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UN Security Council adopts resolution to facilitate Afghan aid

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WASHINGTON: The UN Security Council (UNSC) on Wednesday unanimously adopted a US resolution, which Pakistan believes opens the door to providing humanitarian aid to Afghanistan without violating UN sanctions on the Taliban.

The resolution allowed the “payment of funds, other financial assets or economic resources, and the provision of goods and services necessary to ensure the timely delivery of such assistance or to support such activities.” It noted that such assistance “supports basic human needs in Afghanistan” and was “not a violation” of sanctions imposed on entities linked to the Taliban.

In Washington, the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued three general licenses on Wednesday to facilitate the continued flow of vital assistance and support for the Afghan people.

“These licenses expand upon existing authorisations for the provision of humanitarian assistance and other activities that support basic human needs and enable broader support for the Afghan people consistent with the resolution adopted by the UN Security Council earlier today,” the US State Department said.

The UNSC resolution, drafted by the United States and unanimously adopted by the 15 members of the UN Security Council, “establishes a carveout in the UN 1988 sanctions regime to “ensure urgently needed aid can reach the Afghan people,” the statement added. The resolution also requests periodic updates by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator to “ensure assistance is reaching the intended beneficiaries, not being diverted to the Taliban,” the State Department said.

“UN sanctions are an important tool to respond to threats and human rights abuses, but we must make sure these sanctions do not hinder the delivery of urgently needed aid to the Afghan people,” it added.

Later, at a news briefing in New York, Pakistan’s UN ambassador, Munir Akram, said the UN resolution made it clear that “activities supporting basic humanitarian needs in Afghanistan are not a violation of the provisions of the Security Council sanctions.”

The resolution also “permits the processing and payment of financial assistance or economic resources, and the provisions of goods and services” to prevent Afghanistan’s collapse, Mr Akram added.

Experts in Washington said that the resolution could help avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan, without benefitting the Taliban.

Afghanistan has been pushed close to an economic meltdown after the Aug 15 Taliban takeover. The United States responded to the takeover by freezing $9.5bn of Afghanistan’s assets under its control. An earlier US resolution, which sought case-by-case authorisation of every exemption, was blocked by veto-wielding China and Russia.

“Humanitarian aid and life-saving assistance must be able to reach the Afghan people without any hindrance,” China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun said in a tweet. “Artificially created conditions or restrictions are not acceptable “We thank the United States for presenting a resolution. We also thank China and Russia for improving and clarifying it,” said Ambassador Akram while commenting on the process that led to the adoption of the second US resolution.

“We hope that with the adoption of this resolution, the international community, member states, UN agencies, NGOs will be able to provide all possible assistance to the Afghan people without being concerned without legal impediment,” he added.

In Kabul, a Taliban spokesperson also welcomed the UNSC resolution.

“We appreciate it (as) it can help Afghanistan’s economic situation,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, adding he hoped the international community would also “speed up” removal of crippling economic and banking sanctions imposed on entities linked to the group.

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2021

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