Afghanistan at crucial stage of peace process
Afghanistan entering crucial stage of peace process, Security Council told
Although Afghanistan has so far met the benchmarks set by the Bonn Agreement, it is now entering the most critical phase of the peace process, the head of a Security Council mission told the 15-member body today.
In a briefing to the Council in New York, Ambassador Gunter Pleuger of Germany said the constitutional Loya Jirga (the representative assembly) and the upcoming elections were key processes that had the potential to divide Afghan society.
Mr. Pleuger has just returned from Afghanistan, where he led a Council mission on a tour of the country, nearly two years after the foundations for the Afghan peace process were outlined at a conference in Bonn, Germany.
"The conditions necessary for a credible national political process are not yet in place - national reconciliation requires greater focus; political parties need time to develop; national institutions must undergo reform and the power of the factional leaders must be diminished," he told the Council today.
He said the success of the constitutional Loya Jirga and the elections would be crucial to the peace process, adding that parliamentary elections should be held as soon as possible after the presidential elections.
Mr. Pleuger said the mission made five recommendations after its visit, including backing a call by Afghan President Hamid Karzai for a conference early next year to follow up the Bonn Agreement on political and financial support from the international community.
Mr. Pleuger said the benchmarks set in Bonn have so far been attained. Afghanistan has a new currency, roads are being reconstructed and repaired, schools have been reopened and a draft constitution has just been released.
But security remains the biggest problem, thanks to a combination of terrorist activities, factional fighting and drug-related crime. Women suffer from exclusion from the country's reconstruction, and factional armies still exert too much control in many areas, according to the German Ambassador.
A couple of hours before Mr. Pleuger briefed the Security Council, an explosion caused by an apparent car bomb struck the United Nations compound in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan. Two people were injured.