UN votes to demand safe passage in Afghanistan

Taliban pledge that Afghans will be able to travel after Tuesday's evacuation deadline

Taliban fighters wave from the back of a pickup truck, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 30, 2021. AP
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The UN Security Council adopted a resolution on Monday requiring the Taliban to honour their commitment to let people freely leave Afghanistan, but the measure did not mention a "safe zone" as brought up by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The resolution offered by France, the UK and the US says that the Taliban pledges Afghans will be able to travel abroad and leave the country by air or ground, “including at the reopened and secured Kabul airport, with no one preventing them from travelling.”

The vote was 13 in favour, with Russia and China abstaining.

The council also called for “strengthened efforts” to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and to allow for “full, safe, and unhindered access for the United Nations” and its agencies.

The resolution also "reaffirms the importance" of upholding human rights, including those 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".

Although it was unclear how the international community will ensure safe passage through the airport without an international force, diplomats said that tools such as sanctions were available to coax the Taliban into action.

Officials from Turkey and Qatar have acknowledged discussions for them to take over operations at the airport.

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

He said Paris and London would present a draft resolution that would define a safe zone in Kabul where humanitarian operations could continue under UN control.

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.

"This resolution is not an operational aspect. It's much more on principles, key political messages and warnings," a UN diplomat said.

UN diplomats said compromises had to be made to accommodate concerns voiced over the weekend by Russia and China, which have veto power in the Security Council.

"This is a pretty thin text," Richard Gowan, UN expert at the International Crisis Group, told AFP.

"Macron was guilty of overselling the idea of a safe zone at Kabul airport this weekend, or at least not communicating very clearly.

"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."

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was expected to meet ambassadors from the permanent Security Council members – France, the UK, US, China and Russia – on Monday evening.

Updated: August 30, 2021, 8:37 PM