UN demands end to fighting in Afghanistan; No progress in Doha talks
UNITED NATIONS: The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has called for an immediate end to fighting in urban areas, as the Taliban continues a ground assault in the south of the country.
UNAMA said civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence as fighting enters cities, according to a post on its official Twitter account.
Afghan forces have been intensifying operations against the Taliban, which has launched a major nationwide offensive in the wake of the withdrawal of US and NATO troops over the past few months.
The Taliban are advancing on provincial capitals, after making gains in rural areas and smaller cities, UNAMA said. The Taliban’s rapid advances have fueled fears that the insurgents aim to re-establish by force, but the Taliban say they want a peace deal.
At least 40 civilians have been killed and scores wounded in Lashkar Gah city, capital of Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand since early Monday, the UNAMA confirmed on Tuesday.
Speaking in New York, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told journalists that latest reports indicate some 40 people were killed, and 118 injured, over the past 24 hours in Lashka Gah. Five more civilians were killed in Kandahar, and 42 wounded.
Meanwhile, US diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad has said that the Taliban and the Kabul government are far apart in US-backed talks on bringing peace to Afghanistan, with the Taliban demanding “the lion’s share of power” in any new government.
“At this point, they (the Taliban) are demanding that they take the lion’s share of power in the next government given the military situation as they see it,” he told the Aspen Security Forum in an online conference in Washington.
The deadlocked negotiations in Doha were the subject of a telephone call on Tuesday between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, with them agreeing on the need accelerate talks, the US State Department said.
Blinken and Ghani also “condemned the ongoing Taliban attacks and displacement of the civilian population,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Price, the State Department spokesman, told reporters that the Taliban would become “international pariahs” if they renege on their commitment to the negotiations “and the concern on the part of all of us, one of the many concerns, is that the result will be civil war.”
Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is continuing to provide emergency lifesaving assistance to families who have been newly displaced by the violence as nearly 360,000 Afghans have fled their homes this year due to conflict.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has deployed Mobile Health Teams to respond to affected communities, and provide quick relief in the form of health and psychosocial support to the most vulnerable.
Also on Tuesday, the UN Security Council called for those responsible for last Friday’s deadly assault against the UN compound in Herat to be brought to justice.
The Council issued a statement condemning in the strongest terms the “deplorable attack”, which killed an Afghan security forces guard and wounded several others.
The Council underlined that deliberate attacks targeting civilians, and UN personnel and compounds, may constitute war crimes.
Members also underlined their support for UNAMA, and emphasized the importance of the safety and security of UN personnel.
They called on the Afghan authorities and the Taliban “to engage meaningfully in an inclusive, Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process in order to make urgent progress towards a political settlement and a ceasefire.”
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