A senior Pakistani Foreign Ministry official has reaffirmed that his government will comply with a plan to enforce sanctions against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban despite objections to those measures. The official told reporters at UN headquarters that Pakistan is also working with Taliban and U.S. officials on ways of solving the main cause of the sanctions -- the Taliban's refusal to extradite accused terrorist Osama bin Laden. RFE/RL UN correspondent Robert McMahon reports.
United Nation, 22 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Pakistan's deputy foreign minister says UN sanctions against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban have indirectly affected his country, but he reaffirmed compliance with new efforts to strengthen enforcement of the sanctions.
Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Inam-Ul-Haque told reporters yesterday (21 August) that he has discussed the sanctions issue with the current UN Security Council president, Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso of Colombia.
"We conveyed the view that sanctions have had an adverse impact on the people of Afghanistan and also indirectly on Pakistan because almost 200,000 Afghan people over the past few months have moved into Pakistan, and most of them are economic refugees because they moved out partly because of the drought in Afghanistan and partially because of the imposition of sanctions."
UN officials recently released a report saying the impact of the sanctions on Afghan civilians has been minimal.
Anti-Taliban sanctions were first imposed by the council late in 1999. They were strengthened earlier this year by the addition of an arms embargo against the Taliban. Afghan opposition forces were not included in the arms embargo. The Security Council actions -- pressed by the United States and Russia -- call for the Taliban to turn over accused terrorist Osama bin Laden for extradition and to cease support for alleged terrorist bases in the country.
The Council has directed the UN Secretariat to follow through with plans to send UN monitors to Afghanistan's six neighboring states. The first phase of that plan -- the appointment of a special monitoring office at UN headquarters -- is due to be completed by the end of this month.
A committee of UN experts that recommended the monitoring plan in a report issued in May said the plan cannot be effective without the assistance of the Central Asian states bordering Afghanistan, in particular Pakistan. Pakistan is the only state in the region to recognize the Taliban government and is believed to be providing the Taliban with continued support in its conflict with the Northern Alliance.
Pakistani officials have repeatedly spoken out against the use of sanctions, saying they serve to further isolate the Taliban. But Pakistani officials insist they are not violating the UN embargo.
Ul-Haque met last week with U.S. State Department officials on a range of issues, including stability in the region, the restoration of democracy in Pakistan, non-proliferation concerns, and cooperation against terrorism.
The Pakistani foreign secretary told reporters at the United Nations yesterday that his government has been advising the Taliban that it needs to resolve the dispute over bin Laden. He said a number of ideas have been explored, but he stressed that Pakistan's influence is limited.
"We are not pushing any particular approach, but ideas are explored constantly on how this issue can be resolved, because you must remember that Afghanistan is an independent and sovereign country. Pakistan can only hold discussions with them. We cannot force them to take any actions, and we have, in fact, indicated to the United States that they should also engage with the Taliban and hold direct discussions with them on this issue."
Contacts between the United States and the Taliban are currently dominated by U.S. attempts to gain the release of citizens detained by the Taliban government on charges of illegally promoting Christianity.
A spokesman for the U.S. State Department, Philip Reeker, told reporters yesterday that efforts are continuing to bring about the release of the detainees, who are from Germany and Australia, as well as the United States. But Reeker indicated that contacts with the Taliban are not going well.
"The consular officer -- and I'm speaking for the American but, I think, also for the German and Australian colleagues -- plan[s] on maintaining contact with the Taliban's representatives in Islamabad, reiterating and reinitiating, as necessary, the requests for visas to return to Afghanistan and press for information about the health and condition of the detainees. This, of course, in and of itself, is insufficient."
Diplomats from the three countries returned from Afghanistan to Pakistan yesterday after an unsuccessful effort to see their citizens. Taliban officials refused to extend their visas until the investigation of their activities is complete.
The eight detainees are workers for the German-based Christian aid group Shelter Now International. Taliban officials have detained them on charges of trying to convert Afghan Muslims to Christianity, charges which could carry a prison sentence and expulsion from the country.