US humanitarian exemptions on Afghan sanctions blocked by China

Afghan people sit beside sacks of food grains distributed as aid by the World Food Programme in Kandahar on Oct 19, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - China, backed by Russia, blocked a United States draft resolution on Monday (Dec 20) in the United Nations Security Council that would have provided a system for humanitarian exceptions to economic sanctions imposed on Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

A diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity that they want the deletion of a paragraph of the resolution allowing the sanctions committee responsible for Afghanistan to provide exemptions from the freezing of assets if it considers that such a waiver is "necessary to facilitate further assistance to Afghanistan".

China, which is "opposed in principle" to sanctions, is "against a case-by-case exemption mechanism", another diplomat confirmed.

"Humanitarian aid and life-saving assistance must be able to reach the Afghan people without any hindrance," China's UN Ambassador Zhang Jun said on Twitter on Monday. "Artificially created conditions or restrictions are not acceptable."

Washington was hoping for approval on Monday of its draft by the other 14 members of the Security Council, so that they could put it to a vote on Tuesday, diplomatic sources said.

There are currently no humanitarian exemptions from the sanctions regime imposed on the Taliban in 2015, said a diplomat, and for aid workers to carry out financial transactions with ministries headed by people under sanctions would "violate sanctions".

Having abandoned the disputed paragraph on case-by-case exemptions, the US submitted a new draft late on Monday stating that, for the period of one year, humanitarian assistance would not be deemed to violate sanctions on Afghanistan.

Mr Martin Griffiths, the UN's head of humanitarian affairs, said: "The need for liquidity and stabilisation of the banking system is now urgent - not only to save the lives of the Afghan people but also to enable humanitarian organisations to respond."

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