UN passes resolution on orderly Afghanistan departures, but no mention of ‘safe zone’

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The UN Security Council adopted a resolution Monday requiring the Taliban to honor their commitment to let people freely leave Afghanistan, but the measure did not cite a “safe zone” mentioned by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The resolution – drafted by the United States, Britain and France, and seen by AFP – was passed with 13 votes in favor and no objections. China and Russia abstained.

The resolution says the council expects the Taliban to allow a “safe, secure, and orderly departure from Afghanistan of Afghans and all foreign nationals".

It refers to an August 27 statement by the Taliban in which the hardline Islamists said Afghans would be able to travel abroad, and leave Afghanistan any time they want to, including by any border crossing, both air and ground.

The Security Council “expects that the Taliban will adhere to these and all other commitments", the resolution says.

Macron had raised hopes of more concrete proposals in comments published in the weekly Journal du Dimanche over the weekend.

He said Paris and London would present a draft resolution which “aims to define, under UN control, a ‘safe zone’ in Kabul, that will allow humanitarian operations to continue”.

“I am very hopeful that it will be successful. I don’t see who could be against making humanitarian projects secure,” he said.

But the UN resolution on the table is far less ambitious. It is not clear whether another resolution proposing a “safe zone” will be circulated later on.

“This resolution is not an operational aspect. It’s much more on principles, key political messages and warnings,” a UN diplomat told reporters.

Reporting from New York, FRANCE 24’s Jessica Le Masurier said the resolution had “really been watered down” from its original form.

“French President Macron had spoken about a ‘safe zone’ – the French certainly wanted that sort of language in this resolution – but it became clear that the Taliban would not accept that proposal. The very term ‘safe zone’ does suggest the presence of some sort of peacekeepers so that was not really a possibility.”

She added that Russia and China – and China in particular - did not want the resolution to contain any language that could be perceived as criticising the Taliban.

“China has hinted that it might soon be ready to recognise the Taliban as the official government and it is certainly seeking business opportunities [with them] as western powers pull out.”

Tuesday’s deadline

“The resolution does at least send a political signal to the Taliban about the need to keep the airport open and help the UN deliver aid.”

The text calls for the Taliban to allow for “full, safe, and unhindered access” for the United Nations and other agencies to provide humanitarian assistance.

It also “reaffirms the importance” of upholding human rights, including of children, women and minorities and encourages all parties to seek an inclusive, negotiated political settlement with the “full, equal and meaningful representation of women".

The text also calls for Afghanistan to “not be used to threaten or attack any country or to shelter or train terrorists, or to plan or to finance terrorist acts".

The resolution comes as international efforts to airlift foreign nationals and vulnerable Afghans out of the country come to an end after the Taliban swept back into power on August 15, with the United States withdrawing from the country after 20 years.

France ended its evacuation efforts on Friday and Britain followed suit on Saturday.

US troops have been scrambling in dangerous and chaotic conditions to complete a massive evacuation operation from the Kabul airport by a Tuesday deadline.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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