SRSG Ján Kubiš press stakeout after his briefing to the Security Council
NEW YORK - Thank you very much for your attention, for your time. I am very happy to be here. It’s my first briefing to the Security Council in my new capacity as the head of UNAMA and the SRSG. I have been in the country for not more than two months. So I am pretty fresh with some previous exposures to the region and to the issues that are on the agenda. Video
I was very happy to hear confirmation of support to my mandate although as we know it will be [confirmed later] this week. We expect that the Security Council will extend the mandate of UNAMA for the coming twelve months. But nevertheless, in many of the statements they spoke about different parts of the mandate. They confirmed the importance of our presence not only in Kabul but also in many other locations on the ground throughout the country.
I was happy to hear very strong confirmation of the main components of our mandate, good offices and political outreach including regional engagement, human rights with special focus on women’s rights and then coherence of the work of the UN system and also everything we can do to help and deliver better more coherent support to Afghanistan by the whole international community and better support for the objectives of the Government also in this period of transition as the Government is assuming more and more responsibilities for not only security matters but also for matters in other areas.
These are just some points that I would like to mention. The discussion was very rich with a number of statements. You have received the report of the Secretary-General. You know what was said there, what is the assessment of the situation. I would be happy to take some of your questions.
Question: My question is what is the impact do the recent three major incidents – urination on the dead bodies of the Taliban, also the incident of killing, slaughter of families in Afghanistan and the incident of burning of Q’uran – have on UNAMA and the relationship between ISAF and the people of Afghanistan?
Ján Kubiš: Well, of course, these are very unfortunate incidents, indeed tragedies in many respects. They do have an impact on the thinking and the psychological environment in the country. I would like to say that and I acknowledge as well a very strong, a very robust response of notably the US authorities. Not only they came together with ISAF with very quick apology but also confirmed their commitment to full accountability. I believe that this is extremely important. Of course all of us are assessing the impact on our operations. As you know, unfortunately, in spite of many appeals that protests, expressions of sentiments of the populations should not become violent. That was the majority of the appeals coming from both religious leaders and elders in the country.
There were still some trying to incite violence. It happened that one of the United Nations offices was also attacked. Now, we are relocated, but only temporarily, our staff from that office. I would stress temporarily. We are assessing the security situation. We are in touch with both the authorities and but also with the population in the given location. Our intention is, after this assessment, perhaps after taking certain measures, to return back because we are there to help the Afghan people, we are there to stay, and we are committed to working together with Afghanistan and for Afghanistan. So, I would say that the impact was temporary, we need to assess but we are moving ahead and will be moving ahead in this very strong partnership with Afghanistan.
Question: In terms of the impact, it seems like the Afghans, I mean President Karzai has said maybe the US should now stay inside their bases as opposed to some of these forward operating bases. Also, they have complained that the US didn’t cooperate with an Afghan investigation into the shooting of the sixteen civilians. What do you make of those two statements? Do you think it is worse for UNAMA’s activities in next twelve months? And also on the issue of drugs, Pakistan seems to say that we need to pay more attention to this issue, regrettably worsening. I think Iran may have said the same thing to you. Is it true that the cultivation and trafficking of drugs are getting worse and how can that be with such a robust international presence in the country?
Ján Kubiš: As far as the first question is concerned, indeed this is more dialogue and discussion between the United States and ISAF and Afghanistan. And we are different. I would like indeed to make a point that we are the United Nations. We are in strong partnership with ISAF. We receive the mandate from the same body, from the UN Security Council. We have same objectives to work for Afghanistan for strengthening Afghanistan. But, these are two different operations. So, these kinds of questions indeed are for our partners from ISAF and the United States. They are part of the dialogue. I understand as far as night raids and other particulars of concrete operational activities, this is a part of the ongoing discussions. What is good is that the parties discussed modalities.
Secondly, with regard to drug production and trafficking, indeed unfortunately the respective UN agencies, UNODC, registered increase in both cultivation of poppy and production of heroin. We know what are the implications? It means, if you have such a situation, that definitely influences the economic life of the country, social life of the country, governance issues. A part of this finances not only criminal groups but also terrorism. So, there are definitely concerns. It is only justified that members of the Security Council are raising this issue. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that only approximately a month and half ago; there was an important meeting of the so-called Paris Pact in Vienna again addressing this issue. Equally importantly the countries in the region, they recognise this threat and they agreed in December last on a regional programme of cooperation with a number of specific objectives in a number of areas. So again, it is recognised that this is a challenge. This is a threat that something must be done. It must start at the source because one must indeed address first the reasons, the causes of the problem and then other manifestations and consequences of this problem.
Question: Can you elaborate about the death toll among the civilians from the drone activities, those predators or unmanned aircraft which are used in the area? What impact on the civilian mood and the political process?
Ján Kubiš: Again this is a well discussed issue, a sensitive issue. I would say that as far as Afghanistan is concerned, we speak more about aerial attacks than anything else. If you look at the statistics, I can confirm that both the Afghanistan National Security Forces and ISAF, through a number of technical guidelines, changes in operational postures, they managed to reduce, and if you look at the situation, reduce greatly if you look at the situation from the perspective of a number of years. By this, I don’t want in any case to say that we are happy. Any civilian casualty is civilian casualty and we appeal to all the parties, be it on pro-Government forces or anti-Government forces, to indeed to the utmost not to have and cause civilian casualties. This is our basic line.
Question: Do you think you can please comment a little more specifically on what exactly the impact was of the rampage allegedly by a US soldier in Afghanistan?
Ján Kubiš: Well you saw the impact, you saw the outrage that was very clear in the reporting. But once again I noticed not only this and I believe it is necessary to reduce this, but also a very quick, very sincere, very honest response of all the respective US authorities and the words of President Obama saying that “we would investigate this incident if as this civilian casualties were as our children our own citizens”. This is a very strong statement and I would like to acknowledge this there is a very sincere feeling of everyone being hurt – the victims, the families, but also the international military and the United States.
Question: Last month there was a report by (inaudible) on internally displaced people going to Kabul. That time, they said 28 children were (inaudible) frozen in camps in Kabul. (Inaudible) humanitarian I guess including UN humanitarian to do more about that. What has been taking place since then and also what do you think about the Security Council trip to Afghanistan (inaudible)? Do you think the conditions were right and accomplished security? What are your thoughts about that?
Ján Kubiš: Yes the situation happened and the winter was particularly harsh in Afghanistan and in Kabul. And yes, when it became clear what is happening, both the Afghan authorities rushed to assist with food, with blankets, with anything. This was an immediate response. But I believe that it is necessary to learn certain lessons from this. When addressing the issues of IDPs, refugees, it is not sufficient just to address the immediate humanitarian demands, request and needs of these people, but to look at the situation from a perspective of what next, how to address the situation in a more sustainable way, how to link humanitarian needs with long-term sustainable solutions. That can come only through finding solutions in the areas of development and integration of IDPs in the normal life of the country. Otherwise, they would always remain in their camps, in their (inaudible) without any perspective. That’s not a solution as we can see.
Question: On the Security Council?
Ján Kubiš: Well, it is for the Security Council to decide the major milestones that are there on the way of the international community and how we organise the international community, ourselves, to help Afghanistan. It means the Chicago Summit, after the Tokyo Ministerial Conference. But again, it is just me speaking. This is for the Security Council to decide what they would like to do.
Question: Have you been in contact with the Taliban at all? Do you think they will come back to the talks soon?
Ján Kubiš: Let’s put it like this. I noticed and of course we are analysing all statements of all parties that are to be taken into consideration and speaking about peace and reconciliation, including and perhaps first of all on the side of the anti-Government forces, of the Taliban. Their line is about suspending the talks. So, in a way, yes I understand there is need to look into the situation and to check what is happening, what are the red lines etc, how to proceed further. But I take it more from a positive side. There is no cancellation of the talks, not cancellation of the efforts. This is a very sensitive period when we are in the phase of exploration, perhaps checking what are the feelings, what are the objectives of the parties I mean we as the international community, we as Afghanistan, we as the key parties that are engaged from that perspective, not we as the United Nations because it is indeed and should be eventually Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process. It’s their business to assess what is the situation. But I take it more from the perspective: this is suspension, not cancellation.
Question: One of the reasons cited for this massacre that took place against the Afghan families is that the servicemen have been there for long time and they are not free to quit. Have you been discussing this with ISAF or the Government? Has it been discussed the service terms of these soldiers on the ground who have been there for eleven years some of them and distress involved in that.
Ján Kubiš: I am a person who used to question, but these kinds of questions are indeed not covered by my UN, UNAMA mandate. This is something that perhaps I would recommend you to address these kinds of questions to ISAF partners or the US military, and not to the United Nations. Thank you.