UN Council set to adopt Afghanistan resolution, but no 'safe zone'

The council expects the Taleban to allow a "safe, secure, and orderly departure from Afghanistan of Afghans and all foreign nationals." PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - The UN Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution Monday (Aug 30) requiring the Taliban to honour their commitment to let people freely leave Afghanistan, but the measure won't cite a "safe zone" mentioned by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The resolution - drafted by the United States, Britain and France, and seen by AFP - says the council expects the Taliban to allow a "safe, secure, and orderly departure from Afghanistan of Afghans and all foreign nationals."

It refers to an August 27 statement by the Taliban in which the hardline Islamists said Afghans would be able to travel abroad, and leave Afghanistan any time they want to, including by any border crossing, both air and ground.

The Security Council "expects that the Taliban will adhere to these and all other commitments," the resolution says.

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

He said Paris and London would present a draft resolution which "aims to define, under UN control, a 'safe zone' in Kabul, that will allow humanitarian operations to continue," Macron said.

"I am very hopeful that it will be successful. I don't see who could be against making humanitarian projects secure," he said.

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 on.

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

Experts said the text was watered down to secure China and Russia's support, including softening some of the language related to the Taliban.

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

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

"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." The text calls for the Taliban to allow for "full, safe, and unhindered access" for the United Nations and other agencies to provide humanitarian assistance.

It also "reaffirms the importance" of upholding human rights, including 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 Council is expected to vote at 3:00 pm (1900 GMT).

The resolution comes as international efforts to airlift foreign nationals and vulnerable Afghans out of the country come to an end after the Taliban swept back into power on August 15, with the United States withdrawing from the country after 20 years.

France ended its evacuation efforts on Friday and Britain followed suit on Saturday.

US troops have been scrambling in dangerous and chaotic conditions to complete a massive evacuation operation from the Kabul airport by a Tuesday deadline.

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