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UN Security Council members meet Afghan leaders during 3-day visit

Trip comes ahead of UN Security Council debate on Afghanistan on January 19

Representatives of the United Nations Security Council held talks with Afghanistan’s political leaders during a three-day visit to the country that ended Monday.

The trip, led by Kairat Umarov, the Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the U.N. and arranged late last week is the first visit by the council since 2010.

Backed by U.S. forces, Afghanistan has been struggling to beat back the resurgent Taliban since the withdrawal of NATO combat forces at the end of 2014.

The visit aimed to enable council members to get a first-hand account of progress made by the Afghan government and to learn how the U.N. could further assist efforts on the ground. Talks focused on political, security, socio-economic and human rights issues in Afghanistan, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a statement.

The delegation met with the President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and other senior Afghan officials, including the chairman of the High Peace Council Mohammad Khalili, a number of governnment ministers, members of parliament, civil society organizations, political parties and the electoral management bodies, as well as the leadership of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission.

Among other things “all parties reiterated the need for greater international and regional security cooperation,” although the discussions “stressed the need to view Afghanistan not as a threat to security in the region but as an important partner.”

Speaking at the lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, on Monday, Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi said Afghanistan’s partners and international and local organizations have not taken steps to ensure peace in the country, Tolo News reported.

“It was the responsibility of the Security Council to have assessed the NATO and U.S. mission in Afghanistan to find the reasons which have failed them,” Ibrahimi said.

Afghanistan is expected to top the agenda when Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev meets U.S. President Donald Trump next week at the White House before heading to New York to chair a U.N. Security Council debate on the conflict on January 19.

Ghani described the talks as “productive” in a statement from his office.

“Regional cooperation was discussed in the meeting and it was noted that pressure be exerted on Pakistan for the purpose of bringing stability in Afghanistan,” the statement said.

Pakistan has long been accused of supporting various militant groups, including the Taliban, and providing them with safe havens – charges it denies.

Trump’s administration this month announced the suspension of military aid to Pakistan, said to be worth up to $2 billion in equipment and funding. In response, Pakistan said it was suspending a ‘wide field’ of intelligence and defense cooperation with the United States.

The council also urged Afghanistan to ensure parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for this year and next were “timely” and “credible”. Afghans are due to vote in parliamentary elections – already more than two years late – in July but Western diplomats have expressed doubt about whether the poll will happen on time, or at all.

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With reporting by AFP

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