Friday, March 08, 2019

UN Chief Urges Speedy Afghan Government and Taliban Talks - nytimes

UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling for immediate talks between Afghanistan's government and the Taliban, saying the current moment represents "perhaps the most significant chance" to find a negotiated resolution of the country's 17-year war.

The U.N. chief stressed in a report to the Security Council circulated Thursday that "a sustainable peace agreement can be reached only through comprehensive intra-Afghan dialogue."

Guterres expressed hope that progress in U.S. talks with the Taliban will bring about direct talks between Taliban insurgents and the government.

"I call for the beginning of immediate, direct and substantive talks, towards the hope of ending this conflict and its unacceptable toll in lives," he said.

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is currently holding talks with the Taliban in Qatar, which are now in their second week. This has raised expectations there could be some progress.

Khalilzad has said he sees himself as a "catalyst" to finding a formula for Afghans to sit down with each other and work out a roadmap for a peaceful future. He also said he wants intra-Afghan negotiations to start immediately.

Despite stepped-up U.S. efforts to end America's longest war, attacks have continued in Afghanistan.

Guterres said the security situation in the country remains volatile, with a high number of security incidents. Saying he remains "profoundly concerned by the impact of the armed conflict on the civilian population," he pointed to recent U.N. figures documenting "record-high numbers of civilian deaths" — 3,804 people killed in 2018.

Last year, the secretary-general said, the Taliban succeeded in temporarily capturing 21 district administrative centers, the second-highest level since Afghan forces took over responsibility for security at the end of 2014.

The Islamic State extremist group is also "resilient despite Afghan and international military forces maintaining a high tempo of operations against its strongholds in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces," Guterres said. - More

UN Chief Urges Speedy Afghan Government and Taliban Talks - The ...


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