Iran Reaffirms Support for Afghan Prosperity

Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gholam Ali Khoshroo voiced support for UN development plans in Afghanistan, saying the Islamic Republic continues to provide health care and schooling for Afghan refugees and help them overcome challenges after returning home.

Strengthening regional cooperation with Afghanistan is a priority and a major pathway to consolidate peace and economy in the region, the Iranian envoy said in a speech to a United Nations Security Council session on “The Situation in Afghanistan”, held in New York on Wednesday.

The following is the full text of Mr. Khoshroo’s speech:

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Mr. President

I would like to express my appreciations to New Zealand for organizing this debate on the situation in Afghanistan. My thanks also go to the distinguished Ambassador of Afghanistan for his statement. I would like to welcome and thank Mr. Yamamoto, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for his briefing and presenting SG’s latest Report, as contained in document S/2016/768.

Unfortunately, security and instability remain the major challenges for Afghanistan. The SG’s latest report refers to 24 percent increase in the number of armed clashes comparing to the same period last year, while last year was reported as the highest number recorded since 2001 in terms of intensity of armed clashes. This continuing deterioration of the security situation in the country indicates that Afghanistan and the region is not any safer than a decade after its invasion.

Peace talks between the Afghan Government and Taliban, uncertainty prevails over any prospect for making peace with them. Iran reiterates its support for any Afghan-led peace process, at the same time, we condemn all violent attacks committed by Taliban and all other terrorist groups as well as any cooperation with them, since we believe this will encourage them in their odious behavior and thus counterproductive to establishing peace in Afghanistan.

In my pervious statement in June, I had warned about the emergence of ISIS and its offshoots in Afghanistan. During the same period we witnessed that the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan Province (ISIL KP) claimed the responsibility of the terrorist attack against a demonstration by ethnic Hazaras on July 23 which was the deadliest single incident recorded by the United Nations in Afghanistan since 2001. This is just another indication of this threat. ISIL-KP, along with the spectrum of other terrorist and extremist groups, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in north and the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkistan appear as an emerging security threat in Afghanistan.

Today, the Afghan National Unity Government is in forefront of fighting terrorism. The sustained support of the international community is much more needed to support the Afghan Government in its fight against terrorism and extremism, as well as to address its security, economic and political challenges.

Mr. President

Strengthening our regional cooperation with Afghanistan is a priority and a major pathway to consolidate peace and economy in the region. During the past decade, Iran has spent millions of dollars to help Afghanistan with the completion of almost 300 projects, ranging from infrastructure to training and capacity building in human resources, especially through offering hundreds of scholarships each year.

Afghanistan and Iran continue their cooperation in these fields. Following 23 May trilateral agreement with India, focused on the Iranian port of Chabahar, we held coordination meetings, at the governor’s level of the border provinces on 25 and 26 July to discuss security and new trade opportunities involving the Port. Afghan Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs visited Tehran on 3 August for discussions on trade, infrastructure, and the presence of Afghan nationals in Iran and Afghan National Security Advisor visited Iran on 6 and 7 August to discuss border security and countering violent extremism. The fifth Afghanistan-Iran Joint Economic Commission was held on 10 August in Tehran after a four-year interval.

Iran and Afghanistan are also committed to increase their connectivity with emphasis on the Khaf-Herat Railway, Mile 78 railroad project in Farah and the second bridge over Hirmand River.

Narcotic is a real threat for this region and beyond and should be addressed by the international community in a very serious and comprehensive manner. Any increase in narcotics is a reflection of the prevailing insecurity and poverty. Strong support and commitment from the international donors, the Afghan authorities and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is essential to deter the menace of narcotics as a social health challenge and more importantly, a major source of income for extremist and terrorist groups.

Iran continues to participate in the work of Tripartite Commission in order to plan for voluntary, safe, dignified and gradual repatriation of Afghan refugees. According to the latest SG’s report, year 2016 continues to be the lowest recorded returnee rate since the establishment of the voluntary return program in 2002, with many of the returnees choosing not to return to their areas of origin, including many who settled in urban centers.

The augmentation of the individual repatriation grant from $150 to $350 seems not to be enough. We welcome any effort to help overcome the main reintegration challenges faced by returnees and to formulate a Comprehensive Voluntary Repatriation and Reintegration Strategy. Success in voluntary repatriation first and foremost depends on providing the reasonable needs of repatriated refugees in Afghanistan, and underscores the necessity for mobilizing more international support for this purpose.
Meanwhile, we continue our support to hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees, especially in the fields of education and medical services. Last year we enrolled 386,000 Afghan students in our schools and universities, regardless of their legal status. In the field of health care and medical services, we continue to provide services to hundreds of thousands each year, in some areas, the number of Afghan refugees receiving these services exceeds the Iranians.

Mr. President

Iran continues its full support for the promotion of security, stability and comprehensive and sustainable development in Afghanistan since we consider the security in Afghanistan to be the security of our borders and the region.

We support UNAMA as well as UN agencies in their efforts to provide development and reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan through a genuine commitment by the United Nations to a sustained partnership with Afghanistan, as set forth in Final Report of the Tripartite Review Commission on the United Nations in Afghanistan. We need to utilize the UNAMA mandate and its good offices for strengthening national institutions and capacities in priority areas as requested by the Government.

I thank you Mr. President