|Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun at Security Council Briefing on UNAMA|
I welcome Your Excellency Prime Minister Støre presiding over today's meeting. This meeting is very timely and crucial. I also welcome and thank Secretary-General Guterres for making time from his schedule to the meeting. I endorse his assessment of the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and support the UN in focusing on the saving of Afghan lives, the prevention of economic collapse and the establishment of trusted interaction. I also thank Special Representative Deborah Lyons, Ambassador Tirumurti, Chair of 1988 Sanctions Committee and Ms. Seraj for their briefings. I also welcome the presence of Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Iran.
For 20 years, this winter is the first war-free winter in Afghanistan. However, for the people in Afghanistan, this winter seems even colder and harder. After the hasty withdrawal of foreign troops last August, Afghan economy has been in free fall and the Afghan population is experiencing a humanitarian crisis of the worst kind.
We have seen that with the sudden withdrawal of foreign troops, in the past five months, the Afghan people have been experiencing an unfolding nightmare, with humanitarian aid on which many people rely on for their livelihood gone overnight. 95% of families are without enough food. More than one million children are suffering from malnutrition, and 23 million people are suffering from severe famine. At this rate, by the middle of the year, 97% of Afghan population will be impoverished and will not be able to afford to live on $2 a day. Rahmati, a mother in the Herat refugee camp, sold her right kidney and two daughters to get her family through the winter. Human tragedies are happening right now.
Secretary-General Guterres repeatedly made urgent appeals about the situation in Afghanistan and said that it's a race against time to help Afghan people. Unfortunately, without massive emergency action, it looks like we will lose this race. The Council adopted Resolution 2615 last month, affirming that the humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan does not violate the Council's sanction measures, clearing any legal obstacles that may exist. Unfortunately, there has been no fundamental change in the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Clearly, the key issue is not a legal obstacle, but a political one. It’s the politicization of the humanitarian issue. Humanitarian aid is being used as a bargaining chip, a political tool and the leverage. This is playing games with the lives and well-being of 38 million Afghans, who are in dire need of relief. This is morally unacceptable and strategically short-sighted and dangerous.
The more fundamental challenge facing the Afghan population and the international humanitarian agencies is that Afghan economy has not yet returned to normal functioning. Unilateral coercive measures have not only frozen more than 9 billion US dollars of Afghan assets abroad, but also severely hindered Afghanistan's access to international financing, leading to economic liquidity crunch, and stifling Afghanistan’s potential to resume economic development on its own. China welcomes the efforts of the World Bank and other international institutions to explore financing support for Afghanistan. But without a full injection of liquidity, the restoration and development of the domestic market and foreign trade, the efforts of international institutions will only be a drop in the bucket. In the current situation. unilateral sanctions have the effect of freezing not only Afghanistan's financial assets, but also the hopes of the Afghan people to survive. The unilateral sanctions are no less lethal than military intervention. It's starving and it's killing. Once again, we urge the immediate lifting of the asset freeze and unilateral sanctions against Afghanistan.
The international community is generally united in its expectation for the future of Afghanistan. We all hope that Afghanistan will adhere to a broad and inclusive political orientation, implement moderate and prudent internal and external policies, effectively protect the rights and interests of ethnic minorities, women and children, resolutely combat terrorism, and develop good neighborly cooperation. China's position in this regard is clear and has always been carrying out active work to this end. We need to increase engagement with Afghan interim government in a rational and pragmatic manner, enhance mutual trust, and exert positive influence. The Norwegian Government invited the Afghan interim government delegation to Oslo for talks. We believe such engagement and dialogue are useful.
At present, the international community should make it as its most important and urgent priority to help Afghanistan alleviate its humanitarian crisis and stabilize its economy. Adhering to the principle of Afghan-led and Afghan-owned certainly means respecting Afghan ownership and leadership of economic resources. It is essential to safeguard the rights of Afghan women and children, which also means providing them with much needed humanitarian help. If they can't even have food or survive, then the talk of education, employment and political participation will become empty words. The international community shares the goal of preventing Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorism. But if the humanitarian and economic situation in Afghanistan is allowed to continue to deteriorate, the only ones who will benefit from it are terrorists such as ISIS, Al Qaeda and The East Turkestan Islamic Movement.
China calls for a stronger sense of urgency from the international community and more humanitarian and economic assistance to Afghanistan, so as to bring warmth and hope to the Afghan people. Countries that have caused the current predicament in Afghanistan should more than others abandon the politicized approach and take urgent action to shoulder their primary responsibility.
As a neighbor and partner of Afghanistan, China has always made positive contributions to the peaceful development of Afghanistan. At the moment, China is stepping up efforts to deliver 200 million RMB humanitarian aid to the country. Supplies of all kinds are arriving in Afghanistan, in particular, the local provinces and cities in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, we have already opened up the air corridor and resume the export of Afghan pineapple to China, so as to alleviate the livelihood difficulties of the Afghan people.
China supports the active work done by UNAMA. At the moment, the most important task is to follow the advice by Secretary-General Guterres, and encourage the international community to provide urgent humanitarian assistance and help the Afghan people overcome the current difficulties. We support the important role of the UN in peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan and look forward to the reports and the recommendations from the Secretary-General. We stand ready to work with other Council members and regional countries to make viable and appropriate arrangements for the UNAMA mandate, that is in line with the current actual needs and respect the will of the Afghan people.
Thank you, Mr. President.