Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Brian Cowen, T.D., on the situation in Afghanistan
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Brian Cowen, T.D., this evening again stressed the urgent need to address the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. He said that the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis would depend, to a large extent, on how quickly the security situation could be brought under control. He therefore expressed particular concern at the latest reports of factional fighting in Mazar-e-Sharif and the possible link between this fighting and the control of humanitarian aid.
Ireland has consistently used every opportunity at the UN Security Council to express its concern at the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, including the continued insecurity which is preventing deliveries to certain areas, and has sought regular briefings on developments. The Minister emphasised again the need to ensure security for the distribution of humanitarian assistance, particularly as conditions on access routes deteriorate with the approach of winter.
The Minister welcomed the progress in the campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban and expressed the hope that the fighting could be brought to an early conclusion with the minimum of casualties.
The Minister also referred to reports of extra judicial killings in Afghanistan and repeated his call for those involved in the fighting to respect international law, particularly in relation to the treatment of prisoners.
Referring to last week's events in Mazar-e-Sharif, the Minister stressed that, notwithstanding the prevailing conflict situation and the sustained cycle of violence in Afghanistan, it was essential that human rights and humanitarian obligations be respected. He considered it necessary, therefore, for the facts of what took place in Mazar-e-Sharif to be fully established and made known. Only in this way, he stated, could the claims of human rights violations be allayed. The Minister noted the intention of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to send two field missions to the region to investigate reports and looked forward to their assessment.
The Minister recalled that the long term peace and prosperity of the Afghan people depends on the establishment of a Government which enjoys support across the various tribal groupings. He welcomed reports of progress from the UN sponsored conference in Bonn and expressed the Government's full support for the efforts of UN Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi.