The UN peace envoy to Afghanistan will embark on a new round of negotiations with the country's warring sides amid new warnings from the UN Security Council directed at the ruling Taliban. The envoy has stressed to the council that Afghanistan's neighbors continue to hold the key to a lasting end to the fighting.
United Nations, 26 September 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Afghanistan's civil war has defied nearly all efforts for a UN-brokered solution but the latest envoy trusted with this mission says there may be some signs of hope.
The head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, briefed the UN Security Council yesterday (Monday) about his peace efforts of the past three months. Vendrell noted the recent Taliban military advances in the north, continuing human rights abuses, especially against women, and the humanitarian crisis caused by war and drought. But Vendrell told reporters afterward there were fresh signs that parties inside and outside of Afghanistan were working for a solution.
"There are lots of elements moving under the surface both in terms of Afghanistan itself as well as in terms of the position of various countries which are playing a role inside of Afghanistan."
The recent high-level meetings at UN headquarters of the "Six-plus-Two" countries resulted in the adoption of a plan to fight the Afghan opium trade and approval of a statement that called on parties to accept a political settlement. Vendrell says these developments are encouraging because they involve some of the countries who are aiding the warring sides in Afghanistan. It is known that Pakistan provides support to the Taliban and Iran gives assistance to the United Front forces.
The Six-plus-Two group also includes Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, China, Russia, and the United States.
In another development, Russian President Vladimir Putin is today (Tuesday) sending aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky to Pakistan with a message for its leader, General Pervez Musharraf.
The Six-plus-Two countries have pledged before to support a political settlement but later contributed to renewed military campaigns. The problem, Vendrell says, has been deep suspicion by the opposing sides that any letdown in military aid will be exploited by the other side.
"We need to find a mechanism when the interference by all sides would stop, more or less simultaneously. It's going to take time because the national interests of the Six-plus-Two countries are involved and we need to have patience."
Vendrell told reporters yesterday that he will resume his peace mission next week by meeting with Taliban leaders either in Kabul or Kandahar. He will then meet with the commander of the opposition forces, Ahmad Shah Masood, probably in Tajikistan.
The UN envoy says the Security Council and Six-plus-Two countries have asked him to report by the beginning of November on the willingness of the parties to achieve a cease-fire and enter into negotiations.
The Security Council made clear in a statement following the meeting with Vendrell that it holds the Taliban responsible for the failure of peace initiatives so far. It also reflected the alarm expressed by Russia and Central Asian states this summer over the possibility of the Afghan conflict spilling over their borders.
News reports said yesterday that clashes between the Taliban militia and opposition forces have spread to within three kilometers of the border with Tajikistan, within view of Russian border guards patrolling there.
The council's current president, Ambassador Moctar Ouane (say: MOKH'tahr, WAHN) of Mali read the council's statement:
"Members of the Council expressed concern at the growing spread of the Afghan conflict beyond its borders and at the destabilizing effects of the conflict on the neighboring countries."
The council said it was ready to impose further measures to force Taliban compliance with its resolutions concerning terrorism, drug trafficking and abuse of women's rights.
Vendrell said he believed such threats were beginning to have an impact on Taliban policy. He also said the Taliban leadership is very interested in obtaining international recognition, which would only come following compliance with council resolutions.
(The latest UN report on the situation in Afghanistan can be found at the following site: www.un.org/Docs/sc/reports/2000/sgrep00.htm)