Security Council pushes for talks between Afghan gov’t, Taliban

People transfer an injured man into a hospital in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, Afghanistan, June 29, 2020. Twenty-three civilians and two Taliban militants were killed during a mortar shell attack and an ensuing car bomb explosion in a local bazaar in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand on Monday, a provincial government spokesman said. (Photo by Abdul Aziz Safdari/Xinhua)

UNITED NATIONS,   (Xinhua) — The UN Security Council on Tuesday encouraged the Afghan government and the Taliban to work toward an early start of peace negotiations.

In a press statement, the members of the Security Council welcomed steps taken so far by the two sides to move toward the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, most notably the partial implementation of commitments to release prisoners, facilitated through direct talks between them.

The council members called for the rapid release of remaining prisoners in the coming days and for efforts to reduce violence in order to encourage a swift start to intra-Afghan negotiations.

Afghan security force members guard near the site of a car bomb blast in Ghazni city, Afghanistan, May 18, 2020. Seven people were killed and 40 others wounded in a Taliban car bomb blast outside an intelligence agency military camp in Afghanistan’s eastern Ghazni province on Monday, the provincial government said. (Photo by Sayed Mominzadah/Xinhua)

They welcomed the political agreement between President Ashraf Ghani and his political rival Abdullah Abdullah that ended the political impasse stemming from last year’s presidential election, and expressed the hope that it will pave the way for timely intra-Afghan negotiations.

The council members expressed concern over the recent increase in violence, which continues to take the lives of innocent civilians. They stressed that any attack targeting civilians, hospitals, medical and humanitarian personnel and facilities is unacceptable and that the perpetrators must be held accountable.

They expressed their serious concern over the presence of the Islamic State and other international terrorist groups in Afghanistan and over the significant increase in the cultivation, production, trade and trafficking of illicit drugs in the country.

Taliban militants attend a surrender ceremony in Pul-e-Khumri, capital of Baghlan province, Afghanistan, May 20, 2020. Fifteen Taliban militants surrendered and handed over their weapons in Afghanistan’s northern province of Baghlan on Wednesday, as the government has been trying to reconcile the insurgents after more than two decades of insurgency. (Photo by Sahel/Xinhua)

They welcomed the efforts of regional and international partners and organizations in advancing regional connectivity, development, and reconstruction in Afghanistan, which is vital to ensuring stability and economic development in the country.

The press statement was released after the Security Council held a virtual meeting on Afghanistan on Thursday.  ■