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Mr. President,

Italy endorses the statement that will be made by the European Union, and would like to add a few remarks in a national capacity.

We welcome the extension of the UNAMA mandate and fully support the Mission’s fundamental role in contributing to the stabilization and development of Afghanistan. We praise the generous efforts of the women and men of UNAMA, who work to assist the Afghan people, often in trying circumstances, under the commendable leadership of the Secretary-General and his Special Representative for Afghanistan. UNAMA is a fundamental pillar of the international civilian presence in the Country and contributes substantially to helping Afghanistan achieve meaningful results in fields such as economic and social development, human rights enhancement, and institution strengthening.

Mr. President,

Afghanistan is entering a moment of critical importance to its long-term stabilization. The last two phases of the transition are starting and should be completed in less than two years. Presidential and political elections are approaching and recent developments are fuelling hopes in the reconciliation process. All these processes focus on a single purpose: the gradual assumption of full responsibility for their Country by the Afghan people and Government.

The international community has given assurances that it will stand by Afghanistan through the transition process and beyond, in the Transformation Decade. The Conference held in Tokyo last July defined the framework of mutual commitments that should shape the long-term relationship between Afghanistan and its partners. Now is the time to make the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework operational and to take full advantage of its potential as a driving force for the sustainable development of Afghanistan. For donor Countries like Italy to fully honor their pledges, it is of paramount importance that Afghanistan make further tangible progress in such areas as democratic reforms, electoral processes, good governance and anti-corruption measures, and the protection and promotion of human rights. In particular, the Italian Government, in concordance with our public opinion, will continue to monitor the situation of women, which we consider of paramount importance.

Mr. President,

The upcoming presidential elections are a major opportunity for the Afghan Authorities to translate their commitments into concrete achievements. For Afghanistan to pursue stability and infuse new optimism into prospects for the post-2014 scenario, there must be a credible, transparent and inclusive electoral process. We encourage the Afghan Government, in partnership with the international community and UNAMA, to lay solid grounds for elections and spare no efforts to achieve the broadest possible consensus on the “rules of the game,” reaching out to opposition groups, civil society and all the relevant stakeholders. This is the only way to foster voter participation, make the process more inclusive, and ensure the legitimacy of its outcome.

The elections are closely connected with the political process to promote national reconciliation under Afghan leadership and ownership. We welcome encouraging recent developments, including the more constructive attitude in the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The success of national reconciliation – based on principles shared by the Afghan Government and the international community – could be a milestone toward ensuring peace and prosperity, so long as it is not accompanied by reversals on civil liberties, human rights and democratic achievements. To avoid such a development, due consideration must be given to the concerns of women and civil society.

Mr. President,

The destiny of Afghanistan is in the hands of its people and its institutions. But strengthened regional cooperation is crucial to fostering economic development and tackling common threats. Many initiatives are underway, but there is still room for greater engagement. We appreciate the dynamism of the Istanbul Process and encourage member Countries to remain fully committed to it. Italy is ready to contribute to a genuine regional ownership of the Process by participating actively in the CBMs on counternarcotics and regional infrastructures.

I can thus assure you that Afghanistan can continue to count on the brotherly support of Italy in addressing the many demanding challenges before it. Building on the investments and achievements of the past decade, we are committed to standing by Afghanistan throughout the final stages of transition and beyond 2014. The bilateral partnership Agreement signed in January 2012 will be the reference point for the various strands of bilateral cooperation underway, ranging from security and development to culture and political consultations. We call upon the Afghan Government to press forward with the reform agenda, in order to capitalize on our steadfast support and assure its sustainability in the eyes of our Parliament and public opinion.

Mr. President,

The advancement of the transition process and the gradual downsizing of the international military coalition will put to the test the governance and development capacity of Afghanistan at the national and sub-national levels. At this delicate juncture we are convinced that UNAMA has a crucial role to play by leading and coordinating the international community’s civilian efforts. This will contribute to the smooth completion of the transition and, looking beyond 2014, the consolidation of Afghan institutions and economy. We therefore reiterate Italy’s support for the extension of the UNAMA mandate, with the recommendation that it be provided with the resources needed to fulfill that mandate.