Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun at the UN Security Council Briefing on Afghanistan
29 August 2022
I thank the Russian Federation for its initiative to hold this meeting. And I thank Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths, Deputy Special Representative Markus Potzel and Dr. Lucy Morgan Edwards for the briefings.
Exactly a year ago, Kabul was going through the most surreal moment. Foreign troops hurriedly evacuated from the airport. Explosions echoed outside the airport. Civilians fell from military planes that were forcibly taking off. And soldiers shot innocent civilians. The world was shocked to see all these kinds of chaos. A two-decade long war ended in panic, chaos and ignominy. Looking back at these 20 years, we cannot help but ask, what did this war bring us?
This war, waged in the name of counter-terrorism, did not eliminate terrorist forces in Afghanistan. Instead, terrorist activities became more and more rampant, and terrorist forces such as Daesh continue to grow.
This war claimed more than 200,000 lives, including 50,000 Afghan civilians, more than 60,000 military police and thousands of foreign soldiers. It has left millions of people homeless and displaced. Behind every lost life is a family in anguish. Another 20 years might not be sufficient to heal their wounds.
This war, waged under the banner of democratic transformation, did not bring peace, stability or prosperity, but rather left behind a fragmented and shattered country. Although foreign troops have withdrawn, the impact of war is still ongoing, and Afghan people are still suffering from various consequences.
The fiasco of the past 20 years has once again proved that military intervention and power politics are not the right way, foreign models and democratic transformation cannot win the hearts and minds of the people, and the tragedy in Afghanistan should never be allowed to repeat. China has always stressed that the withdrawal of foreign troops is not the end of responsibility, but rather the beginning of reflection and correction. The countries concerned should have seriously reflected on their mistakes and corrected them in a timely manner, instead of walking away with a shrug of shoulders. Regrettably, rather than fulfilling their due responsibilities, relevant countries have cut off development aid, frozen Afghan assets, and imposed political isolation and blockade. This is not only just evading responsibility and abandoning the Afghan people, but also perpetuating the mistakes and exacerbating the sufferings of the Afghan people. What is more perplexing is that we do not see any reflection in humility or mistake correction with sincerity. On the contrary, what we hear is malicious accusations against and attacks on others.
With the withdrawal of foreign troops, the Afghan people have an opportunity to truly take control of their own destiny. The past year has seen the Afghan interim government in action and significant improvement of the security situation. The interim government has promoted political dialogue and recently held a new Loya Jirga. At present, so many things await to be done in the country. And its peaceful reconstruction faces multiple challenges. The country still has a long way to go. We expect the Afghan interim government to pursue sound and inclusive domestic and foreign policies, actively safeguard and improve people’s livelihood, resolutely combat terrorism, and live in harmony with all countries, including its neighbors. The international community should support Afghanistan in advancing its peaceful reconciliation, restoring public services and market activities, and engaging in regional and international economic and trade cooperation.
The international community should enhance its engagement with the Afghan interim government in a rational and pragmatic manner. Since 2019, to facilitate dialogue on peace and stability in the country, the Security Council has, based on US proposal, decided to grant exemption to the travel ban for some Taliban personnel. From the very beginning, this was not a reward to anyone or a bargaining chip in negotiations on other issues. Regrettably, however, certain Council members now oppose the extension of the exemption, citing Taliban’s failure to live up to its commitment on women and girls rights. There is no doubt that the rights of Afghan women and girls should be guaranteed, and we expect efforts by the Afghan authority in this regard. At the same time, linking the two issues is unreasonable. Ending exemption will only close the door to dialogue, exacerbate antagonism and division, and it will never achieve the desired effect. We call on the countries concerned to take a constructive stance by supporting the extension of the existing exemption.
As we learned from the briefings, at present, the humanitarian situation in the country is grave, and the survival and development of tens of millions of people, including women and girls, worrying. Many women and girls have no food or clothing, and some families even rely on selling organs and children to survive. Without food, survival is out of the question. Then how do you expect girls going to school or even a woman taking part in political life in such circumstances? It is ethically hypothetical and practically lethal to claim to care about the rights of Afghan women and girls, while slashing humanitarian and development aid to the country and stubbornly maintaining unilateral sanction against the country.
The current humanitarian and economic predicament faced by the country is resulted from the lack of liquidity and economic stagnation caused by foreign sanctions. Afghanistan’s overseas assets belong to the Afghan people, and freezing these assets is tantamount to depriving them of their life-saving money. We have noticed that more than 70 renowned scholars published an open letter earlier this month, calling on the United States to immediately return the frozen assets in full, pointing out that splitting the frozen 7 billion US dollars is arbitrary and unjustified. Once again, we urge the United States to return these assets to Afghanistan in full without delay and conditions.
As the largest neighbor of Afghanistan, China has always firmly supported its peace, stability and development, and we have been making huge efforts in this regard. Since last winter. The Chinese Government has provided emergency assistance of 300 million RMB to the country, and imported more than 1,400 tons of Afghan pine nuts through the air corridor of pine nuts, helping the Afghan people, including many housewives, increase their revenue. Apart from contributing to the UN Humanitarian Response Plan for Afghanistan, China is following through on the announced bilateral aid of 1 billion RMB. And we will actively expand economic and trade cooperation with Afghanistan and promote the country’s integration into regional cooperation. China has always delivered on its promise of assistance that benefits Afghan people and reflect equality and mutual respect. We urge the international community, especially the countries responsible for the war, to take concrete actions to continue helping the Afghan people, not to abandon them or punish them. Afghanistan needs the help of the international community, and the world also needs a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.