US, Russia spar over UN’s future role in Afghanistan

NEW YORK (AFP): The United States and Russia on Wednesday presented opposing visions at the Security Council for the UN’s role in Afghanistan, with Washington’s call for robust support of human rights running contrary to Moscow’s desires.

With the UN political mission’s mandate in need of renewal by March 17, the United States underscored its “strong support” for the human rights work being carried out.

Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador Anna Evstigneeva said, however, that Moscow does “not agree that the human rights component of the mission should be reinforced.”

“We stand against linking the human rights situation to humanitarian and recovery assistance,” she said.

The mission “must not become a kind of a supervisor to meet the interests of those who are not ready to help Afghans without preconditions,” she said.

For his part, US Deputy Ambassador to the UN Jeffrey DeLaurentis said the United States supports the mission’s human rights monitoring functions and humanitarian coordination role.

He also highlighted its child and civilian protections and work to promote equal participation of women “in all aspects of public life.”

The United States additionally took a swipe at Beijing, with DeLaurentis stating that it was “a pity that China spends more time criticizing US actions, than focusing on helping the Afghan people themselves.”

“China’s the second largest contributor to the UN. What China has done to help the people of Afghanistan, or contribute to regional security, does not match that standing,” he said.

At the beginning of the session, the UN envoy to Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, asked the UN to engage with the Taliban without isolating them, which she said was the only way to enact positive change.

“We believe, as the winter season comes to an end, that we have perhaps averted our worst fears of famine and widespread starvation,” she said.