9:49 AM

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that dialogue with Taliban is “absolutely essential” as the UN wants the war-torn country to play a “constructive role” in international relations.

“We want the Afghan people to live in peace; that we want the Afghan people to be able to stop the dramatic suffering that has existed in the past;”, he said at a press conference ahead of the 76th session of UN General Assembly.

“We want, naturally, the Government of Afghanistan to be an inclusive government, representing the different sectors of the Afghan population; that we want Afghanistan never to be a sanctuary for terrorism anymore; that we want basic human rights, and I’m particularly concerned, of course, with women and girls’ rights to be respected; and that we want Afghanistan to play a constructive role in international relations. That’s what we all want”, the UN chief said, while responding to a question.

“Now,” he added, “it’s important that independently of different strategies, of different forms of contact, all countries are able to convey the same message and to engage with the Taliban in an effective way.

“Our choice, as UN, was clear: The UN has not the leverage that others have, as is well known, but the UN has been in Afghanistan since ‘47. The UN has a key role to play in humanitarian aid to a people that is now in a desperate situation.

“And so, we decided that it was our duty to engage the Taliban, to create the conditions for the possibility of effective humanitarian aid, impartial, to reach all areas and to take into account our concerns in relation to women and girls, for instance, to engage the Taliban.

“That’s the reason why I sent Martin Griffiths (the UN humanitarian chief) to Kabul,” the secretary-general

said, adding that he was the first person in the world at that level who went there to speak to the Taliban leadership.

“We are permanently engaging with the Taliban, and we believe that a dialogue with the Taliban is absolutely essential at the present moment.”

Replying to a question on the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) up for renewal next week, Guterres said he believes “it is not possible with the level of unpredictability that exists to do a new mandate for UNAMA, an entirely new mandate for UNAMA, with the new government in Kabul.

“I hope that the consensus will be in a technical rollover for a short period, allowing time for a more clear perspective about what the situation is in Afghanistan and what the role of the UN should be,” Guterres said.

He said that he thinks it is prudent to do a technical rollover and to have the time to engage sufficiently to be able to have a more clear perspective about the future, “to define the characteristics of the mandate of UNAMA that will necessarily be different from the present mandate, for different reasons.”

While the decision about the UNAMA mandate renewal will be taken by the Member States, Guterres said he hopes it will be “possible to have a short, technical rollover to allow for a more well-prepared, new mandate for UNAMA, taking into account the new realities.”

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